I trust too easily. I know this about myself. I trust wholly, without question, and when one does that, it tends to open you to getting hurt. It’s why people withhold love and trust, and I can see why. It sucks to be let down.
My trusting heart gets me into trouble. When someone tells me something, I invest fully in it. They always receive the benefit of the doubt. When I’m told I will be invited and included in something, and then I find out I am not, without explanation, it hurts. Badly. Particularly knowing how I am as a person – how understanding and accommodating, how loyal and trustworthy I have worked to become, how I will bend over backwards to help when asked (or not) – my expectations are to be treated the same.
Many years ago, a sibling of a friend, someone I had watched grow from a toddler into an adult, had loved and cared for as my own flesh and blood, didn’t invite me to their wedding. And it wasn’t just that they didn’t invite me; it was that they didn’t tell me I wasn’t invited. I only discovered it because at a mutual friend’s wedding, I found out their wedding was just a month away. And I’d been in enough weddings by that point (including my own) to know it wasn’t that I hadn’t yet received my invitation. It was that I wasn’t getting one.
I was devastated when I found out. I took it personally and felt I had done something wrong. It took my long-held fear of being excluded and solidified it. I, perhaps brashly, made the assumption I would be be included because of our long history, and I was wrong. My feelings were hurt.
Seven years down the road, I look back on this experience, and where I am now in my life and journey, I can let it go. They told me later it was due to headcount and apologized, and I forgave them. But I do still wish they had had the courage ahead of time to write me a note or give me a call and say, “I’m so sorry – we wanted to invite you, but we found out this family was coming and we had to make some cuts.” It still would have hurt. I still would have been disappointed. But I would have understood and appreciated the honesty.
Recently, I was confronted with another wedding I was told for over a year I would not only be witness to, but also was to assist in preparations and decor, only to see it is far too late for me to be involved let alone for an invite to make its way to me. And I would be lying if I said it didn’t break my heart.
However, it has revealed something to me which I have long tried to ignore: I cannot force anyone to include me just because I include them.
This has been revealed to me over and over again, and yet somehow, I continue to refuse to acknowledge it. If I go to a city where someone I know lives, I will do everything I can to make time for that person. Then they will come to my neck of the woods and won’t tell me they’re coming here. I see on social media they’re in town, and it hurts every time. “I always try to make time for you, and you don’t for me.” There is a pattern here, folks, and I’m finally willing to see it.
I had a milestone birthday and received incredible news regarding my career this week, but this wedding thing kept tapping me on the back of the head, wondering why they didn’t tell me. Why did they not send a quick text saying, “Hey, we had to make some hard decisions and unfortunately, we can’t include you.”? Again, it still would have hurt. I still would have felt disappointed. But I understand, and it’s better than being blindsided.
Am I as much of a coward for not saying anything directly? Perhaps. But what good does it do for me to call them out and force a wedge in between? Now I know, without anger or malice, how I viewed and approached this friendship may not be reciprocated. I write that with all the understanding and compassion. Clarity is kindness. And I can adjust my expectations and actions accordingly.
Over the last few years, I have worked to do more in the way of reciprocity. Am I the only one reaching out to make plans? Am I the only one making effort and time? I need to step back and see why that is. Give the other person an opportunity to seek me out – if I am as important to them as they say, they will make the effort. And I will meet them in the middle with reciprocity of that effort.
Here’s an example: I send a text to a friend I haven’t seen in awhile. They reply saying they’d love to get together, what’s my schedule. I reply with several dates and times I am available.
I follow up a week or so later, completely understanding of how busy our lives all are and things getting missed.
In another time, I would have stewed about that. Wondered what I had done or said to upset them. Made up stories about what they thought of me. Stayed awake at night thinking of ways to make it better, fix it. Always needing to fix it so they like me. Please, just like me.
Not anymore. I shrug to myself and accept the relationship has shifted, and if they want to spend time with me, they will let me know. No hard feelings, no righteous proclamations of severed ties. Just a shrug and we move on.
Or maybe the opposite is happening. Maybe someone is taking time, effort, and energy to connect with me, and I am not reciprocating. I need to examine this and ask myself why. Have I outgrown this relationship? Are we different people? Instead of being clear with them and setting boundaries, am I just ignoring them and allowing them to draw their own conclusions about me? I am not OK with that. I need to respect them and tell the truth about what is going on.
Having the capacity, patience, and skill to do that has taken me years of practice, and clearly, I have not perfected it. This particular situation brought up such strong feelings of rejection. It kept me up at night and forced me to the keyboard these early hours, which is my body’s signal to me that I need to get it out of my heart and head. So I can release it and move on.
But the truth is, I will keep showing up for them if they need me. I will. Because that is who I am. And that is who I want to be.