image-8A subset topic of the million-dollar question –  is my anxiety/doubt evidence that my truth is that I’m with the wrong partner or does it mean something else? – is the issue of intuition versus anxiety. In other words, embedded inside every question of the mind suffering from relationship anxiety is, “Isn’t this anxiety really my intuition telling me to leave?”

That’s certainly what the culture says. That’s what most of your well-meaning friends and relatives will say. That’s even what many therapists will say. The mainstream message about anxiety in a relationship clearly reads, “Doubt means don’t.”

But that’s not what people say who are well-versed in the language of fear, those who know how it can sneakily show up in relationships through the back door and masquerade as doubt, anxiety, and numbness. That’s not what people say when they’ve traveled the dusty back roads of relationships, the ones behind the shiny Hollywood sets, the ones where people tell the truth about what they really feel when they’re asked to stand vulnerable in front of an available, loving other.

Here they tell a different story. They tell the story of doubt that appeared from the first date. They talk about struggling with sexual attraction or physical attraction. They share, often in whispers, the barrage of intrusive thoughts that hammer into psyche waking and sleeping, everything from “What if I’m gay?” to “What if I’m a pedophile?” When anxiety hits full-steam, it constellates an inner torture chamber where the only escape seems to be to leave.

Escape hatch screams “leave!” but the thing is: you don’t want to leave! You have two choices at this point: To give into the fear and remain in inner paralysis or to actively and consciously move past the messages that say “doubt means don’t” and “anxiety is your instinct telling you to leave” and instead learn to discern between normal fear about being in an intimate relationship with an available partner (which, truthfully, terrifies most people to their core) and true red flags. It’s a tricky dance, without a doubt, but one worth sitting with and wrestling with until the deeper truths emerge, clear and radiant and guiding the way.

A course member recently emailed me to share her experience of engaging in direct action with her fear, specifically around the intuition versus anxiety question, until she wrestled it to the mat and emerged victorious. Here’s her email, shared with grateful permission, as I know that stories like this can help like nothing else when you’re trapped in the tarpit of anxiety. Keep in mind that, while this member’s anxiety hit during her engagement, relationship anxiety can appear at any time: from the first date to ten years into a marriage. It knows no boundaries around geography, age, sexual orientation, religion or length of time together; it hits when it hits and it always, always carries within it the invitation for healing, growth, and a true education about what it means to love and be loved.


I hope this finds you well. I’m happy to report I haven’t been in touch with you or with the message boards over the past three years. Instead, I’ve been enjoying married life. I wanted to send this email to thank you and to encourage anyone struggling the way I did if you think it might help them. 

When I was first engaged nearly 5 years ago, I was elated. A few months later, for no reason I could name, I had intense stomach roiling worry about my future. What I now understand was anxiety was screaming at me: RUN. LEAVE. BAD. YOU CAN’T DO THIS. At the time, I mistook this anxiety for intuition. That was the biggest trouble.

Because you see I didn’t actually want to leave my husband. I wanted relief. From my worry, and my racing thoughts telling me horrible things, from the questions: did we really love each other? How could I be sure we’d make it? From the intense fear and the belief that I simply could not do it. Except, the thought of leaving didn’t grant me any relief; it was the opposite. It made me so much worse. I was consumed by anxiety. I missed work. I could neither eat nor sleep nor socialize. I shook. I was an absolute mess, stuck in an endless cycle of false thoughts and false conclusions and powerlessness. Then I found your website and other women and men going through what I was going through.  

I cannot tell you the relief I felt to find that, at least, I wasn’t alone. When everything else says “if you Doubt it don’t do it,” or “if you’re freaking out, you have to end it” I can’t tell you how helpful it was to hear that I didn’t have to do anything. And it was like a shining light to consider the ways in which society allows for complex feelings during every other life change — moving, new job, new baby – but for some reason you’re not “supposed” to be anxious as a bride. Pardon me, but that’s bulls**t. 

I’m so grateful for the tools I found on your site and for the stories of women who had come out the other side, and so I wanted write one in thanks. 

I fought for probably a year and some to gain control of what was happening to me, to recognize my own false thinking, to confront the deep fears I had about the pain I might inflict or receive, to learn to acknowledge my anxiety and not attach any meaning to a destructive false thought, and ultimately to live in the present. I spent a year of my life in and endless “what if” cycle and I cannot tell you how good it feels to have broken through. 

Finally, I understand that my intuition is gently affirmative and easily ignored, whereas my anxiety is a screaming feral animal and I cannot ignore even if I try, so best not to.  

Looking back on it now, almost-stupidly-happily married for three years, it feels as though the person who went through that incapacitating anxiety isn’t even me anymore. I remember it all as I remember dreams. And whatever happens in the future – even if it’s bad – it will not undo me. 

It’s my hope that other women going through it understand that they’re not alone, and they’re not messed up, and their fears are not rational and it really gets better on the other side. By the time I’d been married about six months, I was relaxed and happy and loving life and my kick-ass husband and even on the tough days I remain steady. I am so grateful I worked hard and hung on. It was all worth it and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

With Gratitude,


I then wrote to Victoria and asked if she could elaborate on the line about anxiety versus intuition. Could she share with my readers how she came to that clarity, and what work she did from the e-course and anywhere else that was helpful for her?

She responded:

Of course! 

As far as my arriving at a sense of clarity regarding what was intuition and what was anxiety, it took years and patience and a lot of stepping back in the moment and examining the way I was thinking. I’d ask myself, “Okay, is this a momentary or an ongoing thing?” and “What, if anything, occurred to make think this?” and “Does this thought begin with ‘what if’?” For example, I hate flying. I didn’t do it for the longest time because I always think the plane will crash. I know now it’s anxiety and not intuition because it’s repeating. It always happens and nothing ever occurs specifically to make me afraid. And I know, for example, any time I have a thought that begins with “what if” or I start feeling like something is already happening when it hasn’t yet, it’s anxiety because I’m focusing on what might happen and intuition lives in what is happening. 

I also know that if I’m turning a single moment into “this means something!” it’s anxiety. For so long, in the throes of fear, I would have a thought in one instant and be convinced I had to act on it. For example, I remember one time my now husband came home early and I thought, “Oh, I don’t feel excited at all” and it morphed into the idea I hadn’t loved him enough ever and wouldn’t in the future, as opposed to what it really was: I was enjoying a rare moment of my much beloved solitude and I was interrupted. 

Also, I’ve determined that my intuition comes with far fewer physical symptoms. If I have a “bad feeling” about something and it’s intuition I might feel a whisper of a traditional gut feeling and that’s about it. 

When I have “bad feeling” and it’s anxiety, I have serious physical symptoms: heart pounding, sweating, stomach aching, can’t eat, and if it goes into full on panic, I feel like I’m choking and I can’t swallow or breathe properly. It’s not dangerous, but it’s extremely uncomfortable and frightening. Intuition has never rendered me dysfunctional, anxiety has. 

Lastly, both the e-course and therapy reminded me that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. And if it turned out I didn’t want to get married, it would have been difficult, but I would have survived and ultimately been fine. That might have been the hardest thing because you really do have to confront your worst fears about pain and loss, and it was real test, but I think it was the singularly most important step in feeling like myself again because on the other side I concluded that I did want this which made the rest easier. 

As you know if you read my site, my angle on anxiety differs radically from the mainstream view, for I see it not as something to ignore or erase but as a carrier of gift, a messenger of healing, and a signal that we’re ready to grow into the next layer of our most beautiful selves. Like Victoria and countless others alongside her, the gifts are waiting for you.



  1. I love your story, Victoria, and I am happy for you!! Your litmus test for anxiety vs intuition is very similar to mine, and it is something I struggled with for years. If it’s a soft “voice” that feels right to me in my core, it’s intuition. If it’s an aggressive, repetitive voice that makes me feel bad, it’s anxiety. Reminds me of the quote “Confidence is quiet; insecurities are loud.”

    • That’s a beautiful quote, Heartchakra, and beautifully encapsulates the difference between intuition and anxiety.

      • I think I do have a lot of fear of loss due to divorce and my dad not making us a priority and although I have been searching for every ounce of meaning of why my feelings ( false thinking) are making me feel disconnected to my partner early on we did discuss marriage he had been married prior and I never have he seemed to want the same so we were building towards that. When kids colleges became a topic he made it clear we would need to see how much that costs before we get married or even if we could due to financial aid. I started suppressing how bad that hurt and continued to tell myself I love him even if that didn’t happen. I tried to not Rock
        The boat and the. Fell into an 8 week depression with terrible anxiety and to this day no clue what triggered where I am at now. Im doing lots of reflecting meditating therapy and even sexually I didn’t feel up for it the other night. Maybe I just gave so much I feel empty. Last Friday he actually started asking about rings and I got very excited but now I’m scared. Unsure I have made it clear marriage is something I want and the putting everything before that was hurting me. Are those red flags? Prior to all this I had 0 doubts.

    • Hi Sheryl

      I really resonate with this article. I wondered if the course would be right for me? I have had anxiety issues from my previous partner which was an emotionally abusive relationship of 5 years plus my health issues. He ended it really coldly and awfully at the start of the year but since then I felt freedom and happiness and growth, but underneath did feel a little unease of anxiety starting up. I met my now partner 4 months later and hit the jackpot with him- he is incredible, I honestly have no words for it and we are so in love and I know I want to be with him and marry him and have his children and he feels the same. Since being with him, my health has improved, I’m so much happier, everything is going really well with us and all I wanna do is be around him . However, whilst going on initial dates everything felt fine but a few weeks into becoming official, this fear sort of hit me where I kept questioning myself whether im ready after my last relationship, whether my gut instinct is what is telling me to leave or just anxiety, if its right, if this is real love (because I don’t understand healthy love) and horrible thoughts about breaking up just to get relief from these feelings even though something everytime has physically stopped me from doing it and I really love him and want to stay with him. Since acknowledging this is probably my anxiety (its mostly scared what ifs for the future and overthinking everything, over apologising, wondering if he is happy with me cos of change of tone, wondering what ifs of if i need to heal myself by myself) the intensity of the thoughts have eased off and meditation has helped because in the beginning it was making me feel physically really unwell like i was constantly being strangled, nervous stomach, sweating, shaking etc.
      I love this man so much, so so much and I am proud of how far I have come but the nagging thoughts still come almost everyday. Not about breaking up, but about whether I’m doing it right, whether we are meant to be, whether I will get to moving in with him and marrying him and will wanna back out, whether the other shoe is going to drop because he is so wonderful to me and annoyed at myself because i didn’t feel these thoughts till we became officially a couple and worried that I will have to go my whole life feeling this way and/or that it will ruin things.

      Can you please help? Xx

  2. Thanks Sheryl and thanks Victoria ! I felt resistance at first at reading the article and it felt good being aware of it brought out and getting to the end because my own anxiety was picking up and debating with it “what if I REALLY shave an important intuition? Shouldn’t I do something to “protect” me then ? ” …jaja wow my fear is ready jump in with a voice … I love her that small fearful child I know her to be in so much pain past and present still … I ready that the past is gone but not forgotten and I still feel wounds and pain even as I write this… thanks for being a door to my core painful feelings
    With love and gratitude

    • I love that you stayed with the resistance but continued to read, and I LOVE that you’re bringing compassion to your fear-voice, “that small fearful child” who carries so much pain inside the fear.

