: 03 October 2013

​This is the Biggest Barrier to Love

We all desire to feel sublimely connected to another person. It’s how we are wired.
We want love. We want intimacy. We want the sense of wholeness and completion that comes from bonding with another human being.

So why do so many of us have trouble either finding love, or keeping it once we have it? Well, there is one big mistake that we’re all guilty of making.

We close ourselves off from deep connection, often without knowing it, and this becomes the biggest saboteur of love.

In this article, I’m going to talk about why it’s so common for us to unconsciously wall our hearts off, why this keeps love out of our lives, and how to turn the process around.

Let’s start with this: We have all been hurt in relationships. All of us. No exceptions.

Whether the pain occurred early in life, whether your heart got broken by your first love, or whether you are currently in the midst of heartache, we all have experienced the pain that comes from a relational breakdown.

Naturally, when we get hurt so badly, we are going to move into protection mode. Of course! We want to block ourselves off; we don’t want to feel that kind of pain again!

But, guess what? Blocking yourself off from connection to other people creates another kind of pain–a dull, lonely, longing pain. A pain that cannot be met or soothed as long as you remain at a distance from others.

Many of us are doing just this–blocking our hearts away from love–and we don’t even realize it! Here’s how we do it:

We don’t fully commit. We don’t get close. We don’t act authentically. We try to to be someone we aren’t.

We become too hard. We become too soft. We become too nice. We push. We manipulate. We control. We force.

And, as a result, we feel very distanced from love. (Not to mention, exhausted.)

Basically any behavior that is fear-driven, inauthentic, and trying to protect yourself is, essentially, blocking you from love.

So this creates quite a predicament for us, doesn’t it? What do we do?

We have to start by understanding this: None of us want to get hurt again, but unfortunately, the fact is, it’s going to happen.

I know you don’t want it to; I don’t either. But there is no other option. If you choose to live your life with an open heart, you are signing up to experience it all.

You essentially have two choices: You can live your life in protection mode, blocking your heart off, yet not fully connecting in a way that deeply satisfies you. Or you can live with an open heart and feel the fullness of life–all the bliss, all the connection, all the challenges, all the suffering.

It’s your choice.

Living with an open heart is a practice. Like anything else, it’s not like you arrive to “the land of open hearts” and remain there forever. You have to continue to choose to open yourself back up again and again.

You, like rest of us, are trained to close yourself down through the pain. The path of the open heart recognizes when they are closing, collapsing, running, distancing, being fake, and they consciously make a decision to do it differently. Time and time again.

You close. You reopen. You close again. Open again. Back and forth. Like all practices, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

I believe there is an innate desire within us to be closely connected to others. It’s what we really want. And the only thing holding us back is our fear of getting hurt.

Move passed the fear. Open again. Choose connection. The fullness of your life will expand greatly as a result.

Please leave a comment below, telling us your experience with opening and closing to love. I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Jackie Morrison on October 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I loved how you described how closing oneself off creates a dull ache… it says it perfectly. Sharing this post. Leaves me with much to think about.

    • Sandy on October 5, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      I have had this experience you talk of a number of times in my life. The last time it happened in 1998 it took me 9 yrs. to get over it. Even then I was only partially open to seeing other men. I still loved that person and blamed myself for the relationship ending.Eventually I did see others but was always guarded for fear of being hurt again. Gradually though I found myself deciding the person was not suitable for me. It took a big break from men all together for me to want to see another one. Now I’m married but we were friends first. And that meant a lot to me.

      • Jackie Morrison on October 6, 2013 at 7:07 am

        I can seen people not recover ever from one heartbreak so being closed can be that strong. In the past few years I have found that this is an area that needs attention to take down the walls. I’m starting EMDR to get some old emotions out. My therapist does both talk therapy and EMDR.

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

      Thanks Jackie!

  2. Sara on October 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    This is incredible. All of your posts are, really. I am finally recovering from a breakup from August, but putting myself out there again and connecting with others. I’ve gone back and forth and notice that at times I unconsciously go back to a fearful place. I check in with myself and realized that even I may get hurt again, like I did in the last relationship, it was also really wonderful and I have no regrets. All relationships are lessons and each one is better than the last. Thanks for this reminder!

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:04 am

      I’m glad you are enjoying them, Sara. It’s true, we just continue growing and growing!

  3. Deb on October 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    very nice lines.but I cann’t understand the ‘open heart’ concept.

