It’s common for many people to go into relationships with emotional baggage. Regardless of whether that comes from a past relationship or childhood, any baggage you still carry will have a way of affecting your current or future relationship.

For some, that can make falling in love or maintaining a positive relationship super challenging, and sometimes… next to impossible.

There are people who have no idea what it actually means to experience love. They’re single up to this point and all of their efforts to date or have a relationship have ended in failure.

By now, they’re probably resigned to stop chasing a concept that seems foreign to them. We reached out to our Relationship Expert, Marwa Rakha, to help us understand better how someone can be unable to love.

Is it true that some people can’t fall in love?

“Can’t fall in love” might be the way their ex boyfriends, or girlfriends, describe them. It might be the words they use to describe the way they feel about their doomed relationships. But it certainly is not a factual statement.

We were all born with the instinct to crave and seek love, and with the ability to love and fall in love. The question is: what happened to that person that blocked his/her birth nature?

What are the most common psychological reasons behind why someone may struggle with falling in love or maintaining a romantic relationship?

The list of assumptions is very long; here are the highlights:

As a newborn, infant, and during early childhood, that person’s needs to be held, embraced, respected, loved, and accepted were ignored. Some parents are obsessed with “independence” to the extent of starving their children emotionally.

Using the infamous cry-it-out method with their newborns and infants, they basically let them cry until they give up and shut down. They let them cry to sleep, or cry to be held, or cry to be rocked, or cry to feed, or just cry! Another example is feeding on schedule; instead of feeding the baby on demand, according to his/her needs, the baby is fed on a schedule decided by adults regardless of its actual needs.

More fatal mistakes include, conditional love, where the parents only love the child when he/she is “good”. Abuse, be it verbal, physical, or emotional, is something else that blocks a child’s natural abilities to give and receive love.

Neglect and lack of interaction is another parenting blunder – if parents do not care to spend quality time with their children, these children grow up feeling unworthy and undeserving of love – therefore they seem emotionally aloof as grown-ups.

Other than childhood traumas, growing up in a dysfunctional family is another reason behind the seeming failure to fall in love.

People who grew up watching their parents fight, cheat on one another, or were exposed to domestic violence, reject falling in love and getting married on a very deep level. On the outside, they might seem eager to be in a relationship, but deep down, they neither want, nor believe in, relationships.

Dysfunctional families are not just the loud ones; the unnaturally quiet ones are as damaging. The families where the husband and wife do not talk, communicate, laugh, joke, hold hands, exchange loving looks, or simply share their lives together – such families are not a good place to find a role model, or a positive example, of love and loving relationships.

The last reason I will bring up here is a person’s own negative first experiences. For example, a girl’s first love experience was full of abuse and manipulation. She might have been taken advantage of sexually, or even raped. Her following relationships were horrible rebounds and led to more loss of self-esteem.

After several years, that girl will be one of those women who “can’t fall in love”. She simply cannot trust herself to fall in love and get hurt.

Likewise, the young man whose first love played him, cheated on him, and dumped him. Then he went into a series of relationships that were not right for him. This young man has seen the very ugly side of male-female interaction to the extent that he abhorred feeling emotional towards someone else.

To him falling in love is a lie! Falling in love means losing control, being weak and vulnerable, being abused and hurt – and who in his right mind would want that?

The irony here is that, most of the time, a person who “can’t fall in love” is a child whose needs were unmet, who grew in a dysfunctional family, and who naturally chose the wrong partners to fall in love with. It is a cycle where one thing leads to the other.

How can a person who thinks they’re incapable of feeling love be helped?

A person who is incapable of falling in love needs therapy. No one else can help that person, other than a professional therapist. The traumas are usually on a deeper level than anyone could reach, and changing beliefs and thoughts is a very long journey.

Most of the time, that person’s early memories of neglect have been blocked. Also, they might have been forced to pretend that, growing up, they had perfect loving parents in a perfect loving family, and only a therapist can get to the bottom of this. Some people might be too ashamed of their first relationships, and how much abuse they have had to endure, that they decide to not talk about them because of the painful memories they bring.

Bottom line, these people need professional help and trying to “heal” them will only damage you.