What If I'm REALLY Not Attracted to my Partner?

img_7131The following question is one I often receive from my clients who are struggling with the specific spoke of relationship anxiety that contains the longing to feel more love, connection, and attraction for their partner (and let’s remember that I use attraction or lack of attraction in the broadest sense of the word to talk about all of the ways in which you believe your partner is “not enough” that then cause you to retract, judge and withdraw. This “lack of attraction” can focus on any perceived lack: physical, intellectual, humor, social, or simply “we’re not connected enough.”). The question is:

“What if my truth is that I’m not attracted to my partner? I understand projection. I get that there are unworked parts of my inner movie that I project onto the screen of my partner. But what if this one is really my truth and I’m just not attracted to him or her?”

In order to answer this question, we need to understand that the psyche operates in parts or characters. The ego, with its fierce attachment to black-and-white thinking, believes that every thought you have represents the totality of your consciousness. It has a difficult time understanding that one part of you can perceive one way while another part of you can perceive something entirely differently. The ego is primarily motivated by a need to control, which then leads to the need to try to compartmentalize our inner experience into neat and tidy little boxes. So there’s often some confusion and resistance when I answer the above question with:

“Yes, there is a part of you that is really not attracted to your partner. But when you shift the focus of your attention five degrees and see through different eyes – eyes that are informed by your own groundedness, fullness and clarity – you likely find another part of you that is genuinely and truly attracted to your partner. This part of you is also your “truth”, and we can safely say that a truth informed by clarity and love is a more reliable truth than one powered by fear. The lens through which we view our partners determines everything. We can see them through a fear-lens, which is informed by the story of, ‘You’re not safe,’ or we can see them through a love-lens, which is informed by the deeper knowing that our partner is on our side, is our friend, and is someone against whom we don’t have to protect.”

The stories that arise from the fear-based character that is likely sitting in the driver’s seat of your psyche are designed not to torture you but to protect you. Ego believes that if it convinces you that the story of I’m REALLY not attracted to my partner is wholly true, then you have to leave the relationship, thereby circumventing the risk of love. As I recently wrote, our minds populate our daily existence with stories designed to fortify us against this risk. The “lack of attraction” intrusive thought is a story. The “he’s not intellectual or educated enough” is story.  The “we’re not connected enough” and “I don’t feel that spark” are stories. The stories are trying to protect us from the risk of full-bodied, open-hearted loving.

The problem is that we cannot vaccinate ourselves from the risk of love! Love is the biggest risk we take as humans. As Erica Jong has written: “Love is everything it’s cracked up to be… It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, your risk is even greater.”

The question then becomes: How do we change the lens through which we see our partners? How do we allow the character who sees through the love-lens to step into the driver’s seat more often? How do we successfully achieve one of the eight pillars that lead to a life of joy, which is learning to have – and sometimes change – our perspective so that we can orient toward love and gratitude? As the Dalai Lama says in The Book of Joy:

We create most of our suffering, so we should be able to create more joy. The key is our perspective and our thoughts, feelings and actions that come as a result.

In other words, when we shift our perspective, everything changes. While most people are secretly hoping that a magic genie will appear to solve all of their problems by snapping her fingers and making you fall madly in love with your partner, when we get past this wish fantasy and recognize that change is within our grasp and that the capacity to feel more joy and, in this case, more love, connection and attraction for our partner is entirely possible once we learn the essential skills of loving, we feel empowered. The key isn’t as far away as we think.

Love is not something that magically happens to us; it’s a state of mind that we can cultivate. If you want to learn the Love Laws and Loving Actions that will teach you to shift your perspective and grow the part of you that truly desires to move toward your loving and available partner, practice the actions that will feed and fuel the YES part of you, and help you shift the focus of your attention in the direction that develops real attraction, please join me for my tenth round of Open Your Heart: A 30-day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner. It will begin on February 4, 2017, this is the last week to sign up, and I will run it only once more this year.

90 comments to What If I’m REALLY Not Attracted to my Partner?

  • growinglove

    I seem to be posting a lot! Sorry Sheryl! I think the ‘attraction’ thing definitely resonates with me. My partner is very loving, kind and everything I’ve always wanted in a guy. But I find myself always wanting things to be a specific way – because if they aren’t then that means that me and him possibly aren’t compatible. E.g. A lot of the time before we meet I am hoping that my boyfriend has styled his hair in a neat way, so I can feel attraction and at ease. Since sometimes he tends to not put much effort into his appearance, and this can spike me and make me feel distant. I hate to be so narrow minded, ‘if he doesn’t look good today we are not going to have a nice time together’.

    Still inside of myself, I say ‘he can dress whatever and however he wants to, I will not let you win anxiety!’ but then I feel like what if I am just forcing myself to say this? Before the anxiety struck (when I was not in a relationship), I had core beliefs that I would stick by and I felt at one talking to my partner about various things. Now I am scared of exploring new places with him etc, it has to feel ‘right’ before we go anywhere incase I suspect that I may start feeling anxious around him, wondering if I really love him or not. I have been speaking to him since March 2016, and we officially were a couple since around October 2016. It is still early days – I have always been a worrier, but I can’t seem to tap into being the girlfriend that I truly want to be. I almost feel like I’m losing myself because of this anxiety, and naturally the chorus sings to me ‘it’d be easier if you break up’. Or even reading stories on here where people have broken up with their partners makes me think that if I do that and feel the loss of him, maybe that will hit me that we are meant to be together.

