Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.
Just because you feel it doesn’t mean you have to act on it.
I find myself saying there two statements almost more than any other to my clients and course members.
Somewhere along the way we learned to bow down to every thought and feeling that crosses into consciousness. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that we never learned along the way how to navigate the sometimes tricky road of thoughts and feelings, meaning how to cultivate the muscle of discernment that allows us determine which thoughts are true and which are false; which feelings are originating from health and which are rooted in fear.
Unless you learn the skill of discernment, you will become a complete victim to your thoughts and feelings. A thought enters your mind like “I don’t love my partner enough” or “I have cancer” and you immediately latch onto it as the truth. The next thing you know you’re spinning into a tizzy of anxiety, caught up in the magnetic energy of that thought which you have believed as truth. Or you feel resistance when your wife comes over to you for a hug and a kiss, and you fall prey to the power of the fear/resistance, which causes you to constrict and turn away from her ever so subtly.
Until you develop a strong, wise presence inside of you that can make choices based on clear intellect and values rather than fleeting thoughts and feelings you will be buffeted around by the fleeting thoughts and feelings that fluctuate like hormones inside your mind and body. If you’re navigating your life by the compass of thoughts and feelings you will live on a stormy sea, indeed. It would be like allowing your three-year old to run your household instead of recognizing that every house – just like every psyche – needs a solid and loving adult at the helm.
What are the alternatives? When you have access to the choice-point – meaning a pause between a thought or feeling and believing it or acting on it – you win back all the power. It’s in that small yet decisive moment between thought and action that you can say, “Do I want to latch onto this thought?” or “Do I want to act on this feeling?” Let’s take the example above with the man who hooks into the resistance and pushes away his wife. The man could think, “This resistance means I don’t really love her”, thereby perpetuating the feeling, which is quite likely originating from a fear-based place inside of him. If he gives into the feeling and acts from that place, his fear-wall will become fortified. If, on the other hand, he recognizes his habit of resistance and withdrawal and acts against it by moving toward her despite the feeling, he will likely feel the resistance for a few moments and then it will loosen and soften into receptivity.
I can hear the anxious questions piping up in the galley right about now: “But how do I know which thoughts are true and which feelings to act on? How do I develop this loving, clear presence inside of me?” This is one of the many gifts of anxiety: the pain is so great that we’re inspired to learn skills and grow parts of ourselves that we never needed to grow otherwise. You learn to listen to the wise part of you by taking actions that require that you turn inward. The only way to know your inner world is to spend time with yourself in silence and solitude. There are many ways to do this – journaling, meditation, prayer, dreamwork, to name a few – but one or more must be engaged if you’re going to connect with your own wisdom and learn to navigate your life guided by your inner compass instead of by your thoughts and feelings.
I would like to be able to break it down for you into a succinct and simple “how to”, but the truth is that there is no formula. The guidance on which way to turn and how to act must be accessed on a case-by-case, moment-by-moment experience. Part of the anxiety comes from the belief that there’s one “correct” answer for every life situation. This is the belief of the ego-mind that needs to split the world into duality (right/wrong; good/bad; black/white). When we allow ourselves to be guided by the multi-dimensional realm of the unconscious – which makes itself known in healthy ways through dreams, prayer, meditation, journaling and in more disturbing ways through anxiety, intrusive thoughts, insomnia, and other neuroses – we grow our tolerance for ambiguity, which then allows us to flow more fluidly with life’s changing terrain.
However, a basic guiding principle is to know that clear, loving decisions are made from our values and commitments. As one of the men I interviewed for my e-course said so clearly about his wife, “The thoughts and the feelings don’t define whether or not I love her. What defines it is the actions.” This is a man who struggled profoundly with relationship anxiety, specifically with the thought, “I’ve fallen out of love.” It was when he understood that love is action and isn’t defined by whether or not we feel attracted or “in love” in a particular moment that he was able to break free from the stronghold of his fluctuating thoughts and feelings. This awareness came from months of reading, journaling, dialoguing, and meditating. His dark night of the soul initiated by relationship anxiety propelled him to commit to a path of inner work like nothing he had known before. Through this commitment and practice he developed a strong and loving witness self, and from that place he was able to assimilate the knowledge that thoughts and feelings aren’t reliable barometers of truth.
In a nutshell, thoughts and feelings can originate from fear or from love, from habit or from truth. If we act on every thought or feeling that darts through mind or heart we will be as untamed as a toddler. By contrast, when we learn to train the mind and discipline the heart, we learn to act from our values and commitments. We act because we value love and so we move toward love. We move toward the places that scare us and act from courage because we value growth. Even if everything inside of me wants to turn away from the one I love, I acknowledge the strength of the feelings but choose to open anyway. I do this because I value love over fear. I do this because I choose to be a love-warrior.
Recommended Reading: The Untethered Soul
LOVE the recommended reading!! 🙂
Hi Sheryl! Thank you so much for the post.
I was wondering if you got my comment on your last post about ‘one body’ (i think it may be waiting for approval?). I’ve been a mess for the past two weeks (I almost ended my relationship last night because of intrusive thoughts ) and I was just really hoping that maybe you could help me figure out whether it is relationship anxiety or not. I’m scared that maybe instead it’s anxiety about breaking up? It sounds silly- but i feel like if i can confirm that it’s one or the other, I can begin to tackle the issue. I’m just swamped in confusion right now.
I’m sorry for any inconvenience! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you see it and can provide some guidence.
Since you found your way to my work, MissJane, and if you’re in a healthy, loving relationship without red flags, chances are quite high that you’re experiencing classic relationship anxiety and the answer is not to leave. The fear of breaking up is an intrusive thought just like any other.
Thank you for your reply! What would classify as red flags? I’m partially worried that now i’m experiencing this anxiety, that maybe I don’t have the same values as what he does. There’s this voice inside me telling me at every turn that I no longer want this, and it’s just drowning out all the lovings thoughts.
I just find it hard because part of me has accepted that if i’m out of love/infatuation- i need to stay and find my way back to him because a life without him is just unfathomable- he means too much to me. And yet, even when I think this another part of me is screaming at me to run. Is this just fear? X
Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse currently occurring in the relationship
Any addiction which includes alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and in some cases work and media.
Unhealed issues around trust and betrayal.
