Every once in a while, I feel like reaching out to someone I've been hurt by or who has expressed a desire to backpedal our level of interaction when I didn't share that desire. It's happened with a girl or two, but it's admittedly been more so with a small number of fellow mohos, usually when there's been an attraction on my part, whether or not I actually "fell" for them. I tell myself, "It's not worth putting yourself at risk by reaching out in some way and just giving them the upper hand again because they've never proven they can have the upper hand yet show real sensitivity and open, honest communication while having it (maybe for fear they might lose the advantage or lose your friendship?), and you'll just end up getting hurt again." Then I remind myself, "They can only hurt you as much as you allow them to. You don't have to expect anything from them or hope your interaction will be what it was before things went south. You could just check in like you do with other people you've not been so vulnerable with." Then I think that the fact that I'm even debating this really does mean I'm not as "over it" as I'd like to be because if I were, there'd be no question, no risk.
Or I think it at least means that even though I'm pretty sure I couldn't be "hurt" the way I once was, or I've detached enough to not be vulnerable in that way, I wonder if we can reconnect in any way more than incidentally without it going in that direction again, and if it's only going to be incidental, I'd almost just as soon leave it alone entirely. I'm not sure I've never navigated that successfully.
I figure I've hurt a small number of my friends because they kept coming back after we realized their interest was greater or more invested than mine, and I felt bad that they couldn't just relax and be friends, and I didn't want to push them away myself but could see it would probably be best for them if they would withdraw. I genuinely cared about them, but having to constantly rehash things or walk on eggshells to avoid hurting them was so tiring that I wondered if it wouldn't be better to just go our separate ways. Sometimes, they have withdrawn, and while I felt bad, and it stung a little that they felt they had to protect themselves by removing me, I also knew it was probably best for them and cared about them enough to just let them do it. And I was happy when they'd come back, but there's always this undercurrent of me having hurt them, even unintentionally, so I try to be really careful without walking on eggshells or underestimating their resilience.
I never understood their behavior and sensitivity until I found myself on their side of a friendship. I hate the idea of being in their position indefinitely (especially with someone less sensitive than I am, because I'm pretty sensitive but still did some pretty clueless/thoughtless things) or putting another friend in the position I was in, confused and feeling ultra-cautious all the time, so I figure it's less messy and better for everyone to just stay apart and not initiate contact even if I'd welcome contact from them.
So I'm left with this mix of thoughts and emotions: I want to know how they're doing and what's going on in their lives. I want to know what they ate for lunch today, how the new job has been going, how life across the country is treating them. But to reach out and ask would be to initiate contact they haven't requested and when they haven't done anything to reach out, which puts me right back in the position I was in when we parted: more invested and more pushy than they. So I refrain. And I figure they probably don't even notice, or so I tell myself to make it easier to not reach out. While their lives are marching on just fine without me, they at least probably occasionally wonder what's up with me. But if they really cared to know, they'd ask me. They'd text me or e-mail or call. They'd reach out. But what if they're thinking the same about me and refusing to reach out out of defensiveness? Let's be honest, though, they weren't the ones getting hurt. If anyone should be defensive, it's me, but I'd be willing to reach out...except...fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice... The burned child fears the flame. What excuse does the unburned child have?
It dawned on me recently: I need (or want) them to reach out, genuinely, sincerely, selflessly, vulnerably. I just don't care to put myself back in the position I was in which led to the need for "space" in the first place, and contacting them is, by definition, putting myself back into that place. Especially when the other person has contacted me unexpectedly only when they had something about themselves to tell me about before suddenly running out of time, or they texted me until I texted back, then never replied, as if they just had to prove they still had the upper hand and could make me reply without needing to reply back to me. And I don't play those kinds of games. I walk away from them very shortly: I have no patience for them.
Sometimes I wonder, "But what if they just need to know that you're open to hearing from them, that you're over it (or getting over it) and do care about them, so they don't go away thinking you simply don't care?" And then I remember, "That's not what they were doing before, and it's probably not what they're doing now. If they really care, if they really want contact with you, they'll initiate it. Even if they think you're upset, if they're too immature to make themselves vulnerable by reaching out when they fear you might not return it, then they are proving exactly the traits which led to your 'break-up' in the first place, and nothing has changed." So I shrug in resignation and give myself a quick, reassuring nod to affirm my confidence, and move on to something else, wondering if I'll ever figure it out.