Hate that you're still single? "F.E.A.R." could be sabotaging your love life and you don't even know it. When anxiety, fear, or "ghosts of relationships past" get in they way of finding love, it's time to nip it in the bud and make room for love!
F - Fear of Judgment/Rejection
"Everyone's looking at me."
"She'll think I'm a nervous freak."
Fears of being judged or rejected by others are examples of social anxiety. Finding the perfect love match requires a fair amount of approaching and meeting strangers (aka dating), which to the socially anxious person is the equivalent of asking a claustrophobe to live in an elevator. The social phobic person's greatest fear is public humiliation and scrutiny. So when they contemplate striking up conversation with an attractive person, the idea is quickly aborted after imagining a string of embarrassing scenarios. If social anxiety is ignored, it can eventually lead to avoiding more and more interpersonal situations. In other words, the fear of talking to a stranger will eventually evolve into a reason to avoid it ("I'm not going to bother because she's probably not my type anyway"). Avoiding the trial and error of dating means—yup, you guessed it—staying single.
If meeting strangers doesn't get your palms sweaty, maybe old relationship baggage does. Let's say your last relationship ended horribly, leaving you holding the shards of a broken heart. Eventually you meet someone new—one who's perfect for you—but all you can think about is what COULD go wrong. When something or someone has hurt you, an understandable response is to do everything possible to avoid experiencing pain again. As tempting as it is to lock yourself in the apartment and obsess about a previous relationship, realize it is possible to trust and love again. Most importantly, remember your next partner is not your ex, so don’t bring those old doubts and fears to the new relationship. Leave the exes where they belong—the past.
You're clinging like cellophane wrap, he's running like mascara.
Research suggests that the type of bond we form with caregivers as a baby influences how we bond in adult romantic relationships (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). If your caregivers consistently and appropriately met your needs in infancy (i.e., secure attachment), you're more likely to experience a comfortable and healthy attachment to the person you love. But not everyone's so lucky.
Individuals who formed an insecure attachment as an infant (meaning the caregiver inconsistently met their needs) are more likely to experience a lot of anxiety about love. The possibility of abandonment is horrifying to the anxious-preoccupied person. Hollywood portrays these characters in romantic comedies as obsessive, desperate women who push men away with crazy antics and incessant questioning like: "Are you cheating on me? Do you really love me?" (See also Avoidant Attachment Type)
R - Rigid Boundaries
Personal Boundaries—much like a fence around your home—are intended to separate and protect. But if there's an alligator-infested moat around your personal life, no one's getting in. Author, Nina W. Brown describes rigid boundaries as a reluctance to become emotionally involved with others in an effort to evade vulnerability and hurt (1998). In other words, fear-based rigidity is the proverbial steel armor surrounding a hesitant heart—intended to shield from disappointment. Further, rigid personalities can be very particular about how things should be and are often resistant to change. Although they may desire love, their expectations of themselves and others are unrealistic. Until the armored knight is ready to ditch the inflexibility and lower the drawbridge to invite others inside, he's likely to unintentionally remain the sole inhabitant of the castle.
If anxiety is getting in the way of experiencing a healthy, romantic relationship - therapy can help. One of the most effective psychological treatments for anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT). Speak with a licensed mental health professional about learning to cope with and overcome F.E.A.R.
Jamie Long, Psy.D., is a psychologist in private practice, a professional writer, and psychology expert for the Paul & Young Ron morning radio show.