When Fear Meets Love

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWhen fear pricks the heart it flies in the face of every message about love we absorb from the culture: that love should provide a safe haven against the storms of life; that love should be easy; that love and fear are mutually exclusive, and that if fear enters the picture it means something is wrong.

Nothing could be further from the the truth. One of the most profound messages my life-changing therapist who I saw in my twenties shared with me is that the depth of the love is equal to the depth of the fear. In other words, each time you deepen the love – each time you move toward your partner and strengthen your intimacy – the fear deepens as well. Imagine that there are two wells living inside of you: a well of love and a well of fear. The well of love is filled with warm, sparkling water. The well of fear is filled with cold, lifeless water. Every time the waters in the well of love deepen, the waters in the well of fear deepen as well. They are twin forces in the chamber of the heart. You will not meet one without the other.

I write a lot about the connection between fear and love, and I often say that love is scary. But why is love so scary? Let’s break it down.

Love is scary because we’ve been hurt. We’ve been rejected by parents, teachers, friends, siblings, and peers. We’ve been made to feel not enough. We’ve been yelled at or abused. We’ve been made fun of, teased, and bullied. The more I sit with clients and listen to their stories the more I’m convinced that childhood bullying – ranging from teasing to physical attacks – has a debilitating effect on one’s sense of self-worth. And the more I listen the more I hear that nearly everyone was the victim of bullying in some form to some degree at some point in their life. So even if you grew up with loving parents, chances are quite high that you’ve been hurt somewhere else.

Love is scary because we’ve been heartbroken by past lovers. We’ve known what it is to love and expose ourselves in all of our vulnerability, to open up the raw inner caves of being, and to have someone walk away. We’ve cried hot tears that seared at the inner lining of our hearts. If love can hurt that badly, of course the fear-walls rise up to protect us from ever being hurt like that again.

Love is scary because we’ve known loss. We’ve lost others: friends, siblings, parents, partners, pets. We’ve lost homes, cities, and jobs. We’ve lost ourselves in enmeshed relationships. To be human is to know loss. There’s no way around it. And every time we allow a relationship to unfold or deepen, every time our partner stands before us naked and ready to walk to the next level together, every time a new stage of life invites the deepening – a wedding, a child leaving home, a career change, retirement – the heart remembers these losses and shies away in self-protection. Why would we risk when we know the pain of loss?

Love is scary because the closer we move to love, the we dissolve ego boundaries. Love is one of the most powerful boundary-dissolvers available to us, meaning that, when we let down our guard and risk being vulnerable, love offers us a taste of oneness. When we merge sexually with a loving partner the ego dies a little and we’re offered a window into the realm of oneness. This is why the French term for orgasm is “little death.” And yet we are not one on this earth; we are two. And the ego doesn’t want to die. The ego shouldn’t die, in fact, for it serves a healthy function in terms of maintaining an appropriate and necessary boundary. We need our separate selves. We are not meant to merge into a perpetual state of oneness. The ego knows this and juts up to protect us when it senses we’re moving in too close. And yet its need to protect is closely connected to its own self-preservation. In other words, there’s a fine line between having a healthy ego-boundary and allowing the fear-based ego to control your actions and keep your loved one at arm’s length.

Oh, the paradoxes and challenges of loving well! How much we don’t understand and how many lies we’re fed by a culture predicated on misguided ideals about love based on fantasy and illusion! We simply don’t understand that love and fear live in the same chamber of the heart. We don’t understand that where there is real love, there will be real fear, and that it takes a lifetime of focused attention and commitment to work effectively with the fear so that you can allow healthy love to flourish.

For those suffering from relationship anxiety, this is the critical juncture and point of discernment so essential to shifting from unmanageable anxiety to manageable fear: when fear arises to say “I’m scared” and meet the fear with compassion and tenderness instead of assigning meaning to that fear by saying, “I’m scared and and therefore it means there’s something wrong.” The core fear is healthy and normal. The core fear means that you’re deepening your capacity for love. The core fear is a sign that you’re being intimate and vulnerable. The core fear indicates that your partner is available and that you’re in a relationship where there’s real potential to love deeply and freely. But because nobody teaches us that fear will arise at some point in an intimate, vulnerable relationship, we can only assume that its presence is a sign that it’s time to leave. And that’s when natural, manageable fear leads to unmanageable relationship anxiety. Fear is manageable; anxiety is not.

What does it mean to meet your fear? It means to approach it like you would any tender emotion: to hold it like a child, to breathe your warm breath into its cold regions, to name it, to give it a voice, to dance it, to write it, to listen for the image that wants to emerge from its depths and guide you toward the next stage of your loving. Fear will meet the love, and the work then is to allow love to meet the fear. There is wisdom in the fear, if we slow down long enough to hear it and don’t allow our misguided messages to mutate the fear into anxiety. For encased within the fear is unshed grief, lies about your worthiness that you absorbed early in life that are ready to be replaced with the truth, and even guidelines for preserving your necessary separateness. We don’t want to banish the fear, but we also don’t want to run with its distortions.

In the end, hidden inside the fear lives our deepest longing as humans: to hold and be held, to listen and be heard, to love and be loved. When we meet the fear with love, over and over and over again, we mine these riches and settle at last, decades into a marriage, into that safe haven and happily ever after that we were promised so long ago.

