I have been dating a wonderful man for the past eight months. Before that I had gone through a divorce and a difficult marriage. I am falling in love with the man I am currently dating and am having difficulty expressing my feelings toward him. I am afraid that he will get scared and leave or that I haven’t given myself enough time to grieve my last relationship. I do not want to re-kindle that old fire – flame is too mild to describe the previously stressful relationship, but i don’t want to let my feelings for this man get out of control and ruin what we have. I know it sounds silly, but I’m basically afraid to tell him how I feel, that I love him. I actually stop myself from saying it to him out of fear of loosing him. I am at a loss as to what to do. Any advice would be helpful.
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Your concerns are not silly at all. Rather, they are the most basic concerns that any human being experiences (after satisfying even more basic concerns about food and shelter). Our attachments for intimate others are the sources of the most powerful and wonderful and painful and necessary experiences we ever experience. You can’t love someone and not come apart at the seams when that love is withdrawn or dies. The experience, the pain of losing love is often traumatic, and many people avoid loving again because they become afraid of being so vulnerable again. For truly, when you are young and you love the first time you don’t realize how incredibly vulnerable you are making your heart. You go into it naively and trustingly, and when it dies you are shattered for a while and you are more cautious about loving the next time. But you have to make a rational decision at some point as to how to want to proceed with your life, knowing in an adult, experiential way what the dangers are. Do you want avoid close intimacy for fear of rejection or do you want to chance it again, this time knowing the stakes. There is no right answer for each person has a different set of temperaments and degrees to which they can tolerate experiences. But for most, the ‘rightest’ answer is to plot the path towards trusting again, for only in allowing for the possibility of trusting love again can you find the positive side of love (which can easily be worth the risk of the pain). This is a lot of big words I guess, but heartfelt. My advice? Assuming this is a good and essentially worthy man, allow yourself to fall in love with him. Do so with your eyes open, however, and despite the very real risks. And most of all, do so at your own pace. You must not force yourself to open faster than you feel safe in doing (and must not allow yourself to be forced to open faster either). You may want to seek counseling support as a place to discuss this all (either with a therapist, or wise and older person who’s been around the block).