Dating Games: Knocking down walls

Putting up barriers may serve to keep you from getting hurt, but they also create an obstacle for people to get to know you.

dating_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I admit it, I watch the TV show The Bachelor. It’s my guilty pleasure, and I love it! I find it interesting to see woman after woman putting it all on the line right away when there are two dozen other women vying for this one man’s attention whom they know nothing about and have spent little to no time with. On the other hand, it’s baffling when other women on the show keep walls up and then wonder why they’re sent home. If you’re going on a TV show looking for love, then why even bother pretending to have any pride left?
Maybe that’s harsh of me, but it just seems like a waste. These women have so little time to get to know the Bachelor, and yet some of them are not willing to open up at all. The newest Bachelorette is the perfect example of someone who was so afraid to get hurt last season… that she got hurt last season. But she got another chance and now is in the driver’s seat, getting to vet 25 guys.
The same theory about having a wall up applies to JDate and other online dating sites. If you’ve paid for a membership and have taken the time and energy to create a thoughtful and honest profile, then why have a wall up after you’ve vetted and accepted a date? It’s seems a waste of time – yours and your date’s. If you’re signing up for JDate, then you want to find your beshert – or at least that’s the implication. Sure, there are folks on the site who are just having fun, but don’t put your wall up to avoid those people; just use your intuition. Odds are, a completed profile means the person is serious about finding his or her beshert, so both of you need to try to let your guard down at least a little bit.
Chances are the people with a wall up were hurt badly in the past and are scared. I get that. It’s the reason many singles keep to the same script on first dates. They want to let the person get to know them only a certain, premeasured amount, and they want to control that amount because many have been on one of those first dates where they talked for hours and hours, only to never see the person again. Why bother exchanging anything more than pleasantries until you know if there could be another date? You don’t want to become invested until you know if there will be a return. This is the normal type of wall that most people, not just singles, seem to put up to protect themselves.
But there’s a wall, and then there’s brick covered by concrete covered by wood nailed and glued solid. My friend Simone is one of those people with such a wall. She doesn’t let anyone in and then wonders why guys don’t want a second date. Her wall is built thick and solid, and it will take a lot of patience by a man to saw, chisel and finally knock down her wall. Simone thinks she is protecting herself, but in reality she’s hurting herself. By not letting anyone in, she won’t get hurt because she won’t be getting asked out on many second dates. What’s even worse is that when I ask her why she’s so guarded, she says she isn’t. Whether she’s in denial or whether the wall truly is subconscious, it’s detrimental to her love life. You can’t fall in love if you don’t let anyone in.
My significant other, “S,” will sometimes put up a wall when he’s insecure about something. Once that wall is up, the conversation will go nowhere, as he’s made up his mind about how he feels on the topic, and nothing I can say or do will convince him otherwise. It’s incredibly frustrating for me, especially when I know that his thought process is totally wrong or when I don’t feel that I’ve been heard. But once that wall is up, it’s not worth it; it will be wasted breath. Usually it’s about an issue that strikes a painful chord, whether it was something that had hurt him earlier in our relationship or before he met me. Sometimes it’s about money, other times it’s about not feeling appreciated. Whatever it is, it’s a sensitive topic that causes him to shut down.
We all have those moments, but it’s how we choose to deal with them in our relationships that is important. With Simone, it’s going to prolong her single life until she realizes that she needs to open up more. With “S,” we’re going to have to find the skills to enable him to let me penetrate that wall and create constructive conversation. The way I see it, a wall is only there for someone to break down – but it would be a heck of a lot easier if the person could acknowledge the wall’s existence to begin with!