Li Qinyi, a 26-year-old white-collar worker in Beijing, recently stopped taking phone calls from a man who had been professing his love and affection toward her.
She recalled that her mind went completely blank and she could not say a word when he blurted out the three words – I love you.
”All I could think was to run away from him,” she admitted. “It was not that I did not like him, but having a boyfriend was the last thing I wanted in my life, and I just could not accept him,” she said.
According to her, the main reason that she found it hard to step into a romantic relationship was that she was deeply hurt by her ex-boyfriend who cheated on her over a year ago. Since then, she could not trust any other man.
Li is one of the many people who suffer from the abnormal and persistent fear of falling in love or making any other kind of emotional attachment, also known as philophobia.
A survey done by zhenai.com, a Chinese matchmaking website, based on its 90 million members, showed that more than 80 percent of single men and women suffer from philophobia. In addition, 54 percent of them are in fear of falling in love because of their failed romantic experiences, while 36 percent of them contribute their fear to the romantic failures of the people around them. The study also concluded that 10 percent of them are affected by either the divorce of their parents or do not attach great importance to the idea of family, according to The Shanghai Morning Post on May 17, 2016.
Another relevant article from phobia-fear-release.com, a website that especially deals with phobias, also pointed out that the fear for romance may originate from either past painful experiences of romance or chronic phobia. It can affect the quality of life, keeping people away from their loved ones and driving them to solitude.
A post concerning the topic on Zhihu, a Chinese question-and-answer website, has been viewed tens of thousands of times. People share not only their own stories, but also tips on how to overcome the phobia.
The shadows of yesterday
Li was in a three-year relationship with her ex-boyfriend, and they were about to get married. She used to believe that there would be no one in the whole world who would be nicer to her than him.
However, she found out that he was secretly seeing somebody behind her back, and she was totally crushed.
It took her so long to move on that she started to be afraid that she might never get over him. Somehow she managed to start over six months later, but she knew something about her had changed.
”To many people, I may still be the happy-go-lucky person as I always was, but there is a scar on my heart and I simply feel it is almost impossible to let somebody in again,” she explained.
She did go out and meet other men, but every time the relationship started to get more serious and commitment came up, she would have a panic attack. Sometimes, it would even trigger symptoms such as sweating, shortness of breath and feelings of nausea.
Fear of the unknown
Gao Pingqi, a 23-year-old programmer in Beijing, is dying to have a girlfriend, but he is fearful at the same time and tortured by a number of factors.
Having absolutely no experience in the romance field, he has been calling himself a “relationship newbie.”
”Even if I have a girlfriend in my life, I have no idea how to get along with her. I do not know how to make her happy or how to cheer her up when she is upset,” he said. “Sooner or later, my inexperience and stupidity would bore her, and then, she would want to break up. What is the point of stepping into a relationship if you know it is going to end and your heart will be broken?”
Another factor is that he fears it will make him vulnerable. He said when people are in a relationship, they open up to their partner and reveal their “real” self. They will have less control over their own happiness because it starts to largely rely on the responses of their partner.
”The idea of losing some kind of control over myself scares me,” he conceded. “I am entangled by my fear for being hurt and the unpredictable future. I have many concerns that make a relationship seem too complicated for me.”