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

Via Sara Rodriguez
on Mar 17, 2014
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 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?

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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. Haha! This made me smile. Thank you so much for reading and for loving your Miss Independent. 🙂

  2. Wow, thank you for that.

  3. And thank you for reading. xo

  4. 🙂 Thank you thank you!

  5. Adeline says:

    Me too (':

  6. Brandon Nelson says:

    This article saved my relationship with my Miss Independant. We been dating for a year and it has been difficult. We hardly spend alot of time together and I push for more and all she says is she needs her alone time. She stays busy with work and the kids and I always feel like she can make more time for me. Now I understand why!! This is her to a Tee!! Thank you for your very well written article. I showed her and she loved it. Because she thought she was uniquely weird and now she knows there are other women like her and shes not messed up lol

  7. Diana says:

    Thank you! I've read this about 5 times, because i can identify with it so much! Great article, and thanks again for clarifying that I'm not crazy!!!

  8. Taylor says:

    My bf jokes that I'm like a cat. Move too quickly and I run away, but then I want attention. Then it scares me. I love this piece. I love the honesty in it. Being bold is hard, being vulnerable is even harder. I'm going to share this with him. I think we both will benefit from the insight.

  9. Sarah says:

    Are you a 'Miss Independent' or do you know a 'Miss Independent' inside out? Because this is such a perfect description!

  10. Brandon, I am so happy to hear that you feel like you understand more after reading this, and I'm glad that your lovely lady feels relieved about not being alone. It's messages like yours that make me smile and warm my heart. All the best to you both. 🙂

  11. Diana, thank you so much. Nope, you're not crazy… and even if you were, you'd be among friends. 🙂

  12. Oh my gosh, Taylor that's the best description. I'm like a cat too. I'm so glad you could relate to this. Thanks for reading. xo (meow)

  13. Sarah, indeed I am. I wrote this entirely from personal experiences/observations. I know a few of them, too. Thanks for reading. xo

  14. James says:

    Thanks for this article, I love a special girl but as we have grown it has become hard. Lately I’ve been pretty frustrated with her and didn’t know where we were going. This article really helped me to know what was going on , And gave me a refreshed look at her and us. Thank you, thank you

  15. Veronica says:

    I actually cried when I read this. Never have I seen such an accurate description of who I am, and how I feel. Some day when I work up the courage to allow someone into my life, I will send them this article to read. I’ve never been able to find the right words, and now I won’t have to. Thank you. .

  16. Chaz says:

    Interesting. But if she doesn't know how to love herself, it's all for not anyway.

  17. Sarah says:

    Thank you for writing this, thank you for sharing this and thank you for answering my questions through this! 🙂 x

  18. Thomas says:

    I think I'm going to be the only person to not only say that you have beautifully defined many women in our lives but also left out an entire critical aspect of our relationships that must be addressed. My wife and I are separating because of this issue specifically. She sent this article to me in an effort to, I don't know, perhaps help me understand why she has neglected our relationship due to her inability to connect. I'm a very compassionate, supportive husband that, after 3 years of being put on the back burner and always second seat to her work, is almost giving up.

    Your article clearly defines so many people…look at the responses…"yes, this is me to a T", "I'm not alone", etc. It's great to identify. Some of your advice – support her, talk to her, be patient – these are necessities for any relationship to work. Other pieces of your advice – allow her space, don't push her, tip to around her anxieties – these are great for a moment but will not allow for long term success if you don't CHALLENGE her to change her behaviors. Unless you are a man who does not need attention from a woman that doesn't have to be constantly coherced from her – you better challenge her to recognize her issues or you will be the one doing all the work and that will eventually lead to resentment. I hate resentment. I'm swimming in it right now…along with buckets of tears.

    I'm not spouting off without first hand experience. Maybe my wife is an extreme case. But I know I need to be more important in my relationship every day and it's very hard to feel that way with a woman that cannot, without a lot of clinical help, offer that. I'm not saying give up or that this article is bad, I'm just saying it's not complete. A relationship requires 2 people working on it…not one coddling the others issues so that maybe there will be reciprocation of love and passion.

