When You Love Someone Who is Scared to Love You Back

Fear, insecurity, or a painful past relationship can lead to fear of abandonment. Here’s what you can do when you’re in love with someone who is scared to love you back.

Here’s what one reader said about his ex-girlfriend. “I dated a great lady for 11 months,” says Steve on 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationships. “She chose to end the relationship. Now that it’s over, I realize I love her dearly. We exchanged emails – the only way she would communicate with me. The true reason for ending the relationship…something happened to her 30 years ago that she says she has never got over. She will not talk about it. I am the only person she ever mentioned it to. The event has left her guarded to the extent where she prefers to live her life alone, without relying or trusting anyone. She had counseling but it did not work. How do I love someone who is scared to love, who keeps running from love?”

In his comment, Steve also said that his ex-girlfriend simply accepts that she’s scared to love and that’s just the way she is. “She felt our relationship was becoming too serious so decided to end it abruptly,” he said. “I’m heartbroken that this happened and I really don’t understand that two people have deep feelings for each other and yet she is not willing to work things out. I am only too happy to continue as we were before, by accepting her fears but she will not…Is there any hope or shall I just let her go?”

It’s really difficult for anyone to predict if you should walk away from someone who is scared of love. In some relationships, hoping for the best and loving someone through their fear is the most beautiful gift you could ever give them. In other relationships, the healthiest thing you can do is end the relationship.

How do you know if you should let someone go, or keep loving them through their fear? You need to take a risk. Both options are risky; nobody can tell you what the best choice is or what the future holds. You have to listen to that still small voice in you, and trust that no matter what decision you make…you will be okay.

When You’re in Love With Someone Who is Scared of Love

You might learn how to help a loved one learn how to overcome insecurity and fear of abandonment in a relationship. But, you must also remember that what helps one person overcome fear of intimacy (which is running from love because of fear) may not work for another. You might try couples or individual therapy even if you’ve tried it before – just because counseling was ineffective once doesn’t mean it won’t work now. Sometimes we don’t connect with our counselors, or we’re too scared to tackle our problems. The timing wasn’t right, perhaps.

If you’re invested in your relationship, you might try these ideas…

Accept the fact that guardedness is very difficult to break free from

Fear of intimacy or rejection isn’t easy to overcome. Being guarded is a way to protect ourselves from getting hurt more than we’ve already been hurt.

in love with someone running from love

When You’re in Love With Someone Scared of Love

Unlearning fear of love is a process that takes years, and may never be completely “gone.” I was scared (terrified!) to love and be loved back; it took a year of counseling to help me be aware of my guardedness and allow myself to be emotionally available and vulnerable with a man. I found the process of breaking down my walls and learning how to love without being scared very, very difficult. It was painful.

In fact, I still withdraw from my husband when I’m hurt, angry, confused, or scared. I’m deeply in love with him, but I’m quick to push him away if I’m emotionally triggered. However, now that we’ve been married for 11 years – and more importantly, I’ve been working on getting emotionally and spiritually healthy and whole – I have torn down my old walls.

Remember why love is scary: because it makes us vulnerable

It is very difficult for anyone to change, much less someone who is scared to love and be loved in return. Love is an emotion that leaves you totally exposed to big and little hurts, major and minor pains. I’m actually surprised that more people aren’t running from love.

The guardedness – my counselor called it hiding behind my wall – feels like a part of who we are. We feel safe and protected behind our walls, and it’s not easy to expose ourselves to the frightening world of love. Love is scary for everyone, but it’s terrifying for people who have been badly hurt during their childhoods. They’re scared to fall in love again because they’re protecting themselves.

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However, just because you understand why the one you love is scared to love you back doesn’t mean you should continue in the relationship. This is one of those times you need to listen to that “still small voice”, and decide what you need to do.

If you think you need to end your relationship, read How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About.

Learn about the dance of intimacy – and take a step away

I recently attended a live marriage counseling session; the therapist said 95% of couples do a pursuing/being pursued dance. The more the pursuer chases, the farther and faster the pursued runs. Maybe it’s not a dance – maybe it’s a chase!

The more you email, call, write, or text the person you’re in love with, the more you’ll push her away. If you want more emotional connection – more love – then you need to give her time and space to breathe. Give your partner a chance to miss you, to breathe, and to figure out if she wants to learn how to safely love you.

Learn why some people are scared of love

Trying to figure out why the person you love is afraid of intimacy or attachment might be a never-ending cycle of “maybe this” and “perhaps that.” One research study, however, found that adults who are scared of love had distant parents or caregivers.

scared to love

How to Stop Running From Love

The premise of Dr. Sharon Dekel’s study – she’s a psychologist and researcher at the Bob Shapell School of Social Work in Israel – is based on attachment theory. This theory says that during times of stress, infants want to get close to their parents or caregivers for emotional support. However, if the parent is unresponsive or overly intrusive, the child learns to avoid the caregiver.

