Okay, so here's the situation: you like someone. I mean, you liiike someone. A lot. And for the sake of this particular hetero-normative blog post, we'll say you're a guy and you like a girl.
Now, you and I both know she doesn't like you back. Not the way you want her to.
It's not exactly something she said - it's the nonverbal clues, and the way she keeps telling you how great it is that the two of you can be such. good. friends. So, deep down in your emotions, you know exactly where she stands. But you certainly don't stand there, so you ignore those emotions and you convince yourself that you ought to just tell her how you feel, because I mean... who knows, right?
So you psych yourself up and you go for it. But then the moment you start talking you see her face drop because, get this, she knew you liked her, which is the real reason why she kept telling you how great it was that you were such good friends.
Her face drops because she absolutely doesn't want you to keep talking. But you've already started, so you plow right on. That stupid, self-lying little voice in your head is still saying maaaybe there's still a chance. And then it's over and, guess what, so's your friendship. You don't know it yet, and neither does she. In fact, neither of you is going to acknowledge that your friendship is over until it's so far gone you can't remember what it was like when you were friends, and she would still call you up in the middle of the night just to talk.
Don't worry - it won't take long.
Because here's the thing: your relationship was based on a lie. A lie you both agreed on, and agreed to carefully, meticulously cultivate. She knew you liked her, but she was getting something from you that she enjoyed, so she pretended like you didn't. And you knew that she knew that you liked her, and that she didn't like you back, but you were getting a lift from pretending like that wasn't the case.
There was just one problem, though: The Truth.
Once the truth was out there in the open, the lie didn't work any more. So she stopped calling you in the middle of the night just to talk, and you stopped writing her those thoughtful little notes that made her feel so good when she was a bit down. It just wasn't any fun, anymore.
So, where does that leave you?
If you could travel back in time and un-say what you said, would you? I mean, it would give you back your friendship, right? The only thing different would be that you wouldn't be able to partially-believe the lie any more... but, so what? Your relationship would still be exactly the same, right?
There's a problem with that, though.
It's the same problem we have with every lie we carefully maintain, in our efforts to avoid dealing with our underpinning emotional problems: lies suck. They're dirty little weeds, and they suck the grow-juice right out of any relationship.
In fact, they suck so bad that the so-called "relationship" you had with this girl before the truth came out in the open wasn't actually a relationship at all. What it was was a screen - a screen over the fact that you want emotional intimacy so badly that you're willing to lie to yourself, and to encourage someone else to lie to you in order to get it.
What you're not willing to do, though, is to expose yourself to the risk of immediately expressing your interest in someone to determine if they might be interested in return. So instead, you cultivate a self-protective lie, hoping that one day a miracle will occur, and she'll just up and change who she is and offer you the intimacy you desire... without you ever having to risk anything to get it.
This is so incredibly, depressingly normal.
It happens at every level of relationship. Not just this stupid little friend-zone experience you put yourself through (hey, I calls it like I sees it), but also with people who actually do get together - because people get together for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes it's just because Harry likes Sally, and Sally's tired of feeling lonely on Friday nights. Sometimes its because Sally likes Harry, and he mostly just wants someone who will cook and clean for him like his mom used to do.
It's actually ridiculously rare that two people will get together because they're both genuinely fascinated and want to be with the other person. Because, hey - statistics.
I mean, what are the chances of that actually ever working out for anybody? That two people with such strikingly similar values, interests, goals and tastes could meet and be into each other at exactly the same time - so much so that they'd be willing to accept all the annoying things that come with tying themselves to another human being for as long as they both shall be not-dead?
This seems to be somewhat unavoidable. Given how often and how well we lie to ourselves, I don't see how we can hope to form relationships that don't have some sort of lie worked into them.
I think, however, that important lies like the one you told to that girl you liked (and she told to you) have something to teach us about the nature of relationships. The problem isn't that you told the truth... it's that you took so incredibly long to do it. You tortured yourself - sinking yourself deeper and deeper into a relationship in which you could never really feel very known. When you agreed to that lie, you robbed yourself of the beauty of living your life with others as you actually ARE.
But what if you hadn't done that?
What if when you had first felt a glimmer of non-buddy interest in this girl, you'd turned to her and said, "Hey, you know what? I just had a glimmer of non-buddy interest in you... what do you think about that?"
No, seriously. Take a moment to imagine a world where we did just that. Where we didn't wait until the lies had a chance to root themselves in deep. Where we paid attention to our emotional sub-soil. Where we were ruthless in weeding out our fears and our self-lies, and instead just told each other the truth - as best we understood it, and as quickly as possible.
Sure, yeah, telling the whole truth seems irresponsible and stupid when we do it long after the lies have had a chance to root down and wrap themselves around our deepest emotional selves - but what if we didn't give them that chance?
What if we told the whole truth in our romantic relationships?
What if we told the whole truth in our friendships?
What if we told the whole truth in our family relationships?
What if we told the whole truth in our politics, our economics, and our education?
Y'know... I don't know the answer to that.
I don't even know how willing or able I am to try it for myself.
But I am willing to imagine.
- - -
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