AM I TOO MUCH TO HANDLE?
I went shopping with my girlfriend and a few of her friends a week ago and had a great time. At least I thought it was a great time. I'd never met these friends of hers before and we all packed into a car then drove to an outlet mall an hour away. On the ride, there we listened to music, chatted, and I felt like I was really getting to know her friends. Then we went shopping, grabbed food, the usual stuff. When my girlfriend dropped me off at home she was kind of cold and I didn't know why, but I just ignored it and thought maybe she was tired. When I saw her a couple days later, she broke it off with me and told me I was too self-centered. I was very taken back, and still am, because this came out of nowhere! I honestly don't think I'm self-centered at all and no one has ever told me that before. When I asked her what she was talking about she told me that it's something that has been on her mind for a while but apparently when we went shopping it all came out. She told me that I didn't let her friends talk at all, that I totally controlled the entire day, and that her friends thought I was out of my mind. I was literally dead silent when she told me this because I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought the day had been perfect and her she was telling me that everything I thought was wrong. I'm kind of hurt because I really liked her, but it had honestly only been a couple months. BUT, what I'm more afraid of is that she's right? Was my entire perception of the day off? Am I super self-centered and don't know it? If this is what's going on, I want to know because that isn't someone I want to be. Or, is she just not into me and used this as a reason to end it??
First, one thing that I loved hearing in your e-mail was that it's only been a couple months and you're not very distraught over it ending. It's honestly very rational and not always the easiest for people when they are feeling emotionally charged.
Second, there is nothing wrong with you. You stated this is the first time someone has ever told you this, so maybe it's just her opinion. We just aren’t going to like every single person we meet and that's ok. There is no reason she has to like you, or your personality. If you like yourself, then fuck it and fuck her. But, if this really bothers you, as it sounds like it might... there are some things you can do to find out. This situation is oddly similar to one I've been in myself and I 100% understand what you're going through. A few years ago, I dated someone briefly who told me essentially the same things as she seems to have told you. The way I handled it is I did some investigating. I asked a few friends about it and I got some mixed responses. Some people told me I was a good listener and some people told me that I wasn't, but that it was just part of who I was and that's fine. For me, that wasn't what I wanted to hear or who I wanted to be. So, I did some training and worked on listening better, asking other people questions, and not trying to continually interject my own thoughts, opinions, and stories. Now, I actually feel more confident in conversations and less like I need to entertain everyone. This worked for me, but it's entirely up to you if you want to investigate or not. Here are some tips on how to make a conversation about someone else (even if you really are the more interesting one, and sometimes that's just the truth).
1. Ask open-ended questions. This is key to every conversation in life. An open-ended question is one that requires more of a response than "yes" or "no". For example, suppose you're on a first date and want to ask someone where they grew up. A CLOSED-ENDED question would be "Did you grow up in XXXXX?" The response options are likely either "yes" or "no". A more open-ended question would be "where did you grow up?" However, even though this requires more than a yes or no response, it is still limiting. An open-ended question that might lead to conversation with the other person leading would be "What was it like where you grew up?" One thing I generally recommend to people who want to try this out is to write down the things they might want to know about someone and then write a question about how to obtain that information. Then, looking at the question, make sure it's open and not closed. This takes a good amount of work, especially if you're used to being the "entertainer".
2. Reflect back what people have said to you. Instead of just following up their response with another question, reflect back a part of what they've said that you'd like to hear more about. Going back to the first example, imagine their response was something like, "I grew up on farm in Iowa about 20 miles away from any sort of town." You could respond with "Oh, you grew up on a farm." This will likely send the message to the other person that you'd like to know more about what their experience was like on the farm, and it also tells them you're listening to what they're saying.
3. If you really want to dig deep and make some changes, go to a therapist that specializes in social skills training. Yes, there are therapists whose jobs are to make people better in social situations. It's extremely challenging, but also a lot of fun, and a great way to learn a ton about yourself.