53 comments to When Fear Meets Love

  • Sim1

    Oh my god this literally came at the perfect moment. I was feeling very anxious and fear had grasped me again with ‘you don’t love him’ this is the end, a sign you need to break up. I turned to my mam in support but caught her at a bad time and she just made me anxiety worse making me think it really was him that’s the problem. I’ve been taking your advice and working with my fear and really being curious about it, I went back to the night i had the intial ‘what if I don’t love him’ thought. I was avoiding thinking about this night because it scared me so much but after looking at more curiously I may see the connection. Three months ago my family and I were forced to move home suddenly, it was stressful, messy and out of control. About a week after moving my partner came to visit , we had a great time as usual despite the unorganist ion of the house. After I dropped my partner home he asked me to stay and I couldn’t so I felt a bit guilty when I got home, and to make things worse when I got back home I got into an argument with my brother and before I knew it I was in my room burst into tears and the dirt thought in my head was what if don’t love him, I was sick to my stomach couldn’t breathe etc and since then I’ve focused on that thought and all the intrusive thoughts fear has made up. My question is what do you think created that thought? My partner and I have an amazing relationship and no red flags , is it possible that I projected my feelings of being out Of control onto him and created that thought? Any insight or advice would be greatly appreciated Sheryl. I feel myself slipping back into projection and it’s so hard to pull myself out without finding clarity on what really caused that thought.

    • “My question is what do you think created that thought?” I think you already answered your question here: “Is it possible that I projected my feelings of being out Of control onto him and created that thought?” YES! That’s the premise of all of my work. The healing work for you would be to time travel yourself back to that moment three months ago and wit with yourself through the feeling of being out of control that was activated by the events.

      • Sim1

        Thank you a thousand times! Sheryl you’ve no idea how grateful I am for your work. I wouldn’t of been able to answer that for myself had I not found your blog. It was my projection of feeling out of control that created this thought and it was my reaction to it that created the fear. I really see now that it’s nothing to do with my partner! I love him very much so the fear was really about being out of control and losing him.Thank you for helping me come to this realisation, I now see that under my intrusive thoughts is the fear that being out of control will equal loss, which I know now is untrue. I will go back and sit with myself with compassion and love. Thank you so much x

          • sim1

            Although i do feel more clarity now that i know what caused this thought and even though ive had some moments of clarity in that i know its just anxiety and not that i actually dont love my boyfriend. The fear has gotten so much worse as of recently, i cant even think of him without my stomach flipping with fear. I feel like im so far in projection and i just cant seem to get out. If i rationally know what caused that thought and it wasnt because of my partner then why am i stil so fearful? why am i still hooked on the thought that these feelings mean i just dont love him? im so miserable at the moment. Im terrified that those moments of clarity meant nothing and that now that i know what happened to cause the thought and im still feeling sad and stuck on the thought i dont love him, i dont know what to think 🙁 could it be that ive stayed committed to this thought for so long in some form or another that the fear is stronger than ever now that ive revealed what caused it? perhaps my ego senses the risk and has me stuck in projection?

  • Kathryn

    I am on the precipice of falling in love, I can feel my fear fight against the emotions that ache to be allowed free to share in the exquisite bliss of unashamed love. Reading this article this morning, this VERY morning, is nothing short of extraordinary. Like most people of a certain age, I have experienced pain – intense emotional pain that hurts more than a physical injury but that cannot be soothed with a salve or bandage, and yet as of last night (it is Monday morning here in Australia) I was torn between “risking my heart” or “staying safe” – even after a night of tossing and turning – and no closer to an answer (which I MUST have because I am a stubborn, 43 year old woman, who MUST have logic and answers to all of my life’s question). Coming across your article this morning has worked better than a splash of cold water, or strong cup of coffee ever could; it is as though your truly profound message of courage and strength was destined to be put before my eyes. Thank you so very much – I still am no closer to my answer, but I suspect that part of my learning is that life does not always work like that.

    • Thank you for your comment and I’m so glad the article arrived at the right time. We long to always find “the answer”, and yet we know, deep down, that there isn’t always one answer. And perhaps there is never one answer, only choices that we make that encourage us to continue to soften the fear and move toward love or remain stuck in our safe and familiar patterns. Your desire to share real love shines brightly in your comment, so I’m guessing you’re going to choose to face your fear and do the work that will allow you to “share in the exquisite bliss of unashamed love.”

  • Hcw

    Cheryl, how do you know exactly what to say and when? I have been paralyzed by fear for the last several days. I finally told my boyfriend that I need him. Once the high from having the courage to do that wore off I was miserable. I climbed out of it by utilizing your techniques from the projection module. Then my father and stepmother came to visit. I have always been extremely close with them and while the trip started beautifully with my boyfriend and I taking them around the city something snapped. I had what started as a great conversation about how my boyfriend understood my feelings of disconnection. Somehow it turned into a conversation totally focused on all of my trigger points. I shut down and where there was once love rapidly filled with dullness and then anger and then absolute terror that he didn’t love me or would eventually hurt me. I shut down for days. I couldn’t enjoy my time with my father and step mother and I could not for the life of me figure out how to get back on track. I tried running to my hobbies and things that I valued but they were no help. When I get upset because of and in my relationship my whole world gets dimmer. It’s like happiness has been sucked out of my life. I have been faking it hoping to make it but it has been just that all mind and rationality and no heart. Unit I read this and literally the fear-cum-anxiety flew away faster then the Blue Angels and love returned. I don’t know what will happen but I do know and now see that the things I was harping on, that I couldn’t let go of, we’re not the real issues. At the beginning of my dad and step mom’s trip I felt so connected to my boyfriend and so grown up. So proud to show them the life that my boyfriend and I were building together, “our life”. When that anxiety switch was flipped it became my life and my boyfriends life. It became about territory and protecting mine vs my boyfriends. After reading this I realize that the things I thought were signs that my boyfriend didn’t love me were manifestations that my mind had created to protect me from the pain and sorrow of realizing that I am no longer solely a daughter nor do I want to be. That I am ready to move into adulthood with my amazing and wonderful boyfriend. Boy did I need to read this! And why is anxiety such a clever devil?

