I've used defense mechanisms against people in my life that could have been close to me.
I don't hide stuff, or lie, or refuse to engage. But it's like I enter every relationship with the idea that I can't be really close, that I can't expect anything from another person, and that I could easily be rejected at any moment.
Still, I've felt hurt and pain over some relationships with people who were not my parents. Boyfriends, friends. But I deny and minimize that too. I wasn't really all that attached. I don't need anyone. He never really loved me, so what's the difference?
Or, if someone is ready to end a friendship with no explanation for what later turns out to have been a stupid, stupid misunderstanding, then, you know, good riddance.
No, I don't mean that. This one hurts. It's fucking sad. And I feel a lot of shame surrounding it because I've been so stupid and lacked social skills and somehow it all led to losing a good friend over a fucking smiley in a fucking text.
So I'm telling the story.
I had a good friend. A female friend who was actually female and feminine and was into talking and sharing and not only drinking beer and discussing politics. Then we both fell in love with the same guy for a while, while we both had boyfriends. We were all friends. It was a crazy situation. They eventually got together. There were secrets involved. They broke up a lot. Somehow, I ended up talking to both of them about their relationship and listening to what the other did. There were inconsistencies and I'd point them out and this sometimes led to them getting back together. I somehow found myself in the middle. Acting as some sort of peace-maker, go-between, intermediary. It was stupid, but I never said "I'm not interested" to either one of them when they wanted to pour their hearts out. They were both good friends and people I felt things for. Basically decent people. I still feel that.
Then, they definitely broke up and it was nasty and the guy didn't want to talk to the girl at that moment and called me and begged me to simply inform her where she could leave his stuff, as she'd asked him that when they last spoke.
I didn't want to do this. He begged me and said "If I call her now, I might lose my temper and say nasty things I don't mean to her. This will be easier on her."
It was a stupid idea to begin with. I had no business doing that. But I didn't know any better at the time and trusted everyone's social skills were better than mine, and he knew what he was doing when he asked me to do this.
I sent a stupid short text to her with just the information. And then it sounded too unfeeling, too curt, too formal.
So I added a smiley.
That was it. It was supposed to be short for "I'm sorry and I love you" or something. Things I was unable to actually say, even in writing.
"You don't have to gloat," she responded. I didn't understand why she'd say that. By no means was I gloating. Really. I wrote back "Sorry, I'm just transferring information." See the lack of social skills? I felt something here, but could only function like a machine.
Then she called me and asked if she could bring his stuff to my place, instead of where he wanted it. I said "OK" and hoped that we were now fine. I still didn't quite understand what I'd done wrong.
When she dropped the stuff off, I asked her if she wanted to have coffee with me. She replied "Our coffee-drinking days are over," turned around and walked away. I didn't ask why. I didn't understand. I just said "All right then."
If she hadn't been so vulnerable, insecure, and dramatic, she might have explained; if I hadn't been so eager to defend myself by easily letting people go and writing them off, I would have demanded an explanation. But we were both too messed up to talk about the issue.
I only learned what the issue was from her ex, years later, recently, in fact.
Her phone had translated my "<:-)" into "he he."
And I was suddenly hurt. Because I understood and could no longer write her off. I could no longer rationalize that "I don't really need a friend who was willing to end it just because I sent a stupid message that may have been misguided, but certainly not malicious."
I wrote my parents off decades ago on some unconscious level. I don't know what it would take for me to be able to feel hurt by them.