Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Too Much Apologizing?

I'm the type of person who will be ridden with guilt, if you tell me that I've hurt your feelings, or hurt you in any way. I will feel absolutely terrible. I will rack my brains trying to retrace all steps that led to this situation, and I will apologize for absolutely everything that I can think of that has led to this. Then, I will beat up on myself for not having realized it soon. That's a pattern that I've noticed in the last few years.

It's true what they say, "It's a lot easier making friends than keeping them."

This weekend, I went out with a bunch of friends from my college class - kinda like a little class reunion of the "FOB" group. I wasn't particularly close to most people in the group, but we often studied together and hung out during college. The one person I was closer to in the group, J, seemed to be upset at me.

Just the distant kinda feeling, where even though it's been a while, they are not as super excited to see you as you are them. Ouch. She wasn't rude, or anything, but when I suggested we get together, she didn't say much.

I remember when Almond and I were on the verge of breaking up, he said something like, "I'm tired of always being the one who apologizes." I guess that's how I feel now.

J and I have had 2 major fights where I felt like I was fighting more than I should be for our friendship.

Example 1:
I went on exchange to Singapore with a classmate, P. We were all friends, and there was obviously chemistry and something going on between her and P. What I didn't know what that P had a gf in another city. Upon knowing this, and knowing that J and P's gf deserved better, I tried to convince J that this was a bad idea, but also tried not to judge her.

J and P try to do the "just friends" thing for a while, and J ends up getting hurt even more.

Fast forward to Singapore, P is the only person I know there. Even though I felt like I hated his guts for what he did to my friend, I can't explain to you the relief of a familiar face in a foreign country. So we start hanging out sometimes, though I did eventually meet new friends.

I also met P's gf (Note: They had broken up but had previously made plans to go on exchange to the same school in Singapore. Awkward.), and we hung out sometimes. I found out that she was actually a very cool person, and we had a ton in common, so we became friends. I told J that we were friends, but I didn't really go into much detail since I knew that J saw her as "the enemy." Even though there was a time difference of 12 hours or so, and we didn't talk as frequently, I felt that J had started giving me the cold shoulder.

After much prodding, I find out that she's actually de-friended me on Facebook, and has indeed been purposely giving me the cold shoulder. She said that she felt that I had betrayed her by being friends with P's ex gf.

I spent the next week trying to explain myself, that it was not my intention to betray her and I was still her friend. As an exchange student, you meet all the exchange students, and she was just someone I had a lot in common with. I never would have brought what happened between her and P up, or discuss it with her. This apology went on for almost a month, and things were still a little awkward when I came back from exchange, until she felt that she could trust me, again. Even last year, when I saw her MSN status as: "Why would you be friends with someone who hurt me?" when she found out that we had gone out for dinner.

I felt that I was always there for J when she was going through the P ordeal. But I never saw that P's ex gf had hurt her. If anything, P and J should have known better. But I still don't see anything wrong being friends with someone whom I click with. At the end of it, J believed me that I didn't mean to hurt her, and accepted my apology. But on hindsight, was there really a need for me to defend myself and my loyalty to her that much? Did I really need to apologize and practically beg for forgiveness? I don't know, but I did because I thought her friendship was really important to me.

Example 2:
Last year, we were all planning our graduation trips. Though, I'm no world traveler, I've done my share of traveling, and have a few suggestions / pointers when asked.

I lived in Boston for 4 months, and have traveled to New York City NY, Cleveland OH, Houston TX and some neighboring states. I also went on exchange in Singapore for 4 months and visited various cities in Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

Mostly, I have backpacked through out and explored with my group of friends. The Lonely Planet Guides were awesome. (Not the best thing out there, but definitely very practical.) My friends and I (including LeBlanc) stayed in hostels and guest houses, took buses/ subways or taxi's to get around.

I was often surprised at how there was always some way to communicate, whether it be pointing at a map, using a hand gestures, or speaking a little broken dialect from one of our backgrounds. It felt like there was some sort of global connection anywhere we went. After these trips, I strongly believe that with a little research, everyone can plan their trip to almost anywhere in the world, and tailor it to their style and budget.

So when I heard that J's graduation trip was joining a Contiki tour to see Europe in 2 weeks, I kinda knew how it would be like, and how much she would probably enjoy it. She was seeing about 7 countries in 2 weeks. I knew it would be mostly travel time, and spending maybe only a few hours at each site before rushing to the next site, or a hotel. But when I tried to explain this to her when she asked for my opinion, she only saw it as me putting down her trip and being unsupportive.

We have a tight group (four of us) and what I didn't realize was that she had told my other two friends who basically saw it the same way she did, but also empathized with her, i.e., big bully Des picking on little J who was so helpless. I'm serious. It was only when I was getting the cold shoulder from one of the two other friends that I was confused.

