HAVE YOU GOT LOVEPHOBIA?
Emily Hill has been skirting round love – but it’s not for the reasons she initially thought
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.