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Q&A: How Do You Avoid Getting Hurt In Relationships?


How do you share and let people in without getting hurt?

Michelle S., Oakland, CA

How do you let people into your emotional space without the experience ending with the feeling of being humiliated or how do you move forward, risking yourself to experience rejection?

Patrick F., CA


Life can be like a masquerade ball with everyone having the ability to enjoy superficial interactions while wearing a mask that hides their true identity. At some point during the night, one party may desire to see the true identity of the other party because of an interest that was sparked. The other party may be fearful of unmasking their true identity out of fear that the person may reject the person whom they have been enjoying the whole night.

It takes a certain amount of confidence and emotional maturity to be able to face an individual behind the mask. What if you can't handle the true nature of that individual? The mask provides a certain amount of security for the individual because they are able to hide their true identity. The mask acts as an artificial boundary that allows the individual to portray a role that they believe to be enjoyable to others. The process of unmasking one's true identity requires a certain level of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) involves the ability to take responsibility for your life by setting appropriate personal boundaries. Setting emotional boundaries requires that you protect your self-esteem and personality by defining and maintaining confidence in your internal beliefs, choices, behavior, and level of intimacy with others. You should know the difference between those with high and low emotional intelligence (EI) to evaluate your comfort level for letting people in without getting hurt. It is also important to know how you emotionally relate to others to avoid those pitfalls that cause you to become vulnerable to getting hurt.

When you evaluate your level of EI, it is important to know that personal development increases levels of EI as you work towards overcoming those emotional triggers that hinder your emotional growth in certain areas. You will understand this further as you consider those factors contributing to high or low EI. The individual with a high level of EI will have high self-esteem that is reflected in their decisions and choices. They can demonstrate self-control that is necessary to experiencing joy and satisfaction in the environment in spite of environmental circumstances. An individual with a low level of emotional boundaries is susceptible to getting hurt because they have low self-esteem that impacts their feelings of self-worth. They view themselves as a failure compared to others and allow for blame and excuses to change their perspective towards life and others. In both cases, the theme of how one views him/herself determines who they will associate with and how they will experience their environment..thus the masquerade.

When considering sharing information to let people into your emotional space, you should recognize your choices of details to share and avoid relying on external validation when sharing information about yourself. Those individuals with a low emotional intelligence have the tendency of not setting appropriate boundaries out of the need to make emotional connections and form emotional attachments to other people. These individuals often reveal too much information too soon, at times, out of the need to accommodate others.The choice to share or avoid sharing information may be a choice based on two major fears that dictate their behavior. The fear of rejection causes these individuals to open up to others to accommodate them because they do not want for the other person to abandon them. They share all they can to compel the other party to develop feelings for them to stay connected in a relationship with them. The fear of confrontation causes the individual only to share information that is perceived to be agreeable to the other party to avoid disagreements. This individual will avoid all opportunities to share information that they perceive will result in a confrontation that may end the interaction or relationship.

The following are examples of how those with low levels of emotional maturity in setting personal boundaries will relate to others.

1. Co-Dependent Personality - This individual will allow for the moods of others to determine. Their emotions and the information they share. They do not know how to separate their personal feelings from the feelings of others. The individual may want to share their dislike for a particular activity or food, however; they will avoid disclosing this information to a person who may appear to be excited about it. They will give in to the fear of confrontation because they feel that it is the only way to maintain a connection with that individual.

2. People-Pleasing Personality - This person will set aside their personal goals, dreams, and ambitions to make others happy. They will operate from a fear of rejection. These individuals will not allow for others to come into their personal space because past experiences of letting people in had negative consequences. These individuals demonstrate the inability to set emotional boundaries that will allow for them to be themselves around others because they lack the confidence and personal assurance that others will appreciate them for who they are as a person.

3. The Scapegoat Personality - This individual will choose not to take responsibility for their bad experiences in relationships by believing that letting others into their emotional space is the reason for their feelings of disappointment, humiliation, or rejection. This individual may experience the sense of some form of psychological invasion when others desire to get into their emotional space because of feelings of guilt. The feelings of guilt brought on by previous encounters or experiences cause them to feel defenseless or desperate. Feelings of desperation and defenselessness trigger the desire to place the blame for their current emotional state on others instead of taking into account their personal stake in the situation.

Those with high emotional maturity know that self-respect is the guiding force that enhances their interaction with others in their environment. They know that the gradual sharing of information to let others into their emotional space should be the result of learning more about others. Protection of emotional space through continuous exchange of information limits intrusion by those who are not worthy of being a part of that area of their life. This is why those individuals with high emotional maturity will make determinations as to what to share based on what they learn from others. They know who can receive the information they have to share about themselves. Their self-confidence gives them the ability to make firm decisions and stand by them regardless of the decisions of others. Ultimately, the emotional boundaries set by those who are emotional mature empowers them to make healthy and responsible choices in their associations and who to allow in their emotional space.

Overall, the first step in letting others in through self-disclosure is to set personal boundaries that will enable you to grow in emotional maturity. Be conscious of your value system as you determine your comfort levels with each person that you encounter. Be confident in verbalizing your needs as you define your personal space. Set identifiable boundaries for yourself and others with consequences for minor infractions because these minor infractions can lead to significant intrusions to your emotional well-being. Do not be afraid to discontinue conversations, leave the area, or refuse to comment on topics that intrude on your emotional well-being. Stand your ground, being confident in knowing that your personal growth will enable you to grow in your comfort levels; however, if you are not there yet in your personal growth, know that it is alright, and you are on your way.

Check out Daring You to Be YOU! journals: Personal Development Begins From Within, Evaluating Boundaries, and Evaluating Relationships to reflect on your emotional growth.

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