Don’t Love Defensively. Love Fearlessly

I always thought I was wiser and happier, but there I was, lying with a chest tightened by anxiety. It was physical. It was painful. Nothing had seemed to change. My whole body told me to run. To shut the world out. To stop people from getting to me. To take back all the power. To avoid difficult emotions, avoid vulnerability, and so, to avoid love. No more. Being on my own would be easier. I could be strong, could be crazy, could be silly, could be proud, could be carefree. After all, I’d been alone for so long, why would I live differently? What good would that do?

And that’s how I often loved in a defensive way. I looked for bad signs. I worried about getting hurt. I treated my partner as an opponent whom I had to watch out for in case he was tricking me. I always thought he would be tricking me somehow. When a behaviour seemed off, my first instinct wasn’t to give him the benefits of the doubt and talk to him about it. It was to erase him. It was to hide in a corner, being a little sulking child who declares she hates the world but is secretly waiting to be found and soothed. My thinking was always black and white, pushed for the extreme as I cut off all possibilities before they could ever materialise.

The truth is, I was deeply scared. I was scared of being alone but I was even more scared of having my heart shattered. In fact, it wasn’t even about having my heart shattered. I was scared of being real, of being rejected for who I truly was. When I went on a date, it was easy to put up a pretty front. Perfect make-up, perfect dress, perfect manners, perfect stories, perfect moves. Smoothly one date, two dates, three dates. But soon enough, I would run out of learned behaviours. I would have to just be myself, and it’s terrifying not knowing how it would turn out. No more relying on my look, my witty lines, my timed actions — all I had left with me would be being authentic and unfiltered. Rejections would feel personal. I would feel silly and incredibly cheated had someone walked right over me the moment he was let in and enabled so. For that, I would hate myself so much.

But I realise these are all just part of the deal. The risk of pain is inevitable. Shutting people out might help avoid pain but it also means no more intimacy and love and all the wonderful bits of being with someone, ever. Meanwhile, loving defensively isn’t really loving either. It’s for self-preservation purpose, not for love purpose. It’s always subtracting bad things, not adding good things. It drains energy. I don’t think I will ever stop trying to protect myself but at the same time, I don’t want that protection to stand in my own way of being happy and experiencing deep love. I tread carefully but I don’t want to use defence and avoidance as my first response. So I try to stand firm, to be generous, to give, to understand, to nurture, NOT to break, to abandon, to run. Honestly, it’s not at all easy. It’s so damn hard. It takes a lot of self-awareness and effort in daily communications and actions, especially in enduring and calming my anxiety in my own time as I know it’s within me, not intended by my partner.

My partner isn’t my opponent. A relationship isn’t a game. He’s on my team. He’s to be trusted. He deserves the benefits of the doubt, understanding, and honest discussion. Because if not, what the hell would I be doing with this guy?

I find it comforting and anxiety-relieving to be thinking this way. Although practising it will put me far out of my comfort zone, it’s how I’m going to grow and become a better, more fulfilled human. I’m done with being on the defence all the time as frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s me denying myself of one of my greatest female abilities: nurturing.

From now, I learn to nurture the relationships I’m fortunate enough to have. I treat my partner with care and signal to him I’m always on his side, trusting that he would be able to feel the positive energy and reciprocate.

I don’t want to love defensively. I want to love fearlessly and generously.

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