A world in which I am unconditionally loved by the kind of man one would only read about in romantic novels you might say is the definition of perfection. I would not want for anything in the world because that man is my world.

But, surely, you might add, you’ve never encountered such a man, because those men only exist deep within the pages of Danielle Steel’s novels. Truth be told, I have crossed paths with my dream man several times.  He has promised to bring heaven to my doorstep and has pursued me as though I was that thing for which he’d searched and yearned for his entire life. And, ironically, I have avoided him and ran away from him as though he was that thing which I’d dreaded my whole life.

Had I been a normal woman, I would have excitedly jumped and taken a hold of my dream man, never to let him wander a meter away from my shadow. However, after many years of being single I finally learned a jaw-dropping fact about myself. I have philophobia.

A phobia is an irrational fear of something unlikely to cause harm to a person. People with phobias are likely to have a pounding or racing heart, upset stomach, shortness of breath, and a sense of impending doom when they encounter the object of their phobia. Some people have an irrational fear of heights, snakes, spiders, etc. Whereas I have an irrational fear of love – philophobia is an irrational fear of falling in love or getting into a relationship.

Philophobia is not a condition that can be diagnosed by an ordinary doctor. However, certain behavior can aid in discovering when one suffers from this odd phobia. Up until last year, I had never been in a relationship that lasted for more than three days. Early this year, I had my first relationship. It went on for two weeks. It was a record that ought to have been, but wasn’t, written in the Guinness book of records. My friends and I were wholly proud regardless of the undeniable fact that those two weeks felt like 10 years in a prison cell. I was suffocated by the love and affection my boyfriend showered on me. I felt a sense of impending doom and I desperately wanted to exit this sham. Surprisingly this was a person whom I had crushed on for the longest time and had fantasised about being his girlfriend. When he eventually made his feelings known to me, I began to search for minor flaws in him. A flaw as minuscule as the shape of his toes was reason enough for me to propose a breakup.

My fear of falling in love distressed me until I eventually took a conscious decision to consult a therapist. My therapist went over my past relationships to identify what was causing my fear of love. I had had a traumatic upbringing where there was no stability in my life. I had lived with more than seven different relatives because my mom worked in another country. Some of those relatives were kind and compassionate while others perceived me as a burden that had been dumped upon them. When I eventually lived with my mother there was a huge disconnect between us. I felt that it was a little too late for us to establish a mother and daughter relationship as there was so much that we didn’t know about each other. She was an aggressive communicator who showed affection by shouting and highlighting the faults in a person. I was a young girl who felt misunderstood and wanted someone to slowly get through to me with kind words of reassurance.

But someone showing affection is something alien to me, and I don’t know how to react to it. I’m not aware of how I am expected to act in relationships and that is why I avoid them. My decision to seek therapy meant that I didn’t want to live with this fear and that like other people I wanted to fall in love and be completely comfortable with my partner. Having made the decision to seek a cure is the first step to fighting this. Being honest with myself was the first step to healing. I have had to be vulnerable and reveal parts of myself that I have always been ashamed to share with anyone. During my therapy sessions, I have delved deeper and understand what former President Nelson Mandela meant when he said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”


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Tell us: Did you know that philophobia exists? Do you know any other phobias?