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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.

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

  1. I’ll try to make this short and to the point. We started dating and really had chemistry, the connection was there, conversations flowed. However, he did share he was hurt by his last relationship and had been single since then. It had been roughly 8 years he was alone. Seemed odd but after I got to know him I could see he was all about working and raising his child whom he has custody of. He always talked about having walls up and being very guarded of his heart. As the months went by we became closer and little by little he started to open up more and finally did say he trusted me. We talked about getting married and building a house together. We discussed our future and had plans. I knew all his finances and he knew mine. He even send pictures of engagement rings and asked what i liked. Then his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he lost her 3 weeks later. I didn’t notice a change in him right away but as the months went by i could see our phone calls lessen, fewer text messages and a change in his attitude. He was rude at times, kinda like he was angry at me. Then after about 4 months he said he needed time alone to deal with family issues. I was confused and hurt, my mind racing. I just couldn’t understand why he’d push me away when we had gotten so close. We didn’t see each other for about 5 weeks. No contact! During that time I prayed and I read numerous articles on how men deal with mourning a parent which helped me to understand and to be patient. I trusted this man with my soul. I thought because he had been through his share of pain and hurt that he wouldn’t do it to me. I really believed that. Then out of nowhere i received text saying he missed me and wanted to talk. We pretty much picked up where we left off at this point. I understood he was dealing with losing his mother and still dealing with these issues. He invited me to stay at his house for the 1st time after 1 year being in a relationship. This was a long distance relationship, we lived 3 hours apart and would see each other on weekends. Things went really good that weekend, he stated that they let me in thier world and that was a big thing. Things progressed, we spent time together and would even spend the night together some weekends. Then again I started to notice phone calls slowing and text messages slowing. He always explained he was dealing with losing his mom and still very hurt. So i understood. Sometimes we went days without contact then weeks. He always sent a text saying he was thinking about me or missed me. Thats how things were from September until February when he finally ended things. Over the holidays he was distant but again i thought it was because of his mother, this was 1st holiday without her. We still talked and saw each other. He’d cry to me and talk about some of the issues he was dealing with. He had problems with anxiety as well and it was getting worse. He didn’t call on new years, said he was having hard time. Then Valentine’s Day came and no phone call or even a card. The following week i get a text message saying he could no longer be in this relationship due to problems he was having. He didn’t go into to much detail. Said he never knew love like mine but just couldn’t love me the way i wanted or deserved. He said he had to be true to his heart. He tried to love me but never felt the feeling of true love. I was devastated! I couldn’t believe the words he said to me. When I called him he was very cold and short. Like someone i didn’t know. He said it was nothing to do with me. My mind has been racing and Im trying to figure out what happened and how he let this relationship go 1 year and half to realize he didn’t love me. Looking back the signs are there for emotionally unavailable, i just wasnt familiar with the term until now. Or could this be due to the loss of his mother. Also his father is very ill and he could lose him at any time. Looking for opinions on what to do..Do i reach out or just leave him alone? I need face to face closure and I have so many things I need to say. I trusted this man with my heart. From the moment I gave him my heart I was all in. Help!!

  2. The still, small voice. I told her I would never take off her friendship bracelet. I know that her parents are split, and that has affected her a lot. I was telling someone about us about the thought or instinct that I had that one of her things is thinking that some people run away, and I started tearing up. I fear that my own agenda is in the way, but that still, small voice tells me that I need to stick around. I’ve been thinking today, “What is she scared of?” and the thought rings true. I have a hard time trusting my gut, but it’s there. I just hope everything works out for us. I love the damn girl. Phew.

  3. Did you steal your story from me, it sounds EXACTLY like mine. We are at that stage now that I’ve “discarded” all because of a fight. Of course during this fight she said doesn’t feel for me the way she felt for me just 10 days before. She says she can just turn it off, I’m no psychologist, but I don’t believe that for one second. All I can do now is stay away and hopefully she’ll come back around, but if not for my own mental health realize it isn’t me, but rather her. Over the time I knew her, we talked about things that the more I think of those discussions, the more I believe she was really hurt as a child, and I’m not equipped to do much about that. All I can do is love her, and let her know I’m always there for her and hope for the best.

  4. I was in love with someone who was sending out all the signals that she loved me back,even to the point of her telling me something like “I’d like a proposal before Christmas” in September… My reply was “well I can’t guatentee before Christmas, but if it happens, it happens. If not, may be next year…. So what did I stupidly do?… yes folks, I proposed. Her reply was” I’m not going to say yes, an I’m not going to say no”. From my point of view, why continue the relationship? …. so what had she really been telling me the last couple of months then, especially with this talk of marriage proposals ? The thing that hurts most is that I believe she was “the one”… we just fit so well together so well, even to the point of her young, pre-teen nephew asking her if we were going to get married.. That was just over 20 years ago, and it still hurts me very deeply . I hadn’t found anyone like her before I met her, and I still havent in all the years after… As for now? Well now I’ve just given up looking, you can only be said no to so many times to believe that may be marriage isn’t in God’s plan for me (what ever that is)

    1. Sometimes someone is loving you that you overlook.

      If you ‘fit’ that well with her maybe she was faking some things? Maybe you were too? As far as Gods plan for you, you’ve held on to her for 20 years? I’m sure there have been others in your life in that time who have loved you but you were blinded by your misty eyes for someone who clearly just wanted to play games. Consider yourself fortunate you never met anyone else like that since. It is unfortunate you may have missed, are missing, someone so much better. I hope you find what you’re looking for. What God has planned no man can undo, is a bunch of crap. We are our own worst enemies sometimes. Don’t be so afraid to love and be loved.