Thought Catalog

It Sucks Being Guarded And Difficult To Love

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You have to be close to someone to genuinely love them, so from the jump I make that difficult. It’s not intentional, but my deep feelings are guarded like a maximum-security prison. When meeting someone, I’m immediately hesitant to share anything other than the basics. You’ll learn of my name, hobbies, interests — and that’s about it. I don’t typically talk about personal issues, family, or stuff I hold close to my heart, not even after a while. I’ve mastered the art of changing topics, deflecting and using sarcasm to escape the grasps of any intimate or layered question thrown my way. It’s not a purposeful, focused defensive plan, it’s more of an uncontrollable curse.

The fact that my self-protectiveness occurs subconsciously means that a conscious effort is necessary to open up to somebody. It’s a matter of literally forcing myself to reveal commonly shared information that, for whatever reason, I don’t like to talk about. That’s a challenge because at times I’ll recognize that I’m being hesitant, but it’s difficult to stop. If you’re a guarded individual, certainly you understand.

Conversations with you are like paleontology digs. Someone will excavate for lengthy periods of time to come up with absolutely nothing, or very little on most occasions. It’s rare that they discover a valuable fossil, which can be frustrating for them. Then eventually they grow exhausted from digging to no avail, and quit. That’s when it’s most evident that you’re too protected. When someone’s willing to exit your life. When a person finds the worth of potentially awesome fossils inside of your soul less valuable than their time or energy, so they pack up and vacate the premises.

Now if you’re an even more complicated case like me, a person deserting you triggers a flurry of emotions. Frustration with them for parting ways. Disappointment in yourself for not being more open, or interesting enough to stick with. Empathy toward them because you know that you’re quite the handful. It’s a very disappointing, confidence-killing mixture of feelings and sensations that take a strong mind to recover from.

For guarded people, considering that someone can talk to us for weeks, months, or even years and only learn so much about us is a terrifying concept. The possibility of never learning to be open fills our hearts with worry. It’s a legitimate concern that nobody will ever dig deep enough to do anything more than scratch our surface. In an odd way, I think we want an individual to force the issue or persevere through the tough exterior. It feels good to know that someone can sense the metaphorical electric fences, barbwire and armed guards that surround your feelings and yet they still want to break through.

Anyone who feels the need to protect his or herself feels so for a reason. Ultimately the motivation for defense is not wanting to be judged. Whether it’s your past, your present conflicts, family business, or some other situation, the general fear is that our secrets will condemn us. That this is lose-lose. That even if we tell you, it’ll go terribly. That no matter what, the end result will be regret. Because someone will either get sick of our shutdown ways, or come to find that they hate the person we truly are, and the experiences we’ve had/are currently having.

So what’s the worst that would happen if we completely let our guards down? Not just a little, I’m talking about removing the entire security system. Treating the place our feelings stay less like a prison, and more like a retreat. People can go there, learn about you, be relaxed, and hopefully enjoy their stay. It’s not easy, but maybe today we can do away with the barbwire. Then tomorrow, or a week from now, we turn the electricity running through the links of that fence off. Keep the fence itself up until you’re a little more comfortable, then tear that down too. Eventually we’ll hand those armed guards their pink slips, along with a nice severance package so they never want to return, and then we’re open. When people ask questions, we’ll answer. Hell, we might even reveal things without someone inquiring.

That’s the dream of a guarded individual; to be as open as everyone else seems. To have people who are close to us. Today, I’m right there with the rest of you inaccessibly sealed vaults. At this moment, nobody, not a shrink or a persistent friend I’ve known for years is getting too far in here. But I’m thinking about tossing aside the barbwire today — and you should consider it too. After all, what’ve we really got to lose? If someone departs based on our past or present struggles, that’s not a loss. It weeds out any judgmental associates, leaving you with nothing but people who love the personality, mind and soul that you are. TC Mark

image – Nick Ortloff

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    • mailymail1
    • g

      #me. so ridiculously spot-on it hurts.

    • S

      Thank you

    • http://www.facebook.com/CoxyGirl Leah Cox

      Looks like I just read the story of my life.
      I have a handful of close friends but anyone new who I deep down want to give a chance (but I don’t want to risk it) has a hard time getting in because what if they leave?
      Then I’ll have let my guard down, gotten attached and left myself open to being hurt and knowing that I could’ve prevented it.

    • _V

      Well done. This whole thing hits home hard. Gets in really deep, past all the barbed wire, electrical fences and even the guards.

    • ohai

      :( sad. but i don’t know how to tear down electric fences without getting hurt?

    • http://joeswanbergcompleteme.it MUMBLECORE IS BETTER THAN JEAN RENOIR

      This is such bullshit. It’s like those people in a job interview who say, “My biggest weakness? Working WAY too hard.”

      • Alex

        Go. Away.

      • J

        Actually, you’re bullshit.

      • FOSHO

        No. You’re wrong.

    • K

      this piece really hit home.
      “At this moment, nobody, not a shrink or a persistent friend I’ve known for years is getting too far in here.”
      id like to change but somehow I think this is always going to be a part of who i am. i think that might be par for the course for going through a bunch of shit as an adolescent and young adult that none of my friends can relate to. when i do open up to people, its more for their satisfaction than my own.

