We never know what’s motivating someone unless they tell us, and even then, people are not always honest. No one wants to say, “I’m making this decision because I’m scared and weak, and it’s the safer and easier thing to do.” I mean, seriously. Who wants to have to own that? Sometimes people make choices, and they don’t communicate about what’s driving them because they can’t face it themselves.
We’re human, and most of us long to understand, especially if things happen that are hurtful. Few things feel worse than being ignored. If we make ourselves vulnerable with someone, if we reach out in an effort to make sense of something, and are left in a vacuum to figure it out on our own, it adds insult to injury. We feel we aren’t even worth a response to someone who was, or is, important to us. There’s nothing kind or compassionate about leaving someone in a communication void, and let me be clear. I’m not talking about situations with people who are unbalanced or have a total lack of boundaries, or who refuse to accept what you’ve already said a million times. Sometimes you really have no choice but to draw a hard line. While I’m at it, let me also say that you can never be the one to help heal the heart of your inconsolable ex. Meeting for one more tea, taking one more walk, answering one more call, writing one last email…it just keeps the other party hanging on and hoping. Your intentions are probably good, but you can’t and won’t help anyone that way. If you’ve explained yourself, if you’ve communicated openly and honestly, and given the other party the chance to say whatever needs to be said, you’re both going to need some time and space. It’s hard to heal when we keep throwing salt in the wound. I’m not talking about those cases, though. I’m talking about times when we’ve been close to someone, and they make choices that are mind-boggling, unexpected, completely out of left field, and then they refuse to help us understand what’s happened.
This occurs with romantic relationships, it happens between family members, and it happens with friends. Sometimes there’s a willingness to talk, but it’s not coupled with the ability to be truthful. You can only do what you can do, after all. You can create a safe space. You can say that you just want to understand. You can invite the other party to open up and share with you, even if it isn’t pretty. You can reassure someone that there’s nothing they could say that would make you stop loving them, but you can’t force someone to accept your invitation to be intimate, because that’s what we’re talking about, here.
Sometimes people feel threatened or envious, and they can’t imagine saying that out loud, so instead they withdraw, or they lash out, or they act out. Friendships that were once thriving are lost, because we’ve decided some feelings are ugly or shameful. Can we really tell a friend we feel jealous or insecure? What’s funny, is that the more we’re able to be truthful, the less these emotions overpower us. When we repress something, we’re actually feeding it power. The more we push it down or reject it, the harder it comes back up. Most people would rather have an uncomfortable conversation than lose a friend, and some people might actually see bold-faced ownership of your feelings as an opportunity to deepen your bond. If you want someone to know you, you have to be willing to show yourself, even the parts that aren’t so pretty; especially those. If you internalize your confusion and pain about the choices being made by someone close to you, you also lose a chance to see what the friendship can sustain.
Also, let’s talk about rejection. Since we never know what’s motivating someone unless they tell us and they’re honest about it, it’s really inadvisable to assume it’s a reflection of anything lacking within you. If you’re in a romantic triangle with someone, if you have a friend who you wish would be so much more, and they choose the other party, of course that can feel like the other party must be better than you, but the reality is just that the other person is different than you, and maybe in ways that work better for your friend. Maybe you’re scary in some way. Maybe you demand a level of honesty and intimacy that feels too intense for them. Maybe the other person offers more stability, and your friend comes from a really unstable background. Maybe your friend doesn’t want a real partner, maybe they prefer to be the big personality. Maybe a million things.
The point is, try not to expend too much time or energy trying to understand what someone else is doing, or has done. The story to examine is always the story of our participation. What did we bring to the mix? Do we feel good about it? Did we show up the way we wanted to? Is there anything we can learn that will help us moving forward? Do we need to apologize to the other person, or to ourselves for anything we might have done or not done? Once you have those questions answered, move on and try to trust. I realize it isn’t always easy, but if a person is meant to be in your life, they’re going to find a way. If they can’t, you just need different things. Try to be at peace with that.
Sending you love and a hug,