• Making Friends

Too guarded to get close

Published: April 29, 2015 | By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
A shy woman has trouble getting close to friends because she is too guarded.



I am a 36-year-old woman who is pregnant. I want to say that I have no friends but that is not true. I have two friends and a husband whom I love very much.

I am shy about meeting new people, especially in a large group. Although I am guarded, I am able to interact with people in a nice way but maintain my distance. I don’t truly know what they think of me.

I really seem to open up when I talk with someone one-on-one. However, in my past experience, when I do begin to interact one-on-one, they become too close for comfort and I begin to feel very uncomfortable. There have been many experiences of this in the past and I can’t explain why it happens. I enjoy talking to them in the work setting but I do not want to involve them in my personal life and feel so uncomfortable that I dread seeing them again.

Signed, Missy


Hi Missy,

It sounds like you are shy by nature. That means that getting close to people, especially in groups, is probably more difficult for you than it is for many others. You’re likely to be more self-conscious about what you say, how you act, and what people think about you than someone who isn’t shy.

Although, to a large extent, people are hard-wired to be more shy or outgoing, we can learn ways to modify our basic nature (personality). Since you have a husband and a couple of friends, it sounds like you have already mastered many friendship skills.

If you want to get close to some potential new friends, one way of doing so is by sharing intimacies with them. For example, you might want to tell something about your childhood, your home life, or your interests. However, you need to gauge whether this is a person (persons) whom you can trust. Especially in a work environment, it’s prudent not to reveal too much too soon and to be cautious about whom you reveal things to.

Limiting yourself to distant, arm’s-length relationships can be unsatisfying and, perhaps, that’s why you’ve written. To try this out, you could slowly test the waters and find one person with whom you feel comfortable enough to share a little bit more than you do now and see how that works out. Since you’re pregnant, finding a new mom friend might be very helpful and satisfying.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Do you ever feel uncomfortable getting close to new friends? What have you done to get over these feelings?

On Psychology Today – Making friends: Having trouble getting close

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Comments (9)

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  1. Tara says:

    Hi Missy,
    I can relate to your situation, I’m 35+ pregnant and at this moment in my life I have few friends and consider my husband my friend as well.

    I feel similarly when you mention feeling uncomfortable when someone opens up and this often happens when I am getting to know someone one to one. I don’t mean to equate our situations, I mean to share what may seem to be a similar situation? I have spent time exploring this uncomfortableness and also reading about feelings. The reason I felt uncomfortable was when someone overshares and there isn’t a solid basis of trust or intimacy, it generates a small fear signal. This is a sign that someone is ‘forcing’ intimacy rather than letting it naturally occur over time. I don’t believe (nor have I experienced) that one can force intimacy in a short amount of time. It doesn’t mean that I can’t develop a deeper friendship with them, rather I proceed with caution. I balance the energy I put in, like keeping the conversation going or asking the questions, I tend to look more for reciprocity, do they listen to my story, even if it isn’t a deeper story like the one they shared. “Proceed with caution” helps to keep my energy level in check without discarding the person as an unsuitable potential friend. I have found in a few situations that the initial fear signal was inaccurate about a person’s overall character.

    The other part, which may be applicable, is that I listen. I listen to other people without thinking of what to say next. I respond with follow up questions, etc. In such situations, people tend to overshare when they find someone who is willing to truly hear them. I have had to keep the amount of listening in check with reciprocity and assert my story to see if the person is capable of listening to my story as well.

    I wish you well in this and all the best with new addition to your family.


  2. Sarah Anne says:

    I have the same problem as I don’t want to get used and betrayed again, only to end up with no one.

  3. Kerry says:

    Missy, I wonder if you know Susan Crain’s book called Quiet? She offers a good bit of information about navigating life as an introvert — whether you see yourself as one or not. I found many of her insights helpful in understanding both my own thoughts and reactions and those of others, especially in the area of friendships. The subtitle of her book is the power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking 🙂

  4. Carol says:

    A good friend of mine’s husband just experienced cancer in his late 70’s. He is doing well now that the tumor was removed. They are getting ready to go on their first cruise to France to take part in the Normandy Invasion Celebration. Her comment to me was sometimes life is a “crap shoot.” I didn’t try to cheer every of them up….but allow whatever feelings they choose to express to me. Certainly finding friends with whom you can share all of life’s ups and downs takes time and energy. James Hollis’ book Creating a Life has been very helpful to me. Quoting him: “Hoping for luck and supplying patience and grace is a continuing task.” Always I wish for all of us attempting to find friends who are knowledgeable and experienced in how to be a true friend is an ongoing challenge. I wish you such strength.


