‘I hate you’ is one of those things that gets said in two ways, both full of meaning and emotion. The one where it’s the truth, which is hurtful and more often than not mutual. And the one where it’s the opposite of the truth, and it’s just a joke and both parties can laugh at it.
Someone I care a lot about told me they hate me a couple of days ago. And I’m not laughing. I am hugely upset still, to the point of it affecting my work.
To give some background, this is a longstanding friend, who I know has some issues that often present with a very negative self-image. And I worry about them because of that. The chat we were having friendly and a bit silly about writing and delivery methods, and all was fine. Then a comes a message that says how this friend feels underappreciated. I was ready to sympathise, there is nothing worse than that feeling. Then I read on about how my lack of respect was damaging their self-worth and making them unhealthy. While sitting stunned to read that, another message came in that simply said: “I hate you”.
I was gobsmacked. Didn’t know where any of that had come from. I was also deeply, deeply hurt.
From where I was sitting, we’d gone from a light-hearted discussion to one about serious mental health issues. This friend and I have had lots of silly conversations over the years, joking conversations, but this didn’t feel the same at all.
I tried to rationalise that it had been sent to the wrong person. They couldn’t mean that. So, I waited for some indication that this was a mistake or a joke. None came. After a while I replied with “Wow – okay”, because I was so shocked. I hoped that that would break the silence and they’d come back to me so I could understand what was going on.
I left it for a few hours thinking that the friend had to have been distracted, and they’d come back and say they were joking. But I heard nothing more, I thought oh my god, they mean it. They actually mean they hate me.
So, I responded that after thinking about it, that what had been said was unexpected and hurtful, and if they felt that way, then it would be best to call a halt to the association.
That friend has now come back saying they were joking. No ‘Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way it was meant as a joke.’ No, just ‘I was joking’. They claim it was all a continuation of the silliness before, and how could I possibly not see that? Only it didn’t flow, it was a change of topic, and it didn’t read like a joke.
They said that they are sorry I saw it as I did. Implying I’ve got it all wrong.
That they can’t believe that I would think it was a serious message. Indicating I’m the only one at fault.
They say to take it seriously I can’t know them as well as they thought. Again, blaming me while showing no indication of knowing me at all.
That I’m not as good a friend as they thought. Well that cuts both ways, pal.
They say that they can’t read my mind via text, demonstrating no understanding that I can’t read theirs either.
I really care about this person, and am shocked by the level to which they are prepared to try to put the misunderstanding entirely on me without taking a single iota of responsibility. The failure to demonstrate understanding that someone else might not see things exactly as they do is what I’m finding most painful. The dip into mansplaining didn’t help much. Friendships can’t be a one-way street, there has to be give and take. No two people ever see everything the exact same way. We all have to make allowances.
I want to remain friends with this person, but I want to see them take responsibility for their own words. To actually say they are sorry without implying that it’s entirely my fault while they stand blameless.
I don’t want grovelling, no promise not to do it again (that’s an impossible promise to keep anyway people often misread others), no overblown protestations of friendship. A simple, quiet sorry is all it would take, but I don’t expect I’ll get one.
Since writing the above the friend has now come back to tell me that it’s all down to my ‘failure of humour’, that I was hostile in trying to explain why I didn’t see it as funny, and that I don’t understand them. So, apparently, it’s all my fault, none of theirs and I mean nothing to that friend after all. Shame.
p.s. The friend mentioned doesn’t follow this blog. So, no this wasn’t written with their reading it in mind. This is me expressing my feelings and not expecting any response from anyone. That after all is why I started blogging, to scream into the void.