In this section, “When Love Walks In”, David Richo is again discussing the interplay between love and fear. Where I want to focus is what he says about when fear shows up in a relationship. He says “romance automatically suspends the fear of love and postpones the fear of closeness” (p. 112). This is what is commonly referred to as the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship. It’s an important phase because that suspension of fear allows for a bond to form.
The next phase of the relationship is usually conflict. David Richo says that this is the phase of a relationship where fear shows up. He says: “It is only when you struggle with your partner and no longer see him as an ego ideal that fear arises” (p. 112). This conflict phase is also important because the couple finds out if they are able to work through problems and they are able to get a more realistic vision of each other. He describes the arising fear in another way: “The closer you get to commitment to a real person, the more you will feel fear of love” (p. 112).
Ok, so why does fear come up so much in relationships? Well, love requires vulnerability for one, which can be uncomfortable for people. David Richo gives a couple of other reasons fear shows up: it means we may have to challenge long held beliefs that we are not loveable, it demands authenticity, it challenges the concept that we are not good enough (even to be loved), it can bring up the automatic associations we have with closeness (i.e. I have to fight to get my needs met when I am close to someone), it requires some degree of giving up control, it says we need to engage in healthy fighting to build intimacy, it means we have to allow ourselves to be accepted. Even though loving and being loved is a natural human drive, there is so much that we do to interfere with this process.
Check out that list about why fear comes up. If you look at every single thing on there, don’t you think there is something awesome to gain from each one? I mean, to give up beliefs of being unloveable, to be authentic, to believe you are good enough, to break old, negative associations to closeness, to let go, to learn to fight to resolve issues and build intimacy, to know you are completely accepted…aren’t all these great things to learn? Guess what brings up the opportunity to work on them? Love. Yup! Enjoy the honeymoon phase, be grateful that the romance gives you a respite from fear and then, when the conflict comes, there is some awesome growth that can occur since the fear will do you a favor and point to where you need to do your work. How about we just go with the process rather than resist it? Trying to change the givens of existence is just a big waste of beautiful effort. When fear comes, as it inevitably will, can you bring humility to meet it? Can you be humble and curious rather than bristle? Look inside, see where the work needs tobe done, and then go for it (go to therapy, get some guidance from books, write and reflect, talk to someone you respect, talk to your partner, whatever works for you!). You will be stronger and so will your relationship.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".