The Fear of Love

IMG_2479It seems frustratingly paradoxical: We spend our lives longing for someone with whom can share intimacy, connection, and love and when we find it and understand that the person isn’t going anywhere, something inside of us wants to run away.

Why is love so scary?

I’ll answer this from two perspectives: the psychological and the spiritual.

On a psychological level, love is scary because what we learned of love early in life wasn’t really love. A pure expression of love feels free and spacious and invites us to grow into who we really are. Instead, we receive “love” that is conditional; “love” that only appears if we behave in the “right” way; “love” that is demanding or punishing, invasive or violating. Of course this isn’t love at all, but how confusing it is for a young child who hears the words “I love you” only to be followed by actions that didn’t feel loving at all. The wires become crossed and the love scripts become ingrained deep in psyche, scripts that say:

Love means loss.

Love means losing myself.

Love doesn’t last.

Love means heartbreak.

Love means betrayal.

It’s safer to be alone.

On a spiritual level, love is scary because when we open our hearts to another human being we not only take the risk of being hurt but we must be willing to dissolve the ego boundaries that protect our fear-based, small selves from what it perceives as a loss of control. This fear of losing control may have its roots in early primary relationships where caregivers usurped your natural and innate self-trust and boundaries, but it may run deeper than that and effect even those raised in the healthiest of environments. Addressing fear seems to be part of the journey of being on this planet, and while early humans faced physical fear and actual danger that threatened their lives, we have evolved to the point where we’re being asked to face spiritual fear and the actual threat to our ego selves.

Fear shows up in two primary ways: through thoughts and through the body. The most common fear-based thoughts that erect a wall around the heart are:

I don’t love him.

I don’t love her enough or in the right way.

I love him but I’m not in love.

Something’s  missing.

If I was with the right person, I wouldn’t be feeling anxiety and fear.

Am I settling?

Am I just convincing myself that I love her?

I must be making a mistake.

The body erects walls through pulling away physically, shutting down sexually, tightening in the chest or legs, and a variety of other ways. Once you understand and can name the physical and mental ways that fear manifests, you’ve accomplished the first step to dismantling its power.

Love lives on the other side of fear, which means that if you want to experience love, you have to be willing to walk through fear. This is why I’ve devoted the second week of my new program, “Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for our partner,” to exploring effective ways of working with fear and resistance.

If fear has made an appearance in your relationship, you’re being invited to become a love-warrior. Every warrior knows that the absence of fear is not fearlessness but courage. Growing your love and attraction doesn’t mean eradicating fear; it means finding the courage to dismantle it enough so that it’s not ruling your actions and choosing to move toward love anyway. It means learning to call fear by name and learning to recognize your own personal fear-walls. For it’s when fear is in the driver’s seat of your mind that your perception is altered and instead of seeing your partner’s beautiful heart all you see is fun-house distortion. This is what I’ll be teaching in the Open Your Heart program.

Do you want to learn to be a love warrior?

Do you want to learn how to dismantle fear so that you can grow your love and attraction for your partner?

Do you want to be guided and supported through a 30 day program that will help you grow your courage so that you can grow your love?

“Repeated acts of love diminish the fear response both in ourselves and in others,” writes David Richo in When Love Meets Fear. Acts of love don’t mean that you necessarily feel loving toward your partner to act in loving ways. It means that the commitment of repeatedly showing loving actions, both to yourself and your partner, diminishes fear. This seems logical enough, but if you don’t have the roadmap that will teach you which actions to take, you’ll feel lost in the wilderness of fear. It’s these Love Laws and Loving Actions that I’ll be teaching in my new Open Your Heart program.

There are three spots left in the program and registration closes on Wednesday. If you’re interested in the program but now isn’t the right time, I’ll be offering it again in October/November.

To learn more about Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, click here.

29 comments to The Fear of Love

  • Brianna

    I’ve been dealing with this anxiety for four months now. Is it normal to feel worse now than I did when it started? I feel so empty,emotionless and sad. Is this normal Sheryl? Do you have any blogs on the emptiness or will there be one soon?

