How to Love a Girl Who Doesn’t Know How to Be Loved.

Via Sara Rodriguez
on Mar 17, 2014
get elephant's newsletter

 Photo: Tainara

Whether we know it or not, we’ve all met some form of the typical “Miss Independent.”

Some of us know her better than others; some of us claim that title ourselves.

She’s the self-sufficient, somewhat mysterious go-getter with big dreams and an even bigger heart, though not everyone sees it at first glance.

Some might see her as cold and distant, because she needs a significant amount of alone time to keep her from feeling scattered and spread so thin that she disappears. Sure, she has family and friends with whom she loves to spend much of her time, but it’s in her nature to crave those precious hours of solitude—being only with her thoughts, completely alone in a crowd or in the vastness of a quiet scene.

Some call it antisocial; she calls it sanity.

For any or all of these reasons and then some, she’s never been the type to “fall in love.” In fact, if she has ever been in a relationship to any degree, it was likely one of the most difficult and confusing things she’s ever experienced—and she’s not usually one to be deterred.

Perhaps she’s too focused on her goals to realize that love could be knocking on her door, or she’s so comfortable with being in control that the thought of surrendering even a little bit to someone else makes her uneasy. There’s also a chance that, despite her outward confidence and undeniable potential for success, she’s extremely insecure.

Or, maybe she’s simply afraid of opening herself up enough to be loved.

Whatever the reason, it comes down to the fact that this girl probably doesn’t know how to handle the love that a suitor might want to give her. It doesn’t mean she’s a lost cause, it just means that developing any kind of relationship with her will require an approach that’s more sensitive to her guarded heart.

In an effort to offer some insight, here are a few pointers for learning how to love a girl who doesn’t know how to be loved:

1. Be patient.

Don’t expect her to feel comfortable with diving headfirst into anything even slightly resembling romance. Keep in mind, it’s probably taken her a great deal of contemplation and courage to even consider spending her time with you. And if she does appear comfortable responding to your first moves, it’s quite possible that she’s actually terrified of what you’ll think of her if she asks to slow things down. So, she just musters the strength to submit herself to the moment, only to spend all night feeling horrible about her dishonesty and inability to step on the brakes. This will freak her out enough to make her sever whatever ties were made and withdraw immediately—something she’s not afraid to do.

To avoid that, let things unfold at a pace that feels natural, which might be slower than what’s considered “normal.” Remember, she’s not used to this, and too much at once will surely send her over the edge. Showing sensitivity to her pace will let her know that she doesn’t have to fear being out of control, causing a miscommunication or feeling the pressure of time.

2. Talk.

Because she spends so much of her time alone and in her head, this girl might be under the impression that her thoughts and opinions are a bit too intense for others. She rarely shares the things on her mind, as she fears that whatever’s in there is so deep and inquisitive that people will think it’s overdramatic, oddly philosophical or just plain weird. She values deep conversation, but feels that she can exercise this pleasure with relatively few people, if any at all.

So talk with her. Let her know that she can say what’s on her mind, and don’t be afraid of her ability to dissect every possible meaning of a theory she’s been hung up on for weeks. If she apologizes for rambling about it, tell her she doesn’t need to be sorry, she doesn’t need to suppress it. Make her feel that although she is certainly unique for having such thoughts, she isn’t crazy or abnormal.

Tell her it makes her all the more beautiful.

And then, give it right back to her. Be sure to engage in her contemplations just as much as you listen; she wants to hear your thoughts more than you realize.

3. Support her.

Part of this girl’s struggle with letting herself be loved could be that she is relentlessly focused on her dreams and goals, so much so that she forgets to make room in her life for other things—like relationships. It’s not something she does intentionally, she’s just extremely determined to achieve whatever she has set out to do.

If she is forced to make a choice between a love life and her goals, she’s already chosen the latter. So don’t make her choose.

And certainly don’t make her feel guilty for not spending more of her time with you as a result—she’ll take that as another sign that she needs to sever the ties, even if they’re stronger at this point.

Instead, support her. If you really love this girl and she really loves you, then she’ll welcome the encouragement. She’ll want to support you, too. Let her; with a heart as passionate as hers, you’ll want her on your team.

