There are few things scarier than letting your guard down enough to accept love from another person — especially if you secretly fear you don’t deserve to be loved.
We all want to be loved. Most of us say we want a healthy and happy relationship. So we plant seeds and eagerly watch for love to grow. When the buds of love start growing, our warm hearts believe we’ve found what we’ve been looking for. We feel joy and happiness.
So why do so many of us find ways to block love at that point? Why do we feel panic when it’s time to accept what’s being offered? Why do we find excuses to slam the door in the face of the one who says, “I really love you and I accept you as you are?”
I see this pattern in other people pretty easily. It’s easy for me to smugly point my finger at another’s mistakes — but it’s humbling and horrifying when I realize I’ve made the same arrogant mistake.
It’s been 12 years since I sat across from a woman at a restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C., one Saturday afternoon and tried really hard to slam the door shut on love. My girlfriend and I sat there for a couple of hours talking. I don’t remember how I started the conversation, but I was basically letting her know what was wrong with her.
We had been dating for something like eight months. The beginning had been blissfully happy, but I soon found reasons to be unhappy. And here’s the thing. I had legitimate concerns about some serious issues with her. I wasn’t being unfair and I wasn’t imagining things. There were problems.
But in the light of what I’ve learned about myself since then, I understand what I was doing. It would have been very healthy to bring up my concerns so we could work them out, but I was using my concerns as a reason to run away.
I understand now that it terrified me to be so deeply loved and adored by this beautiful and brilliant woman. So I was unconsciously trying to run away from her — to avoid accepting her love for the rest of my life. I wasn’t comfortable being loved this strongly, because it wasn’t what I was accustomed to. Since I felt uncomfortable, I needed to run, so I turned to my perfectionism — and I turned that into criticism of her.
It was my best way to run from love — and tell myself it was her fault. I could say she was flawed, not me.
I’ve been thinking about that this week after I read a series of questions related to my Enneagram personalty type: “In your closest relationships, how do you block the flow of love? As a [Type 1], does your perfectionism turn to criticism? What needs to happen for you to let in and express more love today?”
As soon as I read the questions, I felt the sick recollection of this thing I had figured out about myself years ago. This is what I’ve used — multiple times — to block love that made me uncomfortable. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to deal effectively with real issues with a future partner, but without using my concerns to run away.
Other types of people are going to use different excuses for running away.
Another person is going to raise a mask and avoid vulnerability, for instance, knowing it will drive away someone who offers love. We all have our own ways of finding excuses. Another person is going to find fault with the partner — as I did — for completely different issues.
In all cases, though, the underlying unconscious thought process is that we can’t possibly accept the love that this person offers — for some reason, real or imagined — because that allows us to avoid the terrible fear of letting real love into our hearts and lives in an honest way.
By doing this, we never have to be honest with ourselves. We never have to be honest with the other person. We can let the other person believe that he or she is defective or not good enough. And we can walk away from that love without admitting to ourselves that we are throwing away something which we desperately need.
I think I’ve learned this lesson well enough not to repeat it, but I hope the day will come when I believe that I deserve to be loved — by the sort of amazing woman who I fall in love with — and I will no longer feel so uncomfortable that I’ll look for a reason to slam the door in her face.
I never again want to run from the love I need — and I never again want to leave someone standing in the cold who is offering her heart and life to me.