Carlo Alcos knows he needs to learn to love himself, but that doesn’t make it any less frightening.
“Why is it so hard for you to let go?” she asked. I paused, deep in thought. Then the words started tumbling out of my mouth. “Because…I’m scared.” At the sound of these words hitting my own ears, my eyes welled up and my throat constricted. I was bawling. I buried my head deep into her neck and allowed the tears to soak into her blue scarf.
About an hour earlier she’d come into my room, sat on the bed, and made a declaration that I knew she’d been wrestling with for some time, but was committed to. There was no stopping it. “I can’t be in this relationship any longer. And I need you to not fight me on this.” I saw this coming, yet I couldn’t be more unprepared for it. Before she drove to my house, when we were talking on the phone, when she said “can I come over to talk?” and I asked her, “how should I be feeling right now?” she told me to be “strong. Feel strong.”
But I didn’t feel strong. I felt scared. This was the most beautiful relationship I’ve ever been in. We’d never fought. Not once. Everything fit well. Everything felt good. We were immensely attracted to each other physically, intellectually, spiritually. But she listened to a truth within her, a truth that told her the relationship wasn’t right. So she ended it.
For the first time in my life I’ve sought counseling. Not because of this break-up; I saw him a couple of times while I was still in the relationship. My purpose of seeking therapy was because, although I can recognize my emotional patterns as they arise, I do not know how to move beyond them. I do not know how to deal with my neediness, my intense longing for loving attention. In the end, of course, the answer came back to be self-loving. (Why is the answer to everything to love yourself more?)
This is what I face now. In the space that I’ve been leaving for her to fill with her love and her attention is also where my fear is. I’ve worked out—done enough reading, enough talking, enough listening, enough living—that we are capable of giving ourselves all the love that we need to be fulfilled. We have to be able to because we are the only ones we can depend on. For certain, we are the only ones we will be with for the rest of our lives. I’m starting to realize that this is what I’m so afraid of.
I’m 35 years old. I’ve lived my entire life depending on others’ love to make me whole. I’m used to it; I’m comfortable with it. When it comes, it’s amazing. When it goes, I fall into the hole that it leaves. If I learn to love myself wholly, then my dependency disappears. I have a feeling that I love this dependency. What does it mean to not need others to fulfill us? Maybe I’m scared that if I don’t need it from others, then I will no longer make deep connections. I love people, I love connection. Rationally, I know this isn’t true, that connections will probably be even deeper if I loved myself more. But what about love is rational?
I’m addicted to need. And, like any other addiction, there’s an intense fear that accompanies the idea of not having that substance anymore. But it eats me. I need to overcome the fear, and there is little choice but to face it if I want to stop the pattern from repeating for the rest of my life. I know that. But I’m afraid.