Are you afraid to fall in love?

‘Are you afraid to fall in love?’ may sound like an odd question to ask on a Christian Connection blog. You’re on a dating website. You’re clearly looking for a partner. So you’re ready to fall in love, right? If only it were that simple.

I know from my own experience and from conversations with friends, coaching clients and the women who come on my retreats that it’s all too easy to think we’re open to and ready for a committed, intimate relationship. We do all the right things: we create an attractive online profile; contact men or women who interest us; arrange to meet potential partners face-to-face.

Yet beneath the surface, we’re actually terrified of risking our tender heart and of sharing our lives with anyone – and we’re subconsciously doing things to sabotage our chances of finding a match.

Here are some of the ways my fear kept me single (although I had no idea what was happening at the time):

  • My fear stopped me from making an effort to meet a potential partner. I’d sign up to dating websites but I wouldn’t spend any time looking through profiles or sending messages. Or I’d browse through people’s profiles, send a message or reply to one, have a brief conversation, only to let the whole thing fizzle out. I would rarely manage to meet anyone in real life. I was always too busy. I always had something better to do. As an aside, it’s incredible how much time and energy I’d willingly invest in finding a new job and how little I would dedicate to finding love.
  • My fear of actually being in a committed relationship led me into relationships with men who were emotionally or physically unavailable. They couldn’t or wouldn’t commit; they lived on a different continent; they were wedded to their work; or they were addicted to alcohol or something else.
  • My fear led me to find fault with every man I met. I decided that the nice guys were too nice, the reliable guys were too dull, and the thoughtful, kind guys were too soft. I judged men on everything from their career to their choice of shoes, always dismissing them as not quite good enough. There’s nothing wrong with having standards, of course, but my ridiculously high standards were a barrier to love.
  • My fear of falling in love led me to believe that there just had to be someone better. Even after meeting a lovely guy, I’d keep wondering about the next one I might meet, and the next one after that. How could I possibly commit to this man when there were so many other potential dates? What if I got it wrong? What if I made a mistake?
  • My fear of risking my heart also led me to believe that a relationship wasn’t for real unless it looked like something out of Hollywood. I expected lightning bolts and crazy chemistry. Anything less than the fireworks I saw in the movies couldn’t be true love in my mind.

So why was I afraid? Why did my subconscious keep sabotaging my relationships?

The answer goes back to my childhood, to that moment when my dad sat me on his knee and told me he was moving out. The pain I felt that day was so great that I made a decision, deep down inside, that I would never risk my heart again.

I also came away from that and other early experiences believing that I didn’t deserve love. When we’re children, we think the world revolves around us, so naturally I thought my dad’s departure was my fault. I thought he didn’t love me anymore. I concluded there was something wrong with me and I was ashamed of that. After that, I didn’t want a man to get too close, because he might discover the truth that I was unlovable.

So I was afraid of getting hurt again and of being truly seen. On top of that, I was scared of being in an intimate relationship because I thought I’d feel suffocated and trapped. After witnessing my parents’ relationship – how they argued, fell out and eventually divorced – I concluded that marriage was a lonely, unhappy, volatile place. Why would I want to subject myself to that?

With so many fears and negative core beliefs, I’d still be single now if I hadn’t taken the courageous decision to look inside myself, to explore my past, to understand my patterns and to change those patterns. I didn’t do this alone, of course. I got help – from God, yes, but also from therapists, coaches and people who had similar struggles.

Now, seven months off my wedding, I’m no longer afraid. I am committed to a life-long partnership with the man I love. It took time – I’m 47 – but I have changed my patterns, overturned my faulty beliefs, and completely turned my life around.

If you can relate to any of the behaviours I outline above – avoiding dates, dismissing and judging potential partners, falling for unavailable men or women, always looking for someone better, or expecting a Hollywood-style lightning bottle and not settling for anything less – ask yourself this: Am I afraid? Am I afraid of falling in love?

Don’t be scared of the answer. Knowledge is power. And awareness is the first step to change.

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