    Does this sound like relationship anxiety? Sometimes it does not even feel like me and him are friends, rather that I’m forcing interaction and ‘hoping’ things change. It is so hard for me to take responsibility and be compassionate. I do have a lot of pain from the past that I did not really get to grieve (issues such as sexual harassment, I always feel like I’m exaggerating. I don’t know if that plays a part). 🙁

    • Anna

      @GROWINGLOVE I have been with my boyfriend for three years and struggling with relationship anxiety since our brief break up two years ago. I can resonate with every part of what you explained in your comment!! It can be so hard to reassure yourself if you feel like its forced. Although, that forced feeling is most likely fear trying to pull you back to those intrusive thoughts. It does help to separate intrusive thoughts by asking “is this 100% true”? So for example, if you think “he’s not attractive because his hair is messy today” you ask that question and if its not 100% true then it can aid you in finding that this thought is really just fear based. What you are going through is normal! If i’ve learned anything it is that. Relationship anxiety happens to the best of us, especially if we tend to be worriers. I know its much easier said then done but if you find yourself ruminating try and change the dynamic: workout, answer trivia questions, binge watch netflix. And please please remember. YOU ARE SO STRONG! This anxiety may be tough, but YOU ARE TOUGH!


      a friend xx

      • growinglove

        I’m literally ruminating all day!! I don’t think there’s any moment where I am actually just present and feeling my emotions around him in a safe space. Because I’m living in my head.

    • Heartchakra

      @growinglove sounds like classic relationship anxiety to me. “My partner is very loving and kind and everything I’ve wanted in a guy…” and yet the voice of fear has you hyper focused on his hair. We can all relate. Have you taken Sheryl’s relationship anxiety course yet? I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a total game-changer. And I can almost guarantee you that if you leave this relationship, you may feel relief temporarily but you will take all of these issues with you to the next one. Sending you a big hug

      • growinglove

        It’s strange though because even though you’ve said it sounds like classic relationship anxiety to me it feels like maybe I actually do not like him. Hmm. I have not taken any courses as of yet. Which one would you recommend?

    • Worrywart

      I have almost the exact same problem as @growinglove except mine moves from his body to his hair/hairloss or any other unattractive feature. I wasn’t attracted to him from the get go (which makes me worry more) but after hanging with him for a couple of months I felt intense attraction. Looking back though I wonder if it was the novelty and lack of being sure about his feelings that created it. On the flipside, I love him very deeply and he’s my best friend. He’s supportive, loving and would do anything for me. He’s hilarious and we have almost always have a really fun time together. I feel like it would be the perfect relationship if only I felt stable physical attraction. I want to give him all the security and love he has shown me but I keep oscillating from attraction to repulsion. It has even happened within a few hours! (feeling repulsed and then warming up and feeling attracted.) I wish I could be more stable towards him emotionally. I don’t want to lose him but I can’t seem to control it. I end up crying at least once a month because of these feelings but I also can’t imagine being without him. If anyone can help, I would love some encouragement!

  • Brooke

    I have felt the lack of attraction thought creep into my mind at times. However once I calm down and focus on the parts of my fiancé that attracted me the most I find my attraction again.
    Lately I have been struggling with as soon as I feel excited or ready for our wedding (in 5 months) it only takes a few minutes for my anxious thoughts to renter my mind. I know my intrusive thoughts always hear back to being afraid of growing up. Afraid of the what ifs in the future and the possibilities of divorce. I want so badly to move past these fears and take life by the horns as I always have before my fear of marriage was brought to the surface.

  • Bert

    You are awesome. I needed that today. I wasn’t even looking for it and it just showed up in my inbox and reached out to me. It’s so fascinating how strong the feelings and associated story can be. For me, when I am out, I see other girls and my emotions and thoughts literally take hold of me, saying “if only I had her (based just on her looks), then I would be ok. That somehow all these women meet my looks criteria and the one I’m with doesn’t. I do remember having strong physical attraction for my wife but even those memories can come with all sorts of disclaimers. Yes, I was attracted, but only attracted enough to fool around. Not attracted enough to be with her forever. It’s hard. But this helps. A lot.

  • Hannah

    I love this part ——> love isn’t something that magically happens to us; it’s a state of mind that we have to cultivate.

    I remember thinking a while back ‘why do I always feel love towards my partner when I make the effort to cultivate it? Am I lying to myself?’ I realise that actually, I’m lying to myself, but the part of me that believes that love is only a feeling and something that should just be there etc. I know now, after doing so much of this work that love sometimes does need to be cultivated! Especially when we have been anxious or disconnected or even unappreciative towards my other half. It’s a good way to get back down to real love and it’s actually a reflection of real love. It’s not fake, it’s just what you have to do in order to break the barrier to love freely.

    Thank you Sheryl.

  • Julia

    Thank you sooo much Sheryl.

  • I’m reminded of this quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” 🙂

  • Danielle

    Attraction has never been an issue for me, but “connection” has. My fiance is a man’s man, so he’s not very sensitive and I find I want MORE connection (when we talk, when we’re out together, all the time). We went wedding venue shopping this weekend and he was kind enough to go with me, hold the bag, and walk around, but he was’t engaged in the process at all. If I was talking to someone asking questions, he’d walk away. I find myself wanting more all the time and focusing on the negative. There is positive, but is there enough?

    • Have you taken Open Your Heart, Danielle? It would help you shift out of the habit of focusing on the negative. When you learn to create a more positive climate with your partner, invisible shifts happen all around. And if you have taken it, you might want to review the material or wait for the alumni discount, which I’ll be sending out this week, and join us again.

