So many men and women seem to have trouble engaging in long-lasting, healthy relationships.
There’s a whole laundry list of reasons, based on early childhood paradigms, as to why these patterns exist in each individual. And discovering the psycho-emotional origins can be important for each person suffering from a lack of fulfilling relationships.
Just as, if not more, important though is recognizing the underlying, current stories keeping you from getting into relationships, from being intimate, from embracing long-lasting love.
Now, if you’re having trouble finding long-lasting employment or fulfilling work, these very same limiting stories can apply to both work and personal relationships (when I refer to a “relationship,” you could replace that word with a “job,” and it will make sense).
Here are 5 big reasons men and women can’t build relationships, and a few tips that might be helpful in combating them:
I’ll be trapped
This is a big one. Freedom or intrinsic autonomy is one of human beings’ very fundamental, basic needs, and the fear of becoming imprisoned or trapped unfortunately drives a lot of behavior.
When thinking of relationships, many people conjure up some story about “forever” and not being able to get out if the dynamic changes or if you change or it just doesn’t seem to work anymore.
The Western religious concepts of marriage and life-long monogamy, with a social stigma around change in these areas, have contributed to this fear of “being trapped forever.”
The fear of being trapped can indicate a commitment fear, which can have a number of underlying causes. One big fear driving the fear of commitment is the fear of growing up (and ultimately getting old and dying).
The sense that once you commit, the next step on the life path is death. I hear this a lot, especially from men who have trouble getting into relationships.
So it’s important to remind yourself that you are not and never can be trapped. That you always have the freedom of choice to change, stay, come, go, or do anything you feel is true and right for you.
Any notion to the contrary is simply false, and you are buying into some idea that you are responsible to others’ demands or desires, and/or to your family’s or society’s expectations for your love life.
You are not subject to these responsibilities! This is YOUR life, and you can change whenever you feel it’s right.
Try staying present, enjoying yourself and whomever you’re with today and today only, not thinking 10, 20, 50 years down the road.
And if you think you have a fear of commitment because committing feels like the next step toward death, remind yourself: you’re already grown up, you’re still alive, and you still have plenty of time left!
You have to call “bullshit” on yourself once in a while.
I’ll get hurt
This one’s obvious. The fear of becoming vulnerable, of loving and then being abandoned or hurt in any way, is one that truly keeps men and women stuck and alone.
The story essentially goes: “If I want it and I get it, then I might like it, and if I like it, I might love it, and if I love it and then I lose it, it will hurt so bad, I won’t be able to handle the pain.”
This last part is key—the idea that you won’t be able to handle it. This is the part that needs fixing.
The bottom line is, there is an inherent risk in anything we do. And the more we care about something, the more risk we take of being hurt by the loss of it.
Many of us intellectually can agree that it’s better to love and feel loss, than to never love at all.
But emotionally, a lot of people aren’t living this practice—they simply stay stuck and alone because they don’t believe they’ll be able to handle the pain of loss, should it come to that.
So is there anything wrong or bad about being sad? The answer is NO. Will being hurt or feeling sadness kill you? The answer is NO. Will the pain and hurt last forever? The answer is NO.
It will not kill you, it will not overwhelm you, and it’s totally okay to feel sad for a while.
The key here in combating this extremely debilitating fear of pain is to know you will allow yourself to feel sad if you need to feel sad, and to realize that it will not kill you or last forever.
You will be able to handle feeling sadness. You’ve done it before, and you can do it again.
Trust yourself, that you’ll be able to handle the hurt.
This trust will truly liberate you! If you are unafraid of feeling sadness, knowing that you can handle it and that the pain will only be temporary, you will take more risks and go after the things you truly want.
Doesn’t this sound better than playing it safe and staying in the comfy zone, with people and situations that will never challenge you to truly fall in love with them?
I’ll lose myself
The fear that you will lose yourself, that the relationship will somehow overwhelm your sense of self and take you out of your normal life, often occurs in people that are extremely afraid of being hurt.
Because those folks, not wanting to be abandoned or feel sadness, end up willing to do anything, including set aside their own needs and feelings, in order to keep the other person or situation around, even when it doesn’t work.
