For years, my romantic life followed a pattern. I fell for men who wouldn't commit to me and I ran away from or rejected the men who would. I idolised the unavailable guys, becoming obsessed with them, and I vilified those who were available, judging them, criticising them and finding fault.
I had no idea I was doing this for a long time. It was my norm. It was the way I operated. I simply couldn't bring myself to fancy good, reliable men and I couldn't resist the fireworks that the 'bad guys' brought into my life.
Eventually, I became aware of what I was doing although for a while, I still couldn't stop.
But I did stop in the end, which is why I'm preparing for my wedding in June.
How did I change my pattern?
By realising just how terrified I was of love.
I wonder, are you scared to fall in love? You might think, "No way, not me, I'm always in relationships. I fall hook, line and sinker every time. I have no problem giving my heart away."
But I ask you this: who are you giving your heart to?
And if you're falling for people who can't commit to you or who are unavailable in some other way (for example, married, in a relationship, addicted to alcohol or work, living on a different continent), then it's likely that you are scared to love, frightened of intimacy, terrified of the real thing, just as I was.
We don't choose these unavailable people consciously. We're intelligent women and men. Rather our subconscious leads us into these dead-end relationships with the goal of keeping us 'safe' - safe from hurt, safe from heartache, safe from reliving the pain we felt the first time we loved and lost.
It's easy to blame the other person for being afraid of commitment. I did that all the time. What was wrong with these guys?
Then I realised I was the common denominator in all my relationships.
Where does the fear come from?
We are all unique. Our fear of intimacy and relationship will have different roots.
In my case, I remember the heartache and disappointment I felt when my dad sat me on his knee and told me he was moving out (I was seven or eight). Surely it was my fault, I thought. Clearly there was something wrong with me if dad was leaving.
This and other experiences led me to draw three conclusions:
- I will never love so deeply again because it hurts too much.
- I will reject people before they reject me. I know they're going to reject me because I'm faulty and unlovable and rejection hurts so I'll do it first.
- I'll do whatever I can to avoid feeling suffocated and trapped, which is the sense I picked up about relationships from my parents.
These decisions didn't stop me from dating. Deep down, I was desperate for love and commitment; I was desperate to heal those early wounds and to recover the love that I'd lost.
But I dated men who were unavailable because I was terrified of loving and getting hurt.
If any of this resonates with you, I have some good news. You're on the right track. Awareness is powerful - it's the first step in the process of change.
Where do we go from here?
Let your awareness grow. Look back into your past. Examine your previous relationships. Did you get hurt? Did your heart break? Did you conclude you were faulty and unlovable so it's easier to reject than to be rejected? Did you pick up messages about relationships that led you to avoid committed partnerships in order to stay 'safe'?
Allow yourself the time and space to explore these questions and your answers.
Then go in search of your courage. Where do you get your courage? By connecting with Nature, the Universe, God, spirituality, faith, your higher self? By getting support from friends, counsellors, therapists or coaches?
Once you've learned to tap into your courage, proceed into relationships slowly and mindfully. Think about protecting your heart without putting up walls. Think about listening to your intuition and discerning what's right for you. Think about keeping your clothes on until you've built up some trust.
Be aware of your resistance to love, to relationship. Gently edge yourself forwards. And when you find someone worthy of your love, muster all your inner strength and go for it.
Easier said than done, right?
Well, I believe that if I can fall in love, anyone can. But I didn't do it alone. I had lots of support. I'd love to support you further so tune in on Valentine's Day, February 14th, to my free Facebook live workshop on Psychologies Facebook page at 1 pm, or watch the recording later.
And why not join my next free 14-day Find Love Challenge starting on February 15th? Sign up to my mailing list at www.howtofallinlove.co.uk to join.
Wishing you plenty of courage and a love-filled Valentine's Day.
February 14th, 1 pm. How to Find Someone to Love. Facebook Live workshop on Psychologies Facebook page
Join my 14-Day Find Love Challenge by signing up at www.howtofallinlove.co.uk
How to Fall in Love Dorset Retreat, Feb 15-18, Southbourne (2 hours from London Waterloo). 2 non-residential spaces left.
Love Yourself, Love Your Body, Love Your Life Find Love, Turkey Retreat with Yoga, Oct 7-14, Spectrum. Earlybird ends Feb 28.
Join my free Facebook Group, Being Real, Becoming Whole