4. Don’t be two halves of a whole, be two wholes that make an even greater whole.

Remember that this “Miss Independent” is just that—an independent chick with an ability to fend for herself. She might even be afraid of relying on others, no matter how much she trusts them.

Therefore, don’t think of a relationship with her as one that joins two halves together to make a whole; she won’t treat it as such, and she definitely won’t feel comfortable if you do. Rather, see it as two wholes becoming an even greater whole—two individuals who love each other enough to respect the other’s independence and uniqueness.

This includes honoring her need for alone time. She realizes that you are a person with or without her and asks that you see her in the same way. Being able to spend time apart is important to her; she doesn’t want to rely on your presence, nor does she want you to rely on hers.

Don’t try to spend every hour of every day with her unless you want her to feel so bombarded that she tailspins into a mess of tears, word vomit and utter confusion, ending with her breaking it off and swearing to never interact with another human ever again.

But when you are together, be together. Completely. Let her know she is loved until she begins to understand what that feels like, and then keep doing it. If it’s right, she’ll come around. And because she’s loyal by nature, she’ll stick around, too (so don’t give her any reason to think that you won’t).

Truly, this girl has a lot of love to give, even if she’s a bit awkward in showing it at first. She just needs time—time to figure things out for herself, to better understand how this works.

Let her figure out that deep down, she just wants to love and be loved—just like everyone else.

If she happens to let you close enough to love her, take it seriously. It means she’s trying. It means she wants to love you. And remember that helping her learn how to be loved in return is the surest way to win her heart.

Bonus: What to look for in a partner:

One of the more honest descriptions of love I’ve heard: 



Things I would like to take off my List so I can read your Name.

How to Love an Empath 

Date a Woman Who Knows Everything (& Nothing) 

Strong Independent Woman Syndrome 


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: Flickr


About Sara Rodriguez

Sara Rodriguez is a professional dance artist based in New York City. Her writing has been published on Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog, Rebelle Society and Elite Daily. You can follow her on Instagram and get in touch via Facebook.


368 Responses to “How to Love a Girl Who Doesn’t Know How to Be Loved.”

  1. Deborah says:

    Just wanted to add that I think it's very appropriate that the picture you used is of a little girl. Often the reason women have a difficult time being loved is due to psychological/emotional wounds they received as little girls – and it is that little girl in each of us that is afraid of being loved.

  2. Travis says:

    The girl I love shows me this article, telling me that this article explains what she's feeling right now. Now I understand her. Thank you for writing this article. 🙂

  3. eva711 says:

    Am so grateful to lord masuka for what he has done for me,At first i was thing he was a scam and also thinking if i was doing the right,But when i decided to contact him i told him my problem he laughed and told me that everything will be okay within 48hours,So i decided to give it a try in which i contacted him he told me that i should remove all taught from my mind and be happy,Really on the second day i just got a cal from someone.The person was weeping then i decided to ask who was i speaking to then he called his name Richard i was shocked i asked him what happened he said he is really sorry for what he has done to me for the past 3years for leaving me alone.That i should please forgive him that he will make it up with me.So then i said let him come over which he did as he was coming he got me a new car and also said i should have access to his account top prove to me that he will never leave me for anything now we are bought together and we are going to spend his leave together in any country of my choice,Which we are preparing for.Now we are together and he can't do without me, friends am so grateful to lord masuka for bringing back happiness to my life.i swear with my life lordmasuka hes is a man to trust you can contact him on his private mail [email protected] orcall his personal line +2347053105287 My name is eva from USA

  4. Ellie says:

    I can see a little bit of me in this article, thank you it help me to understand me more.

  5. Lisa Marie says:

    you have no idea how much better this makes me feel. i always thought i was broken and or even a little mad. i had to share this with all my friends and family on Facebook so that they may finally understand me

  6. @JSunshine03 says:

    A million times thank you for this article.

  7. christin nicole says:

    All I can say is thank you!! As others said, I thought I wasn’t normal… And I over think, analyze and pick everything.

    Apparently being a virgo does that 🙂

  8. max says:

    I have a question now, maybe smbd already asked, but still: what if the girl like this is loved by two guys, and she keeps telling you that she loves this other guy, and you’re only a friend for now, or a little more than “just a friend”, so you gotta wait till she forget or let’s say till she figure out what she’s gonna do with the guy she “loves”, but when you tell her: hey, I don’t want it to be like this, and wanna leave her alone till she’s gonna make a decision, she tells you that she doesn’t want to lose you. What should I do, patiently wait till she figure out if she loves this other guy?

