How many times have we heard this expression thrown around without really stopping to consider the other side? In my experience people tend to say this to me when I am upset with someone about some perceived wrongdoing or slight against me! This is particularly true in relation to my friendships and I have heard the expression countless times when attempting to express if I felt let down by a friend in some way. The thing is I was usually always so caught up in my hurt that I didn’t really hear them. What I felt was that they were minimising my hurt and basically taking my friends side or insinuating that I was over reacting.... Me? Never! Ha!
When a friend lets us down or hurts us in some way, it is only natural to feel hurt; and you are entitled to feel hurt. After a while though, we usually do progress to trying to think about things from the other person’s perspective. The problem is that we still usually try and see it in a way that pertains to us specifically. We have a tendency to wonder if our friend was upset with us because of something we did or said, or alternatively, something we failed to say or do. Once we are satisfied that we haven’t actually done anything wrong, or justified to ourselves that whatever we did wasn’t that bad, we move on to wondering if everything is ok with our friend. Maybe we haven’t heard from her because something is wrong? When both of these come up blank we are stumped and it tends to be where we get mentally and emotionally stuck… as the victim…
I have experienced this countless times, because I never really took the time to explore the other side of the story to its fullest. Recently I bumped into an old workmate at the local shopping centre. It has been at least 10 years since I saw this person, yet I recognised her instantly. Things ended so badly between us that she moved jobs just to get away from me, and her parting words to me were “I don’t know why you hate me so much.” I haven’t thought about her since then, and I hope she hasn’t wasted another moment on me either. She didn’t say hello, though I know she recognised me. If I could go back in time to seeing her at the shop I would apologise, and if she wanted an explanation I would candidly give her one.
After that moment, I went home thinking about her and what transpired between us, probably more than I ever did at the time. I came to the conclusion that I ended our friendship and I never even told her! At the time, I had taken up a sordid and unsuitable office romance, which was very much against the office policy. I had also just taken on a promotion to a managerial position. I knew my friend would not approve of this romance, for more than one reason, and I knew she would have been right too! Unfortunately, I didn’t care about any of that. Also my new fling had sworn me to secrecy for their own benefit, and for reasons I couldn’t admit to myself at the time, such as them not wanting anyone to know that we were together because they were too ashamed to be seen with me. The truth hurts.... so lets not acknowledge it, that will help?! Healthy, right?! Not! I certainly was not wanting my friend pointing out this harsh truth, which; as a good friend, she may well have done. So, slowly, without any malice or conscious consideration I used my promotion as an excuse to withdraw from my friend, and spend more time with my lover.
On several occasions my friend asked me if I was okay. She made invites that I declined, and she asked me if she had done anything that had upset me. I remember being surprised by the question, and reassuring her, happily, smiling and laughing that she had not done anything wrong and that we were still friends. Even when she left the company, full of anger at me, I was baffled! Honestly! As far as I was concerned we were still friends. Nothing had transpired between us that made me like her less. Even her angry outbursts, although confusing somewhat, didn’t perturb me. At that point I think an angry outburst or confession of her sins against me would have been a relief for her, but I had nothing. I thought we were friends, but apparently we weren’t, she hated me now? The fact that I didn’t even lose sleep over her upset bothers me beyond words now. In fact while she was hurting so much that she left her job to get away from me, I barely thought of her at all. And that, readers, is an example of one time, I ended a friendship, without even realising. And as you can see it had nothing at all to do with my friend, and I was perfectly fine, aside from the questionable romantic life choices I was making. This doesn't reflect well on me, but we cannot change what we do not acknowledge. I learned... eventually!
When faced with a similar situation, on the receiving end this time of said withdrawal....I reacted in a pretty similar fashion to my old workmate, despair, anger, the other grief symptoms.... I wanted to know what I did wrong, so that I could fix it. When that didn’t work, I wanted to provoke some sort of emotional response from her.I wanted to know that she still cared. I wanted to control the outcome in my favour. And despite me having been on the other side of this equation more than once in my life, I failed to see that my newer friends’ withdrawal from me was never about me to begin with, and I was powerless to change it. I will write a post about that soon, although it will be a difficult emotional one to share, but I guess that’s what this site is all about.