    • Anxiety is such a clever devil because we learn early that we can’t handle pure, raw emotion, like grief and fear. The pure feelings have to go somewhere so they morph into anxiety. It’s wonderful that you were able to arrive at this insight: “After reading this I realize that the things I thought were signs that my boyfriend didn’t love me were manifestations that my mind had created to protect me from the pain and sorrow of realizing that I am no longer solely a daughter nor do I want to be. That I am ready to move into adulthood with my amazing and wonderful boyfriend.”

  • Sass

    Hello Sheryl , thank you so much for your blog, it really is a great powerful message that can change your life. About 4 months ago I was really not myself, I was worrying, crying all the time and continuously upset. This was completely the opposite to how I was for 19yrs!!! I have been with the love of my life for nearly 2 years now and we’ve had our ups and downs ( mainly from rumours ), but some things happened that I did not expect my partner to do, which really shocked and hurt me. He is my first boyfriend and I plan on marrying him, I truly feel I’ve met my soul mate ! We manage to get past all these rumours and we are each other’s best friends! In June time was when I was not myself, he went away on holiday and I really missed him and bad thoughts came into my head of all the rumours and I let them get out of hand and when he came back I was so happy to see him, and I told him that I felt really upset about some of these rumours and his behaviour back then. Then one day a thought poped in my head of “what if u don’t love him anymore ” which I cried in hysterics over and felt sick to the stomach. This thought was a on going battle and still sometime is , I feel that this thought is so unwanted and that it’s not what I truly feel I want it to go so badly . From all this upset I went to the doctors and found out that I had really low ferritin level which can cause anxiety. I am refusing to leave my loving relationship just due to this thoughts and on the memory of how good I feel being with him. Some times I feel it’s because I’m scared of him cheating and beacuse I’m so loyal it really hurts or that I’m just so scared of losing him because he the best suited love for me . I would really just like some help on what’s going on in my head and of there’s some tricks I can say to myself . Sometimes I say, I know it’s not him even tho it feels like it is then that make me anxious because sometimes it’s the thoughts of him in the past. But I 100% want to give this man all I have and spend every up and down with him and help him through his. Please help

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, love it and I understand it! One of the symptoms I experience from anxiety is fatigue. When I’m feeling this way which is most of the time I choose not to look at myself in the mirror. I get muscle pain from my chest, blurry vision and I have a decreased appetite. When I go back to the tools. The one thing that helps from racing thoughts, is switching to no thoughts mode and it really helped me. Sleeping has helped me a great deal because that’s when I’m not thinking of stupid things. Much love angela XO

    • LetItGo

      Oh my goodness, this came at the perfect time for me too!! Sheryl you have such a special & beautiful gift.

      I’m on holiday with my husband celebrating our first anniversary – its an especially poignant celebration for us given I’ve been struggling with major anxiety issues ever since we got engaged (2 years ago now)! It felt so wonderful to hit the one-year mark & feel like I’d done so much work through this process & learned so much about my deeper fears, and the incredible power of projection. It’s been an amazing – though very hard! – journey & I’d hoped that the anniversary would mark the end of the transition, like all would be ok from this point on. However we got here on holiday, and by the end of the first day I feel all those anxious thoughts & projections flooding back: ‘I know I don’t really love him’, ‘this is a mistake’, ‘I’ve married the wrong person’, ‘so-and-so’s marriage is so happy and right, we’re not like them & ours is wrong’… etc etc. Even being here on holiday i find myself looking at other couples & making weird comparisons, assuming they are all ‘right for each other’… such silliness but its so powerful. I feel so sad that after all this time & work, all those thoughts, which send me into such panic, are still lurking around.

      However, this post reminds that these thoughts are lies. Also I know that going away somewhere new always opens me up to feeling uncertain and ‘wobbly’ & I’m projecting that onto my poor, long-suffering husband! Also I know that this is work for life, not just for the engagement or newlywed period – I hope that doesn’t alarm anyone, I don’t mean you’ll be suffering forever but that we are always growing & learning and fear will need fighting and lies deconstructing over our lifetimes. So thank you Sheryl for encouraging me again with the truth at the perfect time! And for helping me to get to our first anniversary!! You are such a blessing. 🙂

      Sending a lot of love to everyone fighting relationship anxiety – keep going!! It isnt easy, but it’s so worth it!

      • Yes, the anxious thoughts are signals that you are off-kilter inside. As such, they will arrive in some form now and again to let you know that you’re needing attention emotionally, just like a stomachache arrives to let you know that something physically is needing attention. We need to stop thinking about the anxious thoughts as indicators or evidence that something is wrong but rather as messages from the soul.

