Confessions of an Ice Queen

by Brande Victorian

I’m not exactly sure when I decided it was best to keep my emotions to myself but it was long before I’d even developed any real relationships with men. What I had done was observe enough instances of my friends pouring their hearts out to men who trampled over those words without a second thought that I decided that it would never be me. I’d never let someone else see they had that much power and control over me, and I would hide those emotions as best I could. For the most part that practice suited me well with causal hook ups and men who probably didn’t care how much I was feeling them anyway, but when I look at some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve had, I’m finding my partners never really thought I cared in the first place. And by refusing to open up too much, I closed them out in a lot of ways.

Before the New Year my ex called me out the blue. We hadn’t spoken in nearly a year and a half, and as exes typically do, when they resurrect themselves from the dead he wanted to relay what I had meant to him and take responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship. As I sat there getting my ego stroked I replayed thoughts in my head about all the things I loved about him and wanted to say but couldn’t give him the satisfaction of hearing. So I settled on a nonchalant, “Yeah, I really loved you too,” voiced slightly above whisper register. As sorry as that response was, it was pretty big for me and he must have sensed it too, because as I managed to speak a little bit on the traumatization that was our breakup, he hit me with, “I’m shocked. I never really thought you cared.”

Part of me caught a slight attitude, thinking, why do you think I did so much for you and tolerated so much from you if I didn’t care. But if I was being real with myself, it wasn’t the first time I had heard that. Just a couple years before I had gotten into an argument with a guy I was talking to because I found out he wasn’t upfront about seeing other women. In the midst of my angry rant—the one emotion I am comfortable showing—he basically said the same thing: “Why are you mad? You never really cared about me that much anyway.” At the time I dismissed his words as a bogus excuse not to accept responsibility for his dishonesty, but as I continue to see this pattern of reaction when I’m having what I consider a soft moment, I’m starting to realize I might actually be the one who’s on one.

For the longest time I’ve lived my love life by two rules: men don’t have emotions and it’s not necessary.

I usually say the latter when I’m being questioned about why I can’t just say how I feel about someone or something and I typically back it up with, “There’s nothing cute about vulnerability.”

My best friend, who is the total opposite of me, always asks, “Don’t you just want to get it off your chest and be honest about how you’re feeling?”

My response? “No.”

“Why not?”

Because it’s not necessary. And by necessary I mean I don’t think me putting everything out on the line would serve any bigger purpose than an ego stroke—and that is simply not the business I’m in. Once I was asked if it would kill me to be the first one to pick up the phone every day and let him know I was thinking about him. I said, no, I wouldn’t die, but a piece of my pride would. But in case you didn’t know, there’s little room for pride in love.

  • Ocean Blue

    No one has ever called me an “Ice Queen”, at least not to my face. I have been called mean and/or cold.

    The inability to express my emotions verbally comes from two things:

    1. Being indifferent and not experiencing the range of emotions others have because I never had the chance to learn them thanks to my father who made many empty promises and always disappointed me and my mother who emotionally and verbally abused me. She physically abused me too, but the emotional and verbal abuse hurts a lot more.

    2. Being quite the introvert and only expressing myself when I feel it is absolutely necessary.

    *Doesn’t everyone want to feel needed in some way? You know, I find it interesting when people point out that men like to and need to feel needed, but then so many of them turn their backs on their children, people who need them the most.

  • Chiki

    this is MY LIFE…I always wanna be in a relationship but my pride doesn’t allow me. I think my problem is that I have manifested my friends’ feelings and heartbreak so much that I don’t ever wanna feel what they’ve felt. It pained me to see them feel that way and I know it’ll pain myself to feel such hurt with my own heartbreak (which according to many, its bound to happen). Admittedly, I’m scared. But I wanna feel needed and belong its part of the self-actualization triangle.

    Thank you Ms. Brande!

  • MarloweOverShakespeare

    “I’ve always felt like I’ll show my softer side when someone gives me a reason, but I’m finding that if I don’t start to open up sooner rather than later I may not ever have one.”