Again, I apologize for hurting J's feeling even though I had done it with the best of intentions. And I knew that when she came back from the trip that she felt that it was just going from one site to the next. It's never a simple apology, I always feel like I need defend myself and prove to her that I'm a good friend despite the mishap.

Fast forward to now-ish. She's been busy with her life, and I've been busy with mine. I try to keep in touch via e-mail or a phone call every so often to see how she is doing. But when my e-mails go unanswered and my phone calls go unreturned, I feel it is rude, and am a little peeved myself. She also cancelled out last minute on a few plans, and I guess I just feel ditched. I try to be understanding and shake it off, but I feel how I feel.

So at this dinner thing, I suggested we do something, and she said, "Well, the last time we did something was for your birthday." I think she was mad that I kinda forgot about hers. I guess she has a right to be mad, but it's way too late now. And I just don't feel like apologizing and fighting for our friendship. Again.

It's not that I have a problem with apologizing, it's just that it doesn't end with the apology. I feel like there are so many loops to jump through afterwards. To once again prove that I am a good friend.

Obviously I make mistakes, but so does everyone else. And so does she. She has hurt me before, but I don't make her feel bad about it for weeks or months at a time. J was supposed to go on exchange to Singapore, as well. We made plans for it, for almost a year. I was looking forward to spending 4 months abroad with my friend. The week we are about to leave, she changes her mind and cancels. When she first told me, I was devastated and angry. I was really disappointed.

But I thought that our friendship was more important than this trip, so when she apologized, I accepted her apology and made the effort to get together before I left. I wanted to let her know that I was mad when she first told me, but I was trying to understand and I wasn't mad anymore. Though I did wish she would be there to share all the fun with me, and would miss her.

I'm not trying to measure "sizes of mistakes" or anything, but on hindsight, that was a huge dissappointment for me, but I wasn't mad for long, nor did I want to make her feel bad. I mean, forgiving a friend is easy. But I feel like when I do something that has wronged her, it's always so much to get her forgiveness.

Is this bad??? I do feel awful, but I also just feel tired of it. I shouldn't have to keep proving myself every time, right???


Andy said...

I think that once friendships get poisonous, there's always one that suffers and the other one that abuses. I think it's clear who's who in here...

What would *I* do? I'd first talk to her and explain that fer friendship means a lot to me, but that I feel that she's not putting as much effort to make it move forward as she is.

If that didn't make her react (and it likely won't), I'd just tell her upfront that I don't like the way she just makes you feel guilty about little things that you wouldn't blame on her, because you know your friendship is bigger than that.

Greears said...

Des, I have to agree with Andy. When I read this narritive, the woman you describe as J is on the path to a very narrow and lonely life.

When I read your first paragraph I felt like I was reading about myself. When I was younger I spent a lot of time hammering away at myself for tiny missteps that offended the people who I thought were my 'good good friends'. Then an event occured. I can not remember what it was and it came around the time I sobered up. (23 maybe?) I had a large realization:

My heart is pure. I am working hard to be the best friend I can be and I do not try to be the bitch I am being accused of being! (You see, I decided to defend myself instead of rolling over on my back!) If this person does not have the overies to tell me that I am hurting them immediatly when I am doing it, only to harbor resentments indefinitly, I do not have the time to include them in my life.

Sounds harsh, but that is the truth. Yea, I said goodbye to some people. "If you arn't close enough to me to tell me that I'm out of line the minute I step out of line, you are not my friend. You are not my friend because you do not realize the amount of time I devote to being a good friend. You are not my friend because you are afraid to tell me when I suck, and trust me, at times I suck. I am a human."

At first it was weird. But the drama in my life stopped. Well, I started choosing my own drama. I don't need someone harboring resentment then gossiping about what a bitch I am (when I wasn't even trying to be a bitch) in my life! And you don't either. All that gossip is like satellites swirling around your aura.

You are a good friend and you don't deserve to be accused of being anything but... Defend yourself and stand your ground. There are new friends out there waiting for you!

Des said...

Andy - Thanks for your insight and kind words. I don't see J as abusing our friendship, I think that's just part of who she is. It's something that I need to put up with if I want to continue being her friend.

Which raises the next question: Is it worth it?

And to be honest, I haven't quite figured that part out, yet. All I know is that I will apologize when I do something wrong, but it will stop there. I do not need to prove my loyalty, or anything else.

Greears - Thanks for you insight. I think a part of me realizes that there will be goodbyes in the future; however, a part of me finds these goodbyes hard to accept.

J was a very good friend to me, and held my hand through several difficult times in my life. It's hard to say goodbye to someone like that. At the same time, I am not a bitch and I don't feel its fair that I be gossiped about like one when I do something that may have offended.

You are right, I am a human and I f*ck up sometimes, but I deserve to be told face to face.