That sounds like a band name, or a really violent Meetup event, but it is neither.
Yesterday was not really a good day. In fact, it was such an upsetting day that I don’t even really want to write about it. However, since that’s how I best process and make sense of life, I will.
Yesterday, I had a fight with a friend of mine. Or, more accurately, I had a fight with someone with whom I’ve been attempting to become friends (based on some comments made during said fight, I’m not sure if he considers us friends or not.)
This is not the first time we’ve had this fight, as it’s happened at least twice before. It had, however, been a month or so since the last time this fight occurred, so I rather thought we’d successfully worked through the issue. Other than this particular issue, we don’t seem to have any problems communicating, getting along, or building a friendship, which makes it even more frustrating.
The fight is about communication: specifically, how I spend far too much of my life engaging in it and he is less inclined to it than most people, both out of time constraints and temperament. I am really like a teenager with communication, constantly texting people and checking my FB and going through withdrawals if I am in a technology-free zone. (This, I’ve discussed in a previous post.) He is not; he is comfortable not communicating with people for fairly extended periods of time. Although I attempt not to judge, I think perhaps both of our views on communication are slightly unhealthy and make other people in our lives (not just each other) a bit frustrated.
Yet, yesterday’s fight almost ended with us walking away from a friendship that appears to be of some importance to both of us.
The odd thing is, I am aware that this person in my life actually *likes* me, as a friend and as a person. He’s had many complimentary things to say to me, appreciates my snarky,witty, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humour, and has been willing to engage in the exchange of long telephone conversations and Facebook e-mails full of what he terms “emotional intimacy” and what I call “bonding”. He’s told me he enjoys talking to me more than he enjoys talking to many people in the world. He’s mentioned he thinks I have a wonderful spirit, and am an intelligent, attractive, insightful, funny person. Whenever we spend time talking, we laugh a lot, and very easily. We also talk about more serious things, topics I wouldn’t necessarily open up about to someone I barely know.
Yet, as he reminded me yesterday, we barely know one another. He feels I am forcing a friendship to happen through demanding communication, and is angered by an approach he feels is aggressive. On the other hand, I had a hurt and confused look on my face that said “I thought we *were* friends”.
The fight ended with him basically wanting to walk away from our friendship entirely and say “This isn’t working”, and to be honest, I considered it. However, that isn’t my way, and I don’t think it ever will be. Almost all my close friends in life are people with whom I’ve gone through a period of struggle, contention, personal growth, confused feelings, miscommunication, or just arguing about something at some point in time. Yet, most of these friends have been in my life for a long time, and have proven to me how much they care. When times were bad, not one of them abandoned me. It means a lot, those type of friendships, which I treasure greatly. Because I don’t trust people easily, I don’t often invest the time and energy and feeling needed to form those “real” friendships. I think what happened is that I very quickly sensed that this friend of mine could be one of those rare people in my life…eventually. I also thought, based on his reactions to me, that it was a mutual instinct at work. I assumed that he was investing time and energy in me because we could develop a “real” friendship, something not so easy to come by in this day and age.
So, you can imagine how hurt I felt listening to this person basically point out that we’re not really that close and in friendships, as in relationships, you have to pay attention to when someone is “just not that into you”. However, the most hurtful part of the whole exchange was him telling me he doesn’t feel comfortable having me in his home when I am in his part of town in a few weeks, because he doesn’t have that level of trust in me, and sees all the ways in which allowing me into his personal space might go wrong.
It is not that I don’t get why a relatively new friend wouldn’t offer to host me when I was in town. In fact, when I informed this friend I would be in his part of town in June, I didn’t request to stay with him. When we met one another because he was in Atlanta a few months ago, he didn’t ask to stay at my place, and I didn’t offer. Why? Because we didn’t know one another, despite years of the occasional text and e-mail and connection via a mutual friend. I also know this person is someone who values his personal space, and honestly, I tend to get annoyed with sharing the same space with others for too long. I’m an extrovert who needs decompression time, so no matter how much I like someone, not having my own space can become tiring for me. So, I made my own arrangements and didn’t even think to ask about crashing with my friend.
Yet, he is the one who offered…over a month ago, when he knew me less well than he does today, and had less reason to have any level of faith and trust in me. So, when I decided to extend my stay by an extra two days in order to accommodate some extra plans, I asked if I could sleep on his floor for two nights..a short enough imposition to not really be an imposition. He of course said yes, and reminded that he offered to host me some time ago, and I declined.
I am not hurt by the fact that someone feels they don’t know me well enough or like me well enough to have me stay at their home. I am hurt by the fact that someone would offer, and then say, “I no longer feel comfortable having you in my space.” That’s personal. That’s a slap in the face to someone whose greatest crime is trying too hard to be another person’s friend. It’s extraordinarily personal when someone who has always claimed to be fond of you and said numerous positive things about your character and your friendship no longer has the same level of trust and esteem because you had a fight. It hurts that when someone knew you less well, they had more trust and positive feelings towards you.