  9. Marissa says:

    Great article, really resonated with me

  10. Al says:

    I was in the same shoes as you. I was infactuated with my best friend (who happened to be a girl). She was in love (or so she thought) with another rich asshole guy.

  11. LR says:

    Wow, I felt like this was written about me. Makes me feel a lot better. Thank you.

  12. Real says:

    Aw hell no, go get some psychiatric help woman, instead of saddling some poor bastard with a lifetime of crazy to have to deal with. This is nice fairy tale talk but reality is this look at it is so dysfunctional that everyone loses in the long run. "Girl learn how to be loved or chronic messed up people continue to screw eachother up for rest of everyone's lives" would be a better help story.

    • Jonny says:

      Exactly. And the fact that so many women agree with this article shows you how many nut-jobs there are out there.

  13. RunningOnEmpty says:

    Reading this article was like reading the words from a mirrored soul, and words written openly coming from the mind and heart…only difference being I’m a man. The deep talks and the two halves…or as I would say, there is no such thing as giving 50/50, because it means we are holding back, or putting forth half an effort. We are whole individuals, and over time we bring 100% of our heart, body and minds together to form an indomitable union. What you express illuminates the path to unconditional love. A person falls in love, but unconditional is a contract between the brain and the heart, and is as rational as it is emotional. The same bond which forms between a mother and unborn child over 9 months. My parents divorced when I was four. I have a terrific mother who taught patience, communication, honesty, understanding, respect, support and equality. This is the ground work necessary for unconditional love. I figured unconditional love was the key to a successful marriage and true happiness. I’m not my parents, but I was going to learn from them how to be better. My wife and I were admired as a couple, we never argued, we loved. She needed patience and understanding…she didn’t know how to accept being loved, and I was mentally and emotional ready to give it. When we committed to marriage, I made that contract of unconditional love.
    Over 14 years of being together, she would say I knew her better than she knew herself.
    At the end of it all…it seems I should have listened to dad.
    After 10 years of marriage with children, we are divorced and separated by 1300 miles. I am separated from my children and they are denied a normal happy life.
    I ultimately sacrificed my career in support of her and became a home dad.
    Her independence came before all. In the end, her choosing to have a husband and children is what denied her freedom.
    I now suffer depression and our children have emotional problems.
    Moral of the story…words of advice, no matter how beautifully or heartfelt they may sound, are just those…words. You never will ever really know the other person’s honesty or motive. Sometimes that self-sufficient, mysterious go-getter is just a nice way to describe borderline personality disorder.
    As my divorced father had said….always be the captain of the aircraft; never be the co-pilot.

  14. Jeffrey says:

    it's not just women who are like this

  15. Aki says:

    WOW! This was totally me!! I honestly didn't really put this into a full thought until reading this and realized this is exactly who I am and how recently I just did this to a guy I really liked…I didn't stay in texas for him instead literally moved on to another state because my "Goals" were more important:.(

    Thank you for writing this!!

  16. Chris says:

    I wish I would've read this when I was dating my ex… solid advice and I never really knew how to approach her. She didn't strike me as the independent type until later in the relationship and by that time it was probably too late. I always showed love, maybe too much, and might have bombarded her with more than she can handle. We're friends now; makes me wish I could apply this and have things change, haha.


  17. Paul says:

    One thing I would like to emphasize, as someone who loves and ended up marrying a woman like this, is that your patience, full and true acceptance, and unequivocal love and devotion are your best assets, especially the patience. There will be times when you just want to say screw it and throw in the towel, but let me assure you that that exact moment is when your resoluteness is most needed. These women are jewels in the rough, and if you are lucky enough to share a life together, you could not ask for a more loving and devoted partner.

  18. Lenka says:

    thank you for writing this article. I too recognise myself in your words. My husband calls me a cat as well – sometimes I like attention and sometimes I need solitude and can get a bit grumpy. It is entirely possible to have and hold good relationship (with work on both sides) if you find someone who is independent themselves and doesn't require attention all the time. You might just have to find another "cat" of the opposite sex but be prepared for the good times and the not so good times when you're not on the same wavelength (he wants attention, you don't, vice versa or worst scenario when you're both in different stages of requiring solitude). Wishing you all the best of luck!

