Throughout my life, I’ve seen some pretty intense relationships. I saw my own parents and my friends’ parents fight. I saw people who claimed to be in happy relationships yell at one another, and I thought that all relationships were like that.
I got scared.
I thought all relationships had to be tinged with a little bit of pain and suffering. I thought it was the norm, and I thought all relationships were destined to fail because they would all reach a breaking point and come to an end. That thought terrified me.
It still does, but now, I have seen relationships grow stronger from hardship and I have seen amazing couples thrive the longer they’re together. My fear isn’t that all relationships are terrible and end, but that some are that way, and I want to avoid experiencing that.
Let’s get one thing straight, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a “real” relationship. Sure, I had a boyfriend in high school, but he was older than me, so while he was at college 10 hours away, I was just sending him updates via text and calling it a relationship.
I dated another boy for a little while before my senior year of high school, but when things got a bit too intense for me around a month in and I decided I couldn’t handle it anymore, he sent me, “i love u karly” over Snapchat.
This was the first time I really sat down and thought, “I’m never doing that again.”
Love is such a huge word, and to have it sent to me — sans capitalization, sans spelled out words, sans good timing — was terrifying. I decided I wasn’t capable of love, and anytime anyone showed any interest in me, I struggled to even consider a relationship because I didn’t want to waste my time.
The times I sent my dear friends “I want a boyfriend” texts became few and far between, usually only coming up during late nights when I couldn’t fall asleep. Recently, I’ve been feeling needy so my friends have gotten them pretty often, but I am a little bit convinced that if someone I show interest in reciprocates the feeling, I’ll cower and return to my state of fear.
It’s not that I don’t want to find love or happiness with someone, it’s just that I’m not sure my phobia will allow me to.
Within the span of two months, I watched two of my closest friends go through intense, life-changing processes. One got married to her boyfriend of four years, and one broke up with hers after a year and a half.
The two situations are intensely different. One found happiness, love and family with her significant other. One lost a relationship that she gave her all to for 18 months.
The fear that the latter instilled in me overpowered the positive emotions I felt when I watched my friend get married.
If someone could break up with someone as amazing as my friend, how could I ever be in a relationship and find someone who would love me unconditionally? How could I trust that I wasn’t wasting my time with someone? How could I know that if I welcomed a relationship into my life, I wouldn’t regret it? How could I know that I wouldn’t end up crying on a futon, or another piece of uncomfortable but inexpensive furniture?
Even when I like someone, I get a little bit scared. When I want to tell my friends stories about them, I refuse to say their name because then it “becomes too real.” I’d rather call them vague nicknames so people are never really sure about who I’m talking about — which ultimately just makes them figures in my mind, rather than real people. One time, I even forgot one of their names because I refused to refer to him as such for so long. Sorry, Josh.
My fear of commitment is really weird. I want attention and validation because of my self-esteem issues, but when a guy shows genuine interest in me, and just me, the pressure hits.
What if I do something that ends up hurting them? What if I fall out of love? Or what if they fall out of love with me?
My mindset around commitment has become a big part of my life, so much so that my Twitter bio used to begin with, “i fear spiders and commitment.” That said, I have since swapped out commitment for “low-rise jeans,” because while I don’t think I fear them enough to write a column about them, low-rise jeans are terrifying.
It’s not the worst, because I don’t have to buy a gift for anyone this Valentine’s Day, and I don’t have to plan dinners or get dolled up for dates.
So where does that leave me? Alone on Valentine’s day, but where else? Scared I’ll never find love or joy. Scared I’ll never live in a two-income household, meaning I’ll have to pay rent alone on a journalist’s salary my whole life. Scared I’ll have to cook for myself every single night.
But mostly scared I’ll never get any tax breaks.