Are you afraid of love?
Philophobia, or the state of being afraid of love, originates from the Greek word “Φίλος” which means ‘loving or beloved’. People who suffer from this phobia fear romantic love and emotional attachments of any sort.
The story of lost love is one most of us can tell, and the question, “Why do relationships fail?” lingers heavily in the back of our minds. The answer for many of us can be found within. Whether we know it or not, most of us are afraid of really being in love. While our fears may manifest themselves in different ways or show themselves at different stages of a relationship, we all harbor defenses that we believe on some level will protect us from getting hurt. These defenses may offer us a false illusion of safety or security, but they keep us from attaining the closeness we most desire. that keeps us from finding and keeping the love we say we want.
1. Real love makes us feel vulnerable.
A new relationship is uncharted territory, and most of us have natural fears of the unknown. Letting ourselves fall in love means taking a real risk. We are placing a great amount of trust in another person, allowing them to affect us, which makes us feel exposed and vulnerable. Our core defenses are challenged. Any habits we’ve long had that allow us to feel self-focused or self-contained start to fall by the wayside. We tend to believe that the more we care, the more we can get hurt.
2. New love stirs up past hurts. When we enter into a relationship, we are rarely fully aware of how we’ve been impacted by our history. The ways we were hurt in previous relationships, starting from our childhood, have a strong influence on how we perceive the people we get close to as well as how we act in our romantic relationships. Old, negative dynamics may make us wary of opening ourselves up to someone new. We may steer away from intimacy, because it stirs up old feelings of hurt, loss, anger or rejection. “when you long for something, like love, it becomes associated with pain,” the pain you felt at not having it in the past.
3. Love sparks painful memories from previous relationships
Many of us struggle with underlying feelings of being unlovable. We have trouble feeling our own value and believing anyone could really care for us. We all have a “critical inner voice,” which acts like a cruel coach inside our heads that tells us we are worthless or undeserving of happiness. So we carry baggage from previous relationships, and unfortunately, we often take it with us into new relationships. It’s not unusual to project old insecurities onto a new partner, especially if the wounds have not completely healed from a previous trauma. This is shaped from painful experiences and hang-ups from our childhood and relationships with our parents critical attitudes that we were exposed to early in life, that cause us to resist falling in love
While these attitudes can be hurtful, over time, they have become engrained in us. As adults, we may fail to see them as an enemy, instead accepting their destructive point of view as our own. These critical thoughts or “inner voices” are often harmful and unpleasant, but they’re also comfortable in their familiarity. When another person sees us differently from our voices, loving and appreciating us, we may actually start to feel uncomfortable and defensive, as it challenges these long-held points of identification.
4. With real joy comes real pain. Any time we fully experience true joy or feel the preciousness of life on an emotional level, we can expect to feel a great amount of sadness. Many of us shy away from the things that would make us happiest, because they also make us feel pain. The opposite is also true. We cannot selectively numb ourselves to sadness without numbing ourselves to joy. When it comes to falling in love, we may be hesitant to go “all in,” for fear of the sadness it would stir up in us.
5. Love is often unequal. Many people start to panic when they suspect they could be falling in love or when opportunities to fall in love often crop up at unexpected, and inconvenient times. They worry that if they got involved with this person, their own feelings wouldn’t evolve, and the other person would wind up getting hurt or feeling rejected. The truth is that love is often imbalanced, with one person feeling more or less from moment to moment. Our feelings toward someone are an ever-changing force. In a matter of seconds, we can feel anger, irritation or even hate for a person we love. Worrying over how we will feel keeps us from seeing where our feelings would naturally go. It’s better to be open to how our feelings develop over time. This early, but critical stage can make or break a new relationship. Allowing worry or guilt over how we may or may not feel keeps us from getting to know someone who is expressing interest in us and may prevent us from forming a relationship that could really make us happy. It comes down to how willing each person is to be flexible with their plans, and how willing they are to take a punt on the unknown.
6. It makes you worry about losing someone
The idea of being abandoned is a deep-rooted fear amongst most people. It’s natural that within the excitement of falling in love, you also consider what it would be like to lose this person, whether through splitting up or bereavement. For some people, the fear of losing someone will be so great, that they would rather not love at all.
7. It makes you question who you are
In many ways, the people we fall in love with are a mirror of who we are.As a result, falling in love often comes with a lot of soul searching and self-reflection. Not only do we obsess over the information we’ve told prospective partners, we fret over how they view our life. However, once you’ve pushed past these anxieties, the acceptance you feel when you fall mutually in love surpasses any initial worries.
8. Love stirs up existing fears. The more we have, the more we have to lose. The more someone means to us, the more afraid we are of losing that person. When we fall in love, we not only face the fear of losing our partner, but we become more aware of our mortality. Our life now holds more value and meaning, so the thought of losing it becomes more frightening. In an attempt to cover over this fear, we may focus on more superficial concerns, pick fights with our partner or, in extreme cases, completely give up the relationship. We are rarely fully aware of how we defend against these existential fears. We may even try to rationalize to ourselves a million reasons we shouldn’t be in the relationship. However, the reasons we give may have workable solutions, and what’s really driving us are those deeper fears of loss.
Getting to know our fears and how they inform our behavior is an important step to having a fulfilling, long-term relationship. These fears can be masked by various justifications for why things aren’t working out, however we may be surprised to learn about all of the ways that we self-sabotage when getting close to someone else who might potentially be the one.
Whilst most people will identify with these common fears, the majority of us still aspire to falling in love. It may seem ridiculous when you consider the heartache that is often involved, however it can be the greatest feeling when you find someone who loves you completely as you are.
The best way is to start each relationship as a blank canvas, to love like you’ve never had your heart broken, and to accept that you’re in for a rollercoaster ride. And, if it doesn’t work out the first time, know that it’s is possible to love, and be loved again.