These researchers believe that adult relationships reflect these earlier experiences. When our needs are met when we’re babies and children, we approach adult relationships with more security, seeking intimacy, sharing, caring, and fun. But when our childhood emotional and physical needs aren’t met, we don’t learn how to love. We get scared of love, and off we run.

Remember that being scared to love can only be overcome by one person

You can’t do much to reduce the fear your loved one feels. Only she can decide that she doesn’t want to be scared of love…and only she can take action to overcome her fear of intimacy. The tricky part is how hard counseling is. It forces you to face the reasons you’re afraid of falling in love, and it requires you to work on your thought and behavior patterns. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

When You’re in Love With Someone Scared of LoveThe first step is to learn about fear of intimacy, from books such as Stop Running from Love: 3 Steps to Overcoming Emotional Distancing & Fear of Intimacy. You might even consider sending her the book and letting her decide if she wants to pursue healing and forgiveness.

Are you scared of love? This book is for you. Stop Running From Love offers a simple, step-by-step approach you can use to move beyond your fear of intimacy and start building strong and lasting relationships. The exercises and self-evaluations in the book will help you become aware of how you operate in romantic relationships. You’ll review and reassess your relationship patterns, deciding what changes you want to make in future relationships.

“Love is something we’re born with,” said Marianne Williamson. “Fear is something we learned here.”

Are you in love with someone who is scared to love you back? I welcome your thoughts welcome below…I can’t offer advice or relationship help, but it may help you to share your experience.

Source of the research on avoidant attachment and fear of love: ‘Commitment-phobic’ adults could have mom and dad to blame via ScienceDaily.


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83 thoughts on “When You Love Someone Who is Scared to Love You Back

  • Leticia

    I met a man 8 months ago. The relationship started out great. We had an awesome connection that I’ve never had before with anyone. I actually thought that he was the one. Then about 3 months into the relationship he ended it because he wasn’t ready and was broken from relationships in the past. He opened up to me about his relationship with his mother and ex wife. The relationships weren’t good. After we ended our relationship, we eventually started talking, seeing each other and having sex. After a couple months of this, we got back together. He told me he loved me so much and asked me to be patient. Things were great for a couple months then bam, it happened again. He said he wasn’t in love with me, had fears and his guard up. He asked for time and space. I told him I love him and wanted a serious relationship. I told him when he felt the same, he could reach out to me. Now it’s been 3 weeks and we’re falling into the same pattern. We text, talk and have seen each other a few times. He said he has been thinking about things and wants to see me to talk. I’m so confused about our relationship. I don’t want to continue this back and forth. I’m starting to resent him and losing trust in what he says to me. I want all or nothing and I don’t know if he understands. I know he cares about me and maybe even loves me. I wish he would commit to me or leave me alone until he is ready. I’m going to say this to him when we meet to talk.

  • Jilly

    My problem is a little different. I’m not in love with someone scared of love…I myself am scared to fall in love. I’m almost 60, and my mother was alcoholic. My dad was unsupportive and I had drug and drinking problems earlier in life, but I’ve been clean and sober for 12 years now. During my addiction, I had a 10 year relationship with an emotionally abusive man.

    I’m finally out of all that mess, but I have never had a healthy long term relationship. It seems I am always attracted to unavailable men…(married, unemployed, in debt, drug problems), probably because they are “safe.” There is no chance of a lasting union…

    With single guys, it seems, I always find something wrong with them immediately. I protect myself. I’ve been told I have “barbed wire” around me. I guess I’m so scared of “falling in love” and being hurt again. I’m not even aware of this fear. It’s unconscious.

    Can you offer any advice or tips?

    Thank you,

  • Shaby

    I love somebody who is terribly afraid of love. Anything I do which clearly symbolises love he runs. It took me almost 6 months to figure this out researching online, to eventually come up with the thought he’s fragile to live. He’s very distant emotionally never says anything that indicates love, however physically shows he does have feelings for me just doesn’t want to admit them or let him slip. It’s very difficult since I struggle with anxiety but I know deep down I really love this guy for who he is. I’ve expressed my love but he becomes distant and withdraw. If I try and end it he won’t let it. But he’s pushing me away to the point where I just want to be alone. It’s really hard and difficult for me I have strong intense feelings for him but he won’t listen acknowledge or move forward. But loving him made me a better person. I can’t leave him but can’t stay and not be loved. Time will tell what I decide either way I will choose what’s best for me.

