Loving someone is inherently risky. There is the potential for great rewards but there is also the risk of big losses. This is true for every person we choose to love, although loving some comes with greater risk than loving others. For most of us, it is probably romantic love that carries the most risk.
When we first meet a potential romantic partner we are faced with the task of determining if we have any interest in investing in a relationship with this person. In such encoutners, we are motivated by two equally important but fundamentally opposing goals: the pursuit of intimacy and connection versus the need to protect oneself. These first meetings are often awkward, like interviewing for a job we're not even sure that we want.
Even after we (and the other person, presumably) decide to invest ourselves in building a relationship with someone, we continue to struggle with the competing goals of pursuing intimacy and protecting our own interests. If we choose to pursue intimacy, we increase the risk that we will get hurt. If we maintain distance between ourselves and our partner we are less likely to get hurt but we also create a situation that precludes the development of a closer, more intimate relationship.
Ultimately, the most fulfilling relationships are those in which each partner puts the other's interests ahead of his or her own. Making the decision to prioritize intimacy over self-protection is inherently risky; we have no guarantee that our partner will recipricate in kind. We put our partner's wants and needs ahead of our own with the hope that he or she will do the same for us. If this doesn't happen, we end up in a situation where no one is looking out for our interests. In such cases, we are almost guaranteed to get hurt.
So how do we decide when to take such a risk? And after we've taken that leap of faith, how do we pull back if our partner hurts us? How do we make such choices? What criteria should we use to guide our decisions?
We all have to ask and answer these questions for ourselves. As for me, I have no answers; I have only questions I needed to ask.