hold (one) at arm's length

(redirected from holds them at arm's length)

hold (one) at arm's length

To keep one at a certain distance away, either physical or figurative, in order to afford a level of safety or security or to prevent intimacy. John always holds his friends at arm's length, so that no one gets close enough to hurt his feelings. My daughter likes to watch me cook, but I make sure to hold her at arm's length so she doesn't get close to anything hot.
See also: hold, length
References in classic literature ?
The bishop looked anxiously at the man sobbing in the ingle-nook.
Carey's prose simultaneously pulls readers into the world of his creation and holds them at arm's length, dangling them in the air above this world, to demonstrate the wonder he has created.