I have been dating for a while but have never managed to commit to a serious relationship. I have friends who have found long time partners and it is something I really want. There have been several guys who I have really liked and put a lot of energy into pursuing something with them, but as soon as it starts to get off the ground I am suddenly turned off. It’s as if I’m allergic to getting what I want and run away. How am I supposed to get serious with anyone if I bail every time it looks like it’s about to happen?
Dear The Runner,
You have a fear of the thing you want most? Welcome to adulthood! Someone gave us the idea that this would be easy, but I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that you only become more and more aware of what’s out there of which to be afraid. Don’t worry though, I’ve also found that the fear leads to the things that are most worth it in life. The trick is to not let it control you, which as you know, is easier said than done.
I used to be in love with my best friend (we’ll call him Olly). In fact, we only became friends because I tried to go after him before finding out he had a girlfriend. He liked me though and we somehow managed to create one of the closest bonds I’ve ever had with a member of the opposite sex. We talked every day, about everything. He was a writer too, and we used to compete between ourselves to find out who was better. We pushed each other to be better, built a safe-haven together. I never made an open move when he was with his girlfriend, but I guiltily couldn’t stop myself from imagining what it’d be like if we could be together romantically. Okay, I straight-up pined for him for over a year.
By the time he and his girlfriend broke up I was talking to another guy. He was nice enough, but if I’m being honest I knew even then that dating this guy was really a distraction from being head over heels for my best friend. So I was not prepared when Olly showed up on my doorstep saying he was finally ready to give us a shot. Here it was, over a year of desperately wanting and fantasizing and building up this bigger-than-everything-epic-romance, and he was just offering it to me. Someone call Hollywood because my life was officially the most cliché romantic comedy yet to be written.
But I turned him down. At the time I told him it was too soon after his break-up and I wasn’t in the mood to be his rebound. Not to mention I was seeing someone, a really nice guy who didn’t need a year to figure out I was worth it! Maybe we were better off as just friends – it seemed to be working just fine. I had all the excuses, but I never told him the truth, that I was terrified. What if we tried and failed causing us to lose everything? What if we got involved and it was nothing like I imagined? What if he hurt me? Would I be able to survive us not working? I didn’t think so.
We stopped talking shortly after that because it was too hard. I had to hear from mutual friends that he got back together with his ex some weeks later. To top it off, it never went anywhere with Nice Guy because my heart was obviously elsewhere. I thought I was protecting myself from my fears and inevitably caused them all to come true anyway. I am an avid fan of the mantra “everything happens for a reason,” but to this day I still wonder how things would be different if I had just given Olly the chance. I wonder what would happen if I had given myself a chance to have what I really wanted.
From my experience I can tell you Runner that the regret is far worse than the fear. I don’t want to see you have to carry that around. There is no way to make the fear go away, but you can train yourself to breathe instead of running. The key is not to rush, take it one step at a time until you can get comfortable and the desire to bolt lessens. The main thing I want you to take from my story though is be honest. If it is a person that you’re meant to be with in the long term, tell them you’re scared. Most likely, they’ll reveal the same feelings and it’s a lot less scary when you have someone to be afraid with.
There will be bumps and bruises, my dear. I can’t promise you that you won’t get your heart broken – no one can. The thing is that the best things in life come with their fair share of risk and you have to put yourself out there to reach them. Don’t feel ashamed that you have fear, that only means you understand how important something is. Don’t let the fear make your decisions though, because you are worth the risk, what you want is worth taking the chance. Give yourself the chance to run in the right direction.
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