This Is The Gold That Awaits Inside The Fear Of Love

by | Jul 19, 2020 | Open Your Heart, Relationships | 28 comments

That shimmering feeling of ease that you’re longing to feel with your partner…

That sense of goodness and, dare I say, rightness, you hoped would accompany committed, healthy partnership…

Openings in your body and sweetness in your mind…

It’s all waiting for you inside the fear of love.

Many people find their way to my work through the portal of relationship anxiety, which can be defined as persistent doubt about whether or not you’re with the right person. Other who find their way here don’t necessarily struggle with relationship anxiety but long to feel more with their partner: more aliveness, more attraction, more ease, more togetherness. However you have found your way here, the pathways to love are the same: to identity your fear-walls, move toward them, commit to daily practices that shrink fear and grow love, and learn about what it means to truly love yourself. There are Love Laws and Loving Actions that, when practiced over time, will help you fall in love with your partner.

But falling in love isn’t what Hollywood has told you it is.

It’s not unequivocal “knowing” or unblemished euphoria. It’s not the insatiable desire to rip off your partner’s clothes. It’s not staring into each other’s eyes for hours on end and finishing each other’s sentences (or sandwiches, as Anna says in Frozen ;)). It’s not always feeling understood and “gotten”. It’s not a depth of connection that permanently lifts you out of loneliness.

It’s better. 

It’s knowing that your partner is your safe harbor, and that you will keep showing up for each other through the decades of life’s ups and downs.

It’s growing a lifelong friendship that supports each of your dreams and endeavors.

It’s working through layers and generations of fear and control as you expand your acceptance and your capacity to truly love.

It’s seeing your partner through clear-eyes more often than fear-eyes, and through that clear seeing feeling like the luckiest person in the world that you have this person by your side.

When I ask people about their long-term vision of life with their partner, it’s less about ecstasy and more about growing together into old age, less about ripping off each other’s clothes and more about taking care of their future grandchildren together, less about a perfect union and more about a solid and seasoned union.

But it takes some work to get there because the truth is that most of us have been hurt in the name of love. Most of us know what it feels like for our separate sense of self to be steamrolled and our boundaries – either overt or covert – to be violated, and thus develop a fear of loss of self. Most of us know what it is to be judged, criticized, analyzed, emotionally abused, abandoned, and thus we develop the fear of being hurt and rejected.

And so we learn not to trust. Every defense we erect – the intrusive thoughts, the cringing, taking the moral high road, thinking our way is always right or “better”, lack of attraction, focusing on what’s missing instead of what’s present – are attempts to keep a safe, available partner at arm’s length because we don’t trust that it’s safe to open fully to love.

What is the way through? To learn the Love Laws and Loving Actions that shrink fear and grow love.

For here’s the bottom line: Not only is love more of an action and a choice than a feeling but it’s the very actions we take to shrink fear that ultimately grow love. Do you hear the paradox? We act not from feelings but from values, and the more we act against fear the more we grow the feelings.

Every hook that your anxiety hangs its hat on about your partner, every time you scold, nag or condescend, every time you indulge the part of you that keeps your partner at arm’s length either physically, mentally, or emotionally, is an attempt to hold onto the reins of control and prevent you from taking the risk of surrendering into your partner’s full embrace.

Why?

Because trusting another is the scariest thing we do.

I know the territory well, my friends. While I haven’t struggled with relationship anxiety in twenty years, I have certainly kept my husband at arm’s length in various ways and to various degrees over the decades of our marriage. As I often teach, we heal in layers and spirals, and the same is true in our work around loving and being loved. Every time I surrender a layer of control and allow myself to free fall into trust – which for me often looks like letting go of the need to control, be right, believe that my way is better – I lose my breath, then fall into my husband’s arms where we meet in ease and essence. Seeing through clear-eyes instead of fear-eyes there is only the sweetness of he and I, and every perceived lack dissolves into the bowl of our loving.

