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The untold cost of shame

When my anxiety latched onto the topic of my romantic relationship a few years ago, I felt a great deal of shame.

I didn’t understand why I was feeling so apprehensive and anxious about having met someone with whom I knew we’d have something very special.

I had a deep knowing that we would end up building something together and yet I couldn’t bring myself to accept it. I wanted to fight it, I was feeling apprehensive. And I didn’t like how that made me feel. I wanted to run away.

But I had a deep knowing that the issue wasn’t him or the relationship* so it had to be within me.

After all, he was everything I’d ever hoped for in a partner: caring, loving, available, and committed in words and action.

So I could only bring myself to look in the mirror to explore what was going on for me internally.

Because what I was feeling was robbing me of the enjoyment of being in a relationship with him, showing up as the partner I wanted to be and, seeing what could be.

I also had the conviction that if I did run away I would end up in exactly the same place with another available partner if and when they’d ever come along again.

In the past, it had always been easy for me to leave a relationship or allow a relationship to die because I only ever seemed to be the one who was available and committed. My ex-boyfriends always had a foot in, and a foot out, and that is if we ever got to the stage of being boyfriend and girlfriend!

This time, he had both feet in. And I was the one who was feeling like my anxiety was wanting me to run, while on clear days, I knew I wanted to stay.

I often speak about the sense of confusion I felt at how my anxiety latched on the topic of my relationship but I rarely talk about the shame that came with it.

But this exact shame is what was keeping me from getting the support I needed.

I thought, what’s wrong with me for feeling like this? Is this not supposed to be easy?

Did I not love my partner enough?

Was that not what I always wanted and now that I had it I wanted to run away from it?

What would others think of me, or worse of us or him?

Was I already betraying him for feeling like that?

It left me feeling like such a fraud. Like such a bad person for feeling the way I did.

This feeling, I tried to fight it for a very long time. I tried to convince myself that I was a good person, what I felt was normal. But I couldn’t bring myself to articulate my deeply rooted fears, insecurities, and worries. And I was still stuck in this shame loop, even if sometimes I would try to cover it up.

That was until l I found a therapist who understood that relationship anxiety was just another manifestation of anxiety. It could affect anyone but usually affects adults in transition who grew up as sensitive and anxious children.

And it could latch onto the topic of relationships at any stage of the relationship, the dating phase, the moving-in phase, the engagement phase, the wedding phase, the first baby phase, and beyond!

When what I was feeling was normalised, I felt a huge sense of relief.

There was a group of people out there, both men + women who felt the same way. And it was going to be okay.

This was the start of me getting the support I needed.

And it was also the start of my transformation when I realised that this relationship was a blessing helping me break free from all the patterns and beliefs I held around romantic relationships, love, the role of men + women in society, and the unhealthy dynamics I had witnessed growing up.

It was the start of the journey of me becoming more whole, more rounded, and more in tune with my own needs.

See, when you break the cycle of shame and reach out when you need support, you not only gift yourself the ability to use your challenges as a vehicle for growth. You also help others who are on a similar journey find their way to their own wisdom and create connection.

Human disconnection is the untold cost of shame.

When we don’t allow ourselves to move past shame, we miss out on all the opportunities that make us humane, to connect to one another, to relate to one another.

To allow the grief, the pain, to emerge and move through us, and softening by asking for help, instead of hardening and carrying the weight of the shame, you help everyone, not just yourself.

If you are struggling right now, reach out and ask for support. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for all of the other people who are in the same boat as you are right now or will one day be.

You never know who you might end up helping out.

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