You’re ready to give your all to the man you’re seeing, but he’s exhibiting a fear of love that you simply don’t understand.
You have no trouble opening yourself up to him and giving him your love. Why can’t he reciprocate? Are you wasting your time?
16 Causes for His Fear of Love
The fact is: some people have a fear of love. It’s got nothing to do with you, and more than likely comes from past experiences or expectations about what a relationship should look like. The question you have to answer is: is this relationship worth you trying to work through the cause?
The answer to that may depend on how deep his fear of love is, and whether he’s willing to work through it. Here are some reasons he may have a difficult time letting himself fall in love with you…or anyone else.
1. He’s Been Hurt in the Past
We’ve all been hurt in past relationships, but some people heal their wounds faster than others. Some people are completely traumatized by what past partners did and are unable to get rid of the fear that it will happen again.
He may or may not be willing to open up about past relationships and how he’s been hurt, so don’t be offended if you try to get him to talk about it and he doesn’t want to. If he does open up, listen sympathetically. Appreciate that he keeps reliving something he’s been through in a past relationship and that you can’t fix it. As Ivy Griffin, MA., LMFT, say:
“You can be kind and supportive, but his past isn’t your problem to fix.”
You may be able to suggest that he talks to a therapist if he wants to work through these issues, but he may be completely unwilling. At that point, you have to decide whether you can live with his constant fear that you’ll do the same thing to him as his ex did. It’s a lot to take on in a new relationship, to be honest. But only you know whether you’re up for it or not.
2. He Had a Rocky Childhood
Emotional past trauma isn’t limited to romantic love. What happens to us as children can stay with us indefinitely, particularly if we never address the issue. It can also impact how we attach (or don’t) to people as adults.
In a scientific study, researchers wanted to see if there was a correlation between mistreatment during childhood and adult attachment style.
The results? Researchers found that in instances of childhood neglect or abuse, the adults grew up with an anxious and/or avoidance attachment style, and were more prone to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
If he was abandoned as a child, he might fear that you’ll leave him, and so be afraid to love you and risk that pain. If he was neglected, he might not know how to love. Again, you can’t change his past experiences or even “fix” him, so be aware that this man will be challenging to love, as he may not be capable of reciprocating that love the same way.
3. He Doesn’t Know How to Be Vulnerable
Your guy may have a fear of love simply because he doesn’t know how to be vulnerable. That may be because he put up his wall after past hurts or because he’s only had casual relationships that didn’t require vulnerability and trust.
Being vulnerable — for both of you — means opening up and sharing everything, both good and bad. This may be challenging for him, but if he’s willing to give it a try, your relationship has hope.
Start slowly. Have conversations that may make him uncomfortable, then ask what’s bringing up those feelings. This will help him understand the fears that arise at the thought of being vulnerable. Once he’s identified the cause of those fears, he can work through them. And be patient! You may wear your heart on your sleeve, but this man may take years to fully open up to you.
4. He’s Not Right for You
Sometimes the problem isn’t so much a fear of love as it is simply the wrong relationship. You may be trying to force it into being “right” simply because you don’t want to be alone anymore. It may take you a while to figure out he’s not The One, but if things aren’t flowing the way they should when two people fall in love, that’s a sign that he’s not right for you.
Ask yourself: do the two of you make sense together? Or are you so completely different (maybe you’re trying to convince yourself that opposites attract)? Are you at the same place in your lives in terms of career, family, and being ready to settle down? All the stars have to align, so even if this guy is great, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect match.
5. He’s Been Single a Really Long Time
Another reason he might have a fear of love is that he hasn’t had a long-term relationship in a really really really long time. If ever. He’s so unfamiliar with the concept that the prospect of spending forever with you or anyone else makes him break out in hives.
So asking him for love is asking for a lot, at least at first. It may take this guy some time to get used to being with one person and working to have a successful relationship with you. Be patient and try to understand where he’s coming from.
6. He Thinks He’s Unlovable
This may be due to past trauma in his childhood or relationships or just from low self-esteem. He may think he’s unlovable because he put more into past relationships without that interest or love being reciprocated. He may have struggled to find dates in the past. And then you come along, ready to love him…and he doesn’t quite know what to do with that. He may worry that it’s not genuine and that if he opens up, he’ll get hurt again.