Your partner displays tendencies characteristic of severe narcissism and sociopathy (habitual or compulsive lying; rarely shows empathy)
Severe issues around control – keeping in mind that everyone has control issues but what I’m talking about is deep control issues where one person feels consistently trapped or unsafe by the other’s need for control.
Irreconcilable differences around core values like religion or having children – ie one of you definitely wants to have kids and the other definitely doesn’t.
Let me say here – because I’ve been doing this work for so long and I can hear when an anxious spike might arise – that having differences is NOT a red flag issue! Everyone has differences, and many couples have vast differences around things like how they like to spend their time. You’re not meant to partner with your clone. Differences are to be expected and even valued. But I’m talking about core differences where there is simply no way to compromise without one of you sacrificing a deeply held value.
Thank you for the list Sheryl! The only one I see that could even potentially be a thing is ‘unhealed issues’. A few weeks back now, my partner had his own anxious moment where he wasn’t sure if he wanted to get married. However, we perservered (and he is now 110% sure he wants to get married).
For a while I was still worried he wanted marriage because of me, and strangely enough- when he told me he wanted it because he wanted to marry me- my anxiety kicked up. I wonder if it comes from the fact that I’m just not used to no longer having to chase him? (And by chase, I mean reassure him that I’ll be here no matter what, etc, etc- that I want a future with him, with or without marriage). I always feel strongest when I’m fighting for something, and so maybe that’s why I feel a little flat now?
I’m dreadfully sorry to keep commenting- but I just have one last question. These feelings- all these anxious thoughts and intrusive thoughts..they happened overnight. Now I’ve been in tears for two weeks dreading that I no longer love my partner- but is it really possible to fall out of love with someone over night? I was completely fine the day before this all started. I felt such a strong love for my partner, and then suddenly- it vanished the next morning.
Thank you for your paitence Sheryl!
You didn’t fall out of love; you fell into a fear. Crucial difference.
It’s just confusing when I don’t know what I’m scared of! To me, him saying he wants to marry me because he wants to, not because he knows it’s something I want- that shouldn’t set off anxiety? Like I just have no clue what there is to be fearful of.
Is it not feeling like I have control over it? That I no longer have to fight for the relationship? I know you’ve talked a lot about romantic love vs. real love, and maybe it’s the transition that’s setting me off? I’m used to such big, consuming emotions- to suddenly not feel those is terrifying.
“You didn’t fall out of love; you fell into fear” is going to be my mantra for the moment, Sheryl. Hopefully soon my anxious mind will come to terms with it.
I find myself in a situation really really similar to missjanes…
up until a few weeks ago i felt so in love with my partner (we too have been discussing the future) and just like missjane suddenly overnight it felt like I fell out of love
is it actually possible to fall out of love overnight???? I really want to believe “You didn’t fall out of love you fell into fear” but part of me keeps thinking that maybe feelings really can change overnight and thats whats happened to me..
Feelings can, indeed, change overnight. That’s what it means to fall into fear. It doesn’t mean the love is gone; it means it’s been eclipsed by fear.
If the feelings can change overnight though..could it actually be falling out of love?? I try to tell myself that Ive loved this person long enough that theres almost no way that i could stop loving them overnight but thats what it feels like… how do you tell the difference between feeling fear and just not loving them anymore?
i dont think we have any red flags in the relationship but can you just lose feelings for someone?
This is what I get! I’m worried that part of me so badly wants it to be fear- because right now, I am scared. I’m scared of losing him. But what if I just realised overnight that I don’t want to be with anymore and now that’s what is scaring me?
I can’t picture a life without him- and I know deep down I do love this man. But how I love the man enough to be with him for the rest of my life if it seems like my feelings for him have changed overnight?
Yes the feelings can fade overnight. That’s what happens when fear eclipses love. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve stopped loving your partner. It only means that you’ve stopped feeling the feelings of love. And herein lies the thinking error: falling prey to the cultural misconception that love is only a feeling. When you stop feeling the feelings of love, that’s when the work of learning about real love begins. Welcome to the journey. You’ve just been initiated:
Do you believe I do still have loving feels for my partner, Sheryl? Like- can I save this? I feel like it would be a mistake to leave my partner, and something I would potentially regret for the rest of my life. Feeling like this though- so doubtful and drained, is just driving me up the wall.
I’m reading through the article now- thank you so much for all your help. I hope both Tess and I can both ease our worries soon enough. x
I was wondering.. do you think the way society promotes the idea of ‘outgrowing’ your partner is on par with feeling bored with them? Lately I see so many things such on facebook and all over media about how relationships can be ‘outgrown’ and that sometimes people come into your life for a specific reason and then they walk out/are no longer needed.
I fear that maybe this spikes a lot of people such as myself and people who come onto your website for help. I was just wondering if you think it is possible to outgrow a relationship that has no red flags or if this idea of ‘outgrowing’ a relationship comes from people no longer feeling like they should fight for it/have been unable to learn that love isn’t a feeling. I feel like it’s partially buying into this idea that ‘doubt means don’t’/’not feeling love means not being in love’ and yet cannot help but worry myself that maybe it is possible to ‘outgrow’ a person.
What do you think? I think it’s a little scary to think so many people are letting go of relationships because they feel like a ‘spark’ is gone or the idea that someone is disposable…like is it really outgrowing them, is it just being bored? Or is it the same?
Id love to hear a opinion on this as well..sometimes these posts make me worry even more. Maybe I’ve outgrown the relationship and that’s why i feel like i no longer want it? It seems weird to go from loving someone so much to feeling like you no longer want a relationship.. if this is fear then i just want these feelings to end already
I have read those posts too about outgrowing a relationship and it definitely makes me more anxious but then I realize some people are married for 50+ years and still are going strong. I had a long conversation with my grandma who is in a healthy marriage and she said it takes A Lot of work and it is all worth it! I hope I get to that point! The fear really throws me off!
Would love to hear some thoughts on this as well. As someone who got married at 22, I often have the sharp pang of anxiety that I didn’t know myself well enough to get married at such a young age, or that I will outgrow my husband at some point, or if I become successful in my career, I will want to leave him or something. We’ve been married for almost five years, and this year is when my anxiety started.