The thing is, in the earlier situation with my workmate, basically, I found someone else who I would rather spend my time and emotional energy on. She missed me, when I was right there, all day, every damned day! I think this sums up her feelings pretty accurately:
My behaviour was no reflection of my friend or her worth, and I gave very little consideration to how badly it impacted her, no matter how hard she tried to force me to acknowledge it. Actually, that only made my withdrawal from her easier. What I realised, when I looked back at this situation, was that I still liked my workmate. I had no ill feelings towards her, and never meant to hurt her. (Although, to an extent, I refused to even acknowledge that I was hurting her. Which probably hurt her even more...) I mentioned in my "Back to basics and the beginning" post that perspective is a choice and my childhood bestie and I were still friends because I said so and it really was that simple. I stand by that, but it is important to acknowledge both people have to feel the same way, and feel comfortable with the silences, confidently. (Which may be why it seems only possible with childhood friends where acceptance and change are abundant or long distance friends where expectations are lower and allowances are higher!) In this situation, my workmate did not feel the same way; in her perspective - my silence was an ending. My reassurances of friendship were never enough, because as I said in my “LETS be Friends” post - friendship is an action word. We couldn't just be friends because I said so..... I was no longer acting like a friend; and there was no way I was holding myself accountable for that, or anything else at that time in my life to be honest! She left and I shrugged my shoulders and went on merrily ignoring the situation for 10 years until it came back to haunt me. The timing was so ironic. I almost wish my ex workmate had known what was transpiring in my own life at the time so she could have had the satisfaction of knowing Karma doesn’t forget, even if we do! Lol
Not only did that situation force me to acknowledge that I am not “always the victim” but it also threw into question my theories about my current situation. Was it possible that on the other side of the story, it wasn’t about me at all? If you were to view my life as a movie, I was the main character… How was it possible that something that could impact me and my life so deeply - wasn’t even about me? Even knowing that evoked feelings of unworthiness and anger. How could someone stop being my close friend, and then not even notice that she stopped? If I meant anything to her surely she would notice my absence? Nope. She was still fulfilled. There was no silence in her life. And the silence in mine, although created by her, was not her problem. Sad but true.
In her mind, I wasn’t gone. We were still friends, she just had other people and things taking her attention. She was ok. Better than ok. She was great and happy, and I wasn’t being a great friend because I struggled to be happy for her. Of course I could only see how this impacted me. I am human, and my life IS ABOUT ME! I see things through my perspective and that is the only one I can see it from without considerable effort. The concept that something isn’t about me is uncomfortable at first. Of course it is about me? I am the main character?! Lol
It takes courage to step out and see that you are not the main character in anyone else’s life, and admit that you shouldn’t be and that is ok. As a matter of fact, there is some freedom to the acknowledgement. Nothing I say or do is a reflection of anyone but me, as much as I want to justify my poorer choices, and nothing anybody else does is a reflection of me either! (As much as I want to blame myself to control the outcome!) People move away emotionally, forget things, say thoughtless things, or react poorly as a response to their own feelings and circumstances, which most of the time, have nothing at all to do with you or any of the excuses or circumstances you have dreamed up for them. Forgiveness is easier, maybe not even necessary, when you truly understand the expression “there are 2 sides to every story” and accept their side might not have you in it at all.
Being faced with such a "Sliding Doors" kind of moment, truly seeing the other side from my own perspective and experience, was a real eye opener, and I hope you can use it to reflect on your own life, and see when you may have acted similarly to the thing you are facing now. You may shudder and say “I would never do this to someone.” Not consciously, no. But the human psyche works in ways that preserve self and allows us not to see what we don’t want to see about ourselves or a situation. Remember what I said about accountability? This is what I mean. Self awareness comes at a cost, but is well worth it.
At the end of the day, my workmate was right, I wasn’t her friend anymore, I didn’t even care enough to see that I was hurting her. (And boy did she make it obvious!) And essentially she was right to walk away and forget about me. She was wasting energy on something that was no longer important enough for me to even care about. I don’t regret that she walked away, she deserved better than that. I am happy for her that she finally realised and gave up. I only wish she had known it was never about her, because then it would have been a much less painful and prolonged choice for her, and she may not have had to leave her job. Although, as a tiny justification, can I just say that I did her a favour getting her out of that office?! ( I’m glad I eventually left too!) Can I pass that off as my final act of friendship to her?....Whatever helps me sleep at night, right?! Lol
This obviously all relates back to self-esteem. If you know you are worth more…. If you know your friend is no longer acting like a friend, or being what you “need” (blog post about that to come) or even what they used to be to you, don’t waste energy on why. You don’t need them to agree with you. They may never agree with you, because the poor reflection of themselves is deflected by self- preservation and justification. It is human instinct. Getting them to admit that they are wrong is only half the battle. If they admit they are wrong; they may have to change it. Looking back, I was not prepared to stop seeing my lover, to give my friend more time, or admit that I was wrong to be with said lover in the first place. I knew it already, but if I said it, I would be expected to change it and I plain didn’t want to. Does that make sense?
If you are trying to get your friend to choose you, or to admit they let you down or to get an apology, stop. You are wasting your time. Accept that this isn’t about you, it isn’t your place to hold them accountable. Their self awareness may be lacking and that is their own journey. In time they may come to realise how they impacted you, at which point what they do about it is up to them. It isn’t that you aren’t entitled to an apology or an explanation, just that if you force it, it wont be really genuine anyway. Let time and Karma deal with everyone but yourself. You are the main character in your movie, so you get to decide what happens next and you know best how to make yourself happy. If you don’t – that is a far better use of your time and energy than chasing someone else.
Your Best Friend ForNever