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: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr


About Sara Rodriguez

Sara Rodriguez is a freelance dance artist and writer based in New York City. Her work has been published on Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog, Rebelle Society and Elite Daily. Her poetry was recently published in the debut issue of feminist art publication, Period. Sex. You can follow her on Instagram @sara_bex and on Facebook.


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

  1. Pam says:

    I can relate to this so well. This is how I have felt at many/most times in my life – I can't help but to pull away and be hesitant to open up, However, there are certainly instances where I have surprised even myself with how easily I could get close to someone. I think the secret ingredient has been excitement and mutual compatibility. When I genuinely enjoy someone and we can plan and do exciting things together, connect at an intellectual level, share trust, and excite and surprise one another, I find the problem goes away. The time when I close up is usually when I feel the person likes me a lot more than I like them, when I'm bored, or if I suspect they may not be the person for me, but I haven't figured it out for sure yet.

  2. Zoe says:

    Hi, I recognise a lot of this description in my boyfriend. Sometimes I find it hard to love him. Not because he isn't the most amazing guy on this planet, but his independence scares me. As I reed the comments there are a lot of you like this, I admire the independence and fearlessness you have in perusing your dreams and ambitions. I wish I was more like that and les scared. Please follow your dreams and don't let people how love you tell you that they can't do that, they might be scared of losing you. I hope that you can love the girl that thinks needs to be loved.

  3. Penny says:

    This is BEAUTIFUL and hits very close to home.

    thank you for sharing it with us and reminding me that I am not broken, just different from the typical gal. And different is good ♡

    Hugs and love

  4. Brandy, yes, you are exactly who you need to be, because you're you. I'm so glad you're learning how to love yourself. I'm right there with you. Thanks for reading. xo

  5. Thanks so much Sarah. <3

  6. Thank you for reading.

  7. Given the fact that this came from personal experiences, I will say that I have made considerable efforts and taken much responsibility as far as cultivating and developing connection/love is concerned. This isn't me saying 'you need to do all the work,' this is me asking for more sensitivity to my weaknesses, the ones I'm working on overcoming. Thanks for reading.

  8. Thank you Megan. 🙂

  9. Jennifer, thanks so much. xo

  10. I totally get the struggle with sharing the burden… otherwise, I can't say I know the feeling of not being able to give up a relationship. My nature is to back away as soon as I sense any sign of 'too close too soon' or something like it. So, that's what this article is about, more so than what you've mentioned. What you're talking about is, I'm sure, something many women feel. But since it's not really me, I can't write about that from an honest perspective. You, on the other hand, can! I suggest you write an article yourself. 🙂

  11. Yes. I've always thought of myself as a cat anyway. xo

  12. Pam, thanks so much for your input. I really do appreciate it. And I close up much in the same way. Thanks for reading. xo

  13. Zoe, thanks so much for your words. <3

  14. Thank you so much Penny. 'Typical' sure is relative, isn't it? xo

  15. Regina says:

    Sara, you and those who connect deeply to this article would do well to take a look at attachment theory. I'd bet money that you had an insecure attachment with your mother that manifested as dismissing/avoidant:

    Knowing where these feelings originate may help you work on yourself more effectively. Wishing you well.


  16. Julie says:

    I found myself feeling overwhelmed somewhat with your wonderful article – recognizing myself a lot. One of the things that has led to me being like this after hurts and failed relationships is that when I was younger I would fall in love too fast and lose myself. As a consequence, I have become much more guarded, and don't seek a relationship anymore. I've also learned to love myself better, but there is a part of me that longs to be drawn out as well. Thank you for your honesty.

  17. Monica says:

    yah this is me*

  18. Anelia says:

    This is COMPLETELY me!

    Girl power, Miss Independent, Go Getter at all costs. I don’t keep friends long and crave y independence. Ambition is my middle name, and as empowering as this outlook is I probably am uncomfortable with giving up control.

    Although, at 22 I see the opportunity cost of a man as far too high to seriously invest in.

    Thank you for writing this article. Surly one I will read over and over

  19. Meghan says:

    This article really showed me who I am. It was very insightful, beautifully written and a wonderful read. Thank you so much for sharing, it really hit home and helped me tremendously.

  20. Tati says:

    This article will help so many! It certainly helped me. I cant wait to share this! Thanks SO much Sara! Please never stop writing.