There’s a difference between someone leaving a relationship because the “spark” is gone or they’ve “fallen out of love” and someone truly outgrowing a partner. Yes, it’s possible to “outgrow” someone (I know that will spike some of you). It happens when one person is committed to opening and learning and the other person is committed to staying stuck. Keep in mind that there are many ways to grow (some people’s growth is much quieter than others and may not look like reading, therapy, etc, but that doesn’t mean they’re not growing), and as long as you both have a basically open heart and a mindset of learning you will likely grow together throughout a lifetime. It’s also common for couples to “leap frog”, meaning that one person takes a leap in their growth and then the other person leaps ahead, and sometimes this cycle can last several years (meaning that one person may seem stuck for a long time but then the leap ahead).
What I’m hearing more than anything else in these comments is a need for certainty, and that’s at the heart of much of relationship anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Committed partnership is always a risk. We risk losing each other. We risk hurting each other. And, yes, we risk growing apart. There is no certainty and there are no guarantees. So we gather up our faith, commit with our best heart forward, and hang on for the ride, trusting that whatever happens we will ultimately learn, grown, and be okay. And we practice, over and over again, growing our tolerance for uncertainty and growing our commitment to loving at any cost, no matter how great the risk.
Growing apart and outgrowing my partner definitely spikes my anxiety! If you are in a loving relationship and committed to making it work, would this happen? What does it mean?
This might be obvious, but I’m a little confused about not reacting to thoughts or feelings. I assume this is different to running away from them/avoiding them? I’ve had anxiety present with my partner pretty much since the beginning, yet for years I denied the anxiety and continued in the relationship. I guess I hoped the anxiety would go away in time, if I ignored it (unsurprisingly it didn’t!). Is the ideal way forward to acknowledge and heal the anxiety but not let the thoughts and feelings run riot? A dual process?
Good question. The work is to move toward the anxiety but then ask what is needed – what is the message inside the anxiety. When you develop a witness mind or a Wise Self you can discern which thoughts need attention and which you can let slide on by. This takes time, of course, but it’s an essential tool for breaking free from relationship anxiety.
So so beuaitful. Such a perfect distillation of your central message, which saved my psyche, my soul, my relationship and quite possibly my life. Thank you Sheryl!
Wow. This post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I just started reading The Untethered Soul yesterday!
Wonderful, Erica! It’s good to hear from you and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from the book.
I have been riding the edge of relationship anxiety for almost 2 years in long distance situation.
The learning has been huge and exhausting. I’m feeling called to leave this man, but can’t tell anymore if it’s my wise self or just vulnerability and fear. We both have deep issues we are trying to evolve from. So in one sense it’s been healing but also a hard learning curve. Again I feel pulled to leave, but can’t. I don’t know how to give up this game with myself and move on because I do love him and want to build a future. But he isn’t ready. How do I get to the truth of myself?
I am starting to really love myself so I’m confused if leaving is self loving or fear of getting hurt. Thank you for your beautiful newsletters. I learn so much!
OMG. This article SPOKE to me. I am having precisely this issue. And I won’t lie, I’ve had moments where the intrusive thoughts are just a whole lot more intrusive than usual and I have a hard time trying to not believe them, and letting the ambiguity of the future go. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. I’m hoping it’ll ease up soon but for now I fight it just about every moment of everyday.
Any advice — or repeated steps to take in the moments where anxiety takes over and thinks I can’t actually open myself up to love this person I am dating? And how to tell my mind to stop when any absence in communication starts the thoughts that he’s mad at me or is about to leave?
Thank you for sharing this valuable information. Really seems to come at the perfect time! Ever grateful!
Beautiful… Just beautiful. Sheryl you have made my journey towards love so much easier with your brilliant posts. Thank you 🙂
Is it possible for fear to tell you that you no longer want a relationship? I love my boyfriend but(like a lot of people commenting) it felt like everything changed overnight. I started out questioning whether i love him enough and now i’m in this awful dance with the voice inside my head…it seems so convincing sometimes that maybe i dont want to be in this relationship anymore but if this happened so suddenly that must be wrong? I cant give myself any actual reason as to why i no would want to be in a relationship with him either to make it more confusing..
Yes, that’s the whole point of fear: to try to convince you to run from the risk of loving. If you run you have successfully controlled the outcome. If you stay, you’re subjecting yourself to the uncertainty of life with a partner, the outcome of which you have little control. One of the core spokes of relationship anxiety is the fear of loss, which includes the loss of control.
So you dont think its possible to just suddenly not want to be dating your partner/anyone? I freak out that maybe ive created my own red flag issue of changed values because it feels like i now no longer want this future with my partner. Is that the fear though?
I had my biggest anixety attack last night to the point of feeling sick. Im just so confused about whether i want this or if its anxiety. The only comfort i could find was being cuddled up with my partner, but even then everytime he that we can work through this or that he loved me..my anxiety spikes. If i really didnt want this relationship…would i be freaking out this much?
*as to why i would no longer want to be in a relationship. Sorry for the error 🙁
Sheryl, I stumbled across your work recently and its amazing how I see myself in your words. I recently got engaged after dating for a long time, and albeit I had doubts before that about whether or not this really was true love, after my engagement, everything got worse. I have had bouts of anxiety thinking that if I think I dont love him, then getting married is the wrong move and I feel extremely guilty for leading him on because he is an amazing guy in every aspect (no red flags whatsoever). However, I do think that if I did call everything off, I would regret it for the rest of my life, just like some of the other women who commented to this post. I have started the conscious bride course but will seek more help because I have come to the conclusion that what I am going through now might me more deeply-rooted than what I thought.
I am very grateful to have come across your website and will dedicate myself to reading and learning from it as much as possible.
I’m currently going through a break up. We broke up today about 11 hours ago. We only dated (almost) four months and yet it hurts so much.. I keep jumping from one relationship to the next. I want someone to love me and be there for me when I need them instead of trying to love myself. It’s like I need a relationship in order to define who I am and feel loved. I don’t know how to get out of this hell hole I’m in. I’ve tried journaling, meditating, dialoging, and reading self help books. I’m just lost at this point and I’m trying to prevent myself from jumping into the next relationship in order to feel sane.
Hi Chrissy: I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Breakups are excruciating no matter how long you’ve been together. I would encourage you to consider these two courses of mine through MindBodyGreen:
Hi Sheryl,Thank you for your words above.
I have a question as I have been reading your blogs and am working through your Self Trust E-Course. You mention in relationship anxiety those who are feeling not as in love with their partners/spouses.
