: 21 May 2013

Fear Will Surface In Your Relationship (Here’s What To Do About It)

Fear will surface in your relationship. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s crucial for you to understand this if you’re going to be successful in love.
When we don’t realize that it’s normal to feel scared, insecure, doubtful and off-center with the people we love, our minds begin to doubt the relationship as a whole. When we equate challenges with something being wrong, we’ve missed the mark on what relationships are all about.

In a Return to Love, Marianne Williamson equates romantic relationships to earning a Ph.D. in love. She says, “When we’re not in a relationship, the ego makes it seem as though all the pain would go away if we were. If the relationship lasts, however, it will actually bring much of our existential pain to the surface. That’s part of it’s purpose. It will demand all of our skills at compassion, acceptance, release, forgiveness, and selflessness.”

Once your heart says “yes,” you better believe monumental challenges are on their way. This is the point! Love brings our fears (feelings such as doubt, rejection, jealousy, anger, frustration, overwhelm, and confusion) forward so we can set them right.

Unfortunately, most of us get stumped. Why? Because we collectively adhere to the delusion that relationships should be blissful all the time.

We know that relationships take work, but let’s be honest, we secretly think they shouldn’t be hard. Therefore when they are, we usually point the finger at our partners and miss the opportunity to face the fear that exists within ourselves.

As a disclaimer, I don’t support remaining in abusive relationships. However, colluding with the idea that something’s wrong with your relationship if it’s challenging is a disservice to you, and to the greater movement of love. So instead I’m going to tell it like it is: you will face your greatest challenges within your greatest love relationships.

Our true loves have the potential to bring us to the heights of happiness and the depths of pain. This is what makes romantic love the pinnacle of all experiences! This is why it’s so revered.

And this is also why it’s so hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe relationships are meant to feel fantastic a lot of the time. There’s nothing more blissful than being deeply connected with another person. Just don’t forget the rest of the story: the more connected you are, the more your fears will get stirred up.

Let me give you an example from my own relationship.

I have an undeniable soul-connection with my partner. The depth of love I feel for him is truly profound. And, the amount of fear that surfaces in our relationship is pretty profound, too.

Sometimes I’ll catch my ego saying things like: I’m not good enough. Is he going to leave? Does he love me? Do I love him?, and latching onto feelings such as doubt, fear, insecurity and rejection. At times, it’s a challenge for me to remain authentic and vulnerable–fear tries to convince me that I have to be different than who I really am. When this happens, I have two of options of how I can deal.

The old me would indulge these fears as reality, which would lead me to believe that something was seriously wrong. With him…with me…with the relationship. I wasn’t able to stand back and question the truth behind these fears (the phrase don’t believe everything you think would’ve come in handy here), so I would take them on as reality and feel overwhelmed with discomfort as a result. Not fun at all.

Luckily these days I see things differently. I understand that these fears are simply the result of the amount of love I feel for my partner. Because I’m more vulnerable with him than with anyone else on the planet, and because my heart is wide-open for him, I can get flooded with fear. This is not the result of something being wrong. Quite the contrary, actually; it’s the result of feeling so much love.

Knowing this, there’s one thing I can do to heal the situation: I have to choose love over fear.

I cannot allow myself to get trapped in believing the messages my ego is feeding me! I am not a small, powerless, helpless self! I am not less-than or inadequate! I am centered. I am present. I am soul. I am love.

Remembering this greater truth (again and again) disengages my ego and aligns me to path of my heart. The more I practice this, the more I identify with the truth of who I am, and the less I identify with fear. This is the evolution of the spirit.

We have to reach deep within ourselves to find the compassion, forgiveness, truth, and peace that will heal our greatest fears. It’s inside us if we look for it. But we’re only going to look for it if we realize the purpose of relationships is to bring our fears to the surface.

My relationship gives me a chance to fall off my path, so I can get right back on and strengthen my sense of self. This takes courage and commitment. It’s not for the faint of heart.

If you’re going to find true peace in your relationship, you must realize that it’s purpose is not to make everything easy. It’s actually the opposite; the purpose is to rouse you into a more profound sense of love. I hope you accept the challenge.

Please leave a comment below about how you confront the fears that surface in your relationship, and how you’ll continue to recommit to growing in love. I can’t wait to hear from you!


  1. Lisa Frideborg Lloyd on May 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Thanks for this, Shelly – so very true on both counts: the greater the love, the greater the fear… & yeah, secretly we think it should be easy.
    I’m currently working my way through the ‘May Cause Miracles’ course (only Day 3 so far) and it’s all about seeing the fear for what it is and choosing love instead. Like Marianne Willamson, Gabrielle Bernstein has harvested most of her wisdom from ACIM.

