Love is a Practice

IMG_2921We have an idea in this culture that you either have it or you don’t: You’re athletic or you’re clumsy; you’re a great orator or you stumble over words; you’re talented artistically or you can barely draw a stick figure; love comes easily to you or you struggle to find flow in relationships. While there’s no denying that people are born with gifts, there’s also no denying that with enough accurate information, support, and practice, you can excel at almost anything.

Excel at love? What does that mean? It means that you won’t always feel what we call “in love” in this culture – that ecstatic, heart-thumping high that characterizes the first stage of some relationships – but that if you learn the Love Laws and commit to the Loving Actions that will kick fear out of the driver’s seat, thereby opening your heart to more expansive and sustainable states of love.

If the practice of love doesn’t come easily to you, this will require some re-conditioning of your habitual mindsets and active, daily practice. Just like if you practiced yoga every day you would eventually be able to touch your toes, if you practice love every day you will be able to touch your heart. And when you touch your own heart, you will be able to expand the love and attraction you feel for your partner.

I can hear what you’re thinking: Does it really have to be so hard? If you’re with the right person, shouldn’t love be effortless?

This is the massive cultural misconception – that love is easy with the right person. The converse of this misconception is that if it’s hard, you’re with the wrong person. Love shouldn’t be hard is the belief we absorb from the time we’re old enough to absorb the cultural messages around love. Love should be effortless. Love shouldn’t be work. If it’s work, find someone else. Love should be your haven in the harsh sea of your life.

But for many people love is hard. They’re with the most loving partner in the world and they can’t bring down their walls for any sustainable amount of time. Transfer this same person into a relationship with an unavailable partner where they play the role of the pursuer in the classic pursuer-distancer dynamic and the love gates would open wide. But if that same partner turned to face her head-on, the gates would seal back up and she would want to run for the hills.

There are so many reasons we put up walls with someone who’s available, and underneath all of them is the awareness that with loving comes vulnerability and with vulnerability comes the possibility of being hurt. We’ve all been hurt by love. We’ve all been left, shamed, steamrolled, invaded, judged. We’ve all clutched our hearts from the ache of heartbreak. Our hearts have been broken by parents, siblings, peers, relatives, teachers, and lovers. To be human is to love and to love is to be hurt. There seems to be no way around it, except to wall off and stop loving.

But you don’t want to stop loving. You want to take the risk again. You want to learn to open your heart to the beautiful, vulnerable, imperfect, sometimes annoying, kind, caring partner who stands before you. And you know there’s a way to risk again but you don’t know how. You sense that there’s a roadmap to help you learn the Love Laws and Loving Actions that would help you soften your walls and move toward your partner. You intuit that if you could do this – if you could spend more time open-hearted instead of armored behind the walls of protection – you would feel the love and attraction for your partner that you’re longing to feel.

There is wisdom in this longing, for there is, indeed, a path to guide you toward your open heart. It’s not fast work and it’s not easy work; healing never is. But if you’re ready to follow your longing toward its nucleus of wisdom and begin to access longer states of feeling open-hearted, loving, and attracted to your partner, the next round of Open Your Heart is for you.

Registration is now open for round four of Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner. Whether you’ve been together for two months or twenty years, I look forward to guiding you, as I’ve guided hundreds before you, along the pathways that will help you open your heart to more sustainable states of loving and being loved.

24 comments to Love is a Practice

  • Marie93

    I’ve been struggling with relationship anxiety for about 4 months. It all began when my boyfriend began doubting our relationship and our future. Although he got over his doubts and quickly made the decision to commit to me, I still find myself constantly questioning whether or not I truly want to be with him forever. I found your website thankfully, which helped me a lot, but I am still feeling doubtful. Lately, my mind has been stuck on the whole love is a choice thing, which I agree with 100%, but my mind always seems to turn everything into something negative. Anyway, I’ve been constantly checking to see whether or not I want to choose to love my boyfriend. And when I try to force myself to choose, I can’t. I want the answer to be yes but it still seems that I can’t consciously choose to love him which makes me so anxious and sad. If I can’t choose to say yes to working through this then I must really not want to? Or is it just fear? I’m so confused:( I also have been questioning the core value thing. I am a family girl and I live about 4 hours away from home, near my college. Although my boyfriend agreed we can move closer (about 2 hours – halfway between each of our parents houses) to my family when I’m done with school, I still feel sad that my future kids will never have grandparents and cousins nearby like I had growing up. I feel like I have to choose between my boyfriend and family:( Does this mean we are not compatible because we each value family differently?? Any words of advice would be greatly appreciated! I was so happy before all of this anxiety happened.. Did we just grow apart? He loves me so much and it would kill me to leave him but I get anxious that I’m leading him on. Ugh I just want to be happy again:( Please help!!!