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:05 am

      It’s not a logical concept, rather a more-intuitive concept. Don’t try to figure it out with your mind; feel into what it might mean to have an open heart.

  4. Riz on October 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Recently hurt very badly first time heatbroken, letting go is hard for me as I give so much love without protecting myself, and ive become protective and I hate being like this, I was made to open my heart not close it 🙁

  5. C.E. on October 4, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I think that by “open heart” Shelly reffers to an attitude of acceptance of the opportunities to love that life challenges us with, the willingness to take chances, to try, even knowing that things may or may NOT work out.

    • tiffany on October 5, 2013 at 9:40 am

      i agree with C.E.

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:05 am


  6. ann on October 5, 2013 at 2:30 am

    First article of yours that leaves me not completely understanding……… I love listening and reading from you , i always look in to opening your emails, but if you can get a little more deeper in this one I will deeply appreciate it.Thanks 😀

  7. Lisa on October 5, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I agree entirely with this , two years ago I got involved with somebody and although it was a brief encounter it was one of my most significant as I realised that it was not the authentic me that he wanted and had clearly been damaged himself by a difficult maternal relationship. I digress…..so yes I get it and still wish for somebody special in my life. The first person I have met since the last final heart wrenching was a week ago but the timing is wrong as I start my third course of treatment to have a baby on my own this week (i turn 42 at Christmas) which I hope if it works out will be the biggest heart experience of all.

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:06 am

      Thank you for sharing.

  8. tiffany on October 5, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I have been on a roller coaster the past 4 months with my 10 year relationship. I thought we finally crashed. Alas, he has “seen the light”. My old m.o. would be to shut right down cut him out of my life. The new, open hearted me, is willing to see what might be possible. I am learning to be very honest with exactly how I feel. I might not get the results that I want, but for the first time in my 47 years I am being honest and open. Every minute,, I am choosing to stick to the open heart, honest route. Even if it is scary and I might get hurt in the end. Something in me has realized the old closed off route is no longer an option. Just knowing that is giving me strength and some level of peace around all of this. Part of the journey!!

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:06 am

      Thank you for posting.

  9. Rayna on October 5, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    I have been disappointed in my love relationships countless times, but my new boyfriend and I seem to be connecting on a deeper level than I have ever have before. I took a great risk to meet him and yet, I always felt it was “right”, that he would not harm me, and he has been the best thing that has happened to me in a long time, if ever. I have opened my heart, and I feel that I am being authentic and I believe he is too. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I will never regret our relationship – yes it takes guts to open your heart and there are no certainties in life, but I am happy for the moment and that’s a great gift.

    • sarah on October 20, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      thank you thank you thank you for sharing. i’m in a situation where i’ve shut a man down who i am really attracted to…because of fear of getting hurt. he made several attempts but i totally discouraged him. i recently decided to reach out with an open heart and hope for the best… and your message gave me a much needed boost that i was right in following my intuition. there is something really compelling about him and i’m so curious 🙂 all the best on your heart journey!!

      • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:06 am

        Thank you both for sharing.

  10. katrine on October 8, 2013 at 7:22 am

    How to practice to open the heart?

    • Jackie Morrison on October 10, 2013 at 10:53 am

      If you are into guided meditation, Debi Berndt has a YouTube video Called Open Your Heart to Love and Abundance which is based on her expertise in clinical hypnotherapy. If past hurts have you scared to open your heart you may want to try EMDR which is a trauma therapy that licensed mental health professionals who are certified can administer. Hakomi and Somatic Experiencing is good too. As we acquire life experience, sometimes the residue of sad moments, can keep our hearts closed out of subconscious habits.

  11. Sam on October 15, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Ms. Bullard,
    I found your website via MindBodyGreen. Interesting perspectives. Thank you for your work.

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:06 am

      Thank you, Sam. Welcome. 🙂

  12. Brie on October 17, 2013 at 1:00 am

    So simply and eloquently explained. I’d love to pass this article along to everyone I know. I’m imagining what the world would be like if everyone read this article first thing in the morning and meditated on these principles to conclude the day. What an inspiring thought!! Thank you, Thank you

    • Shelly Bullard on November 9, 2013 at 2:07 am

      Awesome Brie! Pass it along! 😉

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…

I’ve helped 125,000+ expansive, beautiful humans manifest their desires through my YouTube channel.

Over the last decade, I transformed my love life… I went from feeling terrified that I may never find love or have a family of my own to manifesting marriage, my baby, our dream home, and so much more. Now, I want to help you do the same.

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