    I applaud you for being able to openly discuss yourself in a public forum, Sara, but I challenge you to give your readers a complete set of advice to succeed in a relationship with a woman that struggles with these concerns. I hope that, during my separation and our counseling, that my wife will work hard on identifying her priorities and putting me higher on her list. I'm completely with Chaz – if she doesn't know how to love herself, it's all for not anyway…

  19. Thomas says:

    Hello Chaz, I just left a very long reply to this article and I agree with you 100%…I won't go into more detail, you can read my reply if you want. Name is Thomas

  20. Thomas says:

    I think I'm going to be the only person to not only say that you have beautifully defined many women in our lives but also left out an entire critical aspect of our relationships that must be addressed. My wife and I are separating because of this issue specifically. She sent this article to me in an effort to, I don't know, perhaps help me understand why she has neglected our relationship due to her inability to connect. I'm a very compassionate, supportive husband that, after 3 years of being put on the back burner and always second seat to her work, is almost giving up.

  21. DixieChopsuey says:

    I’m an empath dating a Mr. Independent and as much as I sacrifice my needs in my acceptance of him as a Mr. Independent, he doesn’t seem to meet me halfway and accept me as an empath. I don’t think anyone should change who they are but if you’ve committed to a relationship with someone who is the complete opposite of you, be prepared to compromise instead of dominate and insist on being yourself 100% while the other person changes to deal with your independent personality. Naturally the empath is the one who will bend over backwards to adapt to you and if you think you’re worth it, we are too.

  22. Steffi says:

    My first inkling of the existence of your article was when my partner told me he just had an ahah! moment and realised that we’re “two wholes coming together to make a better whole”. Then I saw a link to here today and realised where he’d got the idea from. I’m smiling as I read this; I’m glad to know that I am not the only human who’s as such. Thank you for spreading the word in letting other folks know that there are people like us.

  23. You've summed up in a few paragraphs what I've been pondering for the last year. Great article.

  24. Terrie Ramirez says:

    Thank you so much for this! It touched my heart in the greatest most perfect way.. I am this girl and I have never been able to put it all into words that made such perfect sense. I cried while reading it. but, tears of joy.. someone else understands and totally gets it "we" are not alone….

  25. Guest says:

    Good, but not unique to women. She and he are interchangeable here… men are not blobs of un-emotion. Most of the time it goes both ways… except the Miss Independent part.

  26. Wow. Thank you James—for reading and for sharing something so personal. I wish you and your love all the best.

  27. Thanks so much for reading Veronica. xo

  28. Chaz, I agree with you. I'm not proposing that anyone should try to make this girl love herself, nor am I insinuating that she doesn't love herself already; in fact, she may very well love herself, but struggle with understanding how to let others love her intimately, as would be the case in a romantic relationship. You are right that self-love must come before loving others, however that's not exactly where I planted the roots for this article. Thanks for reading.

  29. Thomas, first of all I am sorry to hear what you are going through right now.

    In response to your comment, I truly respect all that you have to say, and I wholeheartedly agree with you that being in any kind of relationship requires two people working on it. I, however, am only one person, what would be one half of any relationship; therefore, I can only speak to my needs, and that's what this article is, essentially. Also, my intention was to make the tone of this piece cater more towards beginning a relationship with this 'girl,' with the hope that over time, she will come around and feel more comfortable in both giving and receiving love, as this has been my experience. I can see why this didn't read well to you, given your current situation and the way you came across this article.

    Lastly, I am not an 'expert' in giving relationship advice, or any advice for that matter. I apologize if my words came across as anything other than my own experiences and desires in the context of a public article. I believe it to be complete in its purpose, which is to represent what I feel based on my own experiences; like I said, I can only write for me, not for both halves of a relationship.

    I sincerely wish you all the best Thomas. I hope things get better.

  30. I understand what you're saying, and I can identify with being an empath. I don't necessarily think that being independent has much to do with being rigid; domination and independence are different. Relationships require compromise, without a doubt, and this is just my take on one side of a relationship. I hope that's clear. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  31. Steffi, that is too funny! No, definitely not the only human. You're among friends. Thanks for reading. xo

  32. Wow, thank you so much for reading. 🙂

  33. Oh Terrie, thank you. We definitely aren't alone, and there are people who will love us exactly as we are. xo

  34. Thanks for reading. Yes, I'm aware that men are not blobs of "un-emotion." I just wrote this based on my own experiences as a woman who feels this way. Thanks for your feedback!