Open Your Heart: A 30-day course to feel more love and attraction for your partner was birthed in 2013 after years of guiding others through the actions that shrink fear and grow love. Through listening to thousands of people and softening my own fear-walls again and again, I distilled these actions into a tangible roadmap of Love Laws and Loving Actions that outline the steps to take to grow the relationship of your dreams.

Again, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about what it means to shrink fear and grow love, but in the end there is one thing that dissolves fear: Action. As with all aspects of anxiety, it’s taking action that sends our mind and heart the message that you hear fear but you’re not going to act on it. We have to act against fear’s warnings if we’re going to gather the gold of intimate partnership. We have to act against what we call “instinct” if we want to teach ourselves that the loving person we’ve chosen is a safe harbor.

Every time you listen to fear, it grows.

Every time you believe the voice that says, “I wouldn’t be feeling this way with someone else,” you add logs to the fear flames.

Every time listen to the cringe that keeps your partner at arm’s length, you fortify the walls around your heart which prevent you from experiencing the fullness of safe love.

But every time you act against these well-worn grooves in your behavior and psyche, you forge a new pathway. This “acting against” are the Love Laws and Loving Actions I teach in Open Your Heart. Together, we will create a new map. Together, we will shrink fear and grow love. Together, we will see that the person you’ve longed for all along is standing right before you. The 17th live round of this course starts on Saturday, August 8th, 2020. I look forward to meeting you there and showing you the way.

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28 Comments

  1. Before I met my long time boyfriend, I was trying to connect with my heart as to what I wanted. I saw a vision of a handsome man with curly brown hair and blue eyes. Basically a dream guy I had been fantasizing meeting for years. When I met my future boyfriend, I said to myself “Oh, that’s not the guy I saw in this “vision” so that can’t be my soul mate. As I got to know my future boyfriend, I found he had the qualities I had been looking for in a partner but did not match how I hoped he would look. I feel like I have had intuitive hits that he is my soulmate but sometimes I wonder which is true. Does this sound like a projection of a fantasy I had before I met a real man to show up a my partner?

    Reply
    • Absolutely yes. You’re describing classic projection.

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  2. For anyone wondering about taking this course, I can only recommend doing it! It not only helped me with my relationship anxiety, but gave me tools that I brought into my marriage to help my husband and me grow real love. I fall back on what I learned when I reach those inevitable days of doldrums or conflict; the tools have helped me move back towards my spouse more quickly and have grown deeper love as time passes. I’m so grateful for what I learned in the course before I got married; it helped me go in clear eyed and allowed us as a couple to transition into real love faster instead of getting stuck in the inevitable loss of infatuation. Thank you, Sheryl! You’ve added ease and beauty to our marriage through the timeless truth you teach.

    Reply
    • Thank YOU, dear berrylotus! It always brings a big smile to hear from you ;). x

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  3. Oh Sheryl, always right on time. Being in this current racial revolution has certainly escalated my own racial wounds and being in an interracial relationship with someone truly polar opposite than me in so many ways has been a journey of both pain and beauty; of grief and of healing. My spikes seem to be on a ferris wheel of the same couple of things just rotating every couple of hours – do we have the same values, do we want the same things for kids, how will we talk about race with a biracial child, how will we navigate his extremely resistant and southern white family etc. Distinguising projection and my own wounds and actual conversations that need to happen with him has been the work of all work but just another layer of the journey of understanding what it means to be responsible for my own wounds and my own self love while communicating from a place of truth and love. Naming the fear – literally out loud for me to hear – has been crucial while doing a lot of long hugs and physical touch has also been monumental…..so thank you as always for this timely soul-balm!