    • http://tilyzthegreat.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/it-sucks-being-guarded-and-difficult-to-love-thought-catalog/ It Sucks Being Guarded And Difficult To Love | Thought Catalog « JustTilyz

      […] It Sucks Being Guarded And Difficult To Love | Thought Catalog. Share this:ShareTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized […]

    • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/08/it-sucks-being-guarded-and-difficult-to-love-2/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

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    • http://facebook.com/thederekclark Derek Clark

      Everything about this is me. All of it. Especially that last paragraph, I am there right now. I’m trying to let people in, but it is one of the most difficult things in the world to do. I am always guarded, but I’m working on sending my armored guards on a permanent vacay!

    • nightshaye

      “Anyone who feels the need to protect his or herself feels so for a reason. Ultimately the motivation for defense is not wanting to be judged.”
      How about hurt? People abandon people, they die, etc. These things can happen without being judged.

    • Erik

      i’m dead now. this was a rough read.

    • Mushion

      It’s like reading a slightly more serious version of my life. I have a 10 step program for people to get to know me, but people generally get stuck on step 3.

    • SH

      This is perfect! So well written. I’m going to give it a catchier title and pretend I wrote it myself ;)

    • guest

      Story of my life. I feel like it’s even worse when you’re a female, cause then you’re the party in the relationship (if we’re talking romantic relationships) who’s expected to like to “talk about things.” For me, I don’t even think it’s out of a fear of getting hurt though. It just makes me SO uncomfortable to talk about my feelings, my childhood, my past, that it’s literally like a handicap where I can’t get my mouth to make the words without feeling a horrible sense of dread.

      • Anon

        I totally agree with you. Most times guys think I’m not interested b/c i’m not prying or asking all these deep questions b/c in reality I’m terrified they will ask me the same questions. I remember a guy I was dating in college told me he missed me and I froze. It was like someone was hold my words inside my mouth from coming out. I did miss him, but didn’t say anything. How horrible for him. Guys are so use to the girl being the communicator, but if you are a girl and dread communicating the relationships go nowhere.

        • Viapore

          So good to know I’m not the only one like this. Exactly, the words are there and you know you should say them, but they just won’t come out. It’s such a struggle every time and such shame and sadness for oneself and for the other person!

    • LMV

      Guarding yourself only makes things worse for you. You’re not going to live the life you could or experience nearly as much by not being who you truly are. There is no need to hide what makes you you. What makes everyone different is what makes everyone unique. Be comfortable in your own skin and love the person who you are. If you let someone in and for whatever reason they leave after getting to know the real you, it could suck and it could hurt, but be thankful they were ever in your life. Whether we realize it or not, we all learn a little something from the people we met. In the end keeping your guard up and not showing who you really are is only going to hinder the life that could be ahead of you.

    • http://lindzivb.tumblr.com Lindzi

      This is very beautiful and poignant. I deeply love a person who is guarded, and I don’t find it difficult to love him – in face it’s the easiest thing in the world. When he will learn to love himself remains unsure. He has pushed me away, not harshly but gently, in a way that makes me feel like he is trying to protect me. We both know he is not ready to accept my love, and I have given him the space he insists is what he really wants. I have chosen to be patient, and I send him all my warm thoughts and support in his journey to find the way to love himself so he can finally let others in. When that time comes, which I know it will, I hope to be the person he chooses to share his life with. If it turns out to be someone else then, well then I know I loved him unconditionally even if he didn’t think he needed that support at the time. The point of love is not reciprocation, the treasure of love is in loving itself, the act is the reward. In the mean time, I carry on with my own life, but he never leaves me heart

      • Claire

        I wish I were as wise as you.

      • Arwen

        Awesome. You rock.

      • Angela

        This is beautiful – such a wonderful point of view <3

    • Jenna

      This is a heartfelt read! Although bear in mind, Self-disclosure is therefor central to interpersonal relationships and hence to companionship, without sharing what is going on inside of us, there can be no “TRUE COMPANIONSHIP” How can we love those we don’t know? Our knowledge of each other must be intimate and personal. There can be no deep knowledge of each other, and hence no companionship, without genuine candor.

    • http://thesmartestbitchyouknow.wordpress.com Leeja

      As a person who isn’t guarded, who often shares TOO much of herself too soon, it is important to note the drawbacks to being an ‘open’ person. Oftentimes the baggage I share too early on tends to scare people away faster than if I had kept my mouth shut.
      Grass is always greener on the other side, I suppose.

    • http://twitter.com/LifeAt20Some Life@TwentySomething (@LifeAt20Some)

      I just love this.

    • sharonunleashed

      A mate in a relationship should be an allie of our better natures. Having a mate and being one are different sides of the same equation. A guarded person in many ways cheats others from having an allie of their better nature. I guess a guarded person would say, that’s their problem. But I believe it defines sort of this platform of deprivation for both the guarded and the one seeking the guarded. Both are deprived, one of the pleasure of knowing the guarded person’s heart and the other of the lifeblood of humanity which is connection. That breaks my heart.

    • maka

      YEE FUCK YES INTROVERTS lol

    • http://ampleproportions.tumblr.com katrina

      The heart is more resilient than you think. Finances and health, not so. I say go forth and take risks with your heart. When your money and health is compromised, that’s when you take stock and rethink your strategy. That’s what I learned from years of trial and error. Good luck!

    • Eliz

      Thanks! This was awesome.

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