What about those of us who are also going through relationships where we feel on the other side of that….wanting more love in a dating relationship, and the fears that come up with that, such as abandonment ,etc.?
I mean that when we find ourselves dating others that seem less willing to give than us, or more emotionally unavailable, and the resulting anxiety that generates in me.
I recommend that you read Attached by Amir Levine. Also the more you fill you own well, using the tools taught in Trust Yourself, the less needy you will be toward your partner and the more likely your partner will be to come toward you.
Thank you Sheryl for your suggestions and quick reply. I appreciate your words.
Hi sheryl, would you be able to recommend any reading about “owning the shadow” parts of ourselves, ie the projections.
Inner Work by Robert Johnson.
The longer I do this work the more I realize that this fear is about me, not my husband. It struck me betweent the eyes that this fear would have come out no matter who I married. It’s a painful experience but I wouldn’t trade the truths I’ve learned. Thank you Sheryl for helping so many of us become love-warriors.
Fantastic, Rita. This is the first, and most crucial step, to breaking free.
I too listened to “The Untethered Soul” on audio book on Saturday… then I read this blog yesterday and just kept thinking WOW this is reinforcing everything I learned yesterday (then I saw the bottom recommended reading 🙂 )! Little things like this just remind me that there is a higher power at work here and that I am exactly where I need to be in this moment on my journey through life. Thanks for helping push me along through this spiritual journey.
Also- one of my favorite analogies from the book is about the dog and the invisible fence. In the past 2 days any uncomfortable feeling I have felt I just kept thinking that I was at my fence and I have one of two choices: I can feel the uncomfortable feelings and push through to freedom or I can stay confined behind this boundaries of uncomfortable feelings and never learn or grow. Oh what a help that analogy has been in such a short time.
I’m kind of in the same boat as Maddi right now. My fiancé proposed a month back, and since then i keep falling in and out of this feeling that i don’t want a relationship. Is it possible that anxiety can cause you to ‘red flag’ your own relationship? Prior to the engagement i knew I wanted to marry this man, but ever since he proposed i keep getting these thoughts about no longer wanting a relationship. However, i can’t find any grounding for why i would be thinking these things. It’s not as if i want to date other people or feel that being single would be better. I just suddenly get these thoughts that maybe i shouldn’t be in a relationship.
That’s what fear does: it tries to convince you to run. For all of you struggling in this same boat, I encourage you to join the e-course, where you will receive extensive information, support, exercises, and tools to help you break free from the stronghold of fear so that you can consciously and joyfully choose love:
Sorry to comment again- but would it be possible to just suddenly realise you don’t want a relationship, or is it something bigger at work? I was always fairly confident in my values (which my partner shares) up until now.
Unfortunately at the moment i cant afford the ecourse which breaks my heart because i feel like it’d help me sooth so many worries. For now i’m just trying to get myself to a point where i feel strong enough to fight and i’m so thankful for your website. Do you really think you can’t just want a relationship anymore though Sheryl? Like is it almost certain to be fear? I’m a little confused about your reply. I guess i’m just kind of after some reassurance that no- you don’t just stop wanting something so suddenly and that the voices are just fear.
No, I don’t think you can just suddenly not want a relationship anymore, especially when it’s healthy at its core. You are describing fear to a tee.
Also I will be offering my bi-annual e-coures sale at the end of May (Memorial Day weekend). Stay tuned.
How do u heal issues around trust and betrayal?
After I joined the open your heart course earlier this year, although I couldn’t translate everyone of your lessons into a habit, I have been moving towards my partner and committing to loving actions even when I’m facing anxiety or irritation with my partner and overall I would say that the relationship is better for it. But recently, after moving into the second year of my education, I am no longer in the same class as her and this change of environment has reminded me of an issue I have. When I was single, I used to constantly infatuate and chase after any woman was attractive and friendly, leading to multiple occasions where I was purely acting on feelings and highs and never seriously considering my actions or taking charge of my life, now that I’m in a serious long term relationship, when i catch myself with a hint of those feelings towards a woman who is relatively attractive and friendly. I feel extremely frightened and guilty towards my current partner, and I’m afraid of these temptations, i don’t want to look at a woman with the fear that i might cheat on my partner, it’s always been a problem that i never know how to properly manage my relations and perceptions in a way that being friends while knowing i will not fall prey to temptations or going back to my old ways of obsessing and pursuing women i know are and unsuitable for me, please tell me if I’m the only one or if i can get my psyches to grow up in to a conscious adult. ><
Kevin, I can completely relate to this. I have suffered with the same intrusive thoughts. Any attractive guy that talks to me/guy i used to have a thing for. For the past 9 months I’ve obsessed over an old friend of mine that I used to have a thing for. I was doing fine until he called me to tell me how happy he was for me. At that point, I immediately sunk into the thought “what if i was supposed to be with him?” and started stalking his FB, thinking about him all day and night to the point where i would cry to my boyfriend. it was upsetting but the way it made me FEEL reminds me that these thoughts are irrational and ones I could never do. if you want to talk about it let me know! I took the Open your heart course as well 🙂
I have had these thoughts too! Not fun
Oh my goodness! Words cannot describe how grateful I am for your responses, you’re right Kris, it really is an obsession. Even though I’m deeply aware that these are feelings and thoughts born from fear, I’d find myself going back and forth thoughts like, ‘why am I not feeling ‘in love’ with my partner and even being tempted to go back to chasing unavailable women, even being irritated by her negativity or points of moodiness as she is quite pessimistic herself, but recently she’s been trying so hard to be positive for both of us and I despise it when I can’t feel any happier than I actually was, I’ve been trying really hard to be a good partner and she does mention that she can see that I love her and that I’m putting in effort. And I really want to feel that way about myself but I don’t dare to as I’m afraid my skewed judgements of myself would cause me to inadvertently expect more from her as I was trying so hard, maybe that’s why I can’t appreciate her efforts, cause I’ve been so critical on myself and I projected these expectations onto her, honestly i don’t know, but I really hope this is the case. I’m so afraid of losing my first long term relationship, that I just want to go back to my previous mentalities of chasing and obsessing cause of how much trouble and hard work it takes, i do try to share my pains with her but i know I’d just hurt her if i mention my fearful obsessions due to how afraid she is of losing me too, she does try though, and those moments when she listens to me make me feel so fortunate that i have her. Also, i find it hard to connect to my own or her essence, and constantly having this difficulty in describing why i like or am still staying with her pains me even more. Sigh, going on just tires me out, but thank you for your attention! ^_^
Hi Kevin! Please email me if you want to talk about it because i can TOTALLY relate! [email protected]
I feel the same exact way and fortunately my boyfriend knows all my thoughts and will sometimes say things that trigger me and make me panic even more unintentionally.
