When You're Irritated With Your Partner

IMG_5274A client told me a few weeks ago that she’s been feeling irritated with her husband. Then, in the hushed tones I’ve come to identify immediately as shame, she asked, “Is that normal?” At which point I told her that my post entitled “When You Feel Irritated with Your Partner” receives the most hits of any blog on my site.

“Really?” she said, audibly relieved. “So it’s really normal?”

“Yes, really. Completely normal.”

The next day, synchronistically, my e-course moderator directed me to a deeply insightful post that one of the members wrote called “The Progress I’ve Made in Six Months”, which focused largely on getting underneath the irritation. With grateful permission, I’m sharing it here:


In the past six months I feel like I have made quite a bit of progress. I am starting to understand my fear cycle and I’d like to share it with you all.

The triggers and projections
I get very anxious about my boyfriends looks. Sometimes I find certain mannerisms and quirks extremely unattractive. Sometimes I think his facial expressions are gross. Sometimes his lack of “toughness” turns me off. His lackadaisical habits make me crazy. He pronounces things wrong. He wears funny shirts. His arms stick out too much. He uses weird sayings. You name it… there are a billion things that can irritate me at any moment.

Make the irritation worse with shame

I tend to feel a lot of shame for being irritated and having negative feelings towards my partner. I’d let the shame define me and my relationship by saying things like: “I feel such disgust towards my partner… How can this relationship last?”… “Why am I so ugly and critical?”… “This is a terrible match because I don’t like him so often.”… “Everything I feel towards my partner would hurt him! I should never voice my irritation! I’m trapped!”

Fear lives underneath the shame

When I pause from actively sending death glares of criticism toward my boyfriend… And when I can hold off from shaming myself to death… I can see that there’s something very terrified and shaking inside of me. I am afraid of my voice being lost in this relationship. I’m afraid of having to bend all of my patience for this person who irritates me everyday in some way. I’m afraid that I will lose my sense of self and have to accommodate this person until death do us part. “What about me?”…. “Will I be safe here?”… “Will I be loved despite all these feelings I have?”… “Am I going to be ok?”… “Will I be rejected by my family because of this person?”… “Will I be shunned by my community because my relationship is imperfect?”… “Will I be able to survive this if my anxiety happens again and again?”

Where do I find my security?
It’s so hard to accept that relationships have ups and downs. It’s hard to accept that I will be irritated with my partner a lot. When I reject the idea that love is imperfect, I go down the rabbit hole of desiring the impossible.My security cannot be found in comparing my relationship to a picture perfect highlight real from a hashtag wedding and seeing how I stack up. My security cannot be found in never-ending feelings of attraction or fireworks or chemistry. My security cannot be found in a feeling. It is in the fact, that I can use my god-given heart and soul to love my imperfect boyfriend with an imperfect love. Even when I am irritated as hell or when I’m scared as fuck. My imperfect love is good enough. His imperfect love is warm and kind and makes my soul feel known. Not all the time of course, but it is certainly there. And that it good enough for me too. My security is in GRACE. It is the grace we have for each other to be broken and imperfect people who try their best to love each other well.

The freedom to ask for an accommodation

So let’s say my boyfriend is wearing a shirt that doesn’t fit him right. It looks horrible. Previously, my guilt and shame would say: “You can’t handle this shirt? Wow, you are just the most shallow person to fixate on the fit of his shirt. BUCK UP! How can you be such a horrible girlfriend?”. My fear would chime in and say “holy shit, you are NEVER going to like the way he dresses, how will you live with this forever?”. But if I can put the shame and fear aside… I’ve discovered something incredibly freeing: I can ask for an accommodation. I have to consciously decide to let go of the shame and fear because these feelings only negatively define my irritation, say horrible things about who I am, and predict the demise of our relationship.

Once I put the shame and fear aside (sometimes this takes days), I can stop, rewind, and ask my boyfriend to change his ill-fitting shirt. I can say: “Hey, you know, I don’t think that shirt fits you very well, and I really LOVE it when shirts are well-tailored on you. What do you think about getting it tailored some day? Do you think you could do that for me?”What freedom. I don’t have to shame myself for being irritated. I don’t have to stay silent and suffer in my fear. I can speak up and say… “Hey, sometimes I don’t like things about you. and that’s totally normal and ok!” and when I’m calm and kind, I can ask for an accommodation: “Baby, this is how I feel in this circumstance, can you help me with this by making a change…. or simply by listening and trying to understand?” Sometimes he can and sometimes he can’t. But the key is being able to ask without shame.

Again and again

My anxiety was the strongest in the beginning of the year. Six months later, with lots of couples’ therapy, we have found ways to cope and understand each other better. I’ve experienced the grace of just letting myself be… and breathing through all the pain and fear. I’ve experienced peace when I can embrace the negative feelings I feel about my partner without judging myself so harshly. It is hard work. But look, I’ve survived! My boyfriend and I have survived.When the fear washes away I can see how beautiful we are together. Even when I’m so irritated with him I could scream. He is beautiful. I am beautiful. And we’re gonna be okay.