They are often willing to compromise their own values or self-esteem just so they don’t lose the person.
If this is you—if you have found yourself bending over backwards to keep someone around and “losing yourself” in relationships—then no wonder you’re avoiding relationships.
What might help is first getting a strong sense of who you are, as an individual—your wants, your needs, your likes and dislikes, etc.
And then vowing to yourself: “I will be a priority in my life. No matter who comes in or what I feel or how scared or in love I am, I will not compromise my own true needs and wants for another adult’s needs and wants.”
Period. End of story. Also, learning how to create boundaries and committing to a routine of self-time are important. Get these practices into place to prepare a foundation for a healthy relationship.
If these self-accepting and self-loving programs become natural to you, if you stick to your self-vow, then you’ll have a much easier time letting go of the fear of losing yourself in relationships.
I’m not good enough
This story is rampant in society, and for many men it’s completely unconscious. Only after some therapeutic work, do they actually realize they have a low self-worth program in place.
Again, tons of reasons why this story might exist in an induvial, and learning those are important. But for now, it will be essential simply to become aware of and acknowledge if this story is alive in your mind.
The belief of not being good enough often shows up as the feeling of being a fraud—that you are somehow fooling them into liking you or believing you.
You don’t give your partner or friends or anyone who likes you or compliments you any credit, because they don’t know the real you that’s just fooling everyone.
And you’re too afraid to be that “real you” because if you were, they probably wouldn’t like you very much. And then they’d leave, and you’d be hurt and alone…
Well, I hear this all the time from men struggling in relationships. They don’t believe they’re worthy of love or success, they don’t deserve it, etc. And the truth is: It’s NOT TRUE!
This story of being a fraud, of not being truly good enough, of not being lovable or likable as the real, authentic man or woman—it’s all just a false protection mechanism. And it’s time again to call “bullshit” on yourself.
The simplest way to start changing the mental program is to call attention to it, thanking it for its service and replacing it with the truth (even if you don’t yet believe the truth), which is: You ARE Good Enough. You Are!! Just plain and simple.
Here’s an example of the reprogramming mantra, alter it to your need: Any time you hear an internal story of not being good enough, you call attention to it and say, “Thank you for trying to protect me. Truth is, you aren’t working for me anymore. I am good enough, I am worthy of love and success.”
Do that throughout the day, every day, until the old “not good enough” stories start to fade into the distance.
She’s not good enough
And then of course, there’s the opposite story: no one else is ever good enough for you.
This is also a very limiting illusion. Let’s be clear though, recognizing someone can’t give you the relationship you want and deserve is a legitimate concern, and you shouldn’t settle.
But the problem is, some people feel they are always settling, and they can’t tell if they’re just finding problems where there aren’t any or if the problems are actually real.
The “no one’s ever good enough” pattern often just protects someone from getting into a relationship due to one of the 4 other fear stories above.
This is just the easiest way to get out: leave before she does—before she figures out you’re not good enough, before you get trapped, and ultimately before you get hurt.
So how can you recognize when this is a problem for you? Do you see a pattern in past relationships of searching for something to be wrong with the other person?
Do your friends point out, almost as a joke, that you’re too picky? Well, these can be signs. You may want to consider that it’s not her that’s got something wrong, but rather your own fear of a relationship.
So figure out what the true underlying fear is that’s motivating you to find reasons no one is ever good enough (hint: check the stories above) and deal with that underlying fear directly.
Ultimately, relationship issues reflect deeply held, fear-based beliefs, probably stemming from the earliest years of your life.
Commitment, vulnerability, self-esteem, intimacy, self-concept—all of it is at play, and if these are plaguing your relationship past and present, I would highly recommend delving further into this with a professional coach or therapist so they don’t continue to plague your future.
Ultimately the ease and health of your relationships will primarily rest on the level to which you love and accept yourself.
So although this is a challenging and often scary realm to explore in oneself, it is likely a very fruitful and life-changing one.
The more afraid you are, the more liberation is housed inside.
Have courage, my friend. Be the inner warrior, and seek out a lot of love in your life.