Sometimes what we want the most is what scares us the most.

Take love and intimacy, for example. Of course we want them. We’re hard-wired to.

But opening ourselves up to the heights (and yes, depths ) of love, to be intimately known by another, takes vulnerability. It has to. It’s the letting down of our barriers, our defences, our walls, which physically allows the connection so many of us desire.

It can feel tough to roll over and expose our tender emotional bellies, though.

There’s a chance we’ll get sucker-punched in that same, soft, gut. As a species we’d rather avoid pain if at all possible, thank you very much (even if it hurts more in the long run. No, you’re not alone. Here, take a badge…)

How do we hide from love? Everyone has their favourite hidey-place (yeah, it’s just like Hide ‘n’ Seek), but they can include:

  • Deliberately keeping things casual, or even ending things, if we start to feel attached;
  • Becoming emotionally and/or sexually involved with someone already partnered;
  • Making negative generalisations about men and/or women;
  • Rejecting opportunities to expand our social circle;
  • Maintaining an unrequited affection over finding someone new;
  • Dating someone who doesn’t share our relationship goals or values.

The list goes on.

But not everyone hides from the intimacy and vulnerability of a relationship by not being in a relationship. Sometimes the most efficient way of hiding is within a relationship.

Unsatisfying, troubled, conflicted and unhealthy, irrelationships are those we enter to protect ourselves from the risk of being close.

As Why We End Up In Bad Relationships at Psychology Today points out,

“The couple unconsciously “agrees” to maintain rigid rules that keep emotions predictable. Irrelationships feel safe, but limit freedom. They are about control, not intimacy and mutuality.”

Going from one painful relationship to another? Maybe it’s time to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I keep trying to fix or rescue the people I am drawn to?
  • Do I keep hoping that they will fix or rescue me?
  • Do I equate “loving” with “taking care of”?
  • Do I keep “doing for” my partner, even when I receive little in return?
  • Do my relationships feel more like work than play?
  • Do I feel enlivened or exhausted by my relationship?
  • Does my relationship enrich my life?

The answers may be difficult. It’s OK. Sometimes the hardest questions to answer are the ones most worth asking.

How do you protect yourself from love?

Read more on irrelationships here.

Photo credit: wilB

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