  21. KayseS says:

    Amazing article! Thanks for putting into words what I couldn't!

  22. Alyssa C. says:

    This article. Every. Single. Word. Thank you so much. You have captured everything I want to express.

  23. Lana says:

    I was reading and thinking: ‘I could have wrote it myself!!! This is exactly me! I’m not a weird then?’ Thanks a lot for the courage of writing this down and sharing it with us Sara.

    I personally try to work on myself most of the time and am very self aware. Although people might describe me as an extrovert, talkative, loud, friendly, not shy and so on, I honestly feel socially awkward and I find it very hard to disclose. Sometimes I feel like I’m living a dual life…. being so strong and independent when it comes to what other people can see, and then so fragile and insecure in my core. I say I’m independent and I’m happy floating alone, but deep down I know I really long for a romantic relationship… But staying alone seems safer somehow.

    But well, at least now I know I’m not the only one feeling this way!

    Thank you once again.

  24. Tanya says:

    Wow, this is spot on me – thank you!

  25. Shirley says:

    If I wouldn't know any better I would have thought I wrote this article about myself. It's very sad and yet very true – hits home.

  26. Joanne says:

    Woah. I’ve never feel so understood. Thanks.

  27. Yeah, this is me too.

  28. Iamyoutoo says:

    I was the girl in this article until I read this book, "Getting to I do" by Dr. Pat Allen? It breaks it down in simple terms of what is masculine and what is feminine. Yin and Yang. What you want and what you do not want. Anyone who relates to this article needs to understand why before they can accept love and cherishing from another. If I only had learned this early in life I would have definitely saved myself a lot of loneliness and grief. Now that I am happily married, Seeing myself in your article helped me to realize how very far I have come. (Thankfully)

  29. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Julie. Keep learning, keep loving. xo

  30. Thanks so much for this response Anelia. And thanks for reading!

  31. Sweet Meghan, you knew who you really were all along. All reading does–whether you read a book or an article–is open our minds and hearts up a little to another perspective. 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words. xo

  32. Wow, thank you so much Tati. And don't worry, I don't think I could stop if I tried. 😉 xoxo

  33. Thank you for reading!

  34. I'm honored to have been seen as a part of your voice Alyssa. xo

  35. Thank you Lana. I get the whole extrovert/introvert thing. It's so hard to grapple with two worlds like that. I hope you can find it in you to soften a little in certain places, so that the inner and outer worlds melt together and become your peace. xo

  36. Thank you for reading Tanya. xo

  37. Thanks Shirley. <3

  38. I'm so glad you feel understood, a little less alone, perhaps. Thank you Joanne.

  39. Thank you so much for sharing a glimpse of your journey. That is truly inspiring.

  40. Sabrina Fan says:

    thk u. my mum tells me everyday tt i'm screwed. until i read this and realize tt im not alone.

  41. Anon says:

    Or, find a girl who isn't jaded and damaged.

  42. Ok-she-was-right says:

    So my girlfriend sent me this article. When I saw the title I was kind of like, “meh-yeah-whatever-girls”, this will be another load of crap. After reading it, however, I feel like I completely understand her now haha. A good article and it helps me understand my ‘miss independent’ a lot better. This is her to a ‘T’. Tough, strong-willed and absolutely needs her alone time. I always knew she was worth the trouble, but didn’t know exactly how to deal with it (cue the girly aww’s). Thank you for the help, even though she sent me the article for a gentle slap in the face. Thanks again.

  43. brian says:

    So, my girlfriend's friend sent me this article and said "do this, do all of this and you'll win".

    When I recieved it, I'll be honest, I saw the title and was like, "meh-whatever-girls". Then I read it, and I'll admit it, her friend was right. This is my girlfriend to an absolute 'T'. A strong-willed, tough, just all around awesome girl who just needs her alone time. I've always known she was worth the trouble (cue the aww's), but didn't understand why. This certainly helps me understand my miss independent, so thank you. And, I'm sure she's thanking in some way also.

  44. dai says:

    For a long time I’ve searched for an answer to 2 questions on my mind. This has just answered them both And showed me exactly where I was going wrong. Thank you

  45. Fion says:

    Thank you for writing this, the very essence of my living.

  46. Never alone, never totally screwed. xo

  47. If that's what you would prefer Anon, then I respect that. But I believe you love who you love. xo