Ironically, before he offered to host me when I was in town, we had the same exact fight. And just a few days ago, when we spoke on the phone, he thanked me for being patient with his lack of communication and not pushing the issue when he was really busy with other stuff. I pointed out the reason it was easy for me to do that is because we seemed to have reached a compromise; he reminded me that I wasn’t unimportant by saying hi now and then, and I didn’t require constant communication in order to build a friendship. I thought, as with most things, we’d found a point of compromise that made both of us react positively to our friendship.
It utterly shocks me that me sending texts—and after two or three days of no reply, becoming concerned that I’d offended him during out last conversation—should provoke such a dramatic reaction as “I no longer feel comfortable with you in my personal space, and am not so sure we should be friends”. After speaking with him, I do understand why my text habits seems aggressive and make others feel pushed or bullied, something I’ve never considered before. Yet, I don’t feel as if I deserve the lack of trust or faith or friendship or esteem or whatever that came out of this disagreement. If the worst thing you can say about someone is “I know this girl that I consider funny, intelligent, attractive, charming, and enjoy talking to, but she tries way too hard to be my friend”, I’d like to think that’s not really all that bad. If I were, in fact, the obsessive, psycho-stalker type, I’d understand the concern…but the fact is that I don’t pick up the phone and call this guy constantly so he’ll talk to me. In fact, the only time I’ve *ever* invaded his personal space by calling was when we were in the middle of arguing via text, and since I think text is much of the problem in this situation, I’d prefer not to have arguments escalate via text. It’s too easy for people to be impersonal, to say things they don’t really mean. Other than that, we speak on the phone when he has the time to call and talk to me. I send the occasional card or book via the mail…something I do with most of my close, long-distance friends. I share stuff on FB just to share and don’t expect a response.
The irony is that neither my friend nor myself are the type to have much interest in small talk and banal conversation. While the phone calls we share are often rather personal and require a level of openness to “emotional intimacy”, they leave us both feeling positive about one another and our friendship. We say a lot of positive and supportive things to one another during those chats. If we’re *not* yet friends, it’s a pretty good approximation. Yet, the texts that are the source of argument and cause these destructive fights are typically the most banal things in the world, stuff I’d feel comfortable sending to someone I met yesterday. We have had real, extensive chats via text that are of some significance..but generally what I send out is “Hey, hope you’re having a good day” or “YAY! 1st place at trivia”. The only point is me reaching out to keep this friend, who does not live near me, included in my life, helping to create some semblance of friendship and connectedness. Yet, I don’t even know why I would…neither of us is the type of person to be interested in the day-to-day small things that comprise life, except as experiences to be enjoyed while they’re happening. I think we both prefer to talk about more substantial things–and that’s the part I could see someone feeling tired and emotionally drained by—so it’s an irony that we fight over the appropriateness and timing of trading small talk via text. People do it to stay connected..but in this instance, do either of us really care? I personally appreciate a text saying “I’m off doing this interesting thing but cared enough to connect” far more than I do saying “Hi” to everyone I like every day. Maybe my friend feels the exact same way
I think the difference is that I don’t think of text or IM or whatever 140 character communication tool one uses as a way of invading anyone’s personal space. While I would not call someone anytime, anywhere, to share something irrelevant—because I’d consider that a little inconsiderate and rude—I kind of see text as a medium of “that’s what it’s for”. I text people often because I can’t talk to them every day. Sometimes, I can’t even talk every week. But it’s my way of keeping people involved in my life and bridging the distance. Yet, I *do* get upset when someone does not do that in return. Part of it is that I simply don’t like to be ignored, but another part of it is that I don’t want to feel I’m the only one who wants to keep others involved in my life. I do want to feel I’m just as important to others as they are to me, and it doesn’t occur to me that everyone doesn’t walk around attached to their phone at all times, and isn’t constantly texting and FB-ing everyone they know. (Many of my friends do.) The funny part is that most texts I share with people are relatively emotionally insignificant and impersonal. It’s an example of being “connectedly disconnected”. I don’t know if I actually feel closer to people by trading “Hey, how are you?” messages everyday, because there’s no real bonding involved. It’s just this social convention that seems like the right way to reach out to people. Yet, it lacks any of the “bonding” that’s made possible by chatting with friends on the FB messenger every day, talking on the phone, or sending an e-mail (which so few people do these days.) So, the odd thing is, I’m constantly reaching out to people in attempts to feel connected, through a medium that doesn’t really provide a sense of connection. And, those who know that are irritated by this tendency, as well as my tendency to demand that these attempts to connect without really connecting are returned.