    This sounds like a very hopeless, ambivalent thought. One that I certainly can’t be thinking for myself. You’re singlehood is for YOUR personal growth, to figure out who you are, what needs to go and what needs to develop. And you show some self-reflection here:

    “I knew I had a serious problem when I felt some sort of pride at his reaction, thinking, good I didn’t blow my cover—until he said even when he told me he loves me as I friend I responded with silence.”

    I think it’s a little dangerous to forfeit an essence of who you are just to have a relationship. On the other hand,

    “..there’s little room for pride in love.”

    Nope, 1 Corinthians says it too. Pride gets IN THE WAY! You really can’t fall deeper than being in “like” when you guard your heart (after the necessary trial stages of the relationship when reserving emotions is a good strategy). You must be secure, confident and strong enough to be vulnerable with a partner to be able to take your bond to the next level.

    I really love this comment here:

    “Truthfully, I made a lot of progress in my last relationship and finally understood that men do need to feel needed, but when everything went to hell my mentality went right back to where it’s always been.”

    I feel you girl, as in my last relationship I also made progress (who knew I could be so patient?). But in growth and reflection now, I just try to be a little smarter, while keeping it real with myself and whoever comes my way. I can’t look at my transparency as a flaw (out of pride) but out of acceptance of how God made me and a tool he’ll use to mold me into the woman I’m meant to be. And a man is going to have to take the real me as I am or have nothing at all.

    Winners take ALL.

    Have a blessed day Clutch!

  • dudeinthemidwest

    Men don’t always turn there backs on there children, they turn there backs on the women attached to those children. In most cases the child can’t be separated from the woman so the child does get left out.

    I have seen this happen with my brother. He did everything his wife asked, but it was never good enough for her, so now he has trouble seeing and visiting his kids because he would prefer not to deal with her because she makes things difficult.

  • niki

    Wow did we grow up in the same house? lol The only thing different was my husband told me that and I got so pissed. I wasn’t upset that he was honest with me but that he had the nerve to tell me to my face. I needed to hear it though because I was just repeating how my own mother is. I didn’t want that for myself so it’s a work in progress. I’m pretty much like the author also.

    Especially growing up you couldn’t show emotions. My mother saw it as a weakness and would pounce on it like a pit bull to the face. So I learned to stay guarded at all times. I’m learning that its okay to let go but its still new to me so I’m working on it. I’m also learning that with that vulnerability, I can’t change what and how people act. People are human and they make mistakes and it sucks to get hurt. I can only change how I react to it. God is showing me that one step at a time.

  • mamareese

    Why not be a woman in control of her emotions? There are some women that are not full of emotion and ready to cry at a dime. Doesn’t make you an ice queen…..some would say it makes you in touch with the importance of people and the balance of life. But if you are just pressing down things you’d prefer to say and don’t….oh girl let that mess right on out….aint healthy holding it in.

  • Jenn

    @ dudeinthemidwest

    “…so now he has trouble seeing and visiting his kids because he would prefer not to deal with her because she makes things difficult.”

    I’ve heard this statement many times before. While it explains a father’s reasons for not seeing his child, it does not excuse it or make it acceptable.

    IMHO, when men say this, what they are really saying to their child is “You mom is a huge b***h who makes me go through hell to see you. I’ve finally decided that you’re simply not worth it.”

  • Appletree

    This is me in every way

  • willow

    Yup. I relate. I tried opening up once before and It was every bit of pain that I thought it would be. No I realize that I could have opened up to the wrong person and I also realize that we can attract certain situations…especially since I expected to be hurt I was…

    Even in all that I want a relationship but I am pretty much terrified.

  • OSHH

    I think for myself, I have had to learn to rule over my emotions, and not let them dictate actions, moods, attitudes etc.
    I’m a highly sensitive individual not one who cries at the drop of dime, unless I am pms’n LOL but one who has an enormous capacity to feel things, not only for myself but for others as well. With that I have to be disciplined enough to not function off feelings but rather what is right and in the best interest of all parties concerned.

