On My Friendships, Specifically

I have burned and rebuilt enough bridges to have learned from those experiences.

I have had a lot of unequal relationships. So-called friends have disregarded me, lied to me, stolen from me, and used me. I was not appreciated or supported. I did not get the same kind of love and energy that I gave. Even friends who meant well would sometimes hurt me. Yet, I would remain their friend. I was a good — no — I am a great friend! But I am not a perfect person, and I’ve failed as a friend, too.

I failed to communicate. I didn’t divulge and I didn’t listen. I didn’t acknowledge how I may have made people feel. Especially in situations where I’ve felt mistreated myself. I lashed out in response to feelings I never expressed. In some ways, I punished people for not recognizing that they hurt me. I expected people to know what they were doing wrong and change their behavior. I didn’t like hearing I was wrong, when they were wrong, too. I didn’t want to take the blame for things we were both guilty of.

Feeling hurt was not the mistake. Acting like I didn’t feel that way was. Avoiding confrontation and harboring animosity was. Feeling like I was the only one allowed to feel a certain way was. I didn’t see that I could still hurt a person who had hurt me. I not only failed to communicate, I failed to recognize they might also not be communicating with me.

Falling out with friends has taught me a lot. Reconciling has taught me even more.

I’ve had to acknowledge where I was wrong. I’ve had to take responsibility for my role in how things played out. I’ve had to be receptive to criticism; I’ve had to have my shortcomings exposed. I’ve had to take accountability for any suffering I’ve caused. I’ve had to confront people. I’ve had to be vulnerable. I’ve had to be honest and demand honesty in return.

I’ve learned to take the hits when they come. It is inevitable that I will do something that someone will misconstrue. Despite my intentions, I will fuck up and hurt someone. But I won’t fight them. I will accept my shit and try to work on not repeating my mistakes. I will continue to scrutinize my actions and end any hurtful behavior.

On Relationships and Being Wrong(ed)

You are not owed a relationship with anyone.

You may have a strained relationship with someone, due in part to having wronged them in some way. You may have reconciled with them, but things are not the same. You may want things to be as they were. But sometimes, people need space to evaluate situations. You have to give them time to process their feelings.

First. Understand that feelings do not have a cut-off date. They do not expire. You cannot expect people to “get over it” or “move on” because, people have long memories. We remember being hurt, by whom, and how it made us feel. We may choose to forgive, but we don’t forget. We may try to put those feelings aside, but we cannot always suppress or overcome them.

Sometimes we can’t stop remembering that we have been wronged and how that felt.

We may distance ourselves from the people who’ve wronged us. Not because we hold a grudge, but because, we do not want to risk feeling that way again. It’s important to acknowledge that you hurt someone without invalidating their feelings. No “I didn’t intend to” or “I already apologized.” Apologies are only words, with no power to actually change anything. Only time can do that. Only acknowledging and improving your faults can do that. Only a change in wrong behavior can do that.

As long as I remember that you’re capable of hurting me, I will always hesitate to trust you.

Regardless of who you are or were to someone. Regardless of your history or closeness. Regardless of whether they also hurt you.  You are not entitled to their attention, forgiveness, or time. Recognize those things as privileges, things to be consistently earned. Then choose to behave in a way that shows you deserve them.