Love Without Fear

This post has been inspired by a month or more of thought and reading. It was then that I read a little book that changed my entire view of love.

To me, love has always been marked by strict walls. This belongs, this doesn’t. Love is a game and it has very specific rules, and Love will only work if you play by the exact rules. If not, eh. Well. You’re a goner. Love was externally defined, by lines and boundaries outside of myself.

But there was always something in me whispering that maybe Love was a little more free and spontaneous than that. That maybe each story is different, and the ways that people’s lives entwine depend on the science of the lives entwining. Depends on the genes, formed in the womb and changed by environment. And maybe each person fits together like a different kind of puzzle – sometimes very specific lines cross, and sometimes, the picture is unclear and haphazard and yet very clearly, a fit.

In relation to people, I have always struggled. Some of that has to do with growing up in a household where I was severely isolated. Homeschooled, living 2 hours away from a home church, and not allowed to attend a public school even for sports because “we would get the money and have to move.” My friends were on the internet. First huge crush? Internet. First bestie? Internet.

So when I have started trying to have in person friendships, my attempts have been fumbling. And that’s just friendships with women.

I feel totally inadequate when it comes to men. In my household, there was a lot of shame around the subject. I discussed that a lot in my last guest post. I really was given no personal power to decide about my relationship to men; it rested entirely in my parents hands. I doubt they meant it to turn out that way, but it’s left me feeling as if I am stupid and inadequate when it comes to relationships with males. My lack of experience with in person friendships left me inept in forming them with women. Not only that, the church piled on the constant motive-checking and fear-mongering concerning sex. So not only did I trust myself to say no, I also assumed guys always had ulterior motives. Eventually, men AND women were suspected for ulterior motives. No one could possibly want to know me, as a person.

Lately, I wonder if my some of my obsession about men was just the anxiety I felt about trying to interact with someone when I couldn’t possibly trust myself to. The entire culture I lived in said that men were dangerous, and so was I.

Source – Pinterest

For my whole life, I’ve defined love and all its accoutrements (great word, eh?) using guidelines outside of my inner heart. Growing up, it was my family and church. Recently, it’s been my love addiction program. While some elements of that have been necessary for me, other parts have restricted me from thinking for myself and deciding my own center. And lately I have felt the pull to leave that behind.

I’m not “going out”, as they say. I’m going in. If my sacred duty is to take care of myself, how can I best do that? Others in my sphere have mentioned how sometimes 12-step recovery can foster perfectionism… in the case of my “love addiction”, it feels like it’s time to try something a little different. The perfectionism is keeping me from caring for myself well.

What do I value?
What do I need?
What do I trust myself to do?

Wait. I can trust myself?

That’s a heck of a lot more spontaneous and freeing than how I have lived. I’ve been utterly convinced that men are all hiding something, a dagger that they’ll plunge in my back just when I start to trust them. I’ve been utterly convinced that I am not strong enough, without certain rules made by others, to maintain distance from men who actually are not healthy.

To be honest, I’ve done the same with women. The instant someone gets close, I’m suspicious of their motives. I’m always watching them. I’m always watching me. I get a microscope out and parse their every move, trying to define them and myself, so I don’t get hurt. If I JUST ANALYZE IT ENOUGH, I won’t die.

But I read thisΒ little book that mentioned spontaneity. That spontaneity is okay. Living by rules outside of yourself doesn’t work and defining your own guidelines is necessary. Sometimes walking towards something that is scary is just what you need to grow. Bad and good are irrelevant – be curious, instead, about cause and effect. About what is happening within me when it comes to fear and love. Don’t run – my tendency. Lean in. Stop seeking security and live on the edge so you can grow. Learn spontaneity, all the delicious hairpin curves of it. Translate fear into excitement. Educate myself on the lines and shading of my own soul, and know what trespasses and what should be kept at bay. Be my own guardian – guard my heart, but not with obsession and perfectionism. Guard it because I deeply honor who I am.

I wrote something down in my journal the other day:
“There is no fear in love. How does it, and should it, change how I approach love?”

If I were not always approaching love with an attitude of fear, how would it change my approach? How would I behave in the world? Who would I be?

I am finding, as I move forward in a new way, that it changes everything. Without the fear, I’m more able to make clear decisions about who I am and what I need to do to care for that precious person. With that clarity, I make fewer harmful decisions, and I’m less afraid of making mistakes.

Without the fear… I’m free.

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25 thoughts on “Love Without Fear

  1. What a great post.

    I noticed once in recovery a pattern of behaviour that basically I’d had since a young child. Someone wants to be my friend… in many cases I’ll push them away. Why? Not because they were not nice or interesting or whatever but because if I become their friend then at some point I’ll have to give something back to that friend, they’ll come a day that they require me to listen, help or whatever and that cost is something I wasn’t prepared to accept as an unknown. Hence I ended up with very very few close, good relationships.

    1. Thanks, furtheron. πŸ™‚ It IS interesting what behaviors come to light, isn’t it? I don’t know if I have ever had that behavior pattern crop up with close relationships, but I have many others that result in either super closeness, or super faraway-ness. Frustrating. Do you feel like this has changed for you as you progress in recovery?

  2. Herein lies the complication of vulnerability, the perceived need to mitigate risk and control outcomes put up against the desire to live freely. Opening yourself up to someone can be very hard, because they might hurt you. They might hurt you just like some other people in the past have hurt you. But, on the other hand, what if they don’t. What if, instead of hurting you, they open doors of joy and love you never thought possible?

    Fear is a wonderful emotion, one for which I’m eternally grateful for and agonizingly irritated with. Fear is beneficial, it keeps us safe. That little voice that tells us, “Don’t step over the edge of that cliff without a parachute and safety personnel” is very helpful, especially in our younger years of life. It’s an evolutionary advantage, and disadvantage given the wrong circumstances.

    We risk being hurt when we open up to others, that’s a fact. The flip side is, if we never take risks and don’t let anyone in we risk being alone. We risk not meeting that person who flips our world upside down and/or really affirms the world we already have (depends on whether you want someone fairly similar to you or vastly different, or somewhere on the outskirts/middle of those extremes). How do you know when to lean in and when to back off?

    That’s the million dollar question that everyone probably wants an answer to. The reality is that we all have to find our own answer to that question. We have to know ourselves well enough to know what we’re willing to risk, accept, and what we want. We also have to learn to let go of old prejudices that people in our past create for us.

    Laurie, not everyone in this world will behave like your dad, or some of the other dubious men in your life. But some will. From my own personal experience, I have to emotionally process, let go of, and get through whatever baggage those early examples give me. I DO NOT want a relationship like the one my parents had, not even in the least. So there are particular things I look out for in people. Passive aggression being one of the biggest red flags.

    Some of the signals you get from people will be real warning signs for people you should avoid. Some of them, though, will just be people having a really off day. I, I like to think at least, am a really great guy for the most part. But there are some days where I’m just done. I’m done with people’s excuses, the mistakes they make, and I can be a real asshole. I haven’t had a bad spell like that in months, but that part of me is still there (and I love it just as much as the rest of me, it’s there for a reason).

    I think the most important steps for you are to figuring out what you want out of a romantic partner first, then worry about who later. Do you want someone who believes in the same religion? How often do you want to see them? So on and so forth. Being able to be emotionally free is very important, but it’s also important to choose the right person to do that with. Your emotions, hopes, dreams, and so forth are worthy of other people’s respect (So long as they don’t involve people being hurt, mistreated, etc. Not an ethical conversation but I do study ethics so I had to throw that in for my brain’s sake.).

    And…that’s enough for now. Praise Hitchens I’m long-winded.

  3. I don’t know you well enough to offer any sort of advice or anything. I will simply say, there are no rules in love. What works for one person won’t work for another. Every relationship is different. People who seem compatible will not last and other’s who seem like a match made in heaven will fail spectacularly.

    Love is a gamble, in my eyes. Each time you love you’re rolling the dice. You’re gambling that you won’t be hurt. That the person you love will love you back. That the person you love will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. They, in turn, are gambling on you.

    Love is a transient in a lot of cases. Love is ever evolving. Love is complex. Love is fulfilling. Love is dangerous.

    The one thing I can say with certainty is that if you don’t properly love yourself, it’s not possible to properly love another.

    1. TD – thank you. Relationships are so very different, every one. And a gamble is right. But if you love yourself first, you’ve got a chance. I heartily agree on that point, I have worked so hard for the degree of self love I have today and I wouldn’t trade it. It sees me through the dark.
      Thanks for coming by πŸ™‚

      1. I’m glad to know that you do love yourself, if even a little bit. From what little I know about your past, I’m sure it wasn’t easy to attain.

  4. One thing: don’t worry if you always find a tiny bit of fear in love. It doesn’t mean you’re failing, it’s just part of the human condition. I’m sure incredibly evolved types can avoid it completely, but I’m currently deeply in love with the right person, and we each still have the occasional thought of, “What if we grow apart?” If anything, that keeps us focused on not letting things get stale, and planning new adventures and ways to learn each other.

    It’s just a thought, but, as part of your new freedom, you might want to include the freedom to fear just a little. πŸ™‚

    1. Oh but Jennie, I’m so incredibly evolved. I’m practically enlightened. πŸ˜‰
      Really though – I think some fear is normal. It’s human. I think you’re right – freedom to fear just a little. I think I mostly meant that I stop letting fear cripple me, like it has been. I don’t suppose that tickle of fear will ever go away. I still have moments, for heaven’s sake, where I am scared that Carly will leave me, and I’ve known her 20 years. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. It’s just the way of things.

      1. I can totally see that in your aura. It’s so… big… I mean, it’s just so… ROUND and OUT THERE. You must be one of those rap guys’ girlfriends!

        πŸ˜‰

        Oh, and rap lyrics aside – did you and Carly meet online?

  5. I delight in your Frasier-ness. You are so young, you probably don’t even get my reference. πŸ™‚
    Just in case, what I mean is that I love how analytical you are, and incredibly self-reflective. My mom was a therapist while I was in high school and a few years thereafter, and I remember self-analyzing a lot because it’s what I knew.

    anyway, you are going to be juuuuust fine. Most people are narcissistic idiots at your age (I was fer sher). You have so much going for you and are crazy-smart. Love will fall in your lap when you least expect it.

    I remember when I was suffering from anxiety most intensely, I read something that helped me: “feel the fear, and do it anyway”.
    You can analyze stuff to death, but when your gut tells you “he’s the one”…..just leap. πŸ™‚

    1. I DON’T get your reference. #ashamed πŸ˜›
      Oh gosh sometimes though, my analysis and self-reflection is crippling. It’s both a blessing and a curse! If I can tone it down some, it can remain a fabulous blessing instead of the horrid fear I talk about in this post.
      Thank you for the lovely vote of confidence ❀ Feel the fear and do it anyway has been my motto lately. I keep throwing myself into the fire so I can grow from it… so far, it's been enormously helpful and it's much better for me than analyzing things to death.
      So grateful for you, dear SW.

  6. I know that feeling all too well. Mostly because I made a lot of poor dating decisions (but also my parents and childhood). I have never been in love. I keep wondering what it will be like…

    You are brave and strong. You will get all this worked out. Besides, you are too awesome to not get all the good things you deserve.

  7. Absolutely love your post. I identify with the idea of family approval and church-identified “okay. not okay.” attitude. When I was growing up, marriage was the #1 thing a woman had to look forward to. It was the sole purpose of life: to get married and have children.
    The only reason I could date someone was with the intent to marry them. As a female, dating several men (one at a time of course) was not encouraged by my dad. Actually, that belief was held by many in the church I was raised. One was best. Two was pushing it. Three was really pushing it. If there were more men, you had better start looking outside the church because you were seen (most often communicated nonverbally) as a slut.
    I left the church and shortly thereafter got married. It ended. It’s been over 11.5 years ago. When I see men I run. Or I talk to them then run. When I see a guy I’m attracted to, I escape as quickly as possible. It’s partially related to fear of men. A whole lot related to my upbringing of male-induced church doctrine. Possibly related to low self esteem – also related to church doctrine.
    Men are not attracted to me until they get to know me. Or if they look at my boobs. I feel less fat, and – because of recent attention and self-induced brainwashing – more attractive. However, it’s only through this continual self-induced brainwashing endeavor that I can even attempt to like myself (as shared in http://wordpress.com/read/post/id/69918876/682/). It’s an interesting conundrum.

    1. Oh shit. I hope you don’t take this as discouragement. Very few have my story. Totally agree with bethteliho. When it’s time, it’s time. I’m sure you’ll be ready much sooner than I. And I’m certain, when the time comes – which will be sooner than later – you will leap.

    1. It’s okay, Aussa! I have been woefully, WOEFULLY behind on blog comments lately. It’s a pitiful shame haha.
      But thank you! And I know it’s deliciously ironic in light of recent events. A post is coming up soon on that very topic. πŸ™‚

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