  19. Amy E says:

    Thank you, Lenka, for articulating my thoughts. I require a lot of alone time to recharge my battery. I am so sensitive to everything and I get emotionally overwhelmed. My marriage was ideal for a long time. He traveled extensively. I guess that makes me a cat, too.

  20. Andy says:

    There's a girl I met who sounds very similar to this article — when we talked, it was like we were old friends who haven't seen each other in a long time. It turns out that we do share similar interests, but I was naturally curious to learn more about her and if we had more in common. She works at a bookstore and I would ask her questions about herself to find out more about her; this isn't because I view her as an object of gratification, but because I have a genuine interest in learning more about her.

    By my nature, I'm not a guy who has an easy time talking to girls — much less asking them out. I only ask out girls I feel really comfortable with asking out or I feel that we have something in common. I was very persistent in my pursuit of her; the first time I asked her out, she told 'she couldn't go out' despite not being attached to anyone. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that when I talked to her again, she didn't seem like she wanted to talk to me. She told me she didn't want to tell me what she was doing later and that she didn't feel comfortable with me (which broke my heart more than anything). I thought the problem was me, so I asked her, "OK, are you just not attracted to me?" which confused her. She didn't really know how to respond — I said "it's awkward, complicated, right?" To which she nodded.

    Someone like this girl either has a poor attitude about herself or must had a horrible experience with a guy. I had given her my number (which I don't think was/is a bright idea) and it really bothers me that she might think I have ill intentions towards her. I just want her to love herself and be happy with herself and love me. I'm not looking to 'complete' her — I just want a friend, a companion, and someone to love.

  21. Jay says:

    Calling bullshit on all the assumptions here. You had me down to a tee until you started in with the generalizations. Obviously people are eating it up, but the premise that these women need to have their hand held to understand~ how~ to~ even~ be~ loved~ is pretty disgusting.

    Missed the mark.

  22. biba says:

    after reading this article,,im having doubts;;;does the writer know me!! thinking twice,,even the closest people to me cant and dont see or understand that as such!! wow im experiencing, for the first time,what it's like to be understood and felt,,,,,i feel good

  23. Anshu Anand says:

    What I ve learnt from my past relationships is that you should not put up with any bad behavior to save love/life/relationship. The people who hurt us over and over again and leave our lives, only to return with promises that they will never treat us this way again, that they weren’t themselves, etc., only to repeat the process again.As someone who has been on this emotional merry-go-round more times than I care to admit, I know first hand how draining these “emotional vampires” can be. While I tried to think most people deserve the benefit of the doubt and change is possible but be cautious. When we see these things, it is a clear sign to get off the merry-go-round once and for all. It may be hard but ultimately, you will thank yourself for ridding these people from your life.

  24. Penny says:

    Geez, this is so me and I never really got why I couldn't just 'be' in a relationship without panicking. As someone who suffered through anxiety attacks over the mere idea of going on a date with someone (and feeling I wasn't normal…. like other women) – this article really hit home and made me tear up. Thank your for putting it all into words for me. I've always felt I was too independent to survive in typical relationship. Now, I'm hoping that at age 47, maybe I will find someone to partner with, and share with, without feeling like I'm losing myself or coming off as 'weird'. Thanks Sara!

  25. Ryan says:

    Not to be antagonizing or anything but this list also could be titled: "How to be the "Nice" guy that always feels like he ends up in the friend zone.

    In all seriousness though, this is exactly what the stereotypical nice guy does and often ends up feeling rejected and used.

