Talk started turning to the family, and I had made a few comments that made him pause and ask what was going on. So, being the blunt person I am, I told him. And in telling him, I realized my general frustration with people – the fact they don’t realize the message they are sending, thereby damaging a relationship.
For example, my other brother and I have been close. We used to be really close in fact – not only in age, but also in how we supported each other. We respected each other’s opinions and paths. But, then, the relationship changed. The message I was getting from him pretty loud and clear is “don’t call me, I’ll call you.” When I would reach out to see how he was doing, the response was “why are you calling?” And, most recently, he has disappeared from my life. Seems to have coincided with the fact Derek moved in thus making there no room in our house for overnight visitors. Since that day, I have not heard from him once. Not a call. Not an email. Not even a Facebook note or comment. The message he’s sent to me: if the hotel is closed, I’m not important enough to maintain an active relationship with.
Or my parents. They had a crisis the past week involving money. They called everyone. Except me. They know the bank is closed. My youngest brother said that it shouldn’t be an excuse for them excluding me from the crisis – but that they were likely trying to keep me from doing something. But, as I pointed out, the message they sent: if the bank is closed, then I’m not part of the family during crisis.
I asked my brother what message he sends me. I mean, I don’t usually hear from him unless he needs something. He was silent. He had no explanation or response. So, I continued. And, I gave him other, non-family examples of where I’ve experienced this phenomenon.
A friend who I would only hear from during a crisis or when a problem needed to be solved.
A friend who I only hear from when there is a computer problem or a technology one.
A friend who I only hear from when an ear is needed.
In all of these cases, the reciprocal is not held true.
My brother, to his credit, actually had a “holy shit” moment. A moment, in fact, where he was going to actually go yell at my other brother and my parents. I told him not to do it. I would handle them just like I had with him.
What is funny about the time that has past since the talk – I’ve heard from my brother two more times. He has called just to see how I was doing. No other reason really. Clearly, he internalized the message.
So, I ask my readers – what message do you send those people in your life – friends and family? Are you inadvertently sending a message you do not mean to send? Are you okay with that message you are sending?
I guess I ask this question because life is so freaking short to lose people from your life through your own missteps. I have to ask myself these questions periodically, thus my reason for asking them aloud.