One summer evening, Becky and I were discussing her daughter, Leah. Leah was perhaps 13 years old then, and Becky and I often liked to speculate on how she would turn out. That evening, Becky offered that Leah’s loves “will be few and far between”.
As it happens, I think Becky could be right about Leah. She’s 22 now, and guarded in her love. But why is that?
My hunch is Leah’s reluctance to love wholly or completely has something to do with her father. Becky and Leah’s father divorced when Leah was seven or so. Afterwards, her father often proved neglectful. Among other things, he’d promise to visit, but would not show up. Leah, who was at that time closer to her father than to Becky, took her father’s neglect hard.
I guess Leah shut some part of herself off as her way of dealing with her father’s neglect. She became a guarded lover.
She could, of course, have done much worse than to become a guarded lover. I have known girls in her situation who lost all confidence in dealing with boys. Yet, Leah is very confident.
Naturally, Leah’s story is larger than Leah. All of us — perhaps without exception — have either been hurt in love or will at one time or another be hurt in love. There are things you can escape in this world, but to escape being wounded in love you must never love at all — which would risk making your life deeply miserable.
It is crucial how we respond to our hurts. Most of us become guarded in one way or another. We erect defenses. There are thousands of defenses against being wounded in love, but it is important for us to understand that whatever defenses we erect against being wounded might also be barriers to loving. That is not necessarily a good thing.
The main reason it’s not necessarily a good thing to erect barriers to love is simply because love is the best medicine for wounds to love. Love heals: It promotes growth, and it renews. In fact, I believe you can tell whether love is genuine or not by whether it heals or not. So, if we wall ourselves off from love, we wall ourselves off from the best and most complete way to heal.
I should make clear that I am not talking here about those of us who have been abused. When the wounds we suffer in love come from our being abused, we should erect defenses against abuse. We should not open ourselves to the abuser. But that’s a special case. In general, it is best to overcome wounds to love by loving and being loved, rather than by running away from love.
That, at least, is how I see it. But what do you think? Does any of this make sense, or should I switch to a better brand of coffee and re-think it all?