How To Overcome The Fear Of Love
By: Abigail Boyd
Updated February 03, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
"Fear and love are the deepest of human emotions."
Are you scared to fall in love? You're not alone. Fear of love is extremely common. Many people are afraid to love for a myriad of reasons. Love can make us feel uniquely vulnerable, especially if we've experienced a bad breakup or a series of rejections in the past. Fear of love can build walls around our hearts, depriving us of one of the most rewarding and beautiful parts of being alive.
If you're afraid of love, you may find yourself pushing people away in a misguided attempt to guard your heart. However, it doesn't have to be that way. While it may be difficult and require you to step outside of your comfort zone, overcoming the fear of falling in love can give you better intimacy and more satisfying relationships.
The root of your aversion to intimacy may have a great deal to do with how your primary caregiver treated you in childhood.Attachment theory contends that the way we are raised influences our behavior in adulthood, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.
There are four main attachment types:
- Secure: Those with secure attachment make up over half of the general population. In secure attachment, the child is allowed an even mix of security and freedom, able to explore but then consistently return to their caregiver as their home base. These children develop into secure adults with a strong sense of self and assertiveness in relationships.
- Anxious-Preoccupied: Those with anxious-preoccupied attachment did not have their needs consistently met in childhood. They were never allowed to safely explore away from their caregivers. Their caregiver may have been loving, but hot and cold. Someone with this attachment type tends to require constant reassurance from their partner and experiences great anxiety when they perceive any separation, real or imagined.
- Dismissive-Avoidant: Alternately, a person with this attachment style suppresses and ignores their emotional needs because they're used to never getting them met. Dismissive-avoidants were raised by caregivers that didn't provide a healthy emotional environment for them and forced independence early on. A person with this style may grow up feeling like they don't need a relationship and avoid intimacy at all costs.
- Fearful-Avoidant: Those with this avoidant attachment style often recognize their need for intimacy, but feel fear and anxiety when things get too close. They tend to bounce back and forth between pursuing those they are interested in and withdrawing.
Unfortunately, anxious-preoccupied and avoidants often find themselves attracted to one another, replaying patterns from earlier on in their lives. While this doesn't doom the relationship, without a keen identification of the way the attachment system is influencing each person's behavior, this pairing can lead to what is known as a "pursuit-flee" dynamic that is unsatisfying for both parties.
People displaying anxious-preoccupied and fearful-avoidant attachment types are particularly at risk for being scared of love. This rejection can be exacerbated by negative experiences in adulthood. Luckily, attachment systems are not set in stone, although it does take a great deal of focused work to change your attachment system. A professional therapist can help you work toward a healthier, more secure attachment style.
Consider Your Past
"You've been scared of love and what it did to you."
(The Weeknd, "I Feel It Coming")
On top of your attachment style, consider your past relationships. Take inventory of the events of these relationships. Have you been through a bad breakup? Was your self-confidence shaken? It pays to be brutally honest with yourself. You may be well aware of one or two particularly bad breakups that have shaped your fear of love. Or it may be a series of seemingly trivial rejections that have bound together to shape your hesitant feelings.
Or maybe you've always kept your romantic partners at arm's length from the time you started dating. Maybe you've never opened enough to truly connect with another person. While it may be painful to think about past experiences and relationships you've had, it's an essential component to helping you understand your story and why you're afraid.
Overcoming Fears Of Falling In Love
What Are You Really Afraid Of?
Arguably the most important part of overcoming the fear of love is knowing what exactly it is you're afraid of. Are you worried that if someone gets too close to you, they'll find you somehow lacking? Are you scared of someone cheating on you or otherwise being unfaithful? Are you frightened of getting hurt because of negative past experiences? Are you worried you'll have to give up things that are important to you to be in a relationship?
Identifying and naming what it is that forms the core of your fear of love can help you better understand and process this fear.