    • As long as you’re still in the relationship you ARE choosing your boyfriend; now you need to decide if you’re going to choose to learn how to bring down your fear-walls that were erected when he went through a period of doubt. Remember that there are no right or wrong choices; only the choice to learn and grow.

  • Sjd

    Wonderful, Sheryl. I’ve been feeling real down and disconnected from my partner lately again and this really made me smile cuz there is hope for me. Someday I hope to be able to afford your course 🙂

  • Lily

    Hi Sheryl,
    I sooooo suffer from this relationship anxiety you write so well about. I stumbled upon your blog whilst doing exactly what my psychologist suggested I NOT do (i.e. googling “don’t love my partner”, “fears about relationship” etc.) so I am glad i did.
    Please could you guide me towards the right ecourse for my needs. I think the “Open Your Heart” course sounds like it ticks the box but added to my relationship anxiety (or possibly part of the cause) is a history of abuse from my childhood. In my case, I endured sexual abuse, verbal/ emotional abuse (constant ridicule by siblings and parents) and repeated bullying by peers at school. I have totally closed myself off sexually and my poor husband accepts me and just waits patiently for the magical day I might be “better” but of course, I am getting worse and with the lack of intimacy, the relationship anxiety grows.
    I also am going through a bit of a depressed stage due to lack of self esteem and changes in my work situation, which I’m sure is not helping.
    So I would love you to let me know if you think the Open Your Heart course would be the most beneficial to me or otherwise if you recommend a different course.
    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Lily: Open Your Heart would be beneficial, as would the Conscious Weddings E-course. The ecourse goes into more depth about relationship anxiety while Open Your Heart is specifically focused on cultivating more feelings of love and attraction. I would suggest signing up for the free ecourse sampler and then deciding which course resonates more strongly with you.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I was one of these people that if I wasn’t feeling happy or comfortable then I should run for the hills. Fortunately I found you ☺️and with your professional and personal knowledge told me that is not correct and how I really believe that to be true. Even when I have an anxiety day I still believe it’s only a bluff.

    • “Even when I have an anxiety day I still believe it’s only a bluff.” And that’s really the key, Angela. Once you can call the fear-lines out on the mat you’re home free.

  • sonakshi

    Hi Sheryl,
    I am contacting after a long time(2 months)….the last time we talked you had advised me to join the inner bonding forum.I tried contacting them to explain my inability to pay the monthly fees but couldn’t.I have send you an e-mail explaining everything..please do read it once and please reply to it….please Sheryl..please do reply!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Susanne

    Hi Sheryl,
    Thank you for providing an alternative way of understanding love and relationships in contrast to typical clichés we often hear in culture. Sometimes I’ve felt so alone in my questions like, “What is love?”, “What does it mean to be in love?” “What do people mean when they say, ‘I love you’?”

    I found your blog in April before my June wedding. I have a wonderful, trustworthy, caring, and hard-working husband, yet I continue to rely on your blog and resources from your courses. I completed your Conscious Wedding eCourse in April during a weekend of terrible doubt and heartache and also the Open Your Heart eCourse in June after our wedding. I’ve also read “The Way of Transitions” and recently, “Comfortable with Uncertainty.”

    We became engaged during the summer after 2 years of dating and married around our 3-year anniversary. At the time of proposal, we were on a round-the-world trip (largely inspired by a professional conference he was attending in South Korea, as well as visiting his family in Europe). I felt shock, speechlessness, and later, tears (not joyful tears), regarding the proposal, and it was never how I wanted to feel regarding an engagement. Less than one week upon our return from travels, we moved from Chicago to Philadelphia, where he began his career following completion of his PhD, and we both felt comfortable and interested in the new city. All my immediate family and network of long-time friends are all based in Chicago, whereas he is from Germany and had spent many years separated from his family and planning on a career in the U.S. I have a flexible career, which I had chosen largely for it’s flexibility to choose where I wanted to live and how much I wanted to work.

