How My Bruised Ego Kept Me from Being Vulnerable

by Janet Ong Zimmerman on 01/10/2017

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I was 38 and really liked the guy I was dating.  3 months into our relationship, he said, “I’d like to date other women, but still see you.”  Because I liked him a lot, the thought of being one of many women was hurtful.  My defenses caused me to say something like, “I’m sorry, that’s not going to work for me.”

My mind automatically imagined the worse.  But there was context behind his words that I wasn’t taking into consideration.  He was a few years younger than me, had recently moved out here from the Midwest, and a few months into our relationship, a female friend of his came out to visit him.  When I wasn’t invited to meet her, I tried to rationalize away the uneasy feelings inside of me.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream vs. strawberry ice cream

Then my mind immediately went to, “I must not be enough if he’s wanting to date other women.”  Maybe it was true that I wasn’t exactly what he was looking for, which I equated to not being enough.  In hindsight, the story I believed about me not being enough was more likely about him not wanting to get into a serious, committed relationship because of where he was in his life.

(Note: Just because you may not be exactly what a guy is looking for, it doesn’t mean you’re not enough.  It’s like this – he looking for mint chocolate chip ice cream and you’re strawberry ice cream.  Strawberry ice cream is still delicious.  He just prefers mint chocolate chip.)

So we stopped seeing each other and I was crushed.  I missed him every single day that we were apart, even on that fateful day when he called me 3 weeks later to see how I was doing.

He reappeared only to disappear for good

(Note: If you’ve been in that situation where a guy seemingly calls you out of the blue, it’s his way of trying to open the door to see you again.)

My bruised ego shut him down with, “It’s weird because when a relationship has ended, the guys I’ve been with always come back and want to go out again.”  I went off on a tangent and explained about the guy I was with before him and said, “Even if I wanted to golf with him (because he’s a good golfer), I couldn’t bring myself to call him because I don’t want to give him the wrong idea and to put him or myself in an awkward place.”  I gave too much detail.  As I was explaining, I wondered if he thought I was also referring to him when I said it’s weird because the people I have dated before have come back and wanted to go out again.

My bruised ego statement was my way of trying to preserve the hurt I’d felt when things ended.  And it was the last time we ever spoke.  As you can see, I didn’t handle that situation was grace and at the time, didn’t know how.

How I would have done that situation differently by being vulnerable from a place of self-love and self-worth

I would have set my ego aside and responded gracefully.  A gracious response would have been to keep the conversation positive and light to help open up the space for a meaningful dialogue to happen.  I would have said something like, “It’s so nice to hear from you.  I’m doing well and have been busy with _______.  How have you been?”

If I had realized he was trying to open the door to see me again, I would have listened to what he had to say instead of letting my bruised ego get in the way.  Had I done that, he may have said something like, “It’s great to hear your voice and speak with you.”  I would have said something like, “It’s wonderful to hear your voice too and I appreciate you letting me know how you’ve been.”  If he said he missed me, I would have said something like, “I really loved our time together.  There were so many wonderful things about you, our connection, and relationship…”.  Then I would have listened to his response.

The bottom line

If you find yourself in a difficult situation like mine, responding from ego will perpetuate the hurt.  Being open and vulnerable with your true thoughts and feelings will let things happen with more ease and grace.

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