  • Lauren

    I felt like that too! And it got worse and worse, i broke up wit my boyfriend and then regretted it because he’s such a wonderful person so luckily we got back together and then it came back. I try to work on it daily. Try to figure out exactly what bothers me and write it down. It gets easier, then comes back. Sometimes i wonder if im ready for a serious relationship. Sometimes i wonder if its just that im not “in love” i dont know, i get confused but time will tell and you will figure it out! Read some blogs and see if it helps, good luck!

    • Brianna

      I just want to be with him so bad. I hate feeling like this. I have no emotion. I feel so empty. I just want my relationship back. I felt more emotion when it started. Nothing gives me the relief as it use to praying, saying I love you, looking at his pictures. Nothing relieves me anymore. This got caused over a stupid thought! And I got terrified of losing him!!’ Whelp do I feel so empty and question everything?!

  • Brianna

    When will this emptiness go away sheryl? What causes the emptiness? I got so scared of losing him how come I feel nothing? This is what I don’t understand.

  • Molly

    Sheryl,
    I have been following your blog for a many months now and what you have written has soothed me in many ways. I suffered from intrusive thoughts and in the beginning I had no idea what was going on your blog brought me some peace and courage to come out with my problem and get help. Now my intrusive thoughts are resolved it is time to tackle my other anxieties. I have been with my amazing boyfriend for almost three years, he tells me everyday he loves me, I am his best friend, soulmate and the best thing that has ever happened to him. He is kind caring and sweet. I feel he is my soulmate. Yet I get these fears as if one day I will break his heart and he will break mine. We broke each others hearts in the past but they were over trivial things. And we grew from them. Sometimes I think he will end up with someone else and I will end up with some one else, and that very thought is horrific. He knows about my fears and anxieties he helped me through the intrusive thoughts and supported me, he encourages me and tells me I can do anything. When people ask if we are gonna get married he says yes, I say yes as and then I get these what if we break up what if he ends up with some other girl that will make him happier. I want him to be happy I love him so much he brings tears to my eyes. I can call him my husband but I still have that fear, that doubt. Saying what if this is like all your other relationships. But when I pray and think on it I know there is something telling me I will regret it if I lose him. He assures me when I speak lightly on the matter he is not going anywhere. These feelings come and go I just want him to be happy and I want to be confident in us before I make bigger steps. Which is why I was so joyed when I saw this blog, it was perfect timing! I’m afraid to lose, I have fear, I’m afraid to love completely. And I want to love him the way he deserves love. Cause he deserves my love the most.

  • chelsea

    Sheryl, I have been following your blog for a couple months now an it’s really helped. I want to “choose” love because I care for my bf an want to see him grow into great amazing things as a person( I’m reading The road less traveled :)). Sometimes though I get to thinking that it just isn’t possible to love an maybe you don’t want to. Are those reactions normal. I find this happening when I don’t feel those feelings which I know isn’t a true feeling, an I’m just scared what if I don’t want to love him? My bf is amazing an so loving an supportive an I want to work on choosing love so just curious if that is a normal question of the fear.

    • chelsea

      Deep down when I think an pray I know if we didn’t work out I would regret it an would lose the best part of me.

    • chelsea

      An will you be offering the love law course again…sorry for all the post

    • Anna

      Hi Chelsea, I just wanted to say that I know EXACTLY what you mean, so whether it’s normal or not you’re not alone!!! I wish someone had replied to your post with some insight– I’m relatively new here and I’ve been feeling like exactly what you described: is love even possible? Is it real? Am I even capable of love? Maybe I just don’t want to love him (and therefore don’t love him/don’t love him enough/should run away as fast as I can = fear). So, I’m pretty sure this is just another form that fear takes. Are you taking the e-course?

