Vail Relationships column: When your boyfriend is scared of love
Dear Neil: I have known this man since middle school; he was my best friend. But in the past year, we fell in love. Things were well, until one day he said he needed space. He said he has never loved someone like he loves me, and it scares the hell out of him. The next day he had me served with a criminal protection order. He told the courts that I had threatened his life for the previous three weeks.
The protection order got thrown out of court, and I believe this was a way for him to avoid the love he was scared about. But the thing that hurts even more is that we were best friends. Do you think there will ever be a chance for us to at least get our friendship back?
Dropped in Ohio
Dear Dropped: What would you guess to be the chances that you will ever trust him again? A criminal protection order is a serious charge. It says he doesn’t feel safe around you, and he wants the legal system to insure that you won’t come near him. If getting close to you feels that threatening to him, then I would not assume that he would want your friendship in the future. Apparently, being close to you really did scare the hell out of him.
So leave him alone. If he ever decides to re-establish contact with you on his own, then go very carefully — and stay away from his house or apartment. But my guess is that the chances of the two of you remaining best friends are low. He clearly is afraid of getting close to you (or perhaps to anyone), so it sounds doubtful that he will open himself up to you again. Also, I suspect that you will never be able to trust him again, as well.
Dear Neil: Four years ago, I fell in love hard and fast. Our time together was magical. Then he started pulling back and withdrawing emotionally. He insisted everything was fine, even though I could sense it wasn’t. He started using porn, and it seemed as if it consumed him, so I cut things off.
Eight months later, he came back more open than ever. Then the excuses started. He was too busy and too stressed, and he checked out again. People who run away like this have no idea the amount of pain they cause. The rest of us need to set boundaries and love ourselves enough to say, “I deserve better.”
Hurt in North Carolina
Dear Hurt: We all deserve the chance in life to love and to be loved and to feel emotionally safe with our partner. If your boyfriend can’t offer you that, then let him go so that you may find someone who wants it also — and who has the willingness and ability to offer it to you.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the best-selling book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777, or visit neilrosenthal.com.