Thursday, January 5, 2012

This explains why people are guarded (well...some people...specifically this person)

R and I were having a conversation on the hike down from Runyon Canyon about the way I used to approach dating prior to our meeting. R likes to talk about this because it's a confidence-boosting reminder that the way I dated other people prior to meeting him was bad/wrong/ridiculous.

This specific conversation was about the psychology behind the actions of a "guarded girl." R was saying that a girl with a tough exterior can be difficult to date because a lazy guy assumes she should be treated as tough as she's acting and a sensitive guy assumes she's not into him (that's a paraphrase. He wasn't so general). I was saying that a guarded girl is guarded for a very specific reason, at least I know I was.

I'm using the term "guarded girl" here to describe how I used to feel and behave in previous dating situation, not to stereotype a entire group of female or male daters. Guarded means lots of different things to lots of different people, and it's rooted in even more different feelings. Yes, that is a giant disclaimer.

This type of "guarded" R and I were discussing - aka my former type - exhibits as a girl with a tough exterior - she's edgy, she dishes it out and she can take it right back, she isn't overly emotional. She doesn't need attention. She doesn't need affection. She doesn't need anything.

But what may seem like a personality type or act is actually more like a defense mechanism used to protect against getting hurt. The best way to explain it is to explain how the whole guarded game works using the example of giving and receiving affection in a new relationship - a real trouble zone for any guarded person. This is the example I provided R that made him look at my as if I was a foreigner and/or alien.

In this case "I" am a guarded girl/person and "you" is a guy I'm newly dating. Here goes:

If I open up and ask you to be more affectionate - small version: outwardly flirt with you more to illicit affection from you, big version: tell you I'd like if you were more affectionate toward me - I am off-setting the natural balance of things in the relationship. "Natural" would be you offering me affection because you want to offer it. Unnatural or forced is me having to illicit that affection. So by acting in a way that seems as though I don't need the attention or affection (aka being guarded), I'm testing whether or not you're inclined to be affectionate toward me naturally. In this way I can determine how much you like me (in my mind).

If this seems sick and twisted, it's because it is. Try to focus on the fact that I got over this, as most people do.

Back to guarded girl - never to be a popular Disney kids super hero.

In a nutshell - I say I need something, you give it to me because I said I needed it, not because you necessarily wanted to or would naturally have done so. This is why many a fight between this kind of girl and a guy attempting to date her goes: Guy, "well how was I supposed to know that's what you wanted?" Girl, "I shouldn't have to tell you to be more affectionate! You either are or you aren't!"

Both people are right, and yet both people are also sort of wrong. Yes, people are naturally vulnerable to a certain degree, but people can adapt for the ones' they love if they know what those people need.

Is this making sense? This notion that the reason a girl who might otherwise be an emotionally available softee wears an iron-clad dating vest is because she's testing the guy's own emotional availability? And, more importantly, that how he behaves without her prodding is a sign of how he really is and really feels?

There is logic to it, and that's not just my former self talking. Unfortunately the reality is that relationships - even early ones - are about a give and take. You MUST be willing to stick your neck out there and be clear about the kind of dynamic you're looking for in a relationship, even if it means scaring a guy away - actually, exactly BECAUSE it can mean scaring a guy away, the wrong guy.

These days I don't hold back, emotionally speaking. Mostly that's because I'm with someone who made it clear how he felt, and didn't hold back himself. But the other reason is that all the guarded game play got exhausting after awhile. Being a version of yourself fashioned to determine the boyfriend-ability of the guy you're dating just takes way too much effort after awhile.


  1. Thank you for sharing this bit about you! I have to agree with you on a lot of what you said because I am also a guarded person. I was also reading this thinking that I act the same way when I meet a new friend who turns out, later on, to be a really good, close, important friend in my life.

  2. This is a very timely post for me- I've been dating a guy for a couple months & neither of us are very good communicators. In my head I'm afraid I'll come off as 'that girl' who nags her boyfriend to talk about his feelings all the time but I also know that for us to work at all, I need to bring it up. Thanks!

  3. I need to keep this post close-by for frequent reference...

  4. As a guy, I need to say something that might also complicate the situation: "a lazy guy assumes she should be treated as tough as she's acting and a sensitive guy assumes she's not into him" is an assumption of the guy. That's a problem. Some people aren't lazy by nature, just inexperienced and don't know how to act.

    Guys operate on the battling, non-sensitive level. That's default. A guy w/out experience might be attracted to battling girls because it's his default. Doesn't know how to be sensitive. A guarded girl might then say "well, he doesn't know and he might hurt me, so peace out."

    Even if the guy cared about her, he was never given a chance. It's not her responsibility to "help" him, but if she is interested, she needs to understand his background as well.

  5. Ah, I definitely completely relate to this, even if that behavior IS "twisted." So many issues in my relationship could have been avoided if I hadn't acted like I was too confident and emotionally secure to need affirmation.

    I've also found that by being the "guarded" girl I tend to attract a certain brand of creep-- the guys who want to... break you.

  6. wow! u just described me perfectly!!! i have sub consciously done the guarded thing because i have wanted them to chase me, yet more often than not it just put the nice ones off and only encouraged the player types who saw it as a challenge to get in my pants. i have learnt to open up now, it just wasn't easy after being hurt previously.

  7. Hello, I am an avid reader of psychological advice and self help. Especially since I ended my rocky relationship of almost 5 yrs 2yrs ago. But I have never commented on a blog or forum or online place before. however this resonates with me deeply. And has been a prevalent factor in my dating life since I was 16. (I'm 25 now) And since then I can identify with everything written especially the comments.

    My question is how did you overcome this?