You Can’t Protect Yourself And Fall In Love At The Same Time—And That’s Okay

Who can forget the poetic “Breakfast at Tiffany's'' scene where Paul (George Peppard) passionately fights for the love of Holly (Audrey Hepburn) out in the pouring rain? Perhaps this scene has remained in our memories because it’s so painfully true.

By Melody Rose3 min read
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“You’re chicken. You’ve got no guts,” he tells her. “You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say ‘Okay, life’s a fact.’ People do fall in love. People do belong to each other. Because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness. You call yourself a free spirit, a wild thing. And you’re terrified somebody’s going to stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas or on the east by Somaliland, it’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”

People Do Belong to Each Other

As a society that’s moving further and further away from lasting, committed relationships it seems as if we may be in the process of constructing our own cages. With the rise of the “independent girlboss,” the “sexually free,” the shaming of “toxic masculinity,” and the “swipe to find fleeting entertainment until you get bored,” it’s as if love is being diminished to nothing more than a passing nod, much less an essential element of human happiness. This is why it’s of dire importance to reflect on Paul’s words now more than ever.

I’ll admit, I fell into this mainstream rhetoric in my early 20s. You get your heart broken once, and all you want to do is protect yourself from it ever happening again. Pair that with the booming age of the “independent girlboss” and you quickly find yourself pointing fingers at men for being your source of unhappiness. As a result, you lock your heart away and never look back, foolishly convincing yourself that isolation is the path to joy, success, and freedom. As this scene reminds us, this is a wildly deceptive belief that does nothing more than move us further away from what we truly desire – healthy love. I can attest to that. Pushing people away and building walls is a sure way to stay unhappy and unfulfilled.

Pushing people away and building walls is a sure way to stay unhappy and unfulfilled.

This isn’t to say women can’t be independent, they for sure can. In fact, being independent by its very definition – “free from outside control”is always an admirable quality in any person in order to transcend co-dependency and fully express your thoughts, emotions, and needs with maturity. 

It’s society’s script that you have to trade in one for the other, that you can’t have independence and commitment, that causes us to sacrifice of true love and happiness. And that’s where many people find themselves, in the shoes of Holly: Declaring self-proclaimed independence yet not independent enough to take responsibility for their own healing and their own experiences. Instead of escaping “outside control,” people locked in this mindset operate solely from outside control with a victim mentality, believing everything is happening to them and there’s nothing they can do about it.

The truth is, we have full permission to turn any experience into our greatest blessing (yes, even the ones that feel impossible to come back from). We have the power to transform our broken hearts into the most amazing romances of our lifetime. And we have the full capability to learn our lessons and find love again. With the tears streaming down Holly’s face as Paul recited these words, you can tell she’s having a similar epiphany. A moment of “Why am I holding myself back from the very thing I want in an attempt to get what I want?” We cannot love honestly until we’re courageous enough to own our past, show up fully in our present, and surrender the need to always be in suffocating control of our future.

Every man’s greatest underlying fear is “Do I have what it takes?” and every woman’s greatest underlying fear is “Am I worth it?”

As for Paul in this scene, my heart gushed at his confident, healthy display of masculinity. A man who can read a woman, challenge her through tough love without demeaning her, and put in the work instead of immediately moving “onto the next one” is purely refreshing.

I once heard it said that every man’s greatest underlying fear is “Do I have what it takes?” and every woman’s greatest underlying fear is “Am I worth it?” If you look at how this shadow-side manifests in the male-female romantic dynamic, then you can see how the dominating “independent girlboss” archetype and a loss of true masculinity can threaten the flow of this sacred connection. To empower the male and female exchange, it’s vital to validate a woman’s worth and create space for the man to provide and protect. Despite society’s misconception, there’s a way to honor this ebb and flow of energy without having to sacrifice who you authentically are, as it’s not about hiding yourself to succumb to someone else’s needs – it’s about mutually respecting each other's needs to strengthen a relationship.

Closing Thoughts

In whatever ways you’ve been locking yourself away in a cage of your own creation, hopefully this scene has motivated you to escape. Leading life from the heart is the only way to ensure you find happiness. Paul is right, people do belong together. That’s the nature of humanity. The more we run from this truth, the further away we get from attaining it. So allow yourself to remain open to all opportunities – the opportunity to love, the opportunity to get your heart broken, and the opportunity to discover yourself more deeply from it and love again.

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