Reinforce your feelings as often as possible. Reassure him that your love for him is real, and explain what it is that you love about him. This will help him overcome that fear of love.
7. He Wants to Believe He’s Never Going to Settle Down
Before he started dating you, your dude was the perennial bachelor. He dated a different woman every day. He sees himself as some kind of stud…but his heart is pulling him in another direction.
Basically, he’s going through an identity crisis. He has, up until now, identified as being a wild man, sowing his seeds here and there. But there’s something about you that’s changing this identity for him, and it’s going to take some time for him to accept his new future.
Can you be patient as he works through this? Realize that, as a worst case scenario, he may keep talking to other women just to feel like “he’s still got it.” That can be painful if you’ve already fallen in love with him.
8. He Can’t Stand the Idea That You Might Hurt Him
Some men (and women) are control freaks, and they need to come out on top of every situation, including love. He may have such a fear of losing control if he falls in love and you hurt him, that he’d rather guard his heart than take the risk of that happening.
Now, in reality, this probably won’t happen, but he feels the need to protect himself against every inevitability, so he’d rather feel like he has control than open his heart.
This cause of a fear of love warrants some serious discussion. Get to the root of his control issues. Has he been hurt in the past? Show him that nothing he could have done would have changed the outcome of that situation; in every relationship (except The One), one person hurts the other, or they both get hurt. Trying to control a situation will never change that fact.
9. Falling for You is Complicated
Maybe he doesn’t have a fear of love in general, but his relationship with you is complicated. Perhaps one of you isn’t fully divorced, though the papers have been filed. Maybe you live 5,000 miles apart. Whatever the complication, he’s not 100% ready to dive in and deal with it.
This is a tricky one because some people just need more time to figure out what a healthy relationship with the complications looks like, while some people simply can’t stomach the complication. I know plenty of people who are open to a long-distance relationship, while others limit their online dating searches to a 5-mile radius. You both have to be onboard with the obstacle.
Talk about how the challenge is just temporary, and focus on how and when things will look different. If your divorce will be finalized in three months, will he be more open to a relationship with you then? Can he hang on until then? If you live apart, work out a schedule so that you see each other at least once a month. Make it work.
10. He’s Not Ready to Have Your Kids in His Life
While he’s cool with the fact that you have kids from your first marriage, he’s not completely ready to become a stepdad, and so he’s holding back in your relationship. Again, for some people, this is a dealbreaker, while others just need more time.
I encourage you to talk about the fact that you have kids early in dating to get a feel for whether that makes a guy run for the hills or not. If it doesn’t, you’re not out of the woods yet because many guys don’t mind that a woman has kids when he first starts dating her because he’s not looking far down the road. But if things are getting serious, you may be having visions of all of you together as a family…while that idea paralyzes him.
Communication is key here. Discuss his fears as well as boundaries. Were you to move in together, what are your expectations about how he interacts with your kids? Do you want him to discipline them or act more like a friend of the family? It may be that he just doesn’t know what his role would be that keeps him from moving forward with you.
11. He Doesn’t Want to Be Weak
I hate that we have this gender-based identity thing happening in this day and age, where a lot of men feel that showing their emotions makes them weak. That’s absolutely not true! A man who can admit his vulnerabilities to a woman is all the more appealing. Am I right, ladies?
Still, he may have been raised with messages like:
Boys don’t cry.
Men are in charge in a relationship.
Don’t ever be vulnerable.
You can’t undo this messaging; it’s embedded into his brain. But you can teach him that when he opens up to you, he’s rewarded with your love. It will take time (a lot of it), but if you’re patient and understand where he’s coming from, things can work out.
12. He Thinks He Doesn’t Have Time for Love
Your man would be open to loving you the way you want…if only he wasn’t studying for the bar exam, helping his brother move, and taking care of his kids 50% of the time. He says he’s not in a place in his life to be in love.
I call bullsh#%.
