Displaced Trust: A painful lesson

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Photo: Jenny L.

Only a few things hurt more than a loved person letting you down. Whether it is your significant other, your best friend or even your own family: it hurts, maybe not so much physically but emotionally.

My trust does not come easily and I am sceptical towards most people. A friend who hurts you – even if it’s unintended – feels more gruesome and painful than usual. It is because we were neither prepared nor protected for this fall.
We call people friends and we keep them close for a reason. Ironically, it is that very reason why these moments leave us paralyzed.

I always thought I was a good judge of character and can see through lies. It seems that my vision gets clouded when I have invested a certain amount of trust in people. Why so? Calling somebody a friend – especially close friends – comes with many responsibilities. You tend to be more honest with each other, caring and protective. These are the differences between your friends and a brief acquaintance.

Would I call a person I just met last Sunday when I am having a panic attack? Probably not. The idea of presenting myself that vulnerable to a stranger doesn’t seem pleasant. I guess this is also one reason why therapy tends to needs some time until it progresses: Opening up to somebody we don’t know (yet) and therefore don’t trust is hard. In other words, the act of building trust in a person is a form of work by overcoming your own distrusting nature.

There is a reason why I don’t burst into tears when the bus driver was rude to me this morning. During the day I am aware that I will need some wall to protect me from unfairness. It is sad but the reality we live in. On the contrary, I had tears many times when a friend said something equally rude in the heat of a discussion.

Besides the trust and love we feel, we also see a set of expectations towards our friend. Or maybe it’s just me. I tend to assume that my friends and I have similar values. Whatever I would do for them I like to believe they would do the same for me. This concept of mirrored devotion does not work. The abilities that I have and the circumstances I’m living in are not the same as the ones my friends face. We are different and I forget about it. This concept is meant to disappoint. When you build up a set of expectations on this theory it can differ from the reality a lot.
I guess I need to look at it from a different point of view: How is the other person supposed to know the extent of my devotion if we never talked about it? Therefore, how is the other person supposed to know what I expect from them?

With that in mind, I try to recover from my current disappointment. Somewhere torn between “This just can’t be true! This is a big misunderstanding!” and “Wow, that person was my friend and did it anyway.” I try to evaluate what happened. For now, I feel that my expectations were too high and my trust not really justified. I feel stupid and I started to doubt my own judgement in the oddest moments now.

If friendship was a game then my expectations were its rules and I believed that my friends and I were both following them. Seeing it that way it reminded me a lot of the following quote from Peter Pan:

“Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. […] After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter.” ― J.M. Barrie

Why are you not into me?

I will put it very straight and very short: My crush is not into me and that sucks.

Apart from the regular bitter taste of rejection I can not help but wonder what the fuck is wrong him (it’s a male person in this case). After several failed attempts to meet each other and the overall lack of engagement from his side I had to embrace the fact that my interest and affection is probably one-sided and did the one thing, I could do to avoid more frustration: I accepted it. Again: My crush is not into me.

I accepted his busy schedule, his priorities and plans that didn’t involve me at all. In moments like these, I try to look beyond my hurt ego and force myself to put myself in his situation. How would I like to be treated if I was him? Being rejected might hurt but rejecting people is equally hard- especially if you care for the other person. I thought back on all the friends I have lost because I did not return their feelings and I also remember how much it hurt me to justify it.

Why am I not good enough for you?

The question is lingering in the room and was probably also in my friends’ minds back then. If I would have been more mindful back then I might have found the better words and ways to handle it. Instead, I was solely focusing on myself and felt so terribly betrayed by my friends for not accepting my feelings. I did not understand why or even how I was supposed to explain the fact that I did not return their romantic feelings. The entire situation was not easy for anyone but at that moment all each of us could see was the unfairness that we were facing alone. In our anger and frustration, we hurt each other so badly that we stopped talking and avoid each other since then.

If I could turn back time, what are the things I want to be different? What could we change to avoid more stress and pain?

Acknowledge each other’s feelings

Knowing that somebody has feelings for you might seem very flattering but truly acknowledging it is a bit different. Taking their emotions seriously and acting mindfully is import to treat them with respect. It is already a huge step to confess your feelings to somebody so to me it’s the least I can do in response.
The same does go to rejection as well. The lack of feelings is just as valid as a confession of love and should not need to be justified or explained. Affection is nothing you can claim for. Not by insulting, not by screaming, not by arguing. It is not there.

