Quit the Cat Fight: Calling Truce With Your Enemy
Tina and I *hated* each other. In the very classic, “I’ve never talked to her in my LIFE but we have both been to third base with the same guy” way.
I was absolutely terrified of her. She was older than me; I was afraid of and intimidated by any girl older than me. No, it makes total sense: they’ve been on this planet for more minutes than me so by the transitive property of age, they are to be feared.
We both mean-girl’d each other whenever possible: she once told me to leave a New Year’s party (I promptly obliged), and I made sure to shit talk her any time the opportunity presented itself.
Weird years of social situations heavy with awkwardness and thick with stressful tension followed. Eventually, I moved away. I still saw her tagged in pictures on Facebook and Instagram and felt a really terrible cloud of disdain wash over me while I studied her face for ten minutes at a time.
Truthfully, we called truce silently by doing it the old-fashioned way, by eventually pretending nothing ever happened. We easily could’ve gone about our lives, let the dust settle, and treated each other awkwardly/avoided one another all together, if we were at the same bar or whatever. But we didn’t. We acknowledged a giant elephant in the room. Which felt weird, good and mature?
You’re going to need some guts. An “I’m sorry” and an acknowledgment of the shittiness caused is stressful and hard AF. Women are very stubborn and it’s MUCH easier to hold our grudges than to step up and be like, “So hey I was a DICK.”
You may get rejected! (Something that convinces many of us (me) we will never leave our house or talk to a breathing thing ever again!)
You may get told to fuck off! (Stern! Kinda shitty! Sometimes fair!)
You may get no response! (Something I find worse than “fuck off”!)
So how exactly *do* you reach out and give a concerted effort to make amends? I reached out to the brilliant, hilarious, delightful woman who I once considered my true antagonist to find out.
What were your feelings towards me when you started dating [name redacted to protect the kind-of-innocent]?
I remember combing through homecoming pictures, your Xanga and MySpace accounts (just aged myself!), and eventually your Facebook. I was looking for any reason to hate you, to dislike the person that my person once loved. Typing this makes me sound crazy, but I imagine I’m not the only one to have done this. When our ex and I started dating, I thought I felt a sense of disdain towards you. In hindsight, it was complete jealousy. That’s the funny part, you know? When you step away from a situation: a job, a relationship, a friendship, you’re better able to assess what it is that made you unhappy. It was complete jealousy because God forbid he dated someone before me. And not only that, someone who is smart, attractive, and likeable. Also, funny as hell. Years later, I was able to grasp what it was I felt towards you and the realization of why I didn’t like you inspired the road to amends.
Why do you think it feels automatically natural to make an enemy out of your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend or your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend?
I fully believe jealousy coupled with a side of insecurity is behind the natural instinct to dislike one another. For me, there was a feeling of insecurity and I didn’t realize it until years later. Like any completely rational girlfriend, I wanted to know everything about you because hello, that’s normal. “Oh, Liz liked to hot tub? Cool. Does she have abs?” “Did you guys have a song? Why the hell aren’t you changing the radio station? I KNOW THIS IS YOUR SONG!” Who says that? Me. I did. It was a feeling of uncertainty in myself and the relationship that I hadn’t felt before, and that feeling is what sparked the resentment and natural instinct to hate you.
I think a lot of women go through a very pivotal moment that helps define who they are and how they want to be perceived – both by others and by oneself. For me, that moment was you. Having this experience forced me to address my own insecurities and helped pave the way I deal with the fact that my fiancée has dated, and loved, before me (gasp!). Because of our experience, I don’t think twice about whether his exes are funnier than me (they’re not), or more successful. Those things don’t require my attention or energy and I owe that realization to you.
What was the turning point? I mean it wasn’t like we had to be friends.
I can’t pinpoint the turning point of our relationship. The best way for me to describe it is like falling in love; you don’t always remember the moment you fall, but you’re sure as hell glad you did. There were defining moments, though. Moments that make me take a step back and gasp in horror at my behavior; i.e. the New Years I kicked you out of a party which I cannot forgive myself for because that was terrible and my stomach still drops thinking about it. I also remember years later when I developed a hardcore girl crush on you thanks to Twitter. And as recently as this summer, years after we made amends when I sent you a novel-length text after reading the chapter in Nora’s book about exes.
What suggestions would you give to other women who want to make a truce with someone they haven’t been on the best of terms with?
When it comes to making amends, I believe in authenticity. If you aren’t someone who is the type to spill your heart out and say sorry, don’t do it. It will come off as insincere. If your style is more in line with sending a large cheese pizza to my work, I will fully accept the carbs and forgive you. Or, as I’m pretty sure our relationship developed if you need to befriend that person on social media and like her pictures as a way to open the door to conversation, do it.
What do you think is the benefit of reaching out and apologizing instead of just letting it lie which is very easy to do and absolutely the route I was going to take?
It’s so much easier to sit back and do nothing, isn’t it? We didn’t have to be friends. Neither of us were forced to reach out and there was no expectation of a response. However, I never want someone to feel like less of a person because of my actions. And whether or not my actions and words impacted you, I wanted to make amends. Reaching out to you was a personal choice. Apologizing is such an incredible and powerful way to move forward, with regard to the relationship and with oneself. Whoa. Typing that made me realize how happy I am at how far we’ve come. I’m thankful we’ve moved on for that time and cannot imagine texting anyone else for food recommendations or engagement shoot ideas.
Me too, girlfriend. Me too.
Image from @TopKnotGoods
Liz Welle is a professional feelings feeler but gets paid to do social and digital stuff for brands in Minneapolis while occasionally food styling on the side. She lives in Uptown with her boyfriend and their thirteen plants. She is doing her best.