Work Through Your Feelings
Once you've considered the wayyour prior dating experiences have shaped your current ambivalence, you canstart working through your feelings. This can be where the true anxiety lies. It can be much easier to avoid your feelings, especially if you belong to the avoidant class of attachment.
Working through your feelings takes time and patience. A therapist can be an invaluable partner, especially if you've never really taken the time to process uncomfortable emotions before. Many people find it hard to go it alone when they're trying to overcome their fears. A therapist will support you and guide you through the process without judgment.
Know What You Want
How can you hit a target if you don't know what it looks like? Similarly, how are you going to find a relationship if you don't know what you want? This is the time to take stock of your goals, values, and what you truly want out of a relationship. Even if you're still looking for something casual, you should have a fairly clear idea of what that means to you.
Work on Yourself
Before you can love anyone else, you need to love and have compassion for yourself. Many of us enter adulthood as our own harshest critics. We may talk to ourselves in a harsh, critical way that we would never use with our family and friends. You need to work on understanding and accepting yourself in order to be able to have a healthy relationship with other people.
In addition, it's important to have hobbies and goals that truly enrich your life before you add a partner into the mix. What do you enjoy? Where do you want to be in a year? Asking yourself these questions will help you fill your time with positive activities that can help you better enjoy your life and feel fulfilled.
Know And Communicate Your Needs
A fear of love is often rooted in deep trust issues. You need to be able to trust that the person you care deeply about will be there for you when you need them and not reject you. That's why figuring out what you need to feel secure in a relationship is so important. Make sure every potential partner is informed about what you need. That doesn't mean that you have to tell them everything on the first date, but be sure to be assertive and vocal about your needs and boundaries if arelationship develops.
Phobia Of Love
"Fear is the heart of love."
(Death Cab for Cutie, "I Will Follow You into the Dark")
Having a fear of love that's based on reality is hard enough. Being truly love phobic can have a severe effect on your ability to seek out, form, and maintain romantic relationships. The actual term for a phobia of love is philophobia. The difference between having a general fear of love and a full-blown phobia is the degree to which your life is affected. If you find yourself so scared by the prospect of dating and intimacy that you avoid it altogether, you may have philophobia.
Like most phobias, love phobia develops as a result of a severely negative experience early on. In this case, it would be one related to love and relationships, such as if the individualhad been rejected in an embarrassing way or witnessed their parents' messy divorce. Love phobia may be the result of having a dismissive-avoidant attachment as well, although you may not be aware that what you're feeling is really fear.
The Role Of Therapy
Recent research suggests that online therapy can help those who are experiencing a fear of love or intimacy due to certain mental health issues. In one study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) when treating those with social phobia. Participants reported feeling significantly reduced symptoms of social phobia after treatment, as well as a high level of satisfaction with the program. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps individuals with phobias better understand the negative thought patterns that can lead to unwanted emotions and behaviors, such as problematic attachment styles or fear of abandonment.
As outlined above, online counseling can be a valuable resource when you want to confront difficult-to-understand issues associated with love and relationships. With BetterHelp, you’ll be able to work with one of thousands of licensed professionals from all over—not just those therapists who happen to operate in your area.The counselors at BetterHelp can provide you with the tools to cultivate healthier relationships. Read below for counselor reviews, form those who have experienced similar issues.
“I’m really happy I got to talk to Mark, he’s very delightful, he helped me go through some tough times. Helped me reduce my anxiety and deal with my attachment issues. Very respectful. Very professional.”
“Jodi has been of great help and has helped me work on a few different aspects of my life. I've struggled with intimacy related issues that have caused my self esteem to dip, as well as career path anxiety. He’s been a great help in guiding me to feel better about everything which has allowed me to continue to improve and get better. I’ll definitely be coming back to him in the future if needed.”
As a species, human beings are inherently social. Being scared to love can have a significant impact on you socially and lead to isolation and loneliness. Seeking the help of a qualified therapist can help you investigate the roots of your phobia of love and figure out strategies to untangle your fears and help you get past them.
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