To See Beyond Attraction

There comes a time in a relationship when, if you’ve done your inner work, you see beyond all externals into the essence of a human being. Clients who are struggling with the attraction spike often ask me, “I’m constantly checking to see if I’m attracted to my partner, and when I’m not I get a pit in my stomach. Will the day ever come when I look at him/her and just find her attractive?” Not only will you find your partner attractive, but you’ll stop checking. At some point, when you’ve worked enough with fear walls and rejection/projection layers, your partner is just your partner, and when you look at him or her you’ll look through eyes that see at the level of being.

This reminds me of something a woman named Jill, who I interviewed for my book and again for my e-course, said when I asked how she saw her relationship with her husband:

“I see my relationship with Kevin right in there with my breathing. It’s not necessarily as essential to life but it’s as much a part of who I am. My relationship with Kevin is an expression of me. That third party, the marriage thing, is gone, there isn’t something else. Loving him is an expression of who I am.”

I conducted that interview over twenty years ago, and now, decades into my own marriage, I know exactly what she means. There’s an is-ness that happens in a healthy relationship over time. There’s a way in which you stop seeing the other person as separate in the best possible way, meaning you each have your own selves but relationship becomes or enfolds the two of you. And when this happens you stop looking at your partner through the lens of not-enough. It’s like you stop seeing them and start seeing them all in the same breath.

I know this may seem impossible for those of you stuck in an attraction or any “not enough” spike (not intelligent, social, funny, witty enough). We’re so profoundly brainwashed in our culture to focus on superficial physical attraction as the most important quality in a partner that it can seem daunting to turn this mindset on its head. Men, especially, often say things to me like, “Men are more visual. If I’m not physically attracted to my partner doesn’t that mean our relationship is doomed?” To which I respond, “Women are visual as well and if you weren’t attracted to your partner at the level of essence you wouldn’t be on my site trying to work through these projections.” I’ve seen countless men and women walk through this daunting gauntlet and emerge on the other side feeling real attraction and real love for their partner. But when they’re in the thick of it, it feels like the only thing they can do is run. The woman writing this letter says it well (and Polly’s response is brilliant):

He is sensitive, kind, attentive, and doting. He is so very patient and loving with my child. Because of these traits, I find myself feeling less attracted to him physically. He seems meek. It is truly something sick. I have a hard time looking at him on occasion, because every little quiver, every timid step, every noise he makes while eating makes my skin crawl.”

Breaking through these projections is not easy work by any means. In fact, as I’ve said repeatedly, to engage truly and deeply with this path requires nothing less than a warrior’s mindset. How can it be easy to rewire a lifetime of conditioning that tells you what the perfect man or woman must look like or be like? How can it be easy to dig deep into your own history and realize that embedded inside these not-enough spikes is the pain around your own feelings of inadequacy that often arose in your adolescent years – the stories that told you that you weren’t attractive enough, smart enough, cool enough? To see another’s essence requires, on one level, that we clear away the cobwebs of our own stories until we catch at least a glimpse of our own light.

The key is to clear the doors of perception, the windows of your eyes that can become so clouded by the false values of the culture and your own fear-walls that were erected to protect your heart that you stop seeing clearly. “Fear eyes or clear eyes” remains a highly resonant phrase for much of my audience as it speaks to the distortions that occur when fear and doubt take over. What I’ve learned and continue to learn through my work and my marriage is that one of the fastest and most effective ways to shrink fear is to grow love. We can and must weed out the unwanted plants of fear – which often manifest as intrusive thoughts – but we can also work on the other side, meaning developing positive practices that grow love so that fear doesn’t have room to grow. If you fill your garden with flowers, you shade out the weeds. The same is true for the workings of our minds and hearts.

The Love Laws that I teach in my Open Your Heart course are the soil. The Loving Actions are the flowers. The community of like-minded learners are the water. And my guidance through these principles and actions is the North Star that leads the way. If you’re with a good partner, someone with whom you share values and vision, someone who is willing to grow alongside you (and by that I mean there’s a basic willingness to learn and grow, not that they have to be reading self-help books or going to therapy!), but you struggle with lack of attraction or any perceived lack that manifests as “not enough”, please join me for my next round of Open Your Heart: A 30-day course to feel more love and attraction for your partner. The course starts next Saturday, August 18th, 2018, and I look forward to seeing you there.

