“If she doesn’t scare the hell out of you a little, she’s not the one”
At first glance, this might seem to be implying that you need to only date emotionally unstable people. But if you sit with it for a moment, it takes on a whole other (and more important) layer of meaning.
As much as mainstream media would prefer you to think otherwise, the best relationships are not all sunshine and roses.
Relationships are the ultimate vehicle for self-growth… and the best kind of love that you can engage in is the confronting kind. The kind where your partner acts as a mirror to you and they lovingly help pull all of your demons out of you over time. They act as a catalyst for positive growth.
They’ll point a flashlight into every corner of your dark mental attic, and illuminate all of the things that you try to hide from the world. And they will illuminate it with love, patience, and compassion. Just when you expect them to run away (after having found out about your deepest, darkest secrets), they’ll tell you that they love you even more now that they know more about you.
Intimacy is about truly letting someone see you. It’s also anxiety producing for the vast majority of people. Letting someone really know you, and really see you, can be terrifying. You are laying your heart in their hands and saying to them “Please be gentle with this.” And if they’re the right one for you, they will reply back (verbally or non-verbally) “I wouldn’t dream of ever being anything else to you.”
When I first started dating again after an emotionally traumatic breakup, I was hesitant to let anyone get close to me. I engaged in surface level relationships because I feared the anxiety that intimacy produced for me. Even ‘admitting’ that I’d had a difficult day was enough to make my heart race.
In my emotional closure I didn’t think I would ever be able to open up to someone ever again. Until one fateful day when I met someone who shook up my world entirely. Her eyes penetrated through me. There was no hiding around her. She never had to say it out loud, but I knew that she saw me.
My ego’s first self-protective instinct was to run away and revert back to my old unproductive habits. Run away before she finds out all of the messy things about your past. Push her away before she has a chance to see past your self-deceptions. Avoid any contact with her in case she might make you feel big, scary emotions again.
My ego resisted her every step of the way. I told myself she wasn’t my usual type. I tried to hide behind things like “She’s too young/inexperienced/small town/etc. for me.” But it was all bullshit. Every thought that tried to keep me away from her was just my ego’s sad excuse to stay closed down emotionally. It was a defense mechanism and I knew it.
When I really started to show up and tell her how I was feeling (namely, scared shitless to even be around her) she received it with grace and compassion. Because even before I had verbalized it, she knew. She already saw me.
As terrifying as intimacy can be, the process of holding up our demons in the light is deeply therapeutic. Shame cannot continue to exist or thrive in the loving context of a close intimate relationship.
Was I fixed forever for having her met her? No. It’s a process like everything else. I had to repeatedly breathe into the deeper layers of anxiety as I let myself be seen more and more by her.
But I’ll be eternally grateful that I did meet her. Because her scaring the hell out of me was my ticket to a positive transformation that I never could have anticipated.
So if you’re at a place in your life where you are starting to see someone who challenges you, confronts you, and scares you on some level, take stock of whether or not you think they might be a force for positive change in your life.
Don’t date someone who scares you because they are controlling, angry, violent, or abusive in any way. That’s the bad kind of fear and it’s an unhealthy relationship to engage in. But date someone who scares you because they encourage you to face all of the things you’ve tried to suppress for so long. Date someone who lovingly pushes you to become more who you are at your core as a person. Date someone who nudges you outside of your comfort zone regularly and helps you level up in life.
It might just be the best thing you ever did for yourself.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project.