  • Cathy

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks for all of your posts, they’ve been really helpful to me over the past several months. I’ve been exploring my fears and trying to figure out why I have so much anxiety. Everything feels like it’s coming from my head and I don’t know what’s real and not real! Anyway, this afternoon I was reading some articles and the idea that “I’m afraid that I only love him as a friend” came up, and I immediately started to cry. How would you interpret this? I feel that I love him more deeply than that- judging from the amount of anxiety I’ve been trying battling just to stay with him- but what does this mean???

  • Brianna

    Sheryl, I’ve been having a really bad time with this emptiness. I use to feel the love deep down wanting to come out and these past 2 weeks I don’t feel a thing! What does it mean? Why do we get emptiness? I know you don’t have enough time to comment on everyone’s posts, but please if you have an article or just a few words I would appreciate it.

    • Betsy

      Brianna-

      Usually emptiness is there in your relationship because you aren’t connected to your own source of fullness and liveliness. It is impossible to feel love or connection when you aren’t connected to your core, healthy self. The emptiness will start to go away little by little as you learn healthy ways to fill yourself up. Once you are filled up, happy, and peaceful within your self, it will flow into your relationship. To connect to your core, it is helpful to do some inner bonding, meditation, mindfulness, or hobbies that you know connect you to your core and bring you fulfillment and happiness.

      I hope this helps!

  • Jenny

    This is so true, I have been feeling so much better these days and do not dwell on whether I truly love my partner or not anymore, I truly know it is anxiety and I just decided I dont want to live like this anymore and I redirected my mental energy elsewhere, I find that when I started forming new thinking habits and ways of being it just became natural and i am so much happier.

    We went to a friends wedding last night and I was around my old friends and a few guys from growing up, my partner is so different to them in the sense that he is more open and loving and caring, his such a beautiful person and I suppose he doesnt really fit what my idea of a real man is, a real man in my eyes is someone who treats you mean, someone who isnt loving or caring and sensitive, I know this is wrong but I started kinda thinking is my husband cool enough stupid really but I am more aware of myself now and I dont let it get out of control, I know I love him and I know because of how I am I am going to think about it and analze it every now and again but I am no longer letting it define me or our relationship, the positive outweighs any negative and its just about becoming more positive and not wishing your life away, I know if i ever lost him I would be so devastated, its more about me then what it is about him, its more about my own views on men and relationships and marriage then our own relationship. Funny how these fears come up after attending a wedding haha.x

  • Jenny

    its funny for me its more the commitment the marriage the bubble rather then m husband, like i know i love him etc but its the commitment i have the issues with.

  • Anna

    An interesting thought struck me tonight, and as this is one of my favorite blogs I’ve read here (because it hits so close to home for me) and because it’s the most relevant to the thought I had, I figured I might post it here in case anyone else wants to chime in or could possibly benefit from it and feel like they’re not alone.

    I’m not engaged, but I’ve been with my loving, supportive, steadfast boyfriend for about 7 months. We started dating about a year after I broke things off with my previous ex (I promise this part’s important) which, long story short, was a relationship in which I developed a lot of unprocessed grief and an ever growing distrust of love. So during that year between my ex and my current boyfriend, that grief remained unprocessed, and the distrust of love grew (thanks in part to a couple failed fledgling romances in between), until I wondered why people bothered with relationships at all and swore that I would never let myself fall in love again. I see now that that was the shift when I let fear take control of my intimate relationships, and I avoided them like the plague, making the excuse that “no one was up to my standards” or “could make me happier than I was single.” I thought I was happy during that year alone; oh how ignorance is bliss. Then my current boyfriend came into my life. I have never felt anything like what I felt the moment a friend of ours confided that he “really liked me”– everything in me said YES to everything about him, and something in me I thought I’d buried permanently woke up and danced in the joy of what I thought was the relationship that would finally bring me happiness (again, retrospectively, I see I was expecting the relationship to “save” me. Hah.) That bliss lasted about a week until I started analyzing my feelings and a little voice in my head said, very distinctly, “RUN.”