  • UnforcedRhythmsOfGrace

    Sheryl, this is my first time commenting, but I want to let you know that in the 6mos since stumbling onto your site (thx Google!) you have “saved” my 2+ yr relationship (to a words-don’t-describe wonderful man) countless times. Today included. I spent a good chunk of the night in flaming anxiety on this very question. The funny thing is that I was trying to recall what you’d written on the subject before and was wishing for an answer to my real question: what if this isn’t a projection, but the “Voice of Truth” in me telling me a reality I just don’t want to accept – that because I’ve never felt a lasting “knowing” about our spark/compatibility/attraction it means he’s wrongwrongwrong! for me; I’m setting myself up for a trapped, life-/love-less marriage (like my parents have) if I continue; and that this inner turmoil is proof that I really AM made for singleness, not marriage (ooo, that’s a big one for me!).
    So to open my inbox this morning and find this… I’m released and calm and just plain grateful for you, for my man, even for this stumbling journey that calls me into deeper love. Thanks for speaking out of an understanding, caring, and listening heart. You’re a gift.
    (Taking OYH stays a dream for me right now, but I’ll be journeying with you all in spirit)

  • Alison

    I just found this site this past Friday, and what a major help it has been! I see a lot of posts that are very similar to what I’m thinking or anxious about and helps to know I’m not crazy!
    I’m learning to focus less on feelings and more on the trust, teamwork and friendship we have.
    I do tell myself things like “your love isn’t true” when anxiety hits (we are going to be getting engaged soon so it seems the impending transition has caused it) and I don’t want to believe those thoughts. I know I have to stop trying to make feelings come as it only makes it worse. Does all of this sound normal? Any insight would be appreciated!

    Side note is that there are no red flags. He’s amazing, I just suddenly started freaking out recently with lots of questioning and doubts. Anxiety which has led to not a lot of loving feelings. I’m learning a lot here, and each day I’m feeling better, but I think a response from someone would really help, too!

    Thank you!

  • Brooke

    What is the best way to journal or work through fear of loss? I cannot afford the e-courses right now nor do I have time to devote due to nursing school. I just want to feel better….. I feel like I am drowning in this sadness and doubt.

  • onedayatatime

    Hi Sheryl, I have a question about the concept of “not feeling” in general. Coming at this from a sort of INFP lens (I think that’s my myers briggs type) I really struggle with things when I don’t FEEL something or FEEL like doing something. When I am home alone it’s at it’s worst. So this can affect me in my relationship but also in every day life things and to just do things in general. I think you have sort of talked about this and addressed this specifically looking at feelings in general. I don’t know how to work on this or HOW I should be working on this struggle of mine and wondering what your perspective might be?

    • Alex

      I struggle with this a lot too. Just want you to know you’re not alone!

    • If we allowed our feelings to dictate our actions we would never do anything! And more and more we’re becoming a culture that is victim to feelings. We don’t FEEL like exercising but we do it anyway because we know it’s good for us. We don’t FEEL like meditating because it’s so much easier to sit on the couch and surf the internet or binge on Netflix, but hopefully we do it anyway because we know it’s good for us. We’re becoming a culture that’s losing it’s ability to discipline and act from a place of rigor because everything is so EASY (and the culture says it should be easy). So we have to actively work against that mindset by activating our inner adult/parent that says, “I know you don’t FEEL like putting your shoes away but you have to do it anyway” and “I don’t you don’t FEEL like journaling or meditating but it’s time to do it anyway.” Like everything else, it’s a muscle and skill that strengthens the more you use it (or weakens the less you use it). And the less you use it, the more you fall into complacency and giving rein to the bad habits that don’t serve your ultimate goal of finding wellness and aliveness.

    • Morgan

      Onedayatatime, thank you for asking this- I’m also INFP and highly sensitive and definitely struggle with this too. I second Alex, you’re not alone.

  • Newly Married

    I feel I cant get close to my partner because he hurt me a lot for many years and played games with me using another woman, he is very sorry and he is now a great guy but there is this huge wall of resistance and pain and resentment that I cant get pass. I dont know what to do it hurts me a Alot, I cant get pass the pain anf the hurt that he and that woman caused me.

  • Alex

    This seems like one of those beautiful messages that can apply towards our kids as well? I’ve recently transferred the”intrusive thought train” from my wife over to my newborn daughter with thoughts like “you don’t love her” and “you didn’t think (insert milestone here) was that cute/meaningful. I am a first time poster but you were the first one I saw to get at this struggle we all face!

  • Morgan

    Like others have mentioned here and on other articles, this came at just the right time so thank you! Lack of attraction is my main issue with my husband. I have come a long way but I’m still stuck on the thought “you weren’t attracted when you met him, you shouldn’t have taken it farther because now you’re married and still struggling” and then the subsequent guilt sets in feeling as though I’ve cheated him out of being with a girlfriend or wife that is attracted. I feel like I could work with the thought better if my lack of attraction set in once real love started and the subsequent fear of loss, but I didn’t love him or fear losing him yet on day one… so then I conclude I’m just not attracted and there’s nothing deeper. This is so hard to feel because I love our life together otherwise! Thanks again Sheryl.

    • Julia

      I was spiked by this comment 🙁

      • That’s understandable given that this is your main challenge. I want to invite you to respond to your spike from a wise and loving part of yourself and share your response here.

        • Julia

          Well if she loves their life together… she clearly sees the YES but stuck on possibly faulty expectations of attraction, that possibly are and never were of any use for her and her relationship.

          I’ve let go a few so far, but my ego clearly finds every opportunity to drag me back to old beliefs or send me back to anxiety. And me being spiked by this is a clear example of it. And me spending the whole day anxious due to this comment shows that I’m clearly under the creative-anxious personality type. It is also a messenger: “there’s a lot more work to be done”.

          It is the fact that she argued that it happened since the beginning and she said that then she didn’t have fear of loss that really shook me.

          Fear walls are activated with him being available, him being transparent and him being present. There are few individuals out there I believe you can actually be drawn to. Those opportunities happen rarely in life I think. Yes, fear can come in from day one, but also from day one you can tell you are drawn to someone, and as I said, that rarely happens. To miss that opportunity would be denying the part of me that could see and feel his essence, and possibly the part of me that can really love deeply. And it is that vulnerable, raw part of me that previously experienced loss.

          To sum up, attraction is a damn complicated issue that cannot be understood by “the black and white thinking” of the ego mind.

