How It Feels To Be The ‘Invisible’ Part Of A Relationship

Flickr / Paul Chiorean
Flickr / Paul Chiorean

I don’t mean being the girlfriend that gets overshadowed by how amazing her boyfriend is, or knowing that you’re dating up, and knowing that everyone else around you knows that you’re dating up. No, I mean the invisible part of a relationship between your two friends. Some call it a third wheel, but really you’re not even a spare tire. You’re the training wheels on a kid’s first bike, the wheels on either side of the main bike frame that he believes he doesn’t need, until he realizes that without them, he’d surely fall and hurt himself.

When they can’t talk to each other, for obvious reasons, they talk to you. ‘Cause that’s what friends are for, right? We’re here for emotional support, to lend an ear, to be completely okay with everything and just take it all in. We get left with the emotional burden that they needed to get off their chest. Law of conservation of matter, or energy, or whatever: it can’t be destroyed; it’s just converted into another form. Well here’s a new “Law of conservation”: The Law of conservation of emotional turmoil, which states that emotional turmoil can be created but it can’t be destroyed, it’s just offloaded from one person to another. However, if the other person is so uninvolved with or apathetic to the situation, the emotional turmoil will either be left hanging in the air or, more likely, it won’t transfer from the initial carrier until it is offloaded on to someone else that will care.

I guess instead of physics, I should analogize this to epidemiology or parasitology instead. Emotional turmoil is like a virus and parasite hybrid, except that it’s a virus-parasite hybrid that is extremely selective in its host. When it develops in a host, it will consume him/her until he/she has become completely wasted and eaten out, until what’s left is just a shell of the human being that once inhabited it. So of course, we feel the need to offload this virus on to anything, on to anyone. It’s like playing with the proverbial hot potato: hold on to it for too long and you’ll get burned and kicked out of the game, because you’ve become useless to everyone else that’s still playing.

We’ll do anything to just get it off our chest. We spew our guts, heave up what’s been living in our heart and pass it on to someone else, believing that it’s now their problem, their issue to deal with. If the receiving person is apathetic, the virus will refuse to transfer, but if the receiving person is sympathetic to your emotional turmoil, the virus has now found a new host. I guess in this way, you can only ever infect those that really care for you. You can only ever hurt those closest to you. The only method of transmission is through open hearts.

In a sense, it’s selfish of them to dump all of this on you, believing that you’ll work your secret elf magic to make things perfect for them. But no one will admit to this, at least not out loud. Of course we won’t, after all, we’re supposed to be a good friend, a supportive friend, and supportive friends don’t label their friends for being selfish just because they get left with the negative energy. No, we suck it up, absorb all of it, and watch them skip off into the sunset as a perfect couple, the OTP. We listen to everyone around us ship them, and declare that they’re the most perfect couple, like, ever. All the while, a little part of you is screaming on the inside, while another part of you is trying to contain that frustration and disbelief of how unfair the universe is.

Keep it locked away in the depths of your heart, seal it up, quarantine it if you have to. Or better yet, beat it with a baseball bat, sweep it under a rug, and suffocate it to death. It’s not supposed to exist; your friends offloaded it in the hopes that it would quietly go away. But no, it’s raging like a nest of hornets and reproducing exponentially until you feel like you’ll burst. It’s basically biohazard safety level 4, which is generally on the same front as Ebola and Marburg. Heck, it could even possibly be biohazard safety level 5, which doesn’t really exist yet. You want to cry, but it’s illogical to do so. It’s not your emotional turmoil, why would you be crying over it? Screaming feels like the only way to get rid of anything, but unless you offload it on to someone else it won’t really go away. The Law of Conservation of Emotional Turmoil, remember? And then there’s the fact that it’s not your secret to share in the first place, so you have no outlet, no escape. Even if you did, are you really going to stoop to their level and selfishly offload this soul-consuming virus on to someone else?

Being the invisible part of a relationship is like being the dumping grounds for emotional negativity. Initially you just take it all in, but soon it just overspills into everything, and eventually you begin to stink of the rot and decay of other people’s problems. It becomes a black hole for happiness, and nothing ever seems to go your way anymore. It’s like being the bellhop at rush hour: you’re left with everyone’s baggage. It’s like becoming a padded room, absorbing all of the cynicism, misery, and self doubt just so that they won’t hurt themselves. It’s like being a heart surgeon that never went to med-school. How the hell are you supposed to fix it? And why are you left with cleaning up the consequences when every vein and artery blows and there’s blood spewing everywhere? Its knowing that they only ever want you around just in case they feel the need to offload even more emotional turmoil, or rant, or vent, or kwento, or however they phrase it these days. It’s knowing that you’re not wanted, but you have to be there just in case the proverbial shit hits the fan.

But I don’t want to be a plan B, or the emergency plan, or any form of back up. I don’t want to be the dumping grounds for your emotional turmoil. Don’t accuse me of being jealous of your relationship, because yes, I am constantly painfully aware that I’m the only one that’s alone. But I don’t listen to your rants and suck up all of this pessimism because I want to live vicariously through your relationship. I listen because you are my friend, because I care, because regardless of our lack of common interests we get each other. Or at least that’s what I used to believe. Now that you’ve found someone better, have I become your spare tire? Now that you want to always be happy around the one that you love, have I become your outlet for all the worst things that has happened to you today? And answer honestly here; have I become your emotional punching bag? Because if that’s all I am to you, I honestly don’t think I want to constantly feel like I’ve been punched in the gut, or weighed down by all of your relationship problems and doubt. I don’t want to drown in tears that aren’t even mine to cry.

Maybe I should distance myself. Just get away from all of this. I don’t mean to be rude, but I just need room to breathe because right now, and in fact for quite a while now, I’ve felt like I’m suffocating. There’s just never enough air. Maybe I’m weak because I can’t deal with the constant weight tied to me, because I can’t suck it up and move on. Maybe I’m selfish, because after everything that I have to do, all of the problems that I have to deal with on my own because I refuse to dump it on to someone else, I just don’t have the time, energy or the heart to deal with your situation. Maybe, I’m a bad friend because I’m just jealous of your happiness. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve known that in the time that we’ve grown up, we’ve also grown apart and I no longer fit into your world. I’m sorry if I’ve let you down somehow, but I guess that just how life works. And I guess, now’s the time for me to move on and finally search for my own happiness. TC mark

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