in: Dating & Relationships

Why I’m Afraid of Love

For those of us who’ve known love, it can seem curious that anyone would ever recoil from its magic. Cabot O’Callaghan reflects on why he’s afraid of love.


Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.
–William Shakespeare, The Tempest

I want to scream until reason flees and unconsciousness takes me. I want to destroy something and stomp barefoot on its sharp remains. Sob openly in a crowded room. I need a quiet space, a gentle kiss to the back of my neck but no words spoken.

I’m overwhelmed. I’m lost in the raging tempest. The roar of it tears into my ears.

I’ve shed so much in the past six years to be true and it was a painful process. A marriage and family, a career, a home. My identity has been obliterated. I guess I was expecting some kind of reward for that sacrifice. Like peace of mind. Like progress. Love.

The resounding answer was only this: Truth is its own reward. It’s not the answer I expected. I’m so tired and humbled. I’m on my knees.

This no-place of truth is where I live now. Every day I must embrace the unknown, the land where answers are elusive. There’s no recognizable border, no familiar contour here. It’s a terrifying place.

I’ve been at this pivotal moment before. It’s been twenty years and now I’m back. Last time I chose the easy road—self betrayal. I chose the ordinary world, the shallow end. I lied to myself, told myself stories that made me feel safe.

I failed.

As a benevolent penance, I’ve been digging up my bones, forcing myself to examine their history to become more self-aware. I’ve been doing it for years. I know how I got to here. I see the masochistic circle-path I trudged along for so long. But sometimes it’s not enough to dig. To reveal certain truths I have to shove my hand in the fire.

Keeping it there is another feat entirely.

Now that I’ve set myself adrift in this neither-land, without warning or intention, a deep need has surfaced. Love has ambushed me, dragged me into a mysterious forest where it lives. A missing soul companion found. A goddess. Finally.

And yet I’m denied complete connection because love has no sense, or care, of physical distance. It’s maddening. I don’t want to be thankful for this half-blessing, half-curse, for the summoned hurricane force feelings that whip me until the edges of my mind tatter.

I’ve written so much about love, about my deep need and struggles to experience it. Now it’s staring me in the face and layers of me I never knew existed are burning open as I hold myself to the flame.

I know I’m afraid of love, but I didn’t know how deep that fear is until now.

Processing my sea-change of behavior and thought has left my mind reeling, unable to control feelings of fear, anger, and sadness. It’s manifested as a flood of irrational doubt, jealousy, and powerlessness. I’m waiting for the worst like it’s an inevitability. Grief has choked out all the joy of finding her.

I’ve never experienced feelings like this for a woman before. Ever.

Forty-six years of stone have crumbled away like the remnants of an ancient empire. I don’t know if I’m coward or hero or fool as I stand trembling, exposed to what I’ve hidden from for so long. The vulnerability is stifling.

Old ghosts wail seductively to bolt in countless ways. Fuck those ghosts. My mind has no way to process this kind of love. Its shape and scope is unintelligible, the emotional territory uncharted. In attempt to manage the unmanageable, everything has melted down to a pile of smoldering waste.

I’m still recovering, rising from the ashes.

Imagine living your whole life subterranean and then without warning being violently yanked to the surface, to face the sun in all its devastating brilliance as your retinas melt and run down your face. Imagine forcing yourself to stand your ground as the flesh of your past burns away in the searing purity of the sun’s unforgiving gaze.

I’m in love. I will not turn away.


[image: via shutterstock]

“Why I’m Afraid of Love” was originally published with the Good Men Project; republished with the kindest permission. 

About the Author

Cabot O’Callaghan is a writer. He says it just took half his life to accept the fact. He quit his 24 year career so he could dig in a cursed land, placing the bones he finds on display. Most of them are his own. A disciple of all things authentic, especially if they come from dark places, Cabot would rather bleed in public because he knows we are more alike than unlike. Apparently he is also a smoldering romantic and he’s just as surprised as you to discover that. Cabot thinks love is best served like an unsuspecting blow to the back of the head. He says everything is possible now, even as he flaps his wings furiously while falling. His overly personal wordletting can be found at You can also connect with Cabot on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author:

The Good Men Project

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