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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