  3. Hi Sheryl,

    It seems my anxiety pops up the day I know there is a new post coming out to soothe it!

    I have been doing very well so far after starting your course. In the beginning, when I was so anxious I could hardly breathe around my boyfriend, I just had to get out – get away – and make space to see what the heck was going on, and how much of my anxiety was caused by him. Frantic googling (for example: what does it feel like to fall out of love) led me to your site. I read a few blog posts and felt great relief — people are having thoughts just like I am! I signed up for your Break Free course immediately.

    After doing some personal work with the course and with a therapist I realized I felt ready to move in with my boyfriend. I was so excited (and no longer anxious about it!)! I applied to a Master’s program last minute, shortly after making that joyous decision and unfortunately the thoughts cropped back up. What if I lose my freedom, first from the schoolwork on top of my full time job and then once we get married and start a family? He very gently brought me back down to earth saying, “the only thing we are deciding right now is to move in together. Not marriage, not kids, not anything but that.”

    Return to baseline okay-ness until this weekend. Great overall, but my fear/intuition – I have not fully concluded which – is wondering, “What if I’d be happier/I should be taking my 20s to just be single and experience life?” Sounds like fear. “What if I’m settling down too soon? I wanted to travel, I’ve got a lot of growing and changing left to do, and what if I’m held back or we don’t grow together?”

    It is odd how timely your posts are with what I’m feeling and believing is INTUITION, but sounds a whole lot like fear of the unknown, loss, death, and looking for certainty where in reality there is only groundlessness. I am studying my Pema Chodron 🙂

    Thanks for your blogs and I welcome any input you have. Hope to start posting on the forum soon.

    • These are so clearly fear voices, and classic ones at that. Your Pema studies are shining through and will provide anchor points each time the groundlessness wants to morph into anxiety. The work – again and again and again – is to stay with those vulnerable feelings and create a place for the uncertainty and fear of loss to rest. It sounds like you have a wonderful, loving, patient partner who only wants your highest good. That’s worth staying with and fighting for.

      • Hi Sheryl – Thanks for the reply! I think I have not invested enough time and effort in the personal work. I felt such relief after a week or two of blasting through the course that I stopped with the lessons (I got to around 12 or 13). But as more demands are placed on me outside of the relationship, and as I undertake important steps in my relationship, I am realizing I haven’t appropriately handled my intrusive thoughts. They went away temporarily, but the mental pathways for them are still alive and well.

        Staying with those vulnerable feelings is what I really need to work on, and I will definitely be incorporating more of it. I will be grieving the unlived lives (people I could date, the places I could go, the things I could do as a single person) and will grieve the transition to living full time with my boyfriend (growing up, making commitments). I also have been meaning to get on a regular meditation schedule, and haven’t needed to. I’m seeing all the inner work that is still needed thanks to this recent bout with anxiety.

        I am so grateful for your work. Thank you!!

        • Loving kindness, my anxiety was under the similar hat not long ago. It tries to resurface often, but I remind myself that I’ve never wanted the single life or I would have stayed there. That there’s nothing there but loneliness and heartache in comparison to what I and probably you have with those we love. We can still travel, alone or with our partners. It’s not the end of freedom but the start of our greatest adventure. And anything me MAY be missing out on (which is uncertain even if we are) is not worth losing those we could build a life with. I’d regret more not choosing him than a few experiences in my 20s. Hope that helps you as it has helped me. The what if I am missing it or settling too soon is fear. Fear of something new, the future, potential loss, and the unknown. But we can do it.

      • Once your intuition/self has concluded that you don’t want to be with someone, how do you go about breaking up with them? It breaks my heart and the ego comes through and says well if it breaks your heart and you love him, why are you doing this? But I know there are things in this relationship that just don’t match up with who I am and though that kills me it’s what I have to do. It’s what I want to do. Once I accept that it feels peaceful and happy and like something in me is reminding me this is the best thing for me. But it still really hurts and it’s really hard. I’m so afraid of what he will say when I do. I know he will be loving because I’ve tried this before but it just makes me so upset.

  4. This has been by far the most helpful article on intuition vs. fear. I lost count the number of times I’ve googled it or asked a therapist and it never really made sense to me. This article, and some of the comments/quotes make it very clear. It may be that I have also worked through a lot of my relationship anxiety and feel like I have a better understanding overall. This website and the tools have helped me so much and I use the teachings everyday, not just in my relationship. Of course things aren’t perfect, but I’m ok with that now and have faith in the future. This is the happiest I’ve been in about a year and I owe it to this site, the tools, and the this community. Thank you!! 🙂

    • This is so wonderful to hear, Brittany. Keep going!

  5. This article speaks to everything I have been struggling with in my current relationship. I have wanted to end it so many times and was saved from my therapist many times because I could not understand if my anxiety was fear or intuition and sometimes I felt so certain it was my gut and she had to walk me through my fears. I thank god she didn’t let me end it because this relationship has made me grow and it challenges me and takes me out of my comfort because my boyfriend is forcing me to grow up and face somethings I have been avoiding and usually run away from. When the tough gets going I normally run when things get hard or uncomfortable but he challenges me to face it and deal with it.

    I pushed my fears away to move in with him and it had been a year and it’s been hard sometimes but I feel our relationship has become stronger. The next fears I am working on is that he wants to get married and have a family ASAP. He loves kids and wants them so badly and we are 38 and he is nervous because of our ages but I am not allowing that to make my decision! I have a tonne more fears about that and worry the most about what happens if things fall apart? If he leaves me? Or If I’m unhappy and feel trapped? Or one of us cheats ? Or walks away when things get tough! I am scared of the worst and just want to prepare myself!!! I’m scared of being blind sided!

    My last hump to get past is that he is friends with a girl who is married. They were friends when I met him but I did not know until later how close they were! I learned that they have fun together and he said she is like one of the guys but I always have a bad feeling..:one time I had this feeling that I felt was my gut screaming to me she is danger and they are better for each other than I am for him . To this day when I see her it gets worse! He swears he loves me and will end friendship if it upsets me but I told him I cannot dictate his friends however I prefer we see each other all together. I don’t think she is happy in her marriage And I know she turns to my boyfriend for emotional support. This really bothers me and one night she drunk talked about how they have a great connection! Well at that point my gut was screaming to run fast from him because all I saw was future pain and I felt it was her I don’t trust! Ever since then I am so unsure if my feelings about her are fears or a gut feeling they will be together or he will leave me for her! They do have a fun connection different from mine and she is like a boy version of him! I am terrified of being abandoned or cheated on and I think the divorce stats are not helping my fears!!! Especially when life gets hard and people look ? at what’s around them.
    I think she still turns to him when she feels lonely in her marriage!

    So here I have this man wanting to have a family tomorrow with me and then i have this weighing on me because I feel I have the choice now to make the right decisions if only I understood my gut and my anxiety better!

    This article has helped me so much and could not have come at a better time
    Thank you. ❤️

    • I just read your post and I am in a very similar situation as you. My BF has a female Best-Friend who has a boyfriend. I don’t talk to her or see her much but I know they stay in touch often if not daily. I have heard him tell me how her BF isn’t very attentive, doesn’t include her in anything, etc. I just listen and don’t respond. I don’t know her personally but she does certain things that really make me upset as I know the boundaries a female should have with another woman’s boyfriend. Friends or not. She’ll send him pictures of dress she wants to wear and that are super sexy and will add that she can’t wear undergarments. I admire you for telling him it bothers you. I’m still trying to figure out how to mention my concerns without making him feel I am dictating his friends for him. I guess my peace of mind would be knowing that it is innocent and I have nothing to worry about. Just a better understanding of the type of friendship they have. I’m glad I’m not alone and we can relate! 🙂

  6. Hi there,

    I love what was said – she understands it beautifully.

    I’d also like to add some nuance between anxiety and intuition that I’ve learned about myself in my own growth and reading this site – and that is that I personally tend to go to anxiety when there is a real (and problematic) issue at hand between my partner and I – one that is often unconscious and/or unexplored. I’ve since learned to trust when my anxiety comes around as it alerts me to issues between us that we may need to look at. But I am better at not letting the anxiety take on a life of its own and trusting us to work things out together….and trusting that if we can’t, I may have to leave. Which was where the anxiety was coming from.

    This topic also leads me to a question. There is a lot of talk about “red-flags” and that that, in essence will be what ends a relationship. But I’m curious, what about true incompatibilities? And how do we come to know where there is a deal-breaking incompatibility vs. something to work through? How do they feel different?

    For example – my partner wants a fast paced high adventure life. I on the other-hand, want a mellow and soothing quiet and simple life. While we try to do things separately – our ideas for our future look different in this regard and our energy levels and desires are vastly different. (He wants to travel far and wide and do daring things and go go go – while I’d prefer to take quiet walks in nature and read poetry 😉

    • You’re may be describing a conflict in values, which is considered a red (or pink) flag: he wants a fast-paced life and you want a slow, poetic, walk-in-the-woods life. I’m curious if he imagines traveling far and wide as part of his regular lifestyle or if it’s something he would do once in a while. Of course, if you’re with someone who wants/needs to travel all the time as part of his rhythm and that’s the last thing you want, there may be an irreconcilable difference. But if you’re saying he wants to take a big trip once a year and you would rather stay home, that’s a different story and probably workable.

      • Thanks for your reply! I like the idea of a pink flag. (=

        He would probably only travel once a year in this way – so that’s fine. But it’s more than just that as his energy is much different than mine (he’s an enneagram 7 and I’m a 4, we are exact opposites!). He wants to socialize a lot, he goes on adventures with friends almost every weekend (and realizes that when his friends have kids soon here, he won’t have anyone to go with as I don’t want kids and he *may* – another pink flag) and I rarely see him slow down or take down time which is my main thing!

        He is willing to bend more to me when we are together bc it soothes him, and do what I want and do his adventuring with friends or himself – but even his energy is more bouncing off walls which can sometimes exhaust me in the year+ we’ve been together. We don’t live together yet and I can easily imagine when we do, the difference will be even more pronounced. If it weren’t SUCH a difference, I’d say I help him relax and slow and he keeps me from sinking into doing nothing. But the difference feels bigger than that.

        • Hi! i’m currently having an issue where i cannot describe whether it’s my intuition or just fears. me and my partners are not married yet but there are times where i feel or thought that there’s a divorce in the future? please let me know your thoughts because sometimes when i think of it, i feel so scared.

      • In regards to the conflict in values and incompatibilities, my situation is similar to AAs but in the realm of conversation. I am a much more intellectual person and like to talk about ideas, politics, books, films and so forth. He likes to talk about the day-to-day and practical matters. There isn’t much overlap in our preferred conversational topics. This sometimes feels like a big difference in values, that we value directing our mental energies in very different ways, AND an incompatibility, because it’s hard to find things we can have conversations about. How do you see this?

    • I would be interested in hearing a response to this, too.

      My fiancé and I have some vast differences, personality-wise. He is very blunt, straight to the point. Whereas I am more “let me sugar-coat this so no one is offended”. There are things he does that if a friend of mine would say/do and I would laugh, but because it’s him and I’m planning to spend the rest of my life w/ him it bothers me. Like if a friend says a non-PC joke I would laugh and not think twice, but if he says one, I question his morals and if he’s truly a good person. Does that make sense?

      He says I look out for the feelings of others more than I do his. Which is probably true. I always root for the underdog, and since he is so headstrong and “confident” I don’t feel the need to protect him like I do those who are more quiet and shy.