37 comments to To See Beyond Attraction

  • Nikki

    Wow Sheryl,

    This came at such a time where for so long now this has been my biggest hook. I worry a lot given it’s been 2 years and I still feel stuck on this projection and I worry it’s my truth at times! I just wanted to ask, if you feel attraction only for very brief moments but seem to feel dread looking at your partner for most of the time is this a huge issue? I also find that when I see a favourable picture of my partner I will tell myself that this picture is a one off and doesn’t really represent how he looks. He probably looks better in this picture than in person. It just seems so mind boggling to wrap my head around this.

  • heidiglo

    Wow, that letter response was like nothing I’ve ever read before. It was, as you said, brilliant. I saved it to my favorites as a very important article that I need to come back to from time to time. Nikki, just want to let you know you’re not alone in the department of feeling attraction only a tiny bit of the time.

  • Another great post Sheryl. I distinctly remember the feeling of losing attraction to past partners and the thought that always followed was “I guess he wasn’t the right one”. I remember almost feeling sorry for people in long-term relationships where the initial infatuation was gone. Though I’m mostly through that place, I’m not quite at that place of ease, of partner-as-breath that you wrote about so beautifully.

  • Bra77


    Will this course help with dealing with any type of partner not being enough? Also, how beneficial is the course?

  • H

    Hi Sheryl,

    I am contemplating this course. I have been struggling with RA for years. In the last year my RA has shifted from this deep fear of loss that was born out of a genuine love for my partner to dislike, disconnection and the feeling that I do not love him or care for him at all (and yes I know love isn’t a feeling). The desire to stay in my relationship is not strong, where it used to be all I ever wanted – even in some of my worst relationship anxiety. On several occasions I have felt ready to go and easily could have walked away. I just wonder whether this course might help me to rebuild what i once had. What do you think?

    • I don’t know that any one course can help you rebuild what you once had but it will certainly give you the tools that, when practiced, will help you move in that direction.

      • H

        Sheryl, I feel deeply triggered by your comment. I don’t know why. I guess it doesn’t feel reassuring. I thought you might encourage me that i might be able to feel more love with my partner if I practised the tools. Was it something in particular I said that made it seem like might be something wrong with us? I feel very panicked right now.

        • I’m so sorry I triggered you. What I meant is that what you will learn in the course will certainly help you rebuild the love but to be careful about entering a course like this with the expectation that by the end of the 30 days you’ll feel exactly as you did before. And the main point of my comment is that a course can hand you the tools but you have to be willing to commit to practicing them in order to soften fear walls and re-connect with the loving feelings.

  • Rachel

    Hi Sheryl,
    Your post came at just the right time for me. I have been really struggling with this idea that I am not attracted enough to my boyfriend and have tried to break up with him once already! While I really want to get to that place of love, peace and acceptance, I have no idea how to do it. We have been dating for 10 months and I’ve never felt the buzz that people often feel, and my anxiety is making me really unhappy. Is it worth carrying on? I don’t feel like I will ever get to what other people seem to find so easily.

    • learningheaven

      Rachel, I have felt exactly what you described about not feeling the “buzz”. I dated my partner for a year and got engaged and married within 2 months! I have never felt an infatuation or what you’re describing as the “buzz”. You aren’t alone! Like Sheryl says, infatuation is not a necessary prerequisite to a successful relationship. If you do have an infatuation or buzz stage, great. If not, you are more than ok! attraction is something that will ebb and flow throughout the relationship, just know that that is completely normal!

    • It’s absolutely worth carrying on, and it’s exactly what I teach in the course.

  • J

    I’m curious, if you love yourself enough and accept yourself then you aren’t likely to project? So how do you work on filling up your own well? loving yourself enough? Is there more to this than inner bonding? How do you manage to get physical with someone when you cringe at theThought Of them coming to you? I have done the conscious wedding course, but I don’t know, I am still really struggling?

    • We all project no matter how much we love and accept ourselves. The work is to be able to name the projections more quickly so that we don’t fall into their spell. As far as cringing, it’s a common response when fear walls are high, and the practices I teach in Open Your Heart (as well as my Sacred Sexuality course) can help soften the fear walls so that our hearts are more available to receive love.

  • Annie

    Sheryl, what if I’m not fearful of my boyfriend breaking my heart or hurting me (I don’t have past experience of true heartbreak), it’s more of a fear of settling for someone that isn’t the right one? This has been going on for almost two years for me (triggered by him moving to the same city as me – we were in a LDR) and I can’t shake the feeling for more than a month or so at a time ever since.

