People who struggle to open up emotionally often say these 9 phrases without realizing it

Vulnerability is terrifying. That much we can all agree on.

However, it’s also an incredibly positive force in our lives. It’s what helps us connect with others on a deep level, feel a sense of belonging, and slowly heal all our darkest wounds.

At the end of the day, opening yourself up to other people is scary, but staying shut and bottling your emotions deep inside is just as nerve-racking.

You get to choose which one you’d prefer.

In order to do that, though, you first have to determine whether you struggle to open up in the first place (or if someone you know is dealing with this issue).

So, without further ado…

People who struggle to open up emotionally often say these 9 phrases without realizing it.

1) “Let’s talk about this later”

Ah, good old diversion.

The moment a conversation gets a bit too serious – the moment someone wants to discover what’s underneath the surface of you – is exactly when emotionally unavailable people shut down. Or change the topic. Or simply say they’re too busy to discuss this right now.

Whatever the strategy, the goal here is clear: swerve clear of any situation that forces you to lay yourself bare.

I once dated a man who would always do this. Once my questions got more personal, he’d say that he wasn’t in the right mind space to have a serious conversation and that we’d talk about it at a later date.

It’s safe to say “later” never came.

2) “The past is the past”

Look, I get it.

You’ve got some deep wounds that you don’t want to open up, you’re convinced that your past doesn’t define you, and you just can’t for the life of you figure out why people hyperfocus on your personal history so much.

Can’t you just live in the here and now? Can’t you just forget about what’s happened and look toward bright new tomorrows?

To some extent, you’re completely right. We shouldn’t let our past drag us down. Drowning in events we can’t change doesn’t solve anything.

At the same time, though, your past is an inherent part of you, and it makes sense that people who love you want to know what you went through in order to get where you are right now.

What’s more, many people who say “the past is the past” tend to run away from their history and ignore all the wounds that keep hurting them just so that they don’t have to deal with the pain.

The pain won’t go away if you turn a blind eye, however. It’ll fester and grow.

Better take the band-aid off.

3) “Enough about me, I want to know about you”

Sometimes, it can be pretty darn difficult to recognize that someone doesn’t want to open up to you simply because they put so much focus on you.

Humans are naturally quite self-centered, and so it stands to reason that it makes us feel good when someone inquires about us in-depth – especially if we’re romantically interested in them.

Before you know it, three hours have passed by and you’ve poured your heart out only to realize you still know very little about the person you’ve just confided in.

Thus the art of shifting the focus of the conversation so that the person in question doesn’t have to become vulnerable themselves.

4) “I don’t want to talk about it, it’s private”

If you say this to your co-worker or a cashier in the supermarket, it’s fair enough. Your life is your business, after all. Why should you open up to someone you barely know?

This can actually apply to some friendships as well, especially if they’re built on a superficial connection or if you haven’t known each other that long.

When it comes to long-term romantic relationships, though…

That’s where things get a tiny bit more complicated.

See, there’s a huge difference between privacy and secrecy. While you have every right to keep some parts of your life private, such as your phone or journal, refusing to share some important information with your partner toes the line with secrecy.

This includes things like addiction, family issues, past experiences that have an impact on the relationship itself, or how you feel about your partner in general.

If the information you’re withholding could impact your partner’s or the relationship’s well-being, it’s not private – it’s secretive.

5) “I don’t need your help”

pic2549 People who struggle to open up emotionally often say these 9 phrases without realizing it

Ever heard of the term “counter-dependence”?

Psychologist Gregg Henriques Ph.D. explains it thus: “Extreme independence is likely to be a function of counter-dependence, meaning that the individual separates from others out of fear of failure, betrayal, rejection, or other costly social encounters.”

He continues, “There is, thus an important difference between healthy individuation and counter-dependence. The former is an ‘approach mindset’ where an individual takes pride in discovering themselves and their capacities as unique individuals, whereas the latter is an ‘avoidance mindset’, where the focus is on dangers to be protected against.”

Many people who struggle to open up emotionally also embrace this kind of avoidance mindset. After all, the reason they refuse to be vulnerable with others is that they’re scared of rejection or disappointment.

In other words, they don’t trust others to be reliable and to love them in the way they need, and so they only ever rely on themselves.

Of course, this kind of coping mechanism may be detrimental to one’s mental health in the long run. Humans thrive when we have a support network to lean on.

I’m all for independence and empowerment, but the simple truth is that you can’t do it all on your own. High-quality relationships (not only romantic ones) are the very foundation of happiness.

6) “I think some people are just too sensitive”

Are they?

Or are you out of sync with your own emotions, making you shut down when distressed or cover up every single feeling with anger so that you don’t have to feel the colorful spectrum of emotions the human experience offers?

Sensitivity isn’t a flaw. In many ways, it’s actually a gift as it allows us to experience our humanity in its richness – both the good and the bad.

Just something to think about.

7) “I don’t really cry”

Look, I’m not saying that there is something wrong with people who rarely cry.

Everyone processes things differently, and some of us simply don’t encounter enough situations that would make us cry, which is fair enough.

If you don’t cry even when you’re sad or grieving, though…

That’s a different story. And it often means that you’ve pushed your emotions so deep down that you’re distancing yourself from reality, shutting off your emotional processing.

It might also mean you grew up in a society that taught you shedding a few tears was inherently wrong, and so whatever happens, you try to keep it together – even if you could really use a bit of crying.

Well, whatever the case, listen to me when I say that crying is good. It’s cathartic. The moment you cry out all your sadness, you immediately feel relieved, as if you’ve finally taken a deep breath.

Science agrees.

As Duygu Balan, LPCC says, “From a biological perspective, crying stimulates the production of endorphins, which are our body’s natural painkiller and ‘feel-good’ hormones. When we are in a highly charged emotional state, crying helps to restore equilibrium by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, helping our body to rest and digest.”

8) “This is just how I am, take it or leave it”

Bottling your emotions can lead to some major problems, one of which is the fact that you might refuse to face your own flaws and mistakes.

The issue is that all relationships are built upon a foundation of respect, feedback, and trust, and if someone mentions you’ve done something to hurt them or something that goes against their moral principles, your response should be to reflect upon their words and incorporate some of that criticism so that you become a better person in the future.

If you live in denial and are too scared to face your own demons, though, there’s a high chance you’ll just dig your heels in and stubbornly insist that you’ve done nothing wrong.

This is just who you are, after all. If people don’t like it, they can leave. Unfortunately, this kind of approach may drive people away from you and destroy some valuable relationships.

9) “One day, I will share myself with you”

Remember that guy I dated who always said we would talk about his past “later”?

Well, he also promised me that he would share all his deepest wounds with me if only I waited for long enough.

“One day, I will tell you everything,” he’d say. “It just takes me some time to open up.”

We broke up after four years. I still don’t know what it is he wanted to share with me. When I asked him throughout the years, he sometimes even pretended he didn’t remember.

While it’s normal to take it at a slow pace and open up step by step as you get to know your partner better, there comes a point when you should know what it is that plagues your significant other – especially if it has an impact on the relationship in the here and now.

If someone promises you that they will share themselves with you one day and then keep postponing that date, it’s the final sign they struggle to open up emotionally.

What you choose to do with that information…

That’s up to you.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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