I’m not exactly sure when I decided it was best to keep my emotions to myself but it was long before I’d even developed any real relationships with men. What I had done was observe enough instances of my friends pouring their hearts out to men who trampled over those words without a second thought that I decided that it would never be me. I’d never let someone else see they had that much power and control over me, and I would hide those emotions as best I could. For the most part that practice suited me well with causal hook ups and men who probably didn’t care how much I was feeling them anyway, but when I look at some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve had, I’m finding my partners never really thought I cared in the first place. And by refusing to open up too much, I closed them out in a lot of ways.

Before the New Year my ex called me out the blue. We hadn’t spoken in nearly a year and a half, and as exes typically do, when they resurrect themselves from the dead he wanted to relay what I had meant to him and take responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship. As I sat there getting my ego stroked I replayed thoughts in my head about all the things I loved about him and wanted to say but couldn’t give him the satisfaction of hearing. So I settled on a nonchalant, “Yeah, I really loved you too,” voiced slightly above whisper register. As sorry as that response was, it was pretty big for me and he must have sensed it too, because as I managed to speak a little bit on the traumatization that was our breakup, he hit me with, “I’m shocked. I never really thought you cared.”

Part of me caught a slight attitude, thinking, why do you think I did so much for you and tolerated so much from you if I didn’t care. But if I was being real with myself, it wasn’t the first time I had heard that. Just a couple years before I had gotten into an argument with a guy I was talking to because I found out he wasn’t upfront about seeing other women. In the midst of my angry rant—the one emotion I am comfortable showing—he basically said the same thing: “Why are you mad? You never really cared about me that much anyway.” At the time I dismissed his words as a bogus excuse not to accept responsibility for his dishonesty, but as I continue to see this pattern of reaction when I’m having what I consider a soft moment, I’m starting to realize I might actually be the one who’s on one.

For the longest time I’ve lived my love life by two rules: men don’t have emotions and it’s not necessary.

I usually say the latter when I’m being questioned about why I can’t just say how I feel about someone or something and I typically back it up with, “There’s nothing cute about vulnerability.”

My best friend, who is the total opposite of me, always asks, “Don’t you just want to get it off your chest and be honest about how you’re feeling?”

My response? “No.”

“Why not?”

Because it’s not necessary. And by necessary I mean I don’t think me putting everything out on the line would serve any bigger purpose than an ego stroke—and that is simply not the business I’m in. Once I was asked if it would kill me to be the first one to pick up the phone every day and let him know I was thinking about him. I said, no, I wouldn’t die, but a piece of my pride would. But in case you didn’t know, there’s little room for pride in love.

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  • Nickey B.

    I felt like a page was ripped right out of my notebook! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m learning to find balance.

  • LemonNLime

    This article really speaks to me. I was very much the same, guarded and indifferent because I was not going to allow someone to use my emotions to take advantage of me. The difference was I wasn’t that way with my friends so the great guy I was seeing, saw that I could be open, sincere, and emotional with friends and family but not him and that hurt him a lot.

    After that and dealing with a sad lonely death of a family friend (she died alone, no one was looking for her, and she was an ice queen times like 5) I decided I needed help on working this so I went to therapy. It has been great and very helpful and learning to swim has been good therapy too. I’ve learned when I have some sense of control in a relationship I can open up and be more emotional just like in the shallow end I have control because if I’m scared I can just stand. Being in romantic relationships is like being in the deep end, there is nothing below you and while you can control your actions you can’t control the water so you have to relax and open yourself to working with the water rather than against it. That doesn’t mean you can’t be scared or cautious but don’t avoid it out of fear.

    • Ocean Blue

      Your comment makes me kind of sad. How did your friend die and why do you think she was an ‘Ice Queen’ (What in her life made her that way?)

    • LemonNLime

      She has a massive heart attack in her home and no one noticed she was missing. She didn’t have a lot of friend and didn’t really interact with collegues. I say she was an ice queen because of the way she carried herself. She was kind but you would never get that from her. She was very negative and critical of those around her, she was married and divorced quickly from a many who only wanted her money, for her it seemed like everything was a burden including many of the people in her life because they couldn’t live up to her standards.

      While I am no where near that, it did show me what can happen if you don’t open up and take chances. It was a sad way to learn a lesson but it is a lesson I am very happy to have learned.

    • LemonNLime

      Please excuse the typos!

    • Ocean Blue

      That’s so sad.

  • Jen

    Damn, I really thought this was just me. I grew up watching women being completely dominated by men. And they were miserable. I promised myself that would never be me without realizing I was cutting myself off from what makes love truly special. I denied myself the joy of experiencing emotions both positive and negative. By doing so, I stunted my growth. Now I am in the fight of my life to save my marriage to the man of my dreams…literally. He is the first man I ever considered marrying and having a family with…and that was 5 years before we started dating. And he doesn’t even know that, the last boyfriend before my husband broke up with via a voicemail. In it he said he now understood how women felt in a relationship with a man that never expresses their emotions. He couldn’t believe that I gave a damn when my cards were so close to my chest they seemed non-existent.

  • LizabethDear

    Wow. Never thought I would relate to an article this much. Just recently broke up with my ex even after I thought I was being good about showing more emotions, but it apparently wasn’t enough and was leading him into insanity.