And that, my readers, is how you break apart the projection and arrive at what lives at its core. The anxiety is a symptom. The irritation is a symptom. When you can pull back the projection that the problem is your partner and the illusory belief that if your partner were “more this” or “less that” you wouldn’t feel irritated or anxious, you can begin the deep and lifelong work of looking at and healing yourself and your life. Of course what lives embedded inside a projections differs for everyone, but seeing one clear example can help you begin your excavation process.

This isn’t easy work and it’s not fast work. We wrestle with the projections as if they’re characters from a scary dream, dark forces that eclipse the light of an open heart and prevent us from seeing clearly. We reel them back and see with clear eyes only to find that they’ve taken hold again the next hour or day. Over time, with committed attention, we have longer stretches of seeing our beauty, our partners’ essence, and knowing that we’re going to be okay. And this is worth the wrestling and the darkness: to live day-by-day in the light and warm love that arrives when fear leaves the building and we see clearly.

43 comments to When You’re Irritated With Your Partner

  • Tom Marshall

    What a beautiful post! This is so true, the problem is once the irritation and anxiety rises and we consciously become aware of it we instantly try to fight the thoughts and push down the feelings and say ‘No, this is completely unacceptable to think like this about my partner’ because the world projects the illusion that the perfect relationship has no room for such thoughts and feelings. What we really need to do allow what comes with the moment and not identify with our thoughts so much, once they come up then let them come up with whatever feeling follows, don’t try to change anything, don’t force yourself to think something different, after all its just negative energy having a little outburst. Once we stop giving so much attention to our intrusive thoughts we will finally see the silliness behind them, you don’t make a problem out of them and they eventually leave. So allow it all to be there without resistance and your positive thoughts will naturally flow. Trust yourself in the moment of chaos and peace will eventually come to you.


    • Thank you, Tom. Yes, I do agree that thoughts are just thoughts and the more we can learn to observe, accept, name, and allow them to pass on by, the more freedom we find. However, when a thought continually appears, it’s time to dig a little deeper and ask what’s needed. What’s needed is rarely about the thought itself, but the thought can serve as a flare sent up from the inner self to let us know that it’s time to turn our attention inward instead of outward.

  • Cami

    Great timing Sheryl, as usual. I have been struggling with similar issues lately. You say that when a thought is appearing often it is probably indicating something deeper. Lately I can’t shake off the feeling/thought that my relationship won’t work and that my partner will then have another girlfriend and will end up doing for her all the things that didn’t happen in our relationship. What could this possibly mean? Could this be a projection or a product of irritation?

    • It likely means that you’re needing to turn your attention inward and ask, “What’s needed?” It’s not about your partner; that’s the projection. It’s about learning to fill up from the inside, growing your self-trust and self-knowledge, and exploring your inner world with curiosity.

  • Nat

    Thank you for sharing this. Very eye opening to me. As always, I feel so encouraged reading and knowing that the irritation is normal and CAN be worked through. Thanks again, Sheryl! 🙂

  • Sunny

    Hi Sheryl! I’ve been working on turning inward when I feel continuously irritated/frustrated in my relationship and I’ve been able to connect many of my projections towards myself and my childhood. However, sometimes I’m not sure if I should still say something to my partner when I get upset about things or if I should just keep quiet. Part of me is afraid to share these negative feelings in fear I will come across as if I’m blaming him and that I’ll push him away but the other part of me doesn’t want to be one of those people who is afraid to speak up. In the past I would always speak up (often in a fear based manner) and that wouldn’t end well a lot of the time. I feel conflicted. When do you know when you should share your feelings with your partner or just let things go? Also if you chose to share your negatives feelings, how do you go about that in a way that brings you and your partner closer and not further away? I know men and woman have different communication styles and that you should be careful not to blame a man, etc. but I’m confused how to share and communicate these feelings effectively

  • Andra

    Hi Sheryl.
    Im kind of desperate. Since my relationship started,I struggled with relationship anxiety. Ive talked to my boyfriend about this. I really think he is a great person,sweet,caring, but out of nowhere I got this thougt that I deserve better,that I deserve butterflies and something is missing or something is wrong, even If he tells me everything is fine,almost perfect. And I believe that that thought was real so I keep telling myself that I deserve better. The problem is, what better? He loves me,he cares about me,he respect me, he even tries to talk to me when there îs a problem,Because Im stubborn and I just leave it that way.He protects me and does everything for me. And he has a problem,he gets bored very easy,and I accept that he has to move or do something else when he feels bored. But really, I changed my opinion about him about two.days ago,when he met my family. He behaved weirdly. Not that he was rude or something, nothing in his essence changed. Thats when I started to doubt. Im really scared,what if this is a redflag. Does this mean I deserve someone because sometimes I agree with the thought, sometimes not. I really like spending time with him,even If my thoughts drive me insane, I like him but now I dont know why I changed my opinion about him. And besides that, I dont think he loves me,or cares about me or anything,even If he does. Does that mean I should break up with him because I was in love with his idea,or is it just my anxiety? Im truly desperate.