      At times I feel his personality is good because it balances my more self-conscious one, but at other times I fear I will always be worrying about if people are taking him too seriously.

      • Having different personalities is NOT a red-flag, and what you’re describing is a very typical dynamic. The work for you is to develop tolerance for the differences and learn to shift so that your fiancé feels emotionally supported by you.

        • Thank you for your quick response!

      • Ash, I’m grateful that you’ve shared your experience – I have had essentially the EXACT same thoughts. Something someone else would say would never trigger me, make me question them, or anything at all, but if my husband says something remotely not morally “perfect”, I start getting a cascade of negative thoughts: “What if he’s not a good person?, Is this evidence that he’s immoral? He shouldn’t think these things, they mean he’s not a good person”… I’ve actually been reading about partner-focused relationship OCD (it’s a mouthful), where one of the topics that people tend to focus on is their partner’s morality. That gave me some comfort because it helped highlight how these thoughts stem from anxiety rather than the truth.

        I’ve been with my now-husband (married this fall) for 10 years, and these questions and fears started poping up about 4 months after we got engaged…so I also try to hold onto the fact that for so many years, I saw him for who he really is, a kind, generous partner who loves and supports me, who is outspoken and not perfect and sometimes says ridiculous things but that I could always tolerate them and usually just tease him about it and it rarely actually bothered me and never led to the endless questions that it has lead to since our engagement. My understanding so far of these thoughts and questions is that they stem from a major fear of loss, fear of things not working out, and a crushing realization (someone only now?) that a perfect partner does not exist and that we are all flawed, and that ultimately, that it something worth celebrating and making loving space for.

  7. in regards to the above post – I simply don’t have the kind of energy for his lifestyle. It’s not a matter of compromise there!

  8. Hi Sheryl, I remember that at first I had a lot of anxiety when I was first again going out with my husband for things that happened in the past, i literally went into panic then things happened and 4 months later I ended up living with himand then married 5 months nths after, i was not sure I wanted to marry him mostly for fear and because I still wanted to have and enjoy my own place like I had never had it before so I grieved a lot not having it anymore because I chose to be with him and marry i didn’t want to hurt his feelings by saying I was not totally sure, or ready, i Just didn’t want to loose him, so i married him and I was very very happy after for awhile with moments of gratitude and anxiety other times, and love to be married to him. But i think that a lot of my anxiety too came because we never dealt with the past, and my fear ofcpurse of intimacy and resistance to be controlled, marriage meant being doomed forwhat I saw in my parents marriage.
    Do you think this means I should leave or married for the wrong reasons? Or the whole resistance I hadwas based on my life and how I saw things in the disfunciónal marriage of my parents? I think that I would had always anyhow had a hard time finding clarity about what I wanted so I chose to just marry him despite everything else and I stillwant to be with him even on hard times aswhatwe been going through but those thoughts come To my head.


  9. Victoria

    Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
    Reading your words and your descriptions was like reading a page from my own journal. I feel like this. I understand.
    I will print this out and keep the reminder handy.

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    I have done much progress over the last 9 months but every so often when the anxiety “loops” hit I get frustrated, how can I still be stuck? But then I think that I have time and that it is improving. And it’s stories like yours that help me to touch into that place of faith and hope.

    All the best

    • When the anxiety spikes it’s the time to ask, “What am I avoiding in my own life?” The achilles heel of relationship anxiety is believing that the anxiety is a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship instead of seeing it as a signal that it’s time to do more inner work and then ask what’s needed in the four realms of Self.

  10. “It always happens and nothing ever occurs specifically to make me afraid”. I can relate to this statement – my go-to intrusive thoughts often come on unprompted and unrelated to what is going on externally.

    I should clarify that. In fact, they often come on precisely when I’m starting to feel GOOD externally! So my fear is often the exact opposite of my intuition: I start to feel good with my partner, at ease with my choice, and confident in my ability to love fully, and THEN: up pops the weasel – “hang on a minute! You feel good! It’s not safe to feel good! Why haven’t you been thinking about x or y or z??”

    I also got some helpful thoughts out of David Richo’s book When Love Meets Fear. The basic idea of this: it is part of the natural state of humans to seek love. So if your mind is pulling you AWAY from loving fully, then it is not your intuition (i.e. your highest self). So the question to ask, when anxiety hits, is “what is the loving action?”

    I hope this makes sense.

    • I love what you said about your mind pulling you away from loving fully, means it is not your intuition. That resonates a lot. I just bought his book, thank you for referencing it.

  11. So incredibly happy for you Victoria!! You’ve clearly worked very hard and got to the gold on the other side!!

    I just thought I’d share my experiences with intuition as the majority of us are HSP we rely a lot on it so anxiety is a hard one to deal with. When I was with my ex boyfriend (who was controlling and over possessive) I didn’t have anxiety one day of our relationship. What I did have was a feeling that it wasn’t right and that I needed to leave, this feeling was calm, it never demanded I did it, it did not create anxiety, the message was always the same, it didn’t change and to be honest it really didn’t speak I just knew and that created no anxiety for me, it actually made me happy and not stressed out at all. From what I’ve learnt studying intuition, even if the message is of danger it will not create anxiety or fear, it will still be gentle loving and kind and I know the ego also has the power to give the message in a soft tone but you honestly would no the difference it would come with no force, you would not feel fear, and additionally the intuition cannot argue with free will, which is your birthright so even so the choice is yours. Also the intuition doesn’t need to convince you, it doesn’t need to make up a story. It’s not desperate to be heard, anything else is the voice of the ego.

    I recently moved in with my boyfriend and every single day I would hear screaming voices inside me coming from all different places even what seemed like my gut shouting LEAVE I could not ignore it, it would have me in such a state everyday. I then in the middle of a panic heard this voice come down from the right side of my head which lovingly spoke “you don’t have to leave, stay, you won’t regret it” that is the voice of intuition, of course my ego tried to convince me it was everything but, but I know that was something far bigger than me that day. Totally calm, the words sank in a straight line and soothed every muscle in my conflict ridden body, it was truly one of the most beautiful things that have ever happened. A higher power is fighting with me also through fear!

    I’m not free from relationship anxiety by all means, but I know no longer get the voices shouting at me to LEAVE they eventually get bored, convincing absolutely, real? Absolutely not.

    Sensitive people pick up even the tiniest of things, in my belief if it really was your intuition you wouldn’t want to be with him or you would want to work the problems out as there would be something directly effecting yourself in a harmful way, your intuition isn’t out to get you like the ego and it doesn’t have to convince and it doesn’t care if you don’t listen to it because at the end of the day, the choices you make hear on earth are yours which no compass can decide for you. Can they give you their advice? Of course! But you make the decision yourself. when you fight with ego the ego has already made your decision.

    Hope this helps.

    • *should not needed my intuition never said I needed to

      This might spike anxiety but I promise it caused no anxiety, because I saw the red flags which really where unmissable and was telling me the same thing i didn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who fracked me!! But even so, even in the potential danger it never demanded I listened to it.

  12. The thing about relationship anxiety is that if you don’t recognise it or tackle it early on in your relationship history I believe it makes it even harder to tackle as you get older. Now at 44 I can see that the many flaws I saw in my various serious relationships over the years weren’t generally red flags but were my anxiety looking for perfection when it doesn’t exist. But nOw having walked away (or having been dumped for my crazy anxious behaviour) from so many men, it feels impossible to face starting again as the thought of facing that stomach churning anxiety once again, just to have the opportunity to work through it, seems really unappealing. I’ve been in therapy for most of adult life and no one has ever suggested not listening to the many doubts before! I particularly regret the end of my most recent relationship last year – the thought of being a step mum filled me with such anxiety that he finished with me as he saw this as ultimate selfishness on my part. I miss him hugely but know that I still would be racked with fears about the relationship, fears that he doesn’t understand or tolerate. Maybe that’s the real red flag in itself!!

  13. Hi Sheryl, I have asked myself THE EXACT SAME QUESTION, SAME WORDS as this post. So when I read it in my e-mail this morning I knew I had to read it!
    I’m going through a hard time right now, everything is mixed up and feels real, but I know I’ve been like this, and I’ve been worse, and – gladly – I’ve been better. So I’ll take it easy on myself.
    Thank you for this post and many others that helps us “misunderstoods” to find comfort and relief and learn that we’re not “messed up”, nor alone.
    Big hug from Chile, South America. =)

  14. Im currently doing Break Free from anxiety course. Im still on first time read through around Lesson 9. So much brilliant information to take in its hard to go as slow as I can. My particular issue as I already knew is how I deal with loss of my parents (2nd christmas without mum). Im aware that I project to everyone as I find going underneath very painful. How can you ask the question about the fear of living with loss when you are already in your loss nightmare! How do you know if you are enough in the pain? Is it about connecting to my inner child and saying ‘you will be ok i promise’, does it go younger than that I don’t know how to soothe myself. I want to cry all the tears I feel Im not done with it yet. I said to my husband this morning that I need more space too cry as I have not being doing it enough. I asked him to be aware and trust its not about him its my inner journey. I know he understands some of this as he also has pain of loss he doesn’t reach with compassion enough. Thank you.

  15. I find this very helpful as I’m currently battling with staying with my boyfriend. My anxiety spikes every time we have a difficult moment with his 9 year old that he has full custody of (kiddo’s mom also spikes a lot of anxiety and anger the very few times that we deal with her). I’m taking the Break Free from Relationship Anxiety Course and realize that I have this terrible projection that plays out (“his son is a hard kid to raise, we will always have these relationship issues as long as his kid is here, I never wanted kids, etc…) and it’s exhausting to jump to more positive thoughts and recognizing my hurt and anger from the past. Thank you for this post and reminder that the work is worth it! I struggle daily, but I hope that things get better. I needed this encouragement today!

  16. Thankyou for this post. I only wish it had come earlier. I broke up with my wonderful fiancé 5 weeks ago and it was following an episode of anxiety.

    I thought I’d got past being triggered as my anxiety hit following a period of intense stress 2 years ago. It was horrible as up to that point although I’d had a few niggling doubts but we had grown together and he had always been my safe haven. I could curl up in his arms and just felt buffered from the world and loved and I had grown to love him.

    Following a ‘breakdown’ 2 years ago with intense panic attacks and anxiety I was put on medication by my Dr and it helped the symptoms but made me feel numb. Most of my attacks were centred around my relationship I could barely hug him without being triggered.

    I had managed to start functioning and get back to work after 8 weeks, when I visited my mum who I had told my fears and thoughts ‘I don’t know if I should be with Him anymore’ ‘ I need to leave or something bad will happen’ ‘this isn’t good need to leave’ initially she was very good and said don’t make a decision but I visited her again and she asked if I was happy. It triggered me and in return I broke up for 12 hrs but it just wasn’t what I wanted
    We stayed together but I still had periods of this anxious thinking.

    I managed to work through the course and got a little better but because of the anxiety I still had thoughts I must be faking it as although I did loving action loving feelings weren’t fully there but I recognise now how could they be every feeling is under the microscope of anxiety and trying to prove I did love him only fuelled the anxiety. I recognise now I’ve probably been in that pattern for a long time.

    Anyway I managed and did start to feel again. I came off my medications in July/August this year and he proposed to me this year. Roll on 3 months and we were due to go on a big trip to Japan and I started to get really anxious about a week before and I ruminated over this being the wrong relationship and felt my gut intuition pushing me I had to leave now as this relationship was making me anxious and I was going to get ill if I didn’t. Needless to say I recognise this was truly just relationship anxiety but after talking to him and sleeping on it the next day the thoughts started again and I though I just couldn’t do it anymore.

