Year of the Protagonist: The Fear of Love

A discussion with a friend over email sparked a thought of mine that I figured I’d expand upon here. Love is such a tricky topic. I’m honestly not entirely sure that anyone really wants to be loved. Not at first, at least. I know that this is counter to a lot of things, and may make me sound like a totally cold person. I’m not. I love and I am loved. I’m loved more than I feel like I can understand some days. It is WORTH it to love and be loved. But hear me out, because love itself is terrifying.

When I was married I figured that I was simply a passionless person. We had arguments that were sometimes heated, but I never felt the sine wave of love. There were lows, but never exactly highs. I was discontented or I was nothing, but I stayed in that marriage for 7 years. The relationship spanned for almost fifteen years. Why stay like that?

Because it was comfortable. There was no expectation of me and I had none of him, really. I didn’t have anything to live up to and neither did he. If something didn’t go the way that one of us planned it was… oh well. Even when the infidelity started, oh well, right? I was safe and insulated from anything that was painful and dangerous. Did I love him? Once, yes. We were in love once, I know that was true. But that sort of youthful love isn’t really meant to last like I was told it was.

Then I realized that love is the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. With love there is a person who looks at you and sees something great. They see someone wonderful and they want you to do your best and be your best. They have faith in you. So what happens if you let them down? When you are loved you have to live up to something. It’s utterly terrifying.

And it’s not because you are forced to live up to anything. When you are loved, you are loved. It’s very hard to make someone stop loving you. But to let go and allow yourself to be loved? To want to be your best and to strive to live up to someone’s love because you love them? That’s hard. You make mistakes and when you hurt someone you love, someone who loves you, it is so much worse than any ache you ever had.

In turn, loving is hard. You put all of your faith and trust into a person. You open yourself up to be hurt in a way that you have never been hurt before. You can’t hurt that way for any other reason. And when you love, you are accepting that you may be hurt that way. You will forgive if that happens once. You may forgive twice. Love is something that can lead a person to ruin.

It’s so much easier to be feared. Badasses are feared, they are safe from emotional hurt. They pretend that they have any power, but they are repellent. Being a jerk and being respected for simply being mean seems to be in right now. It’s little different in nerd culture than it is in jock culture, honestly. People hero worship others who really are only good at being nasty or violent.

But using fear to control someone isn’t really holding the same power over them. You aren’t giving someone that you fear anything but complacency. You obey them, you can be gravely damaged by them.  Yes, they can hurt you. They can abuse you, they can make you hate yourself. It isn’t that fear is not extremely powerful. If you love someone and they see themselves as a being who is to be feared and respected you are in for a horrible situation.

That’s why it’s dangerous to love. It’s dangerous to be loved. It’s so easy to be taken advantage of or to take advantage. But it’s worth it. To love is to strive to be your best with someone who is striving to be their best. To love is to have someone who will extol your virtues while making you address your sins. To be loved is to know that even if you fall, as long as that was a mistake and you rectify it, that you will not be abandoned.

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3 Comments

Filed under Personal Life, Year of the Protagonist

3 responses to “Year of the Protagonist: The Fear of Love

  1. It will only let me like this once and that upsets me. How do I give you more stars?

    Yessssssssss. Love is a vulnerability. It’s nearly intimacy on its own without the active component. And it is more dangerous to be loved sometimes because we don’t know what to do with it. We can’t ever trust it. So many people claim to love others, but they love them for what they can get from them, they love them for not an expectation of the person themselves, but a fantasy of what they want that person to be.

    In some ways, that’s easier. Because you can deflect. You can set up a dummy self. You can still be strong and “perfect” and fit some standard. But a person who loves you for you doesn’t want that. They just want you, as you are, all of it, for better or for worse. “Warts and all.” They want your vulnerability as well as your strength and that’s just something transcendent to how we tend to operate.

    • The hardest part, I think, is that it’s nearly impossible for anyone to sit there and realize that someone wants them knowing their faults. I don’t know if it’s some sort of idea that feeds self doubt or if it’s this idea that to be a cool kid you have to be this deep unlovable un-understandable void. Because no one is that. Not really.

      • I think it affects everyone, but women and female-identified (whether they identify as such or not) people are particularly socialized with the idea you have to be “perfect” and “everything” to be loved. The perfect “princess” for the prince, a Strong Female Character who can have no faults–you are being a bad example of femininity and womanhood if you are anything else than everything and flawlessly (doing everything a man does only backward and in heels–I like that quote, but we’ve made it problematic because you now have to be BETTER to be accepted).

        So first, if you despair of being perfect, you find every way you can to get a pre-emptive strike on not being loved by callousing over and pretending you are just unlovable–even acting like you want to be unlovable sometimes. You don’t care! You’re the BAMF and love is stupid!

        Barring that, finding someone who loves you just as you are… yeah, it’s crazy. It makes no sense, and you constantly worry they will leave you or they resent you or they feel trapped with you and your imperfections. It’s almost scarier that moment you realize you’re “safe” around this person to break down, be vulnerable, let them see the “real” you than when you simply doubted yourself.

        No, no one is truly an unlovable void. That’s why actually bad people get away with very terrible things. Because some part of them is very human and pretty and lovable.

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