  • 1983

    Again, another insightful and truthful read on the blog. I find myself getting irritated with my girlfriend for much of the same reasons. Wearing yoga pants everywhere, and sometimes wearing clothing and colors that I associate with little kids or something. Lots of pink pants with blue shoes and then a sweatshirt or something. These did not come out of the close the first year we knew each other. So I was taken by surprise.

    Once I realized that I was more worried about what OTHER people would think about ME if they saw us together, I could begin to dissect it. This is a prideful issue that I didn’t even know existed in me. To want a beautiful woman dressed to the nines on my arm all the time so people will turn their heads and say “look at him with that woman. Wow.” It’s very shallow and full of shame. I’ve been working through this though and found so much happiness appreciating this woman for who she is, even when she dresses silly at times. Also she does dress wonderfully for certain occasions. She has mentioned many times that the silly clothes make her feel fun, young and goofy. She has a goofy side so it let’s her personality shine through.

    This takes a lot of pressure off me to dress well, when neither of our values comes from dressing well. I used to put a lot of myself worth into looking sharp. I didn’t know it, but I loved getting compliments on how handsome I look or where I bought my boots at. I always thought a woman would match me or challenge me to dress better even, and somehow love and appreciate me for that. So weird to find this stuff out, but it’s very true when I break things down.

    I have found several other irritating things that are just some broken self reflections that I am currently working on as well. As a musician, I have music on at all times, playing it, listening to it at home, in the car, on the phone. I generally don’t around other people, but spending all my time with my girlfriend she’s been a part of my daily life so she hears it. She has begun hinting that it might annoy her at the sheer quantity of music that is always on. She has mentioned that going to live music is not her favorite thing. While I first I was blown away, irritated for her being irritated. How could she not share this? How could she not want to sit around listening to hours of Dave Matthews Band live recordings with me? Who wouldn’t like this? Who doesn’t like 3 hour shows at Red Rocks? Who doesn’t like guitar playing at 2 AM?

    Somewhere in my head I thought I would share all this artistic passion in my romantic life. That it would just be a symbiotic sexual thing like the movies. That we would talk about songs, and go to record stores, and be at some cool rock club on a tuesday night then rolling into a makeout session at home on the floor with The Rolling Stones playing on the stereo. HAHA. That is just not reality though. We have jobs, and school and sanity. I’ve come to discover I do spend so much time involved with music. More than most. It is my passion but she does not have to share in it with me to make our relationship work. I’ve begun treating it like a job that she would not be as interested in. Leaving her out of the ins and outs of all the details that 99 percent of people don’t care about anyways. I try to play music that we both enjoy, or we have some quiet times too.

    I have found that our relationship is not built on our passions, our likes and dislikes, or how we enjoy entertaining ourselves, but on trust, love and values. I could find someone that wants to listen to music as much as me, but what if they don’t like the same kind? What if we don’t get along as well or trust each other? It’s very trivial, when culture says it’s everything. My GF and I have found lots of compromises and middle ground. Especially in the car. She gets to listen to podcasts for equal amount of time that I get music. It works great. I am currently working on finding a community or group of people that I can share my love of live music with so she doesn’t feel so compelled to come to ALL the shows I like. She certainly comes out to support me when I play my own shows, and that means everything.

  • Sharan

    Love this! I think irritation is sometimes much harder to manage than anxiety but if we treat them the same… Like symptoms… Then it shifts us into a different mind set to begin dealing with it. I knew when i had anxiety that it was in me but when i had irritation i was convinced it was my partner. This was even more torturous!! So pleased we can begin to talk more about irritation and annoyances that come up in relationships… Especially in the context of relationship anxiety. Thank you! X

  • Kristin

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have come through a long process of learning to see and walk through fear. After meeting with a counselor for two years and from reading your blog I have gained many tools I need. The thing is, most of the fears I dealt with in the past didn’t have as much to do with another person as much as they had to do with me and my identity. Now, however, I am exploring a relationship with a great guy. The fear I’m struggling with, rather than his appearance is his ability to connect with me. Generally I am a bubbly person who is able to connect with people on some level. He has described himself as awkward at times and okay with silence. I feel paralyzed with fear thoughts like we won’t be able to have deep, heart to heart conversations (something I love), I will be miserable in our relationship, I have to work for his approval (which isn’t something he has indicated, but something I think that echoes from my relationship with my dad). Basically my question is, do people ever have relationship anxiety from silence in conversation and what that means, or a fear of not being able to connect on that level?

