Everyone has walls up to protect themselves. Mine are at least a mile high, I think most people are aware of this to some extent, I’m worse than most at letting anyone get close to me. I’ll chatter away but don’t really let anyone in very much, it takes me a long time to trust people, and most people haven’t had the patience needed to stick around. It’s been a problem in my life for several decades. But I’ve got to the point where this is getting in the way and I want to let someone in.
Everyone has been hurt, and everyone would prefer not to get hurt again. So we put up walls and stop people getting close. Mostly this doesn’t matter and we might not even notice. We’ve got people we trust, friends we know we can rely on, friends who’ve been by our sides through the good and bad times so we know they’re not going anywhere; so we focus on those relationships and don’t see our walls. We might even not be aware they’re there.
Nobody new is able to get to know us very well and this causes problems and very often those knocking on the door of our defences end up walking away. This applies to all kinds of relationships, friendships, familial relationships and potential romantic relationships. Forming new relationships of any variety when you’re older is so much more difficult than when we were kids.
Then someone comes along and we realise that we quite like them, we want to hang out with them more, we want to let them in but have no idea how. We’ve spent so long behind our walls we’ve somehow barricaded the entrance and nobody can get in, often we find we’ve lost the key so we don’t know how to let them in either.
I’ve been through my fair share of crap in the past and done a lot to resolve the issues. I’ve even taken the bolts off the door to the defences I’ve put up around myself, which was a big achievement for me. I found the key but I’m hanging onto it for now. I’m scared of doing more. Actually opening up and letting people in is something I’m still struggling with. The stuff I’ve been through has taken its toll on the relationships I’ve had, all of them. I’ve not managed to let anyone get close, not really. There are a few people who I’ve let in, and it’s taken years for me to do that. I’ve got some good friends who know the effort it takes me to get to know someone new, but most people aren’t aware of it.
Forging new friendships is difficult enough when you’ve experienced negative and dysfunctional friendships in the past; but forging a new relationship with someone when you’ve been hurt to the point of giving up on men completely is downright scary. Allowing someone to forge a new relationship with you is difficult, for them and you, because they need the patience of a saint, and you’ll feel bad for not letting them in even though you really want to.
The advice I’d give anyone who’s trying to forge a new connection with someone who has mile-high defences is this: be patient, be honest, and don’t give up. They will come around if they care about you the way you want them to, and they will open up eventually. You will get to know them the way you may want to, so just be there and prove you’re not going to go away, and you’re not about to be put off by the giant wall surrounding their heart.
At the end of the day anyone with defences is scared of forging a new connection because we’ve seen and experienced how horrible it is when connections get broken. People leave and it’s shit. It hurts when you’re let down and betrayed, nobody wants to go through that again. I know I certainly don’t. I’m sure there’s more hurt for me around the corner somewhere, I’ve no doubt I’ll be fine after it, but I could do without it leading to someone I care about walking away.
Getting involved with someone again has the potential for being scary, even more so when you already have a sense of how it would feel if they were no longer part of your life. Just having coffee with someone can be intimidating, no matter how much we want to be there. It’s almost like forcing yourself to walk into a situation you really want but are really scared of at the same time.
I met someone for coffee yesterday, and I took a deliberate detour on the walk down to the place we met, and I almost turned around and went home. That’s just so silly, especially when I was meeting such a lovely person who I already know isn’t about to disappear. But I was still scared anyway, because this is someone I want to allow to get close, who may actually want to get close to me. But allowing that option to exist immediately serves up the potential to get hurt again. That’s the scary part. I’m still not convinced I didn’t kamikaze things a little at one point.
Defences seem to exist more firmly in person, at least for me, meaning that sending an email, or writing a blog, means we can say much more than we’re able to say face-to-face. Maybe it’s the online disinhibition thing that comes with computer-mediated communication, maybe it’s simply that the distance or the asynchronicity of communication which allows us a sense of safety. Probably all of these. Adding a sense of distance makes us feel a bit safer so we’re able to open up a bit more.
Email is a good option for those of us with defences, it gives us something that provides a sense of protection and allows us to open up without feeling quite so nervous. We can communicate from behind our defences without opening the door more than a tiny chink. It helps. Well, it works for me anyway, I can write far better than I talk, and it’s much easier for me to express myself this way.
Reticence about getting close to anyone comes from a place of having been hurt by those you cared about, it comes from a place of having seen trust get smashed, relationships being broken. However that happens it hurts. Sure I’ve dealt with the past issues and I’m good with where I am, what I’m doing and how my life looks. But that doesn’t stop be being scared of getting close to people again. I’ve healed, not forgotten. I don’t forget much.
But I’m carrying on anyway and forcing myself to walk into a place to have coffee with someone. Because I want to see him more than I want my defences to remain in place. The defences will come down with him eventually, if he sticks around, I know this. One day. It will just take time. And quite possibly it’s the same for him.
But you can’t fight some connections, they’re instinctive and intuitively different to the majority of contact you have with people. So I need to be brave and continue on this path I’m on, and not run away.
Slow and steady is the way forward for those of us with mile high defences firmly in place. Keep chipping away at them, show us you’re going nowhere and we can trust you. You’ll get through eventually. Then one day we’ll hand you the key to the door and let you inside the walls we’ve put up. And it’s almost certainly going to be worth the wait.