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This is such an exciting time for me in so many ways. I met someone online about four months ago, and we cannot get enough of each other. Something just clicks with us, and I have been this thrilled only once before in my life—and that was a long, long time ago! I have been single for nine years, with a smattering of dates but nothing that really made me lose my breath. I feel so comfortable with this man, and I think we both know something big is happening.
The bad news is that I am terrified. The thought that something will go wrong and I will lose this relationship is often swirling around my brain, and I am just waiting for it to disintegrate. If this ended, I think I would just sink so low, and I cannot imagine that there could be anyone out there just as right for me. I’m worried and even becoming self-conscious around him, trying to be perfect so I keep his interest. I certainly don’t want to act this way. 
How can I simply relax?

Dear Oscar:
It is clear that your anxiety is pestering you ceaselessly, and I know just how exhausting obsessive worry can be.

There are possibly a billion books about taming or eradi­cating anxiety. But rather than try to banish the big “A,” it can also be helpful to think about your anxiety as a little buddy that is trying to protect you from harm and suffering.

For a host of reasons, we cultivate this inner shield—usually because of painful experiences such as childhood hurts, heartbreaks and big disappointments. Unfortunately, this hyper-vigilant watchdog isn’t truly helping you but only offering an illusion of control: “If I worry about it first, it won’t happen, or at least I’ll be prepared.”

For a lot of us, feelings of happiness and contentment can be scary. They can seem too good to be true, and we’re skeptical of letting ourselves relax into such blissful states.

This moment in your life is an opportunity for you to learn how to enjoy what you have right in front you, right now. It is also an opportunity  for you to cultivate trust in your own capacity to cope with any possible relationship crisis that might arise in the future.

So it’s important to remember that there is no need to prematurely brace yourself for impact.

Adam Segal, writer and therapist, works in private practice in downtown Toronto. Ask him your relationship or mental-health question at relationship@inmagazine.ca.