    • Nat

      Hi Kristin!
      I just wanted to respond to you and let you know that I have had fears and anxieties regarding similar things and that you are not alone! I know that every situation is different and that all people are different, but one thing that I’ve come to learn is that men and women often have different communication styles and I found that once I was able to fully accept this and better understand my guy, our connectedness and communication felt deeper and more open. At least for me, I found that it was unfair of me to expect my guy to think and communicate exactly as I was because as a man he just has learned to think and communicate differently in general but that doesn’t mean you both can’t grow!! But I do think acceptance of him is key. This is only my two cents but sometimes I find I feel better knowing I’m not alone, so I wanted you to know you’re not alone!!

      • Kristin

        Thank you, Nat. It is so helpful to know that I’m not alone in walking through this. <3

        • Colleen

          Hi Nat and Kristin,
          I can definitely relate to both of you! My fiance is a lovely man so sweet, silly, and loving but I find myself getting hooked on the same fear often! I grew up with 4 sisters and many girl friends so whenever I was in a room with people we were chatting. That was how we bonded and connected Now I live in a new city with my fiance and there are many times where I worry we don’t have enough to talk about. I get irritated when there is silence in the car or when he turns the TV on to wind down at the end of the day when I would rather talk about our day. When I voice my irritation it makes things worse because then he feels pressure to come up with conversation that feels forced and increases the irritation! I have come to learn that when I start to get anxious about this its usually because I miss my sisters or girl friends. I am longing for those bonds and to sit around and talk for hours like we used to! I have realized its unfair to look for all of my entertainment and companionship from him. I need to pick up the phone and make plans with my friends or just call to talk! When I can get out of the my fear thoughts I can really realize there is a sweetness about his silence. Sometimes he will bring up things I mentioned as I was rambling on about something that shows me how terrific of a listener he is. Also when I can stop obsessing that we have nothing to talk about casual conversation flows pretty easily! These thoughts are so darn powerful and confusing!

          • Kristin

            Thanks for your feedback Colleen, I feel the same way about conversation as you described your experiences. 🙂 I have also experienced those times, as you said, “when I can stop obsessing that we have nothing to talk about and casual conversation flows pretty easily”. I think it’s such a valid point to acknowledge that we need to call up a friend and get some good talking time in as well!

  • Emmy

    I totally agree with this. This has happened to me a lot. I care too much about what others think of me, so when my boyfriend is being silly and doing stupid things in public I tend to get embarrassed. He knows that and would ask ‘are you embarrassed? Why do you even care what people think?’ And I realised oh yeah,why do I?! I am happy and that’s all that matters! I tend to notice that when I am embarrassed I get annoyed with him and then I don’t find him attractive! Then I panic and think ‘OMG what is wrong? I should feel like this’ etc etc… And then everything else comes out in a domino effect.i don’t know if anyone else has this, but sometimes I will have a thought of a guy I used to like, bearing in mind me and this boy were never together,we didn’t even go on a date! We literally just spoke by text, and snapchat and he would like a lot of my pics. It seemed that at the time he was only out for sex (which I never gave him). I would get annoyed and upset when he stopped paying me attention and then keep texting and sending him snapchats so he would notice me, and even went to the extent of taking loads of selfies to show him ‘what he’s missing’. So when he did pay the attention it felt amazing and I thought ‘yes he does like me!!’ We eventually met up after weeks of him messing me about and playing it cool. And he didn’t even want to take me out on a date! He just wanted to sit there talking in his car. And I was stupid and let it happen. And then a couple of weeks later he was on a night out and so was I we bumped into each other and hung out for a bit and ended up kissing. So it just goes to show that he only ever wanted sexual things. And he would only text when drunk even to the point where he told me he loved me. Which o know if ridiculous because we don’t even know each other. I eventfully got bored of the playing around he kept doing and ending up dating my boyfriend. I don’t think I ever gave myself enough time to get over this other boy because I kept thinking about him and o wanted him to text me just so I could be like ‘ ha it’s too late, I have a boyfriend’ because it felt good to have met my boyfriend because he is so amazing and I love him so so much! The boy did text me and I replied and told him I had a boyfriend, and I’m not going to lie that I had a lot of satisfaction out of that. And I felt so guilty for that when I realised I liked it and took that as ‘OMG what if I still like him?’ And then the anxiety has been there ever since (over a year later). I finally got to the point where I did not care anymore, I realised my worth and was able to focus on the great,loving relationship I have with my boyfriend. And I can say I feel so blessed, and cannot wait to be his wife one day. But the past two days that boy popped into my head, I was just wondering what he was doing really! And now I can’t stop worrying. I will be moving in with my boyfriend soon and don’t want this to effrct it. Does anyone think this could be anxiety that has come back in a form that I thought I had dealt with? Because this is the scariest of them all, it makes me feel sick!!! I don’t want to be with anyone else and there have been so many moments where I have had a spiritual knowing that he is the one, but when the anxiety kicks it’s hard to think in that same way!!

