The people we fall in love with attain an authority something like that of a sniper. They can attack at any time, without warning or the alarming sound of their approaching footsteps. You just stand there with a blissful smile and ignorant sense of safety. Your guard is down, your heart is open... and just like that, you get hit.
It's terrifying. Vulnerability is a beautiful and invigorating feeling of free-falling into the unknown, watching the crumbling walls of defense descend around you. A guarded stance doesn't develop overnight. It's a long process of disappointment and betrayal. It's a wound that gets stronger every time it heals from being ripped back open.
Guarded people don't hide the deeper parts of themselves because they want to create frustration; they hide them because they've shown them before and been hurt. Somewhere along the line, love let them down. They don't love any less -- they just love with caution. They make it challenging to get into their heart, because they know only the ones willing to fight for that are worth the risk. They're remarkable people, hidden under a shield only penetrated by the love they want to believe in.
It isn't easy for a guarded heart to fall in love with you. They're strong. They're comfortable on their own. A guarded person falls in love not with romantic gestures or words, but with actions. They've been swayed by false promises far too many times, and don't have a tolerance for manipulation. They aren't going to show you every part of who they are until they trust you, and they aren't going to trust you easily. Don't be discouraged. Don't blame them. They want to confide in you with every part of their being, but they've been rejected and let down enough to know that that is the one way to be hurt.
If you only let someone see certain parts of you, when they leave it doesn't sting as much as knowing they knew all of who you were and still decided to walk away. So a guarded person falls in love in steps. They start small and watch your reactions like a wide-eyed child. They start to believe you when you say you aren't going to hurt them. They start to trust you, because you prove yourself to be loyal and kind. They start to confide in you, because each time they reveal something vulnerable, you open your arms and say, "I love you, and nothing could ever change that."
They fall in love with you in the way that you want someone to love you. It isn't frivolous or lustful. It isn't selfish. It's real. It's real because you stayed long enough to see the heart of a person you knew was worth every step of the way. It's real because they trust and appreciate you in a deep and fulfilling way that satisfies a part of your heart you never knew existed. It's real because you were the person worth showing the naked, beautiful truth of a human being who had been scared by those who didn't deserve their trust. It's real because you, and only you, are worth that free-fall into the unknown.
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