  • LetItGo

    Oops! I’m so sorry Angela – I didn’t mean to post that underneath your post!

    I’ve totally had the fatigue & appetite thing with anxiety too, it’s not nice at all. It’s definitely helpful to get lots of rest & try to exercise & eat healthily if you can manage to. Although also it really helps me to write down how I’m feeling – sometimes I’ve found making a list of ‘truths’ and ‘lies’ helpful (stuff like ‘he’s kind & loves me deeply’ for truth and ‘I’m not supposed to feel anxious/this way’ in lies), and also a list of things im grateful for, before I go to sleep. I found it helpful to kind of get them out, so that i don’t wake up with all the fear-thoughts and panicky feelings again – and if I do then I can read over those lists and reconnect with what’s real & not the fear commentary.

    I hope that helps! I’d really encourage you to try and work through the thoughts & not try to block them out or bury them, so that they can be dealt with. 🙂

  • Kat

    Thank you for giving me hope and inspiration with this article. The engagement ecourse was what helped me to work through the anxiety that sprang up following my engagement. But having married last week, I am facing the fear demons all over again. I see here the very definite correlation between depending the love and the fear deepening too. Who would ever have thought love was so hard.

    I need to figure out now how to take down the anxiety. When I can do that, I can handle the fear. But the anxiety is like a brick wall at times that I just can’t break through.

    • What tools are you using to try to break through the anxiety-wall?

      • Kat

        At the minute I am trying everything. I’m trying changing the channel on my thoughts to positive ones, I’m challenging the fear based thoughts and I’m also trying at times to just distract myself because sometimes I just end up in a never ending anxiety circle, chasing my tail. When I can distract myself for long enough I can calm down and step back and see things a little more clearly, but it is still hard to convince myself of the truth against the negative thoughts. For me thought I often get anxious that I will get anxious, which I know is not helpful at all, but the anxiety just grips me like a snake and I find it very very hard to get out.

        • Kat

          oh and I’m praying. all the time i’m praying

          • Prayer is excellent, as are working with the thoughts on the cognitive level. It sounds like you’re addressing two of the four realms that need attention in order for anxiety to be calmed: physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual. In the physical realm, the places to look are sleep, exercise, healthy eating (sugar, alcohol, and caffeine consumption), and hormones. And emotionally it’s about letting yourself grieve and feel your fear, vulnerability, and uncertainty. You will get through this, Kat!

  • Tracy

    Hi Sheryl. I love this blog and feels like it has come at the perfect time as well. I have been dating a wonderful man for a little over two months. He is smart, loyal, caring and spiritual. He told me he loves me and wants me to meet his family. I truly feel at my best when I am around him. But I feel the fear taking over, so much more prominently than the love I feel for him.
    I am afraid that I will say or do something to scare him away. My love for him is so strong it feels like my heart might explode. There are times when I feel a tightening in my chest and stomach, the anxiety is so strong — even though he has done nothing but show his care and affection for me.
    The only way I have found some relief is to remind myself that I will be okay if he goes away. That I am strong enough to make it on my own. But I don’t know if that’s the right message to send myself.
    How do you find that peace when you are starting to fall in love, when the relationship is new and you feel so unhinged?

    • You learn to work with the core fear, which means writing about it, talking about it, and finding ways to physically release it from your body – like breathing and exercise. If you have a spiritual practice, prayer is also extremely helpful. And yes, it’s good to remind yourself that if you do lose him you’ll be okay.

  • Kris

    I always seem to find your posts so unbelievably soothing to read when I am going through my anxious bouts. I am in the happiest relationship of my life (going on a year now). I moved out about 6 months ago for the first time and now we are living together. Everything is perfect. I am the closest I’ve ever been emotionally to a man, love his family, and love his friends.

    Just as a brief background, I lost my father when I was 16 years old and had nothing but toxic relationships from there on. Things have finally settled and I realized I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I know he is not going anywhere but now I have thoughts like “Well, what if I left?” And those thoughts stir up a whole well of anxiety. A friend of mine (who I used to have a thing for when I was single) reached out to me to ask me how I am and instead of taking it as him just genuinely being nice, I took it as a sign – what if he was trying to interfere? what if this is a sign I’m supposed to be with him? and these thoughts kept running, and have been running – for 3 months now to the point where I have trouble focusing the anxiety gets so bad. I’ll think that because I keep thinking about it I must have unconscious feelings still. I feel like I cannot live in the moment with my boyfriend when he makes me the absolute happiest ive ever been. These obsessions are obviously OCD but are so unbearable and uncomfortable. I have spent nights crying to my boyfriend (yes, he knows all of this because I refuse to leave him in the dark) – I’m trying to take the advice and practice mindfulness but I am having trouble doing so. I know all of this stems from the fear of loss it just really stinks when you know your rational mind and in points like these its difficult to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t… has anyone else experienced this?

    • What you’re describing is the premise of all of my work. Please through my site thoroughly; watch all of the videos and read as many articles as you can. Then consider the Conscious Weddings E-Course and you’ll quickly see, from the thousands and thousands of posts on the forum, that you’re far from alone!

