Make Decisions from Love, Not Fear

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A friend of mine is grappling with the age-old dilemma of whether or not to take the next romantic step with a long-time friend. The chemistry is there, the solid friendship foundation is there, the timing is there. When they’re around each other, they read like one of those couples that just make sense. And I see the fear in her eyes when she talks about what it would mean to try things with this guy. This reaction isn’t really about what it would mean to jeopardize the friendship (it never is). Her anxiety comes from the risk of getting involved with someone she KNOWS has true potential. That, my friends, can be downright terrifying. Especially to someone (myself included, so I totes get it) who’s spent her entire life buffering herself against romantic risk.

Romantic risk involves possibly getting hurt. It involves being vulnerable, putting yourself out there, having difficult conversations. But the flipside is the potential for a fulfilling relationship and a mutual exchange of that life-changing, earth-shattering, unconditional love (Hi. My name is Julia. And I’m… a hopeless romantic.).

But for many, the threat of pain is too much to bear. It doesn’t feel like it could be worth the greatness. And so we avoid it vehemently. We date people we know we shouldn’t, we drag out relationships longer than necessary, and we sabotage partners with undeniable potential. All in the name of love.

At some point, this gets old.

Sure, it’s all fun and games getting hit on by hot 23-year-olds who have no clue that you’re pushing 30 (“What are you, like 24, 25?” Oh, honey… Oh. You’re so sweet.) and dating for dinners (a girl’s gotta eat!), but ultimately, a Thinking Man’s Pin-Up is looking for a loving, respectful, fun, reliable, higher-calling, [insert your own adjective here] relationship. (What shape that relationship takes is entirely up to you and your preferences—I’m not pushing traditional over progressive or vice versa, I’m just a huge fan of healthy and happy.)

So how do you stop making dating decisions based on fear? First, you have to fully acknowledge what you’re so afraid of (being hurt, rejection, failure?) and then identify the patterns you have created as a buffer against these fears.

When you find yourself in a situation that brings up your fears (and we all know exactly when it happens—it’s a piercing pain that attacks our hearts, mind, and egos all at once), take a beat before you react and ask yourself “How does this situation make me feel? What is it that I’m really upset at? Does this feel familiar?” Chances are, if the situation is something you’ve experienced before, you can file your reaction under “behavioral pattern.”

Then, and here’s the hard part, don’t react. Don’t make a scene, yell, or get in a text war. Distance yourself from the moment of pain. Give it time—hours, days—and you’ll gain some perspective from a non-emotional, non-fear-buffering place. Once you recognize your triggers for your fear, what you’re afraid of, and how you react to it, you can actively start to dismantle this self-sabotaging behavioral pattern and replace it with more positive action. Eventually you’ll be able to feel the fear, process it, and move on from it in a matter of moments to react from a place of acceptance, self-love and centeredness.

You start making decisions based on love and you will start making decisions that serve your best interests. In the case of my friend, I advised her to really assess this guy, not by the conditions of her fears (“Will he break my heart like the last guy did?”), but by what she knows to be true about him, from a loving place based on their years-long friendship.

Thinking Man’s Pin-Up Thought of the Day: You can’t blame someone in your present for what happened to you in the past.

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