    We all have to wake up to these truths one way or another… so thank you for sharing your perspective and helping spread the word!

    Love & Light,

    • Shelly Bullard on May 22, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Lisa! I’m also a student of ACIM, and Gabby & Marianne are two of my main teachers. 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment. XOXO

  2. Sue on May 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Thanks Shelly,Everytime I have the thaughts you have been talking about, I find if I read your blog it helps me see things in a better way.
    I am 54 years old and in a relationship with a guy I dated 25 yrs ago, but it doesn;t get any easier.
    Thanks again for your help.
    Sue ..

    • Shelly Bullard on May 22, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      You are welcome, Sue. Lots of love to you. XOXO

  3. ali on May 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Wow Shelly! Your post is a gift from the universe to me!! Thank you so much for explaining the cause of my feelings, my doubts and fears!!
    You are AWESOME! A true GUIDE and LIGHT! Bless you!! 🙂

    • Shelly Bullard on May 22, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      I’m glad it spoke to you. XOXO

  4. Bets on May 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Yes yes and yes. Love or fear? I am challenged most days with that question. On the good days I chose love. On the tough days I chose fear.. But I can ALWAYS turn the “small” feeling of fear and powerlessness into love. If I tell the truth and accept responsibility for my thinking I become “big” again. It freaking works!!

    • Shelly Bullard on May 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      I know, isn’t it awesome?! Keep choosing love and it will keep working!! XOXO

  5. Michelle on May 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Great article 🙂 True for all relationships, really needed it this morning! Thank you.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      Thank you Michelle!

  6. Lydia on May 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Shelly! I really enjoy your posts. I love, love! This article about confronting fears in relationships couldn’t have come into my life at a more perfect moment. Just last night I went over to my boyfriend’s house to make dinner with him and walk the dog. He informed me that he is starting a new diet in hopes of losing a couple of pounds. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach… You see, I’m in recovery from an eating disorder that I struggled with for over 10 years. I am typically very stable around food these days but my lover was presenting me with a great new challenge. His enthusiasm for restricting his diet and losing weight flooded me with old memories of extreme dieting and binging. At first, I wanted to run and hide. Relationships should be fun and beautiful, right? That’s what I told myself. But, my heart overrode my ego and I decided to chat with him about how his exciting new plan was bad news to me. We talked and I cried. We hugged, kissed, and he told me how much he loved me. We came to a compromise between us regarding food. He plans to do less restricting and more healthy eating … I plan to face my fear of being around someone who is “dieting” (without letting myself relapse.) I came into work feeling so vulnerable and opened up from this discussion with him. Your beautiful article brought it full circle for me, Shelly! Thank you for your guidance and keep up the kick-ass work. You are fabulous.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing Lydia! And congrats, what you did sounds really vulnerable and really brave. We get to grow into a deeper sense of love when we put ourselves out there. Lovely.

  7. Maygen Nicholson on May 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I have the most amazing loving relationship, and lately I have been experiencing these fears and doubts. They were confusing at first because I didn’t understand why they were there, and they scared me. Now I realize it’s just an opportunity to grow, and a chance to build a healthy relationship with my ego. I am currently in this process of growth! So this process was right on time and I thank you!

    • Shelly Bullard on May 22, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      Awesome Maygen! Thanks for sharing! XOXO

  8. Alesea on May 23, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Thank you for a well written post.I would add that it also helps to remember how you got into therelationship; remember the happy moments you shared together; how much he/she showed you love…

    I read a book: “An endless falling in love” by Ty Gibson & one of the many things that inspired me is the thought that people who are in love don’t make commitments to each other in order that their love would last but their authentic love is the reason (or nest) commitments come from.

  9. Heather on May 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Shelly, Great words – I have sort of a question. I found you and your blog right as my intuition was telling me I was about to get dumped. I thought – it’s my fear! It’s choking the love, it’s sending him away. I read your writing and faced the fear, quelled the ego, and said “I love him unconditionally” a few hundred times a day. Just when I thought I conquered it and reached a new level of consciousness – he broke up with me. Was it going to go down that way no matter what? He “fell out of love” and didn’t see a future. I don’t think we ever had a deep connection….
    Another school of thought I read from is Kathryn Alice where soul mate connections generally flow and it isn’t like trying to drag an elephant like how I felt in this relationship. Fear is gone – is the idea I got. Can both those concepts resonate at the same time? I’ve never had a successful relationship, or even the bliss, but I am always learning and trying to open up. Open to any links, suggestions, etc – thank you so much!

