This Essential Piece Can Help You Heal from Relationship Anxiety

by | Mar 7, 2021 | Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts, Relationships | 25 comments

Preface: I wrote this in 2012 and shared it as a pinned post on the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety forum, where it has lived for the past eight years. The main message is the most important piece to breaking free from not only relationship anxiety but from anxiety in general: If you take the anxiety at face value, you’ll go down the rabbit hole and inflame the anxiety a hundred fold. But if you can recognize the intrusive thoughts as messengers inviting you to turn inward, you’re on your way to inner freedom. 

Here’s the challenge: We’re wired to blame. We’re wired to believe that something “out there” is our problem, and if we could only fix that thing, we would be anxiety-free. It seems to be a human tendency to blame, especially when it comes to relationships. How easy and compelling it is to fall into the trap that says that the choice of partner – or your house, your friends, your work, your children – is the problem! 

As I share below, where this is a trap there is a pathway to freedom. Said another way: the wound is in the blessing. When we can name the blame, we can own it, see it, and work to make a different choice. Just as fear is a doorway into love and doubt is a portal into trust, so blame is a pathway into responsibility. This is one of the core tenets of Jungian philosophy, and it remains as strong a message in my work today as when I shared it with my forum members all those years ago after a feverish night. I hope it brings some direction and relief for whatever anxiety theme you’re struggling with. 


I was sick over the weekend, and in my feverish state several insights appeared. In fact, I awoke from a dream where I was with several of you in a pool and you were all saying, “Help me!” I woke up shivering, the veil between thought and the unconscious thinned, and I could see with pure clarity what the difference is between those who transform their anxiety and those who remain stuck:

It’s the degree to which you pull the projection off of your partner and detach from the thought that your anxiety is because you’re with the wrong person.

Those who detach from this thought and take 100% responsibility for their anxiety inevitably do the deeper work of excavating what lies underneath the anxiety.

Those who are fused with the thought that they need to leave in order to find serenity will remain stuck.

It’s as simple as that.

And, yes, I understand it’s not simple at all. There are good reasons why people remain fused with the projection, and that’s where the work needs to begin. But you will not transform unless, every time you think, “I’m with the wrong partner. I don’t really love them. I need to leave,” you counter those thoughts with, “I’m scared. This isn’t about my partner. What am I really scared of? What feelings are these thoughts covering up?”

Every single one of you who is on this forum is in a good, loving, healthy relationship. You’ve all raked your relationship over the coals and found no good reason to leave, no red-flags, nothing alarming. You’ve all had stretches of time when you’ve felt happy and content. Therefore, the problem clearly lies inside of you. It existed in you before you ever met your partner and being with them was merely the trigger that released these old, deep-seated issues: fears, grief, insecurities, false beliefs about yourself and love.

When you look at posts by members like BrooklynBride, ExpatBride, AussieBride, and Cbear, you’ll see very little mention of their partners. Their eyes are on their own plates. They’ve absorbed the responsibilty for their difficult feelings 100%. That doesn’t mean that they don’t fall into projection now and again, but it’s short-lived and they’re able to see, fairly quickly, that a projection has taken hold.

This was also what allowed me to transform my relationship anxiety/terror that told hold shortly after I met my husband into clarity and serenity: I knew, without a doubt, that the fears originated inside of me and had lived there for a long time, long before I met my husband. I knew that I had a faulty definition of love and that what I had called love was actually longing. I knew that I had met someone with whom I had such a strong, loving connection that I wasn’t willing to let him go and wasn’t willing to allow my fears to call the shots. I worked my tail off, and didn’t submit to the belief that the problem was him.

Scottishbride said it well in a post several months ago:

Probably the main reason that I was able to pull back the anxiety is that I knew that I had felt the same feelings of disconnect and “I don’t want this” with my ex. No matter what my anxiety was telling me, it couldn’t attack the definite fact that I had felt that way before and that it had come on when my ex had stated his intention to fully commit to the relationship. I think a lot of my future work will be based around this. I spent the whole relationship with my ex having one foot out the door. That was my safety net. Whenever that safety net was threatened it would bring up an extreme reaction in me.

At the time I put it down to the fact that there were red flags but now I realize that was just an easy excuse at the time. I didn’t do any work at the end of my last relationship. Seriously I felt no pain, no regret, no sorrow. I was overwhelmed with glee at the prospect of getting OUT! It did strike me as a little weird at the time. Almost like there was a bubble between me and my feelings. But I wasn’t at all willing to consider shifting or bursting that bubble.

