It is one of my earliest memories. My hometown in Eastern North Carolina experienced something pretty unusual that winter: snow! All the neighborhood children fled their homes, wrapped tightly in heavy coats, and frolicked in the white bliss we so rarely enjoyed.
With glee, pre-school Heather ran outside to join in on the fun. Oh, to be young and unstained, assuming everyone in the world likes you as much as you like them. Well…
Shortly after joining my neighborhood “friends,” I heard a little boy call my name. I turned just in time to be smacked in the face with a huge snowball. If my memory serves, I ran home crying with the sound of callous laughter echoing in my ears. In the years to follow, I learned that children can be insanely mean; and, all it takes to create a surefire bully system is one cruel leader and a pack of terrified followers.
To make my situation more difficult, I was an only child and the youngest of my cousins. When I attempted to play with the children in my family, I was usually shut out with no remorse. In retrospect, I suppose seven-year-old boys and a four-year-old girl are not natural playmates.
Considering my early childhood memories, it is no surprise that I have struggled with fear in my relationships – both romantic and platonic. Whenever I sensed my friends getting annoyed with me, I would retreat. The thought of being unwanted or in the way was terrifying to me. This fear followed me throughout middle school, high school, college, and even into my marriage.
In high school and college, I rarely found myself in romantic situations where I was head over heels in love. Even without realizing it, I desperately wanted the upper hand and typically chose to enter relationships where I felt highly favored. After all, if my boyfriend had me on a pedestal (at least in my mind), then he would be less likely to toss me aside, make fun of me, or seem aggravated by my presence.
Why Is This Guy Not Following Protocol?
Then… I met Eric. Eric was a different sort of fellow and I could not shake him no matter how hard I tried. I did not want to like him. He did not need me. He was not pining for me. I knew he could get through life (easily) without me and that freaked me out. If he did not adore me, how could I be sure he would not hurt me? Our friendship grew, but I spent day after uncomfortable day struggling with the fact that he simply did not have a crush on me. He liked me as a friend, but he would not have fallen apart had I walked out of his life. Though I resented weak-willed, begging behaviors in men, I apparently also sought them out for my emotional protection.
Over time, our relationship blossomed into courtship and then eventually into marriage; but, my deep-seated insecurities followed me down the aisle, on our honeymoon, and into our new home.
As husbands and wives do, Eric and I occasionally argued. We did not always see eye-to-eye. And, sometimes, Eric did not want to be around me! (Perish the thought!) Sure, there were times I did not want to be around him either, but how could he not want to be around me!?! ~smile~
When Eric seemed genuinely frustrated with me (an emotion that is inescapable in any marriage), I fell into a self-deprecating tail spin instead of seeing it for what it really was – marriage, life, and growing pains.
My inner-voice automatically told me, “Eric is not happy with me. I am unlovable.”
That familiar sick feeling of being an aggravation would creep back into my heart and I spent a significant part of our marriage viewing Eric as higher than me. He was the smart one. He was the clever one. He was the wise one. He was the successful one. Despite his pleas for me to understand that we were (and are) a team, I viewed him as the worthy one and myself as the unworthy one.
It has taken years (and Eric patiently working with me) to move out of this mindset. Even now, that little girl, who felt like such an aggravation, occasionally pops up and wants to pull me back down.
This old, dusty fear wreaked havoc on my marriage, because as long as I was guarding myself against any chance of being hurt, I was unavailable to take any risks, to put myself out there, or to open myself up to new possibilities. Fear keeps us trapped in a perceived safety, but later we realize all the living we have missed. Eric wanted to make friends and I wanted to remain safely tucked away in our home. Eric wanted to flourish in our business endeavors and I wanted to stay far away from any criticism or failure. Eric wanted to live and my fear was holding us back… both of us. Then, when Eric would share his displeasure with my fearful stance toward life, I once again felt like an annoyance and the spiral would continue. (What a vicious and unhealthy cycle.)
Are you nursing any deep, dark, debilitating fears? Is there a memory you cannot seem to shake? Is there a hurt buried inside that causes you to question your sweetheart’s actions or devotion? Have you witnessed negative relationships which have left you wondering if a healthy marriage is even possible?
Are You Ready for a Blessing?!
We would like to hear about your biggest relationship fears and, hopefully, help you move past them! We understand first-hand how crippling fear can be to marriages and we sincerely hope you and your future spouse can conquer your fears before your wedding. Contact us and share one of your biggest relationship fears and we will enter you into a drawing to win the helpful book, Twelve Questions to Ask Before You Marry by Clayton and Sharie King. We will respond to you privately and we may anonymously use your question in a future blog post.
Bonus!!! Is there someone you want to bless? If you win the drawing, we will send you two copies of the book – one for you and one for your significant other or a friend!
Is it time to let go of your fears? Use this Halloween season to do some soul-searching. What is lurking in your heart?
Which fears or insecurities do you need to overcome before getting married?