6 mistakes emotionally guarded people make in relationships

If you’ve had painful relationship experiences in the past, you may have become emotionally guarded as a protection mechanism.

This is totally understandable, and a natural response of your body. However, it also comes with some pitfalls. 

I too experienced a lot of pain in my past, and so put walls up around my feelings.

And to an extent, this helped me, but it also made my relationships start to suffer. 

So if you can relate to this, watch out for these 6 mistakes emotionally guarded people make in relationships. 

1) Dodging serious conversations

Some conversations are difficult to have — even more so if you’re emotionally guarded. 

I recall a phase in my life when my partner would bring up our future – kids, home, jobs, or recurring conflicts – and I’d quickly shift to a lighter topic or put the conversation off. 

I believed I was avoiding discomfort. The truth? I was scared.

This habit, often rooted in fear, stops us from truly connecting. Avoiding deep discussions means we’re avoiding intimacy, creating an emotional chasm in the relationship. 

It sends your partner the message that you don’t want the relationship to move forward. They may feel like you’re keeping a back door out, or are just passing time with them. Over time, this erodes trust.

What to do instead? 

Acknowledge that these conversations can be scary – and step into them anyways. 

You can even be honest with your partner: “This topic scares me, but I’m willing to discuss it.” This will help them understand how you feel and have more empathy and patience with you.

By facing fears head-on, you strengthen your bond, showing your partner that your relationship depth matters more to you than a little discomfort. 

2) Withholding affection

The second mistake emotionally guarded people tend to make is withholding affection.

For me, this was an issue especially during conflict. When my partner upset me, I would “punish” him by not wanting to be affectionate or physically close to him.

But for you this might even be an issue overall, and you find it hard to show affection in general. 

This is like trying to keep a plant alive without ever watering it. Your partner and your relationship needs affection in order to thrive.  

And your partner needs to be able to trust that you won’t walk away or start ignoring them at every bump along the road. 

What to do instead?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to force being affectionate or say things you don’t mean.

But when you feel something for your partner and catch yourself holding back, try to slowly break out of your shell and share even small things with your partner.

As you gradually expand your boundaries, you’ll find a deeper connection blossoming. 

3)  Misinterpreting intentions

One chilly winter evening, my partner once remarked, “Maybe you should wear thicker sweaters.” Instantly, my guard went up. 

I took it to mean that he was telling me I’m irresponsible, and snapped back at him. But really, he was just concerned about my wellbeing.

As I write this, it’s clear how silly this kind of misinterpretation is. But in the moment, it felt obvious to me that that’s what he meant with that comment.

This often happens if you experienced an issue over and over again in a past relationship. You might start being hypervigilant and subconsciously look for the same problem in your current relationship.

But obviously, it’s not fair to judge your current partner based on an ex’s behavior. And it’s not fair to assume you can read their mind and know the intentions behind something they say.

What to do instead?

First, give your partner the benefit of the doubt. 

You’re with them because you love them, and they love you — so why would you want to believe they have bad intentions?

Ask them about it and give them the chance to tell you what they meant. And if something bothers you, be sure to communicate openly and respectfully about it. 

4) Seeking reassurance constantly

As an emotionally guarded person, you might need more reassurance from your partner.

Personally, I used to be a total mess of insecurities. I used to ask my partner all the time if he loved me — not because he wasn’t showing me love, but because something in my mind was constantly doubting him. 

Every small action, every silence, every poor choice of words planted seeds of doubt in my mind.

The problem with this is that it strains the relationship. My partner started to feel like he was trying so hard to show love, but his efforts were going unnoticed.

I was putting him under pressure to constantly prove his feelings, which sounds exhausting.

What to do instead? 

You need to stop giving your partner the responsibility to heal your insecurities and address the underlying issue.

What is it that you’re so insecure about? Take time to self-reflect and dig deep into the pain within you. 

Journaling is one of my favorite ways to do this, and can be a huge help. But if you struggle with this a lot, you might consider speaking to a therapist who can give you guidance and help. 

5) Hesitating to commit

Does the word “commitment” send you into a panic? Maybe you see flashes from your painful past before your eyes, and you wonder “What if I get hurt again? What if they change? What if it’s the wrong decision?”

This fear can manifest in different ways throughout different stages of your relationship. At the beginning, it can look like wanting to hide your relationship status on social media, or not introducing your partner to your family or friends.

Later on, maybe you don’t want to book holidays or make plans for the future together. 

And this is understandable. Giving your all to someone is always a risk, and emotionally guarded people feel it especially strongly.

However, it also means you’re letting the ghost of past relationships second-guess your current one, and keeping your relationship stagnant. It creates a atmosphere of uncertainty where neither person truly knows where they stand.

What to do instead?

It’s essential to remember that commitment is not a prison but a foundation. It’s the ground on which you can build a stable, loving relationship that can weather any storm.

Take the time to evaluate your fears around commitment. Are they rooted in past experiences or uncertainties about the future? It might be helpful to discuss your feelings with a close friend or therapist to gain clarity.

Once you’ve processed your feelings, have an open conversation with your partner. Let them know where you’re coming from and work together to build trust and understanding.

6) Not sharing your true feelings

Finally, emotionally guarded people often make the mistake of not sharing their true feelings with their partner. 

And for me this was a big one. There were moments when I felt a whirlwind of emotions inside of me, ranging from sheer happiness to the deepest shades of sadness. 

But did I express them? Rarely. I believed that if I unveiled the depth of my emotions, it would make me vulnerable, and that somehow it would be used against me in the future.

And again, this normally comes from past pain, or perhaps trust issues. It’s something you really need to put behind you if you want your relationship to be healthy.

Because otherwise, you’re making your partner feel like they’re navigating through a maze blindfolded, uncertain of where they stand or how you truly feel about them.

You’ll create tons of misunderstandings, and you and your partner will never be able to truly get to know each other on a deeper level. 

What to do instead?

Begin by recognizing that your feelings are valid, no matter how intense or fleeting they may be. They are a part of you, and sharing them can be a way to deepen your bond with your partner.

Start small. Share a small joy, a minor annoyance, or something that made you laugh during the day. 

Slowly, as you become more comfortable, you can venture into deeper emotional territories.

How to make your relationship flourish

As an emotionally guarded person, these are the 6 mistakes you should watch out for in your relationship.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to put you on edge and start being scared of making even the slightest mistake. That’s not what relationship growth is about.

But having awareness of these common issues can help you catch them in the early stages and find better ways to cope with your challenges.

And don’t hesitate to ask your partner for support too. Share with them that you’re working on being more expressive and ask for patience and understanding.

They’ll appreciate that you’re putting in effort to improve your relationship

Remember, when shared with the right person, vulnerability can be a beautiful path to intimacy. 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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