Maybe there’s a bigger issue here than just my relationship with this particular friend, but my relationship with the instant gratification, impersonal medium of text and IM. I had to give up IM when I realised I was spending far too much time chatting with people but not really connecting, multitasking, and trading pleasantries. I didn’t think I could function without IM. But I ditched my AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo!, and every other messenger I had installed long before IM fell out of vogue. And, surprisingly, I felt happier, and my friendships with others became more substantial. I wonder if I–like much of the world—have fallen victim to the same trap with texting.
Text actually upsets me. Because I know it takes 3 seconds to send one, if I don’t get a response, what occurs to me is usually “Is this person mad at me, and why?”, or simply, “Why don’t you like me enough to reach out by returning my text?” Yet, I would not react that way if someone was too busy to call when they said they were going to or took days to return an e-mail.
I’ve had to make peace with this communication issue with others in the past, and it typically resolves itself. In fact, it’s a dispute I’ve experienced with some of the closest people in my life. For instance, The Guy I Am Currently Dating does not text, and most of the time, if I call instead, he’s unavailable because he didn’t have his phone with him. At the beginning of our relationship, when there was less trust and understanding, this was a huge issue for me. Strangely, it just isn’t anymore. We found a solution that works for us.
I’ve also had this issue in platonic friendships, where communication—when, how, how often, what’s an invasion of personal space and what’s merely annoying as opposed to thoughtful— had to be resolved. Somehow, these issues disappear as I grow to trust someone. Yet, I’ve never had anyone willing to walk away from a potentially meaningful friendship with me over the communication issue, or lose a sense of trust or level of comfort in me because of it. It may be that the previously mentioned friend simply thinks it’s more trouble than it’s worth, considering he doesn’t think we’re that close, or it could be that, speaking on a friendship-oriented level, “He’s just not that into me”. The result is that I am perhaps dispensable.
But intuitively, I don’t think that’s it…and it’s so rarely wrong about these things, or I’d just agree to give up and walk away. I feel like there’s something under the surface of this situation that I can’t see or put my finger on, but it’s there. I feel like there are things about my friend that I don’t understand because I don’t yet know him well enough, and there are certain things that touch a nerve and evoke an emotional reaction from someone who is usually very calm and laid-back about all things of a personal or emotional nature. The frustrating thing about intuition is that you can sense that things aren’t quite just what you see on the surface…but you can’t see the why. If someone is especially guarded, you can’t even always see beyond the surface level—although I often can, and do. But not always.
And it doesn’t matter…why someone is who they are, or why they respond as they do, is none of my business. But when someone revokes their level of trust and comfort with me…that’s personal, and it hurts immensely. I’m not sure why I care as much as I do, but I do, and that tells me something. It tells me that not only am I an emotional person, I still believe this friend/acquaintance/whatever is someone worth not giving up on. It’s hard to believe that after someone has hurt you or made you feel less special than you like to consider yourself, but deep down, I still do…and that inner voice is always significant to me.
Likewise, I know that I am important to someone—whether that person likes me enough to consider me a friend or simply considers me someone he barely knows—when he walks away from what he’s doing in order to answer a phone call and “work things out”, something that could easily be avoided by not picking up the phone.
I’m not inexperienced when it comes to people; I’ve met a lot of them—admittedly, though, never one quite like this friend. I know when someone cares. And even though I push too hard sometimes by insisting on reminders of that via rather pointless text messages, I actually do know, regardless of someone’s communication tendencies.
It’s just nice to be reminded that those you care about think you’re an awesome person—and both hurtful and humbling when you realise that maybe someone doesn’t think you’re quite that awesome anymore. (especially when they indicate they used to like and trust and feel comfortable with you, and suddenly, no longer have those warm and fuzzy happy feelings about your friendship.) Trust and loyalty are so,so,so important to me in my life, and it’s the reason why I have many acquaintances, yet choose my “real” friends very carefully. To have someone I care about no longer feel able to attribute those qualities to me, someone I might have grown to consider a true friend….it breaks my heart a little.
Regardless of whether or not this person in my life still feels any semblance of positive emotion towards me, or any connection that was there has somehow been undone, I know that in certain ways, I’ve still been a great friend to him—even if I was one that was unwanted, or didn’t know how to express that properly. Although I am cynical, the ability for me to reach out and put myself out there for someone I barely know, based on little more than intuition and connection, is still there. Not everyone has that, and I’m really glad I do. I haven’t let being hurt by life and people take that from me, and while it may not be wise, it is me, and I think it’s good.
I am lucky, because I do have people in my life who I know genuinely find me to be an awesome person, for one reason or another, and others with whom I don’t always see eye to eye, but I know they’re still always there for me, because there is something important about our friendship. The Guy I Am Currently Dating is the kind of guy who will let me cry and offer support when someone else I care about hurts my feelings, and not everyone out there would do that—much less for little old me.
I’m not perfect, but I obviously can’t be doing *everything* wrong. I think I have the occasional redeeming quality. My texting and communication habits, admittedly, are not one of them. *smiles*