The answer to the question "Why do relationships fail?” can be found within us. Whether we know it or not, most of us are afraid of really being in love. While our fears may manifest themselves in different ways or show themselves at different stages of a relationship, we all harbor defenses that we believe on some level will protect us from getting hurt.
What keeps us from finding and keeping the love we say we want?
Real Love Makes Us Feel Vulnerable
A new relationship is uncharted territory, and most of us have natural fears of the unknown. Letting ourselves fall in love means taking a real risk. We are placing a great amount of trust in another person, allowing them to affect us, which makes us feel exposed and vulnerable.
New Love Stirs Up Past Hurts
When we enter into a relationship, we are rarely fully aware of how we’ve been impacted by our history. The ways we were hurt in previous relationships, starting from our childhood, have a strong influence on how we perceive the people we get close to as well as how we act in our romantic relationships. Old, negative dynamics may make us wary of opening ourselves up to someone new.
Love Challenges An Old Identity
Many of us struggle with underlying feelings of being unlovable. We have trouble feeling our own value and believing anyone could really care for us. We all have a “critical inner voice (link is external),” which acts like a cruel coach inside our heads that tells us we are worthless or undeserving of happiness. These critical thoughts or “inner voices” are often harmful and unpleasant, but they’re also comfortable in their familiarity.
With Real Joy Comes Real Pain
Any time we fully experience true joy or feel the preciousness of life on an emotional level, we can expect to feel a great amount of sadness. Many of us shy away from the things that would make us happiest, because they also make us feel pain. The opposite is also true. We cannot selectively numb ourselves to sadness without numbing ourselves to joy.
Love Is Often Unequal
Many people have expressed hesitation over getting involved with someone, because that person “likes them too much.” They worry that if they got involved with this person, their own feelings wouldn’t evolve, and the other person would wind up getting hurt or feeling rejected. The truth is that love is often imbalanced, with one person feeling more or less from moment to moment. Our feelings toward someone are an ever-changing force. In a matter of seconds, we can feel anger, irritation or even hate for a person we love. Worrying over how we will feel keeps us from seeing where our feelings would naturally go. It’s better to be open to how our feelings develop over time.
Relationships Can Break Your Connection To Your Family
Relationships can be the ultimate symbol of growing up. They represent starting our own lives as independent, autonomous individuals. This development can also represent a parting from our family. Much like breaking from an old identity, this separation isn’t physical. It doesn’t mean literally giving up our family, but rather letting go on an emotional level – no longer feeling like a kid.
Love Stirs Up Existential Fear
The more we have, the more we have to lose. The more someone means to us, the more afraid we are of losing that person. When we fall in love, we not only face the fear of losing our partner, but we become more aware of our mortality. Our life now holds more value and meaning, so the thought of losing it becomes more frightening.
Most relationships bring up an onslaught of challenges. Getting to know our fears of intimacy and how they inform our behavior is an important step to having a fulfilling, long-term relationship. By getting to know ourselves, we give ourselves the best chance of finding and maintaining lasting love.