Being Open to Love While Protecting Your Heart

It is possible to do both, at the same time.

It seems almost impossible, to be vulnerable while also feeling safe. The very definition of vulnerability entails a level of defenselessness. In order to truly experience love, we have to be open. We have to surrender the control that pride and ego wish to maintain in favor of offering the most honest, authentic version of ourselves. How can we do such a thing while also protecting our hearts from abuse? I believe the answer is not in seeking to withhold anything in an attempt to avoid disappointment, but in practicing selective engagement.

When you value something, you’re choosy about who is allowed to garner possession. It’s not community property that anyone can have or use. You definitely don’t continue giving it to the person who has already caused considerable damage. There are standards in place and enforced as to how it is to be cared for.

Nothing is valuable if not our hearts. As the saying goes, everything that we do flows from it. Our outlook on life, our vitality, demeanor, state of mind, mental and emotional well-being, and the way that we treat others stems from the condition of our hearts. If it’s not right, nothing else will be.

We can’t just entrust our hearts to everyone who comes into our lives in hopes that they’ll love us and treat it kindly. There is nothing wrong with having some sort of vetting process. Really get to know people before handing over something so precious. Learn about their character, their intentions and how they’ve treated past lovers. Find out if the two of you are even compatible. Then, most importantly, act accordingly. That’s not holding back or being closed off to possibility — it’s just doing your due diligence. Practicing restraint, not resistance. If we handle our own hearts carelessly, others will too.

There is the type of protection that says I’m going to shelter you from harm and make sure that no one and nothing can get to you. Then there is protection that says I’m going to keep you safe from my own insecurities. I’m going to stand up for you. I’m going to fight for you. I’ll let people in that I’ve deemed worthy, but I won’t allow anyone to stay who doesn’t respect you or causes needless, constant sorrow. That is the way we are to guard our hearts. That is the way we remain open to love while doing so.

Rather than build walls that ultimately keep out both joy and pain, accept each as it comes. Because each will come regardless. None of us enjoy being hurt. Yet, even in our most secluded places and despite our best-laid plans, hurt manages to find us. When we acknowledge this reality, we understand that we really can’t protect against heartache. We can, however, cut down on its frequency and the instances of our suffering needlessly.

As is everything else in life, this concept is about balance. Being extreme on either side will lead to self-deprivation or exploitation by others as far as our hearts are concerned. We should aim to be somewhere in the middle — open to love, giving ourselves the time and opportunity to cultivate love, yet honest with ourselves when love does not and cannot exist. Our hearts deserve it.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.”

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