  26. valentine says:

    my story is different,i rejected some female for relationship but later made up my mind to move with one. Though it was rosy with good communication, love and care. we had the first and second date successfully. She had to travel back to her city which is 6hrs from mine.i felt love for her because of her humility,courage and ethusiasim making effort to meet her which she refused later accepted. Hell from the day i went there till i left i was never happy been around her…even though i tried my best to impress her on cleaning, washing, clearing the surroundings and other courtesy a guy should show to a girl he loves. but still nothing worked only for her to text me she is sorry when i got home…please your advice will be appreciated because i think am into her…thanks

  27. Anonymous says:

    I stumbled on this email address [email protected] com few days ago, so i emailed him about my bad relationship condition, how my lover left me, how he was with another girl, so Mr Robinson told me it would take 3days to get my boyfriend back, i waited for 3 days, unbelievable my boyfriend came to my house asking me if we could try things out again. He broke up with the other girl and we rekindled and got back together, he now show me care and attention. Mr Robinson was my last hope, my last chance after all the spell casters I tried before, Mr Robinson kept his promise! he is the greatest spell caster on the internet, call Mr Robinson (+)19715126745 for help

  28. harmandamadeus says:

    My Name is Harmand Amadeus from California. I am here to give testimony on how got my wife back. My wife left me for no reason 3 years ago. She moved out with another man, i felt like killing myself, my life became very bitter and sorrowful. Then 1 day, a friend of mine told me about a great spell caster that is very good and does not even charge for his services, he said he gave him some lucky numbers that he played in a lottery and he won. I didn't believe it because I've worked with so many of them and it didn't work. He begged me further so i decided to try this great spell caster called DR. OTIAGBE and i contacted him via his email: [email protected]}. I still didn't believe. I used the spell he gave me and the next day i received a call from my darling wife called Rugina last month. She apologized and came back to me. I'm very happy now. Thank you DR. OTIGBE, You can reach him via email: [email protected]}

  29. Ella Stokes says:

    Nothing wrong with being ambitious, and nothing atypical about a girl being independent, so idk y you have these quotation marks around "Miss Independent". The undertones in this article don't sit well with me. But other than that, I feel like it holds some truths.

  30. Riddhima Singh says:

    i am a girl who doesnt show my true self to people. i laugh along with everyone and have shared fun times with many but the thing is even if you know me for years, you probably wont know a thing that is personal to me. that is sacred information for my bestie 😀
    and yes i want to be loved but i wont give my trust so easily…people have to work for it you know ;P
    that article was very nicely expressed…..good luck 😀

  31. eva says:

    Thank you for putting this personality in words. I see my friend in it and feel very supported in the way I am treating her. Although I dont even really dare to say "treating". I will give her her own pace. Yesterday she told me, she is looking for other friends, so she doesnt become depended on me. Surprisngly enough I wasnt so much hurt at the moment, felt sad about her loneliness at that moment, told her that I like her idea and I will be her friend no matter what. Her fear of dependancy shows me that she already does somewhat feel a strong relationship with me, but is scared about it. Her having other friends too might make it easier for her to get closer to me, so I hope. I will give her own pace.

  32. MNB says:

    Thanks for explain my own mind to me. Good stuff.

  33. kla says:

    This article was highly insightful and is dear to my heart, as I am pursuing someone whom fits this description. Thank you for writing it!

  34. Sophie says:

    Sara, this article is great and like many it resonates with me. I understand that this came from your own experience but I'm curious to know how you linked being guraded to not knowing how to be loved.

    • Jccee says:

      I just stumbled into this article. I’m shocked on how accurate it is or at least how I am.I was not even aware of it. It feels like I’m reading about me

      without me even knowing that’s how I am. It’s a realization. Thanks for writing this.

  35. losingair says:

    How can he stay and love a crazy girl

  36. ernie says:

    WOW!!!!! i am sooo happy i read this. thank you so much. This is exactly what is going on in my relationship at this minute. Know i understand what my girlfriend is going through. thank you for revealing some light. now i will approach her much more differently from now on. 🙂

  37. Emily says:

    Sara, I think this post is going to help me a lot in the future. So many times I have been at a loss for words when asked why I am the way I am, which is 28 and without any real past or present relationships to speak of. I will probably read this post at least 10 more times and apply what you have said to my life and personality so that the next I feel the need to explain myself I will be ready. Thank you.

  38. MelC says:

    Well said!

  39. Vee says:

    Reading this article has been an absolute eye opener. I lost my girlfriend thinking that if I keep pushing her to spend more time with me she will open herself up. She exhibited everything mentioned to the T on point 1 'This will freak her out enough to make her sever whatever ties were made and withdraw immediately—something she’s not afraid to do'.

