8 signs someone is in love with you but terrified of getting hurt, according to psychology

Psychological research proves what we already know: That there’s nothing quite like the exhilarating rush of new love.

But that dopamine hit comes at a price, and that price is the possibility of pain. This is particularly true if you have firsthand knowledge of heartbreak, and most of us do.

So, for some people, the fear of going through that kind of pain again holds them back from starting a new relationship.

You might be interested in someone and they reciprocate your interest, but they’re hesitant to go all in because they want to avoid experiencing the deep hurt they suffered in the past. 

So what to do? 

Luckily, there are a few subtle and not-so-subtle clues that you’ve caught someone’s eye, but they haven’t worked up the nerve to pursue their feelings yet.

Granted, many of these hints aren’t always easy to recognize. But if you pay attention to your person and approach the situation with empathy, you’ll learn to pick them out in no time.

Here are eight signs someone could be in love with you but is desperately afraid of getting hurt.  

1) They fear rejection 

Let’s kick this off with one of the biggest reasons people shy away from love–the fear of rejection. It’s common, and very understandable, to feel vulnerable when your heart has been broken before.

Rejection sensitivity is a powerful demotivator that deters people from moving on to a new relationship.

This paralysis doesn’t indicate a lack of interest no matter what the surface optics may suggest. It’s a method of emotional self-protection, a way to safeguard their heart from future hurt.

2) Fresh off a breakup 

If your crush is fresh out of a relationship that ended traumatically because of their last partner’s infidelity, they might be extra super-duper cautious.

And can you blame them?

Who wants to risk wasting a ton of time with the wrong person just to undergo another potentially hellish split? 

The negative dynamics from our old relationships can make us wary of opening up to a new person. We may avoid intimacy because it brings back feelings of pain, loss, or rejection.

So, someone can have feelings for you but they’re just not emotionally prepared to jump in the dating pool again.

But don’t try to rush someone into a relationship they’re not ready for. Respecting their boundaries is one way you can show you truly care. 

Allow them all the space they need. 

3) High walls

Research shows that people who’ve been badly burned in their lives tend to build emotional walls as a form of self-protection. This is a defense mechanism to keep prospective partners at arm’s length and to protect their tender, battered hearts.

These walls make it challenging to open themselves up and allow someone in, even when they really want to find real love and foster a deep connection.

Instead, they’re tentative and guarded, reluctant to share their inner selves, and extremely slow to give their trust.

Be patient.

These emotional walls didn’t go up overnight, and taking them down will be a process as well.

4) They’ve just reentered the dating pool

Your person could very well adore you and even envision their future with you in it. But if they are just dipping their toe back in the dating pool, especially after a long hiatus, they might be a bit nervous. 

According to experts, they also have to relearn the rules of dating, which seem to change every 2 1/2 weeks.

So if it seems to you that they’re not eager to move the relationship forward, they might need some more time to familiarize themselves with the new dating etiquette.

5) The eyes have it

subtle behaviors men display when theyre truly infatuated with a woman 8 signs someone is in love with you but terrified of getting hurt, according to psychology

Two people’s eyes locking across a crowded room is a beloved rom com theme. This is a classic for a reason.

Experts agree that when it comes to love, the eyes don’t lie. You may notice them staring at you from a distance or realize that they’re maintaining eye contact longer than they were previously. 

It’s obvious that not being able to peel your eyes from someone is most likely due to attraction. 

What isn’t always so obvious is that breaking eye contact could mean vulnerability or even embarrassment, not disinterest.  

But how a person looks at you can give you a pretty good idea if their interest is more than platonic.

6) They pull away 

If someone is afraid to fall in love, they might run hot and cold when interacting with you. As soon as you both grow a little closer, he backs off or, even worse, pushes you away.

According to psychologists, that’s their anxiety talking, not their heart. This could be a sign that he’s beginning to fall for you and he’s and he’s spooked or conflicted.

7) A snail’s pace 

Every relationship is different and develops at its own pace. But if it seems that your potential other half is taking things incredibly slowly, they might be reluctant to jump into a relationship. 

You might feel like they’re stringing you along because they’re not giving you any clear signs of what they want or where they see your relationship going.

But don’t worry. Moving forward slowly doesn’t always mean that a relationship is doomed from the start. Your partner could just be cautious and want to make sure you’re a good match before investing too much in the relationship.

They might also understand that getting to know another person on an emotional level cannot be rushed. 

8) Existential fear

Here’s the problem in a nutshell:  

The more we have, the more we have to lose. 

So it stands to reason that the more a person means to us, the more fearful we are of losing them. 

We have to face the fear of losing our partner and we also have to deal with the emotions  surrounding our own mortality

Quite simply, it’s a lot.

And we’re usually not aware of how deeply entrenched our defense against these existential fears really is. 

Some people use this as a rationalization as to why they shouldn’t be getting involved with anyone, but what’s really driving them is a deep fear of loss.

Final thoughts

The journey to finding your partner may be a test of endurance, but it isn’t a race. If you’ve been hurt before by love it can feel like building a house of cards where every new step is taken with caution.

This could be why so many folks would rather take things slowly and build a firm foundation of friendship and trust before making a commitment.

But if you can respect their need to pace things slowly and empathize with their need for caution, you’re demonstrating that this person’s feelings are important to you.

And that type of consideration can go a long way towards tipping the scales in your favor.

Picture of Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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