Monday, April 1, 2019

A friendly zone

I've seen a wordless multiple-frame comic going around lately (which I will not repost) depicting a girl handing a boy a representation of her heart, which he then drops on the ground. Breaking it. Uncaring, he walks away and leaves her with the broken heart. Another sweet boy swoops in and helps her mend the damage. He touches her face tenderly, at which point she seems grateful, but then she turns away and scurries back to the boy who broke her heart, ready to try again with him even though he did that to her.

Of course, you're supposed to feel that the sweet boy has been cheated and the girl is unreasonable.

That the girl should have learned through that interaction that the sweet boy who helped her heal should now be attractive to the girl because he was there for her, and that the girl is actually being cruel to the boy because he did the work of putting her back together and now she's going forward as if that heart of hers actually belongs to her to do with as she wills.

Ya know, I'm not going to go into detail about that. I think most people who know me know how I feel about the concept of a man offering friendship, doing friendship things for a woman, and then expecting that to lead to romantic attraction and feeling cheated when it doesn't. And I think actually it's fine for a man to feel sad that someone he cares about is going back to someone who broke her heart, as long as he doesn't feel that his time and attention to a woman in need are wasted effort if she doesn't reward him with sex or a relationship. I think most men who are sad in this situation don't actually think they're putting a down payment on a relationship if they're kind to a woman who loves someone else.

I want to tell my side of this story.

I have a lot of friends who aren't in established relationships. People who wish they could have a fairy tale romance (or at least a dependable significant other). I don't want to be in romantic relationships with them, obviously.

But I wonder if they're aware how much it hurts to be treated like your friendship is nothing.

Friendship will always be demoted beneath romantic relationships. In time spent, in importance, in "seriousness." And if I am upset about it, I'm always going to be treated like either that is inappropriate and I should've expected to be ignored/essentially dumped when someone has a relationship, or that I must've secretly had romantic feelings for the person.

I'm not offended that they want romance. I'm not upset whatsoever if they establish a primary partnership with someone. But damn, it really gets old being treated like my friendship wasn't worth anything.

When I'm there for them during the hard times, happy to do things in between or outside the relationship, happy to listen when it goes bad, happy to offer advice or distraction or an ear to listen.

You wouldn't believe how often I've been treated like that's nothing.

I don't want a romantic relationship out of it. I would be upset if someone acted like our closeness should lead to romance. That's not the expected result of my care for them, for my treating them like they're important to me and being sad when they're wounded.

But I keep hearing, as they talk to me, the person who's there for them: "I'm alone." "No one cares about me." "I'll never be valued by anyone."

It really hurts to know that my friendship just "isn't anything" sometimes. That people who ostensibly like me think nothing of saying that my affection doesn't count because it isn't sexual, that because of the lack of that dimension it isn't real or significant to them.

I guess that's why people like this really think it's fine to disappear into their relationships and ignore me for months or years at a time, then pop right back out expecting me to be waiting for them.

The first time a particular friend of mine did this to me, I was baffled that he actually did it, and then after that I never trusted him that way again.

I was still kind to him, I was still there when the breakup came and went out to console him with some distractions, still tried to support the other things he did and was ready to include him when he was ready to include me.

But you know what? It didn't really hurt much at all the second and third times he did it.

I had accepted--sadly--that I wasn't anything to this person. Anything real, that is. He felt free to discard me when he didn't need me, and he apparently thought it was fine to leave me out of the loop on what was going on in his life because once he got a girlfriend everything was About Her, and when established routines just suddenly disappeared again I didn't have to ask. I knew it meant he was in a relationship, and that him being in a relationship necessarily means he will just put me down like a toy he's tired of.

I'm not waiting for his attention. If I know that's how someone treats his friends when he's in a relationship and he doesn't explicitly have a conversation about how he's learned not to do that, I will invest far less of myself into my relationship with him. Not because he found happiness with someone else. Not because I require him to find his happiness primarily through his connection with me. I'm honestly thrilled if I can help him mend his heart and he goes off to take it to his love or someone else.

But I need our relationship to be about something too, and I need it to be important to him. Or else I will see that he actually doesn't know how to have a friendship with a person who's not actively providing a service to him, and I will know where I stand.

I'm not going to pretend I don't care when people do that. I actually do invest in my friendships and I actually do regard my friends as if they can be trusted to do the same. I'm always going to be sad about every one of these people I've lost. But I'm not going to pine about it or present myself as deserving the relationship I wanted from them. They clearly don't want to give that to me. They want a friendship of convenience. That isn't what I want, and furthermore, what kind of dipstick am I if I find out that's who this person is and I still want a version of them with that part excised?

It can't be taken out. It's part of them and I didn't see it. It's unacceptable to me as a friend who cares deeply and wants to be equally important to them. I will have a bad reaction and I will mourn and I will probably sulk. I will be sad about the person I thought they were. And then I won't give any parts of myself to them that require trust to hold. I'll understand our relationship isn't what I wanted, and I'll let it be what they're willing to let it be (or, if that's unacceptable to me, I will cut contact).

I will always accept people for who they are. If they show me something ugly and disappointing about themselves, I believe them, and treat them accordingly.

No comments:

Post a Comment