I keep telling myself, that if this was how we REALLY felt, would we feel upset? anxious? detached? if they were LEGITIMATE REAL feelings? NO. fear makes us feel that way. Fear wants us to go back to our old habits because that way we arent set up to get hurt. I would love to chat with you because I got a lot of insight on this and its good to have someone to relate to 🙂
After 5 months of engagement anxiety I still struggle with the same thought : ‘are we compatible enough and am I making the right choice ?’. I’ve mentioned here before that my problem is my fiance’s education. He’s not as educated as me but it doesn’t make him less intelligent, in fact we communicate perfectly, he’s so kind and full of compassion that I don’t believe there’s anyone else like him out there. My question is should I just leave this relationship just because I don’t ‘appreciate’ him enough (that’s what he says) although he’s the best person ever……he treats me like a princess, I even feel guilty that sometimes I underestimate this wonderful man. I see other successful men out there and compare them with my fiance and feel terrible. I do love him and don’t want to hurt him. I have to mention that in all this confusion his father died two weeks ago and it just made the situation worse……I just feel awful about everything. I don’t wanna lose him!
To piggyback on MissJane and Tess a bit… My feelings, too, seemed to disappear overnight. For me, though, the initiation of anxiety occurred the night I found out that my sister (with whom I am very close) was getting divorced. Her husband had been present for the majority of my adolescence and growth, really… So to suddenly find out that their nearly decade-long marriage had not only been a struggle for them, but had now completely ended, was a terrible shock and seemed to spark the anxiety that I’ve been feeling. That was back in October. It’s been a long journey, but I can honestly say that with the help of this site and a gifted therapist, I’ve come a long way. This journey has been one of the most important things I’ve ever done and in many ways, it feels as thought my life is breaking open as I learn new things about love and relationships – and myself.
Like Tess, I am in a long-distance relationship. I’ve found that the distance really exaggerates the fear. Do you have any advice for those of us in long-distance relationships?
Distance can exaggerate fear but the work is the same: learning to move toward your own difficult feelings, learning to work with your mind. And it sounds like you’re doing it!
One thing that feeds my relationship anxiety and doubt in myself is when my boyfriend asks, “Do you love me?”. Or times when I say, “I love you.” and he replies, “Are you sure?”. This past month or so I have been feeling more sexual attraction/desire/romantic for him. In fact, I have been initiating a lot with him these past two weekends. (I think being more calm and relaxing before sex really helps me. He joked that I seem to initate sex with him when he is taking a nap. I think it is because we are both relaxed and sex isn’t expected.) He tells me this past Sunday that he fears that I am not sexually attracted to him. I think part of it is because his ex left him after a 20 year marriage and he doesn’t feel confident in his body. He thinks he looks old and fat. But then I fear, “what of he is right–what if I don’t really love him and what if I am not truly sexually attracted to him. How does someone with relationship anxiety deal with partner’s anxiety and fear that you don’t love them? Is there any book or relaxation recommendations? Did you do a post already on relationship anxiety fueled by partner’s fear of abandonment? Is anyone else dealing with this?
Yes! I’m going through that seem thing right now! My boyfriend asks me sometimes if I really am in love with him or if I’m just staying because I’m too afraid to go. That spikes my anxiety and I truly believe that I am too afraid to go. And saying I love you is hard because there is always a little voice that is saying that I’m just trying to convince myself that I love him. I haven’t yet read a post besides yours where this has been a huge issue with relationship anxiety, but I’m glad that I’m not alone.
I found my way to this site about 2 months ago. I started my relationship about 6 months ago with a great guy! He is what I have always dreamed of finding and maeeying. I have had many bad relationships and now I’m in a great one and have more doubts than ever! I spend every morning sobbing and looking for answers. My 2 sisters are in great relationships and I find myself comparing mine to there’s and wondering why I am going through this when they seem super excited to be where they’re at in life. I often times think about marriage and I’ve never thought of it this early in a relationship but my boyfriend now has no doubt that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I need help! I don’t want to end this relationship with this awesome person but I want these thoughts to go away. It’s things like, what if I cheat on him? What if I don’t love him enough? What if we get married and I fall out of love like a lot of people do? I talked to my mom about this and she is in a great marriage and she said it takes a lot of work but I’m scared about that too!
Sheryl do you have any insight on this? Also, my anxiety just got heightened at work because one of my customers came in and said he’s getting a divorce because he met a new girl! I need help! So afraid that this will happen to me and that I don’t have enough love for my partner
If anyone who has had the same feelings as me, please respond.
I too am in a long distance relationship right now and when we’re together for the most part it’s great and the anxiety subsides. I also am living by myself for the first time in my life and I feel extremely lonely! I feel guilty for feeling this way when I’m in a relationship and should be happy.
I have a question regarding some of the red flag issues you mentioned in the comments section. After being with my boyfriend for 7 years, he recently admitted that he believes he has a sex/porn addiction and has cheated 3 times in the past while away on business. He is in therapy, has recently started an online sex addiction program, and is willing to go to couples therapy. I actually found your work last year (before he admitted the infidelity/addiction), as he was/is having doubts, anxiety, confusion regarding our relationship. So now i’m beginning to have these negative thoughts/feelings come up at times that lead me to feel like i should abruptly end things before i get hurt (not only a fear relative to infidelity/addiction, but also of his fear/doubts that i’m the one he wants). I understand that my anxiety may be a more ‘rational’ than other readers due to my partner’s history, addiction; however, does it mean that i should follow those thoughts/feelings when they arise? Or do i view it as just fear/anxiety? I see that he is trying to make changes and did admit the cheating/addiction (without any suspicion on my part), and i really do want things to work out. I know that our situation requires real therapy, but i am wondering if you believe any of your e-courses/therapy you provide would be appropriate for me? Or him? Thanks so much!
