“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” ~Marianne Williamson
Love terrifies me.
After having loved, courted, and married the love of my life, things went sour. Over the course of a few years, our marriage crumbled and our relationship came to a sudden halt.
When you’ve only been with one person, loved that person to the core, and believed that person to be your soul mate, you take the breakup unusually hard.
Yes, tears. Yes, sorrow. Yes, seclusion. Yes, withdrawal. Yes, not wanting to get out of bed.
I experienced every symptom of heartbreak to its bitter end. The breakup was like a tsunami in my calm life.
Over these last couple years of healing, I’ve found it difficult to let down the walls protecting my heart and find the courage to trust someone new.
I’ve had to actively take steps to overcome my fears of love.
Here are six ways to remove the protective walls around your heart and permit love to bloom in your life.
1. Make peace with the past.
In order to move on from heartbreak, you have to be willing to let go of all that has happened. Yes, you shared a lot together. Yes, it all meant something. And yes, it was supposed to have lasted a lifetime.
But things don’t always work out the way you want them to. You simply cannot control all the circumstances that unfold in your life.
People make mistakes. Your ex may not have been mature yet, not fully conscious or developed as a person, or they didn’t know who they were at the time. They may not have had enough life experiences or enough emotional maturity.
You cannot hold onto grudges, inequities, and resentment toward them because of what happened in the past. As difficult as you may find it, you have to let go and forgive.
There are a couple of ways to do this: first, take responsibility for your part in the relationship; and second, try to empathize with your ex. Try to consider where they might have been at that point in their life, understand their shortcomings, and extend compassion toward them.
To heal, go through the grieving process and try to let go of the past. Don’t let this movie continue to play in your mind like a scary horror flick. Imagine this relationship as a film you’ve already seen and don’t allow it to replay repeatedly in your mind, scarring you for life.
Also, be grateful for the good times you shared and the lessons of the past relationship.
2. Nurture and show yourself compassion.
After you let go of the resentment and heartache, take care of yourself.
It’s easy to beat yourself up and blame yourself for your shortcomings, faults, and your role in the breakup.
You’re not perfect. But think about how much you’re growing and learning about yourself. No one else in the world other than this past intimate life partner could have helped you grow so much.
Be grateful for the insights about yourself you’ve gained. Treat yourself in a healthy and positive way.
Eat better. Get back to exercising. Go back to those yoga classes and meditation practices. Read books on healing and growth. Sleep more. Relax more. Allow for more downtime in your life.
Treat yourself as well as you would treat someone you cared a great deal about.
3. Share your pains and sorrow.
A big mistake I made during my healing was isolating myself from everyone I knew. I was embarrassed and in pain.
I’ve since found out that not sharing with others was a heavy and toxic behavior. Keeping it all in was too much to bear.
I initially started seeing a counselor, then started sharing my experiences with acquaintances and colleagues at work. Over time, I eventually shared my pain with friends and family.
The sooner you share with others, the easier you’ll find your journey back to healing.
You’ll also find yourself being much more vulnerable than ever before. This can be scary, but you’ll soon find that all the falsities and insecurities about yourself will fall away.
In the process of becoming vulnerable, you’ll start getting to your core, your real self. You’ll find that it’s in this honest place that your true power lies.
People want to be there for you during this difficult time. Make space for them to do it.
4. Seek love in other parts of your life.
Even if you’re not ready for a romantic relationship right now, allow love to come in from other parts of your life.
Spend more time with friends and people you genuinely care about and love.
Pursue those hobbies that make your heart sing, and do those activities that make you feel good.
Try to infuse as much of your day with love. Eliminate activities, people, and tasks that constrict your soul.
Schedule loving and feel-good activities into your calendar. You’ll start noticing how your internal positive vibrations will spill over to external positive circumstances.
The more love you cultivate in your life, the more love you’ll see around you.
5. Sit with the beliefs that scare you.
The way to deal with your fears of dating and loving again is to confront all the many negative beliefs that will pop up in your mind. There will be many of them.
The opposite sex is no good. People will only hurt you. You were not made for love. You are unlovable. You don’t have the ability to love. You’re broken. Your past made you this way.
If these misguided beliefs come up, acknowledge them and sit with them.
Ask yourself if these beliefs are real or a result of past negative experiences. Do your beliefs apply to everyone? Have others been able to find love and compatible relationships?
Are your beliefs based on truth or your deepest fears?
Question your beliefs. Challenge them. Or simply sit with them and allow questions about these false beliefs to come up.
By sitting with your fear-based beliefs and considering alternative ones, you’ll realize that your fears will have less power over you over time.
If sitting is too passive of an exercise for you, test your beliefs with friends who have had positive experiences with love and relationships. Permit them to help you shift your beliefs and perspectives on love.
6. Continue practicing small acts of courage in opening your heart.
To love again and open up again is a challenge after a heart-crushing breakup. When your heart has been ripped out and your broken relationship feels like shattered glass, it’s hard to trust again.
It’s hard to believe again. It’s hard to open up yourself again.
It can’t be done overnight but it can be done through small steps and over time.
It can start by saying “hello” to the next person who greets you.
It can mean returning a smile.
It can mean saying “yes” to coffee and not filling up your mind with dozens of reasons why coffee with this person is a bad idea.
It can mean saying “yes” to a blind date.
And it means saying “yes” to someone who wants to introduce you to someone who they think is a great match for you.
Take tiny steps of saying “yes” when your heart screams “no.”
You might believe that no amount of pleasure or happiness is worth the pain and suffering you’ve endured. You can’t afford the emotional, psychological, and mental games another ruined relationship is going to bring your way.
I get it. I’ve been there and wallowed in that place for a long time. Ultimately, I realized we have only two choices: be a prisoner of our heartbreak or break free and chose to re-write our story on love.
Love is possible if you make a choice to do the work to open up your heart again. You’ve come a long way. You’re more knowledgeable about yourself, smarter about relationships, more savvy about love, and better able to handle changes.
Your heart can break open into a satisfying and fulfilling relationship. Past darkness can open up to the most brilliant light.
Open your heart to the possibilities of new beginnings and more joy.
Man at heart window image via Shutterstock