In both cases, it is important to mention that both feelings will probably linger for a while. I will probably have that crush for a little while longer, despite the fact that the feelings won’t be answered. At the same time, the lack of affection will last as well. These are to facts that need to be accepted.

Acknowledging your own needs

Back then I wanted to continue whatever we had as if nothing happened. I wanted my friends to chill at my place as we used to did and spend the entire night talking about silly stuff while listening to our favourite songs. That was stupid.

No matter how nice and easy that would be, when expectations are differing everyone should re-adjust to the new situation and take their time to reflect on what they need in order to feel better. Sometimes that means that you need some distance in order to find out. Sometimes it also means that you start stalking their new partner and (please don’t) to curse the world and scream. Whatever it is, keep in mind that all this is temporary. Don’t force yourself to continue something that is not making you happy. Don’t pretend you never got rejected and play along this happy friendship game. Don’t pretend you would return the feelings and start a relationship.

Last but not least: Move on.

All this has nothing to do with anyone not being good enough. It is about the different kinds of happiness each and every one of us is looking for and sometimes it just won’t work out. I can try and be the best version of myself but that doesn’t mean everyone will love it. To put it very drastically: People have their own taste and you have to accept that some have a poor curious one. It sucks, yes but you have no right to change it. Your own taste is subjective and nothing more.

With all that in mind, I swallowed the fact that my pretty face does not save me from rejection. After another failed attempt to meet I told the guy that I respect his busy schedule, wished him the best of luck in Berlin, hoped that we will bump into each other at some point but apologised that I won’t compete with his timetable anymore.

He was confused by this … finality. After explaining me the full dimension of his busy lifestyle (which was unnecessary because I got it by then) I phrased it very simple:

– I just have the impression that you are not into me as much as I am into you.
– Yeah… that might be true.
– That’s ok. I’m not upset but I hope you respect my decision.
– sure.

Obviously, I was not madly and deeply in love since I never had the chance to properly date him (which was good in the end, I guess), but I was sad after all. The fact that he didn’t even want to find out who I was is really … sobering. He probably didn’t feel the chemistry between us at all and his knees probably didn’t get weak when he saw me. It was just me but that’s no reason to hurt or insult him.

Not my friends

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I do love my friends with all my heart and I am usually excited to meet their friends as well. For most of the time I get along with them very very well and it enriches me on many levels. I tend to believe that interesting people enjoy each others company.
However, this is not always the case. On very rare occasions I get reminded that disappointments come in all shapes.

While I do value my friend’s company hanging out with their crowd can be a pain in the ass – for different reasons. Not having the option of simply leaving or avoiding interaction with people you are not connecting with sucks balls. You are forced to deal with the situation and being forced is something I hate.
Embracing these situations is a lesson I had to learn after being extremely rude and anti-social at several events. Apparently taking your book and sitting on the balcony all by yourself while everyone is playing games is not the most respectful way.

  1. Realize that there is something good in these people even though all you can see is a disappointing existence. Find it and focus on it.
  2. Remind yourself that it’s not about you but about your friend. It’s their day and this is why you are here in the first place.
  3. Find the most interesting person and try talk with them.
  4. Find a safe place where you can retreat when shit gets too much in order to rant with your other friends. Make an exit plan if needed.

Be honest

I won’t lie here: I have very high standards when it comes to my environment. My time is simply too precious to be wasted on people I don’t like. In the past, I had several situations where I realized that my friends are hanging out with people I am not connecting with and it is very hard to say: “Sorry, but I don’t like your friends.” Being nice has nothing to do with faking affection. There is no need on lying to your friends and it should be in your and your friends’ interest to have a foundation of honesty and trust. Use kind words to explain them, that you don’t enjoy being around these people while underlining that you are happy that your friend is happy with them.

However sometimes nice words are not doing their job and your friend might feel offended or hurt because their peer group is not good enough. Well, that sucks because their friends are indeed not good enough but they should kind of get over it and stop inviting you to their crap sit-ins or bring them to your parties.

I usually say that I am sorry because I truly am. I wish these people would be less disappointing, but here we are. What should we do? If your friendship is strong you will find a way and get over it. If not and your friend keeps pushing these people on you well knowing that you don’t like them: Is that person really your friend?

