keep (one) at arm's length

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keep (one) at arm's length

To keep one a certain distance away, either physical or figurative, in order to afford a level of safety or security or to prevent intimacy. John always keeps 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 keep her at arm's length so she doesn't get close to anything hot.
See also: keep, length

keep someone at arm's length

If you keep someone at arm's length, you avoid being friendly with them or getting emotionally involved with them. Brian felt more guilt than grief. He'd tried to get close, but his father had kept him at arm's length.
See also: keep, length, someone

keep someone or something at arm's length

avoid intimacy or close contact with someone or something.

keep somebody at arm’s ˈlength

avoid becoming too friendly with somebody: He’s the kind of man who’s best kept at arm’s length.
See also: keep, length, somebody
References in periodicals archive ?
No, I think the best I can do is keep at arm's length, enabling these remarkable, passionate, 'been there, done that' people to do their stuff.
Think about separating people you like from those you need to keep at arm's length. Although you're a caring sign, you also need to be cared for, so you have to focus in the right place.
Another feature equally appreciated is the laid-back attitude of the local police.L TIME was when political parties were banned from having stands on the Eisteddfod field, as the festival attempted to keep at arm's length from politics.
But his second half substitute appearance has rekindled his desire to keep at arm's length makers of quiz programmes and chat shows for a little while longer.
No longer was betting part of the `sin industry' for the Government to keep at arm's length, yet profit from.
It was the Victorian father method, designed to keep at arm's length rowdy children, who might have occasionally wanted a bit of affection too, but never got it.