Vulnerability is scary. Rejection is painful. Heartbreak can destroy you.
This is why being afraid to ask for love is a defense mechanism. It’s most common among people with big hearts because if your heart is big, it hurts that much more when it’s broken.
There is actually a term for this fear—“philophobia,” which is the fear of love. Several things can cause it—abandonment, trauma, or bullying during childhood, as well as rejection or painful breakups during adulthood. Philophobia is common among people who tend to be shyer and more passive than they are outgoing and assertive.
It can be intensely stressful to tell someone “I love you” without knowing whether or not they’ll say, “I love you, too.” In a 1995 episode of Seinfeld, George confides to Jerry that he’s thinking about telling his new girlfriend that he loves her. Jerry warns George it’s a mighty risky step:
George: I might…tell her that I love her. I came this close last night and then I just chickened out.
Jerry: Well, that’s a big move, Georgie boy. Are you confident in the ‘I love you’ return?
Jerry: Cause if you don’t get that return, that’s a pretty big matzoh ball hanging out there.
George winds up telling the girl that he loves her. She doesn’t respond, but when a friend tells George that she’s deaf in one ear, he whispers “I love you” again, but in her other ear. She says, “I know—I heard you the first time.” George is heartbroken.
Here are the four zodiac signs that are most afraid to ask for love. It’s no coincidence that the top three signs are all water signs, because they’re the most emotional and feel things more deeply.
Not only is the Crab the most emotional and loving sign in the zodiac—they’re also the most shy and insecure. Whether or not they actually experienced abandonment as a child or romantic rejection as an adult, they need emotional attachment more fiercely than any other sign; it’s just that they’re petrified to openly seek it. They’d much rather the other person says “I love you” first. In order to provoke this response, they will go out of their way to love-bomb a person with affection, compliments, and surprise gifts. But they will hardly ever be the one who says “I love you” first. And they will never ask “Do you love me?” if the other person hasn’t already said it at least once.
Like all water signs, Pisces is empathetic, emotional, and introverted. When they love someone, they go out of their way to love the whole person. They seek to understand their history, fears, insecurities, and habits. Down to the very last detail, they will learn what makes them happy and what makes them sad. That’s mainly because this is the way that Pisces wants to be loved. But the problem is, not everyone is as dedicated to the entire project of love as Pisces is—hard experience has taught them this. So rather than risk rejection, they won’t share much of themselves until they get a great big green light along with a checkered flag waving them in. Only when, as Jerry Seinfeld said, they’re “confident in the ‘I love you’ return” will they muster the courage to ask for love.
Although the Scorpion has a well-deserved reputation as being “mysterious,” this not because they are secretly an international spy or some sort of Wiccan priestess who runs her own coven. It’s because they are intensely—almost insanely—emotional, and they can’t bear the crushing weight of making themselves too vulnerable to someone who may exploit their feelings. So they play a little bit of hide-and-go-seek with their heart and challenge their love interest to find where they’ve hidden it. Since it’s hard for them to trust others, they will either feign shyness or play hard-to-get in order to see how their love interest really feels about them before they even think about opening up.
This Earth sign makes the list because they are ruled by Saturn, which makes them cautious and introspective. The Goat is introverted and shy by nature, but they are especially shy when it comes to expressing romantic feelings for someone. Since they are one of the most hardworking and status-conscious signs, they are also petrified of failure. A Capricorn will go out of their way to avoid asking someone to love them. They might say, “A lot of people find you attractive. I mean, a LOT of people. They also say you’re also very friendly, funny, and lovable. You could probably have any lover you want.” They’ll spend weeks just beating around the bush rather than daring to blurt out, “Please love me.”