I am part of a generation that, for some reason, is terrified of love. You may try to argue me on this one. After all, we were also the generation who said “I love you” in our four-day middle school relationships, so there’s no way we could be afraid of love, right? Of course, there are exceptions. There are individuals who embrace love with open arms, who are truly excited and open to the idea of a real relationship. But we, as a whole, reject these ideals.
I think I first began to notice it towards the end of my senior year of high school. Two other seniors, who I knew really liked each other, did not want to date because they knew that they were about to move on to new chapters in their lives. They were scared it wouldn’t work out. Fortunately, they chose to take the leap and give it a chance. They’re still together now, over two years later. This isn’t usually the case, though. I’ve seen so many people who would rather never try than risk being hurt. I think that that’s the problem: we’re so scared of being hurt that we don’t take opportunities for love. For some reason, we’re under the impression that being hurt is the worst thing that can happen to us.
I’ve heard us referred to as the “hook-up” generation time and time again. That’s probably because we’ve killed romance. What happened to going on dates? To getting flowers just because? To openly telling people that you love them? When did we become so afraid to show that we care? Instead,we play games. We wait hours for the other person to text us, then take even more time to text back so that we feel like we’re in control. If we’re in control, we can’t get hurt, right? Whoever cares less wins. Our idea of a “date” is definitely not what it used to be, but that’s OK, because the less time we invest in a person, the less likely we are to get hurt. We’re afraid to show any emotional investment in a person, or, as we might put it, we’re afraid of “catching feelings.” Because once you catch feelings? You guessed correctly: you can get hurt.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, we’re just busy and can’t text back. We can have relationships that are just something fun and not want to go on dates. Sometimes, we genuinely don’t have feelings for potential partners. Occasionally, our relationships just aren't going to work out. We might hold different values or we might know that the other person is toxic for us, so a relationship with them is out of the question. And all of that is OK. But when we’re afraid of real relationships, it creates problems, because much of the time, it keeps us from things that could be great.
What exactly are we afraid of? We call it “fear of commitment" or of being “tied down” to someone else. We have this perception that while in a relationship, we can’t grow as individuals. We think that we’re in a place in our lives in which it is impractical to have a relationship. We’re afraid of wasting our time for something that may not have the end result we desire. The truth is, though, if you’re in the right relationship, you can make it work in whatever period of your life. You will both continue growing, and you’re not going to feel tied down. You’re going to feel lucky for the time you have with that person.
At the end of the day, what holds us back most is our fear of being hurt. Maybe we’ve had our hearts shattered before and we’re not willing to put ourselves out there again. We’re terrified of being vulnerable--of putting someone in the position where they can break our hearts. So we look at people who we know we could really fall for and we try to keep them at an arm’s length. We hold back emotions that we should display. Maybe we’ve been taught to many times that getting attached to someone makes you look desperate. Embarrassment? Yeah, it’s painful. Maybe we’re terrified of rejection. But is being hurt really the worst thing that could happen? Sure, no one enjoys that, but being hurt only occurs because you cared about something. It’s the result of putting your all into something. It’s the result of love. Being hurt simply reminds us of our wonderful human capacity to feel. Emotion is one of the most beautiful capabilities we possess.
And sometimes, we’re just genuinely terrified of the possibility that we could be loved back. One of my favorite quotes is by Stephen Chobsky. It says that “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Unfortunately, we often struggle to see our own good qualities, so we don’t believe we deserve someone who loves us, let alone a person we’re in love with. We push them away because it’s easier then changing our own views of ourselves. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
Let me be clear: I am guilty of many of the things I talking about. I am by no means perfect; in fact, I actually exemplify—no, epitomize—some of these mistakes. And I get it; not every relationship is a possibility. Some things just aren’t meant to be. However, I think that we need to give love a chance again. We need to get rid of the stigma surrounding it. If we genuinely feel something for someone, I don’t think we should let our fear of love-—no matter in what capacity it is—dictate our future with that person.