I found love during the lockdown—the kind I’ve never had before.
We met on a dating app, and what do you know, it was one of those rare times when it just worked out.
On our first date, we went on a long walk through central London. We stopped outside Buckingham Palace, giggling and taking photos, and then crossed The Mall to St James’s Park, where we lay next to each other in the dappled sunlight underneath a beech tree.
We looked up at the sky between the leaves. We talked for hours, vibing with each other, and even did a little meditation. It was such a fun day, and I felt a real connection.
At the end of the date, he told me that whatever happened with us from then on, he would accept everything about me. Whether it was tears, laughter, anger, or joy, it would all be welcome. He then said, “I can’t wait to see you again.”
It floored me. No guy had ever said anything like this to me before. On my way home, I decided that I didn’t believe him—that he couldn’t honestly have meant it. Deep down, I guess I felt unworthy of such kind words.
But now, eight months on, I’m experiencing a love that is caring, unselfish, fun, and truly intimate. I feel utterly valued and adored for exactly who I am.
But I’m terrified. There’s this little voice inside my head that’s screaming, This is not normal.
I’m self-aware enough to see exactly why this is happening. It’s because I’m experiencing a healthy relationship, which is an unfamiliar territory to me after years of unhealthy attachments, trauma bonding, and, literally, doing anything to avoid being abandoned.
This is how my relationship patterns would always go: I’d give my heart to a guy, he’d say all the right things, I’d prioritize his needs and desires and bend over backward to do everything for him. He’d generally be noncommittal with me, tell me he needed to have his “space,” avoid seeing me for a while, whilst texting me occasionally to make sure that I was still there waiting, and then eventually announce that he met someone else and he never felt such an amazing connection with anyone before.
And so it went on because I allowed it for myself.
I’d always attached myself to emotionally unavailable men and, most recently, with a long-term “almost boyfriend.” We would always avoid the discussion about defining what our relationship actually meant, so he could keep enjoying the benefits without any of the commitment or responsibility, and I could avoid hearing what I didn’t want to hear. After about 18 months of being the closest of companions, he dropped me like a stone when he chose someone else to be his actual girlfriend. It almost destroyed me. But I was just as much to blame because I had gone along with it and allowed it to go too far. My fear of abandonment was far greater than my own self-worth.
I’d had one particularly unhealthy relationship with a guy a few years ago, which was fraught with the usual mixed messages and hot/cold behavior. But rather than accepting the painful reality that he was just not that into me, I convinced myself that this person was my twin flame. I told myself that his treatment of me as a mere option, a Plan B, was absolutely fine. It was just a classic twin flame runner behavior, wasn’t it?
But my own behavior had become just as toxic, although I was totally unaware of this at the time. I had become needy and a crumb-taking queen, desperate for a kind word, a compliment, and a bit of physical intimacy, only for it to be given then taken away the very next moment. I became so addicted to the high of receiving the next crumb of attention or affection because the lows in between were so unbearable.
Within all of these attachments masquerading as relationships, I remember feeling perpetual butterflies in my stomach and a racing heartbeat. At the time, I believed that these physical sensations signified electric love, passion. and chemistry with the other person. I now realize that they were actually the physical symptoms of anxiety, as I constantly felt unsettled and unsafe.
But now, for the first time ever in a relationship, I feel calm, and I’m truly happy.
“So what’s the problem?” I hear you ask.
The problem is that I’m totally out of my comfort zone. There are times when my anxiety creeps up on me and tells me that the happiness I’m feeling can’t be trusted. It is the same anxiety that started as a child whose father didn’t love her enough to stick around, and then perpetuated for the next 30 years, leading me to believe I was not worthy of being loved.
So despite the fact that I have found a beautiful, gentle, loving man, I can’t quite allow myself to get closer to him. I find myself in a constant state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. My entire being is so used to chasing love and working to earn someone’s affection that I can’t believe that someone actually sees me for who I am, and still wants to stick around. That someone has actually chosen me.
Can anyone else relate to this?
Do you recognize the little voice inside you that tells you, “You are not enough,” and prompts you to build a wall around yourself, while pushing potential possibilities for love and happiness away? Why would anyone do that?
For me, it was a survival mechanism since childhood. I grew up believing that love could not be trusted because it would be taken away. So in adulthood, I attached myself to emotionally unavailable men because if they didn’t properly choose me, they couldn’t properly leave me. That way I wouldn’t get hurt, right?
My last rejection was genuinely the worst heartbreak I’d ever felt. I truly hit my rock bottom and I couldn’t see an end to the darkness I’d been plunged into. Then one night, after another bout of sobbing on my bedroom floor, I realized that I never wanted to feel this way again; I wanted things to change. This unbearable pain was forcing me to be honest with myself about what I really wanted. I then realized that all I wanted was to be chosen. So I chose myself.
I made a pact with myself that I would never again tolerate less than what I deserved. I let go of certain people who were not healthy for me, and created the space for someone new to enter my life.
I’m now building up the courage to release the past, open my heart, and let my new relationship flourish.
But it takes guts to fall in love. To put your true self out there, warts and all, and to be vulnerable with someone when you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen.
My thoughts begin to spiral.
What if he goes for a younger woman?
What if he gets bored with me?
What if he wants to go off-grid and go live in a tent in the forest?
The truth is that I will never know what’s in store for me. But this is exactly what breeds anxiety, because as human beings ruled by our minds and egos, we do not like not knowing what’s going to happen, as it means that we’re not in control. However, the only option we have is to surrender and let our hearts and souls take charge. To follow our gut instinct because it’s usually right.
The struggle comes from the voice of our logical mind as it tries to protect us by invoking the muscle memory of our past pain and heartache. That’s why it constantly looks for problems. Mine is telling me, “Don’t go there! Remember what happened last time you fell in love with someone?”
There are times when I believe that voice. But I keep asking myself, is my past pain a good enough reason for me not to embrace love fully right now, in the present moment?
I’m always working on that little part of myself that still needs a bit of healing, while being patient with myself and feeling my way through the anxiety. It’s not easy to let go of the past version of myself, step out of my self-protection mode, be brave, and make a conscious choice.
But each time, I keep asking myself the following question:
Do I want to live my life in fear? Or do I choose to love?