What do you associate love with? Is it pain? Is it fear? Is it anxiety? And where do your ideas about love come from?
Many of us associate love with suffering due to our past relationship experiences. If we’ve been cheated on, if we’ve been through a painful break-up or if we’ve been emotionally abused by someone who was supposed to love us, love can be terrifying.
Sometimes, we haven’t even had a relationship — our parents’ marriage was so unstable and hostile that we created the belief that love was not safe.
Whatever you perceive love to be, your beliefs are always the result of your experiences. They’re not necessarily true. They’re just your truth.
When I went through my first break-up, and when I later found out my then boyfriend had cheated on me multiple times, I felt miserable. I was in absolute despair. I couldn’t understand why love was portrayed as this beautiful, captivating thing if it was making me suffer so much.
As so many people in similar situations, I closed my heart to the possibility of love. I told myself I would never love someone again. I convinced myself that I was better off on my own.
From that point on, every time someone showed interest in me, I’d freak out. There was no way I’d ever put myself in a position that could eventually lead me to the same pain again.
I want you to learn from my mistakes.
Your Fear Is Normal, But Don’t Feed It
It’s completely normal to feel the need to protect yourself when going through a heartbreak. It’s completely normal close yourself off when everything hurts so much that you think you can’t live anymore, or to build some very high walls that no one can ever break.
In fact, we all should give ourselves the time to process our emotions, not jump from one relationship to another as so many people do these days. But there’s another side to it.
After a few years of feeling miserable, I eventually decided to allow myself to enter another relationship. It didn’t work, but it became clear that I still had a lot of fears and insecurities that I had to work on. I needed to figure out how to heal these fears and how to feel comfortable in my own skin.
I genuinely believed that not getting myself into any relationship for another few years was a healthy, mature decision since I wanted to “process things on my own”. And it was. But things are not that easy, as we all crave love and closeness, even if we’re not aware of it.
I soon realized I was stuck in a cycle of pushing people away once they got too close, and pulling them in once I was feeling relatively safe again. I had only experienced serious, committed relationships, so this push-pull dynamic was totally new for me.
I also realized that everyone I’d date would do the exact same thing to me. At first, I thought it was just undeniable proof of how broken and unlovable I was. But after a few years, it became clear that everyone was just as afraid and messed up as I was. We were all avoiding and feeding our own fears.
The worst part is, our society has normalized this behavior. We think it’s normal to “keep things casual” in the beginning of a relationship (or should I say pseudo-relationship?) or to “make yourself unavailable to keep the mystery” because “that’s how dating works”.
Well, that’s not normal. In fact, it just shows how we’ve normalized our fear of love, connection and emotional intimacy.
By pushing love away, what we’re really doing is escaping the pain by avoiding it — and that won’t take us anywhere. Sure, it may decrease our likelihood of getting hurt, but it also decreases our likelihood of being truly seen, heard and accepted. Being detached gives us the impression that we’re stronger, but we’re not strong at all, we’re just filed with fear.
We All Need Emotional Intimacy
Although I was terrified of loving again, I was also starving for affection. And this touches a point that I wish I had known many years ago.
You can push love away for as long as you want to, but that won’t fix any of your problems. In fact, they’ll just grow bigger and bigger until you’re able to stop for a while and actually face them.
You can push love away, but there will always be something missing. Maybe you’re successful at your job, maybe your flings here and there are enough to make you feel superficially loved and give you a taste of intimacy, but they will never make you feel truly seen.
You can detach yourself from everyone, but your detachment is not a proof of strength and independence, because the real strength lies in our ability to look at our emotional wounds and gently start over.
You can avoid intimacy to make sure nobody ever touches your heart again, but what you’re really doing is giving power to the people who hurt you and forbidding yourself from being really loved.
Don’t let them dictate the future of your life. Don’t give them the power to close your heart for years. Instead, take your power back by sitting with your pain and moving on.
Sit with it for as long as you need to. It can be months, it can be years. Let your feelings come up to the surface without blocking them. Let your pain be heard, and don’t be afraid to share it with others — you don’t have to isolate yourself and go through this alone.
We push love away because fear feels safer than love, and because we’re all too scared to face our real emotions. Because we live in a society that doesn’t have awareness of feelings and emotional needs.
But fear won’t heal you, nor will it make you feel better in the long run. It will only allow you to escape your pain temporarily.
Love is a core human need. It’s everywhere and we all need it to live an authentic, purposeful life. We can act strong and tell ourselves we’re better off without it, but at the end of the day we know, deep down, what we truly feel.
When the day has passed and there’s no one but you, when there’s no more goals to achieve or people to impress, do you feel love?Or do you feel fear?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info?
Photo credit: Yoann Boyer on Unsplash