    I felt such a whirlwind of upsetting feelings regarding the travelling, moving to a new city, moving in together for the first time, starting new jobs, him finding his financial grounding after living off a graduate student income, and the engagement on top of it- not to mention, planning a wedding back in Chicago from a distance in Philadelphia. During the engagement, I felt alone in my feelings of ambivalence about “everything”, and alone in many of the wedding planning aspects that I had always dreamed of doing with my mother and sister (although he was completely involved in the planning as well, I just wanted to be able to plan in Chicago and go to appointments with my mother and sister.) Also, in March before the wedding, we discovered his mother had an enormous benign brain tumor, and he spent a couple weeks in Germany caring for her while she had brain surgery (while I flew to Chicago for a shower & bachelorette weekend).

    In general, I want to say that the wedding day was beautiful, and our guests continue to tell us what a warm, wonderful experience it was, how inspiring our ceremony and vows were, etc. Yet, I feel I struggle everyday with wondering if I made the right choice, and constantly trying to “soothe” my anxiety and/or accept and affirm my feelings. I find myself envious of people that “always knew he was the one”, or “are so ecstatic to marry their best friend”, when I’ve felt very alone with all of my feelings regarding the pile of transitions the last year has brought. I worry because saying “I love you” to my husband sometimes feels forced or difficult, even though I treat him with loving actions. I feel guilt regarding how consistently enthusiastic and happy he is, while I harbor “secret” feelings.

    Thank you for all of your work and resources that you provide.

    • It’s not that you harbor “secret” feelings so much as you’re struggling with your own anxiety and still projecting it onto him, thinking that your lack of certainty about your choice is the problem. The biggest piece of this work is taking 100% responsibility for your own discomfort, lack of aliveness, uncertainty about life, grief, and every other uncomfortable feeling stirring inside. As long as you still think the problem is him in some way you will remain stuck in terms of finding the serenity that you’re seeking.

  • Scared of Future

    Sheryl,

    I can’t stress enough how much your blog has helped me, just by knowing that I’m not alone in my relationship anxiety.

    A quick background;
    I have been chasing “love” for years. Every man that I had ever met and been attracted to has never wanted anything more from me than sexual intimacy, because I’ve never been able to open up fully to anyone. I met my now-boyfriend 2 years ago, and while we didn’t have that initial *spark* of chemistry, I found him physically attractive and found his interest in me refreshing. He didn’t play games, he didn’t pressure me to move our relationship forward sexually, and expressed fully how he saw something special in me and wanted to make our relationship official. The first year of our relationship was a complete whirlwind. I thought I had found the “One”…the one who fully gave back what I’d always wanted to get. I always felt loved, never judged, no matter what hardships we went through.

    In the past year, I’ve turned a 180. I’m critical of his every action, plagued with doubt and surety that he’s not funny enough, not smart enough, and I even exploded all of these feelings onto him and we almost broke up. Even though we’re still together and working on things, I constantly have some sort of criticism about him in my brain.

    I just want to be happy, and I want to be happy with him. When I feel connected to him, I can see myself being married to him and having his children and can forsee a happy life. When I don’t feel connected, I have the urge to run.

    I need your help very badly!

  • Becca

    For almost a YEAR I have been so depressed hardly able to function. Been in therapy and diagnosed ocd and GAD but therapy hasn’t helped. I just know in my heart I don’t love him and there is no joy. But I loved him at one time. He is the sweetest most wonderful man and would be the best husband and life partner. I want to love him and have been begging God all year to let me love him. Let me hve a future with him. But I just have this bad gut feeling. Help. 🙁

    • If you loved him once and you know you suffer from anxiety then it’s highly unlikely that your gut is telling you to leave; much more likely that your gut is telling you that you’re terrified to give and receive real love.