    • Nicola

      Hi Emmy,

      Thank you for your post. I can very much relate to what you are feeling currently in regards to this boy of your past. Upon reflection I have always found that I am most attracted to unavailable men. The more unavailable they are, the stronger the attraction. It seems as though you have made great progress with your current boyfriend in choosing to stay in a loving, reliable and trustworthy relationship despite the anxiety. That being said, anxiety (and more importantly, fear) will attach to whatever it can to try to prove it can still control you. Currently, it seems that fear is attaching to this “ex” of yours. To answer your question, yes, this is anxiety only in a different form. I am truly amazed at the many forms and thoughts anxiety can attach too as I’ve dealt with a whole range of them through out my life! In one of my therapy sessions for OCD my therapist told me in order to overcome the anxiety attached to the thought you had to starve it. I.e. sit with it and don’t respond in fear. Tell your mind “yep, you’re right. I’m still thinking of this boy and this must mean I’m secretly not in love with my boyfriend and don’t want to be with him. You’re right. I’m also a horrible person for feeling satisfaction when he texted me and I told him I had a boyfriend”. Now this response may sound strange but what you’re doing (metaphorically) is looking fear right in the face and mocking it. You are in other words telling it, “I refuse to respond to this thought or feeling with fear”.

      I am in a loving, caring, reliable, trustworthy and all around wonderful relationship of almost a year yet I still think of my ex on a pretty frequent basis. I still feel feelings of longing and I would absolutely feel satisfaction in denying him if he were to ever reach out to me to try to rekindle what we had. That is totally human. That being said, the feelings of longing stem from feeling comfort in an emotionally distant relationship. I grew up with an emotionally detached mother so emotional distance is what I’m comfortable with and used too. When you dig deep into the feelings, you learn to not take them at face value, as Sheryl has written about in previous posts. You learn that “oh I’m thinking of this boy and pining for him, it must mean I still want to be with him” DOESN’T mean you still want to be with him but instead has a deeper meaning, likely related to your attachment style. I would highly recommend researching “attachment styles” as I think you may find some comfort there. Best of luck to you Emmy and I hope you feel a little less alone after reading my post!

      • Emmy

        Oh thanks for replying! That has helped me a lot and has made sense. I also think that I am having s lot of anxiety recently because the honeymoon stage is now over. I no longer sit there thinking about my boyfriend all the time,or think about getting married and having babies all the time, or miss him continuously which is scary for me because I’m not used to this! We see a lot more of each other now so this is probably why the honeymoon period is gone. We are due to move in together soon so I should just get used to this before we do. And because the honeymoon period has now gone I get frightened into thinking that means that I don’t love him anymore which is nonsense! Because nothing has changed much, he is still the same person the only thing that has changed is that the honeymoon period is over. So I am trying hard to not let this affect me too much and try and push on and realise why I am with him in the first place. I now in the stage where I am realising that relationships can be hard work and also effort if you are not feeling loving. I am trying to understand new ways of feeling love now that the infatuation stage has gone because I don’t know any different! Sometimes it feels like I am lying when I tell him I love him back because it doesn’t feel the same as it did but I’m guessing this is just anxiety. And I think the thinking of the ‘ex’ (he wasn’t even a proper boyfriend’ is because I’m thinking the grass is greener and because I never got to that stage with him that I am in now with my boyfriend it’s making me long for him and wonder what if? But I know deep down it was not love with him and it never would have been because he would never have been a great partner to be with at all, he would only continue to let me down and probably cheat on me, where as my partner is honest,stable,has a good head on his shoulders, works incredibly hard, has great morals, is loyal, stays faithful,shares the same views on marriage and children with me,understands the difference between infatuation and love, makes me laugh, gets on with my family,is there for me,supports me,, protects me, always makes the effort even if he’s feeling grumpy, and sees relationships as a partnership. Not to mention I find him very attractive. So really I know there is nothing wrong, it is just my anxiety. I too have had anxiety all my life about different things so I know what you mean. Sorry to blab but I am just grateful for your reply! And I hope you have a good day!! X

  • Rita

    Wow. “The progress I’ve made in six months” resonated in me so strongly! Thank you for sharing that post. How liberating to understand that we don’t have to shame ourselves for not having a perfect relationship. How wonderful to know it’s okay to ask our partner to change something we don’t like. Maybe they can maybe they can’t or won’t-it’s freeing to make the request without guilt or shame. Thank you for sharing that. I’m so grateful for the help in my growth toward love.

  • beejay

    YES YES YES. I feel like I could have written exactly what your OG poster said. And how PERFECT the timing. We just got married and I struggled for SO much of our engagement with all of the same issues. The appearance at times, the “laziness”, the quirks, the feeling of shame. It was all something else. Fear. Fear that he/us would be taken from me someday. With the help of this blog I have begun addressing my fears and projections and can honestly say I haven’t been more content in my relationship (now MARRIAGE, YAY!). I love this imperfect man, and he loves me (how often we forget WE are also imperfect.)

