Once bitten twice shy – it’s perfectly natural to be cautious if you have had bad experiences in the past, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Problems start to arise when natural caution turns into solid defences which even the most honourable of people can’t overcome. Being defended may have become so habitual you don’t even know how to let your guard down any more so here are some suggestions to help you.
The first way we develop intimacy with another person is through talking. If you meet a match you connect with be open to the possibility that it could work out between you. When they ask you about yourself be honest even if that means saying you feel guarded but willing to explore the relationship further to see if you can take those defences down. Anyone who is worth your time will respect your honesty and will be more likely to tell you about any fears and reservations they have about getting involved.
Just through sharing such feelings you will begin the process of letting your guard down. You risk nothing by telling someone how you feel but you stand to gain everything as you begin to build a relationship based on trust, honesty and openness.
Take your time
There is no need to rush into anything but neither is it beneficial to stay in your comfort zone for fear of being hurt if you venture out. You need to strike a balance somewhere in between – go on dates with people even if you aren’t 100% sure that they are right for you – give good matches six dates before you make your mind up whether you can trust them – go to places even if you are a bit unsure of how to get there or whether you will enjoy it.
By challenging yourself in these ways you will get stronger and start to trust your natural instincts once again. Lots of people become very guarded because they feel they were naive and too trusting and that is why they were hurt. There may be some truth in that but don’t let one bad experience rob you of the chance to love again – take the lessons and learn from them – you won’t be so naive in the future but neither should you be full of fear.
Be true to yourself
One reason people are guarded is they have something to hide. They take their public acceptable self out on dates but are rigid with fear that if the person they are with saw the ‘real’ them that they would run for the hills. This can stem from feelings of low self-worth, insecurity and a belief that they are not lovable as they are – often the result of past trauma in childhood or in other significant relationships – this feeling of being unacceptable is one of the most difficult to overcome and you may need professional counselling to help you do it.
One thing you can do straight away is not lie about who you are or where you came from. This is not the same as telling someone everything about yourself, just be open to telling the truth is they ask you a question or if the conversation turns to that subject. By having a ‘no taboo’ attitude you will start to feel relaxed with people and, over time, more comfortable with who you are.
Have a good relationship with yourself
It may sound corny but it is true – you need to have a good relationship with yourself before you can really let your guard down and have a good relationship with anyone else. We teach people how to treat us and part of the reason why the effects of an abusive childhood or relationship linger for so many years after it has ended is because on some level people may believe that they should have done more to protect themselves or, worst still, that they deserved the ill treatment – they absolutely didn’t.
In order to overcome these damaging effects start by taking good care of yourself in small ways – always make your bed – buy yourself flowers – speak to yourself nicely instead of in a harsh critical voice – in short become your own best friend. When you value and take care of yourself you will begin to have an inner feeling of safety and security and be much less likely to allow others to treat you badly. If anyone does slip under the radar you will have the strength and confidence to see them off.