    • Annie

      Anyone have any similar experience to this? Would love any wisdom I can get. 🙂

      • Kelly Anne

        Hi Annie,

        I get it! I did break up with the guy because I was afraid of “settling”…and tried dating others and it just didn’t work. They all ended up breaking up with me…If he is faithful and loyal to you, please try not to end it…work through the fear. While dating these other guys, I worked through a lot of my fear. However, recently, the guy I broke up with all those years ago contacted me. He asked me to church, coffee, and then bowling. I remember him telling me years ago, that I need to overcome my fears of “settling” or “being with the wrong one”. I do not know if we will try again, but I was able to get over the other guys but not him. I get super anxious no matter who I date, so girl I can relate! I try now to live in the moment, one day at a time, not overthink and stay calm…and flow through the fear when it comes in the waves…and let it spit me out on the other side. I don’t know if you are religious but I just imagine Jesus holding my hand and facing those fears with Him at my side.

  • John


    Wow, as others have pointed out, what timing! I am seriously struggling with attraction to my wife of 20 years and I just thought it was never practical to stay attracted to the same woman forever. My biggest fear of marriage was that I would get bored and want the greener grass on the other side of the fence that I share with a neighbor. It is causing serious problems in my marriage as I haven’t touched her in awhile and am actually appalled at the thought. Yes, she has gained weight and maybe I’m just being a Shallow Hal, but I don’t get aroused and thus can’t perform. That said, I’m pretty sure I could with another. Will this course help me become less shallow or alter my perception or preferences? Seems like a tall order. Do you ever recommend that couples just go their separate ways? Desperate in TX, please help.

  • M

    Sheryl this is so spot on. Also, if I may just share a bit of my story. I had relationship anxiety most of my 5 year relationship with my now husband. Since the day of my wedding it has dissappeared. I felt like I was going off my head before the wedding and I often commented on Sheryl’s posts with very irrational thoughts and questions (what anxiety does). Sheryl, I am sure you thought I was totally bonkers!!! It is now 5 months that I haven’t had anxiety and I can honestly say it is due to my positive outlook on everything. I decided to control my thoughts and love and appreciate what God has given me. I just adore my husband and I am so happy I didn’t run when I felt a bit freaked out and anxious. As I say, I struggled for 5 years and wanted to run so many times but I decided to face my fears. I am so extremely happy and even more happy now that I can see past the fear, when there is no fear it’s amazing how you can just relax, feel, enjoy, love and appreciate withouth any thinking or irrational thoughts what so ever. I am so excited for our future and I just love getting home to him every day.
    I hope this gives all of you that are struggling hope, fear makes you blinded and numb! I can’t explain the fears I was struggling with and I honestly thought I would never over come them. Before meeting my husband I also had relationship anxiety with every man I met, so in total 9 years.
    I adore my husband, I am the happiest I have ever been!

    • C

      What a lovely comment – so much hope in that statement.
      I know a lot of people struggle after the wedding as well, and everything turns out great anyway – but your story is so inspirational.

    • SJ

      Hi Sheryl,

      I was wondering if what I am experiencing is an intrusive thought or if it’s a true thought and desire. I’m in the process of planning our wedding for 2019 and have been wondering to myself if all of my anxiety is just me wanting to be alone and on my own. I never was single and on my own. I’ve prwtty much always been in a relationship.

    • Wow! It’s so good to hear from you and especially this wonderful update. The power of fear is extraordinary, and when we learn to see it, name it, and commit to practices that break through it – which is exactly what you’ve done – miracles happen. Congratulations!

    • Florence

      Hi M,
      What a great story showing the long-term ness of the work involved, but how amazing to walk in the freedom of being able to love when the fear ebbs away. I’m choosing to press on with this journey of addressing my RA despite being so very tempted to explain my anxiety away as it being down to being with the wrong person or the wrong time, when my experience is that this happens each and every time I’m involved with a guy (and I’m nearly 38!). Thanks for sharing!

  • Chris

    This hits the nail right on the head. I’ve done the work and this is the beautiful stage I am at in my relationship. I no longer look for the attraction, and I did every second I was spending with my girlfriend. Now I do just see her essence, and she is just there. It’s beautiful, it’s humbling and I’m so thankful.

    I used to get these emails while I was going through the relationship anxiety course, hoping to get a new answer I didn’t have yet. There are never new answers, because they are all inside. The work is hard and exhausting, but it strengthens you. It is the best work I’ve ever done.

    And the rewards are immeasurable!