    The anxiety just took hold and I told him I didn’t feel this was right for me anymore. I’ve had minimal period of relief and still have anxiety but now on the other side of this I see it a lot clearer how irrational the fear is. That anything that seems urgent that you have to leav is just anxiety. I ended s beautiful 8 year relationship with a man who isn’t perfect and I’m not perfect but really had something worth fighting for. I ended it because of anxiety ( I feel so devastated that I let it ruin something lovely) .

    Intuition doesn’t scream for you to leave, fear does. Don’t leave a great thing because of fea or anxietyr. I know it grips people and you believe it because it runs through your whole being and body, claiming it’s the truth when all it is is a protection mechanism to help you survive and a signal that deeper work may need to be done to understand why a great loving man would make you feel this.

    I will regret my decision on so many levels for a very long time and I just hope one day I don’t let anxiety take the thing I find most precious again. I would do anything to go back to him but I think I’ve hurt him too much and I’m also scared to start fighting relationship anxiety again. If I could say anything to anyone going through this I know it hurts like hell and it feels so overwhelming but just hold on because I see now ending it wasn’t the answer. It may feel like the only option but it’s Finding ways to manage anxiety and work with you’re real fears are.

    • Hi,

      Im the exact same as you mention. Im still with my partner of 9 years and we have 2 kids. Every part of me screams LEAVE but I dont know what to do

    • Excellent piece. I am currently in the cycle of is it anxiety or intuition. We been married 3 years and have a 2 and half year old little girl. We broke up back in May after some arguments and I developed depression and anxiety. Was put on meds by my doctor and didn’t seem to work. Upped my dosage three weeks back and thought they working etc, we know trying to work things out slowly had a lovely weekend two weeks back but now my anxiety has risen and is telling me to end it. I am goggling each day to see if it’s intuition or anxiety and don’t want to make a wrong choice. My anxiety is waking each morning with panic attacks etc and it stays with me for the day and I feel guilty as when she texts or calls I feel I shouldn’t be having these feelings. Can anyone tell me if it’s my anxiety or is it my gut feeling ?

  17. Hello! Can you elaborate on the “intuition lives in what is happening” and “anxiety lives in what might happen” paradigm? I’ve struggled before with anxiety that I interpreted as my truth (or as I call it “insecurity masked as intuition”) and I thought I was able to work my way through it. I’m struggling right now with what is possibly intuition that then spiked my anxiety. My boyfriend is a generally quiet person, I’ve known this since we first started dating (and, believe me, it took me forever to understand that his quietness is not a secret desire to leave me). We’ve recently celebrated our one year anniversary and he asked me to move in with him. He’s lived with an SO before, I have not, so this is a really big deal for me. When I try to bring up how difficult this is for me, he just seems to brush it off, which really hurts me even though I don’t think he means to. I’m at the place right now where I feel like my intuition is telling me that he doesn’t engage in the subject because he’s not big on talking about things but I am seeing that that spiked my anxiety because then the (dreaded “what if”) thoughts chimed in. What if he can’t talk about anything important? What if he can’t talk about anything that’s important to me? What kind of relationship is this when we can’t communicate the things that that are important to us to each other? What if he just doesn’t care? Then it spirals into questions about his commitment. What if he’s just selfish? He only cares when it is something he wants to do, he doesn’t care if it’s something I want to do. It’s even started to cloud my perception, now I am overly conscious of anything he does that confirms those questions like if he starts looking at his phone while we’re watching a movie or if he gives me a short response when I ask him a question. This feels like intuition because it’s in the moment. The thought pops in while it’s happening, we’ll be sitting together, having a conversation and I’ll have something I want to say but it dies in my throat because experience and my perception is telling me that he’s not going to care.

    I should mention that early in our relationship I told him that I was struggling with anxiety and depression and was floored by how well he responded to me. He was sensitive and caring and made me feel like he was behind me no matter what. I can’t tell if that feeling has really gone, if it is hidden from me right now or if it ever existed in the first place (maybe it was just a byproduct of the fairy-dust in the infatuation phase). Somehow making the distinction that these thoughts are manifestations of anxiety isn’t enough for me anymore, I still feel horrible. So now I’m irritable and closed-off, which I know is not the way to handle things but I can’t help it. I withdraw when I don’t feel safe and no one has a stable relationship when they’re not willing to be open with their partner. Any advice on how to address this? I know communication is something a lot of couples struggle with but what are some healthy actions to take when you’re having communication issues? Do I need to deal with my anxiety around the issue of being heard before I can even effectively approach this issue with him? I appreciate any wisdom you have!

  18. Dear Sheryl,

    I am a woman in her early 20s with a host of anxiety issues; I was a very sensitive little girl and experienced a lot of hurt – vicariously (my parents are in leadership roles and were and personally – and self-image issues throughout my adolescence, which lead to a period of rebellion in my late teens.

    I have been in a relationship with the most beautiful boy since around March of this year, and have encountered numerous difficulties. He is honestly an incredibly beautiful boy with the most gentle and loving nature, even though he himself has numerous personal issues stemming from childhood. Our early relationship was fraught with my anxieties and I broke up with him more times than I can count. Most of my fears surround him not being confident enough around other people (which is understandable given his history) or us not meshing enough; my friends and family are very important to me as is conversation and ‘engaging’ intellectually. I feel awful because I feel so anxious and sometimes I am so difficult and recently, without the loving support of my parents who are Christians (I am at university), I feel inclined to succumb to the world’s cry of ‘it’s not right! Break up with him! He won’t fulfil you! It’s not fair of you to be with him if you have such doubts!’ But Sheryl – I don’t want to! I love him, and we CAN engage and connect on a deep level. He CAN give me what I want as well as loving me in the way I need. But I feel I keep being so difficult and I just don’t really know what to do – I am also at this present moment suffering with a guilt and confession anxiety which means I’m terrified to go home and spend the whole Christmas with my parents knowing the sort of thing that I did when I was going through my rebelling phase.
    I’m sorry for this; I know that you must be so busy. I know also you may not be able to reply to this but I just want to thank you for your beautiful soul and the fact that you offer so much free information.

    So many thanks, and peace, and love,


    • Stay the course, A. Keep reading through my site, keep developing your inner strength and connecting to your own source of wisdom and guidance, and you will grow through this.

  19. Sheryl,

    I’m going through the Conscious Weddings E-Course for the second time, and it’s been so helpful – particularly in giving me tools to manage my anxiety and thoughts. The minute my boyfriend proposed (which is what I was so excited for), my anxiety hit. I began to experience waves of grief from my parents’ divorce ten years ago (it was very public, and I was 15). It was terrible – I’ve always been able to talk about it, but I think am just feeling it for the first time). Anyway, this week has been particularly hard.

    I’m terrified of losing our relationship. I’m so scared something will change (some external, intangible force will rob us of the beautiful connection we have and we’ll never be able to get it back), one of us will cheat, or I will feel trapped and thus anxious and depressed my entire life. I also have a general fear that I “am not fully myself with him” or “he won’t make my life what I want it to be”.

    That said, a persistent anxious thought I’ve been attaching to this week is, “How can we get married without an incredibly solid base? When things get hard in marriage, we won’t have that concrete foundation of the “right type of love” to get through it. I just heard a recently married friend say, “Marriage is so hard. It’s a good thing when I married my husband I thought he was the most incredible thing in the world and our relationship was stronger than I could imagine. Otherwise, we never would make it through.” This statement absolutely crippled me with anxiety. Our relationship prior to engagement was wonderful, but I struggled with anxiety a lot – a different kind, though – i was so afraid we weren’t connected enough, and that he would leave me because of that. Anyway, I haven’t been able to picture our future together – for instance, I just saw the most adorable home and began to think of building a home with my fiance (it was an exciting thought for about one second and then morphed into an anxious “i can’t picture it” thought). Also, my fiance may come to my city for a month for his work and my immediate thought wasn’t excitement, it was “oh no, what if it doesn’t go well” “what if it feels off” “what if it’s awkward” “what if it doesn’t feel like it normally does when we’re together”, etc.

    My question is twofold: 1) How do I discover what is underneath my anxious thoughts? I’m really having trouble connecting with the feeling instead of the thought. and 2) Is it normal for those suffering from relationship anxiety to not be able to picture the future and fear “off” feelings? I’m just so worried these mean that our relationship isn’t right.

    • I feel in a similar way and would love to know the answer to these thoughts. But somehow I think that the answer is in us… and that it’s a choice. I hope I am right. Stay strong.

  20. Hi Sheryl (I’m from Uruguay, so sorry my bad English). I wanted to thank you and people who have commented on this site because I found your blog when I was feeling really desperate.
    Im 23 years old and I have been with my boyfriend for a year.
    At first he made me feel like I was living a dream, because he is my first serious relationship and before him I used to seek after the “bad guys”, the drama and I was definitely the pursuer.
    When we started dating I assumed that role again, but as soon as I started knowing my boyfriend, the way he loves me and the confidence he gives to myself, all my protective barriers went down and I “allowed” myself to be happy in a healthy relationship.

    Months went by, until I started comparing what I feel for him with the obsession I used to feel for a guy before us, and in that moment all went down hill, I spent so much time stressed out about this comparison, that one day the thought “What if I don’t love my boyfriend enough?” popped up in my mind. I thought we had to break up, that maybe he wasn’t the one, I started finding him flaws that never mattered in a first place, etc.

    I spent months feeling horrible and he has been so compassionate and a really good partner with me. Be broke up for a week and it was funny, because YES, finally my doubts where gone, but as soon as we broke up, I started planning how to get back together…
    I’m in therapy now with a new doctor. My anxiety has almost gone but it went through lots of things. One day I thought I was a lesbian, then, mistakes I have made in the past came to my mind again, it was a way of telling me “My bboyfriend is so pure and I have done or seen that things in the past, so I don’t deserve him”.

    I read so many articles that you wrote and I think that that gay spike and all the things that came with it, where because in the past I didn’t give to them the necessary attention because I felt alone and afraid, and now having a great partner makes me feel safe and allows me to be completely vulnerable. I have always been the person who seeks after my parents, he has problems with alcohol and my mother is depressive, so I couldn’t have my moments of crisis back then.

    The thing now is I don’t feel as anxious as I used to, and that makes me feel bad, because the doubts about my relationship are here again. Yesterday I cried a lot because I don’t want to leave him, and I’m afraid I’m in denial or something, but there isn’t a single reason to leave, just fear. Fear of losing him, fear of the future because I can’t picture us living together though I would like that to happen.
    It’s like part of me thinks it’s anxiety, and part of me wants to convince me it isn’t, that is intuition (though this post gave me so much clarity that it isn’t). And wants to convince me that I will always feel this way. What terrifies me the most is thinking what if we get married, have children and I continue feeling this way or regret not following this horrible feelings and just leaving when I was younger?

    I don’t want to leave him, but there’s always this doubt, and the thought that, before him, I was so used to feel the drama that came with the pursuer – distancer game, I became obsessed with that feeling. And now I’m in a healthy relationship with no red flags, just a man who loves me and shows me who he really is, and it’s committed to our love and possible future, and that, for some reason, terrifies me. Its like I think I cannot live with him or have a future together if I don’t feel that chemistry I used to feel for the others…

    Sorry for this to be so long, and let me thank you again for your tremendous help.