          • YES! I hope you were able to take in some of your wise words. It’s a process, for sure, and not an easy one. Patience is key.

          • Morgan

            This whole conversation just makes me feel like I’m the exception and this isn’t relationship anxiety for me. I understand why attraction issues become a story once the real love sets in to protect from truly loving and loss but I can’t understand what to do with lack of attraction from the beginning. Maybe I’m missing something. I’d love to hear from others who have worked through this too.

            I’m obviously connected to my husband in many ways or I wouldn’t have married him. And Julia is right in saying that I’m possibly stuck on faulty expectations of attraction- which I’ve been trying very hard to overwrite.

            But on the flip side of that- I feel like there’s more to it than just working with the faulty thoughts. Aren’t there reasons we are all attracted to some people and not others (the subconscious and how we grew up, what our parents are like, even what we look like, etc.)? sometimes this work makes me feel like my problem is I’m not working hard enough to overcome these thoughts and feelings but I really have been working hard for 4 years. Sometimes this work makes me feel as though it’s my fault I haven’t overcome this yet- but what if attraction is just there or it’s not and at no fault to ourselves (due to our past as I mentioned above).

            Maybe these are all just elaborate fear lines, I’m not sure. All I know is this is so hard and it affects so much of my life and I truly want to work through it.

          • These are all elaborate fear-lines, Morgan, including “I’m the exception.” At least half the people who find their way to my work don’t feel attracted from the beginning (at least how we traditionally define attraction). But there were obviously other ways that you were attracted from the beginning otherwise you wouldn’t have continued to move forward. And, having met with you, I know that you’re seeing through fear-eyes at the moment. I encourage you to go through OYH again, as well as Break Free, and see if you can shift your perspective. I can assure that you’re not alone with feeling stuck. This work takes time, and the healing happens in layers and spiral. Hang on and know that you’re not alone and you’re in the right place.

    • AA

      I think every relationship is different and certainly we are attracted in different “amounts” and ways with different people. If it were me, I would then ask myself…what if you are aren’t wildly attracted to him and never have been? What if that wasn’t the end of the world? What if it meant nothing? What if it just meant you are happy but didn’t want to have sex all the time? What if it wasn’t a big deal in the slightest? I sometimes ask myself these questions to get a new perspective… Sure, maybe you would find someone who you are wildly attracted a little more of the time to but a life together was not great. Would you rather that? And sure, maybe there is someone somewhere out there who you’d be a little bit more attracted to and have a great life with. But there may not be. And you may not find them. Or you might find them and then they’d die. (Dramatic sure, but it expressed the point that life isn’t so in our control!) After I ask myself those questions, I’d remind myself that I’m not on that path. I’m on this one currently and I’m not about to drastically change paths just because of that. Between the “what if it’s not a big deal/doesn’t mean anything” questions and grieving all the paths we didn’t take or find or have, I tend to feel better around this stuff….hope that helps a little!

  • Valentina

    Hi Sheryl, I’m from South America and I wanted to thank you for your posts. I wrote here some time ago and I’ve recently been diagnosed with anxiety. I’m doing much better now since I started facing the thoughts as anxiety and understanding that I have many things to work with myself.

    I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year and he’s incredible, I love him dearly and I want his happiness and to make him happy of course. There aren’t any red flags in our relationship, but it seems to be that I crave for unstable partners. This is my first serious relationship, before him I used to have a pursuer distancer dinamic with every man that caught my attention. And now it’s like I’m afraid that we don’t have “that spark”, but I try to remind myself that I only had it with men who didn’t want anything serious with me.

    Before anxiety hitted my relationship 6 months ago, I was pretty sure that I wanted to marry my boyfriend someday. Now thinking about the future makes me feel nervous because I think “what if I long for that spark during my entire life?”, but at the same time I don’t want to lose him and I wish for that feeling of wanting to have a future together without anxiety to come back. Is this normal? I mean, to think about future scenarios and feel anxiety, when before this, I used to think the same scenarios and I felt happy or sure.
    Also, it’s like something in me is afraid that I will miss the spark my entire life if I stay with him. I’m trying to shift my perspective and see the good. And I want to start doing things that make me happy, like drawing or doing more things for myself, but then a voice says to me “if you’re happy alone, you will figure out that you don’t want to be with him”, so I end up staying where I am, doing nothing different. Is this also a thought that comes from my anxiety?
    I would love some insight, since I can’t afford one of your courses for now. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina

    I also wanted to add that I read your post “Can you make it work with anyone?” and what it says about connection. I really enjoy being with my boyfriend, I always want to see him, but there have been times where I didn’t enjoy the moment, a part of me knows that it was because I was feeling anxious and constantly analyzing the moment, my mind tells me “you should be feeling x way about this moment”, so If I don’t, I obsess about it.

    I never started something serious with another guy before him because I used to get bored with “good guys”, but when I met him I just felt like I had met him before, I felt confidence. He’s like my home, but there are this other times where anxiety arises and I just get scared about not having enough connection.

  • blual

    I’m concerned with all these kind of thoughts or anxiety as people here and what I understood until now is that my “anxiety” comes from the fact that I compare the traits of my bf with the ideal in my head. Not consciously! It’s just in rare moments of lucidity that I can get this.
    My therapist answered, when I asked her How can people stay together, “little satisfaction”. Meaning they just accept the faulty guy. Yes, he is not as handsome as my ideal or as open or as smart or attractive or etc but i’m fine with it. It’s not a problem of oh my good he’s not handsome enough, i can’t stand him. It become yep, i don’t like his looks today. Or i don’t like what he said but..I don’t panic!! I see this, I accept I don’t like this and then go on. Go on to what? To the next moment.
    For me it’s important to know that i can leave at any moment. That helps me not to feel trapped in the relationship. And to know that I can go and have drinks with other guys I like and test how it’s like to be near them, if it’s really better or just the first period of infatuation makes me feel this way.
    I guess it’s double fear: fear to really accept I don’t like stuff in my bf personality and fear of separation as well.
    It’s very disappointing to see that’s all there is to life and love doesn’t give me all (the bliss). Really depressing.

