I have another confession. It requires that I tell a rather long and drawn out story, one that might end terribly, or worse, it might never end. The part that sucks is that I’m in the middle of it right now, so I don’t actually know which way it is going to go.
It starts a little over a year ago. I began my master’s degree in this place that is far from home and where I felt very lonely. I made a small handful of friends, and there was one in particular to whom I became very attached. Attached is a mild word for it, really. This person was someone with whom I felt this spiritual, other-worldly connection. We became very close very quickly. I loved this person unfathomably. I think I actually still do, but I have come to resent the love I feel because of the way things played out.
At the end of the last school year, this person shared with me a few things about the relationship that she was growing weary of. There was a particular incident with another person, a mutual friend, which had offended them (this isn’t their usual pronoun; I’ve changed it for the sake of this story). I hadn’t included them on this night when we had ordered dinner, and they were angry. I felt the anger was justified. I know I tend to compartmentalize certain interactions that, in real life, can’t be compartmentalized at all. We talked about the incident, and I thought the conflict was over. I thought we could move on from then. I don’t think this person or I knew at that point just how deep their frustration with me was.
Summer began, and I moved to Atlanta to do an internship for two months. At the beginning of the summer, this friend and I kept in touch usually by texting each other, but I noticed that as the two months progressed, this person responded to me less and less. At first, it might have taken a day or two to respond, but that time increased to a week, and then two, and then finally, there was no response at all. I continued to send them messages throughout the summer. They had said during the year that sometimes they take note of things and simply don’t respond. I sent them things that I thought though would enjoy hearing, or perhaps that would be interesting to them. They were messages sent in sincerity, from the bottom of my heart. I wanted them to know that even though I was far away, I was still thinking about them.
When I came back, I knew something was wrong. The two of us met long before classes started, but they weren’t speaking to me, at least not the way they usually do. I finally invited them to dinner. I needed to know what was going on, so I asked at that point, when we got together for dinner. Looking back now, I think that was a big gesture I made. I didn’t have to ask them what the problem was. In fact, it says a lot that they didn’t come to me and just tell me what was wrong. They made me go to them. They made me “figure it out”. They made me hold them accountable.
Anyway, all their frustration with me came out at that dinner. Apparently, they believed I was abusive and manipulative. They felt I was receiving more from the relationship than they were. They explained that they thought there was a lot they were giving me, and I could see where that was coming from. Throughout the year before, I would come to them with my issues with my work, how little support I felt I was receiving, the alienation I felt in both my new environment and my program, and many other things. I guess they felt as though they had to advise me. Perhaps I could have named this at some point, but I did not require that from them, and it saddens me that they thought I did. Furthermore, they also said that they felt I didn’t listen to them when they shared problems with me. Or rather, that my responses weren’t genuine. I would be very quiet when they explained things. Sometimes I might not respond. I could understand this as well. I think at times, when someone comes to me with problems, I don’t want to give the impression that I have any right to comment on their life. I also don’t really know how to respond sometimes, to be really honest. I don’t want to sound scripted or rehearsed, but sometimes a genuine answer is hard to give to things that are truly painful. But to them, this made them feel as though, in their words, I wasn’t willing to make myself vulnerable, nor was I willing to make mistakes (or acknowledge the ones I made).
It hurt a lot to hear those things. Hurt is an understatement. This image I had of this wonderful friendship was suddenly shattered. Clearly it was far from perfect, if this person’s dissatisfaction could go on for that long and I didn’t know.
I think the part that hurt the most was when they said to me that it angered them when they received my texts over summer. They said they repeatedly felt anger whenever I texted them. That’s why they had been ignoring me. So there I had been thinking that I was showing affection and warmth by keeping in touch, and actually it had been irritating them the entire time. It hurts me the most that they didn’t tell me that. For nearly five months, I had been exposing my heart to this person, and that action was annoying to them. It was irksome. It made me feel disposable. They claim that this was because they thought it would be better to tell me these things in person. So they allowed me to go deeper and deeper into confusion for the sake of some notion of propriety in which we tell people important stuff in person.
I withdrew from them after that. I haven’t seen this person one-on-one since that night that we had dinner. Frankly, at this point, I’m not sure that I want to either. Staying away from them has certainly protected them from any more feelings of abuse or manipulation. Though, I also don’t think I want to see them because I hurt. I hurt a lot right now. They love telling me that “hurt people hurt people”, and that I am definitely one of the hurt persons in question. And it is implied that I hurt people when I am hurt. I’m sure I do.
The part I hate most is that I think I still love them, but I don’t want to. It would make my life a lot easier if I could stop loving them. If I could leave and not bat an eyelash that they would be gone. If I could tell them to get out of my life and never feel an ounce of guilt for it. I know that in the world of vulnerability and honesty and trust, we should work this out by speaking, addressing everything that has come up. But I don’t want to do that. I’m not the bigger person. I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t want to do “bigger person” things. I want to yell at them and be insanely mean. And if I did, that would be exactly what they expect of me.