“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”
~ Sammy Davis Jr.
A couple of assumptions – firstly, that you’re afraid of entering an intimate relationship with any man at this stage — not just this man.
And, secondly, that he wants such a relationship with you.
So, given the above, what I’m curious about is what is behind your fear of intimate relationships. I say this, because I believe that it is important to get to the source of your fears in order to resolve them, otherwise it may be difficult for you to confidently form close, loving partnerships.
Your fears are not unusual in my observation.
Two common sources of such fears are a difficult family history and/or intimate partner history.
Family and intimate partner history are often related — in many ways, our intimate relationships often mirror what has gone on in our family of origin.
If that is your situation, it is likely that, unless you break the cycle, you will repeat the past over and over again, along with its pain and disappointment.
So, if a challenging family and/or relationship history is the case for you, it is not surprising that you are reluctant to engage intimate relationships because you don’t feel safe to do so. It is also understandable that a lack of trust in others, especially potential intimate partners, is a part of the picture for you.
It would also be understandable that you may not have much trust in yourself in terms of selecting a romantic partner.
Having a good measure of self-trust is essential in any sphere of life and most importantly in love and partnership.
You see, self-trust provides the foundation for feeling safe in life, love and relationships, because you can confidently rely on your instincts, perceptions and ultimately your choices. In other words, you can trust yourself to discern what is good for you.
So what to do? Here are some suggestions:
- Take things slowly. Take time to really get to know each other and gradually build mutual trust. I believe that trust should not be given willy-nilly. It needs to be earned.
- When the time feels right, be honest with him about your reluctance and what that is about. In fact, openly discuss any concerns either of you has regarding entering such a relationship.
- Get professional help. A relationship professional can help you to resolve past issues, build self-trust and prepare for a satisfying love life. Your professional helper can also guide and support you as you navigate this new relationship one step at a time.
Mary Rizk, Transformative Coach, B.A., M.A., M.Ed. – www.maryrizk.com
It’s completely natural to have fears when you are thinking about entering a new relationship. However, I don’t want fear to hold you back from something great!
Follow the below three steps to help you identify what your fears are and how to overcome them:
1. What are you afraid of?
Answering this question is key to you finding healing for yourself and answers about what it would take for you to feel ready to be in a relationship. Most commonly, people can be scared of history repeating (a new relationship being like an old relationship) and scared of being hurt (trusting a new partner only to get let down later/have them break up with you).
These are the two big categories that most relationship fears fall into, though there can be more. Once you pinpoint which fear is most strong for you, get specific about what it is exactly that you’re afraid of.
For example, if you’re scared of history repeating, maybe what you’re really scared of is that he’s going to be just as lazy as your ex was and you’ll wind up doing everything around the house without help. If you’re scared of being hurt, maybe that’s a fear of being cheated on (if that’s happened to you before) or a fear that he will ghost you. Get specific and list out as many as you can think of. You can’t do anything about the fears if you’re not clear on what they are.
2. What can be different this time?
While we don’t have a crystal ball and we can’t control other people’s actions and choices, we can decide to behave differently in a new relationship. We can make decisions to communicate and show up differently in the relationship. When you think about your previous relationships, what do you wish you had done differently? Hindsight is 20/20.
Common examples are, “I wish I had said something when I first saw us drifting apart”, “I wouldn’t yell so much when we argue”, or “I would have tried to plan date nights for us more often.” Think about 1-3 things that you want to change/work on. If you’re not sure where to start with making these changes, talking about this with a therapist who can help guide you on where to begin.
3. Talk about this with the guy you like.
We ALL have work to do when it comes to relationships. If you’re able to share with him what your specific fears are about a new relationship and what you want to do differently now, you may feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. This is you confronting your fears directly and sharing them with someone else. This takes a lot of vulnerability and it also takes away the fear’s power over us!
Hopefully he will respond with compassion for you and share openly himself. Hopefully once you take these steps, you’ll feel empowered to move forward and believe that things can be different this time.
Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com
It’s somewhat paradoxical that no matter how much we think we want a relationship, when the opportunity is there, we often get cold feet.
A relationship is a really big move. It changes your life.
