So I thought I'd share here. Because I'm beginning to look at what it is that I've hoped for in relationships and I'm examining if what I hoped for was wrong to hope for or if I was just a fool to hope at all.
Sometimes friendships fade away naturally – you move, or she moves, and maybe she gets engaged and has a job and is still working on finishing her degree, and she’s a few years younger than you are anyway, so you just naturally drift apart. You’ll still go to her wedding, and maybe even a shower if you get invited, and when you see her, you’ll talk and catch up. It won’t be the same, but it won’t be bad.
Sometimes, though, friendships die in a moment. The eighth or ninth unreturned phone call or email. The time she forgot your birthday. A betrayal. Something that makes you realize, “I just can’t do this anymore. It’s not worth the effort, and it’s never going to be what I had hoped.”
I realized today that that happened to me twice this summer. The first was with a friendship that had been floundering anyway. There were unreturned phone calls galore, but what I have realized about unreturned phone calls is that I never figure out the friendship has died until later. I don’t sit around thinking, “After five tries, I am going to give up on this friendship.” It’s after the fact that I realize, “That one time when I called and I had a gift I was trying to get to her and she never called me back, that’s when I emotionally gave up.” But it wasn’t even the unreturned phone calls that did me in this time. It was being somewhere where she gave everyone these fun pictures of things they had done together . . . except for me. I sat there, watching everyone else look at those pictures laugh and cry and reminisce while having none of my own, and something inside of me died. Even with that blatantly obvious rejection, I didn’t realize I had quit hoping for more until today, when Mike and I were planning a dinner party and I didn’t include her on the guest list. It would have been a given to include her a year ago, even six months ago. But today I realized that, unless things change with her, I’m not expecting the close friendship that I once hoped that we would have. And it’s because of the way I felt in that one moment. I didn’t know it at the time, but I can see how, in that moment, everything inside me shifted.
The other incident this summer was when a friend of mine forgot my birthday. I know that forgetting a birthday isn’t that huge of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it was another situation where it was forgetting my birthday on top of several months of neglect. A month after my birthday, I emailed her for her birthday, but I still haven’t heard back. I thought of my email as a last-ditch effort, but looking back, I knew it was over when I didn’t hear from her on (or around) my birthday. She’s the kind of person who is good about birthdays, so it signals more than just forgetting. It signals that I’m not a priority anymore. And . . . I got the message.
In some ways, it feels like it’s easier to realize that you’ve given up and accepted how things are, or how they are never going to be. The first friend I mentioned – I am sure I will get an email from her now and then, and I’ll respond, and then I won’t hear from her for months. Lather, rinse, repeat. The second one – I doubt we’ll be in touch much after this. Facing up to those facts is easier than deluding myself.
It’s not that it doesn’t hurt, because . . . it definitely does. But it’s better than lying to myself, and investing myself in people who don’t really care if I’m around. In a strange way, it kind of feels like a victory – I am not going to do that to myself anymore.