And then of course, I met R within 2 weeks of moving out. In short, I ran away from it all. That worked for 2.5 years and boy was I happy (when ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise). And then R proposed and it all went to pieces. That has been a hugely valuable lesson for me. You can run from these issues but you cannot hide. They will come. Sorry girls and boys but you can’t avoid them forever so next time you want to project on to your partner, just remember that is not serving you, and you are only delaying the inevitable and making it harder for yourself. Denial was my best friend for a long time. I miss her a lot. But I realize now she wasn’t really a friend and even though it would be easier, I know it’s time for me to move on from her.

So yeah, while I couldn’t properly articulate my feelings due to the fog of anxiety, the mere fact that this little nugget of information did not fit in to my “it has to be R” jigsaw was enough to give me my first step up out of the hole.

If you want to shift from anxiety to equanimity you MUST recognize that the uncomfortable feelings/thoughts/anxiety have nothing to do with your partner. In other words, this lived inside of you before you knew your partner and it will remain inside of you until you dive into it with curiosity and the willingness to take full responsibility for its roots and resolution.


This is what I’ve taught to thousands of members in the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course. This is what I teach my children. This is what I do my best to live out in my life. Taking full responsibility for our pain means being willing to explore its roots and commit to the practices that bring resolution. Anything else is a blame mindset, which will keep you perennially stuck. Freedom hinges on taking blame’s hand and allowing it to walk you onto the path of responsibility. Then the real healing begins.



  1. Thanks for this – I remember reading the original. It was posts like this that stopped me breaking up with my now-wife in 2014. I knew I had always been an anxious person, and had had relationship anxiety in all of my relationships (although I didn’t know what it was!). Even though the projection was very heavy (and still is, often!) I kept going, and thank god I did.

    • I’m so glad you found your way here and stuck with the work!

  2. Hi Sheryl,
    What you were saying about needing to change false beliefs and heal etc. and that the problem lives inside you not your relationship/partner, is it ever possible that the problem isn’t you and is it possible to fall out of love and that’s that no matter how much you try to come back from it? Or is there always a way to come back from it if both partners are healthy and willing to open their hearts? I’ve not had a stretch since my relationship anxiety came on that I’ve felt good about my guy but I do want to.

    • Sheryl will have the right answer, but your message shows that you actually care about your partner. Give yourself time, trust and do the work, it’s worth it

      • Thank you so much for your reply Ingrid. ❤️

    • Hi Lillie, I’m sure Sheryl will respond better than I can but what I will say from what I’ve learned- our hearts open and close all the time. We can fall in and out of love with the same person multiple times a year, a week, even a day. Love is a choice and an action, not always feelings. I’ve learned there will be times of connection end disconnection and fear and past wounds can cause a barrier to connection. The best book I’ve ever read that depicts love as a choice is Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Kate Kerrigan.

      • Hello everyone,

        I have been in a recovery program for love addiction for 5 months now and have slowly started healing all these old areas that are holding me back, I have made great progress, but boy is it tiring!

        This weekend I could not sit still, the pain of not being busy was too uncomfortable and I realized how bad it was Friday. Saturday during a deep journaling session, I recived the message, “you are staying busy to avoid your wound, this is no longer serving you.” In that moment I felt the deepest pain so far and I sobbed gutterally on my partners shoulder. I felt and still do as if an old band aid had been ripped off of a fetering wound and the pain was spilling out and I just had to let it. Talk about uncomfortable, and even now I am still just out of sorts sorts from the discomfort of this discovery that I have ran from for over 30 years.

        I can see clearly that this is a good thing, but that ego state is wanting me to go use again or act out by blaming the relationship again, jist to avoid this deep, old wound that I have used as armor my whole life. The biggest discomfort now is the vulnerability I am experiencing. The raw, feelings of a different kind,of unsafe are prevalent and I don’t quite know what it means or entails, all I know is, I need to practice loving kindness with myself and I can hope that, that wound will empty and I can refill it with love <3

        • Hi Talespinner

          I too struggle with an old wound from over 30 years ago.
          I have been married for 29 years to someone else. The old wound goes dormant for periods of time but always comes back when I am stressed in some way.
          I don’t have the answers but I wanted to console you that you’re not alone.