Hi Sheryl, Just beautiful, by reading everyone’s comments The more i understand anxiety. We need to be reminded that fear is not a concern to our health or our relationships unless it is an onvious RED FLAG. I never thought i would say this but I am grateful to be on this journey as challenging and difficult it has been, I am growing as a person learnt so much about myself that if i still remained single and kept giving up on relationships, I wouldnt be so heartedly in striving for happiness. Remained in my old comfort zone. Thanks for saving my life. Much love Xx
LOVE! Regardless of what relationship I’m in the fear comes up! It is less intense when I know I’m in a relationship with someone who is unavailable! I too am learning a lot
Thank you for this Sheryl. I would like to briefly share my experience with relationship anxiety.
Years ago I never experienced it at all and got high on crushes all the time (I was a teenager!). When I was 19 I fell madly for X and that time was filled with intense butterflies and bliss. Unfortunately after a couple of weeks he told me he wasn’t feeling a spark and didn’t want a relationship. We carried on as fwb for a few months but then that ended. I was angry at men and decided I wasn’t allowing myself to get so carried away next time. Then I met Y. Y was everything I had ever wanted and treated me so kindly. I felt like I had met my soulmate- except I also didn’t. I didn’t ‘feel’ much at all exactly – no in love feelings and no attraction. And so I broke it off, but we continued an emotional relationship for many months after this. I don’t want anyone to read too much into this- me breaking up with him was neither right nor wrong, it is simply what happened and what I have come to accept over time. But this experience was extraordinarily traumatic for me. I began to hate myself deeply for not being able to be with someone i felt was so wonderful. I did not recognise my strong feeling of connection to him as love but rather as weakness of being- I viciously told myself off for being selfish and cruel. I fell into a depression which took me a year and a half to recover from and which still affects, in a way it always will, today.
After this when I started dating, i found myself constantly checking my feelings around guys, looking out for signs of butterflies or chemical highs, and imitating the behaviour I used to display hoping I’d get that feeling back. I prioritised those feelings over whether I was really interested in a guy as a person. Then life did an interesting thing- it threw X back into my life. And he apologised for our past break up and said he had just been at a bad place in life. Eventually we started dating again, and after a verrrrry long time we entered into a relationship. I did not feel those butterflies or ‘in love’ feelings but I decided to do something this time which I hadn’t been doing for a very long time. I decided to be nice to myself. I liked this guy a lot and wanted to be with him. So I decided to stop listening to the loud voices in my head telling me what I should be feeling , forcing me to look for them and then screaming at me when they weren’t there- and instead listen to my quiet little gut feeling which said I should be with him.
A few months into the relationship I had a strong, sudden attack of anxiety which lasted a couple of months. I kept wondering why I wasn’t ‘in love’ enough yet and convinced myself I would have to break up with him even though I really really didn’t want to. But again this time I decided to do something different than before- I talked to someone, in particular my mum and my best friend. They calmed my nerves immensely by talking about how their own relationships had had their ebbs and flows, and was far far far from a constant high, even in the beginning.
Just a few weeks ago we went away together for a week and it has eased my anxiety no end. Spending 24/7 together I realised it would be ludicrous for a couple in this state to feel all loved up constantly, or even most of the time. We showed our love for each other by being patient, not getting irritable even when tired, and being sensitive about the proximity to each others’ bowel movements 😉
I don’t know if my relationship will last the long haul, or if it will end. I don’t know if I need those ‘in love’ feelings, but hey my best friend didn’t get them at all with her bf until they’d been together for a very long time- and they’ve been together for 6 years now! And they’re also not the main thing that she loves about her relationship.
Apologies for this stupidly long post but I’ve been reading this site for a while now and I’ve finally had the courage to write my own experience out. But to sum up, here’s what I’ve learned from relationship anxiety:
1) X is the exact same person this time round from the first- what’s different is my perception of him, myself and the relationship. And our relationship is 20 TIMES better now than it was back then when I had all those euphoric feelings! Which is what tells me that relationship anxiety is real and it’s more to do with me than my bf. I think I would feel this way regardless of who I was with right now and I think it’s my body’s way of telling me I have been cruel to myself for far too long. It’s time to forgive myself, love myself and practise meditation.
2) Not as many people are ‘oh so high in love’ as you think – in the midst of an anxiety bubble I often convince myself that I’m the only one who isn’t but actually when I’m chatting normally to people I have met many examples of people who have just grown together slowly with someone.
3) You are not a bad person for being with someone that you’re not 100% convinced you will love deeply for ever. The belief that I was hateful and leading Y on was what brought about my depression. You are not a bad person, nor a broken person, nor unable to love because you have anxiety. Not at all 🙂
Thanks for letting me share this. It felt so good to write all this down.
Dear Sheryl and fellow sufferers of relationship anxiety,
(I am sorry if my English is not flawless, it is not my mother tongue.)
First something about my relationship. I am in a relationship with the most sweetest and most handsome boy I could wish for. He is sweet, caring, interested, supportive and we have a lot of the same interests. Ater a struggling start becausee both of us did not know if we wanted to be in this relationship (we were very used to our indepedent lifes) I ended it, because I wanted to take a chance on it and he did not want to. After two weeks he realized he did not wanted to be without me, and we both took the chance. This period was still very exciting, because after the messy starting period, my parents and friends were a bit suspicious about his intentions. After getting to know him, they also realized that he is a great guy and he is determined to make me happy. Besides the doubts of my family and friends, it was also my own insecurity that made it difficult. I am always very cautious in relationships, because the other person could really hurt me. Because of our struggling start I could not completely ‘surrender to the relationship’. Even though I could not ‘surrender’, our relationship continued to be great, we were both very busy but we managed to have a great time. Then after 6 months, he went abroad for 5 months for an internship, so we had a long distance relationship. This was pretty hard, but we managed and our relationship grew stronger and also our connection became more intense. It feels like we realized we do not want to be without each other during his time abroad and he does not doubt to tell me often how happy he is with me and how much he loves me.
