Why I Struggle to Allow Others to Love Me

The loneliness and liberation of life without (IRL) friends.

erika sauter
May 6 · 4 min read
Original artwork: Myself and amberleigh storms

I can’t claim I feel sorrow or self-pity. I have awareness I’ve done this to myself. I’m the captain of my ship, or at least I was until I sunk it. I could blame depression. I could claim it’s robbed me of everything but the truth is, I watched the ship fill with water. I could’ve grabbed a bucket and bailed myself out. I could have fought to stay afloat, but I chose to drown.

I struggle to allow others to love me. I’ve built unbreakable walls with the intention of keeping you out. I’ve worked hard at it. There’s no use in trying because unless you’re invited, you are not getting in.

I know why I do this. It’s intriguing how I can see my negative behaviors, acknowledge it’s negative and do nothing to change it. I’m the only entity who can. Instead, I relive it every day.


It was the first time I’d been in a parking garage and was bursting with an amusement park level of excitement. I felt privileged to be on the inside after walking past with curiosity on the way to school each day.

“My dad just got that car,” I said to the attendant while pointing to the shiny white four door parked a few spots down.

The year was 1982. It was the height of my father’s manic era. I was nine years old. I didn’t know my father had stolen the car.

It was the first time my father set the boundary I’m never to speak about anything in relation to my family, to anyone but I didn’t quite receive the message he sent that day. So he continued to beat it into me for years. Now in adulthood the lesson is ingrained.

Keep your head down and your mouth shut. Don’t attract attention. If I were asked to describe my personality type now, in my forties, I would say monotone. I often avoid public places because the cashier will want to chit chat, the librarian will want to say hello or the barista in the coffee shop will ask me how I’m doing.

Head down, mouth shut, complete the transaction and go. As quick as possible, and preferably before panic sets in.

I don’t exist.


It’s a struggle to accept love when I know my purpose for being born was a part of a fantasy plan to marry, have children, own a home and act as functioning members of society.

My parents experienced mental illness and in someway they believed they could conquer their challenges together. They believed their love would see them through difficulties. They never sought treatment. It just was, and my siblings and I were causalities.

It would prove too hard and their dream became my nightmare. The more she abused opioids to dull her suffering, the more it perpetuated his rage and the more violent he became, the more she abused opioids. Their love for one another was purely destructive and as a result I grew up, left and attended counseling.


Here I am, an adult but my actions regress.

I have no fear you’ll hurt me. In fact, it’s the opposite. You’ll want to spend time with me. You’ll want to fulfill the innate human desire for friendship. You’ll want to be part of my life and once this happens I’ll be obligated to show up to dinner night at your house.

I can openly say, this isn’t going to happen and here’s why, the day we scheduled dinner I was elated to be friends with you. My endorphins have since crashed. Reality kicked in. It’s safer to remove myself than be present. The heavy weight, soul crushing misery, crippling anxiety. I cross over the line of feeling down and canceling — to outright hating myself.

I’m not afraid you’ll be gone one day and leave me high and dry. I have a full understanding of how relationships work. They aren’t forever. People come and go and in the end I’m a sum of their parts.

I believe in the universal law of attraction. We get what we give. I’ve given nothing and therefore I have nothing. The liberation from emotional ties comes with unbearable loneliness.

I tell myself over and again it’s time to change but remain comfortable is far less work, and I’m tired.


The idea I’m under no obligation is liberating but I’m lonely, too. Internet relationships are a true savior in times of loneliness. I can reach out through my laptop monitor while remaining behind the wall. You don’t know I’m still sporting the rolled out of bed look at 4:00 pm. You don’t know if my words come from a place of tears or horror. It never even occurred to you it took all I had in me to email you back.

All you know is what I let you see and that limited interaction fills my need in the moment. I’m lonely and it gets me through when I need it to most. I wish I could be a better friend for you.

It’s not that I feel I don’t deserved to be loved. We all deserve love, but it’s a struggle for me.


Real Life Stories

“I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt.”

erika sauter

Written by

USA Today Network. Iowa County. Journal Tribune. Pioneer-Republican. I write stories, snap photographs and farm. → https://mailchi.mp/b904151ba863/erika_sauter

Real Life Stories

“I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt.”