year of living copyGAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Laura writes: Running on a lake path recently, I encountered a past lover. The relationship had ended very oddly; the lover had moved (which I’d been expecting) but had not contacted me with his new phone number or address. It was one of those nightmare-quality experiences. I could have located him, obviously, but his total disconnection from me, without warning, seemed like a clear message. I have wondered, sometimes with great sadness, why he never called to say goodbye or to officially end what was, in truth, never much more than an affectionate physical relationship. His action had felt hostile, understandably, and I had searched myself for a time to see if I had given him reason to fear ending directly what we had openly agreed would one day end when we met closer partners. I felt clear with myself that I had not caused his behavior, and at that point, I let it go.

With some hesitation, I fell into step beside him. “Why’d you do that?” I asked. After all this time, my question felt more curious than anything else.

He didn’t answer for a time, and we ran together, our hard breathing and the sound of our feet hitting the path the only noises around. Finally, he answered. “I was afraid to hurt you.”

I laughed. “I was touched by your kindness,” I said, rolling my eyes.

He laughed, too. I figured he was remembering my occasional lapse into sarcasm. “Yeah, well,” he said. “Smart women, dumb choices.” That was an old line—a joke between us back then—when I had struggled with the rightness of being in a relationship that wasn’t “going anywhere.”

Both of us laughed at that line, and then he shrugged, and we exchanged awkward good-byes, and I picked up the pace and moved ahead down the path. He’d never been as good a runner as I was; I remembered, as I rounded the lake and glanced over my shoulder, glimpsing him far behind, that he’d never been able to keep up.


People do things that hurt you. The issue, of course, is what you contribute. Think on a recent instance in which you’ve been hurt in an interaction. What part did you play?

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