    Sorry for the long text. I guess I just want to share and check my insights with you, see if i got it right.

  • Sonya

    I’m worried I’m different because my first thought which started my relationship anxiety was a powerful “you have to leave” (though I must point out this was after my sister told me she wanted to break up with her husband). This thought scared to hell out of me and in the year since then I’ve every other intrusive thought/fear and they seem just to get more complicated and twisted as time goes on. But what scares me is that when I try do you what you suggest about sitting with it and seeing what’s under the stories, when I try to become quiet and present, the original thought comes back and I get scared and jump staight out again. Because this particular thought comes in when I’m trying to be still it makes me think that it must be more true. Is this normal at all? I’m almost in tears now because I don’t want to leave, he is the most amazing guy and I want more than anything to spend my life with him, but I’m so terrified I’ll have to leave for some reason.

    • Kate

      Hi Sonya!

      This was pretty much how mine first started too! Don’t worry you don’t have to leave, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, and you clearly don’t want to as you’ve stated above. I used to have the same thing, but realised it was my fear trying to push me away from stillness because in stillness it can’t exist. What I learnt on my journey was if the thought doesn’t make you happy it’s not your truth, and the fear response is telling you it is not how your internal guidance system feels. You’ll know your thinking in alignment with who you truly are when the thought brings you happiness and peace. Not fear and worry!

      • Sonya

        Thank you so much for your reply Kate, it really helped. I like this “…because in stillness it can’t exist.” I guess it makes sense that the fear would fight hard at this point. And the thought that I’ll just “have” to leave (for some million and one reasons my fear comes up with) makes me feel awful, but the belief that I CAN stay with him and learn about life and love together makes me feel soooo happy, I know that’s what I want! So I guess it’s time for me to stop letting the fear rule me and start doing the work, it’s scary and hard but my partner and my relationship is worth it, and I guess I am too.

  • AA

    I appreciate this post and all your posts on attraction. I’m curious about when the other person does have a large part to do with the dynamic of attraction and it’s not just us? For example, my partner is, even in his own words possibly bordering on being addicted to sex (though acted out just towards me). While he’s working on it in therapy, he somewhat compulsively wants to have sex and comes at it like I’m an object that he just wants to have sex with vs him being attuned to me. And when I don’t want to or change my mind, he tries to control his frustration, but he gets frustrated and sometimes snaps at me later on. He is aware of this pattern and has been working on it – but it’s been 7 months with him working on it and I am struggling to tap into my own sexuality and my attraction to him with this pressure continually hovering over me and my new found difficulty in now discerning if I just am trying to have sex because I feel guilty or because I want to. It really makes it hard for me to want sex with him. But there is little I can do – and it seems it is hard for him to change…and this pressure is starting to make spending time with him feel stressful, always worrying about needing to have sex or a fight we’ll have about it. I’m curious what would you have to say about sex and attraction in this way? Is there hope or is this a red flag?

    • It sounds like there’s a real issue in your relationship that is interfering with your ability to remain connected, and thus, attracted. I’m glad to hear that your partner is addressing it in therapy, but I can certainly understand why you would retract given his level of sexual need/pressure. Have the two of your considered couples therapy as well? If you’re open, the only model I recommend is the EFT couple model created by Sue Johnson. You can find a local therapist here:


      • AA

        We’ve been trying PACT therapy with a great therapist – and it helped, but currently we can’t afford it. I do appreciate your validation though. It’s easy for me to go into how it must be me and my issues or that something is wrong with me because I’m not attracted or interested in sex more.

        • Yes, your partner’s sex addiction (or something close to that) will directly effect your attraction to him. I understand lack of attraction as a by-product of three levels of lack of connection:

          1. Disconnected from yourself.
          2. Your partner disconnected from himself.
          3. Disconnected from each other.

          If any of these are off and attraction is your spike, it will likely be effected.

          • AA

            Yes, I appreciate that perspective. He and I have actually talked about how he is disconnected from himself in those moments. Of course things do get an extra layer of tricky, because his pressure and need and the way he sometimes comes to me and touches me more like an object not only is a turn off (in the most literal sense) in and of itself, but it triggers medical trauma of mine (of being poked and prodded at like an object). I realize we have a mirror wounds here and certainly it activates him even more, but I’ve never experienced this coming up for me before around sex…though his last partner ended up not having sex with him for years and that’s essentially why they broke up…likely same reason. I realize this gives me a chance to heal something of mine and so I come at it like that and stay – but I’m not sure. I’m not sure my stuff has a chance to heal here. It’s quite difficult to discern when we should stay and work on our part and when it’s time to move on.

  • Katie

    If you don’t “feel” love then how do you know if you actually love your partner or are just convincing yourself that you do? All my life I have thought love was based on a feeling and how that person makes you feel? The person I’m with is amazing, we get on so well, we know each other so well, he is my bestfriend, he makes me smile and laugh, I feel content and warm and comfortable with him. I don’t want to lose him.

    • Please read through my site in its entirety, Katie, as I discuss this topic at length in hundreds of posts.

    • AA

      “The person I’m with is amazing, we get on so well, we know each other so well, he is my bestfriend, he makes me smile and laugh, I feel content and warm and comfortable with him. I don’t want to lose him.” I hope you read that sentence of yours plenty of times!! If that isn’t a statement of love, I’m not sure what is. It seems like you are focused on the “feeling” of love which, truth be told, I’m not sure anyone could ever exactly state how that feels. Feelings are not objective things. They change texture every minute, day, year. They are influenced by fear, anxiety and respond accordingly.