  5. tanja says:

    Congratulations! I think this is true of many friendships. I am the same age and I as well feel that sometimes upon meeting people, I either say too much too soon or I don’t say enough and then it becomes awkward, finding that balance is hard, especially for a shy person.

    I wish I had advice to give, but, I am not sure myself. Do you talk to your husband about this? What does he say? Does he have the same problems in social interactions? Sometimes, I think it is worth it to practice with a friend or in the mirror on how to socialize. I feel my socialization is poor as well and being a stay at home mom, I don’t get a lot of practice. However, the one thing I have learned is that when I feel embarrassed about how a conversation went, I used to bang my head against the wall, but now, I shrug it off and say man it happened, move on, try better next time. Sometimes, I think that other person may not have even cared as much as I did.

  6. Amy F says:

    Since you have a husband and two close friends, you have the ability to experience emotional intimacy.

    When you meet a new potential friend, perhaps you’re opening up a bit too quickly for your comfort level, and the relationships speed of the intimacy feels overwhelming.

    Think about your recent relationships what have felt too close, and the times those relationships felt natural and comfortable. Then think about when you realized you felt suffocated. What happened between those two points that changed? When did you feel the first prickle of discomfort? You’ll probably realize the relationships didn’t go from easy to difficult over night, but that there was a of increasing uncertainty.

    If you concentrate on how you’re feeling with new people. Be present with your level of ease and mindful of when you feel tense about the closeness. Ask yourself, is this someone I want to know more about me? Do I want to feel closer to her? Do I want to wait to tell her more?

    You’re not going to have a lot of time for socializing once your baby comes, but you also have a great opportunity to meet other new moms through activities with your infant. Not every friend has to have the same emotional closeness. Friends can fill different roles with different levels of intimacy.

    Remember that you have had success with your husband and two friends, so you know how to do this.

  7. Laura says:

    Irene mentioned making friends with another expectant mother, good advice. I took prenatal aerobics when I was pregnant, got to know some other girls, who also ended up being in my childbirth class and in the hospital giving birth at the same time as me. We stayed in touch after having out babies and got together for outings. It was nice. This was back in the early 90s and eventually the group drifted as the kids got to preschool age. Year later, my son actually ended up friends with one of these “babies” in high school, and then also dated her. It was quite amazing when we realized the early life connection they shared.

  8. Carol says:

    Hello Missy, I used to have a very close friend whose name was Missy…I was 19 and in the Navy. Like many friends over the years, I have lost track of most of them. Today, I feel very fortunate to have one “best friend,” and many people I once was close with when I worked in education. As I look back over my life, I see how we make friendships, spend time in them and then maybe move or they move or the friendship just slips away over time. I think you are fortunate to have the close friends you do have right now, so as Irene suggests you obviously have the skills to be a friend to someone. Calling your husband a “friend,” made me smile. When couples are close friends also, it brightens the relationship and also provides a feeling of security. Welcoming a new life into your world will require lots of energy and time. May you enjoy every moment of happiness knowing the friends you do have will be there celebrating with you, your husband and all those who love you. When I walk around in my world and see new babies just beginning to walk and their mother’s, I always stop and talk with the mother. I could write a book of the stories they have shared with me. I am glad I am not afraid to make a friend even momentarily. Know you are on your path, enjoy it.


  9. Sandra says:

    Missy, I’m wondering if maybe you’re basically content with things as they are. You state at the top that you have a husband and two friends that you love. That’s wonderful — and it could be that it’s enough for you? You didn’t mention the level of closeness you have with the two friends you mention at the top, so maybe you are hoping to get closer to them?

    With so much talk these days about social media — and acquiring hundreds of friends and “followers” — a lot of us are duped into wondering *how many* friends are enough? Personally, I think a person is fortunate to have a couple of close and trusted friends to confide in, and enjoy the company of the rest of a less intimate level.

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