The two most common fears people have in relationships are engulfment and abandonment. Usually, it is one or the other. We fear being swallowed up by another, dissolving into the relationship. Or we fear the opposite. We are terrified of being left behind.
The introvert’s dilemma in relationships is that we often feel both fears deeply. We are on constant guard against the threat of being overwhelmed by others. And yet, we are afraid that our true personality will scare people away. Our worst fear is that we are too easy to leave. Which means we are too hard to love. It is as if we are afraid of the sun, and afraid of the sun setting. I wrote a poem about this the other day:
Fear of the sun
And fear of the sun setting
The sun’s rays reach for me
But the once welcome warmth
The moon in all its glowing mystery
Can’t be trusted
It calls to the stars in the dark
Circles the world
Like a predator its prey
It shows you a sliver
Then disappears for days
You’re Smothering Me
For sensitive introverts who are prone to energy drain, relationships can feel like swimming in a tsunami. The tidal wave of emotions, the silent fears, the rush of hormones, the sheer weight of someone else’s expectations – it can all be too much.
Whenever I think of one of my extroverted exes, a particular image comes to mind. I imagine that I am a little blue bird in the palm of his hands. He is trying to show me affection, but ends up smothering me with his large clumsy hands. This is what engulfment feels like to an introvert.
Hold us too tightly and we’ll collapse into ourselves, disappearing into our own world. The alternative is that we literally disappear. We become the abandoner.
Ghosting – The Game Of Abandonment
The Internet has been abuzz lately over the popularity of ‘ghosting’, which is leaving someone without any warning or explanation. Since the rise of online dating sites, such as Tinder, we are all at greater risk of being ghosted. We are also more likely to ghost others.
Ghosting holds a special appeal to introverts. We can leave quietly without conflict. With the wave of a finger, we can swipe right out of someone’s life.
It is easy to abandon and easy to be abandoned. We’ve made a game out of our greatest fear. It’s a modern-day version of shadow puppets, hands and hearts dancing in the dark, then disappearing at the flick of a switch.
I have done my fair share of online dating. But after a while, I started to feel like I was commodifying people. One man wrote “Add To Cart” as his profile tagline, and I laughed out loud (LOL’d) at the irony. We’re searching for a soulmate, yet we view potential matches more like products than people.
With the right people, our fears have less of a hold on us. The problem I see again and again with my introverted students and clients is that they are attracting the wrong people into their lives. They keep befriending or dating the overbearing extrovert who smothers them. Or the aloof narcissist who abandons them. They never even considered that things could be different.
One of the questions I always ask my Fulfilling Connections For Introverts students is, what do you want in an ideal friend or partner?
What qualities do you want them to have?
What activities do you want to do with them?
How do you want to feel when you’re with them?
Answering the above questions is the first step to attracting someone more suitable into our life. For many of us, just acknowledging that there is an alternative to our current relationships is liberating.
We are no longer little birds being crushed by the weight of our own fears. Hope has wings, and so do we when we dare believe that things can be different.
What about you?
What is your biggest fear in relationships?
What are your thoughts on online dating?
Please share your insights and experiences below. 🙂
Lots of love,
P.S. Doors are now open for my Fulfilling Connections For Introverts Course. Learn how to make meaningful connections with the right people. No extroversion required. Signup today and receive your first lesson this week. Learn More >>