She’s Amazing and I’m Paralyzed with Fear
Advice for overcoming the fear of falling in love.
By Heather Gray
Here’s a letter I received asking for advice:
So I recently started seeing this young woman roughly 3 weeks ago. She lives about 2 hours from me. She is amazing: passionate, confident, well-traveled, and beautiful among other things.
Now, up until a few days ago, we were talking lots on the phone. We were very open with each other and I had no problem sharing my past experiences with her…..
I woke up Wednesday morning and instantly felt this overwhelming sense of anxiety. It almost felt like all the feelings I have towards her went away instantly. This scares the shit out of me.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with her in the whole wide world and it feels like some sort of defense mechanism.
It should be said that I haven’t had great luck with past relationships. My high school crush absolutely devastated me; broke my heart and I never fully recovered (I’m 26 now).
I’ve seen women here and there since but every time things “begin to get real” I pull away.
I guess what worries me the most is that I’ll never be able to recover those intense feelings I had for her over the first few weeks we were seeing each other.
It’s not fair to her, not fair to me.
I just want to be in the moment with her, enjoy her company without feeling all this negativity. She will see right through it.
I need to beat this evil that plagues my mind. I want to beat this once and for all.
Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
It sounds like you already figured out half of your problem… you really are getting into this woman but you’re afraid of being hurt again. You mention that you never fully recovered after being crushed by your high school love. It sounds like you pushed through it by keeping a part of yourself guarded off from any real connection.
You told yourself a story that you’d just never connect that deeply again and everything would be ok. You’d never be devastated again.
Then, along comes this amazing woman and suddenly you’re thinking “Uh oh. I’m in trouble. I want to be all in. Staying on the sidelines of love isn’t as interesting to me anymore.” That, of course, is when the anxiety set in and you were off to the races.
I’m glad you reached out because this is definitely something you can navigate and find your way out of.
You have to want love more than you’re afraid of being hurt.
Choosing to fall in love again is essentially saying that you’re ready to get your heart broken again. You can’t be all in with someone and not take that risk. Falling in love is vulnerable and that is unavoidable.
However, that isn’t to say that you don’t have any control over what happens or at the pace at which it happens. It sounds like you and this woman got caught up in the initial stages of a new beginning and you both rushed in. You started sharing things about yourself way faster than you normally would with someone you just met.
It’s not typical that we share innermost thoughts and feelings with someone we just met three weeks ago but with new relationships, it tends to happen. It’s normal, then, to suddenly wake up in the light of day and say “What the heck was I thinking? I told her that? Crap! This is getting real!” and suddenly you want to swallow your words and take it all back.
It’s ok. Slow down.
Love can wait for the rest of you to catch up. If it doesn’t, or rather, if she doesn’t, she’s not the right love for you in the first place.
Your high school love broke your trust. You were crushed. Trust takes time to build, longer than three weeks. Those pesky hormones that come with a new attraction can interrupt common sense and you can find yourself sharing too much too fast.
Just force yourself to slow down a bit so your heart and mind can catch up with one another.
Just tell her what you want her to think.
“Hey, listen. I really like you and these past few weeks have just flown by. I love everything I am learning about you and am excited for what comes next but I can tell I am sharing too much too fast. You should have seen at least a few movies with me and had a couple of drinks with before you know about the time when x,y,and z. I want to keep building something real here and see where it goes but if we share our life stories at warp speed, we’ll feel closer but we’ll be skipping a few steps and I don’t want to miss anything.”
This kind of thing doesn’t just happen with long-distance relationships but the tendency to feel closer by sharing more certainly lends itself to couples who don’t live locally.
Then, take the time to really get to know one another. Don’t just swap the super personal life stories but get to know how she moves through the world. How does she care for her relationships? Is her work important to her?
When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
Maya Angelou said this ages ago and it is actually the best piece of dating advice ever. You don’t just want to fall for someone by learning about them or their stories. You want to take the time to see them.
- When you talk about something, does she ask a follow-up question?
- Does she seem interested in the things you say?
- When there is a misunderstanding, does she seek clarification right away?
- When you notice that she disagrees with something or someone, does she say so? How does she do it?
- Does she seem consistent with you? Does her mood seem consistent?
- Do you feel like she’s the same person with you on a Saturday when you’ve spent a day together as she does on Monday after you’ve been apart?
- How has she treated the things she has come to know about you so far?
- Does she have emotional baggage? Are the bags packed or is she a bit messy in her history, too?
These are the types of things you want to notice and pay attention to. They are the trust builders. They show you that this is someone that you can share with.
Don’t ignore red flags.
You’ll build trust in yourself and in your judgment by paying attention to the red flags or inconsistencies. It doesn’t mean you run for the hills at the first sign of trouble. It just means to stop and pay attention instead of blindly forging ahead.
You’ll have to make peace with your first heartbreak by accepting that it happened by refusing to let one bad love keep you from finding a good one.
Once you know that you’re capable of seeing and addressing potential problems, you’ll be less afraid of falling in love. You’ll tune into your capability, you’ll see that you’re paying attention, and you’ll gain confidence in moving forward.
It doesn’t mean that you guaranteed that you won’t get hurt again. Even if she’s your last first kiss and you end up happily ever after, she’s going to hurt you at some point. It happens in every love.
What it does mean is that you chose someone who was worth the risk. That you wanted this woman more than you wanted the security of never getting hurt or the loneliness that inevitably comes with that choice.
This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.