Since 3 months he is back now and almost two months I am suffering from relationship anxiety. The first days of the anxiety were terrible; I couldn’t eat and I woke up sweaty like I had a nightmare. I experienced my first pannick attack during studying for my last important exam to graduate for my study. In those moments of studying I am always stressed, exhausted and studying almost 24/7. When I had my first pannick attack I immediately told my boyfriend about it and he reacted in the most sweetest way. He told me to calm down and relax and to stop studying for a couple of hours. When I was in his arms, the anxiety decreased and I realized I was in a good place. But every day after waking up the feeling and the thoughts are back. I started with looking for confirmation with friends, family and the internet (that is why we all are here I guess). I also talked with my therapist and she said it was a good thing for me, because I am grwoing into a more independent person. This reassured me for a short period of time, but afterwards it came back. When I had another pannick attack I found this website and I love to read all the posts. It calms me down.
As mentioned before my boyfriend reacted in the most sweeted way. I think he can do this, because he knows my history of extreme worrying. A couple of years ago it started innocent, with for example worrying if people liked me and worrying about something I said. I could repeat the conversation or situation over and over in my head and look for clues to see if someone liked me or just to punish myself about something stupid I had said or done. This worrying became worse over time. It changed in worrying about my study and I could convince myself I had to do a resit or I would not graduate, which resulted in massive crying spells and telling everybody about it. However, I passed almost every course without resits and I graduated exactly according to plan. Then, when my boyfriend was abroad I was extremely worried about getting serious diseases that could kill me or otherwise decrease my quality of life (which could be a reason why my boyfriend would leave me). In this period I could not sleep and concentrate fully on my study, because I was constantly worrying and thinking about terrible diseases. I thought (and I still think) that this worrying was because of the fear of losing my boyfriend. The complaints reduced over time and eventually (when my boyfriend was back home) they disappeared. When this had happened I could not be happier, because not only the love of my life was back but I could also enjoy life again to the fullest because of my terrible thoughts disappeared. This month of being without worrying and anxiety, we were full of love and we did not doubt to tell each other how much we loved each other, how we saw our future together and how we would get even more stronger then we became from our period without each other.
For the first time in my life I trust a man fully (I do not have a great boyfriend history), more than I trust myself most of the time. I know he is determined to make me happy and he supports me in everything. We are very honest with each other, which makes our relationship such a safe place for me. As an icing on the cake, my family and friends are fond of him. He is the exact opposite of my ex-boyfriend who was cheating, dishonest, often unkind and he never thought about me. I was not good enough the way I was and he wanted to change me. On the other hand he wanted to keep me insecure, because otherwise I would cheat on him (uhu, I know.. what i paradox…). I only realized this afterwards (don’t ask me how I could not realize this earlier) and during our relationship I would do anything for him so he would stay with me. He was my first love and when he left me, it broke my heart and I had never ever in my life suffered from this kind of hurt.
I experienced, while ‘recovering’ from this relationship, that I got more heartless and more suspicious towards men. After 1,5 years of living my own life, taking care of myself and having fun I met my great lover. But then the anxiety kicked in and it messed everything up.
My interpretation: I am very scared of people leaving me (family, friends, but most of all LOVERS, who can really break my heart in bits and pieces), for any kind of reason. I have never learned real love, which is appreciating, respecting, caring and supporting. I have learned the chase and wanting to have someone who does not know how to love. I have created the idea that when I love someone, I have to feel the chase and have to feel insecure (the way I felt in my old relationship and the way I felt in the start and during the abroad period of my boyfriend in my current relationsip). In the start of my current relationship I felt the chase and the insecurity and uncertainty whether he would not change his mind about wanting to be with me. While the abraod period of my boyfreind I was scared that I would get sick and he would not want to be with me anymore or I would die so we never could have a chance on the loving relationship we deserved. When he came back, we made sure to tell each other how in love we were and how we could not live a life without each other. Eventually this turned into a very safe and secure relationship, I had no doubts about him leaving me. And then it happened, the fear… I did not feel the ‘chase-feeling’ and I did not feel the insecurity. I DID feel his love, constantly, he was more than ever showing his love. This resulted in the thought: ‘Do I love him as much as he loves me’, then it turned into the thought ‘If I think and worry about this, then it will be true: I do not love him’, then it turned in many more thoughts… I am suffering still every day, but it is also getting better (or maybe easier) every day… What keeps me going is the idea that other fears also dissapeared one day and also my interpretation I just shared with you keeps me strong.. Because I see an exact course of my fear and the events in my life, I know for sure that it is related..
Before reading the blogs on this website I could not understand why I would doubt about this great and equivalent relationship. Then I realized that because this relationship is something I really wished for, he often shows his love and my family and friends often remind me how much they like him… my mind recognized that this great person, this great love could hurt me more than I could ever manage.. So before he could break my heart or we could grow apart, I should leave him… so it would hurt a little less.. But I am determined not to listen to my fear and continue to love my boyfriend the way he deserves!! And I hope we will live happily ever after.
I am, however, very scared that I messed this relationship up by having these thoughts and that they will follow me even after the fear decreases… Does somebody have insides about this?
I hope my english is readable and that my reply is some kind of supportive for some of you.. It did feel good to write it all down and to share it with fellow sufferers! I hope we will all be as happy as we deserve one day! 🙂
Hi sheryl! Thank you for another truthful and comforting post. You have pointed me
Toward faith related questions for relationships – specially in “living God’s will”. That post helped me so much because much of my relationship anxiety has sounded like “God will not bless this relationship” because my partner of three years and I hold different religious values. We were both raised in Christian families but met at a time when I identified more closely with agnosticism which is how he identifies himself (I’ve been a skeptic since high school). However in the last two years, I have experienced a new level of faith that I never experienced when I was younger – much less rigid, more spiritual. However the differences of our faith has only become anxiety-provoking once we became very serious with each other. On one hand I have come to accept out differences- he comes to church with me and I read books on naturalism for him and we hold the same morals on family, children, etc. when I feel anxious though I feel like I’m settling or I’ve put my faith second. When I’m not anxious I appreciate more than ever where my faith is at- it feels the most genuine than it’s ever been. I guess my question after that long-winded explanation is have you worked with couples of different religious views that actually make it work where they both continue growing individually in their own beliefs?
Your blog posts are absolute gold. I appreciate that you examine anxiety from psychological and spiritual perspectives. My question for you — and I’m not sure whether or not you’ve addressed this anywhere else — is what kind of advice would you give someone with relationship anxiety (and general anxiety I suppose) going on a trip with their significant other for the first time? Spending this time alone with him, in a foreign place, outside of my comfort zone, with no place to hide … just him and I, fills me with fear and dread, “oh no’s” and “what if’s” and fear of not being able to cope while I’m there… to the point where I almost want to pull the chute on this trip next week. Even the smallest suggestion would be infinitely appreciated.
