During the early part of my healing journey, I struggled with overcorrecting when setting boundaries. As soon as I recognised something similar to one of my past bad dating experiences, I was out of there. One time, a guy I had been casually seeing for a few months made a joke that instantly took me back to an experience I’d had with someone else. Without hesitation, I deleted his number and blocked him.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I get a “hey” text. It turns out I only blocked him on WhatsApp and forgot to block his number completely. I responded, “who is this?” which suggested I no longer had his number saved. His next message let me know he was surprised I didn’t have his number saved anymore, and he was confused about what he did that was so wrong to make me delete his number.
I didn’t respond right away, but after I gave it some thought, I realised he would have no way of knowing why that joke offended me the way that it did or why I reacted the way I did. I explained that I blocked him because of the joke he’d made. I explained why it upset me and let him know it was because of something from my past. He apologised immediately and told me he wouldn’t have made a joke like that had he known. He also reassured me he’d never want to do anything to hurt me.
I ended the conversation by telling him I accepted his apology but thought we should cool things off. We reconnected a few months later, and he was a completely different person. He was gentler, and his jokes, which used to be quite dark-humoured, were milder. I later realised he was the only man who’d ever apologised for hurting me and changed his behaviour after the fact rather than hurting me the same way again.
That experience taught me the importance of communicating and allowing people to make it right when something they’ve done hurts you. But my initial response of deleting and blocking him was a defence mechanism.
“When you see anything that resembles something hurtful to you, you run because you feel like you can't go through it again. To recognise when something might be a trigger for you and to acknowledge it, you have to forgive yourself for it first. Then you can process the feelings attached to that previous event and talk about them with the person you are currently going through the situation with,” says licensed therapist and mental health counsellor Wale Okerayi M.ED., M.A., LMHC, LPC.