Not only do you have to share major decision-making, you have to trust that this person you are choosing will have your best interests at heart. I think that’s a really tough one. For women who’ve been hurt in past relationships, it’s understandably hard to trust again.
I think it’s really important to take a deep dive into past relationships in order to gain enough understanding to know what went wrong.
This is not about finding fault with your ex or with yourself. Most of the time both partners contribute to the demise of a relationship, but it’s important to understand the patterns that contributed to it. It’s especially important to understand your part so you don’t repeat it.
Our relationship styles develop in our families of origin.
This is where we learn how to be in a relationship. As children, we don’t have any say in the dynamics that surround us. So what we have to do is develop the coping mechanisms necessary to successfully navigate those dynamics.
What we come away with depends on the kind and amount of dysfunction that we live with.
This is not to say that our families are bad. We also learn how to love, share, cooperate, and hopefully trust. But unless your family was perfect you will also have needed some survival skills. Some of us get good at flying under the radar; some become fighters; others will learn to withdraw or shut down. However you navigated your family, is how you will probably tend to navigate your adult relationships.
While in your family you really didn’t have choices, in your adult relationships you do. Learning how to pick good partners is part of the choice.
Also learning to recognize your triggers will help you to not go on automatic when there is tension or conflict. It’s really important to develop relationship skills that will help you create the kind of healthy relationship you are striving for.
Getting to know your relationship self is what allows you to make good choices.
Once you can do that, it’s safe to engage in adult relationships. Ultimately, you will be able to trust him, because you know yourself well enough to trust yourself to make good relationship choices.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
If you find yourself liking that new someone in your life, but are afraid of a relationship, it is important to explore why. I encourage you to befriend your fears and get curious.
Below find some common reasons why you may feel scared about entering a new relationship.
1. You Are Afraid of Being Hurt (AGAIN)
If you feel like you have not let go of a previous relationship, you may be hesitant to start a new one due to lingering pain or grief.
Something you may want to try is to write a letter (that you don’t send) to your ex or the person who hurt you to address the situation and put ALL your thoughts and emotions on paper.
Then do whatever you want with it to symbolize letting go and moving forward. You can crumple up the letter and throw it out, cross everything out, rip it to shreds, bury it in a shoebox, throw it into your bonfire in the backyard, etc., and like Elsa, let it go.
2. Fear of Emotional and Physical Intimacy
Typically, when there is fear of intimacy there is something that contributed to forming this fear early in life. This can refer to neglect, such as minimal physical contact or emotional response to us as a child. It could also mean that you experienced trauma around your physical and/or emotional boundaries.
Your experiences impact your perspective on what a “normal” relationship looks like and you may need to check if those expectations line up with the healthy partnership you desire.
Explore your attachment style for further insight and see what patterns you notice and how this has impacted your approach to relationships.
3. Fear of Commitment
So, you really like him, but you are afraid of what the commitment means. Fear of commitment is a defense mechanism, designed to protect yourself likely due to the above two reasons around past hurts or fear of losing parts of your singledom that you enjoy.
Maybe you fear losing yourself in the relationship or being rejected.
It Is important to ask yourself here:
- What do you need for a relationship to be loving, supportive, and to foster growth both as partners and as independent human beings?
That can look a little different for everyone and that’s ok.
4. Low Self Esteem
Having low self-esteem, confidence or body image can contribute to or be involved in all the fears listed above. Sometimes it can also indicate anxious and worry based thoughts.
If this is the case, explore your strengths and challenge those anxious thoughts.
What are you good at and what do you like and love about yourself? You may fear the relationship not going well, but what if things go well? That could happen, too.
If you need further help with any of the above, there are mental health professionals like me ready to help you and assist you on your journey.
Samantha Murphy, LPC – www.westhartfordholisticcounseling.com
What happens when you are scared of a relationship, and you meet someone you like?
Being afraid of a relationship does not necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have one.
We all go through many experiences in life in our various relationships-some good, some not. Each relationship that we have changes us and teaches us something about ourselves and others.
Fear is part of the human condition. and we will all experience it at times, especially when it comes to emotional risk.
There’s nothing more scary than liking or loving someone, putting your heart out there, and being vulnerable. Fear of intimacy is a very common issue. We don’t want to open ourselves up because we are afraid of being rejected or getting hurt. But getting hurt will not kill you, even if it feels that way.
