The following is a guest post by Emily Anne of The Kindred Spirits blog


I never dated in high school.

And I never dated in college.

I had very little desire to pursue dating during those seasons of my life. In fact, I had become quite the relationship cynic. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships. I’m talking relationships in general. Even friendships. Any sort of connection was scary. I felt I had been burned too many times.

While attending a small Christian college, I definitely felt pressure to find someone.

Sometimes I really felt envious watching so many people get engaged, one after the other. And I wondered why I wasn’t one of them. Was I happy for them? Of course I was! But every time someone new got engaged, I felt a twinge of sadness in my gut, wondering if I was ever going to have that.

But I just could not ignore the reality that I felt so incapable of having a connection with ANYONE, much less a strong, loving, fully committed “dating relationship”. I kept every person I knew at arms-length, afraid that if I let anyone get too close, there was no way they would love me. I molded and remolded myself to make myself “lovable” by other people’s standards. Maybe, I thought, if I act like this person, dress like that person…maybe then I will be acceptable. It was a performance mentality that was engrained in me from a very young age {I’ll come back to that}.

But this mentality always backfired on me. No matter what I did, I was never happy with myself. I had developed the expectation that I was just not going to be loved, no matter how much love I extended or how lovable I tried to be.

I was just a basket case. Who would want to be around a basket case?

And of course, I compared myself to every girl I knew who was in a relationship.

She’s so pretty. I could never get a guy like that. Guys like that only date gorgeous girls. I’m not gorgeous.

She’s so thin. Guys want to be attracted to who they are dating. I’m not thin enough. My body is never going to attract anyone.

I am also pretty embarrassed to say that I even went as far as thinking,

What? I am prettier than her! How is she is a relationship and I’m not? What’s wrong with ME?

{I know, right? That’s just not okay. I’m thankful that the Lord is gracious in forgiving those kinds of thoughts…the self-centered ones AND the self-deprecating ones.}

It was a vicious cycle. Being so sure that I was unlovable prevented me from allowing myself to even BE loved…by anyone.

It’s called SELF-SABOTAGE. I was a classic self-sabotager {I know…that’s not really a word}.

***

I am a firm believer that a girl gets her first perceptions of how she should be treated by a guy, by seeing how her father treats her.

And I didn’t exactly have the greatest example.

I did have excellent parents. They raised me well. My younger brothers and I grew up going to church, knowing about Jesus, and reading God’s word. Both parents had good jobs, provided for us, and we were pretty well-off.

But, I never really felt like I “belonged” with them…that I never lived up to who they expected me to become…and who I HAD become was unworthy. And as I got older, things changed drastically, and not for the better. Hearts were hardened, and things were said that were completely wrong. Things that sent everyone far down into a pit of deep rooted SHAME.

However, my parents were really good at making sure our family put up a united front. It was always about making sure our family looked like we had it all together, that we didn’t have any problems, and we were super connected.

There it was…the “performance mentality”.

Cover up your reality. Don’t let anyone know you’re dealing with any kind of hardship. No one wants to hear about your struggles. Paste on your feigned exterior, and don’t let anyone really SEE you. That’s embarrassing to the entire family.

But I did not want to be that kind of person.

I was adopted, so I already knew I was wired very differently from my parents.

I wanted to be SEEN and LOVED. And I’m sure I really DID embarrass the rest of my family, who was used to keeping everything buried. I didn’t want to.

But after so many times of TRYING to open myself up to people and watching them all walk away, I discovered that maybe I was too much for people to deal with (again… just a basket case). That’s when I started hiding myself, keeping myself at a distance, so ashamed of my own existence.

***

Conquering the fear of being in a relationship can seem difficult, especially if you've never been in a relationship or have been hurt by relationships before.

A few years ago…after college was already over…after I had relocated TWICE…and after I had drifted around aimlessly for a while, I decided to do something brave. I felt it was time.

I created an online dating profile.

{Yes, people were very surprised. It was just so not like me to do that.}

And through that, I met the man who would become my fiancé…

But it definitely was a rocky start.

Let’s back up…

When John-David and I first started dating, I was determined to not let myself be scared by another male figure in my life. Having been raised by an authoritative, very critical father, I was extremely wary of men in my life.

From a very early age, I was uncomfortable to accept hugs from other men…including my own uncles or men who knew my family very well, and who’d spent a lot of dinners and social gatherings in our home. These men were all family men, and I was still afraid of them.