  • keke

    Great article and I agree with what many of the previous comments above

    I can honestly say that I have been described as mean, cold and as an ice queen. But my friends who truly know me and love me describe me as the total opposite.

    I think I had an issue with pride and trying to protect myself so much so that it used to create a lot of friction between the romantic relationships I had with men. My platonic friendships are totally different and I think there is a part of me that grew to value my role as a friend and supporter a lot more than my role as a girlfriend. A lot of that stemmed from the relationship between my mother and father. It was not physically or verbally abusive but my father was not very responsible and would come and go as he pleased. So my mother had to do a lot of the heavy lifting. I always wonder, why in the world did she stay in that relationship. She is no longer alive and I never got a chance to ask her but my sister told me it was because she wanted me to grow up in a two parent household. But that life had to have been painful for her.

    My oldest sister had so horrible relationships, physically and verbally abusive, and I witnessed a lot at such a young age. Some of my friends also had terrible relationships with men and I think it made me believe that men didn’t have my best interest at heart and they just wanted to use me for money or sex or for emotional support but they never really cared about women.

    I held on to those feelings for a long time, then at the age of about 21, I fell in love. I fell in deep stupid love and I was thinking so much with my heart and I forgot about logic and what my mind was telling me. It wasn’t a bad relationship per say. We had good times and some bad times. At first I was resistant. We met when I was 19 he was for years older than me. My family didn’t approve but I didn’t care. Yes, I did get hurt at times and we are not together anymore. But he did love me and he still does…we are good friends to this day. I learned lot about myself in that relationship and I don’t regret it because I learned that I could love.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I am still protective of myself and my feelings. I don’t give my all to just anyone and I am very discerning. I don’t always get it right ( and who does) but I will cut out dead weight from my life when the time comes. I have no time for people who mean me no good. I always try to be honest about my feelings, I don’t hold it in anymore, that just hurts too much. I let people know how it feels when they hurt me and I am very candid because telling people the truth not only helps them grow but it is beneficial to get the heartache off your chest. I do not suffer in silence, and I am no one’s mule. And that has helped me cultivate long lasting friendships. it also helps to have really good friends who are in really good relationships. And I have great male friends who are an example to me of what to look for in a mate.

    I am not in a relationship at the moment, but I am not in a rush. When I make time for it, it will eventually happen.

  • Jade

    Describes me perfectly. It’s just that vulnerability absolutely scares me and in the back of my mind, I’ve been waiting for that person who will make me unafraid to be vulnerable. I grew up in a house with all females where emotions were always expressed, feelings discussed etc., so I didn’t have a problem showing my feelings until that one hurt me badly enough. So, I rebuilt myself into what I thought would make me unbreakable- you can’t read me, I have little if any emotion as it pertains to relationships, I won’t allow myself to be disappointed/affected by anyone. It’s almost as though I expect things to fail- and they have thus far. Yeah, I’m the prototype of an ice queen.

  • amarie

    Get out of my head. I can relate 110%.

  • Ocean Blue

    All I see are excuses. There are many women out there who do not play the game of making it hard for a father to see his children. I think that is just a little excuse men like to stick to because it’s convenient for them.


    What does it mean to be vulnerable? I hear people all the time state that others should make themselves vulnerable, but if you are someone who was abused by either parent, how do you make yourself more open to being hurt when you’ve already spent a good portion of your life in emotional pain because of your parent(s)?

  • Sasha

    I can’t relate to this at all and am not sorry for it. People who follow those “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” templates end up like this…absolutely frigid and carry around a bag of hurt.

  • Ocean Blue

    I’m pretty sure women were like this way before Steve Harvey started promoting that mess of advice to, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”.