      • Katie

        I am focused on the feeling of love you’re right, because I’ve always thought love was a feeling and now reading through this site and seeing that it isn’t, I’m just finding it hard to sink that in. The guy I’m with I can see my life with. Sometimes when I’m at work though aswell (bar work) if I see a cute person my head tries to imagine scenarios with that person, I don’t understand why. I used to love my job when I was single and speaking to cute guys. Now whenever I see someone who normally I would of thought was super attractive, I act so cold with them so they know I’m not interested

  • Joe

    Question for those of you who have run from a great relationship due to overwhelming anxiety. I am sure there there is great relief and peace at first? But what after that? Down the road does it hit you this was a mistake to run? If so, what did you do about it. What was the best course of action for your ex partner?

    As you might guess someone ran from an incredible connection, and right now I am just giving her space. Any other advice welcome please!

  • Katie

    If I was to join one of your courses based on what I’m struggling with which is the whole “feeling love” and because I don’t always feel it then my head keeps saying I don’t love him and I’m getting really scared that I’m starting to believe it. I’ve gone a few days anxiety free, I had some issues at work the other day which had really bothered me and then anxiety came back with the whole “you don’t love him” for me though it’s been this exact thought for about 8 months, I have moments when I feel so happy and I kiss him and in that moment I say to myself “I love this guy”. I need to fight for this. I don’t want to lose him. I’m scared.. what course would be best for me? & how much would it be in pounds as I live in the U.K.?

    • agnes

      Katie, as Sheryl has said, all of the things you are posting about are what this site is for in its entirety. The answers are here, you need to keep reading and when you’re not reading, recalling what you’ve read and responding to your thoughts. I wonder if it may help you to read Sheryl’s post ‘Fix Me Save Me…’.
      I am currently working through Break Free and it is absolutely brilliant. Pure gold. Sheryl tends to recommend this as a baseline course. All course info is under the Courses tab. You can then use a dollar to pound converter via Google to calculate the cost. This is down to you. We can support you, but we can’t do the work for you. x

      • Katie

        I’m scared I’ll do the course and then realise that this is in fact my truth and not fear. I don’t want to leave my partner 🙁

      • Katie

        I have noticed that my thoughts appear when I’m annoyed at something or worrying about something.. & ive been pretty okay with my head for a few days but then today when I was at work there was this guy and I wasn’t attracted to him or anything but stood next to him was one of our little old lady regulars and I went over and said her price straight away and then my head was like “you was trying to impress him” but I don’t think I was. I used to get attention a fair amount when I was single and I’m not gonna lie I liked it, but now I’m with my boyfriend I’m not bothered, I like making it known that I’m with someone but my head keeps telling me that I miss the attention.. & then today he went fishing and caught a fish and I’m not a fan of him bringing it home to eat (trying to go vegetarian) but I told him I’d have a little bit of it just because I love him and then my head was like “if you loved him then you wouldn’t of said anything to him and just ate the fish”

  • B

    Sheryl I have a question, is it possible to be with someone because they fill an empty void in your life? I feel like I’ve based my relationship on him filling up the void I have. Our relationship started from me being depressed and over time I grown to love him but I feel what if I only love him because of him filling this void. It breaks my heart to think of my love for him as only being a cover up so I don’t deal with the internal pain I feel.. how do I get past this

    • Britt

      I wonder this too. I’m worried that my love is just coming from a selfish place where I’m looking for something/someone to fill me up and make this emptiness and flatness go away. But I feel really flat and shallow most of the times. Like my highs are muted, forced, or fake. I don’t feel deep love and joy in my love for my fiancé. It feels like how I feel for my friends–I love him and care about him but I still feel like I’m missing something.

      Is it possible to “fall in love” and feel those highs of joy with someone even if you’ve felt “meh” about them from the beginning? I know feelings go up and down but I just want to feel deeply in love and content with my choice in partner. I wonder if I just got into the relationship for the wrong reasons and that doomed our relationship from the start?

  • Hannah

    Has anyone ever had a brief moment where they totally understand why the anxiety is there and where all the thoughts are coming from? Like just very briefly?! I just did. I realise now, all the projections,all the thoughts and all the things in my head blurring my vision are all exactly that – in my head!!

    I have always loved my other half, always. From day one, I don’t know how or why, I just have. And the thought of losing him and losing our precious life & what we could have in the future together really scares me and hurts me. I want him here forever, I don’t want to lose him. I’m scared of bad things happening, I’m scared of losing control and all of it falling to pieces. I have never loved anyone like I love him, he is family and I couldn’t possibly be okay if he ever left. Hence the anxiety.i sort of rely on him a bit,not in an unhealthy way but in a way where I lean on him as if in I trust him completely, I know I can count on him, I feel comfortable with him,I am just happy &a content (not when anxiety is here), I guess when you trust that person on being there forever it’s scary to think how vulnerable and upset you would feel if they left.

  • Pete

    Thank you for this post, Sheryl, and for so many others like it. I took your Open Your Heart course a couple of years ago. You helped me open my eyes to all of the great things that I have with my partner and the love that we share. I’m proud and happy to say that we are engaged and hope to get married in October. I can’t thank you enough for your work and for your words. You are truly helping people.

  • Newly Married

    If you are hurt and resentmenful towards your partner and you cant get close to him, is it time to leave or can the marriage be saved? Any advice please on how to get pass that or is it time to go.? Please any advice or insight

  • Jeanne

    Somehow I found this entry a bit harder to really…get and understand. I have been reading your blog since quite a while now and many articles resonate very much with me. But this one opened a box that I keep thinking about since I began reading your blog… I think, many of us are searching for some kind of…meaning in a relationship. Reading your blog and trying to apply it to my daily life seems to make sense for me from a perspective of “my relationship is my true love and every anxiety, every little pinch of dirt on the surface of this deep ocean of real connection beneath is only a disturbance waiting to be resolved”…and it is a very fullfilling connection…still reading this entry’s title from a hypothetical point of view I thought…yes…what if there really isn’t any attraction? Isn’t it somehow…necessary that there are possible scenarios where one would clearly say “okay, that is one case where there is really no attraction” in order to be able to label a real, existing connection as somewhat valuable? Just a thought that hits my mind every now and then…

  • anon

    Hi Sheryl. I’m quite upset in this moment and I just wanted to share with you one of the greatest struggles I have with this work.