    Again, long story short, given the way I had grown to not believe in love and even to want no part in it, my anxiety got worse and worse and I realized somewhere along the way that I was absolutely phobic of love and intimacy. Which of course sounded stupid to me (what kind of human being is afraid of love?), and I never confided it to anyone. And then I read this blog. And then I started taking the eCourse. But I always felt a little disconnected from the women who feel terrified that maybe they really don’t love their fiances or SOs, until tonight when I realized that I get less anxiety from thinking “I don’t really love him” than I do when I think “I really DO love him.” Initially that thought spiked my anxiety because I immediately wondered what that meant and if I was all backwards and therefore really didn’t love him, and then I saw it: that’s the core of it. That’s what Sheryl’s been saying every time she’s explained the concept of fear-based thoughts that serve as a masquerade for the true fear: that maybe we actually DO love our partner, with all the realizations of how vulnerable, terrifying, and possibly painful that could be.

    So Chelsea if you read this, I feel like this is at least why I struggle with the thought of “Maybe I don’t even want to love my partner.” Because really, my fear-self DOESN’T want to. And that’s when I go back to the part of me that leapt for joy when it connected to my boyfriend’s essence at the beginning there, and I know that THAT is my true inner self– one that rejoices in beauty, love, and selfless caring. My best self. And I owe it to myself– we all do– to set her free from the fear that’s taken over.

    Also I’m really sorry that was so long. And I hope that it made sense.

  • GratefulWarrior

    Sheryl,

    I have prayed and prayed and prayed for this website that I found at the absolute perfect time! I can’t thank you enough for your blogs and I’m definitely going to be participating in your Wedding E-Course as soon as I can afford it. Just wanted to let you know how incredible grateful I am. You are helping many people put relationship anxiety into perspective! I am so incredibly ready to break through as a fear warrior! I will do whatever it takes! Thank you, your website is going to be a huge tool for me to get through this. My partner will be very grateful as well. 🙂

    Many blessings to you!

  • Anna

    This text IS PERFECT TO ME, IT WAS WRITTEN FOR ME !!!!!!! I have a boyfriend, but I have a feeling of being “swallowed up” by him,He wants to see me all the time, talk to me every day, I feel a kind of struggle, like I was losing control,losing myself…… It seems that I also have a little “shame” of him(when i think in my life,in my passions, I dont know if he’ll like..), I always wanna isolate myself ….. think if I like him,he’ll leave me .. not sure he loves me … I’m afraid of dealing with those things of love, like insecurity, jealous, ilusions..
    I treat him badly … do not answer calls .. do not care .. I finish with him almost every day…. !!!
    And Im not sure I want to do the program of 30 days…Sometimes i realize that i want just a partner for weekend.. but i was suffering A LOT with loneliness…
    Please, what is your advice for me?
    Thank you…
    Anna

  • Chrissy

    Thanks for your amazing work Sheryl. You have given me hope and strenght to carry on. I will not let fear take the best of me and my relationship. When does the next “Open your Heart” program start? I am more than ready to become a fear warrior!
    Many Blessings

  • Maureen

    Hi!

    I just stumbled across your work yesterday and I love your site! I completely agree with your ideas. I feel like I am reading my own thoughts with much better clarity and confidence. So comforting to find!

    My question: what do you think of the parallels between career choice and spouse choice? I find the two related. I have been filled with doubt about both career and love the last few years, however just as I’ve begun to get more clarity about my love life, my career choices are not as scary (though they still make me nervous) as before.

    thanks for your help!

  • Tereza

    Hi Sheryl,
    I saw that the course ‘Open your heart’ will begin on March, but I have wedding on 3rd May, so that course it too far away for me now. I have exactly what you write. “Do I love him just as a friend?” “Am I pursuing myself to love him?” “Do I love him enough?” And I feel like why am I even with him and I see him like a stranger to me. We have a long-distance relationship, and I also move to his place, which is 5 hours away from my hometown. I know as I read through your blog that changes and fear is my problem, but how to work through it? I don’t want to have these thoughts. I don’t panic anymore, but inside my feelings towards him are changing 10 times in a day. When we talk on skype I just enjoy the time. So what to do?
    Thank you and very Merry Christmas