  • Rita

    Thank you for this Sheryl. After finishing the “Open your Heart” course I noticed that all the unshed grief you write about in today’s post. What you say is true about all the blessings being there even if we can’t feel them in certain moments. I want to move toward the fear. I want to resolve the grief. How can a person shed the grief? Or does it just keep coming up wave after wave? You are right about us all being sent false messages about ourselves. Is it really possible to get to a better place with the grief?
    Thank you for this post it was cathartic for me to read.

  • I’ve recently come into a new relationship and have been terrified the moment I found out he wanted to be with me. When I first saw him I was physically attracted to him and wanted to get to know him better. But now all I want to do is run far away. I am so comfortable with him (even when I am in a grumpy mood), he could just hold me and my mind would somewhat silence. Now the only thing that terrifies me is whether or not we have a strong enough connection and if it can be grown through time. (We’ve only been together 2 weeks but have known each other a month).

  • Angela

    Hi Letitgo,
    Don’t apologise at all. I’m grateful for hearing from you. I feel lucky to know that I’m not alone.. There is so much support on this blog. All the things you have mentioned is what I do. I do follow Sheryl’s advice but sometimes I feel like I’m never going to get out of this huge bluff. I know you have to sit with the thoughts and I do but it is hard when u feel so dissociated. I must say I have improved so much.. the same like you I’ve been in this state nearly 2 years ago. Our first wedding annerversary is 1 year on December 21st. Congratulations and keep happy and safe. x

  • elizabeth

    Hello Sheryl,
    I wonder if you can address the issue of love and fear in the context of a break up.
    I realize that is not the thread here so I hope it’s not inappropriate.
    I have been intensely grieving the loss of a relationship that lasted 5 years and birthed two children.
    The relationship ended 2 years ago, and i believe it was his choice to move on even though I instigated the break up by speaking up for my own unfulfilled needs. I did a lot of pleading for us to go to counseling,etc, but he refused, and stopped speaking to me altogether.
    Strangely, I feel love for him still, but the love I feel causes me great pain. My ex has banished me from his life. I accept that I have brought some of this upon myself with my behavior. I have expressed anger, despair, and love, none of which he wants to know about, so he has shut me out.
    Now he is involved with another woman and her children.
    I feel a deep sense of loss, betrayal, and neglect. I wished to be empowered, to take back my life, but instead, I feel defeated. My loving feelings are still there – but the person has taken himself out of my life.
    Im sure it is fear that keeps me stuck. Fear of not having been significant. Fear of being unloved. Fear of being despised….(he is as cold as ice) How do I let go of the fears, and love myself despite the rejection?

    I wake up crying still…in the midst of a very productive and rewarding professional life and healthy lifestyle.
    I never expected the break up to be so very ugly, and care of the children keep us linked.

    Any thoughts?

  • Kat

    Thank you Sheryl, for your encouragement. I believe I will come out of this and that I will have learned more about myself and more about love. I said to my husband on our wedding day that I wished I could send you a card to thank you for what was, honestly, the happiest day of my life. I know I can move through this to enlightenment, I feel sparks of positivity already. much love.xx

  • Sheryl,
    What a beautiful article –thank you! “The depth of the love is equal to the depth of the fear”. I first came across these words in your ‘Open Your Heart’ programme and I always say them to myself when the fear walls are up in whatever way, shape or form. They are indelibly etched into my mind. I am so looking forward to working with you again soon on the ‘Trust Yourself’ programme. Much love, xxx

  • Jenna

    Hello Sheryl,
    You are AMAZING! This piece is so true and really speaks to my current situation. Earlier this month, I ended my relationship with a wonderful man who I was with for 3 and a half years. For about a year I had these horrible fleeting thoughts of “Do you still love him? Are you SURE this is who you want to spend the rest of your life with? Why are you thinking this stuff? Something must be wrong.” It got so bad I would wake up panicking in the mornings about my relationship, randomly bursting out into tears, and eventually I felt that my ONLY choice was to end the relationship.
    During this time apart, I have stumbled onto your work and I am just AMAZED. You get it!! You simply get it. All my other friends have been saying things like “Doubt means don’t.” And the worst one of all “It sounds like you just don’t love him anymore.” And I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Oh no, my biggest fear has come true.’ But it felt so wrong, and I never felt any relief that I had ended the relationship. Not once. In fact, I felt much worse. I hated myself, and I hated that I did this to my best friend.
    I’m beginning to realize that it was MY fear and anxiety that led to this point, nothing he did. He has no red flags. Since I found your work, I’ve reached out to him and I believe we are going to work on things together. He has been so supportive and understanding, even though I hurt him, and he also finds your work very insightful. He read some of your stuff and said “That is exactly what you’ve been trying to tell me for months.” I can’t wait to start your eCourse! Thank you Sheryl! For the first time in a long time, I feel hope.

  • Abi

    I’m glad I found this but I still have these thoughts that I don’t know if I love him. I’m only 19 but just because I’m young and still have so much life left doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have this fear. So I’d ask for no one to judge me or tell me that I’m too young and that I should break up with him. We’ve been dating for almost a year and I was (maybe still am) totally and completely in love with him and then suddenly I got scared that I didn’t love him and after about a month I didn’t think about it anymore and was totally in love with him again and now suddenly I feel like I did back then and I don’t know why.