Re-learning how to listen

I have the impression that most people have forgotten how to listen in a sincere way and I am probably the person who needs to re-learn it the most. Usually, I am more eager to shut the discussion down than listen to the other person. (Except Fuckbois, like nobody has the time to listen to fuckboi arguments, k?)

I am talking about discussion on topics that matter to me. A discussion where arguments from both sides are heard (heard not agreed on) is more constructive and productive than me insisting that every argument apart from mine are total bullshit. I mean I can listen first and still explain afterwards why I do not agree or see them as invalid, right?

BUT DAMN IT IS SO HARD TO LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO ARE THINKING WOMEN ARE NOT OPPRESSED ANYMORE BECAUSE THEY HAVE THAT ONE FRIEND WHO IS A MANAGER OR WHATEVER THAT MAKES AS MUCH MONEY AS THEM AND GLOBAL WARMING IS ALSO FAKE BECAUSE IT WAS SNOWING LAST WINTER LIKE ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!

(Awkward silence)

I am a bit disappointed in myself that I became over the last 5 years such a bad listener because for more than half of my life I did nothing but listening to others (parents, friends, media). But during this period listening was tightly linked to obeying and the demand of not talking, so I guess this is why it became so difficult for me now.

WHY SHOULD I LISTEN TO PEOPLE I DISAGREE WITH?

Even though I am usually very convinced that my point of view is the right one, it is also very likely that I am missing out a very important detail or that my view is only working out for a small part of society and not for everyone. Additional opinions are an addition to the complexity of a discourse and they complete the overall impression.

Also, how am I supposed to change anything when I have never gained an understanding of the opposing position? Maybe their opinion is based on a misunderstanding or lack of experience. Maybe my opinion is based on a narrowed perspective. Wars might be won by fighting forcefully but sustainable change comes by opening conversations where both sides are heard.

Don’t get me wrong, I know all this and still end up flipping tables and yelling during the discussion. I am really, really bad at this. However, I have found a few tricks to keep myself from screaming and insulting for at least some time.

1.)    Tell yourself that the opposition is not a group of assholes. At least not straight at the beginning! You can still say that after evaluating their arguments.

2.)    Only interrupt if you want to ask for vocabulary explanation otherwise shut the fuck up. Try to get what they mean by using words such as “we”, “all”, “they” etc. This helps you to understand the argumentation.

3.)    Don’t complain about weak rhetoric. Just don’t.

4.)    Use “problematic” instead of “bullshit” because this is what you mean. Their argument is PROBLEMATIC or UNCLEAR and not – I repeat NOT BULLSHIT. Don’t be rude just because you disagree.

5.)    Make clear that you do agree with parts of the argumentation if this is the case. Rather than focusing on the differences, mark the similarities and use this as a starting point for a conversation.

6.)    Ask about the sources of “facts” and try to believe that “personal experience” is a valid one, just point out that you might have had different ones. (See point 4)

All these points sound super easy in theory but I usually fail after 30min. All I can do is practising it again and again with the hope that instead of 30min I might last 45min at some point. I like to believe that this routine will help me to become a better listener or at least make me simply step out of the discussion without being all aggressive.  Small steps my friends, small steps.

I hate a lot and that’s a problem

Being negative is something I’ve been really good at since … forever.

I fucking hate fake ass bitches, I hate bananas, I hate assholes.

Saying that I hate something (or someone) and neglecting it has always been very easy for me until I realized what kind of consequences it had:
My hatred doesn’t change shit.

Not that I’ve ever planned to change bananas but every time I encounter an ideology that I hate, I became aware of the limitation of my own attitude and refusal of engagement.

Does a racist really change his troublesome attitude because I spit in his face and shout “I fucking hate your stupid dumb ass racist comment”? Out of experience, I can tell you: No, that person won’t change. It most likely only fuels their own hatred towards anyone disagreeing. Yupp, that is the point when I start hating myself for hating so much and begun to differentiate between

a.) what I really hate (Is it the individual, their behaviour or their attitude)

b.) what I really feel (is it truly anger or is it more a disappointment, fear or hurt pride?)

c.) what I really want to be different

Call it overcomplicating but there are a few things that I care more about than the convenience of ending a conflict by declaring “I hate this shit and will hereby not bother to deal with it!”.

I’m still pretty bad at it and often fail to engage people or burst in a total rant before I am even able to reflect what truly bothers me. Yeah, hate that.