THE BLOG
09/20/2013 01:41 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2013

Reframing Relationship Fear: Living and Loving in the Moment

I spent a lot of my 20s trying to imagine what love would feel like. I watched movies about love, read books about love -- and even wrote my own version of what I pictured the experience would be like. And as a 30-year-old woman, I have been in more than enough relationships. And in each one, I wanted more than anything to feel those feelings -- the butterflies in my stomach, the heart-dropping "I can't get enough" feelings. And I suppose, in hindsight, that it did happen to a degree but in a sense, I was always waiting for more. When it came time to write Valentine's Day cards or birthday cards, I found myself searching for the "right" words to use or the perfect thing to say that would explain, describe and declare my love. But it never came authentically and I would end up writing what I thought I was supposed to instead of how I really felt. The truth was, I spent a lot of time yearning for something -- an indescribable feeling that I knew existed somewhere that, despite my greatest efforts, I hadn't felt yet.

Two months ago, just when I thought it wouldn't ever happen and I had finally gotten to the point of just letting go of the idea, I fell in love. It didn't happen how I thought it would and in fact, it took me by complete surprise. Every picture I had -- every detail and illustration and experience I had imagined in my mind could not have prepared me. Months ago, while having a conversation about love, my mother said to me, "Don't rush falling in love because the moment you do, everything changes right away. The direction of your life, your decisions and choices and the rest of your life will all change in one moment." But in all honesty, I didn't really believe her. I could not imagine that something so powerful could or would ever happen to me, let alone change the course and direction of my life in a way that I could not ever have imagined. And so, as things happen, I fell in love, and as my mother said it would, my entire life path and direction changed in what felt like a moment. And it wasn't that I suddenly felt like I had all these new decisions to make. Instead, it felt like my life just changed paths and it was my job to catch up and take each next step as it presented itself. It felt like I was walking in the dark, in some ways, because it was (and continues to be) uncharted territory. Because despite whatever relationships I had in the past or whatever dream/ideal relationship I had fantasized about in my head, could not have even begun to prepare me for the exhilaration of this experience.

On some level, I was right about the butterflies and heart-dropping/tingling stomach feelings that come with love. I have indeed experienced and continue to experience all of those things. I have felt more love expanding in my heart than I ever knew even existed and I have found myself experiencing every feeling on a level so deep that in lots of ways, it's not possible to explain it. There have been happy tears, deep conversations, intimate sharing and everything else that goes with that. But the one thing that has surprised me more than anything -- and the one thing I truly did not (and still do not) feel prepared for was the deep feeling of complete fear that as quickly as I "found" love, that I could "lose" it. I never imagined for a second that in the midst of all these amazing feelings of deep gratitude and love could be a fear so strong that at times, it brings me to my knees, feeling breathless and completely out of control, bringing to the surface all my deeper fears and insecurities and giving me yet another opportunity to allow myself to reach the biggest level of vulnerability that I have ever felt in my life.

It really never occurred to me, in all my fantasies, that love and fear could exist together, but what I am learning is that there really never is a safety net. Maybe part of me thought that once I was experiencing such an amazing and loving relationship, that all the fear of being alone or hurt would all go to the wayside. And part of being in love does feel like that. Most times when I am laying in my boyfriend's arms, the only thing I feel is love. I feel safe and held and positive and hopeful, completely secure in our dynamic and knowing and truly feeling that nothing outside of us even matters. But other times, when I am alone and going through my own daily life, that fear creeps in and reminds me that at any moment, life can change rapidly. When I first felt this fear, I was angry. I didn't want to feel fear. I didn't want to worry about my boyfriend or his well-being and wonder if he's okay or wait by my phone for a text message and then worry when more than an hour has gone by. I wanted to fully trust that no matter what happened or happens, that I would be/will be completely fine. I wanted the bliss of all the love to overpower any feelings that I didn't want to feel. But it didn't quite happen that way and at times, it's still a struggle. The thing is, allowing myself to love so deeply opens up such a vulnerable space in my heart that I sometimes am not sure how to fully surrender to it. The truth is, I love someone so much that I worry about them. And as I am getting deeper and deeper into these feelings and my new relationship, I am learning to accept the fear as part of the love. I am realizing, every single day, that if I just allow myself to feel the fear and let myself be vulnerable to the fact that I am happier than I have ever been in my life - the fear lessens just a little. And when, for that moment, it releases, I have some clarity as to how I can actually use the fear to reframe how I live my life.