    • Lili

      Hi Beejay, Congradulations on being married! And yes, we often forget we are also imperfect. I struggle with relationship anxiety in a similar way, thinking that my partner should be perfect, because I am?? But then no of course I’m not, so this was a good reminder, Thank you!

      • beejay

        Hey thanks! Yes we must remember our dudes are also probably dealing with quirks WE have. Easy to forget. And another thing about worrying that your partner should be perfect. People, others, are usually too busy thinking about their own stuff to worry about your stuff, or the shirt your hubby is wearing 😉 This is my line of thinking and it keeps me much more chill.

  • Alicia E.

    I often feel like I open my email with a message from Sheryl and it’s message is literally about something I’m struggling with at that moment. Today my BF and I nearly broke up because my anxiety bubbled over. I had a crush on him at work before we started dating. One day, prior to him asking me out, he stood close to me and I could practically see up his nose, and I thought…”oh I don’t know if he’s as cute to me anymore.” Well of course looking up his nose isn’t sexy! Ever since then, my fear keeps rearing its head around his looks and when he irritates me!! Mind you, this man is not only gorgeous, but loves the hell out of me, supports me emotionally through my anxiety, is funny, silly, sweet, driven, wants to marry me and so many other positive things. But I can’t seem to shake the anxiety over looks and when he annoys me… my fear is that i’ll never be satisfied and end up alone. I’ve had similar episodes in all my past relationships, but with this relationship my anxiety is the worst. I’m starting therapy this week with a psychiatrist and hoping that I can gain some clarity. I’ve read your work, Sheryl, so much when anxiety grabs ahold of me and it temporarily soothes me. I just hope for a longer term solution. I know that this will never be “cured” but I hope that fear won’t ruin my chance at lasting happiness and love.

  • Ken

    What spikes my anxiety is about our status. We are currently dating for around 5 months and It seems that I can’t commit due to lack of feelings, efforts intrusive thoughts etc. I might me fearing the unknown or fearing to risk and be vulnerable of loving.

  • Angela

    Thanks Sheryl, for this insightful blog. I also like to thank you guys for your in depth experiences. I totally agree with men and women do have different communication styles.. Because we are all Brought up differently and also when you come from different backgrounds and different countries. My husband and I are from different backgrounds but we wholeheardtly embrace our differences, we love and accept each other. I am more extrovert where as my husband is introvert. He has taught me a lot and I have taught him a lot as well.. Without changing who are. I can honestly say for the first time in our 3 year relationship.. Today I can look at myself at the mirror and say I am beautiful inside and out. My life is beautiful nothing needs to change. Before I refused to look at myself in the mirror thinking I was ugly only intrusive anxiety symptoms. I feel so happy to be me with a clear mind. Where as 2 weeks ago fear was in the drivers seat. I now feel stronger and more prepared if fears knocks on my door. I need to attend to my inner feelings as I would a scared child.

    • Lili

      Hi Angela,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Like you, I am married and often times while I can relate to other posts, I wish there were more married people whom I could relate to in their fears. Its great that you have come to accept your partner as he is, I think thats a good sign and what matters the most in a relationship. Thats actually what I struggle with the most. I think I am also more social than my husband , so I keep having anxiety thoughts that we are different, or he should be more funny, etc. Sometimes its gets very crazy, like I get jealous of people who have funny partners thinking because of that they must be happier, more in love, etcc
      I wish I could accept the fact that my partner has other positive characteristics and I shouldn’t be focusing on one thing (sometimes I have issues with appearance too :/) but its very hard sometimes to see this especially when the anxiety kicks in.

  • Angela

    Hi Lili,
    Thanks for your post. I can understand your feelings, when Ifirst met my hubby i did project everything onto him. Why dosent he like crowds etc. one day he opened up to me by saying that he suffers from social phobia. Thats when I got him and thought now i know why you rush into eating out. He first wanted to get to know me and trust me before he told me his social fears. I gave him a big hug and said to him its ok. I love you just the way you are.. And i said we will work on this together. I dont push him to go anywhere especially with people he dosent feel comfortable with. My mum for 1.. Unfortunately, thats another sad story. I believe you married your husband because you love him just the way he is. I think its when fear is in the drivers seat the intrusive thoughts make you wanna doubt things as little as is he funny like others. We all can be funny. Initiate a tickling game i can assure you he will love it. I do that all the time and it works for me. Men really love it when u act silly. Im here anytime u wanna chat Lili