  • Hi Sheryl,

    Everyone knows me as a person who is doubtful, and impossible to make decisions. I believe I have suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder ever since I was a young child, I have been fighting the mind bawling sickness my whole life, from intrusive, repetitive thoughts and actions, these days I have an obsession with saying a specific line in my head and knocking the floor. I know this all has to do with fears, as I have done much research. These days, I feel like my world is falling apart, I’ve suffered from many intrusive thoughts, playing them over and over in my head until it feels right. I never thought this would impact my relationship. I am almost 21 years old, in my first relationships with a guy I went head over heels for at the beginning; we are currently 1 year into the relationship. I went to Turkey for a university placement this last May, the trip was a total of 5 weeks. At the start everything was okay, but near the last few weeks of the trip he constantly accused me of looking at different guys, not finding him attractive, and wanting to be with someone else. In no way was I ever being untrue or cheating on him, I even stayed back many nights when my friends went out in the city with people because I was scared he would get upset. When I came back from the trip my heart fell apart, it has been 3months and my mind is going crazy. I constantly question my love for him, I feel guilty telling him I even love him. I am up all night obsessing over the relationship, how I would feel with someone else, and checking to see if I get butterflies when I think of him. My boyfriend knows about this and he is supportive but he tends to get angry sometimes and throw it in my face, saying that my thoughts must be true. Then that makes me so confused, because I have been fighting these thoughts for so long, but wont allow myself to break up with him, I just don’t think that what I want deep down. This morning when I was thinking of him I could not vision my life without him, but now I catch myself doubting and going through this vicious cycle again.

    I just need help. I never wanted to seek professional help because I don’t want to go on meds, but at this point I really need an extra boost. Any suggestions or thoughts Sheryl?

  • Amy

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have been dealing with anxiety in my relationship for the past two years.
    I met my boyfriends about 3 weeks before he was planning to move to another country for work. We met fell in love and i adored him in those 3 weeks. We continued talking after he moved countries and eventually we mutually decided that we wanted to make long distance work as a relationship. When it started to get scary for me was when i went down and visited him for the first time. I was very excited to see him and my visit was to last 2 weeks. However after the first 6 days I started to have major panic attacks that would start in the afternoon and last until I went to bed.

    I was terrified because i thought i had met this wonderful man who was the one for me. I still feel that he is the one for me however, my body still constantly goes into panic mode when I’m with him. We have been seeing each other back and forth between countries for the last year and a half. That part has been very smooth as he is able to come up for two months to a month at a time every 3 months. I am not sure of any way to make the panic feeling go away. This feeling is often very unbearable. I don’t feel that its due to the long distance as i have been in long distance relationships before, I trust him completely and we are very compatible and good together.

    I have been in many long relationships before and I have never felt this before. A part of me questions if I hyped up the idea of the relationship being so good in the beginning and then subconsciously realized he is not the one for me after 2 months of being apart. (I don’t however ever feel panicked when we are on the phone long distance or on skype) I never feel this anxiety at any other time other than when we are together. Am I hanging onto something that is not serving me anymore. I know that I do have a tendency to stay in relationship where the person isn’t right for me and I think it’s because I hate the idea of breaking up with that person and don’t want to not be in a relationship. I feel especially in this one that I am incredibly let down because I felt in the very beginning that he was the one – I have never felt this before – and then ever since he left things have never felt the same when we are together. I wonder if my body is subconsciously giving me a warning that this relationship is not right because my mind and heart always have a very hard time letting go.

    I would love to get your opinion on my dilemma.

    Thanks very much,

    amy

  • N.

    Hello! I do not know where to ask this, but do you think relationship anxiety can get worse in a long distance relationship? Im in one right now, and it’s extremely stressful…thanks

  • Dee

    I came across your website and it was as if, I stumbled upon this whole world of women and men, who thought, felt and had the same internal dialogue as me. Tears welled in my eyes when I began to sift through the comments on the site.
    I am a 30-yr-old woman, I am well-educated, career-driven and ambitious.
    I also have suffered with anxiety and OCD since I was 20. (intrusive thoughts mostly).
    I’ve always felt that the bulk of my anxiety seems to stem from my relationships with men.
    I grew up reading Jane Austen, and went to an Ivy League university, and have always had this thought that I would need a husband who is a “carrier”, someone who is better than me, more intellectual, more ambitious etc. etc.
    Well, I met a man 3 years ago, working in television just like myself–I am a journalist, and he works in the technical side of television. I am constantly plagued with the thought “what if I am more intelligent than him?” and “What if there is someone else out there who I would be more compatible with intellectually?”
    He went to technical college and is very adept with technical things, whereas, I am more of the creative brain in the relationship.
    We moved in together about six months ago, and we have a tonne of fun living together; he treats me like gold, he respects me, we find the same things funny, and we rarely argue. He is actually perfect. But I can’t help thinking that because he doesn’t have a degree and because he’s not booksmart,our relationship is doomed.
    We talk about marriage, and it`s agreed that we both want to spend the rest of our lives together, but as soon as I discovered that I wasn`t the only one in the relationship who wanted that, I kind of pulled back; like I`m only content if I`m chasing.
    Anyways, one week I could be on Pinterest planning our wedding and looking at engagement rings, the next week, I could be under that dark cloud of doubt again.
    I know I have low self-esteem, and I know I don`t trust myself very well. Maybe I need to work on myself before I can ever be truly happy in a relationship.
    I don`t want to ruin something that has the potential to be so great, only to find out years down the road that even if I landed my `Dream Man`who has the `perfect`credentials, that I would eventually have doubts and anxiety as well.
    I am hoping Sheryl, that you can maybe give me some words of advice? I am definitely contemplating taking your e-course.
    Warmest Regards,
    Dee

