Keeping him at arm's length - Idioms by The Free Dictionary
keep (one) at arm's length (redirected from keeping him at arm's length)
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.
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.
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.
References in classic literature
It was a duel of strategy now--the great, hairy man maneuvering to get inside my guard where he could bring those giant thews to play, while my wits were directed to the task of keeping him at arm's length
With Djibril Cisse in fine form for Al Gharafa in the ACL, Al Sadd were vigilant and that somewhat took the pace off the match as they appeared too focused on keeping him at arm's length