I think as human beings, we all have tendencies to be in a rush, be impatient or skip important steps. A lot of us like instant gratification and don't like to take the time to allow something to just be what it is. I wanted a vulnerable, open, loving and authentic relationship. I wanted the love and honesty, openness and intimacy of looking deep into someone's eyes and seeing their soul (and mine). I asked for this and whatever else comes with it is all just part of the package. And even in this relationship that is still so new and fresh and beautiful, there have been moments where I have felt myself wanting to rush and "just get" to this point or that point so that I could feel "safe." But the truth is, that doesn't exist. Not in dating or marriage or in any other sort of relationship. And I realized the other day, in the midst of a racing heart and a head full of spiraled fearful thoughts, that maybe it's actually the fear that is helping me stay present. I know that things can happen and that things change all the time. I know I don't need to fear for someone's safety all the time, as I know it isn't healthy -- but at the same time, it reminds me to live in the moment and love as much as I can in every situation. Maybe arguing over something meaningless or complaining about something silly makes sense in the moment, but when I really think about it, those little things don't matter. There's a quote somewhere that says: "Live every day as if it were your last." And I didn't really understand this until just a few days ago. I want to live and love this life with everything I have. I want every interaction with people I love to be as loving and heartfelt as it can be. I want to soak up and enjoy each step and each moment of my relationship to the best of my ability. Some people may say that this isn't possible or that "life gets in the way." But I don't see it that way anymore. Life is what it is and what gets in the way is when people focus attention on the things that don't really matter. What matters is living and living means loving. And yes, that means in every moment because every moment counts.

We never know what tomorrow is going to bring, or even the next five minutes. I don't plan on living in fear of losing the person who I have grown to love the most in my life, but I am going to take that fear and channel it into something helpful, which is showing up in my life in a way I have always wanted. My mother wasn't wrong when she said that once someone falls in love, their entire life changes. It isn't just the logistics of my life that have changed, but the entire way I view my life and the world in general. The way I want to live my life, carry myself as a person, and experience life has changed. I have no idea what will happen but my hopes and dreams would allow me to keep moving forward, experiencing this love deeply and loving my heart out. Maybe it's the fear that slows me down and keeps me coming back to the fact that in a moment, everything could change. So in this moment, I am going to love as wildly, openly and authentically as I can. I will give kisses and hugs and smiles so big that it lights up my entire soul. I will dance in the rain and laugh as hard as I can and let myself feel all the good stuff life has to offer. I will hopefully have babies with my wonderful partner one day and live through all the adventures life has to offer. But today I will remember that I am living the most amazing thing in my life. I am allowing myself to love someone so much that I wonder and worry about them because without them, my life wouldn't be what it is.

So I am taking fear, reframing it, calming my racing heart and embracing the beauty I can find in slowing down. Tomorrow will come, hopefully -- and so will ten years from now. But right now, what matters most to be is to love this man, live the life I am so deeply called to live, and know that the only "safety" is finding the joy and gifts in every moment. The fear will come and go, but the love will burn deeper and deeper every day if I let it. It's the first time in my life that I have been willing to let myself get here -- to this place of my heart being wide open, willing and able to accept a love that I cannot believe exists. And reminding myself, that no matter what happens, this love will always be a part of me because I could not forget it if I tried.

For more by Robin Hoffman, click here.

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