Yes, he fully believes that he doesn’t have time for love, but love isn’t a time commitment, like sitting down to binge Breaking Bad. It’s more of a lifestyle. He may even be busying himself to keep from having to open up to you or anyone else.
What can you do? You can try talking to him about it, but ultimately, he has to come to the decision that it’s worth investing time and energy into loving you.
13. He’s Looking for Impossible Perfection
In his head, he’s got this idea of what he thinks love is. Until he finds the perfect woman, the perfect situation, he’s unwilling to let himself fall in love.
Only…this mythical ideal doesn’t exist.
He may have only a few long-term relationships in his past for this very reason: because he’s looking for the impossible.
Maybe his parents divorced when he was young, and so he’s looking for things to be even better so he doesn’t go through the same pain. Or maybe his parents have been together for 50 years, and he sees them as an ideal in which to uphold his relationships. Either way, you need to let him know that love isn’t perfect. It’s incredibly messy, awkward at times…and amazing.
14. He Thinks He Will Have to Work Hard at Love
He hears people say that you have to work at love, and he takes that message to heart. He thinks love will be too much work, and so he avoids it at all cost.
Yes, love does require work, but it doesn’t feel like work when you’re with the right person. What we mean when we say “work” just means that you have to constantly communicate your feelings and needs so that your partner knows how you feel. You have to make sure you don’t take that person for granted. You have to be mindful of how you treat him. That’s not exactly difficult, is it?
15. He’s Afraid Loving You Will Disrupt His Life
This man has his life planned out. He knows exactly where he’s headed with his career. He loves his Thursday night pickup game with the boys. Everything about his life is just as it should be…and then you come along.
He sees you — and possibly falling in love with you — as being a disruption to his life. He thinks everything will change if he lets himself fall for you.
You have to tell him that it won’t change everything. Sure, some things will be different, only better. He can keep his basketball game nights — and in fact, should, because a healthy relationship happens when two people do their own thing, then come together rather than giving up all hobbies and friends for the sake of the relationship.
16. He Thinks It’s Better to Be Alone Than Taking a Risk
There’s a reason we call it “falling in love:” there is some risk to it, like falling off of a cliff. Of course, the outcome is better than falling off a cliff!
Still, depending on his past relationships, he may be afraid to take that risk with you. He’d rather be alone than risk getting hurt. So he might have started dating you assuming it would be short-lived, but now things seem to be getting serious. Will he change his attitude and take the risks that come with love?
What to Do When He Has a Fear of Love
So your guy is definitely exhibiting signs of having a fear of love. What should you do? Give up? Be patient? It depends.
Accept That He Might Not Be the One
First, you need to assess whether he actually is afraid of love or if you’re just trying to believe that because deep down, you know he’s not Mr. Right. I get that you want this guy to be The One, but accept that this might not be the case. Rather than make excuses about why he’s shy about loving you, deal with the possibility that the two of you might not be right for each other.
Get to the Bottom of the Cause
As you’ve seen in this article, there are many causes for a fear of love. Some can be fixed, while others may be more challenging. By talking to him, you can understand the root cause of his fears and see if he’s willing to work through them.
Encourage Him to See a Therapist to Work Through Issues
I’m a big advocate of therapy for working through issues in a relationship, as well as individually. If he’s willing to talk to a therapist, he may be able to not only learn to love you, but also heal past wounds and live a happier life.
Express Your Own Love
If he’s insecure about how you might feel about him, give him reassurance. Tell him that you love him. Show him. It’s important for him to feel like he has a safe space to land as he slowly opens up to you.
Give it Time
This isn’t going to resolve itself overnight. If you try to push him into being vulnerable sooner than he’s ready, it won’t go well. He’ll feel like a cornered animal and may even end things because you’re validating his fears about opening up to love.
So be patient. Talk to him about where he is in the process and be there for him. When he’s ready, if it’s right, he’ll let go of that fear.
We all want love. Every one of us. Even this man who is so afraid of loving and being loved. It just takes some of us longer than others to feel safe enough to emotionally naked and realize that we’re not going to be hurt.
If your man is worth the effort, give it to him. He’ll come around.
If you find you keep attracting men with a fear of love, please join my free webinar where you’ll learn how to attract the man you truly deserve.