  21. It’s uncanny how these articles come at just the right moment. I posted over six months ago about how I was in an abusive relationship with a man that I nevertheless loved very much and I had just called off our wedding. A few months before the wedding I was hit with paralyzing fear, panic, and anxiety. I had never felt that way about a relationship and I know now that the relationship was horribly unhealthy. Even so, I felt terribly guilty about calling off the wedding and for not keeping my commitment to him.
    I am now in a relationship with a man, J, who cared for me deeply years ago. When we first met, it felt like we had always known each other but I was not physically attracted to J. I met him at the same time I met my ex-fiancé and I had to choose one or the other since they were both pursuing me. I chose my ex because of the intense chemistry we had. After breaking up with my ex, my world was shattered and for the first time I doubted whether a romantic relationship was right for me. I was no longer optimistic about love and relationships seemed like trap. I reached out to J out of curiosity, never expecting him to respond since I had chosen my ex over him. But he did respond and he ended up being my strongest support system, my safe haven, and my dearest friend as I struggled to rebuild my life.
    As a few months passed, I began to feel afraid of J. I knew he cared for me and hoped to eventually be in a relationship with me and it terrified me. We acted like a couple and people started to ask why we just didn’t date. He would get close to me and then I would panic and withdraw. This cycle continued and he was always patient and kind, no matter how anxious and irrational I acted. I tried to push him away multiple times because I was so afraid I would hurt him. But I couldn’t push him away. We have been in an “official” relationship for a month and a half now and I seem to have good and bad weeks. One week I will be happy and excited and so full of gratitude that I have him in my life. Then the next week I will feel disconnected, trapped, panicky, and doubt whether we should be together or whether I should be in a relationship at all. It reminds me of how I felt when I panicked about my ex before the wedding. But J is not like my abusive ex. Do I feel this way because of my past scars, because I’m not supposed to be with J, or because I’m not supposed to be in a relationship at all? I’m so confused.

    • Sounds like you have been through a lot! If I may share my 2 cents. I think abusive relationships can make us doubt ourselves severely, that’s usually what abusive relationships do fundamentally – so it makes sense to me that you are doubting nearly everything about yourself and him. Also, abusive relationships leave us with attachment wounds, ptsd and other hurts that I think it’s important to heal. Do you have a therapist? That can be really important. Also, I don’t know how much time you gave yourself between leaving your ex and connecting with J – but if it wasn’t much time, it makes further sense to me that you are still recovering. Being in an abusive relationship leave us with a lot to work through, even after we end it. Though I think the good news is we recover! Good luck!

      • Thank you so much for your reply, AA. It’s true there wasn’t much time in between ending things with my ex and connecting with J, only a couple of months. I honestly did not believe J would speak to me (I only added him as a friend on Facebook because I never forgot how easy he was to talk to and he seemed like a great guy) but he messaged me immediately. I just wish I knew whether this anxiety and fear was due to me being afraid of a relationship and I would feel this way regardless of who the person was, or whether it means we are incompatible somehow. The anxiety and fear feel the same as when I was trying to decide to call off the wedding, but J has no red flags, all our values and views match up, and, when I’m not feeling like I’m going to run away, I feel more comfortable around him than I have around anyone ever. To make things worse, it’s really true that well-meaning friends and family all say that if you’re anxious or afraid, he’s probably not the right person for you. Even the therapist I saw a few times told me that because I was not very physically attracted to J, we would probably not be able to make it in a romantic relationship. However, my physical attraction to J has grown over time, but it isn’t that same intense romantic passion I had for my ex. I know J doesn’t want to lose me, but I feel so guilty about not being able to give him all he deserves from a relationship.

  22. I am so thankful for your work and your wisdom…

  23. Hi Sheryl,

    First, I want to thank you for being a lifesaver. Had I not seen your website, I could never have understood all the crippling anxiety and the fears. Only this website made me stand up, take the leap and get married to my absolutely wonderful and adorable partner. I fall right in the anxious-sensitive-creative spectrum. I have felt every single fear, right from “Am I gay?” spike to the “What if I won’t love her?”, “What if it doesn’t feel right?” etc etc. I was always a worrier all my life and somehow I thought it was “abnormal” or even “girly”. So all through my adolescence, I stifled these emotions underneath, so much that I thought I had lost the ability to cry. I always used to feel out of place, socially clumsy and judged. And I always felt nobody could like me, at least in a “romantic” way. With such severe complexes, I was going through hell. But when I met my wife, she just embraced all my quirks, all my flaws, all my fears and anxieties and loved me like I had never been loved. By love, I merely mean the warmth and care, not the heady, “in love” feelings. So now that we are married, again the anxiety seems to be making a comeback. It keeps asking, if I have made the right decision(Again, typical) and “The grass is always greener syndrome”. Every single one of your posts in this regard, speak to me. And I can CLEARLY see that these obsessive/intrusive questions and my emptiness are a direct result of my utter lack of self trust. And somewhere in your posts you had mentioned, “We love without skill”. That i find to be so true. Its like I don’t know how to love and then again I go on a tailspin thinking I dont have the “feelings”.Its agonizing. While I can clearly the broken and delusional parts in me, there’s that anxious voice in me that says “There is no evidence for any of this”(seeking guarantees!), “There is no actual well of self”. These thoughts are severely disorienting because I cannot measure in words how much I have grown just by reading and understanding your posts. They speak directly to me and resonate with me strongly. But its like my ego will throw anything it has to stop me from growing. I really don’t know the purpose of this comment. I guess after 6 months of just being a mute spectator to all the posts and comments, I just wanted to Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Please keep writing more and more. Its a balm that soothes and heals. Once I can afford it, I will definitely sign up for one of your courses.

  24. One question, I know from the course that anxiety manifests in many different ways. I’ve had the bad feeling and not so much physical symptoms does that mean it’s intuition and not anxiety? Although ive experienced the physical symptoms as well for long periods of time…
    Slightly confused here.

    • It’s anxiety, Julia. Since I’ve spoken with you I can say that with confidence.

      • Thank you Sheryl.

  25. I enjoyed reading Victorias anxiety
    Journey. She gives us alot of positive feedback. Thank you, Victoria..I also have grown because of your incredible inspiring courses, Sheryl.
    By moving forward it does get easier not harder. There are many setbacks, you will fall and get back up again. It is a gift doing this work and we are the lucky ones to learn how to really love and be loved.

    • Thank you, Angela. It is, indeed, a gift to be able to turn inward and learn how to widen our hearts and minds to become more tolerant, accepting, and loving.

  26. Your timing is incredible, Sheryl. I suffered intensely with those ‘what if I’m a bad person’ thoughts as a teen, and recently they have been creeping back in. Though the wording is usually more ‘You are a ______’ than ‘What if’.

    I realised recently I have been creating a new kind of perfectionism for myself lately – this work. All the time I’m feeling like I’m not doing it right, constantly apologising for my less-than-perfect behaviour and residing to my familiar place of feeling that I am a bad person because of my less-than-perfect thoughts. My parents, partner, and friends are very good people, and I recognise that I am constantly trying to achieve their impossible level of goodness. I am always falling short, reiterating that deep-seated feeling that I am bad, not like other ‘normal’ people. I used to feel better about myself in relationships where I felt like I was the good one by comparison but was ultimately unhappy with the way I was treated.

    I say this every week, but the feeling that I never react ‘correctly’ to things won’t go away. Do you have any future plans to write about this subject? I’m not sure what you’d call it.

    I think I might take a break from this blog for a while. It’s a wonderful place, but at the moment, things are really good in my relationship and I think I’d be best to savor it. I almost don’t trust that there doesn’t feel to be anything wrong – I worry that means I’m not doing the work right, or this can’t be real love, but more infatuation (though I feel we are way beyond that stage, thank goodness). All I do know is that I feel very content and happy with where we’re at.

    Thanks for the post, Sheryl (I dread the day you stop writing to us!) xx

  27. Sheryl,

    Is the following thought common: “when I met my fiance, I was in an emotional season and was trying to figure out who I was. What if I was running from my problems or using him to find stability, and the truth is we aren’t right for each other?”

    I struggle with a pervasive sense of not feeling fully myself, like I’m hiding something, and like I’ll never be fully myself if I’m with my fiancé. Is this common? It really scares me that this means I’m not supposed to stay with him. I love him. And we’re long distance – when I’m with him all of my anxiety quiets, but it’s been really bad when we’re apart.

    Thanks for all you do Sheryl!

    • Yes, that’s a typical thought, and it usually stems from not knowing yourself very well. If being with him makes you feel more stable and safe that can only be a good thing.

      • Thanks so much for your response, Sheryl! I’ve found myself in a series of transitions and exploring old grief for a couple years now. The E-Course has been really helpful for me in learning to replace fear-based thoughts with truths. I guess if I were to apply that here, my fear-based thinking would tell me to run because he doesn’t make me alive enough/I’m just with him because I don’t want to be alone. But the truth is I’m terrified of losing what I have with him, and I can learn more about who I am through this loving relationship. Is that the right process? I guess I’m scared it’s really bad that I’m not more confident in who I am as I prepare to get married 🙁

  28. Thank you sheryl and victoria, this was a fery good description, much appreciated.
    Also wanted to let you know im pregnant 8 weeks, havent had bad anxiety yet and pretty happy overall, i am however, fully aware anxiety is next door, so i need to be prepared, especially going through different stages of pregnancy can be tough by itself, im going through my notes and meditation to make sure i go through this journey safe and sound, thanks again for all you support Sheryl xxx

  29. Thank you so much for providing clarity between anxiety and intuition, because this is a fear I have had. I have a strong sense of self and know that deep down, I make good and loving decisions for myself, but when anxiety creeps up it makes me doubt even my own ability to make choices. I make mistakes, of course, but even that is part of my strength to know that I’ll still be okay if and when I do.

  30. Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you for all your writings and thoughts on relationship anxiety. I have found much help through reading many of your articles on this subject specifically on what love really is (compared to the lies we may have learned along the way).

    I have learned a lot through my current relationship compared to my past patterns – one thing being that I think I can relate to the idea that longing is “love.” I made a list of everyone I have ever “liked” or been interested in – and almost all of them didn’t know who I was. I would meet someone and admire them from afar but had no real relationship with them – it was all fantasy. Some knew me but there was never any real friendship or relationship there, ever. And maybe that was addicting? Or it was all I knew for my experience with relationships. I seemed to believe that that’s the basis for the start of a relationship. I would meet someone and be interested in them right away (based on what – I am not even so sure) and there would be this kind of game – the chase for them. The longing and definitely “infatuation.” And those feelings grow and grow.

    I seem to be stuck on past “infatuations” – comparing my current relationship to the way I felt before when I “liked/was infatuated” with the person. It doesn’t make sense that a past infatuation of a person I didn’t even really know can feel stronger than my like/love for my current boyfriend. But that’s the lie I am believing or trying to fight.

    In the past it was a constant search for signs that maybe that person liked me back. whereas my current relationship started off with a wonderful man who was already my friend and i already knew how he felt about me. he was available and made it known to me his feelings and his intentions. It started off more of a “let me take a chance on this. I would be a fool not to give this a shot…” rather than what I have experienced before which was “I like this guy so much I already know I would marry him if he asked me on a date…” Very unhealthy, I know. But those were my thoughts – that I would just know ahead of time. before even going on a date.

