When I first met my now husband Noah, who I affectionately refer to as “Walking Love” for his great ability to give love fully and freely, my “love quotient” – which is one’s capacity for receiving love – was about the size of a pea. While deep inside I knew I desired deep intimacy and connection, my heart had learned a lesson that unfortunately many of us receive early in life and then go on to repeat relationships that reinforce it:

Opening your heart is not safe.

Which meant that although I had finally met a man who in many ways matched what I had been praying for, I was unable to let in the love he had to offer. At one level, I was elated that I had found a potential partner who I didn’t have to beg or wish would be loving, kind and supportive, like I had in former relationships. But at a deeper level, I was blocked.

I wanted to eat up the love that I had longed for, but when Noah would shower me with affection, adoration and appreciation, instead of my heart opening to bask in feelings of joy and pleasure, my heart contracted and closed. It was like being at the best buffet in the world and having a stomach the size of a pea that could only consume, well, a few peas.

I did what any scared-to-death-of-real-vulnerability girl would do in a situation of love overload… find reasons NOT to like this man!

Too bald, unfashionable, not ambitious enough (by my over-achiever standards), I came up with some pretty great excuses for why he wasn’t the right fit for me. I even tried to set him up with my sister! My self-sabotaging subconscious was working hard to eject this love out of my life, and it found plenty to obsess about.

What I couldn’t see at the time was that I was pushing out and blocking the love my heart and soul craved for one reason…I was scared to death.

Noah was becoming dangerously close to penetrating the deep layers of protection I had spent years building up around my heart to prevent myself from getting hurt. The pattern of protection was so ingrained that even though on the inside I wanted a loving relationship, on the outside I couldn’t stop myself from doing and saying things that were sabotaging the very thing I desired.

Luckily at the time, I was in therapy, was attending a spiritual center, plus was surrounded by some pretty wise friends who woke me up (I was determined to breakthrough the crap that had kept me re-creating unhappy love relationships for once and all!) What I realized – and have never forgotten – is that we all build walls of protection because we’ve all been hurt. Our beautiful, loving, open hearts have at one time or another been tromped on, broken or betrayed and so our normal, and probably necessary action at the time, was to build walls, force fields, layers of protection around our hearts… resulting in the miniature, shrunken love quotients most of us walk around with.

But there comes a time in each of our lives, when, if we truly want to experience love to the levels we all yearn for deep inside, than we have to be willing to melt away the force fields, take down the walls, and slowly step forward to reveal ourselves, our hearts, our vulnerabilities, and our innocence to others. Because…

opening up ourselves to RECEIVE more love,
which allows us to FEEL more loved,
which allows us to GIVE more love,
results in an increased capacity to FREELY and FULLY
give and receive love unconditionally.

My story has a happy ending – I married mentioned loving man and this year we will celebrate our tenth year of marriage, with a deeper partnership than when we started. And just like going to the gym to strengthen your abs or your biceps, I’ve had to strengthen my heart’s ability to stay open every day. So in the times when I get triggered emotionally or I feel vulnerable or afraid, instead of pushing Noah out and blocking myself from the very love that will heal, I can let the love in.

Keeping my heart open and being honest with myself about the ways I block love is an everyday practice. One that I invite you to try yourself. If you have to practice and strengthen something, I have to say love is pretty darn good.

Over the years I’ve worked my heart out to open itself up in ways like:

  • Practicing receiving small bursts of love, like compliments or random acts of kindness. Instead of rejecting love when someone would give me a compliment by discounting or deflecting the acknowledgment, or by declining the support when someone would offer to help me out – like lift my luggage on the airplane or take a part of a project off my plate — I practiced receiving the compliment and help fully. Compliments and offers of support are offers of love, so when we reject them we reject love and that has a ripple affect throughout all the relationships in our lives.
  • Creating close, healthy and vulnerable connections with people of the same gender. I never knew that my relationship with the females in my life had anything to do with my romantic relationships with men. Wow was I wrong. As I began healing my relationships with women, choosing to open myself up to more than one or two deep soul sister relationships, choosing to put myself into intimate circles with other women willing to explore our healing path together, and choosing to let go of unhealthy female relationships, my heart opened more to Noah. Opening our hearts and healing the blocks we have with our same gender has a profound impact on our romantic relationships, because your heart learns to trust again in ways it can only do with other women for women and other men for men.
  • Being honest with myself about why I was protecting my heart. I remember Noah saying to me one day in the midst of a fight in which I was really angry, “While I did screw up, I don’t think that the punishment you are wielding is worth the crime.” Those words hit me like a cold bucket of water in the face, as I realized that while I was angry at Noah, the intense degree of the anger was connected to hurt from my former relationship. In that moment I had to see that Noah wasn’t my ex-person, he wasn’t trying to control or hurt me, in fact, he wanted to help me and work through things. But until I opened my heart that would be impossible!

Given it’s the month of love, I thought I’d amp up my practice to keep my heart open to love, and invite you to join me. What better time to start such a practice – a practice of strengthening your heart’s ability to stay open and as a result receive more love this year in all the ways you need it – support, affection, compassion, nurturing, acknowledgment, gratitude, appreciation, adoration.

Needing love isn’t weak, it’s human. @ChristineArylo (Click to Tweet!)

It’s when we deny our basic need for love that we end up in trouble – starving for love, we make bad choices that leave us feeling more lonely, more afraid and more unsupported.

Christine Arylo, m.b.a., is an inspirational catalyst, transformational teacher and best-selling self-love author who teaches people how to put their most important partnership first, the one with themselves, so that they can create the life their souls crave. The popular author of the go-to book on relationships Choosing ME before WE and the self-love handbook, Madly in Love with ME, the Daring Adventure to Becoming Your Own Best Friend, and her newest Reform Your Inner Mean Girl. She’s affectionately known as the “Queen of Self-Love” for her groundbreaking work in self-love, including founding the international day of self-love on Feb 13th. Arylo is the co-founder of the self-love and empowerment school for women, Inner Mean Girl Reform School.  You can follow here on Twitter, FB or visit her sites here & here