God bless Xx
This article may help:
Blessings to you x
After doing OYH and TIY with you, I am still left wondering about the comments above, regarding outgrowing a relationship? My own counselor has brought that up to me several times during our sessions over the past 2 years. As it seems our marriage and relationship has been stuck/stagnant for so very long. We feel a familial love for each other (like brother & sister). Yet, we have really no sexual or romantic feelings for one another any more. So often it feels like we just co-exist and co-parent the children. I often feel like I don’t really have a spouse anymore. We’re just always so exhausted with young kids that we have no energy for our own relationship at all. And if we ever do have energy for it, neither of us feels compelled to “be a couple”, and not just sexually, but in all ways.
Do you have any further advise about “outgrowing” a relationship?
Any articles or books to recommend regarding this?
It’s left me really confused.
Thank you for your help.
What a blessing to have found this blog and this particular post, along with the several honest comments and sharing. I thought I was the only one in the world that felt what I now see is called “relationship anxiety”. I have felt it ongoing with my present relationship. It’s always been there. I’ve broken up with him, but then I really miss him and we always navigate back to each other. I have almost exploded my head thinking about it over and over and doubting myself. I have shared my feelings with other people in my life, and I never found anyone else that felt this way…..until here and now. Thank you so much for allowing this space. It has given me much insight into myself.
I’m so glad you found your way here.
I just wanted to Thank you for this website. I am so happy that I stumbled upon it. I, like many of these people who have commented already seem to have woken up one da suddenly feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. I have been having it for about three days now wondering if I really want to be in the relationship that I am in. We have such a good relationship and he is the most amazing guy in the world and I know that there is no one better yet I still find myself questioning the relationship. I ask myself if I am convincing myself to want to be with him because I am scared to be alone, sometimes I feel as if I would be okay without him but then When I talk to someone and they say then just break up with him I burst into tears. Before this anxiety of being with him hit I felt so in love and he was constantly on my mind. sometimes I feel like he is too good for me and that I don’t deserve someone as wonderful as him. I just want these thoughts to go away and I want to be happy again but I don’t know how to get rid of these irrational thoughts.
You can’t get rid of thoughts. You have to learn to work them through and attend to them effectively. That’s what the course will help you do (and so much more).
I absolutely love your articles, Sheryl! What do you do if your boyfriend recently broke up with you because he says that he needs time to become a better person (and so do I!) but he still loves you and you both eventually probably want each other back? Sometimes I feel like he is scared to love and does not know how to do it in the way that I do. I know I have a lot of relationship anxiety to get over still, but I don’t know what to do in my situation anymore. We have no red flag issues, truly, he just sometimes did not treat me as well as he could have but I think it was circumstances more than anything else! We are working on everything individually now.
Thank you for sharing the incredible work you do. I really enjoyed your blog post. This line in particular:
‘the pain is so great that we’re inspired to learn skills and grow parts of ourselves that we never needed to grow otherwise.’
The quote beautifully describes the transformative power of psychotherapy; when a fearful bud opens and becomes strong and graceful because its need to grow has made it so, this is the blessing.
I came across your website when I was undergoing a number of transitions simultaneously. (Last summer, I got married, moved to Oman from the UK and then decided not to continue teaching but to start writing a novel instead – You may recall I commented on your article about ‘spark’ and changing career.)
I hope you don’t mind my contacting you directly, the answer to my question was not in your FAQs. I was wondering whether you would be interested in a guest post about my experience of transitions. I recently wrote a connected piece which I have linked to my name (above) so you can get an idea of my writing. I would be pleased to write about any aspect of my journey.
Your blog is very helpful. I’m so glad I found it. I know you can’t answer all of these comments, but I wanted to share this with you because it’s driving me insane. I’ve been struggling with my relationship for months. Just when I think I’ve talked myself into loving again, I think of something that makes me think I don’t love my guy anymore. And then I read what you say about thoughts and it makes sense that some are false, but I don’t know which to act on. The first problem I had was a weird doubt in the back of my mind when he started talking about the future. Then a few days later, I started to think, “Do I really love him? I like him a lot, and I care for him, but I don’t feel a spark. It’s not a passionate kind of love.” I told myself it’s because we hadn’t reached that point in the relationship yet, that we hadn’t spent enough time together to love one another, but couldn’t bring myself to believe what I was trying to think. It wasn’t until I started to question it that I stopped feeling that warmness and stopped missing him as much. I still feel something very rarely, but I don’t even know what it is. Love? Affection for someone I’ve been with so long but not actual love? Do you think this was a realization that I don’t want to be with him, or that we aren’t meant to be together? Or simply another case of relationship anxiety? I just feel like I wouldn’t fight so hard and so long if I didn’t want to be with him.
I see so many similarities between my feelings and the feelings of other women here. Your writing validates what I feel which gives me the sense that I’m not alone. However, there are some distinctions in my own feelings towards my situation and partner that continue to allow fear to rear it’s ugly head in my mind.
I’m quite young (only 22) and have been with my partner for almost 3 and 1/2 years. I love him dearly, but over the past two weeks I feel as if my feelings have somewhat evaporated. I feel as though the relationship brings me anxiety, which makes me want to distance myself. But at the same time, I feel immense anxiety about not being as close to him anymore. I am stuck in a constant hamster wheel of: “Do I love him? or do I just love comfort? Am I just scared to leave him? Am I scared to hurt him? But I don’t WANT to leave him! so why does it feel like I want to leave him?”
My mind is a constant spinning mess of endless questions and exclamations and I can’t seem to figure out which feelings are mine and which are fears. I feel a sense of commitment to my partner and am terrified of losing him in my life due to anxiety. However, my situation remains different because I’m a recent college grad, and society tells me that my first love is not bound to last anyway. I’m not engaged, nor do I plan to be for quite some time. I would like to overcome my doubt and remain and grow in this relationship with this person, but I fear that too many forces are working against me. What should I do?
There are many young people – mostly those who have recently graduated from college – who have gone through the course and benefitted enormously. While some of the material references the engagement process, most of it is applicable to anyone struggling with relationship anxiety. From your comment, you’re clearing suffering from classic relationship anxiety and I would encourage you to dive into the course material.