  • Renee

    Hi Sheryl,
    I am a 26 year old woman and have been married for just over four years. When my husband and I first met (when I was 18), we basically could not stay away from each other. We loved being together any chance we got. For the first few years of our relationship, we were long distance (only two hours, and got to see each other at least a few times a month), because I was away at college. There is a 5.5 year age gap between us, and as a young, 19 year old woman, my family wasn’t in love with the idea of me dating someone so much older than me. My older sister also had a lot of reservations about my relationship, and even before our wedding told me she thought he wasn’t right for me. These conversations have come swirling back to me lately, and I have been really questioning, were they right all along? I have such a hard time letting go of small annoying things he does, or things that bother me about him. He is constantly under the microscope, and I want to stop but I feel like I can’t. We had definitely been through our ups and downs in our relationship…we have different religious beliefs and that has always been something that really effected me. I know that sounds like a red flag difference to have, but I always felt like we could figure it out and get through it, especially when we had kids, because we love each other and we would just work together to sort it out. We’ve had many conversations about what we’ll do when we have kids. Now, after four years of marriage (we have really gone through a lot together–loss of our beloved dog, loss of family members, moving cities/states three times, buying and selling homes, changing jobs, you name it), I have just had an overwhelming bout of relationship anxiety. I’ve spiraled in to “maybe I was wrong about the entire thing and I don’t actually love him and I never did,” “what if we aren’t a good match after all,” “I’m going to be divorced before I turn 30,” “I didn’t know what I was doing, I was too young when I got married,” you name it, I’ve felt it. Sometimes when I am around him, I feel so disconnected from him, but I know deep down that I love him. He is a wonderful man, a great provider, has such a giving heart, and loves me more than anything and has been incredibly supportive as I share my thoughts of relationship anxiety with him. This past year has been exceptionally hard for me, as we moved states for his work, and I have been (until very recently) working from home, feeling very isolated in a new city with nobody but him for support. We are far from our families and I don’t have many friends here, and I’m used to having a lot of friends. I feel like I’ve been blaming him for all these negative feelings I’ve been having about myself and the transition into adulthood. I’ve struggled with self worth and self confidence, and have deep down been blaming him for all of it. I think “before we dated, I never felt like this” or “this is because of him, I’ve isolated myself from everyone else to be with him.” I’ve seen a counselor and was starting to feel a lot better, but the “what -if” thoughts keep coming back. I’ve also had a lot of fear of death lately, particularly his death, and have a lot of anxiety any time we eat takeout or anything unhealthy about him dying. We’ve also been really talking about/trying to get pregnant (because when I do feel calm, I know I want to start a family with him), but I freak out about having kids sometimes too. I’m scared of not being a good parent, I’m scared that having kids will tear our relationship apart, and I’m scared of getting a divorce and it screwing up our kids. I don’t know if it is this transition that is scaring me and making me project all my fears onto my husband, but I really need to find a way to deal with these emotions. All these thoughts seem so crazy when I write them out, but I can not seem to get a handle on them. I do not want to get a divorce, but I am so scared and do not trust myself with anything lately. I feel like I can’t be myself and don’t feel comfortable in my own skin most of the time, and even feel like I’m not living my own life, like I’m watching it from the outside sometimes. I truly do not know what to do or where to start, but I am terrified that if I look inward, I am going to find that I shouldn’t be with him at all, and that is not what I want. Please, I am so desperate for some kind of help.

    • This is the most important part of your comment:

      “This past year has been exceptionally hard for me, as we moved states for his work, and I have been (until very recently) working from home, feeling very isolated in a new city with nobody but him for support. We are far from our families and I don’t have many friends here, and I’m used to having a lot of friends. I feel like I’ve been blaming him for all these negative feelings I’ve been having about myself and the transition into adulthood. I’ve struggled with self worth and self confidence, and have deep down been blaming him for all of it.”

      It’s good that you can recognize that you’re projecting your own lack of self-worth onto your husband. Your anxiety has nothing to do with him: it’s a messenger that you’re needing to turn inward and learn how to attend to yourself, and probably heal old wounds that are resurfacing. Have you read through my site? Many of the articles will give you direct guidance on how to work with your anxiety. For more support, consider my Conscious Weddings E-Course or Trust Yourself, which starts this Saturday.

      • Renee

        I’ve read through your site extensively, and it usually helps me to feel much better, just seeing that others are going through similar things to me, and reading all your reassuring words. Lately, though, I’ve almost convinced myself to not believe the words I read. I worry that I don’t know the difference between what my anxiety is telling me, and how to know it is not actually my gut saying I really feel like this deep down. When I think about leaving, it makes me sick, but being around him lately, I think how could I have possibly married the right person at such a young age? Did I know what I was doing? Have I been trying to fit a square peg into a circle hole this whole time? It bothers me that I don’t feel more loving towards him, want to be intimate more, or just generally more happy and accepting of him. I feel like I had such a better grip on my life when I was younger, and now that I “should” have a better career and handle on what I want to do with my life, I am struggling so much. It makes me question everything, even the point of life in a lot of ways. Lately I’ve been thinking so much about death and how life is just a waiting game until we die.

        • This is all quite normal, Renee, when anxiety hits. I can’t offer continued support through my blog, but if you would like to connect with me directly I encourage you to consider the Trust Yourself program, which begins on Saturday. However, counseling would be the best approach for you right now. I hope you’re able to see someone weekly.

