When I was a young girl I was a very emotional person. I had no shame in saying or feeling anything that came to me. I was often labeled “too emotional” by many family members especially my older brothers – although they were just trying to get out of trouble for the endless teasing. Fights ended quickly in our home because I would just start crying and it would be a matter of seconds before one of my parents was yelling at the boys. The benefits of being the baby sister. But nonetheless, I was comfortable feeling and over expressing emotion when I…felt like it.
Somehow as I became an adult that emotional girl started to diminish. Some of it was just growing out of adolescence and learning how to control those emotions. But somewhere along the years I started to see emotion as a negative response to most things. As my relationship with the X progressed it was heightened even more. I was always being told that my feelings were wrong. I was just being dramatic. Overreacting. Misinterpreting. It was always something that meant what I was saying was not to be taken seriously. I translated that to mean when I am emotional I am not taken seriously. Along those marital years I started to learn how to deal with my feelings privately and throw on a smile to others. At the very least it was a shrug followed by “it is what it is” or my favorite, “whatever, it doesn’t matter”. I lived comfortably this way and felt it was easier than justifying my feelings all the time.
Although I am out of that relationship and away from the emotional abuse I still feel the need to protect myself. The walls I have built have come in handy when fighting an ugly custody battle or during the dreaded custody hand-off. It certainly helped me pull through my father’s illness and when he passed away so I could stay strong for my mother. I handle any tough conversation thrown at me at work (and there are plenty) with ease. Even my boss will tell me, “if you’re worried, then I know to be worried” as she compliments how well I do under pressure. This protective barrier has proved well in my dating life as well. I am able to get to know someone enough without completely opening up or showing a vulnerable side. It makes for a quick and easy exit when it doesn’t work out. And certainly once I realize it’s not working out I expedite the process and even more walls go up. It’s been a beautiful plan so far. And now it’s all shot to hell!
I have been seeing a couple different men the past few months but there is one that I noticed pretty early on that seemed different. He fits the bill not only on paper, but in person too. I somehow trust him in almost no time and am able to open up about things even my closest friends don’t know about me. I try to have the walls up and for whatever reason, I can’t explain it, they come down in his presence. He claims to have seen these walls, but he has no idea what my guarded self really looks like. And the fact that we have conversations like this! Ugh, I’m in trouble. I now have told him exactly how I feel about him. It took me about an hour to spit it out and I thought I might pass out once the words finally came through. But I did it. No walls. Look at me…self improvement….
Followed by self doubt. And feeling totally exposed. I didn’t have an agenda when opening up. I’m still not even sure what I want. I thought that when I was ready to finally open up to someone again it would be great. I would feel happy and secure and in love again. But instead I feel just as much hurt as I did when I put the walls up. Even though I received what I think is a positive response to my out pour of emotion it still made me wildly uncomfortable. I feel like I am walking around with this big arrow pointing to my heart and a sign that says CRUSH ME!
So now that I have this horrible sensation of feeling things again, I have to figure out what to do with it. I try to remind myself that I was hurt just about as badly a person can be. I was already guarded and I still got hurt. And I did not die. I actually turned out better. So who cares right? So what if I get hurt? And think of what the alternative looks like. Shallow meaningless nuances from time to time? Fun, but not fulfilling. Settling for someone I don’t have a deep connection with? Sounds incredibly mediocre. So that doesn’t work either.
While I still don’t have faith in lasting relationships (one step at a time here) I have to at least understand that in order to have a good one, I need to let that guard down. I have to not be afraid to be vulnerable. It might suck when it’s over, but it just might be worth it.