  35. Jade says:

    I also recognize a lot of these in my now ex-boyfriend. I went through the comments to see if anybody else saw this in guys too, not just girls. The difficulty arose because I also seem to be "a girl who doesn't know how to be loved." We started out EXTREMELY slow and I just thought we were really weird (especially because I had friends who were having sex earlier in a relationship than we kissed). It took 2 months of dating for us to finally let down our guards enough to just kiss. We are both currently really busy with school and work and that is why we ultimately decided to break it off (at least until things slow down after graduation). It is hard enough being one myself, but to date one was rough at times. There is an undeniable connection, but we both had trouble letting our guards down. I would have moments when I would let my guard down and he would have his moments and those moments when we let go are what made it so great. If you couldn't tell by the rambling, I thoroughly enjoyed the article. Thank you for putting this into words.

  36. Niña S. says:

    Definitely sharing this. This is so me!

  37. Kelly W says:

    I have never in all my 36 years read a piece of work that describes me exactly. Thank you. How did you come to this perspective?

  38. Thomas says:

    Thank you Sara. This is a very difficult time for me and one of my biggest issues is her lack of accountability – I'm not saying she doesn't fully acknowledge the issue – she's just not accountable. And so, with my big old wall of resentment up and my fuse very short and my trigger very loose, I replied with my bias intact. I wish I had read this 3 years ago. I'm not saying it would have helped because, quite honestly, I've done all of the things you recommend because I've always been able to read the emotions of those near me and I'm inherently a giver so I adapted to the day to day needs she has. But that didn't satiate my appetite for my very basic needs which is why we are where we are.

    This is move out weekend and within a few days my house will be empty of her and her things and that is sad. I hope that distance and time will allow us both to grow through this.

    I hope that I didn't offend your position by my comments. I have read a few more of your posts so that I can get an understanding of where your perspective is coming from and, like I said in my first post, I admire your strength to be so vulnerable. Take care and journey on…

  39. Charmaine says:

    The starting moment when i read this, I was like, 'Who wrote this? Can I like say how much I love you right now?' LOL. Okay, maybe that's just too much. But this, this really hits on everything I feel about my whole self & thoughts. It feels great to know that someone out there actually truly understands me inside out. (And also the discovery of not being alone while feeling like this.) Thank you for this wonderful post. 🙂

  40. Erica says:

    damn girl! crushing it with this!! I love it!

  41. Thanks so much! xo

  42. Thanks for reading Kelly. Honestly, this year as a whole has been one of deep reflection for me. I've spent much time and energy going as far inside as I possibly can go, to the point of realizing that my entire life was out of line with my deepest desires and intentions. As you can imagine, I've learned quite a bit about myself as a result, and once I thought I was with someone who loved me for that—this person I've become—I was proven wrong in a somewhat painful way. So, I asked myself questions, the why's and why-not's, and these were the answers.

  43. Genevieve says:

    Thank you so much. Been trying to figure out why am I such a person. Why am I just so weird as compared to others. Why do I always back out in fear when the pace gets too fast.

    Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone.


  44. Aww, Charmaine, thank you so much. You're sweet (and definitely not alone). xo

  45. Thank you Erica. xo

  46. I gotcha, Genevieve. Just so you know, someone once told me that weird is a side-effect of awesome. 😉 Thanks for reading. xo

  47. alice says:

    A previous suitor shared this on facebook, i was curious and clicked the link. And from then on i occasionally come back to read this because this article just describes me so well. I never really knew what I was really like until i read this and found out that this is just sooo me. Thank you so much. for helping me understand all these. thank you..

    from singapore.

  48. Wow. Thank you for reading Alice. xo

  49. Nica says:

    My best friend just shared this with me literally 12 minutes ago, and I took ten minutes reading through your article! Had to stop after every sentence to say “omg this is meee!” So grateful to have stumbled upon your writing. Thanks for articulating so beautifully in writing what I’ve been trying to reflect on for about a year now 🙂 When you come to the Philippines, i’ll treat you to some cake or whatever… You just saved me another year of being confused 🙂

  50. Wow, Nica thank you so much for reading and commenting. And if I should ever come to the Philippines, I would certainly love to hang and eat cake. 🙂 Thank you! xo