My Bullying Story: Resolving conflict: The difference between friends and frenemies

Jeff later pondered how another couple, close friends of ours for years, Catherine and her husband, would have responded to the e-mail.  He concluded that it would have been turned into a joke that I could never live down.

Heck, Catherine is an outrageous flirt who’s always giving guys the wrong impression, and enjoys it.  Heck, as my matron of honor, she flirted heavily with the groomsman–holding his hand, sitting in his lap–even though her husband was also there!  People say, “That’s Catherine.”

The same as, according to Richard, another heavy flirter, people would say, “That’s just Richard.”  When it comes to flirting, Catherine and Richard are the same.

(In every other way they’re different, because Catherine is not a narcissist, and is genuinely sweet, not as an act to pull you in.)

If Tracy had trouble with me, she would’ve hated Catherine, who probably would’ve started flirting with him immediately.

Jealousy doesn’t seem to be in Catherine’s nature at all.  When she wanted to share a hotel room with Jeff for an SCA event in Minnesota (her husband was not in the SCA and I didn’t want to go), I didn’t want to allow it.

She thought I was being possessive for that, and for not wanting him to be friends, after we got engaged, with people he’d slept with before.  So I can imagine she would find Tracy bizarrely possessive.

So not only did Jeff think she and her husband would have simply made the e-mail into a joke, but he also concluded that the incident wouldn’t have happened in the first place, because–unlike Richard–her husband understands boundaries.

He would have done nothing to me that he knew his wife wouldn’t approve of; if he hugged me the same way Richard did, it would have been in front of his wife.

Because really, there was nothing about that hug that was “inappropriate,” no groping, no kissing, no passionate embraces, just two close friends expressing caring and gratitude.  In other words, hands stayed in the “friend zone.”

As he did it, I thought of it as gratitude to his family’s benefactress, not the hug of a lover.

Then Jeff went to an SCA event without me and spoke about my e-mail with Catherine and a few of our other old friends.  He asked how they would have handled it. 

They all said they would have teased me mercilessly and then let it go, because that’s what friends do. 

So here’s the difference between friends and frenemies.

There is a huge difference between wrongdoing and a misunderstanding, and how a person needs to act to make up for such.

A misunderstanding of something you did with good intentions, is not even in the same league as seriously screwing up.  If you did wrong, you need to apologize for what you did wrong, and turn away from that behavior.

If you were misunderstood, you need to apologize for giving the wrong impression and unintentionally hurting, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily did anything “wrong” that you must now repent of and turn away from.  It doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be scolded.

So many times, neither party has actually done anything “wrong” at all, but acted out of different opinions, value sets, codes of behavior, and the like, and should not be forced to change their opinions and values to satisfy someone else.

I believe love should be freely expressed, and I believe these hugs were in no way adulterous or “cheating.”  I believe there was nothing wrong in me remembering them fondly or bringing them up to Richard.

Since this was a misunderstanding, since Richard and Tracy read in subtext which did not exist, and since I tried multiple times to make clear to Tracy that it was a misunderstanding–

I will not submit to being treated as if it were deliberate wrongdoing, as if I had seriously screwed up by trying to “get with” her husband, when I had spent the last few years trying my darndest to avoid all improprieties.  

Imagine being married to someone who treats everything you do in this way, not just when you’re being a jerk, but when you meant well and have just been misunderstood!  And most disagreements with most people are truly misunderstandings.

The success of any relationship–marital, familial, friendship, co-worker–depends on the willingness of both parties to forgive and accept misunderstandings, not force submission and groveling out of someone who did not intend to hurt you and simply has different opinions than you do.

Why should I take on the role of a caught criminal over a misunderstanding?

The manipulator tells you that you are selfish, that you are not caring enough, that you are hurting their feelings…and you find yourself high-centered on a big old boulder. Keeee-runch.

Suddenly you feel horrible about yourself and are scrambling to apologize, make amends, soothe the manipulator’s “hurt” feelings. You feel like a cad, and they walk away with whatever prize they were aiming for.

Pay attention to the interaction. When you suddenly find yourself being sent on the Guilt Trip train to surrender, pull the brakes. Don’t let some lying and under-handed manipulator fight by using you against you.

There is something quite unseemly about a conscienceless creep using your fully operational conscience to further their selfish ends. Don’t be a patsy.

Don’t roll at the first intimation that you are too mean, too selfish, too uncaring. Know the truth about yourself even when someone is lying to you about you. —Guilt-Tripping

(You will note that the above does not refer to someone respectfully bringing concerns to you hoping for resolution, as I would do with Richard, whether about something he did or about how Tracy was treating me.  It refers to someone repeatedly dealing low blows at you, as Tracy did.)

Well I was there and I saw what you did, 
I saw it with my own two eyes 
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been 
It’s all been a pack of lies 
Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing