A few years ago I began to notice that I had somewhat of an odd pattern of behavior surrounding my dating relationships. Let me explain. When I first meet or become romantically involved with a guy, I am one of the coolest most easygoing chicks to be around. I’m fun, I’m outgoing, I’m humorous, I’m confident. I presume this is a result of being totally detached from the guy I’m seeing. At this particular early point in the budding relationship, I am just enjoying myself and feel I have absolutely nothing to lose.
As time progresses and the relationship continues to grow, all seems well and things appear to be going fairly smooth. But then, out of nowhere, something happens. I wake up one day with this gripping feeling. It always takes me awhile to identify what it is, but I eventually come to the realization that the emotion I am being overtaken by is sheer terror. At some point in the progression of these relationships I suppose that my heart decides that she wishes to join in on the fun and that is where my problem seems to begin. When feelings start to grow and my mind receives the memo that my heart has become an active participant, I choke. Boy, do I choke. Panic seems to overtake me in a way that I am sure any licensed psychiatrist would prescribe medication to subdue. Thoughts of any and everything that could possibly go wrong in the relationship cloud my mind and I subconsciously begin looking for a way of escape.
“Get out now before any real damage is done,” is always the thought that looms in the back of my mind as fractured images of past hurts, disappointments and failed relationships clutter my memory. My mind wants to leave while my heart wants to stay and my soul seeks to find common ground between the two. More often than not, I decide to stay in the relationship, but not without putting up imaginary walls to guard my heart and appease my mind. And then of course, my mind goes into overtime by overthinking and overanalyzing every single detail of the relationship, hoping to catch on to or decode any signs of turbulence ahead of time so that I can get out before my heart can get broken.
I suppose that as a result of past occurrences, my mind is used to associating love and relationships with heartache, loss and suffering, which would make the emotional walls that I put up a mere defense mechanism; a simple defense mechanism that could potentially cause me to miss out on the love of my life. I realize that this fear is something that I must overcome. It would be a tragedy for me to get to the end of my life and realize that I allowed the one to get away because I let my uncompromising fear of being hurt have free reign to rule my love life. I know that conquering my fear of relationships won’t be easy, however, I am determined.
One of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read on this subject came in the form of an article by author and counselor, Sheryl Paul, on The Huffington Post entitled Relationship Anxiety: Fear Eyes or Clear Eyes? in which she shares her personal experiences of relationship anxiety with a boyfriend who is now her husband.
I learned that when we see life through fear-tinted glasses, it’s like walking through a fun-house where everything becomes distorted. Except that it’s not fun at all; it’s torture. Fear wanted to convince me to run because in fear’s mind, love is dangerous. Love means loss. Love means losing myself or losing the other person. Love means risking my heart and breaking down the layers of control. Real love means that I have to be accountable and vulnerable and, since I had never met someone with whom I felt safe enough to do this, almost every fiber in my body and soul wanted to run.
I remember letting out such a sigh of relief upon reading of her experiences. For so long I thought I was alone in feeling this way. What I found even more inspiring is when she reflects on how she was triumphant in her bout with relationship anxiety.
But I didn’t run. Thank God, I didn’t run…I would see his acts of caring, which are too numerous to list here. I would see his creativity, his soulfulness, the poetry of who he is. I would see that he’s everything I’ve ever wanted and needed, and I would be flooded with love and gratitude… There were many moments when fear would dissolve and I would see my partner through clear eyes, standing before me with the beauty of his soul radiating out like the rays of the sun. Fear might rear its ugly head the very next hour, but those windows of clarity are what gave me the inspiration and the knowing that I had to keep battling through the fear voices and fighting for love.
From Paul’s words, I know that there is hope for a fearful lover as myself, and as a follower of Christ, I don’t believe that it is in God’s will for me to live this way. I am determined to experience love the way in which God intended for it to be experienced. And so I will pray. I will fight, and if I’m lucky, I will not lose love to fear. Never again.
Have you ever dealt with relationship anxiety?
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