  • Gina

    I was with a man like this for twelve years! He was completely hurt and shocked that I finally left him. We are now friends and I have to accept that he can’t be more than that. He absolutely loved me no doubt, but it was ALWAYS an excuse not to get too close and take the relationship a step further. Even though we lived together and were together every day, he never wanted to get married. It was always an excuse. “When I get my business off the ground” (He did) “When we buy a house” (We did) “When xyz” it was always an excuse to keep me to stay. I’m 14 years younger than him and even though I loved him and chose to stay, I do feel resentment for staying so long because now I missed out on having children and now I have to find love again to someone secure enough for marriage at 40. He feared intimacy so much that he never wanted to get close enough in order to have intercourse! There was a time, I thought he was gay. I just couldn’t get him to open up on my level of emotion and I was always left in the dark wondering why he was like this. He came from a divorced home where his parents actually hate each other and still to this day, they refuse to talk to each other. He’s in his fifties and he’s never been married and probably will never get married. His brother is around his age and he’s never been married and will probably never get married. His sister is on her third divorce! There was always excuses and blame as to why he could never get too close to me. I just had to finally walk away from him. After him, I became involved with two other emotionally fearful men and basically ran for the hills forever once they expressed their feelings. I must attract them lol.

  • Pamela Moore

    I have a friend we have been on and off for three and a half years. He loves me and I love him but he’s afraid to take it to a serious level. Every time he feels that he is loving me more or getting closer he gets afraid and backs up. I used to be the same way so I understand how he feels but I was willing to take a stance and conquer that fear in a previous relationship. We have talked and he has told me that he really really likes me but he’s just afraid so I’m trying to figure out what is it that I could do to help other than be patient.

  • Edward Siciliano

    Hi met a girl on Facebook We talked for months. She invited me to Chicago were she lives. Problem we had what seemed a Great week i think i ruined it bye telling her i loved her. We talked and i feel she’s been hurt somewhere in her past and told her so. She claims her whole family thougj i was a terrific guy i live in a different State. She admitted she confused and has a Trust issue. Is this just an excuse. Thank you so much.

  • Adarsh Heer

    Im a guy 16. Who has never been in a serious relationship. This girl I love I think is scared to fall in love. She weren’t oh teiht one of my best mates and he doesn’t know about us. Wenare very close and last week I went to a party at her house and she said she wants to kiss me. So we did in her room. Only a few days later she said she only wants to be friends. I don’t understand how within a few days she went form wanting to kiss me and we talked about taking it further to wanting to just be friends. I understand that she was hurt with her past realationship with my mate who didn’t treat her right. But still. I have treated her the best as I can and she is the first girl I can honestly say I’m in love with. I wrote her something to ask her out. This is it. It’s a bit long:

    I figured these notes that I write for you have always been after an argument and about me apologising and that isn’t right so how about this.

    Dear _____,

    When I see you or I even get a text from you I can’t begin to tell you how I feel. My face lights up and I can’t contain my happiness. You are my favourite notification. How I feel about you is what love songs are written about. If I could give you one thing In life, I would give you the ability to see yourself through my eyes so you can finally see how much you mean to me. I think I’m scared because you mean more to me than anyone else. I don’t just want you I need you. I don’t like you. I love you💗. I would do everything for you. I fell in love with you not because of the way you look but the person you are( although you look amazing too😘). You said that When people talk about you being a b*** or whatever that is you and you think I will hate you for it and I will leave. And I need you to know that I’ve heard that for years people talking bad about you, about who you are and what you have done. And I want to say I still fell in love you. None of this has changed my opinion of you. I have fallen in love with you and that means I’m here not just for the good parts but no matter what. I’m here for everything. I never knew when we met I would feel like this. I promised you I would be truthful. And the truth is I think about you all the time, you make me happy, you make me laugh, you’re smart, you’re different, you’re crazy and weird but I love you for it. And that perfect smile on its own can make my day. I can wait but honestly I don’t want anyone else but you. I think about you all the time. All night and all day. Your my first thought when I wake up and the last when I go to sleep. I wonder sometimes how lucky I am to have met you. Like when I came over we spent hours together yet when I left I missed you already. I want to be the one you’re scared to lose. In case I didn’t make it obvious enough I LOVE YOU!!!! And for these reasons I am asking you with all my heart: will you go out with me?

    W.E haven’t really talked for a few days and i really what he r everyone who I’ve talked to Jat knows about us has said she is afraid to move forward. She has said before that she only wants to be friends but when I bring up what happened last Friday she never answers. Is this because she knows she likes me? I just need help on what to do. Like do I just show her what I wrote outta nowhere in hope that it pushes her over the edge. Or do I wait? I’m afraid if I wait she will move on cuz W.E don’t see eachother a lot. HELP ME!!!!

  • Girl in love?