When we get hurt, we can become stronger and develop more resiliency.
Resiliency is a key factor in strengthening our inner self and our psychological growth. We have a choice about whether to become bitter or better.
If you are scared of a relationship because you have not had many of them, maybe it is time to risk and get up and off the sidelines of life.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The greatest risk in life is to risk nothing and do nothing. As time goes on, most of us like people less often.
We become more picky, we know who we are, and we are able to read people more quickly and see-through false masks. So if you really like someone, seize the opportunity, because it may not come again anytime soon.
If you are scared because of painful past experiences, don’t let that hold you back from having a future.
Your future does not have to be determined by your past. Seek professional help and learn more about yourself. You can gain tremendous insight about why you pick who you pick, and your role in relationships and how they develop.
If you want to attract a healthier person, work on becoming a healthier person.
There is no limit as to how much we can grow.
If you have met someone you like, give it a chance.
We learn how to have healthy relationships by being in them, not by just thinking about them. If he doesn’t like you back the same way that you like him, oh well, at least you were in the game of life.
Most people regret the things they never did in life, not the things they did that didn’t work out. Almost every time something doesn’t work out, there’s a good reason for it and there’s something better ahead out there for you.
Step up, take healthy risks with healthy people, and open yourself up to love.
When you truly love another human being, it will be the greatest thing that ever happened in your life.
Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com
You’ve found someone who interests you and that you want to get to know them more, but you’re anxious of what can come.
As we pursue new relationships, we face anxiety about the future and the past relational dynamics we have experienced.
It is perfectly normal to have anxious feelings and thoughts about the relationship and there are ways to help yourself navigate the anxiety.
We have to identify and name the anxiety we are feeling.
Take some time to write down the anxious thoughts and feelings so that you can have self-awareness of what is going on internally.
Reflect on where these anxious feelings come from-past relationships, desire to control, wanting to have the perfect relationship?
We also need to give him a chance to support you in these anxieties. Share with him your worries and concerns.
Take a chance to be vulnerable and see how he responds.
So often we let our anxiety decide the outcome instead of taking action for ourselves and seeing if the outcome we are scared of is realistic or will even happen.
By sharing it with him, he can express how he can support you or even share that he has the same concerns. It’s a risk, but the reward can outweigh the risk sometimes.
Another way to deal with the anxiety is to connect it to your inner critic.
We all have an inner critic within us. It’s the anxious, negative part of ourselves that tries to control us.
I want you to give your inner critic a name, then I want you to draw what your inner critic looks like, and last, write out the anxious and negative things your inner critic says to you or thinks.
Take a look at your inner critic and ask yourself if this person is you.
The goal is to separate your inner critic from your identity and sense of self.
The inner critic can be removed, you just need to make the decision to remove them.
Once you’ve tackled your inner critic, you have a better chance of making decisions and commitments that reflect what you truly desire and want.
Rachel Elder, LMHC, MHP – www.rachel-elder.com
What does it mean to be in a relationship?
Does it mean sacrifice, loss of independence and restrictions? If it does, then, yes, you should be afraid of it. On the other hand, if it means commitment to one loving person, sharing common interests and goals, trusting and growing with someone else, then being in a relationship is a wonderful, joyful experience.
So, if you have a boyfriend, but are afraid of getting too close or being too vulnerable, ask yourself this question. What am I telling myself about what a real relationship is like?
Since there are many relationships that are miserable and even dangerous, an understanding of those red flags is essential. Yet, there are so many other relationships that are beautiful, nurturing and wholesome.
If you want that and long for someone significant in your life, then you will watch out for the signs and symptoms of an unhealthy, toxic relationship and avoid those people.
You have a boyfriend that you like, so he must possess qualities that you admire, that you look for and that make you feel special and significant.
If you give yourself to this guy and allow yourself the pleasure of sharing your life with another person, then the relationship is safe and good.
Don’t sacrifice your chance to be with a caring and loving man because you are afraid of getting “lost” or missing out.
You deserve the comfort and joy of someone in your life who will be there for you, no matter what. Just as he deserves the same from you. Open your heart, stay on this loving path and your relationship experience will be positive and fulfilling.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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