    If I were to declare a religion, it would be this blog and this work. I visit here every week, if not every day when I need guidance. I love this ‘place’ and because it has helped me so much, I recommend your work to friends all the damn time. My ears prick up to a false belief or a fear-line and I’m straight in there! I do this because I don’t want these people to suffer unnecessarily. A big part of me wants to keep this place to myself, but I exercise my compassion and extend the invitation to others.

    What hurts me, is the resistance and ridicule I am met with for expressing my spirituality. I feel like an alien among my peers. My partner is so welcoming and accepting of my true self, but when it comes to this aspect of my life I am not sure he is fully ‘in’ with me.

    Should I let them Google their way here like I did? Perhaps that’s the only way anyone will truly get it; when anxiety forces them to search for an alternative to throwing the towel in. My mum reminds me: ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. We talk about you and she’s even recommended Conscious-Transitions to a work colleague. The resistance amazes me. I think it may be time to give in being your number one cheerleader.

    Much love. x

    • I find that when it comes to spirituality it’s usually best to offer resources only when asked. If someone says, “I’m really struggling with fear. Do you have any ideas?” then it’s a great opportunity to share the resources that have helped you. But offering unsolicited “advice”, even when it’s coming from your own excitement and joy, often leads to resistance.

  • Alison

    Good morning, all!

    I’ve been learning a lot this past week and seeing the roots of my fear. I see that I have for 1, let society shape my view of what love is, so I panic when I don’t have constant “feelings”. I also have not had many relationships before this, and I once broke up with a guy for lack of a friendship or feeling comfortable to be myself. But I felt so terrible hurting him. It was very short, maybe a month of a relationship, but I’m sensitive and felt so bad. Anyway, I think that I’ve used feelings as reassurance in my current relationship that I will not hurt him too. My boyfriend has been hurt pretty bad in the past as well, so the thought of adding to that in the future scares me so bad. That is when the doubts and the “you don’t love him” thoughts come in. But what I’m learning again is that it’s all fear, and I think it says something of my love for him about how seriously I consider my privilege to love him and hold his heart. He is my best friend and just learning that I love who he is more important than having fireworks. Every day is getting easier to just acknowledge all of this as fear and to let it go.
    Any thoughts anyone?
    Also, I’ve tried to sign up for the newsletter and the free e-book, but it hasn’t been working 🙁
    Maybe I’ll try a different email address!
    Thank you!! 🙂

  • Alison

    I found the subscription email. Oops! 🙂

  • Sam

    Hi, Sheryl and community! I’ve been VERY slowly working my way through the break free course, but recently my anxiety has become much stronger. My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and for the past six months he has been unemployed. I am a very driven, goal-oriented person, so this has been a definite valley in our relationship. Every month that passes becomes a little harder and his unemployment seems to magnify all the little annoyances and “unattractiveness” I was already working to overcome. He is an endlessly loving, kind and selfless partner, but I’m not sure how much longer I can combat the feeling that he’s not what I’m looking for. Any advice or similar stories would be much appreciated!

    • Hi Sam: If you really want to break through the anxiety and fear-walls that are keeping you stuck, you need to commit to going through the entire course and doing all of the exercises. Then go through the course again. Then again. And most importantly, you will need to commit to one or two daily practices so that you can learn to re-wire your faulty mental habits and patterns and replace them with practices that open you to love, compassion, and acceptance. You can hear all of the stories in the world but until you do the work yourself the stories will only provide temporary reassurance. Time to commit to your inner healing!

  • HannahR

    Hi sheryl

    I have been logged out since Monday, I have tried to log back in but i have forgotten my password! 🙁

    I can’t click on the link where it says administrator, the link isn’t working for some reason. What would you suggest I do?


  • Katie

    I have noticed that my thoughts appear when I’m annoyed at something or worrying about something.. & ive been pretty okay with my head for a few days but then today when I was at work there was this guy and I wasn’t attracted to him or anything but stood next to him was one of our little old lady regulars and I went over and said her price straight away and then my head was like “you was trying to impress him” but I don’t think I was. I used to get attention a fair amount when I was single and I’m not gonna lie I liked it, but now I’m with my boyfriend I’m not bothered, I like making it known that I’m with someone but my head keeps telling me that I miss the attention.. & then today he went fishing and caught a fish and I’m not a fan of him bringing it home to eat (trying to go vegetarian) but I told him I’d have a little bit of it just because I love him and then my head was like “if you loved him then you wouldn’t of said anything to him and just ate the fish”

    • Alison

      Hi Katie,

      I’m no expert by any means, but it seems like you’re being too hard on yourself and letting your fear get the best of you. It’s really hard to not give our thoughts merit or to ignore them when it concerns something so important in our lives as relationships, but I’m learning in my own journey with relationship anxiety, that the negative things that come up in my mind are just fear striking and trying to keep me from being happy. It takes being vulnerable, and that’s scary. If you can, try to start out your days with positive things in your life and positive things about your boyfriend. It really helps too if you actually say one of those positive things/compliments to your boyfriend. I’m not saying to make it up or to just say it to just say it, but I know it’s helped me, and once I’m intentional to find the good, it comes really easily. Plus, to see how happy it makes the other person to hear that, it’s so worth it. It reminds me that I love making my boyfriend happy and to make him feel valued and appreciated. It’s just beneficial for both, and it leaves less room for fear and negativity to creep in. But overall, I would try to ease up on yourself. Life is scary sometimes, and you’re human, it’s ok to be scared, but trust that you can overcome this!
      I hope this helps.

