"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." -C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I used to, in the past, fall for people because they made me feel like it was safe to.
The guy who brought me flowers on the first date, told me he would follow me anywhere a week and a half after meeting me, and blew hundreds of dollars to impress me, seemed like the right option. I was so proud of myself for ending the cycle of going for the "wrong guy." I ignored all of the red flags because he was a comfortable, safe choice. If he was that emotionally connected to me, I should like him. I chose to pursue him over a guy I had feelings for at the time because I felt like it was the "right" choice to be with the "good guy." It didn't matter that I felt nothing when he kissed me, that we had nothing in common, and that I truly was not okay with some of his life decisions. It didn't matter that he treated me horribly, because as long as I felt like he was loyal to me, needed me, and wouldn't leave me, I didn't care what happened within those parameters. I fell for security, or the illusion of security. I didn't fall for a person.
The biggest fear I had was if I let my guard down for somebody, that they would walk away. I couldn't have known that choosing security, choosing the person I didn't think would walk away, would carry me right into the most toxic and suffocating relationship possible — one that drained all of the life force out of me and actually never ended up making me feel any positive feelings. He mistreated me over and over, leaving permanent scars on my heart that I'm not sure will ever fully heal. But I felt like I had invested too much emotion already. Opening my heart up was the most difficult thing I had done, and I didn't think I could ever do it again after the immense failure I felt had come from that relationship. So, it was better to be safe with the devil I knew than the devil I didn't.
Eventually, though, the hurt came. He did leave, and it felt like he had taken everything from me but my ability to feel pain. Despite me choosing the safest route I could possibly find, I still was left totally devastated. But I wasn't devastated over losing him. I was devastated over losing my security.
This, unfortunately, is the caveat of love. If you can manage to fall for someone when they fall for you, you are very lucky. But you will never have that guarantee. Somebody could promise you on their lives that they will never leave, they will never lose interest, that they will be the one in your life who doesn't hurt you, but they still don't owe you anything. You could be with somebody for years and years and they could wake up one day and decide that they don't love you anymore. In a healthy relationship, the person you're with needs to feel like they have this freedom, and you need to be comfortable with them having it.
We have to be strong enough to be okay with this harsh truth. There are no guarantees in love, or in life. It is devastating to fall for somebody and to lose them. But the solution to this is not to avoid falling for people — the solution is to accept that you might lose them. But you must love them despite that.
You must love despite the risk because it is selfish to love somebody only when they have proven to be a low-risk investment for you.
You must love despite the risk because love is not rooted in codependency and safety.
You must love despite the risk because that is the only way you will ever be able to experience the deeply satisfying feeling of being vulnerable with somebody with absolutely no expectations of them, knowing what you're risking and doing it anyway, throwing caution to the wind- and for them to return it.
You must love despite the risk because everybody you love will eventually be taken away from you. Permanence in love simply does not exist.
You must love despite the risk because you are strong enough to.