unreliable narrator

I’ve recent­ly been faced with the chal­lenge of nav­i­gat­ing diver­gent his­to­ries with­in a shared narrative.

It’s the rea­son I won­der what my ex-bestie tells peo­ple regard­ing our falling out; I have the feel­ing it’s some­thing along the lines of, “I don’t know”, even though I made it extreme­ly clear exact­ly why I was unsat­is­fied and unhap­py in our friend­ship. It’s the same rea­son I sus­pect my mom tells peo­ple that we didn’t get along when some­one asks if she has any kids, instead of “I hurt my son so much that he refus­es to have any­thing to do with me”. Sure, each expla­na­tion might be close to the truth, but they’re far enough away from it that I’d con­sid­er each one a lie.

One of my exes even attempt­ed to hold a false his­to­ry against me when try­ing to apol­o­gize for end­ing our rela­tion­ship1. She ini­tial­ly spoke as if no one was respon­si­ble for my sore feel­ings by say­ing that she still thought we made the right choice. I found this pret­ty insult­ing, con­sid­er­ing the fact that I was about to sug­gest we go to ther­a­py to work on our com­mu­ni­ca­tion issues, and was instead left shocked and devastated.

When I asked her to pro­vide evi­dence of me want­i­ng to end things and she couldn’t, she apol­o­gized for imply­ing the deci­sion was mutu­al. Her tune quick­ly changed and she lashed out by blam­ing me for things I had no idea were prob­lems — like the fact that she resent­ful­ly spent our time the way I want­ed, or the fact that I wasn’t respon­sive enough when she tried to open up2.

Suddenly, if she had any part of the blame for end­ing things, then I was more at fault, cause my behav­iour was jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for her actions. Now all the love and atten­tion I gave her, all the mem­o­ries we had togeth­er were things she bore with indig­na­tion the whole time. To this day I won­der what she tru­ly believed3; whether I was hon­est­ly some ter­ri­ble per­son she had been putting up with, or whether that was some­thing she told her­self to live with her decision/threat.

I’m lucky all these inter­ac­tions hap­pened by e-mail, pro­vid­ing me with proof that she said the things she did then tried to out­right deny them, or I wouldn’t have real­ized she was gaslight­ing me even after our rela­tion­ship was over.

Due to this par­tic­u­lar expe­ri­ence, I’ve come to accept that I have very lit­tle con­trol over what peo­ple think of me. It’s pos­si­ble for some­one to make up any real­i­ty that suits them. I can behave per­fect­ly accord­ing to my prin­ci­ples and still come off the vil­lain in some­one else’s sto­ry. While it’s left me feel­ing help­less at a time that I’m try­ing to wrest con­trol over my life, it’s also forced me to be more con­fi­dent in my deci­sions4. As long as I fol­low my truth, I’ll know I’m doing the right thing.

  1. I’ve since learned that threat­en­ing to end a rela­tion­ship over some­thing triv­ial is a tech­nique peo­ple use to manip­u­late and con­trol their part­ners. []
  2. Things which I would have worked on with her, had she told me (or had they been true). []
  3. Fortunately, I know what I believe; this was one of the few rela­tion­ships I went through after doing a lot of matur­ing, and I can con­fi­dent­ly say I nev­er did any­thing wrong. I was even extra sup­port­ive, respect­ful, gen­tle when deal­ing with her. Otherwise, this won­der would man­i­fest itself as a con­sum­ing inse­cu­ri­ty. []
  4. I still care to a cer­tain degree what peo­ple think of me and my actions, but I try not to let that define or influ­ence me any­more. []

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