    Ohh, if only I had read this before. Its been just about two weeks since she totally shut herself off me. At that time I did not understand why she would do that, when she had so passionately accepted me into her life, we went on vacations together, across the country and when we were together it was very deep, sensual and always 100% together. But when not together, she was a different person. To make matters worse, we were in a long-distance relationship and she just did not spend time with me on phone,chat, social media, etc….I never could understand her state of mind.

    I am happy that now I am able to see things from her perspective. I can now understand her deep emotions and feelings. This poor girl actually loved me and did so much to keep me in her life or tried to do them all and my stupidity made her pull herself away.

    I dont know what I should do now….I know she is going through a torrid time missing me, heard that from mutual friends, but she is not ready to let me into her life now. I want to give her some personal space by not contacting her for about 3 weeks or so and then travel to visit her in person. I just want to apologize for my foolish behavior so blind to her real feelings. Do you think that might be a good idea? How do I approach a girl who has shut herself away….?

    Thank you for this article. This truly might/will change both our lives.

    • Vee says:

      Can anyone of the readers who empathize with this beautiful article, help me with my question. I am facing a situation with my girl friend who matches everything that Sara has mentioned and would like to hear other readers thoughts…..

      I would really appreciate any and all help.

      • Vera says:

        I'm only a 14 year old girl, not exactly an expert on love, but I know this much. If you love her, don't make the mistake of letting her go.

  40. thedragondreams says:

    This is epic – and helpful. I'm sure a lot of people can gain insight from this. 🙂

  41. KLToh says:


    I've been going after this girl with almost the same description you mentioned in the article for more than a year, and I know that being sensitive to her pace is important. (Albeit learning it the hard way!) However, there were times when I suggested doing something which I find it acceptable, she backed off. So I guessed it was still too much for her. Therefore, when I realize she is showing signs of backing off, I'll let her cool down for a few days before contacting her again. But I would like to know is, was my reaction to her backing off signs appropriate all these while?

  42. Supегbe post, persdistez de cette façon

  43. Fantastique ɑrticle, continu comme ça

  44. OLIVIA jane mike says:

    How to Love a Girl Who Doesn’t Know How to Be Loved.

  45. Lea says:

    This Ms. Independent is MissUnderstood. It's so me =(

  46. Droo says:

    This goes for guys and girls, especially the thoughtful types. Beautiful.

  47. cathyspad says:

    Thank you for the article. It helped me to better understand myself. It seems you must know me as you just described me perfectly.

  48. Julien says:

    Sara, nice reading! To follow up on some of the comments, how can you tell the difference between a "Miss Independent" who needs her (potential) partner to give without return, to be present and caring without asking for anything and to be patient for what weeks, months, years? until she opens, and a person who is emotionally unavailable?

  49. Vera says:

    Thank you. This is sort of like me. I'm only 14, not exactly a social girl and people find me odd for it. What I call deep, they call pretentious. What I think is important, they say is insignificant. I used to know how to love. I was sweet and kind and quiet and I had a laugh that was considered gorgeous. But the more I got hurt the more I forgot the feeling of goodness, the more I cried. They say I'm too young to be jaded. But then they say a lot of things. People call me "ice queen", though I'm far from it. I'm not heartless. I have a heart, I do and if they only knew how much it hurt. I'm only so cold because as much as I long for love, if I let them in the only thing I'll know is pain. And I don't handle pain well. Only my dad gets to hear that laugh now though it's not as pretty as it used to be. He's the only person in my life who hasn't hurt me and I know that he'll try his best never to. And if he ever does, I'll forgive him and we'll still be how we used to be because I love him and he's my anchor and I don't want to be adrift at sea. I feel bad for being so selfish, caring more for my heart than another's. But I'm afraid to change, afraid that I'll fall too deep and I won't be able to get back up.

  50. PatientMan says:

    Thanks for this great article. I am trying to win the heart of a special female and she is fresh of a long term relationship. I am not pushing her, and am taking things slow and focused on being her friend. She is slowly letting me into her circle and it feels nice. I actually made a vow to myself not to be intimate with a female unless I am in love. Something that I don't feel I can share with my guy friends. This is something that I never ventured I would do, but turning 30 and dating for 2 years after a 8 year relationship has changed my perception on so many things. Your article was heart warming, honest, and sincere. Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate you.

Leave a Reply