    I have been dating my boyfriend for over a year now and we have such a special and unique relationship. he is my best friend and truly the most wonderful man I could meet. He cherishes me and treats me better than I could ever imagine. I love and admire so many things about him and yet I am consumed with anxiety – from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed lately. I often wonder how wonderful the relationship could be if my anxiety would just subside.

    things are serious and we are talking marriage and I just can’t seem to break from the idea that I was never infatuated with my boyfriend from the beginning. it was more gradual over time that my love has grown. but it has made me doubt “maybe I don’t love him and I just think it’s love.” or I think “maybe you are (or “what if you are”) actually more interested in past infatuations than you are with current boyfriend” and that gives me major anxiety. It’s like I doubt what I have because the feelings of infatuation seemed so much stronger and I feel like love should just be a “knowing” and I guess a “feeling.”

    I know love is an action. And I want to love my boyfriend and I want to continue to grow in love and choose that love (and not constantly doubt it and be searching for signs/feelings to confirm I DO love him). I guess I am wondering if your course has anything specifically on how to break free from past infatuations (that are truly crumbs in comparison to what I have)because that seems to be what makes me doubt what I have. The fact that I keep going there in my mind – as intrusive thoughts that i just want to be gone. I think I had a pattern of obsessing from afar without ever knowing the person and just creating the fantasies in my head – and now they are stuck there. And that’s what I’m basing my beliefs of love and relationships on because it is all i have known in the past. and now I guess I am learning and trying to fight the lies I have learned along the way that “when you know, you know…” and “it should be easy”

    I guess these terrible and anxious thoughts interfere with what beautiful thing I do have. and I am looking for hope – that the course touches on this subject. thank you for your time.

  31. Thank you so much for this article, and this website in general. A few weeks back, i was like the happiest girl on the planet, my boyfriend is all I ever hoped and prayed for, and we started searching for an appartment to move in together. But as soons as we got one, the doubts and anxiety hit me. Do I love him enough? Is it the right thing to do? I mean I know I love him and couldn’t imagine life without him, but I just can’t feel it, and that what’s driving me crazy, because I want to feel it again. I’m so thankful that I found this website (while googling all kinds of stuff like “signs that you still love him”) and it’s soothing to know that I’m not the only one with thoughts like this.
    I just want to feel the happiness and love again I felt a few weeks back,and I hope and think these articles and experiences will help me dealing with it.

  32. I work in public interest – I identify strongly as someone who has committed her career and private life to fighting for social change and trying to make the world a better place. But my bf just doesn’t have that gene in him – he tries to be the best boss, partner and family member, but he doesn’t really feel any drive to get out and make the larger community a better place (although he’s kind, compassionate, and so thoughtful to the work/family/friend community directly around him). Is this a projection? Any advice on how to get around it? It feels like a major gap in values/ways we approach life.

    • I don’t think the gap is as wide as you think, and it sounds like there’s an invitation here to widen your definition of “service” and “making the world a better place.” This story, from Charles Eisensteins’ “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible” comes to mind:

      “I recently spoke with Kalle Lasn, the founder of the radical magazine Adbusters and a man who has devoted his entire life to promoting and practicing hands-on activism. He told me that for some time now he hasn’t been spending much time on politics or the magazine because he’s taking care of his ninety-five-year old mother-in-law. He said, ‘Taking care of her is far more important to me than all my other work put together.’

      Kalle agreed with me when I said, ‘Our worldview must accommodate the truth and importance of this.” My dear reader, can you countenance a reality in which to save the planet we have to neglect our ninety-five-year old mother-in-law? There must be a place in our understanding of how the universe works for the intimate, uncalculated acts of service that are such a beautiful part of our humanity.”

      There are so many ways to serve, and none is superior or inferior to any other in terms of the ripple effect of change that they initiate.

  33. Sheryl,

    I’m having trouble identifying my anxiety (or lack of). Every night I have anxiety dreams, every day I have headache, throat issues and burning pain in my ears from grinding my teeth. I don’t feel anxious though. It’s very confusing. I only ever seem to feel…anger, contentment, flatness. Nothing in between. I have really awful, unkind, even violent thoughts, but I don’t react the way I feel appropriate. It’s more like ‘it doesn’t bother you to think that? what’s wrong with you?’. I’m so confused. Can you talk more about how anxiety manifests? I have suffered with intrusive thoughts and images for as long as I can remember, is it possible to become so used to them that you don’t react with shock or fear? They still bother me though…but I’m almost more bothered by how little they bother me, if that makes sense? I don’t know what that says about me. It’s scary. For example, I can imagine a loved one dying and not feel a thing. I can imagine leaving J and not feel a thing. I can even imagine something terrible and imagine sensations of pleasure. I hope this is because these are my worst fears, and not because something is wrong with me.

    Thanks for the post, it was really helpful as usual and addressed some things I’ve been mulling over. One more thing, when you buy an e-courses, do you have access to the content forever? Or does it sort of, time-out…? Fxo

    • There’s nothing wrong with you, Francine ;). What you’re describing is a normal outgrowth of spending a lifetime tamping down your emotions; a numbness ensues as you become desensitized to the actual feeling. Regarding the courses: you will have lifetime access. And I highly recommend the Break Free course for you. It will set into motion an inner firing of connections that will help you come back into your body so that you can feel your feelings.

      • My goodness thank you so much for replying. Is it really normal to think such horrible things? And to think them and not feel bad or have to punish yourself. Part of me knows it IS okay, and part of me feels I am falling down a slippery slope by allowing bad thoughts to go unpunished. There’s a part of me that still believes I’m the odd one out, this isn’t anxiety, this is me and I am horrible inside. 🙁

        …I guess you have also said before (‘Cycles of Healing’ springs to mind) that we open and close even after we feel like we’ve cracked it with the work. Sometimes the numbness is more concerning than the extreme anxiety, at least anxiety feels to = care. I am also on medication designed to ‘dilute’ my emotions so to speak, so that adds another layer of confusion.

        I don’t currently have the money, but I fully intend to do at least one of the courses. Thanks Sheryl, grateful for you always.

  34. Hi all! 🙂 This week some of my key anxiety points have been sore. I am obsessed with my partner and I’s astrological compatibility – sun signs, birth chart, aspects etc. It drives me crazy. We get a not so ideal rap from the astrological world, especially in regard to sex. While I beg to differ, when my anxiety does flare up, I fall back on the astrological deductions. I google and google all the aspects and conjunctions on crappy websites. Its like a trance and I feel really numb. It makes me think and feel things like: Am I going against the stars and lying? I just want our love to be validated because I think it is actually really good and we are really blessed but I cant believe that side of my perception when I get caught up in this “you only have 44% compatibility rating!”

    My boyfriend is a realist and he is not afraid of “walking against the starts”, “going against the planets” because he just…has a solid sense of self autonomy and self trust. I feel like I will NEVER have this resoluteness regardless of how hard I try. Its like I go into auto pilot with the astrology stuff and it usually flares up around pms times.

    This all started when one of my best friends who I hadnt seen in 2 years for the first time told me in detail about why she left her long term partner (She and her former boyfriend shared a parallel coupling and story with us for the first year of the relationship and I imagined this would continue for several years). NB. We fell in love with Swedish backpackers who are best friends. She moved to Sweden 2 years ago but has been back a year after having left her partner. I am still with my love and we are plodding along nicely both with the intention of marriage and kids. They have been seprate for 1 year now. She said she couldn’t be intimate with him anymore because it was a lie as he was merely a companion. I of course projected my own situations on to hers. There is a strong sense of companionship in my relationship and our sex life has always been somewhat moderate and calm. Even if I dont feel a gravitational pull towards my love I consciously choose to express my love to him which usually stirs in enough heat and chemistry to have fun and connect. I think of my friend doing this and to her this conscious decision would be a lie without the gravitational pull. Me and my partners sexual connection is on average moderate although we do enjoy the rare intensity. So yes, key points of anxiety for me are: what makes other people stay have their relationships and breakups outside of my situation are hard, almost like they are my own; I am obsessed with astrological compatibilty and just want to one day jump on google and have the strological calculators reveal that me and my boyfriend have an above 90 rating; we are great companions, is our sexual connections enough?

  35. Hi Sheryl & Friends,

  36. Hi Sheryl & Friends,
    I found this post to spike me a bit. I find with my anxiety sometimes it is just day to day feelings like something is wrong with the relationship and you need to escape. Almost to an obsessional level. I dont find as Victoria said that the anxiety always accompanies physical severe symptoms. Sometimes it seems like it is that quiet intuition voice. Does anyone else experience this?

    I forget who posted above but sometimes I feel the anxiety could be over issues you do have with your partner: example as we spoke about Sherly in our phone session like emotional intimacy or more fun with your partner …etc So is the anxiety sometimes really true and there for a reason about stuff like this in a relationship?

    I guess its hard when its not always what if questions as Victoria mentioned. Sometimes i just dont feel good about my partner or i am annoyed or they dont look attractive etcc. Sometimes that voice comes in your head that says “i just dont love you” or other statements that affect you so much. Any advice on that?

  37. This post, along with several recent ones and the Trust Yourself materials from last year’s course (especially the Yes/Know/I don’t Know materials) has been very helpful in my process of understanding myself and my current relationship. After several months of dismissive and disparaging comments about my emotions (he kept bringing up a time when I was anxious and, as he put it, smelled like fear. He told me several times how unattractive it was and that he never wants to smell it again, for example), about my body, and other remarks that felt like put-downs to me, I’ve had this growing feeling that my boyfriend doesn’t share my values and isn’t interested in building intimacy and creating a relationship based on mutual support. I was concerned that this was anxiety projection and old thought patterns. I’ve been doing a lot of work, journaling, mindfulness, going over course materials, and of course talking with my boyfriend. When I described the kind of emotional intimacy I wanted he basically said no and I received more put-downs from him. I tried to listen to the spaces between the words, to the aggregate of his non-verbal behavior to see if he was saying something else overall when he wasn’t feeling put on the spot. I considered that he might simply not be aware of his own feelings yet. I’m very sensitive to how I might affect others, or demanding too much. I’ve been taking time to just listen, if not to words then to vibrations from him, and those inside me. The amazing thing is what has dropped away is the fear. The anxiety has subsided because I am listening to my heart, not my head. I asked myself – is this just a temporary alleviation because I’m thinking about the end? But I can feel deep clarity in my body. I feel deeply sad too, but not at all scared. I’m sitting with the sadness, letting it tell me where else I need to heal. I’d rather the conclusion be: anxiety is preventing me from seeing how this man is loving me in ways that aren’t always legible or comfortable for me! Stay and grow together! But it isn’t, and it is ok. I keep coming back to this lesson of self-trust, and through it my self-love grows. I’ve learned so much from the work you’ve facilitated in me over the past year, thank you.

    • This is what listening and being open to learning looks like. It’s not always comfortable and it’s not always the answer you want, but with the clarity comes an inner peace (alongside the sadness) that will guide you toward the next action. Your partner’s disparaging comments about your emotions and direct put-downs are not loving behavior, and if he’s clearly saying that he doesn’t want to build more intimacy and safety, it sounds like it may be time to walk away. Sending love.

  38. Sheryl, thank you (as always) for another wonderful post. I took your e-course for engagement anxiety in August, when I found myself in a tailspin of anxiety about my engagement. I’d been engaged almost a year, and suddenly I became plagued with doubts and fears so intense that I couldn’t eat, sleep, or work — all I could do was cry and ruminate about what I thought these feelings it must have meant…to leave.

