Falling in love sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Why then do I get so many clients in my office talking about how they’re afraid to do it, or asking me if I think it would be OK for them to go ahead and fall in love with someone they describe in great detail (usually trying to convince me how wonderful he/she is!)? They want to know if it’s safe to surrender to love, and how to tell if it’s a good match.

Most of our learning about love and relationships is unconscious. We learn how to love and how to be a “family” long before we learn to think critically and logically. I am constantly surprised to see so many competent, successful business people frightened and confused by the possibility of a relationship. Why is it that people who easily take great financial gambles and win often are afraid to gamble on love?

The difference has to do with learning. Most of us are not exposed to business, our first job, and making money decisions until we are at least in our teens. So, when we learn about a new enterprise, we have the thinking capacity to evaluate what we’re learning. If we’re told to do something we feel is wrong, we have a chance to recognize that and to ask questions. We decide what we want to choose after considering its value in our situation.

Love and family, however are learned much earlier. A small child or infant learns a lot before that ability to choose or evaluate is developed. So, by the time we have the means to evaluate what we’ve learned, it’s already been accepted as “the way it is”. It is possible to change what we’ve accepted as true, and to reevaluate it later, and many of us do. But, first we have to recognize there’s something we want to change. It’s not automatic.

I know it’s time to reevaluate my beliefs about something when I feel scared, unsure, confused about it, or when I’ve already proved my system doesn’t work. That feeling of confusion or insecurity can be a highly useful tool. I cannot surrender fully when I am insecure. So, if I want to surrender to love, I must be secure about what it means. I can feel more secure if I choose from the neck up (via thinking), as well as from the neck down (via feeling). That is, to use my mind as well as my body reaction to evaluate a potential beloved. Yes, the chemistry is important. No one has the energy for the sometimes difficult journey of love without the excitement of that bodily knowing.

Still, chemistry is tricky, and can be based on false assumptions and fantasies. Fantasy can give us courage to move ahead, but if you don’t think about it rationally, you can move into a trap. It’s always important to check out the reality, too. If you feel nervous and unsure, chances are you haven’t checked the situation out, and your inner wisdom knows it. It’s asking you for a safety check, and to take enough time to make an informed decision.

Your relationship is at least as important as a business decision. Just as you would check the facts before investing money, check out this investment of time and caring. Chances are it’s OK, and has a few potential problems: that’s great! Now you have a head start on solving them. If you can’t see any problems at all, you’re probably not thinking clearly.

Think of entering into love as you would applying for a new job. Job search is not often a totally truthful experience. Applicants tend to exaggerate their assets, and so does the employer. That’s how the game is played, and we know not to be totally trusting.

However, because our conditioning has been not to think about relationships, but to guess and assume, we are caught by surprise when the reality turns out to have flaws. Instead of calmly assessing the situation, getting good information or advice, and making decisions, we feel we should automatically know how to do it right. But when two different people, with different viewpoints, ethics, and minds are together, there is no right or wrong, there’s only what works.

Learning to think clearly in relationships, to sort out reality from (negative or positive) fantasy, to problem-solve and work out solutions on the spot rather than make rules in advance, are the necessary skills for success.

These skills produce a feeling of competence, which contributes to self-esteem and self-confidence. Having that self-assurance, you can tell when it is safe to surrender, to allow life and love to happen, knowing that you are competent to handle the lumps and bumps as they arise.

Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. ( is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 14 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, The Real 13th Step , How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog), and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter. Dr. Tessina was the CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for Love Forever. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts. She tweets @tinatessina
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