    Reply
    • I’m so glad it arrived the right time, Bianca, and it’s always good to hear from you. xo

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  4. Once again, this is very timely, Sheryl 🙂

    In the past few days I’ve had kind of a huge breakthrough regarding the source of my relationship anxiety. Aside from the old, obvious, continuous wounds from childhood that I have been gradually addressing in therapy, I have also been more recently reminded of the health crisis I’ve been healing from for the past few years. During this crisis, as I’m sure is common in many sufferers of chronic illness who are also in longterm relationships, my partner and I became so focused on coping with my symptoms that we wandered away from our emotional and physical bond. Oddly, our communication was stronger than ever, but the rituals that defined out loving each other had been pushed to one side. When I began to feel better, we decided to start to think more concretely about marriage, but something happened then. I couldn’t connect with my partner the way I could years earlier when I fantasized about marrying him. I started to question my love for him, and my anxiety spiked like crazy, dredging up all kinds of past insecurities and coping mechanisms. Then (repeating a pattern!!) I started to focus on that anxiety fully, examine it, give it power, feed it, obey it, and lo and behold the rift between my partner and I intensified. I lost sight of a very important source of that anxiety: The fact that my partner and I had fallen out of the habit of loving one another fully for the sake of my health. No wonder marriage felt like such an outlandish concept—I had been married to my illness for years (we both had), to the exclusion of everything else. I had forgotten how to perform the crucial loving actions that had successfully bonded me to him for the past decade.

    Now I am gradually re-learning those rituals and finding the meaning in them, and it really does feel as though something is being revived in me, like the colors of our relationship are brighter and I am once again deeply connected to our partnership. But in order to do that I had to stop obeying the walls that my ego was erecting to protect my flailing, wounded self. I can’t overstate how hard this is, because as you’ve illuminated here, the more you nurture anxiety, the more it grows and the harder it becomes to see the woods for the trees. But now I have a clear path to action, and that feels like half the battle.

    It makes me wonder how many others who suffer from relationship anxiety have (on top of Sensitivity and childhood wounding) have also come to a point in their relationship where they have fallen out of the habit of loving action, whether that’s due to burnout from health issues/career/childcare/etc. or simply distraction (lord knows there’s plenty to be distracted by these days!). In your experience, is this a common phenomenon, especially in long-term relationships?

    Be well,
    Niamh

    Reply
    • Hi Niamh,

      Yes, all the distractions of life can get in the way. We have roles to fulfil but we hide behind them too. This year, most of mine have deserted me and I am trying to adjust to life without them.

      All my defence mechanisms have come out of the closet (including horrid relationship anxiety) and pelted me while I have been shedding the inevitable losses of kids leaving home, end of a career etc.

      This morning, as always, I woke with the usual sense of trepidation over how I’d get through the day. Then I read Sheryl’s post and as always it lifted me.

      We need to trust that we are just fine as we are – even when it’s quiet and all distractions are gone – and lean into our partner. It so obvious but still so hard to do!

      Not sure if what I’ve written helps you, but I do know what you mean about distractions.

      Dxx

      Reply
      • Sometimes it takes a profound shift in routine to highlight what our routines have been protecting us from feeling, I suppose 🙂 Now, back to the work of weeding out all the NEW distractions that try to replace the old ones in moments of stillness—and just, as you say, “lean in”.

        Carry on, DawnyMim!

        Reply
  5. Sheryl, would you still consider it a relationship without red flags if my husband has had issues with porn use and struggles with anger? He is working on these things, but I spike in my anxiety thinking it’s a red flag issue and means I should leave.

    Reply
    • Unfortunately most men struggle or have struggled with porn use and anger. The key factor is whether or not your partner is working on these issues, which it sounds like he is, in which case it’s NOT a red flag.

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      • Thank you so much! ❤️

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  6. Sheryl this article is wonderful as is all of your other writings I’ve been recently introduced to! Before reading you blog I’ve been struggling with feeling bored and irritated with my partner, who is an amazing man, for a while. He is everything I could ever want, but everyone tells me these are red flags and I should leave! However, after finding your site I feel as if there might be hope? That these feelings are normal? That my relationship isn’t doomed? I would love to learn more about your courses for the future if you think they’d apply! Your work is inspiring and I hope I’m getting the right idea from it!

    Reply
    • Feeling bored and irritated with your partner are NOT red flags at all! I have many posts on boredom and irritation, which you can find through the search bar. When you’re ready to take a course I recommend starting either with Open Your Heart or Break Free From Relationship Anxiety. I’m glad you found your way here!

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      • Thank you so much! I will look into them soon!!!