    As a girl who is admittedly in her teen years, I feel too young to describe feelings for her as “love”. At the beginning of this year, a delicate relationship was blooming. She had been in a breakup a few months prior, from a hetero relationship. Now I’ve been attracted to her for about a year now, but January of this year I decided to fess up. She was interested in me as well, our friends were ecstatic, and all was well for about a month and a half, before she started having a sort of mental/emotional war with herself. From what I understand, she couldn’t really come to terms with the idea that she liked another girl. So I gave her some space, told her that I would be there for her to talk to, either for support or when she figured it out. Fast forward to a few days ago, there was a school announcement for homecoming tickets (the dance is in about a month). I spent days mentally warring with myself on whether or not I could ask her. It wasn’t about my ability to confront her, it was that I worried that a conversation about it could turn sour, or that she might begin to have problems again. Eventually I asked her if she knew when the dance was (I didn’t know the set date), and she responded with the he date, before saying that she thought she would probably stay home this year (bad experience last year, from the hetero relationship I mentioned earlier) unless a group of friends didn’t have dates. I offered, “you’re welcome to come with me if you want.” She asked if she could get back to me the next day. As of this morning, I received a message along the lines of her saying she could go as friends, but she wouldn’t do more than that, because she is afraid of falling into a cycle and hurting me again. So of course I said I would be happy to go as friends.

    I don’t think she realizes how much I care about her, but I’m committed to standing by as a friend and helping her whenever she wants help. I have a feeling I won’t be moving on any time soon.

  • Dee

    I have been in this chaser/pursuer relationship you describe for going on 20 years. The man I love and want to be with is as afraid of my love as I am of his. We have both been in relationships with other people off and on for this entire time, both of us married other people who were toxic to us, and continued to have bad relationships throughout that time. Whenever one of us seemed ready, the other wasn’t. Whenever we tried and got close to each other, one of us would run scared. Both had terrible childhoods and struggle with acceptance and fear. Both carried that into our relationship with each other as well as with others. Both of us picked other partners who did not accept us, and who were distant, uncaring and aloof. The difference is, I recently suffered the loss of my brother. He was my rock and my best friend, and not only accepted my love but returned it. Losing him was my a-ha moment! I left a toxic relationship for good. I am working through that pain and learning to recognize my own behavior and change it. I want a healthy relationship. This man I have loved most of my life is still a distancer, terrified of letting anyone too close and though he wants love and definitely loves me, is a runner. I am now faced with the choice to try to work through this beside him, with the very real possibility of failing, or to end the relationship for good. Because I was also a runner before my brother passed away, I am determined to see it through either way. For the first time in my life, I truly see my own worth, that my life and time is valuable and that I deserve something real and long-lasting. If the person you love is worth it, too, I say give them a chance. Go the distance. But if they can’t go the distance beside you, at some time you have to let go, painful as it may be. This man is worth my time and me energy. Hoping he sees that himself.

  • Unimous

    I meet a guy about two years ago. We were just suppose to be friends but the more time we spent the more connected we became and our susposly friendship grew into a beautiful relationship . All of a sudden about three months later he started to pull away. We stayed in contact even though we argued over little things. Seems to me like he kept us distant on purpose. Forward wind to today… we have repaired our relationship things are going well. He’s at a difficult time and he now has allowed me to be there for him and be supportive for a change. Now he seems to be pulling back again. Should I stay or let him be????? Please give me your opinion I’m tired of the roller coaster but yet I don’t wanna give up

  • Laurie Post author

    Thank you for being here, and sharing your experience. It’s so painful to love someone who is scared to love you back! There are so many sad feelings – from disappoinment to shock, disbelief to rejection.

    For me, it was the helplessness that most got me. I knew my boyfriend really did love me…but his fear was too big for him to handle. This made me feel more helpless and abandoned than anything, like I wasn’t good enough for him to love. I think it took me a year to really get over him and feel better about myself again, and another few months before I felt ready to date other guys.

    How are you coping? Every day is different, isn’t it? Sometimes my feelings changed every hour 🙂 but then there were more positive feelings than negative, and I somehow found myself happy again.

    Take heart! You are not alone. And you will get through the pain … and you will not only love again, you’ll find yourself loving a man who isn’t scared of loving you back! xo

    • Mansi Patel

      Laurie, you are so right. Reason why, some people are also afraid is because they feel like if they give their 100%, the other person won’t give them at least 50%. It sounds ugly, I realize. But it’s what I’ve seen happen to other people I know, and to me. Vulnerability is also a very big one as well. You just don’t want to appear dumb when the person comes around, you want to say something smart or sassy just to let them know you and your feelings are not to be messed with. Additionally, the pursue-pursuer? That has to play a critical role too, because you want to see how long they will keep chasing you and their reasons of as to why. I’ve also heard people say looks don’t matter, I’d say they are huge liars. Of course they do! For example, look at Sofia Vergara and Mr. Joe Manganiello! The hottest two people came together, as they say Calvin Klein models and Victoria Secret models go hand and hand. And let’s just say the Calvin Klein model falls for a non-model type of girl, will the girl really believe that he loves her for her? Of course not. So that’s just how I see it.