The common expectation in life used to be that we grow up, fall in love, get married and have kids. But in today's world, we have lots of choices and some folks just decide to remain childless. Others don't marry or marry someone of the same sex. Despite all of the changes in what love looks like, many people ultimately do find a loving relationship with a partner in some form. After all, starting from when we're very little, the notion of finding your true love and "living happily ever after" is built into our thinking.
However, for some, allowing oneself to fall in love or act on it is not such an easy thing. It's been said that the two most powerful emotions are love and fear. As a relationship expert, I'd have to say that fear is the more powerful of the two because one's fear of being hurt in a relationship can often outweigh the potential beauty and benefits one gains from being in love.
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In the spirit of the upcoming Halloween holiday, I have outlined the three main reasons we get "spooked" by love:
1. The past haunts you
There are many experiences we have as kids that we don't actually remember. However, they can still very much play a role in how we act later in life. These experiences are called implicit memories. If, as a child, someone had a parent who wasn't able to be emotionally available to him or her, the child will often perceive it as his or her fault.
As an example, let's say a child has a depressed mother who, due to her illness, isn't capable of showing loving gestures when the child approaches. As a reaction to feeling rejected, the child's brain wires-in a sense of unworthiness. This feeling continues throughout life, resulting in a lack of self-esteem. At a biological level people desire the experience of being attached, but their childhood traumas have shown this leads to negativity. This dynamic ultimately leads to a larger commitment problem.
2. The costume worn by our parents
A child looks to a parent as a role model. If one or both parents are not able to be loving or act in loving ways, they aren't demonstrating a positive model. This will be especially true if the parent(s) isn't able to receive love. How can a child know that it's appropriate or okay to take in the love shown by others if he or she hasn't observed it from his or her biggest role models?
3. Too many ghosts
An individual may have had many relationships in which they've gotten hurt. Getting hurt is damaging, and going through loss is difficult. Dealing with these experiences over and over again can be disheartening. It's entirely possible an individual will feel like it's just not worth trying again, and that he or she is better off alone.
If you're involved with someone who has a fear of love, it can certainly be frustrating! The best thing you can do is continue to stay on course and show your partner the reality and consistency of your partnership. In the end, however, just like any other concern, change has to come from the person. If you're the one having a hard time trusting and accepting love from your relationship, you know how challenging it is to constantly come up against roadblocks.
There is good news in all of this, though. Change is possible — even for issues forged in early childhood. We now know the brain can be "re-wired" with certain types of somatic therapies. Relearning from new role models can be done. Becoming aware of why you keep getting drawn to certain types of people that hurt you and make a change.
Though relationships may be challenging, there's a lot to be said for the healing power of love. When it comes to good, healthy and loving partnerships, there's certainly more treat than trick!
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