I’ve gone through my share of friendship break-ups and boy, have they been painful. I think it took me about three years to recover from one of them. I don’t want that suffering to be for nothing, so I always try to repurpose the pain as a lesson. What can I learn from this? Unfortunately, I’ve been burned several times by one lesson and I’m now determined to learn it.
Believe what people show you.
If the person is gossiping about other people to you, don’t be tempted to think you’re the exception, that you’re the one person they won’t gossip about. Your time will come.
If a person drops another friend easily over something insignificant and without explanation or attempt to work things out, guess what fate awaits you?
If a person is constantly telling you about the dramatic disagreements they get into with other people in their life, it is only a matter of time.
I’ve lured myself into forgetting this lesson more than once.
I’ve dismissed red flags, assuming that what I was seeing was an anomaly. I’ve rationalized behaviors and convinced myself it would be different between us. I’ve been wrong 100% of the time.
I don’t know why I thought I was so damn special. It’s a common trap, I guess. Instead of taking what we see at face value, we filter it through what we WANT to see. Then, when it all turns out exactly as an outside observer could have predicted, we feel surprised and betrayed. Just for a little while though. Just until we promptly forget the lesson again.
Life is pretty brief. Do I really have time to give everyone the benefit of the doubt even though the red flag is waving wildly? My guess is no.
This might sound terribly pessimistic but I don’t mean it that way. The system works for green flags, too.
The pivotal point for Noel and I came when a dear friend of his died. Prior to that, we were just friends. As I witnessed him go through the grieving process and watched the way he cared for people during that time, I fell in love. He showed me who he was at his core and it was someone I wanted as a partner for life. He was loyal, loving, and supportive. He was tender-hearted. All I had to do is watch.
It’s a brilliant system actually. Observe. Get curious.
You will learn everything you need to know. Watch the way the person behaves toward other people. How do they speak to their parents? How do they treat people serving them at restaurants? How do they talk about their co-workers? Take note of what their life looks like. What topics light them up or piss them off? What do they do for fun? What does their typical day look like?
Watch out for the story your brain may use to sell you on someone’s potential. Too many of us waste our time in relationships based on hope, not reality. Entire lifetimes are lost to marriages with another person’s potential, resulting in chronic disappointment and resentment because it never matches up with the truth.
Employ the system to your advantage. Believe what someone shows you and use it as a shortcut. There are people out there who line up nicely with your values. Those are your people.