Having a relationship in today's day and age requires great patience, yet our tolerance is dwindling. Divorce rates are increasing, and singles are finding themselves discouraged to start a new romantic adventure. We are quick to walk away when we should take the time to confront our internal fears. One common concern that some people are experiencing is the fear of being "Engulfed in Love.”
What does being engulfed in love mean? The dictionary defines engulfment, as surrounding, dominating, or to cover something or someone completely. In other words, to swallow, to overwhelm someone, or to scare them. In a psychological sense, we are referring to our tendency to over-immerse ourselves in a relationship. For example, when we want the other person to fulfill our inadequacies, or demanding that they give us an excessive amount of love, attention, or time, to satisfy our loneliness. In other words, holding on to someone out of fear of losing the person.
“Men and women who have a deep fear of engulfment avoid being in relationships.”
Men and women who have a deep fear of engulfment avoid being in relationships; they will sabotage their relationships due to their fear of losing themselves. The moment they feel as though their partner desires something from them, it activates their concern, and without hesitation or consideration they automatically resist and distance themselves. For them, it’s reasonable to envision themselves in a stereotypical engulfing type of relationships automatically. They will panic at the apprehension of being controlled, and they will push their partner away. As long as they are not in the danger of being dominated, they are safe. They will take all possible measures to protect themselves from the possibility of being controlled even if it means hurting the ones they love or losing the chance of falling in love. Remember, not being controlled is their temple of protection.
Fear of engulfment is an issue that begins in childhood. For example, an overprotective mother could have overwhelmed her son with an undesirable amount of love and attention, taking away his need for independence. By not giving him the space to grow, and eating away at his freedom, it ends up leaving him suffocated. According to License Marriage and Family Therapist Shirin Peykar, “In a healthy parent-child relationship, a parent will acknowledge her child’s need for independence, model unconditional love, and send the message that the parent will meet their child's needs.”
Usually, a person with a fear of engulfment will pair up with a partner who has a fear of abandonment. Therefore, when his fear of engulfment appears, he will create a distance. In return, bringing up her fear of abandonment, which will prompt her chase after him, further activating his fear of engulfment. It becomes a vicious cycle, where they proceed to push each other’s buttons until they are polarized in a commonly hostile position that will eventually threaten to drive them apart. They eventually break up and move on only to find themselves ending up with the same situation again if they don’t work out their internal fears.
It’ is very common for two individuals to be excited and to become engulfed in their relationship, during the honeymoon phase. In a healthy relationship, couples will fall in love and lose themselves, but only up to a point. Eventually, they will find a balance. The difficulty is people who have a fear of engulfment will misunderstand the excitement in the beginning and to save themselves from their fear of being controlled they might run-away. Therefore, it’s vital for people who have a fear of being engulfed to work on their internal fears and to steer away from partners that might have a fear of abandonment and to seek partners that are respectful of their space.
“Space Supports Intimacy”
The number one misconception that many of us hold on to is the belief that space and intimacy cannot be married. Intimacy is our ability to authentically and genuinely share ourselves with another person, on an intellectual, emotional, and sexual level. It’s the ability to share and explore experiences and adventures with one or another. Intimacy is not to overwhelm and steal a person’s space. Actually, space supports intimacy. Space allows for two individuals to come back and create electricity. A couple’s connection can grow when they are not entangled, and instead are able to see themselves as two separate individuals.
If you have a fear of engulfment, educate yourself on healthy and unhealthy relationship boundaries. Remember, if you don't recognize your self-worth when you find someone who admires you, you are likely to distance yourself and believe there’s something wrong with them. Henceforth, work on your self-worth. Be mindful and present, observe the here and now. It’s very common for us to project the past into the present. Familiarize yourself with your relationship patterns., If you notice that your fears have prevented you from forming a healthy relationship, seek help from a mental health professional trained in interpersonal relations.
“And I'm gon' swim the whole night
The whole night
And I'll give you my virtue
Just give me time" Yates - Virtue Lyrics