      • Thank you for this reply Clara! I do definiately believe that fear has blocked any connection and loving feelings for me but as this has been the case for so long sometimes it’s hard to not think it’s true and I get super anxious it’s all true. I will make sure to read that book. Thanks again 🙂

  3. This post certainly makes me feel like I entered a time warp because I was anxiously engaged in 2012 when this was originally posted and Scottish Bride and the others were all in the trenches with me! Oh how I was suffering in those days, and how much time I spent on the forum. I felt so alone before stumbling on this page. For a moment all that intensity came rushing back as I read this. Sheryl’s post was a lifeline to me then and I hope it will help someone again now. Next month my husband and I will be celebrating our 8th anniversary (along with our two kids) and I know with certainty that I would not be writing those words if not for this site. It took hindsight for me to see how unflappable my husband was then as I was trying not to fall apart. That really says it all to me now. I hope that my co forum members from that time are all happy and well. And for those still struggling: this is all fear trying to keep you safe! I know how scared you are but keep going, it will be worth the fight <3

    • This!!!! I could’ve written this too Kathleen! Exactly the same – I was also very anxiously engaged, it was horrendous (so much that when my partner and I went on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon, instead of enjoying it I remember just feeling like throwing myself off the side of the canyon. It was a terrible, terrible time!). If i hadn’t stumbled upon Sheryl’s blog and posts like this I dread to think what could’ve happened. But thanks to her work and the truth in this post – and it is true! – we too have been married for 8 years this year, along with our 2 kids! Congrats to you too, Kathleen!

      I would also add that anyone reading the above who then thinks “but what it this is not the case for ME… what if for ME it really is that I’m with the wrong person”… if you’re having that thought then yup, may that confirm to you that yes this IS the case for you, too!! The projection stuff is super-powerful, and terrifying. But it is 100% about stuff inside you and 100% not about your loving partner. If they weren’t such a loving partner you probably wouldn’t be going through this right now. Don’t let them go! Fight for it. You can do it, and it’s worth it. Take it from us: there is light on the other side of the tunnel and it is WORTH IT. 🙂 x

      • Thank you so much for chiming in, NJ! As I said to Kathleen, there’s nothing like hearing from someone who made it to the other side to give those still suffering a buoy of hope and an island of light. It’s worth it, indeed! xoxoxo

    • Kathleen! It’s so good to see your name and read this beautiful, supportive comment which, as I’m sure you remember, can be a lifeline to those in the thick of relationship anxiety. Eight years and two kids – hurray! ScottishBride is also well, as are so many of the others that were around in 2012.

  4. Can someone point to me where her 2012 post lies? I’ve read that one before and feel like I need to again.

    • It’s on the course forum under pinned posts.

  5. Thank you for this post! I feel like I’ve reached this place of acceptance and taken responsibility. I’m not having intrusive thoughts, and I feel relatively calm these past few days. But now I have this “what now?”, empty feeling. Like an uncomfortable silence. I still feel like fear is blocking connection in some way. How do I move forward from here? I think I’m just a bit exhausted. I’m confident that I can make it through to the other side, it’s just the right now that I’m finding difficult. I just want to be able to enjoy my “oatmeal” love again without this fog 🙂

  6. What do you do when you love the person so much but just don’t want to be with them? I wish I could magically make myself want it, but I just don’t. And I hate that.

  7. It’s hard for me because ive never been an anxious person beforehand. But now i get anxious or annoyed at every little thing by boyfriend does – i then feel like i wont be able to cope. Can someone just be incompatiable?

    • Yes, but getting annoyed doesn’t necessarily mean incompatible. There are many other causes of irritation.

      • Hi Sheryl. I have a question. In all my past relationships I’ve had a type of anxiety, even though I wasn’t sure what it was back then. But the anxiety was more in the sense that I always thought there was another girl more compatible for my partner. It was horrible. I would obsess about it. They were always girls I knew (my friends even) that I felt would be a better match for my boyfriend. But now, I don’t have that kind of anxiety with my husband (thank God) could it be that my anxiety morphed into something else tho? Because now I’m obsessing with the fact that I don’t think my husband and I are compatible enough. That I’m with the wrong person. That I don’t love him enough, and I don’t feel inlove enough and worry I made the wrong decision. Even tho another part of me felt so strongly that I was suppose to marry him and that God brought us together..
        It’s so confusing and so exhausting.
        “I knew that I had a faulty definition of love and that what I had called love was actually longing.”
        This spoke to me as well because I’m always longing for something else. Even as a little girl I can remember longing for love. I’ve always wanted to be inlove.
        With many failed relationships and heartbreaks I wonder if that is cause of this RA as well.?!