    The course was immediate relief. I spent weeks in my “chrysalis” reading, writing, and meditating as I became willing to deconstruct an old set of beliefs I previously didn’t even know I had. I thought the anxiety would be gone for good.

    Now I’m just over 3 months away from my wedding (a date I became able to set after doing the course), and the anxiety has started to rear it’s ugly head again here and there. Luckily, the symptoms last for shorter periods and are not as intense. I STILL, however, ask the question of anxiety vs intuition, which is frankly a terrifying question to continuously be engaging with. I’m looking for support around this highly vulnerable feeling, as the people in my everyday life, while loving, do not relate to this space of transformation. I can’t possibly be the only bride who felt in one moment that she’d moved through all the layers of anxiety only to find herself struggling again! I’m on the edge of that cliff and am tired of waiting to jump when it opens all this space for discomfort.

    All of this being said, I appreciate Victoria’s comment about noticing what anxiety does to the physical body — something that I question, however, if pushing away a “gut” feeling also does. Based on the work I’ve done, my intellectual mind understands that these things are different, but dropping into my body’s truth feels far too scary. Because what if (knowing that is a clear indicator of fear)??… why does this intrusive thought keep coming up?!

    The one thing I DO know is that it’s time to do more work, and I can’t do it without support of those who have been there before.

    Much love,

    • This work happens in layers and spirals, which means that there’s usually an initial layer of relief and reprieve, then the anxiety cycles back as an indicator that more work needs to be done. The truth is that our inner world, like children, need regular attention and attunement. We tend to attend when the spikes hit and then become complacent when we’re feeling better, but ultimately we learn that in order to maintain wellness we need to attune every day. If you stopped watering your plants they would die. When we stop watering the ground of psyche, it becomes dry and brittle, then demands our attention through the form of anxiety, intrusive thoughts, worry, and illness.

      • Thank you so much for your response, Sheryl!

        I am active in a 12-Step program, and so haven’t become entirely complacent in tending to myself, though I admittedly have not been tending as diligently as when my spike was fierce. I certainly needed your reminder that the anxiety’s reappearance is an indicator that more work needs to be done.

        Would you recommend going back through the coursework for a refresh on the points my anxious Self may have forgotten? I never managed to become active on the Forum, but would really love to connect with the other members. I think that may be a good next step.

        Much love,

  39. Hello Sheryl,

    I understand you must be receiving thousands of emails all the time, but I have a quick question.

    I’m doing the course on break free from relationship anxiety.

    I definitely focus on my partner’s flaws a lot a lot a lot, and feel right now in the dark night of the soul. The flaw I focus on the most is the fact that my partner is easily angered, never with me, but with work or other problems. And in the flaws you often talk about that people can be focusing on: not intelligent enough, not witty enough, too short, too tall etc.. there never seems to be something that is definitely a negative trait, while I would say choleric is a negative trait. On the other hand you don’t talk about it either in the red flags, and there are no red flags about my partner. He is a loving and caring person.

    So I obviously get into the loop of: he is choleric, this is what is making me anxious, I probably don’t really love him if I feel this way, I should leave.

    Have you ever had anyone focusing on his/her partner’s anger?

    Thank you for reading me, and thank you so much for your course,


    • Anger comes up quite often in my work, and I’ll probably write an article about it at some point. Many men struggle with anger because, growing up, it’s the only acceptable emotion that they’re allowed to express so every other emotion gets funneled into anger. As long as your partner isn’t abusive, this isn’t a red flag and, in my opinion, is not a reason to leave. It can be helpful to understand that the anger is a placeholder for more vulnerable emotions like anxiety, overwhelm, and sadness. Even if your partner can’t identify the softer emotions, if you can hold that perspective it will help you bring more compassion to him.

      • Yes please Sheryl, I would love to hear more about Anger, I dont know how to deal with it anymore, I would love to hear your words on that and forgiveness.

        God Bless

  40. Hi everyone!

    I really liked the post, and it helped me understand better intuition vs anxiety. But I still have a question. I do believe that I have relationship anxiety, but my anxiety sometimes is more mellow and quit. It’s not a loving voice though, and all it say is that “I don’t want this. I need to leave.” And I have a feeling of wanting to cry, but no tears will come out when I try. So what I am are asking about is: Does anxiety and fear always scream and cause physical symptoms? I have just started taking meds against depression, and it turned my anxiety levels up, and now i can feel many of the physical symptoms when I am anxious.

  41. Hello. I have a question (I have been with my wonderful boyfriend for 3 years)my anxiety started a few days ago: do I love him? Just the thought of future gave me a knot in my stomach when before I couldn’t wait for him to propose. Now I feel sick. I want to feel good again with him.

    People break up from relationships all the time so: how do I make the difference between: this is not right for me that’s the problem or this is my anxiety being horrible?! ??

    I don’t want to loose this but how do I know I want it because oh him or because of the fear of being alone?? (Thought I’m not that scared of being alone if the fear would stop… but I don’t think I want to lose him) I don’t understand what is going on.

  42. I’m a bit late on the scene leaving comments on this blog from several days ago! Nevertheless…I really find it helpful and so reassuring that I’m not the only one who struggles with intense anxiety about relationships. I’m 36 and never had a relationship without anxiety (and hence never a relationship lasting for more than a few months). I was completely floored by a relationship that ended 18 months ago which I finished because it “didn’t feel right” and I felt overwhelmed by many of the feelings others have described. We have not been in contact since but I think about him most days and feel so tempted to contact him because it just feels unresolved somehow. I’m weighing up the wisdom of whether I should contact him or not. I don’t want to hurt him or confuse him but for some reason I want to get in contact again. Not sure what to do!

    • Welcome, Florence. I wouldn’t recommend contacting him until you’ve done some solid work on yourself, which means learning to attend to the anxiety. Time, alone, will not heal relationship anxiety. If you want to break out of your lifelong pattern and experience a long-term relationship (with all of its joys and challenges!), I recommend reading through my site in its entirely and/or signing up for the Break Free course:

  43. Hi Ladies,

    I’m the Victoria who wrote this letter to Sheryl and I just wanted to thank you all for your comments and feedback. There’s a lot I see here that has me remembering how it felt, and please know there is light at the end of this very long tunnel. And I’m fascinated to see all the comments here about the discoveries your anxiety led you to. I have to say I had gotten out of bad relationships before with little to no anxiety – sadness and heartbreak, yes, but not intense fear – and it was only when this good relationship was becoming permanent and I began to freak the hell out, that I realized I had a lot of unresolved issues with fear (of pretty much everything BUT snakes, somehow) as well as issues with communication and control. And it took me a long to accept that a thought doesn’t actually MEAN anything. You can just have a thought today and think “yep. This is my thought today.” and move right along. That one took me a while, too 🙂 All my very best to all of you!

  44. Also, if it helps, I forgot to mention one more more on-the-ground practical thing I did. I gave up looking at divorce/engagement/marriage narratives and statistics. I went through this phase where I looked them up all the time. I read stories about people who were divorced or managed to come back from the brink of divorce, or called off engagements, or were thinking about it, why they did it, when they did it, should I be doing it? Did this random couple from Ohio calling of their engagement mean that I should call off mine? Did that successfully married forever couple mean I would be too?

    As my therapist reminded me, this obsessive checking on the engagement/marriage/divorce narrativea of other people caused me nothing but agony because I was looking for something in those articles that doesn’t exist: a guarantee. I read those articles like they were clues, or prophecy, like if I researched relationships – their beginnings and endings and in-betweens – hard enough I would somehow find a way to make sure my own never had any pain in it. But all of this – marriage, love, this general being alive thing – is uncertain and the best clues you have are in your own narratives. No one else’s. So I recommend NOT looking at those stories in the same I recommend NOT WebMDing skin cancer for 7 hours because you don’t like the look of that freckle ( also I think I do too often).


  45. Thank you for sharing that incredible word of encouragement. It would seem that there is hope for people. I have been facing these exact questions on a daily basis. From day one I have had a gripping fear and gut wretching anxiety that only occurs in my romantic relationships. My current relationship is no different. I am trying my best to find ways to allieviate the anxiety without losing him. We have come close many times after only four months. I pick him apart from every angle and I am consumed every day with thoughts “he isn’t the one, if I keep thinking these things”. ” I don’t know if I love him” Do I love him? When was the last time I had an exhilarating moment with him? I cant remember the good times? why? He isn’t moral enough for me! How can I marry someone who doesn’t share all my values!? We disagree on things, that must mean we are not right for each other! Sometimes, I feel so cold and emotionless ….sometimes I hate him for no reason! Its crazy! It doesn’t make sense! The thought of breaking up makes me break down and cry! I don’t want to! We are closing the gap and I want to move closer to him since I live 4.5 hours away. Sometimes, I am really excited about it….then the thoughts come….what if it doesn’t workout? I have told him that I love him….finally ( it took 4 months!) and I meant it….it was relief to say it. Now I struggle with saying “IN” love…what if I don’t mean it? Do I? Don’t I? I feel like I am going crazy! I don’t want to hurt him. Sometimes I think its selfish of me to stay with him when he could be happy with someone who is normal….ya know? Makes me cry. He is IN LOVE with me and would marry me right now, but my anxiety isn’t ready. What if I cant handle it? I want to marry for life! I had some personal time today ( 1 hour) and he got really upset that I didn’t text him. Now he is mad at me and is ignoring me. Is personal time and family time a sign that I don’t care about him or love him? I want to spend part of my Christmas with my family, and part of it with him….and he is mad because I don’t want to spend ALL of it with him….does that mean I don’t love him? This is really spiking my anxiety! My mind is running a million miles a minute! Please help!

  46. Hey girls! I love this forum-it’s so thoughtful and unique and has been helpful as I’m trying to navigate a new relationship.

    I’m dating a guy with whom I feel completely seen and adored. My anxiety/intuition (?) pops up when he says things I find unnecessary or not very smart. It flares when he makes jokes I don’t think are funny or when he makes mistakes I think he shouldn’t have.

    Is this critical nature my own fault? I’ve always been critical of myself and others. I’m totally willing to “barrel through my fears” as Alanis Morisstte said, but I don’t want to force or override my instincts either.

    I don’t want to make a mistake with this guy-he’s so quality. But can I deal with the the irritation I feel when these things happen?

    Is this just what love is like with another faulty human being?

  47. Hi, was just looking for some insight. At the start of this it was so clear to see what was my intuition and what was my fear based thoughts, the fear ones would make me panicky like hell, I used to describe it as like my head constantly battling what my heart wants. But now as this anxious state has continued I feel extremely numb and have been diagnosed with depression, everything is bleak and I feel very emotionless and this makes it so hard to distinguish fear from intuition. Is there any techniques that anyone reccomends to help me because I feel so emotionless it makes it feel more real. Even tho I know it’s not deep deep down. Does that make sense????

  48. I dated a great lady for a about 10 weeks. We both said we felt a great connection. There was lots of laughing, great communication, no fighting, shared core values. We are both past the age of starting a family though I have 3 kids one at home for a couple more years.

    The issue is she told me when we were together she felt great. When we were not she had crushing heavy feeling. She worried about “what ifs” like the fact I am self employed (her marriage was to a self employed and it was a roller coaster), and said she was jealous of my kids (whom she never met and would have welcomed her).