  • Jake

    I feel like I have lost all my feelings for my partner. I have totally shit down and feel like I may be slipping into a slight depression even. I don’t know what has happened I was very content one minute then it was like a switch and I have completely shut down, all I want to do now is end it and run. I like at her like she is ugly, fat etc. it’s actually borderline madness I feel.
    Is there a way back from this? We have 2 wonderful kids who mean the world to me but I am ruining my relationship with my partner by my behaviour. I’m starting to think I don’t love her I maybe never loved her but I had to as I was very happy until I start feeling like this.
    Any advice please

  • Jake

    Some typos sorry

  • Jake

    Sorry I’d like to also add my whole mood has changed over this change I feel miserable even doing normal day to day things which is worrying me

  • Aimee

    Hi Sheryl,

    I know everyone says this time and time again, but wow- another blog entry that met my mail box at what seemed like the perfect moment. Thank you!

    After your Open Your Heart course and following your work, articles and blog entries since I discovered Conscious Transitions this time last Summer, I have slowly weaved in this new, healthy way of thinking and living into my life, but just because it’s been longer than a year and just because I have learned and grown so much doesn’t mean that a beautiful reminder isn’t helpful. In fact, it is so encouraging and also very wonderful to read and absorb again that love is indeed a practice. And those of us who are still struggling with giving fear the power, need and appreciate being reminded that it’s all a process. Thanks for this article, Sheryl!

  • Dee

    Sheryl,
    I cannot tell you how happy I am that I came upon your website.
    I just read the article you recommended to me, and it hit the nail right on the head as to what I am feeling.
    I will definitely be taking your e-course in the fall–I know changing my thought patterns and getting to the deeper root causes of my anxiety will take a lot if time and effort, but I’m ready to put in the work.
    My man is worth it.
    Blessings,
    Dee

  • Amy

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have been dealing with anxiety in my relationship for the past two years.
    I met my boyfriends about 3 weeks before he was planning to move to another country for work. We met fell in love and i adored him in those 3 weeks. We continued talking after he moved countries and eventually we mutually decided that we wanted to make long distance work as a relationship. When it started to get scary for me was when i went down and visited him for the first time. I was very excited to see him and my visit was to last 2 weeks. However after the first 6 days I started to have major panic attacks that would start in the afternoon and last until I went to bed.

    I was terrified because i thought i had met this wonderful man who was the one for me. I still feel that he is the one for me however, my body still constantly goes into panic mode when I’m with him. We have been seeing each other back and forth between countries for the last year and a half. That part has been very smooth as he is able to come up for two months to a month at a time every 3 months. I am not sure of any way to make the panic feeling go away. This feeling is often very unbearable. I don’t feel that its due to the long distance as i have been in long distance relationships before, I trust him completely and we are very compatible and good together.

    I have been in many long relationships before and I have never felt this before. A part of me questions if I hyped up the idea of the relationship being so good in the beginning and then subconsciously realized he is not the one for me after 2 months of being apart. (I don’t however ever feel panicked when we are on the phone long distance or on skype) I never feel this anxiety at any other time other than when we are together. Am I hanging onto something that is not serving me anymore. I know that I do have a tendency to stay in relationship where the person isn’t right for me and I think it’s because I hate the idea of breaking up with that person and don’t want to not be in a relationship. I feel especially in this one that I am incredibly let down because I felt in the very beginning that he was the one – I have never felt this before – and then ever since he left things have never felt the same when we are together. I wonder if my body is subconsciously giving me a warning that this relationship is not right because my mind and heart always have a very hard time letting go.

    I would love to get your opinion on my dilemma.

    Thanks very much,

    amy