      • Renee

        And it also really scares me that what if I’ve been expecting throughout our whole relationship for him to make me feel better, solve my problems, to be the perfect person I expect him to be, and make me happy (which I think I have), wasn’t our whole relationship doomed from the beginning because of that expectation I put on him? How can I go about fixing that without it losing him?

  • M

    Hi Sheryl,
    Thank you so much for your beautiful blogs. I found your website about 5 months ago when my fear and anxiety hit an all time high and I realized that everything you and your clients were writing about was what I was feeling. I have been dating my boyfriend for 5 years and one year ago we moved in together. I had basically been wanting engagement for a while, and then found out that he bought a ring. When I found out and I wasn’t ecstatic my first question was, why aren’t I jumping for joy right now and that’s when it all started. I have been seeing a therapist and working with your blogs and reading books to help with my anxiety, ideas of perfectionism, and my many fears that I have. I have managed to work through my anxiety phase. My fear is now more manageable and I don’t wake up panicking or walking around with a knot in my stomach. My boyfriend has been supportive but I basically told him that we should hold off the engagement so I can figure things out and work through my fears. Although I am not in my panicky phase anymore and my boyfriend notices a difference, I am in this phase of just feeling very unsure and just not overly excited but not overly fearful either. My boyfriend brought up engagement again and is wondering if that is back on the table. I have a hard time answering that question, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for engagement? He’s starting to wonder if this really is because I don’t think I want to be with him (which makes me question myself when he questions me). Although he has been supportive I think it is taking a toll on him (which makes me feel terrible). I’m not sure how I should handle this at this point and I still have thoughts “maybe I don’t want to marry him” “maybe this isn’t right”. Please let me know if you know how to handle this next phase or if you recommend any e-courses.
    Thanks for your help and support.

    • The best way to handle the phase you’re in is to continue to move forward. By postponing engagement until you feel “certain”, you’re giving fear too much power. The best way to diminish fear’s power is through action, and at this stage the action is getting engaged. As far as e-courses, the Conscious Weddings E-Course would be ideal for you.

  • klewis23

    I loved this (like always!). The moment I first realized I truly loved my boyfriend and could really see us together for a lifetime, I instantly felt fear flood over me. This was almost two years ago now. We have had times where we get along and times that we disagree like all couples, but it hasn’t been until the last few months that I have felt such exhausting anxiety when thinking of us. I believe I have had a picture of the type of person I should end up being with in my head, and although he meets the majority of those ideas, there are still some that I seem to latch onto and can’t move on from. The end result is I pick him a part, trying to find anything to make myself believe that we won’t work out in the end. But as I’ve been really understanding through your writings and from my time in therapy is that this is the first time I have ever been in a relationship where it is safe to be vulnerable and open. For the first time in about ten years, I am digging deep into myself, and trying not to run or build up walls when I feel let down. For the first time in about ten years, I feel safe, respected, loved, and cared about. It makes me sad that anxiety rises when I am finally here, but I believe it is so worth understanding the fear. Thank you so much, Sheryl!

  • Tam

    Dear Sheryl,

    I’m currently in this beautiful relationship with a man who loves me in a way I have never been loved before. A man who opens up my wounds so deeply that every sweet action from him brings tears to my eyes. I am able to keep my doubts under control most of the time because I am well aware of the novelty of this great love, in a life where it was previously a rarity. One issue however is still bothering me and still keeping the doubts aflame; I have a really hard time climaxing and many times I can’t even climax even though my attraction to my partner isn’t at all in doubt. However, in my previous relationship which I left due to severe unhappiness I also had trouble climaxing and so sometimes I’m getting anxious saying to myself: “What if I am unhappy now too and I am lying to myself”. Although I am more sexually satisfied than ever before, its just frustrating me that I can’t give the man I love my orgasm. Help:(

  • Ashley

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have a question and I’m sure you’ll have some insight. I don’t want to spike anyone’s anxiety so I’m apologizing in advance for that. I’ve read a lot of your blogs and have seen you and some of the members talking about a “deep sense of knowing” that you love your partner. I feel almost the opposite of this, like I “know” that I don’t love my fiancé. The thing is, I want to love him. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to love him, and that I don’t want to love anybody at all for that matter. I was wondering if it’s possible for this to be caused by my depression and my lack of connection to myself. I don’t feel any connection with him, or to my family, or even our pets. I’ve had this feeling of “knowing” something before when it was not true. For example, I’ve had HOCD before [and a bit currently] and it feels like I “know” that I’m a lesbian, even though I’m pretty sure I’m not. I was wondering if maybe this feeling of “knowing” I don’t love him could be the same thing. I’m signed up for the Trust Yourself course that starts this week. I’m hoping that when I am connected to myself and happy [no matter how long it takes] that I will want to be with this man. He loves me with everything he has and I just want to feel the same.

    Thanks for your time, and I look forward to starting the program!

  • Paul

    Hi Sheryl,

    I am 20 years old and 7 months ago I finally got into a relationship with this girl I have wanted to be with for about 2 and a half years. From the moment I started talking to her I knew I had strong feelings for her and ever since we got together my feelings have only grown more and more to the point that I know she is the one. Everything couldn’t have been going better these past few months. We are so into each other and love each other a lot. However, these past two days I have been getting extreme anxiety and constantly worrying about the “what if” factor of if things don’t work out. I want to be able to maintain the same levels of passion and love toward each other that i had when we first got together but over the past two days I have just been getting sad when I think about her because I don’t want things to ever end. I have had a loss in my appetite and for the first time in a very long time have been coming home and crying over this because I know I am in love with her. I’m really scared that these thoughts and anxiety won’t go away. I don’t even understand why they started in the first place. Howcome I am having these thoughts? I have never had a problem with anxiety before but I know in my heart she is the one. Is there anything I can do to get things back to normal in my head? I have been praying nonstop over this to stop.

    Thanks a lot. I am really desperate to figure this out!

    • Paul

      I am about to see my girlfriend and spend the weekend with her, my anxiety is seeming to calm down a bit but I am still nervous of what will happen. Do you have any thoughts pertaining to my last post as to why I am still feeling like this or was in the first place? I am very confused and don’t know how to handle my emotions.

      Thanks again,

  • adam

    Thanks Sheryl. I think you’re an important voice in reminding us all that the cultural idea of love is so wide of the mark. I guess there are some people out there lucky enough to find a loving relationship that is easier, that soothes them and holds them and feeds their spirit, not their anxiety. Maybe 1 in 10? Those are the stories that get made into movies and romance novels but unfortunately the 9 in 10 of us that don’t have this, we crave it, and when we don’t get it we feel hurt and disappointed and as if our life is, yet again, a failure. Of course the stories in popular culture are the ones where everything is amazing. Why else would we consume these stories, want them so much? They are what we don’t have, they are what we dream of.

    I asked my inner child (15 years old when I enquired) today what he wanted and it was essentially some kind of soft, gentle, non-threatening perfect being who would solve all my problems for me. That notion is deeply ingrained in me. It has lived true for over 35 years and has only been challenged for the past few. So I’m trying to listen to that voice, understand that fear, that desperate need, those list of unrealistic requirements. Every time I read an amazing story or see a movie I suppose I get fooled again into believing that there is someone out there like that, but for once I’m being grown up enough to tell myself that this isn’t about “them”. It’s about me. It’s about what is missing in me, what I didn’t get when I was 15, or 7, or 3. I’m the only one who can ensure I get these things now, and I probably need to get them from myself.

    • Yes, the fantasy of an all-fulfilling romantic love that provides the missing piece and answer to life’s problems runs deep in the Western psyche. If you really want to understand this I recommend you read WE by Robert Johnson. It might help you break free from the fantasy.

  • Confused

    Hi Sheryl,

    I just discovered your articles and have found them very helpful. I recently (five months ago) was broken up with by my girlfriend of just over two years. We had a very, very loving and trusting relationship, and the breakup came incredibly suddenly, and for reasons that seemed to be grown out of fear on her part (e.g. worried that even though we’re happy now we won’t be in ten years) about two months before we were going to move in together. I was pretty confused and hurt as to how this had happened so suddenly, but nevertheless we continued to talk with each other for about two months until I finally told her I still loved her and wanted to know if there was a possibility of a future. She said that there wasn’t, but wouldn’t or couldn’t explain why, and I told her that it made me feel incredibly hurt–it was the only fight we ever really got into and we haven’t talked since (about three months ago). Of her own volition she is seeing a therapist for some of her own issues that she has told me about, but it is killing me to not be able to talk to the lady I thought I was going to marry, and not be there for her. It seems that somehow I’ve worked myself into a corner where I can’t even do that. I’ve talked to a therapist myself because I was so distraught over the situation. I want to tell her that I’m still there for her, but I’m reasonably sure even so much as making contact with her will just work to upset her further. Any advice is more than appreciated.


    • I’m so sorry for your pain and confusion. It sounds like your ex-girlfriend is suffering from classic relationship anxiety and would benefit from reading through my site. You may want to send her an article or two, although you’re probably accurate in assuming that contact may upset her. All you can do is focus on you at this point. I suggest that you take a look at my course for partners as, although it assumes that you’re still together, it will help you make sense of what she’s going through so that you can more easily attend to your own pain around it:


  • Jaimie

    It just saddens me because here I have a very sweet funny smart and very caring boyfriend in my life that makes me laugh and we get along well together but I find the me and him just work it’s nothing over the top we just work we’ll together with no red flags , but it’s hard to overcome the feeling that something is missing for example I know he’s sweet and he likes to make me happy and likes to do little caring things like helping out around the house or buying little gifts for me and it’s really sweet and nice and I know that but I don’t get the over joy eximent anymore or the butter flies or anything I just feel normal I think it’s sweet but I just feel normal (if you know what I mean ? ) even when we watch a movie together I just feel comfortable and normal , I don’t want to leave this relation ship at all and I’m okay if we are in just a comfortable relation ship it just alittle overwhelming with this anxiety sometimes , and I was just wondering if anyone has felt like this an how did they get past the anxiety please and thank you :)!

    • Jaimie

      And it’s really frustrating when I’m telling my friends or family what he does for me because sometimes then I’ll
      Start to feel excited or bashful ( tiny bit ) but when it’s happening at that very moment I get scared and anxious because I’m not feeling over joy … Fear is a vicious thing

  • Miss

    Hello Sheryl. I would like to ask if this also apply to fear of hurting someone’s feelings ?
    I have learned that fear can indeed change perception. And how quickly ! The most difficult is to go back or change that perception again.
    Thank you.

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