19 February 2010

Not Reaching Out

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 Sometimes, they have withdrawn, and while I felt bad, and it stung a little that they felt they had to protect themselves by removing me, I also knew it was probably best for them and cared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.


Daniel said...

You think way too much. Just call. Or text. Or facebook message. Or don't. lol.

I bet half the people you are wanting to connect with really don't think of things the way you've described them here. I can't tell you how many texts I haven't replied to simply because they came when I was in the bathroom or my phone was dead or I was in a meeting or at the theater and I just forgot to respond or felt I read the text too late to respond. I bet most people are like me, and aren't trying to evade or manipulate or have the upper hand. They're just going about their lives.

If you want to reach out, but don't, please don't be mad at them for it.

Alan said...

This sounds like you analyze every relationship at every level as if it were a chess game. Perhaps they are doing the same and both of you are denied some positive innocent friendly companionship as a result? Perhaps lighten up a bit, reach out with the simple motivation of genuine concern and interest in them, no focus on yourself, and let them decide how to respond? Most people react positively when someone does that. I don't know your circumstances or background so I could be totally wrong, but from reading your post I wonder if you're denying yourself and your friends some good times and good relationships as a result of all this analysis paralysis.

Original Mohomie said...

Dan, you're mostly right. They generally don't think of relationships the way I do, which is OK for them but makes for tough dynamics between us, especially when I feel like I'm adapting and bending and they're not (because people like that tend not to think about things enough to perceive what's needed). :-)

But some (not all) are manipulative, I'm sure of it, not that I think they're necessarily aware of it. Long story. And though I've felt anger at most of them, in some cases, I've told myself that anger is just me being hurt, and in others, I've realized it was merited.

Alan, I normally do what you've suggested, but these cases I'm talking about are rare exceptions to my normal course of friendship. The messiness I've gotten into at times has been because I've tried "lightening up" and not being concerned about possible caution flags but just seeing where things would go. The problem, I think, is the personalities and types of relationships I've chosen to do that with. I've learned a lot from them and had some good times, but I do question whether it's worth the bad.

Most of my friendships have been pretty laid back and smooth and, I think, unusually long-lasting. Which is what makes these exceptions that much more aggravating. Grrrrrr. :-)

darkdrearywilderness said...

Wooooo someone who overthinks things as much as I do! I really like Dan's comment; I'm going to keep that in mind next time I get mad when someone doesn't text me back.

Original Mohomie said...

Ha, DDW, glad you...identify? :-)

I also agree with Dan's comment to not be angry with someone else for not reading our minds, divining our insecurities, or failing to reach out to us when we haven't reached out, ourselves.

Unfortunately (and I know it wasn't clear from what I wrote--I omitted some stuff so as to not turn it into a tattle-tale), what I was talking about was not normal, incidental non-response but was a clearly different thing shown by a consistent pattern and things I'd seen them do with others before I became a target, too. In fact, for a long time, I tried to push away the distrust and the suspicion that they were messing with me, telling myself I was just hurt and was feeling defensive and needed to reserve judgment because my emotions were clearly tender. Looking back, though, it's clearer than ever that some of it was what I thought it was. I think things are OK now: we're casual friends, and in one case, he got much more sensitive after going through the wringer a bit, himself, in a different relationship. Ha, but never underestimate the bitchy powers of an emotionally confused and volatile gay boy experiencing his first relationships. Especially, I think, the ones who constantly go around saying they "hate drama." Ha, oh well. Gotta love 'em for their good traits as I'd hope they'd do with me.

My trouble is that since one or two people did that, it's hard to trust others who exhibit similar personality traits and whom I've seen incidentally using hurtful behaviors towards others (admitting they were doing so but declaring it was deserved). I do, however, need to allow each person a chance to either disappoint by doing the same or surprise me by being more mature, and I have been pleasantly surprised before, so I need to remember that and try to trust...and stop getting attracted to guys under 25. ;-)

Yes, some people do those hurtful things out of their own feelings of defensiveness or pain they feel, but we all feel those, and not all of us act on them, at least not to equal extents. I expect someone to treat me with as much sensitivity and respect as I treat them. I need to find someone responsive in the ways I need, even while trying to learn not to make unfair demands of those to whom I'm attracted. Ah, relationships. What fascinating creatures.

darkdrearywilderness said...

lol...why does it seem that the people that "hate drama" are usually the most dramatic? and, sigh...I think a lot of my problems would be solved if I stayed away from guys under 25 too :)