The Fear of Love

Those of us who fear love fear not only the pain it may cause but also the joy it may bring us. We fear the extremes of emotion that love carries us towards on its capricious wings.

Why? Because we fear change and value security. And surely there is little in life that can bring about change the way love does. Also, if we have a lack of love in our life, we have come to depend on that lack whether we realize it or not. For a lack of something generally provides us with a need for it. And a need for love gives us something to pursue. It provides a sense of adventure for us. Without the need there would not be that deep yearning inside us. For some of us, yearning is what gives us hope.

We fear love, and yet we want it. Some of us even want it more because it can be dangerous. Yet the danger both attracts and repels us. Like a film that we are riveted to even though we want to turn away, love both beckons and threatens us. And even when it beckons and seems to promise fulfillment, part of us rebels. We don’t want anything too “serious.” Sure, we want something “meaningful” — but in the future, not now. We want kids, but we don’t want them yet. Marriage is an option, but not if it means giving up any of our freedom.

Where we err is in imagining that love is exactly as we perceive it to be. Where there is fear, there is no love. So, in being afraid of love, we have provided the perfect fortress to keep it out of our lives. And if we fall in love while fearing it, our fear will prevent us from wanting to sustain that love. Perhaps, we can do better. Maybe this person isn’t all he or she seems to be. Or maybe he or she is so attractive or appealing that he or she will leave us for someone else.

Just as we fear failure and oftentimes thwart or avoid the possibility of success, we fear failing at love and use this to justify closing it out of our lives. But how can you fear something you don’t have? How can you fear a love that is unknown?

You fear what you perceive love to be — not what it actually is. And you fear what you perceive to be both sides of it. You’re afraid of the pain and misery that follows rejection, abandonment, and betrayal. Yet you also fear the contentment and happiness that may give temporary bliss but, more often than not, ends in loneliness, emptiness, or indifference masquerading as obligation.

Of course those of us who fear love rarely admit we’re afraid of it. We simply avoid it. We imagine through fear that we can escape a basic human need. But we don’t have rational reasons for avoiding it. Our reasons are based on warped perceptions — perceptions that will destroy the very thing we want even though we fear it.

Many of us see ourselves as courageous. And many of us have great physical courage. But for love, it isn’t physical courage that’s needed — it’s emotional courage.  Yet emotional courage will elude us if we are afraid of anything, including love. We imagine that vulnerability is weakness, and in the words of C. S. Lewis, “to love is to be vulnerable.” But vulnerability is not weakness. Rather, it is strength. For it requires much less of us to avoid the possibility of love than to open ourselves up to it.


This essay and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2012 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved.


3 thoughts on “The Fear of Love

  1. Erik says:

    I enjoyed this, Sascha, thank-you. Sometimes I wonder if what we want when we say we want love and to be love, is a kind of “secondary property” to our relational lives.

    A secondary property, in the sense that I am using it, is a quality that is not found within the individual components of some X, but arises out of it. For example, water is wet, and water is H20, but wetness is not a property of Hydrogen, or Oxygen, even in very large volumes. The same might be said for the saltiness of table salt (NaCl), or the beauty we experience in of a piece of music, say “Pachelbel’s Canon.”

    I wonder if what we long to experience, when we claim that we want love is actually the product of what I am calling “dispositional attitudes” (which can include what has been called “virtues”). Those attitudes that I have in mind are trust, honesty, and commitment (I could be excluding some, but not intentionally). By themselves they do not seem to entail love, and in fact they are the basis of any meaningful relationship, but when combined together over the apropriate amount of time, then what we call love seems to arise. This kind of relationship suggests not just attitudes about the present, but about the future, where you, and another share in a story that takes place within it as a possibility.

    It strkes me that if this is correct, at least in part, then where there is neither trust, honesty, nor commitment, then the alternative is to fabricate the feelings associated with love, but doing so without these elements.

    Of course, Christian agape love is yet another matter entirely.

  2. yvonne owen says:

    Simply beautiful Sascha:)

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