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.
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.
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.
The 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.
Laurie's "She Blossoms" Books
Growing Forward When You Can't Go Back offers hope, encouragement, and strength for women walking through loss. My Blossom Tips are fresh and practical - they stem from my own experiences with a schizophrenic mother, foster homes, a devastating family estrangement, and infertility.
How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart is filled with comforting and healthy breakup advice. The Blossom Tips will help you loosen unhealthy attachments to the past, seal your heart with peace, and move forward with joy.
When You Miss Him Like Crazy: 25 Lessons to Move You From Broken to Blossoming After a Breakup will help you refocus your life, re-create yourself, and start living fully again! Your spirit will rise and you'll blossom into who you were created to be.