  • Klewis23

    This was a great way of explaining how to break down anxiety and irritation!! I’ve been leaning a lot about breaking down my anxiety in regards to the thought “God will not bless this- or allow this work out.” I sat with that thought for a long time about a month ago and really broke it down to finally realize (underneath all the layers) that it’s about knowing if I can accept who I’m becoming or will continue to become in the relationship. One thing I still struggle with though is breaking down irritation. I get angry with my boyfriend because he has great intentions but has a hard time following through- not with our relationship or what he says he’ll do for me- but in his own life. He says he wants a new job but doesn’t spend the time applying for jobs. He says he wants to change bad habits but doesn’t keep himself accountable to do so. The result is I start “nagging”. I’ve also tried the loving, calm approach but this seems to be one area where he really resists my opinions. It makes me feel like he doesn’t take our relationship as seriously as he says. I sometimes wonder why the these things really bother me. Am I not as happy with my job as I should be or are there habits that I still need to break? Or am I truly coming from a place of love with my concern? Do you have any thoughts on this type of thing?

  • Krista


  • Nicola

    Another great post, Sheryl. I hate how quickly the loving and caring feelings I have for my boyfriend can fade and irritation can set in. Last week I was just feeling so “in love” with him and his quirks/things I might find annoying usually didn’t seem to bother me at all. However, this week, things have shifted. I find myself feeling irritated or indifferent or a combination of both. When I think about our future together in this state of mind, I’m not excited what-so-ever and honestly have thoughts or feelings that I can’t describe any other way but by using the word “ugh”. I know that feelings in relationships ebb and flow but I just hate how when I’m in a good mood or state of mind, I embrace him for who he is and love him for all of his good qualities. When I’m stressed or anxious, those cute quirks become intolerable annoyances that seem like deal-breakers. But what gets me is sometimes I’m not even in a bad mood when I’m feeling negatively towards him! I don’t feel negatively towards anyone else in my life, only him. I don’t know if this is because he is the person I am closest too or what but it drives me nuts.

    Does anyone else feel this way?

    • H

      Hi Nicola,

      I think this is because he is the closest person to you. If you weren’t with him and you were at home with your family and you were irritated then you would take it out on your family. It’s just the way it goes! When I am irritated or not very loving I too cannot think of our future in an excited way either. I think maybe you are still anxious at times and don’t recognise it. Because you can’t go from being in love to simply not being in love in a matter of days. It’s too black and white and life isn’t like that. Maybe you automatically feel anxious but don’t have the usual heart pumping,sweaty palms,feeling sick anxiety so you assume you are not anxious anymore? But in fact you are?? Otherwise why would you be here asking these questions if you weren’t anxious or scared? It’s so scary to think you can have thoughts of being excited to not being really bothered. But I think most people are like this but they don’t wan to admit it. I think you are only like that all the time if you are still in the honeymoon period. Mine and my boyfriends homeymoon period has ended and I am terrified! I can’t stop crying! Because the inloveness was my certainty, and it was the thing I was used to and now it’s different. We see each other more often so there is no longing and missing each other because we know we will see each other in a few days time and that is difficult for me to deal with because this is my first boyfriend and have not experienced anything comfortable. Do you ever feel like that?

    • Colleen

      Nicola I feel the exact same way a lot! For a while I was keeping track of it on a calendar because it drives me crazy too! I’ve noticed that its a lot worse when I’m PMSing and sometimes its helpful to just write some of it off as hormones! But it makes me really sad. I will have a whole week of having so much fun with my partner, being playful and silly and feeling so “in love”. Then the next week I will feel like I have no patience or loving feelings in my body. I try to ride it out knowing that the mood will pass and its just the ebb and flow of any relationship but its really tough! I know for me it gets worse if I beat myself up about being in a funk so I try to just do more yoga and read this blog a lot during the funky weeks! I’m trying to journal more so writing when I’m in the really loving happy moods so I can reflect on them when I’m in the bummer moods. Hopefully another shared story helps!

  • Celsee

    I would love a blog post addressing a question like, “Am I too young to be in a serious relationship?” I have a great relationship with my partner but I also have a history of anxiety related to all sorts of things (health, sexuality, relationships). Sometimes I wonder, “was a too young when I met him?” “does that mean it won’t work out?”

  • Celsee

    For example, I find myself asking married people, “how old were you when you met?” as if I’m looking for an answer that will put me at ease, an example of a story that is similar to mind that ended happily. I met my current SO when we were 20. I always imagined I would meet my husband when I was maybe 25, we would date for a few years, get married in our late 20s. I know this is the “ideal” cultural timeline. I’ve never had a reason to break up with him, he’s very mature, supportive, our life goals and values still align 4 years later etc etc, but still, when I have anxiety, I worry. Can it really work out if we met each other that young? Don’t most people who meet that young end up breaking up eventually? Are we doomed to eventually break up, and if so, why don’t we just break up now? I’m terrified of losing him and getting hurt and I know deep down (I think?) that his fear of loss is at the root of my anxiety. I still live my own life and seek out the experiences I’ve wanted for myself (studying abroad, moving to LA for a year, going to grad school in NYC) but will a part of my identity be lost if I am never single again? Why couldn’t I have met this same person when I was older, like 26, 27, 28? Wouldn’t that make everything okay?

