Relationships have been a hard slog over the past three decades because I have, for the most part, filtered love through intense fear.
I now see I can reduce that emotional slog by reversing the order and choosing LOVE before fear!
I have been thinking deeply about love and fear recently, having finally recognised that I fear love. By this, I don’t just mean romantic love, or sexual love; I mean the whole process of opening up to, and being vulnerable around, another human being; being sufficiently vulnerable to let the deep waters of my vast capacity for love flow out freely and fearlessly.
I always keep a little bit of myself back. Afraid that it will be poached or overwhelmed, or bullied out of existence, or stamped on and ridiculed. And yet, as the quote above says so wisely, fear is learned behaviour – and fear of love (both giving and receiving) starts early.
‘I love you,’ comes hard to me, though I feel it deeply and richly.
For too long, acute learned fear has kept the bud of my heart tight and closed. I have, at some level, chosen not to bloom, blossom, flower; I have chosen, at this fear level, loves which were not good for me, or were tainted in some way, or half loves because I thought I deserved no more than that.
I would love to claim that these statements relate simply to men and my often-troubled intimate relationships with them; but it would be a lie. The love fear reaches every aspect of my life: The more I love something, or someone, or some-place, the more terror makes me tell myself it is too good for me, I don’t merit such abundance, I must push it away or leave it.
The fear is, as most fears are (at some level), related to loss: If I invest heavily in a love, and it leaves, I will be far more bereft than I would have been had I given only a tiny portion of my heart, my trust, my past, my feelings, my all.
I gave too much of myself to the man I married, and have recently divorced; I trusted naively and inappropriately; I invested unwisely and have reaped the emotional overdraft I, perhaps, deserved. This heart’s bank account is not just empty; it is seriously in debt. Plundered.
But this has allowed me to see with complete clarity what is right for me in life; it has allowed me to see that accepting second best, being an option, shying from a large and glorious vision of my life’s potential no longer works for me. It has opened my eyes to the fact that the path to my new life is now too well-trodden, and I am too far along it, for retreat to be possible, even if I did genuinely desire it (which I don’t).
People who ask me, as one or two have, ‘Are you going to have another relationship in the next couple of years?’ are rather missing the point.
Anyone fresh from a divorce CAN, of course, dive straight into another relationship. Many do. My ex-husband did. With me.
But this technical ability – to pair up, have sex and all the rest of it – is not what I am getting at here. Because, for me, diving straight in again would be yet more of the same: Choosing the fear of being alone over the true love that I now know I both deserve and am capable of.
Grabbing another because of insecurity, or loneliness, or fear of financial difficulty, or fear of being left on the shelf can only put a flimsy plaster over that deep well of fear; it can never heal it.
Cleaving to another, any other, when the gap left by a broken relationship yawns widest is both human and hugely understandable – but the rebound is not a healthy way to start a relationship. I know. I did it. It brought me nothing but grief and anguish.
I now have this space in which to look hard at my fear of intimacy: To question it, analyse it, take apart and discard those bits of it which are decades past their sell-by-date. So that, instead of the, ‘What if you don’t like/love me tomorrow?’ which has so run my life, I can choose the very best person for me, with a relaxed and confident heart, and have the statement below as a declaration of love rather than insecurity – and, more to the point, know absolutely that it is reciprocal!
Meanwhile, I have the delight of friends, and family members, and the joy of loving bonds with them. I can choose to put love above fear with them every moment of every day.
Love is not just about that special one-to-one relationship; if it were, our lives would be very narrow and stagnant. Love is a sun which radiates widely and leaves its delicious heat on all those it touches.
I do love. Many people, in many different ways. Some, as is inevitable in this life, more than others.
But to grab a lover straight off the hideous treadmill of divorce would be a travesty of love and a mistake which would, in all probability, set me back months, if not years.
I will know when I am ready – and, frankly, anyone worth waiting for will be in no desperate hurry to pounce himself!
If we fear, we are likely to choose pain and insecurity and a loved one who is unworthy of us. If we fear, our impatience to make a conquest – any conquest, it sometimes seems – can blind us to the true, lasting and important qualities we should be looking for in another human being. If we fear, we sell ourselves short because desperation makes us ignore the nagging doubts, the unease, the lack of compatibility, the warning signs.
If we fear, we rush. If we rush, we do not get to know that special person first. If we miss out on the slow learning, and concentrate only upon the fiery first burning, we can end up as a pile of ashes upon Love’s Highway.
If, however, we show true discrimination, and are able to separate genuine love out from obsession/revenge/lust and bed-notch-carving habit, we are far more likely to find the real gold scattered amongst the glittering piles of Fool’s Gold.
We are far more likely to treat ourselves with love by only accepting the very best!
Nothing of worth grows in fear and haste.