Minding Your Own Business: What I Learned from Hate-Filled Ex-Friends
Minding your own business seems like such a trite expression or even a cringe-worthy reprimand, but thanks to a few ex-friends, I’m in more of a live-and-let-live stance than I’ve ever been in before. More than anything, their gleeful shunning reminded me of how much I’ve changed in how and even whether I judge other people. (They’ve let me know they don’t read my work, so I’m not worried they’ll read me here–and frankly I don’t care.
A question has been going around various social networks, asking whether you would tell a female friend if you saw her significant other out with someone else. There was a time when my answer would have been a definitive “Yes, and I’ll help her move the body.” Now, I can’t really say that. I’ve learned that things aren’t always as they seem and that there are things that happen between other people that don’t involve me (aka, none of my business). Sometimes men and women really are “just friends,” and sometimes it’s an open marriage and sometimes the friend I’m closer to is really the abuser and the other person is trying to plot an escape. It’s seldom black and white. So my answer is, “It depends.” And it depends on many, many things whether I choose to become involved in someone else’s relationship or judge someone merely because of what a former friend or spouse says about them. I’ve met plenty enough “crazy exes,” to realize that some truly are mentally ill (with the diagnosis to prove it) and others are simply quieter than their popular-with-the-people spouses.
When relationships break up, whether they’re romantic or sisterly or business partners, people often feel the need to side with one or the other when there’s really no need at all–and when neither party has asked for anyone to side with one or the other. People used to tell me that my ex and I were the perfect couple, but all they saw was what passed between us at a dress-up party in public, and they had no idea that I was in misery or why. I’ve looked at other marriages and been saddened to hear they were breaking up because they seemed to be such a perfect couple, but I long ago came to understand that things happen that no one else will ever know. It’s not even a matter of his side, her side, and the truth…it’s not really a matter for anyone other than the two of them. Maybe it’s some fundamental need to prepare for war and survival that makes friends of the two step in to take sides when they know only little pieces.
For the past couple of years, I’ve handled my judgment differently, most of the time. If two people have separated or have problems and one has the need to tell me about it, I take with the proverbial grain of salt. I can still be supportive but I don’t necessarily agree that the other person is crazy or even wrong…at least not until I’ve interacted with that person myself. In some cases, I’ve had to agree that the other person is a lunatic and, at least once, that the other person was crazier and meaner than had been alleged. But I can listen and nod and be supportive without walking away to go key that person’s car.
Two former friends of mine are trying to teach me a lesson these days. They’re shunning me. I didn’t even notice at first–they had to call my attention to it. Why? First all, they’re former friends because they chose to be. They dropped our long-standing friendships overnight. There was never an angry or upset word that passed between us. Because I’m no longer in a relationship with someone they liked, they ditched me instantly. They never asked me anything, I never told them anything, and they decided they could be friends with only one of us.
I’m annoyed but not really upset by it all, except when they freshly let me know once again that they’re not my friends anymore. If I could get just beyond the annoyance, I could laugh at it but so they’re filled with hate about things they think I’ve done, that yes, it does bother me. Part of me wants to defend myself and the other part doesn’t care. There’s no point in defending myself anyway because they’re having too good a time believing what they want. The truth of the breakup is far less lurid than they could possibly imagine and there are details of it that I won’t discuss with anyone that, if I did, would either be flatly not believed or would hurt other people. Neither of them has the same relationship with this person that I did and from the contexts of their own relationships, they automatically assume that I must be the one who caused hurt when there was hurt on all sides and for reasons we’ve not told them.
They’ve taught me to be more careful before passing judgment on situations I know nothing about or have, at best, heard only one side of the story. I’m grateful for that. And I leave them to their determination to show me by their shunning just how bad a person I am. Maybe I am a bad person by their standards because while they’ve been busy passing judgment on me, I realized that they’re not really worthy of my friendship and that I’ve really not missed anything since they’ve declared me unworthy to be their friend simply because I chose not to be someone else’s friend.