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  7. I wonder,Sheryl, if what I am feeling is relationship anxiety. I love my supportive partner so much and we have been together for a year. I know he is the man I would
    Love to start a life with but I worry constantly that the passion will go from our relationship and we will no longer be as passionate but will turn into ‘friends’ and our relationship won’t be as exciting and that then he will find someone who is exciting and cheat on me. He’s the most amazing partner and I don’t know why I’m thinking this.

    Reply
    • You’re describing textbook relationship anxiety :).

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  8. Thank you Sheryl. Poetic, relatable, and hopeful words. May I ask, which class to you recommend for partner who after lifetime of manageable GAD has recently also struggled for 2+ years with depression. Primary areas of focus are relationship (20+ year marriage) and career/financial fear. Medication(s), individual, and marriage therapy have allowed us to tread water and gain some understanding. But not any real focus/work on the specific relationship fears, simply advice like ‘let your intrusive thoughts float by because you have ocd’ In short, where to begin with your offerings?

    Reply
  9. Hi Sheryl,

    I have your conscious wedding e-course already. Does this course offer the same material, or does it differ? I’m having another bout of relationship anxiety 7 years into marriage, and am wondering if this course would be beneficial or to just go through the conscious weddings course again. Thanks!

    Reply
  10. hi sheryl! i feel like in the first few months of dating my boyfriend all i could think of is he is the one and i couldn’t love him more and he was just perfect, but the past month all i can think about is do i really like him? do i really still wanna be with him? it’s like one day i’m fine and i’m happy but the next i don’t know if i still wanna be in this relationship and i have no clue what to do.

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  11. hi Sheryl!
    so happy to have found your blog! sometimes I feel bored with my partner and sometimes that causes me to not want to see them as much or our relationship feels more like a chore….but because I love my boyfriend for who he is sometimes I still commit to doing things together because I want to choose our relationship! Is this normal and a healthy way to choose love? Would your course help me with these doubts?

    Reply
    • Yes, this is normal and yes this is a healthy way to choose love and yes the course would help enormously :).

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  12. Hi Sheryl, I bought your online Open Your Heart Program. Is it possible to join the live version of this round? I think I remember reading it somewhere? 🙂 Bridget.

    Reply
    • Yes, my assistant will be in touch ;).

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  13. Hi Sheryl– Thank you so much for your words. I really, really needed this perspective. I wonder if COVID/shelter in place has contributed to a huge surge in my relationship anxiety? Not trying to completely abdicate responsibility here, because I can see that lately I’ve done so many of things that you mention in this article–the cringing, the moral high road, the nagging, shrinking away from my partner. Not to mention excessive googling and reassurance seeking. Sigh. I’ve been with my partner 3.5 years, took the BreakFree course several years ago and it was tremendous and really helped me so much. But my goodness-my RA has reared it’s ugly head very strongly. We are living in a place where we’ve been under Shelter in Place restrictions since March. We live in an apartment in the city and, since March, we have both been working from home. We spend nearly all of our time together, which I’m starting to think is contributing to my ability to work with my RA. Before, we each went to work each day, we had some limited work travel, we had some meals elsewhere, etc etc. Now it seems like we are with each other 24/7 in a small apartment. Anyhow, this is all to say, I realize now that I need to really tackle my RA. I will be going through BF again. But I am concerned about how COVID plays a role in all of this..

    Reply
    • Hi Cassie,

      These have surely been trying times. Being together 24/7 certainly will make your relationship feel challenged. My husband and I are in Florida but, we had COVID in February our work places wouldn’t let us come back until we had a negative test and we continued to test positive for 21 days 3 weeks!!! It was challenging. We were three months away from getting married and I was hyper focusing on the relationship with little much else to do. However, we kept communication open and made it through. I think we were both depressed. Sick for the first week then after ready to go back to work so depression set in. I found that painting, calling friends, stretching (was to weak to exercise), and watching movies together helped. Finding a healthy and creative outlet for the anxious energy. Working in two separate rooms to emulate being away from each other for a few hours. Taking a walk or getting some fresh air to yourself.

      Reply

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