I remember reading somewhere that in relationships, people usually tell you what they want and where you stand with them. Of course, you have to actually be listening to what they say, and have to be brave enough to take the words in, without changing it into what you hope they just said. I wished I had known this so much earlier in life, because I would have saved so much time I spent on people not worthy of the effort, friends, family and love relationships alike.
Why didn’t I listen to the many signals my so-called best friend sent out over the years that she did not value our friendship? I can recall several painful moments where she told me, not in so many words, but the message was that I wasn’t important. When filling out the middle-school yearbook questionnaire, she answered the question, “Who do you hang out with?” by saying “No one special”. I happened to be on the yearbook staff, and the teacher advisor took me aside to show me her response. At the time, I didn’t understand why he did that, but as an adult, I realized that he saw what I was not ready to see – that she was not a good friend. He changed the answer to “Friends” before it printed, I think in order to spare my feelings. When I asked her about what she wrote, she gave some strange excuse like she didn’t think it was anyone’s business, but since we had few other friends, everyone knew who her friends was anyway. It made no sense. Now I know that she was saying exactly what she thought. I was “no one special”.
Of course, there were other things that were said or done that made me delude myself into thinking that I must be mistaken, or being overly sensitive. Whatever the reason, I clung so hard to my childhood friend, well into the first year or so of college, until she finally rejected me outright.
I had been asked to be a bridesmaid to a new college friend, and I guess I was complaining too much about what a process it all was and how it was more rigamarole than I expected. She said to me, “Well, don’t expect me to do any of this when you get married – don’t even ask me.” Ouch. Who says that to their supposed best friend? Yes, being a bridesmaid or a maid of honor can be a lot of work, but it is a rite of passage for all women. Your friends get married, you wear an ugly dress and let them fuss over how you are going to wear your hair, etc. I was still unable to hear what she was telling me.
Later in life, I was interested in a guy who belonged to a club I was in. We spent time together with the club, and then gradually started having coffee together. I was under the impression that we were making slow in-roads into getting together when he said to me, “So, are we becoming friends?” Why didn’t I hear that for exactly what it was – I was already friend-zoned. I heard, oh wow, we are getting closer. We went out on many what-seemed-like-dates, but without any end of the night kiss, and I thought he was shy. HA! He was dating someone else, but was afraid to tell me. It wasn’t until he screwed up the courage to tell me that I knew for sure that nothing was ever going to happen between us. But I should have, because he told me what I was to him. A friend. I just didn’t listen.
When I started to date my now-husband, we spent an evening at Dave & Buster’s, a restaurant/bar with arcade games. We were having a lot of fun, racking up tickets to be turned in for a prize, and he was casually saying that we could hold onto them and save up for a better prize another time, that we might be able to try for the big prize…a lot of “we”, and talking about the future. This time, I knew that people tell you what they think. And I was listening. This person likes me, this person wants to spend more time with me. This person values my opinion, even if it is about Dave & Buster’s prizes. He was telling me what I was to him from the very start. And this time, I listened.