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Heather,
      Thanks for your comment. What stands out for me is this statement: “I don’t think we ever had a deep connection.” I would say, you are on your path to more love. When we make a commitment to love, things happen around us that allows us to continue on that path. I imagine there is more love waiting for you around the corner, just keep committing to keeping your heart open.

      Also, sometimes we can confuse fear and intuition–perhaps your intuition was saying, “this is going to end,” and perhaps that is the right thing. Intuition is deep knowing within us–stay close to that knowing, follow your heart, and you will go in the direction you are supposed to go.

      Lots of love to you! XOXO

  10. Genene on May 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Thak you Shelly for your insight. I am have been dating this guy for 3 months and I am really falling for him however I let my fear of rejection or being hurt get in the way and create “drama” of some sort for him to prove how much he cares about me. I know I have to change this behaviour and I’m too old to be acting so immature (I am 41) but I am fearful of being hurt so I figure I will push him away before he walks away which is insane because I really don’t want him too!! Another one of my problems is that I OVER analyze things so every little text or word said is under my scrutiny. I have realized my faults and I hold myself accountabile for my actions however now I have to be disciplined and change my behavior and stop letting my emotions supersceed my intelligence in which I seek instant gratification. Thanks again for this blog it really inspired me and I look forward to other readings by you.

  11. Amy on May 23, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I really appreciate what you’ve said in this article; however, I’m having a hard time figuring out how it’s applying to my life. Just a few months after ending a serious long term relationship, and thinking I was being incredibly careful with birth control, I’ve gotten pregnant by a man whom I’d only known for a couple of weeks. Even before I found out that I was pregnant, he was already quite determined to get married to me, and while the fantasy of “finding my soul mate” sounded lovely, I wanted to take things slowly and get to know him. Now, since I’ve had a chance to spend more time with him, I’ve noticed that any time I try to talk about anything that shows me to be vulnerable (or asks him to be), he completely shuts down and changes the subject. I’ve even caught him in a couple of lies (and sometimes he’ll even blame me by twisting my words or inventing past situations) in order to get out of conversations that I feel build emotional intimacy. He has recently decided to seek therapy, but he also wants a lot of emotional support from me, and I am already overwhelmed with this pregnancy, my jobs and my own family obligations. If I try to share any of that with him, again, he skirts the topic and shuts me out. He often even forgets conversations I’ve had with him 2, 3 and 4 times.
    Now, we’ve just moved in together so that we both get a chance to bond with the baby, and I also think it’s important that he and I learn to communicate so we can co-parent effectively. And while I want to be supportive of his personal growth, I also don’t want to give him false hope of the fantastical future he’s been projecting on me. How can still stay open and compassionate toward him without giving him the wrong impression? I don’t want to live in the space of fear in this relationship, but I’m very skeptical of its prognosis and the effect on my emotional health.

  12. Aimee on May 25, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Thank you for this, Shelley. Beautifully said. xo

  13. phoenixrose360 on May 25, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I love this article, it made me cry, because this is the point I’m at in my current relationship. I want love, but I’m scared of letting love in, because I think they won’t love me if they knew ME! And yes the relationship was “hard”, why wouldn’t it be, when he’s trying to get through a brick wall? This article helped me realize, that if I want love, I need to cut the sh*t and stop the self sabotage and have faith!! Thank you!

  14. Amanda on June 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Love this as it is SO timely for me. My struggle now is whether it is necessary to share this fear with my partner (in a long distance love and talk time is limited) or conquer it alone since this is my issue, not his. What is the best way to navigate this? In the past, I’ve shared it with my partner which always created more distance and deepened my fear of abandonment. I want to change behavioral patterns so I’m thinking that conquering this alone may be worthwhile. Deep down, I have to heal myself and trust my man’s love as a source of support in the process. Your thoughts?

    • Shelly Bullard on June 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      I believe a combination of the two is best. We ultimately have to be responsible for our fears, and I think it is very important for us to be vulnerable with our partners and ask for their help. This builds intimacy. And it can be scary. Here’s my advice on how to do it:
      Approaching your partner from a place of, “I am scared right now because I have an ingrained fear of (blank) and I hope you can support me through it…” is VERY different than lashing out at him, clinging to him or demanding that he do something different so you can feel ok. The first approach is likely to elicit care, support, growth and intimacy. The second will push him further away.

