“But I said I would!”
Granted, it hasn’t been in recent times that you’ve made that loving promise of being happy to drop everything and show up for them if they need it, and you meant it when you’d said it, too, but the point is you said it, so you’ve got to show up, right?
First of all, no, it actually doesn’t mean you have to – if it did there would be no epic poems and stories centered around the theme of betrayal and abandonment.
Second, and much more importantly, sometimes it might be better for them if you didn’t. It’s an unfortunate place to be with the options being Greater Evil and Lesser Evil…the problem is that the latter often disguises itself as the former.
How does a situation like this even come about?
There’s a lot of reasons this could happen, but the bottom line is, you know you’re at that place when you realize that somewhere down the road, all those sentiments of absolute interest and concern you had for them just evaporated, like a river dried out. Sure, there is an indisputable outline of what once flowed and held the power to even cut through rock, but what actually remains within is…somewhat less impressive. Plants at the bed that were once sustained by its life-force are now visible and all but dead, and the ‘river’ is nothing but a few small pools of stagnant water at sporadic intervals.
If it is just this remnant that compels you to answer the call you thought would never come, please don’t do it.
“But they hardly ever call, and I promised!”
Hate to break it to you, but that’s actually not a very good reason.
I get the logic that if you’re the last person they would call and they’ve done so, it must mean they are desperate and very vulnerable, which is true, but that’s precisely the same reason you shouldn’t go. They’re hurting, so.
If their problem isn’t going to keep you up at night or make you pray for them, don’t go.
If it’s something you personally don’t consider a big deal, don’t go
If you’ll forget about it once you’ve fulfilled your promise to drive up to them, don’t go
If you think about how you can get back by such-and-such o’clock and do XYZ that you’d intended to while driving there, find the nearest U-turn and just go back home.
It’s really that simple because your inhibitions and disinterest cannot be masked; and even if it hurts them to be alone, it will hurt much more when you show up looking highly inconvenienced. You may not glance at your watch or tap your shoe, but they will notice your actually-not-so-subtle glances at the door as they speak. The way you check your phone every time it buzzes then make a show of setting it aside. The way your responses come just a second too soon, as though you cannot wait for this to be done with.
The things you may not even realize you’re doing, they’ll never forget. As a result, not only will they question why you’re still a part of their life (and never call you in times like this), this will also damage them in a way that will take months, if not years, to recover from.
For when you dismiss their ‘big problem’, they will start to question themselves, question whether or not they really have an issue or are overreacting. They will try to shirk away from their own emotions because last time that’s how they felt but you made it clear they were overreacting. They will be launched into a perpetual battle to ‘tone down’ and filter everything they feel, think, or speak because, in their moment of vulnerability when you held the power to touch their most basic beliefs and emotions, you convinced them they were wrong.
I won’t even get started on how they won’t know what to think of you – on one hand, you did show up, but on another, you clearly didn’t want to. How far does that run in your relationship with them? Are you someone to be trusted, or not? Is there something that needs repair, or are they overreacting again? It’s exhausting to try to figure out other people even on a good day; when they’re already broken inside this is even worse.
The issues they might have with you are secondary, anyway. Your behavior will set them at war with themselves. They will constantly berate themselves and find no solace in their own company. They will talk themselves down justifying your behavior. They will come to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them and that they deserve nothing but the worst in this world.
Don’t do this to them.
It might cost their trust in you, and they might feel all levels of hurt and betrayed and that could also erode their self-esteem, but it’s still easier to cope with trust broken in someone else than it is to cope with not trusting yourself anymore.