Once I got to high school and college, I become very anxious at the idea of approaching male teachers and professors. In my mind, men were scary and not trustworthy.

So needless to say, while it may have been brave to “put myself out there”, I wasn’t yet brave enough to allow myself to be loved by this man who clearly loved me. And I wasn’t brave enough to love him back yet, either. I had stacked my walls up too high, and too thick over the years.

Because I had become conditioned to question everything, I absolutely did…

What if he just finds his security in having a girlfriend, and I just happened to be the one he ended up with? He’s just going to regret me. Everyone does.

What if he ends up being a manipulative control freak and I end up getting stuck in a relationship I can’t get out of?

Can I trust him to respect my physical boundaries?

And eventually…What if, after we are married, he sees ALL of me, and realizes he just made a huge mistake?

All of these {read: totally irrational} thoughts had me completely shut off from loving him in return.

And he felt that. I knew he was worried. I knew he was afraid that I was going to run away. But I didn’t know what to do about it, or how to deal with it. I was still convinced that this love wasn’t real.

And I didn’t know what real love looked like.

My whole life, I had only tried to find “love” based on trying to fit someone else’s mold of who THEY thought I should be. And I didn’t want to do that anymore. I just wanted to be me. No façade, no barriers, no more “trying harder”.

Still, “ME” didn’t feel like enough.

***

Slowly over time, the Lord started chiseling away at the walls around my heart.

I asked Him to help me open my heart, and to give me the desire to love John-David.

This was another brave thing. Love meant TRUSTING. Love meant VULNERABILITY. Both were incredibly frightening to me.

God showed me that trusting HIM was the first step I had to take.

With trusting HIM, came REAL love, unmeasurable. With trusting HIM, came a security that I had never experienced in my entire life. My inner walls crumbled to the ground, the mess came pouring out at God’s feet, and I was met with nothing but forgiveness, healing, and grace.

Only through that kind of freedom was I able to trust anyone else…able to love and be loved by anyone else. By Him I am fully seen, fully known, and fully loved. And as a result, I find myself less afraid to be fully seen, known, and loved by others.

Do I still have difficult days where I just want to close myself off, and not let anyone see my heart? Absolutely. I’m working on that. I think I’ll always be working on that.

Still, oh, I have come so far in so many ways through the grace of God alone.

And this man who will soon become my husband has been forgiving and understanding of the ways I’ve had to work {and continue to work} through my issues of fear, lack of trust, and feeling unlovable. As we get closer to our wedding day, more and more fears of the future have crept up in my heart. And I forget to bring them to the Lord, rather than stick my head in the sand, shut down, and shut everyone out {we are only human after all}.

But as Francesca Battistelli sings, “I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes clean, and my shame is undone.”

I have said so many times, fear, guilt, and shame are an epidemic in this world. And I’ve succumbed to it.

But our God is gracious and mighty, and can remove us from that place.

I am NOW convinced that He has placed me right where He wants me. And where God is, there is no room for fear. There is no way to be “unlovable”.


12806188_576942302457824_6134494086881058756_nEmily Anne lives in northern Indiana, where she is a teacher of the performing arts! She teaches pre-K through elementary school music, and dance to all ages. When she is not busy teaching, Emily enjoys singing in a choir, continuing to take ballet class to stay in shape, discovering new things to do or simply just relaxing with her fiancé, and excitedly planning a wedding for August 2017!

She loves Anne of Green Gables and Downton Abbey, and thinks she should have been born during the 1910s. She has a strong desire to speak out against the stigma of depression/mental health and share her journey through that. You can find Emily at the Faith & Lifestyle blog, The Kindred Spirits blog.

Connect with Emily Anne: BlogFacebook

2 thoughts on “Conquering the Fear of Being in a Relationship

  1. Shakiya

    Thank you for posting this! We hear so much about the fear of being single or alone, but rarely the fear of being in a relationship. As I was reading I could identify with so much that was said. I felt like I wasn’t the only one who thought those kings or struggled in those areas! Man this was so good and on time! I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this post for encouragement when I do enter into a relationship. Thanks again sis! ❤️

    Reply

  2. Annette

    A beautifully wrote blog! So many of us believe the lies of the devil! God is the truth and we can always trust Him!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge