People who always hold back in a relationship without realizing why often display these subtle behaviors

Navigating relationships can be a tricky business.

Sometimes, we might find ourselves holding back without even realizing why.

This kind of hesitation often manifests in subtle behaviors that we might not even be aware of, but they can have a significant impact on our relationships.

In this piece, I’ll share 9 common behaviors displayed by those who unknowingly hold back in their relationships.

This isn’t about blame or judgment; it’s about understanding ourselves better to improve our connections with others.

So let’s dive in and shed some light on these often overlooked behaviors.

1) Overthinking everything

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this one myself.

Overthinking can be a major roadblock in relationships and I’ve experienced it first-hand.

There was a time when I would analyze every word, every action, and every silence in my relationship. “Why didn’t they text me back immediately? What did they mean by that comment? Are they losing interest?”

This constant overthinking made me hold back.

I was always on guard, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It was exhausting, and it didn’t do my relationship any good.

Overthinking can create a wall of doubt and insecurity, preventing us from fully embracing our relationships.

Recognizing this behavior can be the first step towards letting go of these unnecessary worries and building stronger connections.

2) Avoidance of conflict

Did you know that some people view conflict as a threat to their relationship, rather than a chance to grow and learn?

This can often lead them to avoid it at all costs.

They might change the subject, agree without really agreeing or even physically leave the room when a disagreement arises.

But while they might think they’re keeping the peace, what they’re really doing is putting up walls.

Avoiding conflict might seem like a harmless strategy, but it can actually lead to unresolved issues piling up over time, with resentment and dissatisfaction growing in the shadows.

Understanding this tendency can help us approach conflicts in a healthier way, seeing them not as threats, but as opportunities for growth and understanding.

3) Fear of commitment

Commitment can be a daunting prospect for some people.

The idea of binding oneself to another person can bring up fears of losing independence or being trapped.

This fear often manifests subtly in a relationship.

They might hesitate to make future plans, be reluctant to label the relationship, or shy away from discussions about moving in together or meeting the family.

While it’s perfectly okay to take things slow, an underlying fear of commitment can prevent a relationship from progressing and deepening.

Recognizing this behavior can help us address our fears and take steps towards building a more secure relationship.

4) Always being on guard

There was a time in my life when I was always on guard.

Like a soldier in enemy territory, I was always prepared for the worst.

I’d scrutinize every gesture, every word, looking for signs of betrayal or hurt.

In relationships, this translated into an inability to relax and just be in the moment.

I was so busy anticipating the next ‘attack’ that I missed out on the joy of simply being with someone who cared about me.

This behavior is not uncommon among those who hold back.

They’re always on guard, always ready to defend themselves.

But this constant state of vigilance can be draining and can create a barrier to true intimacy.

5) Struggling to express emotions

Struggling to express emotions People who always hold back in a relationship without realizing why often display these subtle behaviors

Growing up, not everyone is taught how to effectively express their feelings.

For some, showing emotions might have been discouraged or even punished. As a result, they may struggle to express their feelings in their adult relationships.

They might hold back their emotions, downplay their feelings, or struggle to articulate what they’re going through.

This can create a barrier, preventing their partner from truly understanding them.

It’s a difficult behavior to overcome, but by learning and practicing emotional expression, we can become more open and authentic in our relationships, allowing our partners to truly see and understand our hearts.

6) Need for control

Having a sense of control can provide comfort and security, but in a relationship, an excessive need for control can be detrimental.

Some people may try to control various aspects of the relationship, from decision-making to social interactions.

They might insist on having things done their way, or get anxious when things are out of their control.

While it may seem like they’re trying to keep the relationship on track, this behavior can actually create tension and stifle the growth of the relationship.

Being aware of this need for control can help us loosen our grip and allow our relationships to unfold more organically. 

7) Constantly testing the waters

It’s common for those who hold back in relationships to constantly test their partner.

This may manifest as pushing boundaries, creating drama, or withdrawing affection to see how the other person reacts.

This behavior, while often unconscious, is a defense mechanism.

It’s a way of assessing their partner’s loyalty and patience, a test to see if they’ll stick around despite the hurdles.

But this constant testing can create a toxic environment.

It puts unfair pressure on the partner and can lead to resentment and insecurity.

Genuine love and commitment can’t be measured by how much someone can endure.

Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, trust and open communication, not tests and trials.

8) Difficulty trusting others

Trust is the bedrock of any relationship.

It’s what allows us to open up and to truly connect with our partners.

But for someone who’s holding back, trust can be a challenging hurdle to overcome.

It’s heartbreaking to see how past hurts and betrayals can leave deep scars, making it hard for someone to let their guard down again.

They may constantly question their partner’s intentions or find it hard to believe in their partner’s love and loyalty.

If you’re struggling with trust issues, know that it’s okay. It’s a tough road, but not an impossible one.

It’s all about taking small steps towards rebuilding trust, whether that means seeking professional help, having open conversations with your partner, or working on your own insecurities.

Everyone deserve to be in a relationship where they feel safe and loved.

And trust is the first step towards that.

9) Lack of self-love

The most important thing to understand about holding back in relationships is that it often stems from a lack of self-love.

When we don’t value ourselves, we might think we’re not worthy of love or happiness.

We might fear that if we show our true selves, our partner will leave.

So we hold back, hiding our true selves and not letting the relationship reach its full potential.

But when we learn to love and value ourselves, we can let go of these fears.

We can allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to trust, and to fully invest in our relationships.

Because at the end of the day, we are all deserving of love and happiness.

Final thoughts: It’s about self-awareness and growth

The dance of relationships is a complex one, often shaped by our past experiences, fears, and insecurities.

When we hold back in relationships, we often do so unconsciously, driven by a deep-seated need to protect ourselves from potential hurt or disappointment.

Yet, by doing so, we may be inadvertently preventing ourselves from experiencing the depth of connection and intimacy that we truly desire.

Recognizing these subtle behaviors is the first step towards change.

It’s about cultivating self-awareness, challenging our fears, and taking small steps towards greater openness and vulnerability.

Remember, it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to have insecurities.

What matters is how we choose to navigate them.

So let’s have the courage to show up in our relationships – fully, authentically, and without holding back.

Who knows what beautiful connections might unfold?

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.