There ain’t much to say.
Except for all the things I want to say.
I think as we get older we come to expect certain performance out of our powers of prediction; we assume the stoplight will eventually turn green because of years of past experience sitting at red lights. We apply these powers of prediction to everything, even our own psychology (“I shouldn’t eat that slice of pizza, because if I have one I’ll just want four more.”)
Relationships are one of the only places where our powers of prediction still consistently fail us. Maybe what makes a breakup so painful is the sense of disconnection between the situation you imagined you were in and reality as it stands; someone you love cheated on you, or hit you during an argument, or someone promising just decided to stop texting back after a couple of dates. These examples are all romantic, but friendships can end in similar ways, with similar stories.
How do you reconcile what’s actually happening with what you predicted — what you imagined — would happen?
I find myself bobbing in the wake of an ended friendship. Or rather, the end of what I imagined might have been a friendship, because I’m honestly not sure the person in question considered me a friend at all.
This summer I had tried to help them through a rough patch in their romantic life, made myself available for emotional support and attention, and, I thought, made good headway toward forming a connection. Previously, I had made mistakes in my relationship with them, hurt their feelings unintentionally, and I was grateful for the opportunity to make things right. I hoped to set us on a path to trust and reconciliation.
Hope and reality collided like skinning my knee. Things that shouldn’t matter, suddenly mattered; the snotty comments on my Instagram posts, the eventual unfriending on Facebook. You’d think that kind of stuff wouldn’t bother me, and at the time I felt sheepish even acknowledging how upsetting it was, but it stung. What hurt especially badly was the loss of the illusion.
Good intentions and labor don’t mean anything in a relationship unless they’re shared by both sides. Hoping for success where the other party has never said or done anything to warrant your optimism is probably a waste of time.
The positive side effect of this experience, though, is how I’m reflecting on my real friendships with more appreciation now. It’s easy for me to look at my real friends and see the depth of their affection for me with more nuance — they’re constantly inviting my introverted ass out to do things, for example, and they never screen my calls. We chat on Facebook or Hangouts almost every day.
No one ever owes you anything in a friendship, but my real friends give me love and appreciation without me ever having to ask for it, and when I do, they give me more than I could ever need.