  • keke

    yea, i don’t think this is at all related to the nonsense steve harvey spreads

  • alyson

    no one’s every called me an ice queen to my face…and 1st impressions could lead you to think that i’m this warm, open person who has no trouble expressing herself, but i can relate to this article so well.
    even with my friends, when they will casually or easily say/text “love you!!”…there’s ALWAYS a part of me inside that cringes and squirms as i reply “ditto” or “ya luv u 2″
    with men, it has been a detriment for sure. there have been some that have slipped through my fingers because at the time, i would rather have chewed off my own arm than admit to any vulnerabilites or emotions. as the author says,

    ” I’ve always felt like I’ll show my softer side when someone gives me a reason, but I’m finding that if I don’t start to open up sooner rather than later I may not ever have one.”

    the only thing is, at this point, i’m a little bit at a loss as to how i would even start to open up and knock down some of the walls i’ve built around myself.

  • binks

    I think you are my long lost best friend because this is my story to a T! I have never been called an ice queen flat out but during my last breakup, my ex basically said “I want a relationship with real emotions and love…” and my heart dropped right then and there from being crushed, I know I can be a bit reserved but I thought I was showing real love and emotions through my actions not necessarily my words…sighs. Plus I always get the “oh nothing must bother you because you seem cool or nonchalant about everything…” I know I can be a little close off but people act like I don’t have any feelings just because I don’t fly off the handle or not overly mushy with my emotions doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything. But I do have a problem with vulnerability and being open; the thought of it makes me break out in hives and makes me want to dive under my bed in a fetal position. I’ am really trying but I have a long way to go I think my problem is I’ am afraid to give up control

  • Whatever

    A lesson I learned in life is “Love is Stonger than Pride.”

    Months after a breakup I heard this Sade song that I always sang along too but couldn’t really relate to. As trivial as it may sound it hit me like a ton of bricks because it is true. (at least in my case)

    I won’t pretend that I intend to stop living
    I won’t pretend I’m good at forgiving
    But I can’t hate you
    Although I have tried
    I still really really love you
    Love is stronger than pride
    I still really really love you

    I won’t pretend that I intend to stop living
    I won’t pretend I’m good at forgiving
    But I can’t hate you
    Although I have tried

    I still really really love you
    Love is stronger than pride
    I still really really love you
    Mm mm mm mm mm

    Sitting here wasting my time
    Would be like
    Waiting for the sun to rise
    It’s all too clear things come and go
    Sitting here waiting for you
    Would be like waiting for winter
    It’s gonna be cold
    There may even
    Be snow

    I still really really love you
    Love is stronger than pride
    I still really really love you
    Love is stronger
    I still really really love you
    Love is stronger than pride

  • MarloweOverShakespeare

    This is my favorite song from her.

    Thank you for this post.

  • kaya

    That’s very good question, how does one open up be vulnerable?
    I gotten that all my life that I dont open myself up. I too, was abused and me being shy I had learn to become a introverted, which being shy and introvert is two different things. I can’t afford therapy, i dont know how my advice will help one hurt person to the next, but what i do is take it one day at a time-things that seems the hardest, most difficult for me to do i do it. Like one act of something i consider vulnerable, until i am naturally comfortable to do it. Telling someone how important they are too me and how much i care bout them (it hurts just thinking bout saying like that) but i have to force myself to say it becomes showing is one thing sometimes you HAVE to say it. Sometimes you have to talk about your hurt and past, sometimes you have to share your fears and sadness with your anger and joy. Talking and showing goes hand in hand we need both. We got a Bad start and some of the basic emotions and skills some people have we have to learn and push through, but being vnuerable for me isn’t happening over night, this is what im doing…its helping me, hopefully it has answer your question.

  • Prodigia

    Can definitely relate to this article.

  • Dwindyes

    Wow…this article being published now is scary because this describes me and it comes at a time when at the moment I’m trying to figure out why I’m stingy with emotions like I am. The thought of being vulnerable is just something I can’t do.

  • Juniysa Serens

    I personally call it introversion. I do appeal as being very stoic to the public but to my small group of friends, they know that I’m the most passionate, obsessed person on the planet. I often tell men that even though I may act calm, cool, and collected in actually I am fantasizing constantly about them everything from shopping at the grocery store, to going to a park, to getting married (and lots of other dirty things). However constantly all of these ‘dating gurus’ keep saying “don’t be too obsessive, don’t choke his space.”. I remember so many times wanting to text the guy constantly every day to see how he was doing but I refrained because I didn’t want to be seen as ‘needy’. See the dilemma?
    It’s sometimes easier being an ice queen because it makes you a bit ‘mysterious’. But there is no mystery to my coldness: underneath I am brewing with intense emotions that might scare the bejeezus out of men.