  • M

    Sheryl if you where here with me in person I would be hugging, crying and thanking you so much for the blessing you have been in my life the last five years and I’m sure to so many others. You are honestly an angel here on earth. Your work is remarkable and if society saw love the way you do, this world would be a much happier place, because in the end, love has no definition, there is no right or wrong and no feelings make love right or wrong. Following your work and seeing how so many others suffer really makes you realise you are not alone and it’s thanks to you and all your clients comments and struggles that I have overcome this.
    I could go on for days, months and years of what I went through. From literally throwing up from fear before a date, from almost being put into a mental clinic from the anxiety of being asked out by a boyfriend and to drinking constantly with my partner to numb myself so I could enjoy him and not have to be drowned with anxiety. I’ve been put on medication for years but in the end…it’s Sheryl’s work and our own thoughts that will make us overcome this. Just like we get happy and sad, irritated and frustrated, the same will happen with feelings of love, attraction and connection. They all come and go and in the end we have to realise it is only human and NORMAL to go through all these phases. Once you have peace that feelings come and go and are NORMAL, that’s when fear and anxiety have no platform to stand on. Sail through the feelings and don’t give them any thought. Just ride them and let them come and go…!

    Sheryl…you are a blessing! xxx

  • Aussie Jo

    Someone commented to me yesterday about this 1st marriage, a full on love/physical affair that crashed and burned as fast as it started. His 2nd marriage he told me, is like being with his best friend everyday. Life is awesome for himself and his wife and daughters because there is more, its deeper and not just physical. Its the gold at the centre of the rubble.

    I totally agreed with him as after many years of relationship anxiety, my now 11 year marriage is the same. It gets better, but it ebbs and flows too. So much growth to come.

    • M

      That’s exactly it Aussie Jo. I had anxiety for 9 years thinking I had to have the “butterfly” feeling and now that I’ve accepted I don’t, I’m just the happiest and so grateful I stayed. He is my best friend and my stability. The love I have for him hoes way beyond butterflies and lust and you will only see it once you accept it’s not about butterflies and lust. He is my person for life for sure. xxx

  • Kelly Ann

    Help! I am your classic case of relationship anxiety. I was dating someone who wanted to marry me and called it off. I experienced all the symptoms here and believed it was a sign I was with the wrong person…and since then I have lived in remorse and regret. I dated two people since then and both those relationships, the guy broke up with me. Since then the first guy, we ran into each other at a wedding. He has contacted me to be friends again…and has invited me to church, coffee, and bowling with friends. Does he want to be my friend or does he still feel the same? Sheryl…help!

  • Grin

    Sheryl, do you have any real life examples of a man who was able to get beyond the “men are more visual” posture and learn to love beyond physical attraction?

  • Grin

    “Sheryl Paul
    SEPTEMBER 7, 2018 AT 3:02 PM · REPLY
    Yes, if you go to this page and scroll down a bit you’ll see two boxes. Fill in your information in the second box and you’ll receive a PDF with several stories from men who have broken through the attraction spike:

    Sheryl, This is the only box below my comment on this page. Would love to get the PDF with the stories. Thanks.

  • Nicole

    Dear Sheryl, I want tot thank you for your work. I live far far away from you and I do not have much money but your page and me going trough therapy hear in my country has helped me so much in my journey of GAD/RAD. Relationship anxiety being the worst. My biggest fear is losing him. I learned how to handle intrusive thoughts and have been free of them for over year now. But all of the sudden an old intrusive thought spiked up again last 2 weeks, and hard. Leading to a full blown anxiety attack right at this moment.’what if i am deep down inside nog attracked to my partner’. It came because of the worry from having a little less ‘intimicy’. Right now in the mids of an attack that seems the ultimate truth. Wich makes me sick and sad to my stomach. I love my partner so much. Does this my GAD is back again? is it an old flare up and is this the moment i need to use my tools? now i can only think of my intrusive thought being real, i am not attracted enough and that means the end of a beautifull relationship. I was doing so so good. Does this mean from now one I will be comsumed again by anxiety disorder? leading tot non functioning? do I need to end the relationship and see it as an truth? I hope you still read the comments and have some words of wisdom. I hope I feel better tomorrow,allready worrying dat I will have anxiety everytime we get intimate. I am not up for another long intense fight with anxiety and intrusive thoughts. I keep thinking ‘it is true you are nog attracted’ and that thought scares me so so much that I am shaking and nauseaus (sorry english is not my first language). I love my partner so so much. Lovely warm greetings

    • Nicole: Intrusive thoughts are distress flares indicating that there’s something inside of you that needs attention. If you’re in a loving relationship, you don’t need to leave! It’s simply time to do the next layer of inner work and heal from the root. If you enter “conscious-transitions + intrusive thoughts” in the google search bar, you’ll find all of my articles on intrusive thoughts, as well as the best way to work with them. Sending blessings.

Leave a Reply