  8. Is moving on too soon from an old partner a red flag or real issue? Or is the idea that you need to be healed first before moving on a myth because healing can be done in relationship?

  9. I was a very avid reader of this forum and completed the break free from anxiety course during my engagement in 2014. It took many months, but with patience and tolerance and many hard nights I came through the other side and was no longer anxious or bothered by my partner even though he hadn’t changed. This was a very, very welcome relief. We still argued of course and disagree and get into debates, but it stopped shaking my sense of stability. I felt comfortable and confident in our relationship and stopped nitpicking and overthinking, and was then just able to enjoy our relationship. And enjoy I did! It was a really wonderful period of relatively low anxiety and just appreciating one another. Fast forward to the last month, where we just moved across the world (during a pandemic, no less) and am now somewhere completely new with no friends or family or support. And surprise surprise, my anxiety and projections are back. And they are SO COMPELLING! It’s really quite shocking how I “know better” and even have my own life to look at for proof, and yet, here we are. I’m back to re-read some of the very helpful posts, and to try and sit with the big waves of emotions and change that have been brought on as of late. If I remember correctly, it’ll be about me not engaging with the content of the thought (as much as it’s calling out to me!), and to treat my partner with the respect and kindness and love he deserves. Along side this, it’ll be about feeling the feelings. Ugh, life is hard sometimes. Thank you for the permanent support to return to. 🙂

  10. This post brought more peace to my mind, thank you Sheryl! I came across your work a few years ago when I was a freshman in college. My anxiety spiraled when I first realized my boyfriend was so committed and available (like you say!). Right now I’ve hit that relapse stage, and it’s been much more depressing than the last time.

    I am still with my partner, and I’m a senior in school now. We talk about marriage all the time and it really spikes my anxiety. I wish it didn’t. He is kind, loving, caring, a good listener, and we hold the same moral and core values. My biggest hooks are that he’s not funny enough or that he’s not intelligent.

    I then see the work and I get glimmers of hope that it’ll be okay because I’m not alone in this experience, but then my mind says “for what? He’s annoying and you’re relationship is so empty. Why fight for it? You need to be single” Loss of single life is definitely something I grieve. Im 21 years old and I wish I didn’t have this feeling of loss. I’m going to be doing the Break Free course again, and I would love your insight on the issue. I know you are a very busy person, and I appreciate all help. You’ve been so helpful already with these posts! 🙂

  11. I’m learning RA dances – it moves around and changes obsessions. My latest – obsessing that my partner is ‘right’ for me. My head tells me I’m with him just so I’m not alone, but that I’m latching on to the wrong guy. My head says, no girl, there are so many other guys out there you could be happier with, more at ease/compatible with, etc.
    So now I get triggered when I go to church with him or he goes with me. I’ve had awful episodes where I may see a man and feel triggered, afraid I find that man more attractive, or a tremendous fear that if I speak to him, I’ll be more attracted to him than my boyfriend. I never know what to share/not to share with him, so this past week I knew he was hurting, when one of those men walked into the room. I’m still reeling two days later. I don’t know this guy, I’ve never talked to him, never once pursued him, and vice versa. But I see how my anxiety hurts my boyfriend. I know I am not responsible for his feelings, but this feels like HELL.
    All of these questions – is he right for me? Am I just pretending? Could I be settling? And many more….I’m at the point where I can’t even enjoy him and our relationship for fear it’s all wrong and that I’m with him for all the wrong reasons. I don’t want to leave and go out with a bunch of different guys to test the waters.
    I don’t know what this could be covering up – what does all of this fear and anxiety about being with the wrong person point to inside me? What does this fear of talking to another man for fear of being attracted to him mean? Does it mean something deeper inside me needs some attention? I’ve never had ease in any of my relationships. My first marriage was emotionally abusive. My boyfriend is 19 years younger. He makes me feel safe. He listens. He’s attentive. He truly, truly loves me. So why do I feel like I’m lying to him? I struggle with accessing my own feelings. I am SO afraid.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Is my doubt about my relationship an offshoot of my own anxiety or is it a warning that I’m with the wrong person?

Many people wonder what “relationship anxiety” is and if they are, indeed, suffering from it. They also desperately want an answer to that million-dollar question.

The answer to this question is contained in the assessment. Fill in your information to receive an immediate answer (and a lot of reassurance just from going through the material).


Pin It on Pinterest