    In an case her thoughts were causing her not to sleep and she was losing weight and dragging around this heavy feeling all the time. We spent a little time apart on her suggestion. Got back together. Same thing. I ended up telling her that I did not want to see her in as much anguish as she was in, and I did not want to end up getting hurt by falling for someone who could never get there with me.

    Should I be taking a course? Should I get one and give it to her? If so which one. Any suggestions, advice, or comments welcome.

    • The course would likely be of great benefit to her, but she would need to be open to it. I would suggest that you first send her a few of my articles and then ask if she would like you to gift her the course.

  49. Thanks Sheryl. Unfortunately it does not look like this is going to work out. She could not see that the pain she was feeling was not because of me or the relationship, but that because the relationship exposed or shone the light on the real problem. I could see she was happier eliminating the light rather addressing the problem, so we ended it.

    I would have been more content with this end had there been something she could point at wrong with me or the relationship. All she could say was I was an amazing guy, it was a great connection, but she couldn’t go forward with this.

    I know she has had some unfortunate and dysfunctional life experience back to childhood, but she was truly one of the most amazing, beautiful souls I have ever met. Everyone loses here, and the reason is hard to accept. It must be a horrible prison to be trapped in, that being lonely or in another dysfunctional relationship, seems better then fighting the anxiety.

    • I’m sorry to hear this, Joe. Sadly, this story is all-too common, but perhaps she just isn’t ready to dive into her deeper work.

  50. Looking for help with the question Is he having and affair/does he want to leave. Question has been asked out loud, but things still not adding up. Gut says yes. But is it my fear of abandonment?

  51. Hello! I have a question: i feel everything that you wrote in this article: i feel a lack of communication with my partner which my partner said we can fix but i broke up with him today, i ran. We have been together for the past month and a half and everything was great it was obvious he cared more for me than i did for him but he was aware and fine with that, but i had a nasty feeling: i had a feeling of distress in my stomach, i was feeling incredibly anxious having panic attacks thinking what if i dont like him what if he is not what i am thinking of as my future soul mate. I had these thoughts only when i was alone and they damaged my social and working abilities. We broke up but he doesnt want to let go of me he wants to be by my side and he is absolutely aware that this is just a phase and that i am trying to autodistruct myself. My mom is telling me that doubts mean dont but i dont know what to feel. In the beginning he insisted so much but i didnt want to go out with him cause he was so kind and so gentile with me and so patient and the calmity and power that he showed scared me. What should i do.

  52. I’ve been wit my s/o for almost 5 years. And I’m very happy with him. We just moved in a couple months ago and everything has been great, I’ve been so happy to come home to him every day and be with him. We laugh and goof around and have a good time and I’ve been overal very happy doing so. In the last week I had a thought of “am I really happy” “am I fooling myself?”. Now I have this overwhelming knot in my stomach, anxiety and I feel like I can barely look at him. I feel like my gut is telling me this isn’t right and you’re just fooling yourself and you just need to break up. I should feel so safe with him but I feel so nervous. And have a lump in my throat around him. I don’t want to be without him/to break up. I do feel very happy with him usually and I don’t know why or what this means but I hate it. I have anxiety and I felt like this once before and snapped out of it but this time I fear it means any flaws we/he has are making me end it. I don’t want this at all but can’t get out of my head. This is horrible.

    • It’s unlikely that this has anything to do with him and it’s more about your own fears about commitment and your grief around moving in together – plus unprocessed fear and grief from your past. In other words, it sounds like textbook relationship anxiety 😉. If you can take the course, I strongly recommend it as it will help you nip this in the bud before it grows too much of a life on its own:

      If you can’t take the course, read through my site as much as you can.

  53. Hi! My name is Matt and relationship anxiety is something I’ve dealt with on and off for years. Relationship anxiety, and relationship OCD that is. Throughout my healing journey, I continue to see more communities like this who say forget the mainstream view, what’s really going on? And I just wanted to say I love it, and I’m glad to have found yet another community where people can come to find solace and healing!

  54. Thanks so much for all of your content Sheryl. I was diagnosed with GAD and now am working on some exposure therapy for ROCD.

    I am in a great relationship, and I don’t want to leave, but I have a constant feeling in my stomach that sometimes is a knot, a pit, physical pain. This feeling makes me think this relationship is wrong, that perhaps it’s my intuition telling me to leave. But I don’t want to. Has anyone experienced this? It has plagued my relationship since it’s started. And I’ve broken up with him before because of it. But he’s my best friend, my partner and a great man. But what if I’m ignoring something? What if I’m supposed to be somewhere else? Any advice from anyone reading would be greatly appreciated.

    • Elizabeth, I am in the exact same position as you at the moment – it is SO difficult. The pain in my stomach is sometimes unbearable and I have not experienced this before to the best of my knowledge, even when I knew my ex was cheating on me, I never felt anything this strong.

      So this may tell me in my experience that it could well be past relationship trauma. If I didn’t have a feeling this painful when I knew my ex was cheating (I just knew), then it tells me that this is something I may be blowing out of proportion and possibly killing my own happiness and peace by overthinking too much.

      I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks – I’m driving myself insane and I don’t want to ruin something with my partner that could potentially be what I have been praying for.

  55. So the article mentions the fear, “what if I’m gay?” Has anyone ever had the fear, “what if I’m polyamorous?”
    I just got married May 16 this year and am suddenly plunged into anxiety attacks. All centered around loosing him or hurting him. And being worried about why I no longer feel passionately attracted to him. But I love him soo much and we are so good for each other. I don’t want to leave him and I’m tired of dealing with this anxiety.
    I’m not actually in love with anyone else, nor have I ever been in love with 2 people at the same time. It’s just the, what if, that sends me spiraling into paralyzing fear. And my anxiety ends up hurting my husband because he’s worried about loosing me. “What if she’s actually polyamorous?”
    Ugh. Any advice?

  56. Thank you for this article. It is really great knowing I am not alone. I recently became engaged to my boyfriend of 3.5 years. I was so happy to be engaged for the first 3 months and then I started having panic attacks and extreme anxiety over getting married. What if I actually don’t love him? What if my family doesn’t actually love him? What if I’m making the wrong choice? It feels like there’s something missing, what if I’m settling? And this isn’t the first time I’ve had doubts in the relationship either. I started obsessively googling things like “how do you know if you should break up?” “What does it feel like to love someone?” “How do you know if you’re settling?” “Premarital doubts” and of course everything you see is doubts = don’t get married (especially if you’ve previously had doubts before getting engaged). So then my doubts started making me doubt more and it’s been a horrible vicious cycle. He’s a great guy and I know I love him but I can’t let go of my anxiety. The wedding isn’t for 8 more months and I really don’t know how I can deal with this for 8 more months and then after the wedding who knows if I’ll be ok and if I have made the right choice. I almost ended it one day but the thought of ending it destroyed me and I couldn’t do it. I just keep hoping I have this big aha moment and it’s written in the sky “yes you should marry him. Everything will be ok!” But life doesn’t work like that. I had a horrible heartbreak several years ago from my first love and I think that’s probably where all my anxiety comes from. Im trying to remind myself that I chose my fiancé and he is my person each time I have intrusive thoughts and it seems to help a little. It also helps seeing these articles and reading about people’s similar stories so that I know I’m not alone and I’m not crazy.

  57. Hi I have just come across this article desperately searching for some answers. I’m on the verge of leaving my husband as I simply feel like I can’t trust him or anyone. I have fears everyday physical and mental symptoms that he is cheating on me and going to leave me. I love this man more than anything and he always is there to try and help me but my mind constantly tells me he is a liar and I shouldn’t trust me. I don’t believe he has ever given me reason not to trust him. But a part of me always questions is he telling the truth, does he mean what he says, is a telling me lies. I just want my mind to be quiet.

  58. Sheryl,
    I’m so happy I found this website, resources and this community. From as early as I can remember I’ve had ocd tendencies/anxiety thoughts. It started out with thinking my house was going to catch on fire, then lead to not being able to sleep at any friends houses (I would always have to have my parents pick me up), every Sunday I would get sick to my stomach to go back to school on Monday.
    My parents, that are still together today, have never had the best relationship. They fought in front of my a majority of my life while I was living at home up until the age of 23/25.
    I have been in the same partner for almost 14 years now, we started dating when we were 15 and have only been with each other. I’ve had these feelings of rOCD/relationship anxiety on and off for a majority of our relationship.
    I would say from about 2020 up until about May/June of this year was so amazing! No anxious and intrusive thoughts about him or our relationship, felt very connected to each other, had a great time together, make each other laugh, have the same values, want the same things etc. we moved back in with my parents in April of 2022 and that’s when I felt like things started to come back slowly for me as far as my intrusive/negative thoughts go. Specifically from January of this year up until now. I had a surgery in April that I kept having intrusive thoughts of “am I going to wake up?” “How bad is the surgery/post op going to be?” And I’ve done this my entire life, especially when I don’t have anything to compare it to – I’ve never had surgery before. Everything went fine! I worked myself up so much that after the surgery I had developed insomnia for about 4 weeks after surgery, I still go through spurts of not sleeping well.
    Anyways, since then my relationship anxiety has come back full swing. We live in NY and have our whole lives but we’re planning a move to Texas by the end of the year hopefully. A time that I want to be so fun, exciting, happy and full of life feels like the total opposite and some days feels like I’m making a mistake. When I think about it, deep down I want to move with my boyfriend, try somewhere new, get a new job, meet new people etc but the questions of “what if” or “are we right for each other?” “Why would I be feeling like this if we were right for each other?” I think a lot of my intrusive thoughts about my relationship also stem from the fact that we have only been with each other so I also don’t have anything to compare it to. I also haven’t seen anyone else say that they’ve only been with this one person that they’re with now so that also makes me nervous and makes me feel like *I am the exception*
    We have gone through so much together and even when I’ve gone through periods around having these thoughts and questioning things, I’ve always had a feeling to not leave. Something has always told me that staying isn’t right but leaving isn’t either. I keep getting this feeling of not feeling safe around him – even though nothing has changed in our relationship except for the moving half way across the country factor. But do I give up a perfectly healthy relationship because I’m having doubts? Or even if I did leave and find someone else down the road, would I still have this relationship anxiety? I guess that’s what keeps me up at night.
    He’s such a good person, hard worker, loves me SO much, wants to move to Texas for a better life for us, we have great conversations, make each other laugh, tell each other everything and are honest and supportive of one another.
    I just wish there was someone/something to tell me “you’re in the right relationship, this is just your anxiety that you are projecting onto your partner” it’s so difficult 🙁

  59. Hello.
    I woke up with a calm knowing the other day, with the thought ‘it is right to break up with him.’ It was peaceful and felt light, and I feel like my anxiety is me fighting these thoughts.
    I don’t want to leave him. I don’t want to lose him and his essence. I remember seeing the essence of him at one point in our relationship. About how gentle he is, how kind he is, how loving his soul is.
    I haven’t felt that since.

    I think this feeling is my intuition, as I felt the same in my previous relationship and don’t really regret breaking up with him. It was just the time for us I think.

    I don’t want to let him go. Even now, my chest is tightening thinking about the pain that we will both feel, especially him. But how can I wake up with that sense of knowing and carry on? How can I stay in a relationship with someone who I feel it is right to break up with?

    Thank you for this article Sheryl. I have a lot to ponder tonight.


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