Love and Fear

We come to believe that, in a place where love exists between two people, there is not space for any negative emotions to co-exist, especially fear. In my work with couples, I have come to observe that people get really confused when they feel intense anger, disappointment, hurt, or even numbness toward the one that they once felt so surely love for. "Sometimes, I feel that I am going crazy! My mood swings are too much, at times I want to be closer to him and ask for reassurance, other times he makes me so angry or hurt, and I just want distance!", someone once told me. And I respond: "Of course!" It can be really puzzling to understand this behaviour, seemingly contradictory, unless we know what we are looking at: attachment and bonding!

When we fall in love, the assumptions that we are going to be cared for, protected and loved by the other person are implied. Therefore, when situations happen, in the relationship, that make us questions these assumptions, we tend to react. The reaction is one of fear - fear of losing our sweetheart, fear of being rejected by them, fear of not being seen as important to them; basically, fear of losing the deep emotional connection or attachment with them. So, in these moments, we go into a state of protesting - trying to get our sweetie's attention and reassurance that we are still important to them. Babies do that by crying, adults do that by asking for reassurance, by being critical, angry, demanding attention, and some also crying. When these efforts are unsuccessful and our sweetie does not respond in a reassuring way, we tend to protest even more, and if we do it for a long time, we ended up giving up on trying, and disappointment, hurt, and numbness settle in. There are also the cases of those of us that learned, from a young age, that protesting is fruitless, and we settle into numbness and depression immediately after experiencing rejection or disconnection from our sweetie.

When couples come to see me in therapy, they have been going around this emotional "roller-coaster" many times and for many years even. So, the love they once felt and shared for one another is buried under layers and layers of sadness and fear, and people cannot get in touch with that feeling easily. The sense of disconnection from that loving feeling makes people think that they are not in love anymore, or make them question if they were ever in love, or whether is it possible to recover that love and nurture it back to life. A lot of doubts start creeping in, and the need to slow down the roller-coaster is fundamental.

In spite of it all, as humans, we don't seem to grasp that, where there is love there is also fear. Where there is love, there is always vulnerability. Love and fear are opposing forces that co-exist in us. The fear of losing one's love, care and respect, is such a deep-seated fear in us, because we are wired for survival through connection with other humans; thus, losing that connection can mean a lot to our emotional survival. Understanding why we love and fear, why we protest and give up, and why we keep trying to restore the love once felt, will go a long way to help many couples out there understand their own feelings and those toward their sweetie. Essentially, to help them reflect on the idea that the problem is not their love, but the roller-coaster, the fear that has made them stuck in a vicious circle.

Roller Coaster

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