By Tina Tessina
Although you might think of “falling in love” as romantic; we all fall in love many times in life: with a new lover, a new friend, a particularly cooperative co-worker, an appealing movie or TV star, a caring neighbor, siblings, relatives and even pets. Any close relationship involves falling in love at least a little bit, and it’s these connections that make life pleasurable.
But, sometimes making connections becomes scary, and you feel the need to protect yourself instead of reaching out with an open heart. I see many clients who have trouble connecting with others, making enjoyable friendships, and have struggles with family members, so they experience relationships of all types as difficult and painful. There are many reasons people hold back and remain closed off. Holding back and resisting caring can cause you to become overcommitted to certain relationships (co-dependent), too clingy in others, or to appear cold and standoffish.
Here are ten reasons you may not feel comfortable being open and available for love:
1. You’ve been burned before: If you got hurt or disappointed in a prior relationship, you might be reluctant to take another risk.
2. Shyness: Being afraid of meeting new people will hold you back from meeting the person you can fall in love with. No matter how cool you may be in your business dealings, with your friends, or in front of strangers you don’t want to date, if you’re contemplating meeting people to date, you may stammer, get tongue tied, blush, fidget, look at everything but the person, your heart may race, and you can find yourself breaking out in all kinds of mannerisms that remind you of being a teen.
3. Holding out for Mr/Ms Right: If you reject everyone who seems less than perfect at first glance, you might reject the very one you could fall in love with, if you got to know their finer qualities.
4. Growing up in a dysfunctional family: Growing up with parents who fought a lot or were angry, cold or violent; or with a divorced or single parent who couldn’t develop relationships that lasted can leave you without a skill set for finding and making a connection with a healthy person
5. Sex too soon: Having sex right away changes your connection from possible relationship to one-night stand. You can cease to be a person in your date’s eyes, and just become a booty call.
6. Body image issues: If you’re too self-critical about your body and your look, you may be so self-obsessed that you never even notice when someone else likes you, and you miss your chance.
7. Sexual hang-ups: if you’re too focused on sex, or too repressed about it, you’ll be reluctant to allow intimacy and love to grow.
8. Violent history: If you were in a previous violent relationship, you’ll have PTSD that will stop you from taking another risk.
9. Low self-confidence: If you’re not comfortable with yourself, you won’t allow others to get close and discover you.
10. Still Grieving: If you haven’t recovered from your last relationship, it’s too soon to let someone else in. I’ve seen many people in my office who say they don’t want another relationship, or even a pet, because losing the last one hurt too much.
No matter how well prepared you are, every new relationship will be unique. Some will obviously be better than others. The whole point of meeting new people is to get to know them and let them discover you. Since everyone you meet will be a unique individual, there’s no way to be completely prepared for what will happen. Every new relationship is a surprise and a mystery. If you are prepared to learn and to be surprised, seeking to control only your own responses, and prepared to make realistic plans and decisions, you’ll enjoy most of the experience. Caring means venturing into the unknown, exploring and learning, so enjoy the adventure, and you’ll get the best results.
If you are an adult, you have a lot of life experience, sometimes called baggage. Some of your experience will be helpful, and some will be problematic. If you take the time to examine your history and experience, you’ll find you’ve learned a lot, and when you learn from a loss or a mistake, you grow your emotional repertoire, and I think it’s how we grow our souls.
The skill you’ve learned in your life, in work, with friends, in team sports and social events, and at school can be very helpful in all your relationships, if you understand that you can transfer other life skills to the dating situation. If you hire and/or manage people in your job, for example, use the intuitive skill you’ve developed there to “Scope out” someone you’ve just met. Without being obvious, you can “interview” this person, and draw out information. If what you hear would make you want to hire him or her, then a friendship might be a good experience.
Emotional traumas from childhood and past relationships is called baggage, because it’s extra “stuff” carried into all your relationships, which effects how you perceive your interactions.
Beginning (or even contemplating) a relationship activates these memories, and brings your old fears and insecurities to the surface. Old issues have not been resolved—such as fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, fear of rejection—will surface to be cleared away. For example, if you had a competitive relationship with your siblings, you may find yourself competing with other people in inappropriate ways.
Once you learn, very early in life, that relationships, (including with your original family, childhood friendships, teenage friendships or adult relationships) don’t happen automatically, and problems can come up, especially emotionally painful problems, it’s very easy to become phobic, or intensely afraid, of being hurt or rejected.
To overcome the fear, you need to learn to look at your relationships in a new way. You can ‘meet’ people you already know; even family members, by looking at them differently. Instead of thinking about your parent, sibling or extended family member in the same old way, try meeting them anew, as you would a stranger, and finding out who they are apart from what you already know. Asking a family member about their history before you were born, or an experience they had that you were not part of will give you a new perspective.
Because each new person is a new experience, you probably feel out of control; and you are. There is no way to control what will happen, or how the other person will act or respond. However, you are always in control of your own actions and responses, and that can make a vast difference in how your friendships and relationships progress. If you keep in mind that you get to choose what you say and do, and it’s about enjoying the other person, not pleasing them, you’ll have better results.
Prior pain is often a reason why people dread a new experience. If your history of relationships has been painful, hurtful or a disaster; it’s natural not to want to try it again. But, even one good relationship experience can help heal the hurts from the past relationships that did not work out.
Relationships cause you to grow emotionally, which can be a bit scary. If you keep in mind, however, that the “new you” you are creating will be happier, more socially confident, and very likely happier, you can overcome reluctance and get enthused. You will actually be able to relax, and have a good time.