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Barbara De Angelis, Ph.D.
Barbara De Angelis, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert on human relations and one of America's most influential teachers in personal and spiritual development. She has hosted her own television and radio shows and appeared for several years as CNN's Newsnight Relationship Expert. She is the bestselling author of How to Make Love All the Time, Secrets about Men Every Woman Should Know, Are You the One for Me? and Real Moments.
  Why We're Afraid of Love   #551
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The very best relationships are characterized by a deep honesty and intimacy that enriches both people. Here's Barbara DeAngelis to explain why we avoid this intimacy and what to do about it.

Have you ever been having a conversation with someone you really care about, or opening your heart to a friend, sharing your secret feelings, and at some point, as you're talking, you feel all of a sudden as if a door opens, and something greater than the two of you is created? You can feel it. There's an intimacy, a space you both entered into. And your connectedness becomes very strong. You feel really, really connected to the other person.

But in that moment, you suddenly start to feel a little out of control. Your boundaries have melted. Your protections have dissolved. You're feeling very vulnerable. You don't have your masks on anymore. Your emotions are being witnessed by somebody else. The sanctity of your personal space has been penetrated. This is actually the definition of love: when you allow your soul to touch somebody else's.

When you have this experience either with a close friend or with your partner, if you're not good at trusting, if you don't feel safe to really open up, you're going to pull away from that moment. You're going to turn away from it because you're afraid you'll lose yourself in it. You're going to feel like running away, or having space or ending the conversation.

Sometimes people get to a certain point in a relationship where they are this close, and all of a sudden they start pulling away. And the other person says, "I don't understand it. We were getting so close. What happened?" What happened is that the other person got frightened of the intimacy.

What are you running from when you're running from intimacy? You're running from yourself. You're running from your own nakedness, your own vulnerability, from being swallowed up by something more powerful than you, and losing your sense of ego, losing your sense of separateness, because oneness, love, makes you disappear in a certain way.

If your life has been about protecting yourself from intimacy, you're going to be terrified of true, deep love and the real moments of surrender that it requires of you. It is scary to love deeply. But there's a wonderful quote that I love to share, from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who wrote Women Who Run with the Wolves. She says, "Fear is a poor excuse for not doing the work." We're all afraid. It's nothing new. If you're alive, you're fearful. To love means to stay when every cell says "Run."

Here's the irony about our fear of love. Loving may appear to be an emotional risk, but in reality, it's not a risk at all. You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back love. You know what the real risk is? The real risk is living with somebody year after year and feeling distant from them, feeling lonely. The real risk is having a marriage that's just based on convenience or what other people think, and not having the connection that makes your life meaningful. The real risk is being in a relationship without real moments.

True intimacy requires that you are in the moment. For instance, when your partner is speaking to you, you're not pretending to listen, but you're really there listening. You're really opened up. You're not reading the paper, you're not just going through the motions, you're not numb. You're open. You're surrendered. And in order to really be there for the other person, in order to really be there emotionally, you have to know how to fully feel your feelings.

Now, here are two things you can do to be a more effective person in your relationships.

First, be prepared to be open, honest and intimate with the person you love. When it starts to happen, be calm and relaxed. Don't hold back or withdraw.

Second, remember that the more of yourself you put into the relationship emotionally, the more joy and happiness you will get out of it.

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Are You Love-Starved?
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