  • keke

    Good lord everything you just said are the same things I hear people say to me all of the time!

    No wonder I agree with so many of your comments. We have similar personality types, lol….

    but all jokes aside, we are human and we do feel. we just have a different way of showing it.

  • Ocean Blue

    I am shy, too!

    I can’t afford therapy right now either.

    The difference for me is that there is no one in my life who is important to me or who I deeply care about. I’ve never loved anyone or felt like I would give my life for someone else to live.

    I’ve talked about my hurt and past before (not compeltely). People just don’t understand what they haven’t experienced themselves…

    “We got a bad start and some of the basic emotions and skills some people have we have to learn” – You are so right. The problem is that we are operating in a world that doesn’t favor people like us.

  • Ocean Blue

    “People act like I don’t have any feelings just because I don’t fly off the handle or not overly mushy with my emotions doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything.”

    This must be the reason I’ve had former coworkers and acquintances think they can say whatever they want to me without regard of my feelings.

  • Brooklynista

    What a brave article! Thanks for sharing it. It reminds me of a TEDTalk about the virtues of vulnerability. Here’s the link:

    I believe that in this society, we’re largely socialized to see vulnerability as a weakness, but it’s not. It’s our unwillingness to OWN our vulnerability that debilitates us. Writing this article is a great example of taking ownership of, and to a large extent neutralizing, your fears.

    Another thing that gets in the way when it comes to experiencing a full range of emotional expression is a lack of discernment in WHO to be vulnerable with, casting pearls before swine and whatnot. Now there ARE folks who are self-actualized and courageous to the point where they can be exactly who they are, heart unabashed on their sleeve, warts and all, love-me-or-leave-me-alone in the presence of ANYBODY (even their haters). Now that’s some serious self-mastery! And that’s where I aim to live.

    One other thing that gets in the way: in this society we’ve learned to avoid pain, rather than use it as a spiritual tool. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Trying too hard to avoid pain causes suffering. So might as well face it head on, yeah?

    Also (whew, you got me going!) are you familiar with the concept of love languages? Here’s the link:

    (I think there are more than 5, but it’s a good start.) The basic premise is that different people have different primary ways of demonstrating their love. Some (like you) are primarily practical; you DO things for others. Others (like me) are verbal and give affirmations. Others are gift-givers. Others are touchy feely (lots of hugs, kisses etc….they’re my personal favorite). Others are quality time givers (spending a lazy Sunday together in the park-type folks). And so on. So maybe there’s a guy out there who craves being with a woman who shows her love through practical acts. It can’t hurt to be fluent in all the languages though.

  • http://[email protected] ellek

    Awesome post, because alot of women (including me) have become too guarded to the point where people think we don’t care. We DO care, we just need to learn to show it and take the risk again of being vulnerable after being hurt.

  • lauryn

    I, too, was able to relate to this article. In the name of self-preservation, I’ve decided that I have to be less generous with my feelings. I’ve been in countless situations where people have taken advantage of my niceness and generosity. As a result, I’ve learned to detach myself from others, and while my exterior may reflect a stoic, nonchalant attitude, that in no way, shape or form, reflects who I really am. Call it mystery, introversion; I’m cool with all of those labels. I’ve been vulnerable more times than I care to admit, and I don’t like it. Not. one. bit.

  • Brooklynista

    What perfect timing that I came across this quote:

    “Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love.” Zooey Deschanel

  • Miel

    Wow I have never related to an article so much in my life! Thank you Brande, I truly cried because this resonated with me in a way that makes me want to change.

  • NinaG

    I’m grateful for the article and many of the comments on it.

