We had a conversation in the SwanWaters Facebook group about friendship. Someone had had a little bit of an argument with a friend. They thought they had worked it out, and then later on said friend posted something quite passive aggressive on Facebook.
Do you know what? We all sometimes do that. We all sometimes resort to passive aggressive behavior for whatever reason, because we’re just human beings. We’re all fallible. We’re not perfect. Sometimes we’re going to say something, do something, engage with the people closest to us in ways that is just stupid. I know that we’ve all been there so I’m not going to elaborate. We can all think of a moment where we said something, did something, responded in a certain way where we were like, “Awe, man! If only I could wind back the clock and stop myself from opening my big trap.”
Now that we know we all do that, let’s also remember that when our friends do that to us we are usually just fine. We are more than happy to just say: “Do you know what? They were tired. They were dealing with a lot”, or whatever we know is the reason for our friend to be less than communicatively effective. We just step over it. Especially when someone comes back and says, “Hey, do you know what, that was just stupid. I’m sorry about that.” Then we say, “It’s okay. That happens to the best of us”, and we just move on. I think even if someone doesn’t apologize for being passive aggressive or whatever, we can get over that, provided it doesn’t happen too often.
All this stuff isn’t really an issue when you’re in relationships, because like I says, we all do this sometimes, and that’s fine. We don’t have to be perfect, especially not around the people that we are closest to. I mean, obviously we’d like to not hurt them, but this is where we let our guard down. That’s where we’re not monitoring our own thoughts and conversation all the time. That’s also where we’re more likely to say something that maybe that should’ve been caught in the social filter. That’s just part of life. Where it becomes a problem is where someone does that all the time.
Mistakes Are Fine, but Abuse Is a Toxic Pattern
Abuse and toxicity are not a one-off or an occasional incident. They are consistent and one-sided. Within a friendship where both people sometimes say something stupid and then we forgive each other, that’s fine. However, if it’s always one person who acts passive aggressive, or one person who says things that they shouldn’t be saying. Even if they do come back and say, “Hey, I’m sorry for saying that”, but there’s never a change to the pattern? Maybe they’re not as sorry as they profess to be, and maybe the indiscretions are not as accidental as we had hoped.
As survivors our alarm bells go a little bit haywire when it comes to the question if a person is going to take advantage of us. So, I think this what we need to look for: Is this a toxic pattern or is this a one-off, something very occasional?
By very occasional I don’t mean once a week, because that’s still a bit too often. Is this a “Hey, do you know what, the person was tired and they just said something a little bit inconsiderate”, or is this someone who is showing me a pattern? I think once you start seeing that someone does something again and again and again, does it with maybe different people again and again and again, this is how we can say, “This is a friendship that maybe is not worth pursuing, or maybe this is a person with whom I need to be very particular about what kind of boundaries I set up for them to be in my life.
I think this is one of the things that we need to be very aware of. If someone does something that makes us feel uncomfortable, sure that’s a red flag. But we do not immediately need to retreat. We need to just keep our eyes open and see if a toxic pattern emerges. Are they treating other people like that as well? Are they doing the same type of thing in different settings? Once you see a pattern, then it is time to tread a carefully.