We've all seen the movies with the sexy, wounded protagonists who keep everyone at a distance. Usually the movie involves an equally sexy character who breaks down the wounded protagonist's walls and teaches them that it really is better to love and feel and let people in. (Side note: Now I'm hungry for popcorn.) Sine art imitates life, you've probably been (or dated) this person at some point in your life. And hopefully you've learned the hard lesson that you can't go through life without making some real, deep, lasting connections with people.
But what if you don't know you're this person? Bad habits die hard (that could be the title of our movie!), especially ones that developed when we were little and that were never challenged. When I worked with couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I did notice that there were some signs. Do you have lots of acquaintances, but not many close friends? Are you a workaholic? Have your past flings complained about your lack of emotion? Have you always been kind of a lone wolf? If so, you might be that person who keeps others out to avoid getting hurt. If that sounds like you, check out this list of other signs you're being distant. If you get that little shiver of "this is me" then it might be time to start breaking down those walls. Otherwise you'll be missing out on some of the greatest parts of being human.
1. Not Giving Compliments
This might not seem like something significant, but it can say a lot about your willingness to open up to someone. Giving compliments is something you do to let someone know you like them. It's something that elicits an emotional response in the person you're giving the compliment to.
2. Never Making Love
OK, so there's having sex and there's making love. You know the difference. One is intimate and connected and packed with emotion. The other is just a physical act. You can have both with your partner, but you can't just have sex. If you're not making love, you're probably resisting giving yourself over to someone so completely.
3. Not Resolving Disagreements
When you have a problem and you resolve it, it's done. It paves the way for a smoother future where problems don't pile up on each other. When you keep people at a distance, you tend to brush off disagreements, either because you don't care, or because you know you can lean on unresolved problems in the future when you need something to fight about.
4. Not Fighting
Things that are worth fighting for involve fighting, no matter how mild. No person on the planet is capable of never disagreeing with you, pushing your buttons, or getting on your nerves. But if you never fight about the things that you should be fighting about, it's probably because you don't really care. And you probably don't really care because you know this person isn't someone you could or are willing to truly love.
5. Inventing Fights Or Flaws
You know that episode of Seinfeld where he had to break up with his partner because she had "man hands?" It's kind of like that. You'll start to really like someone, and then you'll find something wrong with them that justifies breaking it off and moving on. The truth is, everyone has something wrong with them. So your defense mechanism only serves to keep your heart in it's tightly sealed box.
6. Having Impossible Standards
I'm all about having high standards. You're freaking spectacular and you deserve a freaking spectacular partner. But I also believe in being reasonable. Odds are, if a person has to jump through 100 hoops and pass a checklist of 200 arbitrary wants, you're probably not nurturing your high self-esteem. You're probably nurturing your unhealthy attachment to being unattached.
7. Not Using The L Word
When you love someone, you tell them. Even if being emotional isn't your style, you'll say it once in a while. Because that's something your partner needs to hear at some point. If you're the kind of person who never says it, or waits a really, really long time, you might be keeping your partner at a distance. The same can be said of people who say it too soon ,and too often, because then it's not genuine.
8. Not Committing
People who don't commit to other people need to look at the reasons why and make sure they're not just keeping people at a distance. Commitment doesn't just mean moving in together or getting married. It can mean things like getting a dog, calling another person your partner, or making plans for far in the future.
9. Not Getting Excited About Things
A common trait among people who build walls around themselves is limiting their emotions, even if they have nothing to do with love or relationships. For example, they may not ever get excited about thing because they fear being let down. They may never make concrete plans so they can bail if need be. They aren't a person friends and family typically think of when they need to rely on someone for something. They like to be able to pop in and out of people's lives whenever they want. It's emotionally safer that way. In their minds, anyway.
10. Being Mysterious
Guarded people are often mysterious. They don't give you a lot of details about their lives. They may give you just enough detail that you don't notice how withholding they really are, but odds are, they're not going to be the person you can chug wine with and talk about your childhoods. And if you do, they'll mostly be doing the listening.
11. You Have A Singular Focus
When you're trying to keep your guard up, you slip into habits that you think protect you. One of them might be a picture in your head about how your life is going to turn out. You probably picture yourself alone, no matter who you're with at the time, and you're probably kind of OK with that. You might only consider your career path or other goals and never take into consideration that a relationship could ever impact those goals. You tend to move forward with the idea that you'll be alone, even if you're with someone, and you plan your life accordingly.
Feels are scary. Heartbreak hurts like hell. But if you're never truly vulnerable, are you really living?
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