  • au napptural

    I relate to this article more than I can say. The absolute love of my life has said I was cold in our relationship. But I feel like that is a gendered slur. I was thoughtful, sweet, and everything else good in the relationship too, he says. But because as a woman I wasn’t oozing feelings and crying at night that meant I was cold. Still, it did have an effect on the relationship and though it didn’t cause the breakup it was a contributing factor.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do feel like the OP. I’d like to open up more. But I feel like you have to vet people first. Too many women waste their emotions on some no-good fool. I’m waiting for someone worthwhile who is going to give as well as receive.

  • kaya

    You’re right, the proportion of people who won’t care out weighs those who do/will
    But they do exist. I’m in a position where I can have a more deeper relationship with someone but its just easier not sharing and having to say, emotions, my sensitivity my fears and everytime I try to I feel like my inside will explode > 3 < I hope I made sense lol

  • Carol

    I’m the complete opposite…too vulnerable. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I HATE that about myself. I honestly wish I was an ice queen.

  • Ocean Blue

    “But I feel like that is a gendered slur”

    I feel that way, too.

  • apple

    I’m not an ice queen but if you screw me in anyway I become one. It’s all pretend though. I will delete you from my life and never speak to you again all while dying inside. But it heals me faster then holding on. This usually has a bigger effect on the man when I do this. I fine years later they still try to contact me with no avail or write tweets or blogs about me years later

  • Pingback: As of Late « The G is for Grace

  • Nickey B.

    I felt like a page was ripped right out of my notebook! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m learning to find balance.

  • LemonNLime

    This article really speaks to me. I was very much the same, guarded and indifferent because I was not going to allow someone to use my emotions to take advantage of me. The difference was I wasn’t that way with my friends so the great guy I was seeing, saw that I could be open, sincere, and emotional with friends and family but not him and that hurt him a lot.

    After that and dealing with a sad lonely death of a family friend (she died alone, no one was looking for her, and she was an ice queen times like 5) I decided I needed help on working this so I went to therapy. It has been great and very helpful and learning to swim has been good therapy too. I’ve learned when I have some sense of control in a relationship I can open up and be more emotional just like in the shallow end I have control because if I’m scared I can just stand. Being in romantic relationships is like being in the deep end, there is nothing below you and while you can control your actions you can’t control the water so you have to relax and open yourself to working with the water rather than against it. That doesn’t mean you can’t be scared or cautious but don’t avoid it out of fear.

  • Ocean Blue

    Your comment makes me kind of sad. How did your friend die and why do you think she was an ‘Ice Queen’ (What in her life made her that way?)

  • LemonNLime

    She has a massive heart attack in her home and no one noticed she was missing. She didn’t have a lot of friend and didn’t really interact with collegues. I say she was an ice queen because of the way she carried herself. She was kind but you would never get that from her. She was very negative and critical of those around her, she was married and divorced quickly from a many who only wanted her money, for her it seemed like everything was a burden including many of the people in her life because they couldn’t live up to her standards.

    While I am no where near that, it did show me what can happen if you don’t open up and take chances. It was a sad way to learn a lesson but it is a lesson I am very happy to have learned.

  • LemonNLime

    Please excuse the typos!

  • Ocean Blue

    That’s so sad.

  • Jen

    Damn, I really thought this was just me. I grew up watching women being completely dominated by men. And they were miserable. I promised myself that would never be me without realizing I was cutting myself off from what makes love truly special. I denied myself the joy of experiencing emotions both positive and negative. By doing so, I stunted my growth. Now I am in the fight of my life to save my marriage to the man of my dreams…literally. He is the first man I ever considered marrying and having a family with…and that was 5 years before we started dating. And he doesn’t even know that, the last boyfriend before my husband broke up with via a voicemail. In it he said he now understood how women felt in a relationship with a man that never expresses their emotions. He couldn’t believe that I gave a damn when my cards were so close to my chest they seemed non-existent.

  • LizabethDear

    Wow. Never thought I would relate to an article this much. Just recently broke up with my ex even after I thought I was being good about showing more emotions, but it apparently wasn’t enough and was leading him into insanity.

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