  15. Flavia on June 20, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you so much. Your words are so clear to my soul and my mind. This made me feel confident..Thank you for sharing your thoughts, i really appreciate it.
    Flavia (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

    • Shelly Bullard on June 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you for your comment!! XOXO

  16. Linda Nguyen on June 24, 2013 at 7:08 am

    I’m going through a tough time right now and reading this article made me feel like I’m not alone. I’m in a great relationship with a great guy, but my insecurities are challenging me. I was great single; emotionally stable and confident, and I knew how to make myself happy. Now that I’m in a committed relationship, I feel vulnerable, sensitive, and always looking for validation. And I keep thinking, what is wrong with me?! I was trying to diagnose myself… I thought perhaps low self esteem, or maybe I was depressed but you nailed it when you talked about fear. I am scared and it’s perfectly okay to be scared so thank you for making me feel this is all a normal process of relationships.

    • Shelly Bullard on June 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      You are so welcome, Linda. My experience has shown that it is much easier to feel confident alone than in a deeply intimate relationship. This is all part of our growth process. No need to diagnose yourself–just keep coming back to the truth that you are perfect just as you are. Lots of love XOXO

  17. Vane on July 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Shelly,
    I have been dating someone for a little over a year now, and in the past 6 months we have been only physically intimate with one another. The “challenge” is that he says he’s not ready for a relationship and he just started a new job and going back to school (about 3 weeks ago). He wants to feel more like a provider and that he has a sesne of fulfillment in his life before being able to commit to anyone. But then why do we spend so much time together and do everything else basically like a relationship. One day he mentioned “fear” being one of the reasons he didnt accomplish things in the past and as to why he won’t be in a relationship now. But i think he’s using the excuses of wanting to accomplish certain things before committing, to cover up his fear. I dont know what to do anymore. I love him dearly, and it is especially difficult since we have been friends for 7 years.

    • Shelly Bullard on July 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      It sounds like potentially he loses himself in relationships, which is why it’s scary to him. You also might be pursuing him too hard, which is also scary for a man. If you want him to come to you, lean back and let him come to you. He most likely will. Feel free to set up an appointment with me if you want to discuss it further and figure out what to do next. Good luck! XOXO

      • Vane on July 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm

        Thank you! I live in Miami, FL. Do you do phone or web consultations?

        • Shelly Bullard on July 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm

          Both! You can contact me on my Contact Shelly page!! Looking forward to talking more!

  18. Yeye on October 17, 2013 at 2:30 am

    OMG! I read this and I thought: I have made a terrible mistake because I broke up with my BF last month because my insecurities, his name is Jim, I did not feel in love with him, Ok, I appreciate him so much, He is a gentleman, a kind and all good things that u can imagine. But, I did not feel connected with him, Am I guilty? the reasson for these doubts is that my ex-ex-BF , his name was George, committed suicide when I started my relationship with Jim, it was a year ago, I know! It is so hard and painful, and thanks to these kind of help that u offer to us, I have tried to go through this storm, this is so hard! OMG ! I can even write it. So I couldnt fell in love, totally in love with Jim because the pain that I started to feel for George. Am I guilty? Is it normal that I said good bye to Jim because my mourning? He was such a great guy, but my heart was asking me to stop and cry, cry, and more cry, to feel sadness and guilty, but not love! It would be happen to u as well? HUGS

  19. kayla on November 12, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Hi, thanks so much for this article. I have been friends with my boyfriend for years and we just started dating a year ago. Everything was perfect until about a week and a half ago. I started obsessively thinking and analyzing our relationship. I love him so so so much but insecurities kept popping into my head like “do i REALLY love him or am I just used to him?” and Does he love me? and Do we have a future? I believe our honeymoon phase just ended and the different feeling of love I was having was frightening me. Is this normal?

    • Shelly Bullard on November 12, 2013 at 1:47 am

      Hi Kayla, Thank you for your message. Yes, it’s normal. There’s a few things to keep in mind about relationships:1) They aren’t perfect (so we are going to feel doubts)
      2) They create an opportunity for us to practice letting go of our egos and dropping into the deeper sense of love in our hearts. This is a moment by moment practice.
      Just keep trying to contact your deeper truth (rather then spinning around in your mind). Good luck. You can do it. XO

      • kayla on November 16, 2013 at 6:29 am

        Thank you so much! I was afraid I was falling out of love with him or getting too used to our relationship. I love him so much and he is such a great guy so I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly doubting us! I dont know exactly how to contact the deeper truth and let go of my ego but I’m trying! I’m not willing to give up on us.

Before you dive any deeper...

Hi, I’m Shelly!

I’m a relationship coach, licensed marriage & family therapist, wife, girl mom, world traveler and… a damn good manifesting teacher.

On any random Saturday, you could find me hiking in the Redwoods with my family during the day AND relaxing to all songs on 🎶the foggy jazz🎶 station on Spotify in the evening with my man…

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