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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 2 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 18
INSIGHTS AND PERSPECTIVES: Love and fear - two horns on the same goat
Section One
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INSIGHTS AND PERSPECTIVES: Love and fear - two horns on the same goat

by Michael Raitt, MA LMHC - SGN Contributing Writer

What happens in a relationship when we love someone so much that we start to find ourselves acting crazy? How can it feel so difficult at times, when it is supposed to feel so good? We text endlessly when we don't get a response. We want to know everything the other is doing and everyone the other is talking to. We have sleepless nights and can't concentrate during the day because we are overcome with wonder and worry. We begin to put demands on the other. What has happened is that two seemingly unrelated emotions have collided and we feel like we are in some kind of hell.

Both love and fear are two of our most primitive emotions for survival. They are biological drives that are generated from the base of our brain. One inevitably overtakes the other. When love is intense, fear is low. When fear is intense, love is harder to access. When they are dominant, they drive our thinking and our behaviors.

When we are experiencing love, we feel euphoric. We are excited and have few worries. The other can do little wrong and we are very forgiving. Sex and emotional connections are intense and we do many 'loving' things for the other, such as planning romantic dinners, buying gifts, and long conversations.

At times when fear overtakes us, we become obsessed with feelings of distress and agitation. We wonder and worry endlessly about what the other is doing. These intense feelings lead us to behaviors that cause arguments and distance - such as arguments, vigilant checking-in, endless texts and phone calls. These behaviors become controlling. Ultimately, they damage a relationship and the relationship either becomes very toxic and/or it ends.

It isn't easy, but it boils down to how well individuals manage their fear. The first way to begin managing your fear is to reconcile that there are no guarantees about a relationship. I know it sounds like a buzz kill but it is true. Relationships end for a myriad of reasons. Many people believe that if they are 'good enough' that the relationship will last forever. That is rarely true. There is absolutely no way to predict whether a relationship will end. I can tell you with certainty that the probability of a relationship ending is much higher when one or both aren't dealing with their issues of fear.

One way to reconcile that there is no guarantee a relationship will last is to understand the meaning you are making out of your fear. Some are afraid that if they lose the other, it will mean they are destined to being alone forever. Others think that when a relationship ends, it means they are unlovable. When you understand the meaning you are making, you can work to change that and then decrease your fear.

The ability to negotiate with each other is critical. An adult should never be telling another adult what to do, who to see, when to do it. That is abusive. It does arise when fear is building. Adults should negotiate their changing needs and desires. With that comes a 'willingness' to do something rather than feeling as though you 'have to' do something. For example, if one is becoming more afraid that they aren't spending enough time together, then negotiate more time; and when a compromise is reached, the other is doing it because he/she wants to, rather than feeling 'forced' to do it.

The reasons relationships become toxic and usually end in these circumstances is because individuals get tired of feeling 'controlled' and dealing with the conflict. They often report that they are fighting in the relationship and there is 'no trust.' Use teenagers as an example; they get tired of 'feeling controlled' by their parents and they usually end up acting out in some way - eventually moving out. The process really isn't that different between two people in a relationship.

Like anything, fear exists on a scale. Understand what makes you more fearful than other things in the relationship. What causes the fear to move up quickly and become intense? Which things are low or moderate fears? When you understand the scale, you can learn various ways to decrease the fear.

There is no way to separate love and fear. They go together. The skill becomes understanding and managing the relationship between these two intense emotions. When you can reduce your fear, your love will be more present and when it is more present, dynamics in the relationship are much, much better.

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a Therapist and a Contributing Writer to the SGN. He writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.

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