    • growinglove

      Hi Katie,

      I get thoughts like that often myself. And when it does happen it’s hard for me to pick them apart as thoughts as I often believe it is me as a person vocalising myself. I agree with Alison, I think you’re being quite hard on yourself and that everything you think of will be under microscopic eyes because your mind is full on analysing everything it possibly can, which in turn will make you unhappy.
      No matter what we do in life, there will always be a risk and sometimes especially with things like relationship anxiety we have to face the uncertainties our brain poses. I think sometimes, this is what helps me (even though I am going through a massive bout of ‘I don’t love my boyfriend’ and feel ‘nothing’ towards him without all the anxiety I had previously), is to shift your focus from what’s happening right now to where you want to be, sometimes that may help to see it was ‘if this was my friend what would I advise her?’. Fear is very convincing in a lot of ways, and it can manifest in so many different forms too, something I’m trying to constantly stick by when I’m in the rut of the relationship anxiety/numbness/frustration etc lol.
      Love can be hard especially for the anxious minds like ours, and it can be incredibly kind to incorporate self-love/kindness into a very rigid and harsh routine. I don’t believe we go through this much pain/mental agony for something we do not care or have love for. I’m trying to hang in there too, just take it easy. And maybe try and do something kind for yourself today, like Sheryl says, what is it that YOU need right now? Sometimes just a simple thing of making time to have a cup of tea, is in itself an act of self kindness. Please take care of yourself, I myself know how easy it is to be critical of things especially yourself. xx I hope this helps.

      • growinglove

        I meant it can be incredibly hard* lol

      • Katie

        It’s just frustrating and I find it saddening. When I first got together with my boyfriend I’d never felt so happy and I remember thinking “I am so happy at last and finally found someone who I can see the rest of my life with” we were laughing together the other day and in the middle of me laughing I just looked at him and said to him “I love you” and then today I’m just having a meh today, I feel grumpy for no reason and the thoughts came back and was like “I haven’t loved him for a long time” but no; I’m not happy with this. I’ve just had this anxiety/intrusive thoughts for a long time.. there are a few aspects in my life that I’m not happy with like my work which I’m very unhappy in, I’m like 50 miles away from my friends and family which I hardly see due to work, still waiting on my boyfriends old house to sort out that he has with his ex, I know I must love him and care because a few months back I saw that his ex messaged him asking to meet and talk about the house and when I saw the message my eyes started to well up, he didn’t reply to her. We are also living with his parents which isn’t very easy when you both just want to be in your own home together.. deep down I know I don’t want to lose him and we connect so well, we laugh all the time. I’m still just focusing on the feeling of love which I need to stop apparently. I think he’s definitely the Pursuer and I must be the distancer ;(

  • bumblebee

    My partner likes other woman photo on facebook instead of my photo, I posted my own photo , I really dont mind he doesnt like my photo but when I found that he like other woman photo , I was so upset, I feel unloved by him, unappreciated, he didnt respect his own partner ..so I really dont know if it’s cause of my self abandonment or redfags

  • Diana

    It all started like relationship anxiety but it’s been almost 2 months and now I am depressed and wondering everything about my life. I can’t even focus anymore or get excited by any activities. The one thing I can comment about my wonderful boyfriend is that I don’t feel connected like friends. I am from a different culture and being raised in different ways sometimes seems to make our communication difficult. Since I had these feelings I am even wondering if I want to stay in this country where I feel alone(or move home where my family and friends are). Also since this I am thinking of a friend of mine with whom I do feel a close friendship from back home and wondering if he would be better suited in this regard. (but my logic tells me that this is silly because it doesn’t actually mean we would work romantically)

    I wish life was simpler .. I also feel guilty for feeling like this and thinking of giving up just so he can be happy with someone with no issues. He doesn’t understand and is hurt. I feel tired from crying and thinking of this. I worry about my parents as well as they are far away and not feeling well and missing them. How do I know what to do? I am very alone

  • Nosebleed

    The attraction issue seems to be my latest obsession since I started overthinking everything 4 months ago. I daydream a lot, (I’ve been spending most of the time I my world since I was a little girl) and sometimes I like to daydream about me being the sexy beast every guy is head over heels for, with a perfect outfit and perfect haircut. Truth is, I’m actually what most people would define “not attractive” and despite I’d really really like to put on some breath-taking outfits and take care of my appearance, I never manage to do so. But sometimes I look at the mirror when there’s that perfect light and think “You’re actually cool! Look at you. Don’t you think you deserve someone better? Someone who’s as cool as you? Look at your breasts, so round and perfectly-shaped. You can offer him the opportunity to have a girlfriend he can show off to his friends; but what can he offer you?”. I used to really care about impressing my boyfriend and wanting his friends to be jealous of him for having such a girlfriend, but lately I’ve been obsessing about the fact that maybe I want a different kind of boyfriend, one I can show off to my friends. My boyfriend is actually beautiful and sometimes I just stare at him with heart eyes caressing is beautiful facial features, his “}” shaped mouth, his cute nose that looks like an equilateral triangle with a little mole on it, his heart-warming smile… But he’s different from the kind of guys I usually crushed on, more “young and cool looking”, maybe a bit smooth, and beardless. So I find myself thinking if I really want to give up that kind of guy, thinking that maybe somewhere out there’s the perfect guy for me. It makes me sad to have those thoughts because I’ve always knew my boyfriend is a special person and he offers me so, so many things, but I can’t seem to focus on them during those times, it’s like I take him for granted, which he clearly doesn’t deserve. It doesn’t help that we’ve met on the Internet and are LDR, so I can’t see him that often, and a lot of recurring themes are things like “You fell in love with him over the Internet but you just don’t like him IRL”.

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