Everyone experiences the dark side of love at some point. It might be an unexpected breakup or infidelity or a partner who has misrepresented who s/he is. The point is, the process of finding true love isn’t always a slam dunk. And, the more you’ve been hurt or disappointed, the more you may be afraid to love again.
It’s natural to want to steer clear of people and things that hurt you. But it’s not necessary to give up on a great relationship out of fear.
There are a lot of potential reasons for relationships not working out. And there are a lot of ways you can better prepare yourself for the partner and relationship of your dreams. Yes, even if you are afraid to love again!
Believe it or not, the majority of my clients are marriage-minded people. They want to find “the one” and move out of the dating phase into the commitment of marriage and even family life if that’s still a goal of yours.
I love the positive, hopeful attitude of these clients. And occasionally I hear a dating story that reminds me of why I was once afraid to love again. And it sends shivers down my spine.
When I first married, I was young and naive. I had no idea that I was about to be bamboozled by the man I loved. The signs were all right there in front of me, but I didn’t see them.
If I had paid attention to his family influences, I would have noticed the way his father often put down his mother. Sadly, his father thought it was funny and called his ridicule a “joke.” He didn’t respect women. And he hadn’t taught his son to respect them, either. As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Sometimes the signs you see point only to perfection. He seems wonderful and sweeps you off your feet. Or she seems like just the kind of woman your family would love and embrace. In some ways, it seems too good to be true, but you don’t have any reason to go looking for something negative.
And then…you get the wind knocked out of you. You discover or experience something that makes you think, “I knew it was too good to be true!”
Perhaps your new love interest is still communicating with an old flame, despite claiming to be exclusive with you. Or maybe there is a toxic relationship with a child or other family member.
Perhaps s/he has a big financial debt. Maybe s/he is a “yes” person who doesn’t know how or intend to follow through on promises made to you. Perhaps this person is actually selfish and doesn’t really care about your best interests.
So how can you openly trust if you’ve been hurt by someone like this and are afraid to love again?
First, remind yourself that there are good people in the world.
Then realize that, to be successful in love, you have to know the person you are falling in love with. And that takes time. Get to know “the whole package” — family, children, friends, even co-workers.
Some couples today even share their credit scores and bank statements before deciding to marry. They know that financial attitudes and responsibility reveal a lot about a person.
What kinds of things are you looking for when you are “getting to know the whole package”? Here are some questions you might put onto your mental list:
- Does s/he have long-standing, loyal friends? Have you met them? Is s/he eager to introduce you and include you in activities with them?
- If your new love interest has children, do the kids respect both their parents? Is there a good parenting relationship between this new person and his/her ex? Does this new person show respect for his/her parents? And do they have a good relationship or at least share mutual respect if they are no longer married?
- Does s/he have a health issue that has been hidden and not disclosed?
- Has this person emotionally separated from his/her ex? (This is a really important question.) Are there healthy boundaries that make room for you to become the priority?
- Is s/he financially responsible? And if there is debt, is there a plan in place to pay it off? Is this person’s work situation stable? Does it fit with your values on financial risk and stability?
- How does this person keep his/her home? Do you feel your lifestyle expectations as compatible?
I recommend that you take your time and don’t jump into a relationship (and especially an engagement) right away.
I’m not suggesting you wait 3 years, but going from being afraid to love again to being in a committed relationship takes time.
Assuming you are marriage-minded and truly want to find lasting love, give your relationship a full year before becoming engaged. This will give you the time to learn who this person really is in both good times and stressful times.
Taking your time will also give you time to learn who you are in a relationship with this specific person. Do you feel inspired and motivated by this person? Do you find it easy to be vulnerable and share difficult things? Hopefully, you both bring out the best in one another. But you can’t discover that if you make long-term decisions in the early days when everything feels perfect.
A year will also give you the chance to participate in holidays and activities with one another’s family and friends. You will get to experience the rhythm of his/her work schedule and see how s/he handles the ups and downs of work.
You will also have the chance to travel together, even for a weekend here and there. Believe me, you can learn a lot about a person when you are together 24/7!
Take note if this person is difficult to get a hold of or becomes unreliable at times. Watch for patterns in how and where you spend time together. Are you always at your place or are you each equally welcome at the other’s place?
Just because you’ve been afraid to love again doesn’t mean you’re not ready to love again. If you are committed to learning from all your experiences, you’ll be wiser this time. Also, you’ll notice stuff you may have ignored in the past.
Be inquisitive. You’ll see the signs if something is not right.
And make sure your budding relationship is aligned with your values. Superficial qualities will fade over time. But having common core values will help keep you connected for a lifetime.
Most of all, trust your gut! Yes, you want to find true love that leads to marriage. But that doesn’t mean the first person you go out with is going to be a good fit. Take your time so you can both learn enough to make the most important decision of your lives.
And lastly, don’t let your difficult past relationship experiences ruin your chances for a future healthy, fulfilling relationship.
Be positive and stay aware! There are wonderful people out there who want to find love as much as you do. Even if you have been afraid to love again, commit to having an open heart and mind.
Wishing you safety and health in this time of social distancing!
PS: If you want to see if you are ready to find that special person, you can take my quiz at www.mtmquiz.com and see how you ready you truly are for new love!