    • It’s a common intrusive thought, and one supported by a culture that says you have to play the field before settling down. Just look to your grandparents’ generation to know that this isn’t true! You’ve wisely intuited that underneath this intrusive thought is the fear of loss, and that’s the place to focus on when the thoughts take over.

      • H


        I think you have one up from meeting each other at a young age. You have more experience of being in a relationship and probably knows lots more than others your age that haven’t been in a relationship from your age. And totally agree with what sheryl said, look at our grandparents generation and you can clearly see that it is not true that you should meet someone later in life. You can still experience life,grow as a person and find yourself whilst being young in a relationship! I personally the kind of generation that our grandparents come from is much more ideal and they have a more healthy experience and healthy views on relationships and that is something I going by in my relationship! It sounds like you have a great partner so why would you question that just because our society says its strange. If it works for you then so what? It’s nobody’s business anyway! 🙂

  • becominglove

    I have to admit this is one of the biggest challenges for me in being in a loving relationship with an available and beautiful partner. The irritation and frustration I feel is off the charts at times. It feels unbearable. It has so much to do with control and surrender. Sometimes I really don’t know how people do make relationships last a lifetime but I think that the response from the forum member shared here is incredibly wise and valuable. Thank you.

  • H

    Omg sheryl I think I finally understand projection! Me and my boyf Are now going through the stage of wen the relationship becomes ‘normal’ and not so romantic. And this has scared me recently. I saw him the other day and we were getting ready to go out and meet some of his friends. I haven’t met some of them so I felt quite nervous and I also had realised recently I am actually quite shy and not as confident as I thought I was. I felt quite awkward around my partner when getting ready and we weren’t usually as chatty as we usually are. And even on the night we weren’t and the next day either. And also on the phone the day we parted ways to go home. I immediately thought that we didn’t have a connection and we were running out of things to say and that’s why it was really awkward. I now realise that is not the case! I was totally projecting onto him! Because I felt nervous I wasn’t really talking much and also because I was worried that our relationship has gone onto another level. I was worrying that this was ‘the end’ but it’s not, i was making it awkward because I felt nervous. And in fact it probably wasn’t even awkward it was just me thinking it was and my partner probably didn’t even notice! If we had no connection we would of parted ways ages ago-probably even after a few dates not after a year and half! And I now realise it is okay to not have loads to talk about all the time. Thank you sheryl, without your education on intrusive thoughts and projection I would have no idea what was wrong with me. Thank you soooo much!

  • Porter

    Hi Sheryl
    Like everyone says your posts come at just the right time.

    Lately this irritation has been so prominent in my relationship that I feel it is really getting in the way. The thing is, I can’t put my finger on a specific behavior of my partners that is irritating. It is everything that he does! This is really scaring me because I can’t say “please stop doing x” because I don’t even know what x is!!

    My partner is feeling how irritated I am with him and says things like “sorry I annoy you so much” which really triggers me.

    Do you have any insight or advice? I’m loving our ecourse so far!

    • Porter

      Hi Sheryl

      Just wanted to know if you saw my post above? Would love to get your thoughts.

      • Keep working through the course and your irritation should lessen. Irritation is often a manifestation of your own lack of space internally, as doubt/anxiety/confusion is taking up all of the space. When you find more clarity and fill of your well of Self, the irritation will abate.

  • Ank

    Hi Sheryl. I have few questions. First,I always get the feeling that my partner doesnt love me. Does that mean im projecting it into him? I mean, that I dont care or I dont love him so I blame him for not loving me? But I care,I love him and Im scared of losig him because of I wasnt I wouldnt feel this way. Second. When I First met him, I didnt liked him that much because he had a little problem and at that time I tought that he only talked about himshelf and never asked me anything. But still, I still we kept talking and then I started liking him not and a part of me kept telling me to give him a chance when I told myself that I dont want to talk to him again. Again,he did asked me things,but he talked a little more about himself. Is that a Red flag? Does this mean I dont like him? Because sometimes I dont like him,but still, I cant leave him,he feela like home,he cares about me even If he doesnt know how to express this ” caring “. He always assures me that he loves me. So,again,am I projecting into him that I dont care or love him? i had relationship anxiety from the start. But is it really anxiety or I dont really love him? I really like spending time with him,he gets me,and accepts me and my “fear” even If i dont think its fear,its just lack of love. Sometimes he just say things that I dont really like and im like : if he could just change the way he talks,or some things that he say or anything. So,does this mean that I shpuld leave or is it still fear? Please,im asking for anyone’s help. Really,just knowing that someone else felt the same would make me feel good. Im really scared of leaving him,I want to stay with him,I really do. But IM scared that I dont care about him or i dont love gim at all. Please, anyone?

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