Growing up in a conservative household, I was raised to believe that women should keep their thoughts, feelings, and opinions to themselves. Because of this, I struggled to communicate with people in a productive way as an adult. Here are some ways that being bad at opening up has ruined way too many of my relationships.
- The only emotion I was ever OK with displaying was anger. Anger was easy and a valid emotion to express. The other feelings I had were always shoved into the background or considered inappropriate. So when it became necessary to open up to a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past, I found myself clamming up or just getting angry instead. The result? No one thought I took any relationship seriously.
- All of the bottled up emotions made my anger harder to control. I was terrible at speaking up when something bothered me. I kept every little irritating thing an S.O. would do under lock and key until it burst out of me in an angry, crazy rant. It was like being in a relationship with a ticking time bomb and I couldn’t blame them for not sticking around. Back then, I wouldn’t have wanted to be with me either.
- Realizing my self-destructive ways only made it worse. I was in some crazy denial for years. I didn’t want to believe that I was to blame for my relationships failing even though it was pretty obvious. It was always the other person who didn’t listen (and by that, I meant wasn’t psychic, because it’s not like I was talking). No one understood me and it hurt. But it’s not like I was actually making any real attempt to let anyone in. It was a long time before I came to terms with my own flaws and put any real work into changing.
- I lost friends as well as partners. While no one wants a partner that won’t express their emotions in a healthy way, people don’t want friends who have anger management issues either. Who wants a friend who can go from smiling to Hulk smash in less than 30 seconds with no warning? Almost no one, for sure. While a lot of my friends stuck it out because they’re saints, there were many that ended up dropping me for more emotionally stable friends and I can’t blame them.
- I felt like crap about it but still didn’t stop. Having a problem you can do nothing about sucks. However, having a problem that you know you can fix if you work at it or see a therapist yet you refuse to do anything about because you always have an excuse ready is a great way to make yourself absolutely miserable. I was to blame for everything going wrong in my love life but I wasn’t dealing with it in a productive way. I blamed it on others and made myself unhappy instead.
- It became a habit, and old habits die hard. Even to this day, after almost a decade of trying to fix myself, I still have relapses when I’m stressed or haven’t slept well. My partner is very understanding and tries really hard to be patient with my weird outbursts, but I still feel like crap after bottling up my emotions and then going crazy at the next thing that goes wrong.
- It makes arguing productively a chore. Arguments are almost unavoidable even in the healthiest of relationships. Arguing productively is super difficult and requires a lot of tact, thoughtfulness, and no knee-jerk reacting with anger or spite. Being a bad communicator made arguments 1,000 times worse. How could I effectively tell someone what was wrong and what we should do to fix it when I was angry at my own emotions? Making arguments work in my favor is something I’ve always had to work hard at.
- I never had the right words anyway. Even when I was trying to express my emotions properly, I never felt like I could convey how I felt in a way that would make another human understand. It was like trying to speak in a foreign language that I barely knew. Words like “unhappy” and “sad” didn’t seem to properly convey what I was feeling. The process always ended up being just frustrating for both me and the person I was trying to communicate with.
- I spent more time than I should have being silent. Keeping my emotions to myself was standard procedure, so when I was sexually harassed at work, I kept silent, uncomfortable and unhappy. I never brought it to HR. When I was being emotionally abused by a boyfriend, I kept it to myself, never telling anyone. I kept it all in, even though keeping it myself made me really unhappy. Being a bad communicator not only ruined my relationships with others but also kind of ruined my relationship with myself too. Thankfully, I’m finally working on repairing the damage.