How do i let love back into my life?

I've been single for a year now. I came out of an 1.5 year long distance relationship. I'm able to make genuine connections but it seems like whenever a girl shows interest in me i run the other direction. I liked this one girl for a long time, but when i felt her giving me too much attention, i turned cold. I really do want to be able to reciprocate love but i always end up shutting down when love gets too close. I am really scared of getting hurt again and i’ve put in the shadow work to heal all these different parts of myself. But part of me still feels like i won't be safe if i let my guard down again.
Asked by Mur

Dear Mur,

Thank you for reaching out to the BetterHelp platform, you have come to the right place for the help you need. 

I am hearing that you came out of a one and a half year relationship a year ago and have been single, you say you are scared of getting hurt again, so I understand that you were hurt in the relationship and it sounds like you have taken steps to heal yourself, so well done if you have already put some of the work in so far, it is not easy and it takes time to build that trust back into your life. 

Healing is a continuing journey and often means we have to step out of our comfort zone to do this. At the moment I am hearing that this still doesn't feel safe to you and you are afraid of letting your guard down and getting close to someone else for the fear of this.

I am curious to know if now you are challenging yourself your "comfort zone" is no longer "comfortable" to you?

I wonder if you notice how you feel when you start to get close to someone, does this cause some kind of physical feeling for you? Or perhaps a panic response? Often when we have had a difficult experience, our bodies retain these feelings and do anything to avoid repeating it, this is the element which makes us feel unsafe and our subconscious puts the guard up to guard ourselves. Maybe this resonates with you, and it may be worth exploring that for yourself?  Try asking yourself what is going on for you and can you rationalize with this feeling?  Perhaps take baby steps with the relationship and apply your boundaries effectively to go at your own pace, boundaries can be a way to take things slowly and keep you feeling safe as you explore how you feel. 

I wonder if you have felt you can confide in the person, and have been able to explain how you are feeling, if someone cares for you then hopefully they will help you work this out and go at a pace you both feel comfortable with, this may also help you build trust in the person and see if their intentions are genuine, which may give you more confidence to let your guard down slowly.

I wonder if you have explored your attachment style? This can help to again see what you may need from a relationship and help explain what makes you feel safe and what doesn't, I have attached some information you may wish to look at which will give you some idea of how you attach in relationships and also how others may attach to you, which again may help you.

Understanding these patterns of behavior may help you identify what is working for you and what is not, by confiding in the person, you may find that communication is key to working this out between you, the other person may also feel a little confused perhaps about how you are feeling about them too.  You say that you want to be close but feel afraid and become cold when someone gets too close. 

It may be worth speaking to a therapist such as myself or one of my BetterHelp colleagues, who can help you explore your fears and worries around this, we form our attachments in childhood and you may find your worries may stem from there, you do not say much about what happened in your last relationship, but again talking about this if you chose to do so may help you work out what is causing this fear for you.

I wonder if you feel you are sabotaging the relationship before it has begun, this is common when you have been hurt, I sense you do not want to avoid intimacy and having a partner, however, it just becomes too much and you feel the need to retreat back into your safe place? This can result in pushing others away and causing you to be isolated and feel alone, this continuing pattern can make you feel down and isolated, so you are right to question your feelings and emotions at this time. 

Fear of this is also linked to the fear of showing your vulnerability, I am curious if this is how you feel, by letting down a guard you open yourself up to being vulnerable and perhaps being vulnerable is not a good feeling for you? Or maybe it takes you back to that time when you were hurt? So understandably this is something you will want to avoid.

You can work through this in a safe space, where you can be yourself without judgement or someone pushing you into doing something you do not want, by connecting with a therapist like myself you can work together to explore how you can help yourself come back out of your shell and make meaningful positive connections with others who mean something to you.

Therapy can help guide you through those baby steps and give you the confidence and clarity you need to get you to the other side and gradually address your fears. 

This also may be making you feel negative about yourself and your self-worth, this is common in this situation, so working through this can help you feel better about yourself, give you self esteem, and confidence in your decisions. 

You can do this, have faith in yourself and above all be kind and compassionate to yourself, you have been through a lot and deserve your own love of yourself. 

Hope you can find the right support and confide in loved ones whilst speaking to an individual therapist or medical professional, this may just be the help you need to give you that step up into being your confident future self.

Wishing you good luck with the future.

Take care

Julie Cameron