Emily Hill has been skirt­ing round love – but it’s not for the rea­sons she ini­tially thought

Grazia (UK) - - It's A Thing - Emily Hill is the au­thor of ‘ Bad Romance’ (£12.99, Un­bound), out now

It was only when I screwed ev­ery­thing up with a man I’d been see­ing for less than a month that I re­alised I was love­pho­bic. He was hand­some, kind, a de­mon in the sack, and made my heart beat so fast I had a panic at­tack. In the last 20 years, ev­ery time I’ve fallen in love it has ended in dis­as­ter. And, this time, I liked the guy so much, I sud­denly be­came con­vinced he’d dump me. So I caused a point­less ar­gu­ment over text, as if on pur­pose to make sure he did. I’ve not heard from him since.

Now, six weeks later, I curse my­self for hav­ing acted in such a self-de­feat­ing and stupid man­ner. But it’s not my fault. I suf­fer from an ac­tual, di­ag­nos­able con­di­tion: philo­pho­bia, a fear of love. Many women through­out his­tory have been like me, in­clud­ing El­iz­a­beth I, who de­clared at age eight that she’d never marry, af­ter her fa­ther, Henry VIII, chopped the head off her third step­mother. She died a vir­gin.

And I’m not alone to­day, ei­ther. Like a rapidly mul­ti­ply­ing mass of women ( in Bri­tain, half of women be­tween 18 and 49 have never mar­ried, while half be­tween 25 and 44 are not co­hab­it­ing), I’ve spent years search­ing fruit­lessly for Mr Right as a host of Mr Wrongs re­duced me to a pulp. Ex­pe­ri­ence has taught me that love means grant­ing a man ac­cess to your heart so he can rip it out and shove it in a blender. And since that’s hap­pened to me so many times be­fore, my heart’s still mashed.

With ap­par­ently lim­it­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet po­ten­tial mates via dat­ing apps, we’ve never been un­der greater pres­sure to keep putting our­selves out there. But most of us who are sin­gle in our thir­ties have been through heart­break mul­ti­ple times. Ev­ery­one ex­pects us to be ex­cited by the idea of meet­ing some­one new.

Love­pho­bia par­tic­u­larly af­flicts women in their thir­ties and for­ties. We’ve spent so long alone we’ve be­come jaded. We look at our friends still in their twen­ties or newly di­vorced and we’re de­lighted that they seem to be en­joy­ing them­selves. They may en­joy app dat­ing be­cause it is new to them. But we’ve been on the front­line for a long time – we’ve lived through IRL dat­ing, on­line dat­ing and now con­trol of our love lives has been handed over to the ma­chines in our pock­ets via Bum­ble and Happn. It’s not that we haven’t tried to find a part­ner. We’ve tried hard – pos­si­bly too hard. At 29, I split up with a man who was so ap­palling that I can’t even re­peat the de­tails. That break-up co­in­cided with the mass adop­tion of dat­ing apps – de­signed for fun not for fu­ture – and since then I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced noth­ing but brief flings that went from promis­ing to dis­as­trous (and over) the sec­ond I started to feel any­thing.

Such fleet­ing ro­man­tic ‘noth­ings’ are be­com­ing the norm. This in­duces anx­i­ety in us. Have we missed out on meet­ing the right per­son be­cause we ac­ci­den­tally swiped the wrong way? Or is there a bet­ter per­son out there if only we could keep our spir­its up? Apps are con­trived to keep us sin­gle, so we don’t put them out of busi­ness. Most matches don’t lead to mes­sages, let alone IRL in­ter­ac­tion, mu­tual fan­cy­ing, ac­com­pa­ny­ing sex­ual shenani­gans, and real, un­govern­able emo­tions.

But as a love­phobe I know I have to start fight­ing back – most of all against my­self. Yes we are afraid but if we’re ever to get what we want, we have to feel the fear – and do it any­way.

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