It's really easy to look at the people who have hurt you and put all the blame on them, but the truth is...the blame is ever rarely all on them. It took me a very long time to be able to understand even a fraction of why my best friend became a stranger. I couldn't really see the role I'd played in our distraction and, this time, ignorance was not bliss.
See, I had this friend—a best friend, even. We'd talk for hours at a time and some days our phone minutes almost amounted to a full day. I knew I could always count on him to come do things with me so long as he was free, because he was always game to come see me, regardless of what I wanted to do. At one point, we developed feelings for each other and then he left to go on vacation for a month. Long story short, we made out a couple of times and then it didn't work out. I spent the summer trying to get over him and he spent the summer traveling.
Eventually, after I found out he'd been sleeping with someone else, I started seeing another guy. Only then did my friend tell me he still had feelings for me, and I felt trapped between what I had with the new guy and the possibility of what I could have with my friend. I chose the new guy in my life who hadn't walked away from me the way my friend had, but who was also the safer, less risky choice. Because I was so open about the new guy I was seeing, I thought I didn't have to explicitly tell my friend I wasn't interested. I was wrong.
If you've never heard of the term "emotional fluffer," it's okay, neither had I until I was watching New Girl. Essentially, a fluffer is someone in porn who keeps the actors aroused. An emotional fluffer, as defined on the show, is someone who you're basically in a relationship with without the benefits. I didn't know it at the time, but this was how I was using my friend. While he actually did want to pursue something romantic with me, I just wanted him to be there. Unlike a Tinder guy or an unofficial boyfriend, my friend was the only plus one I could count on to not only stick around, but also have a good time with.
A couple of months passed filled with memories of my best friend and the guy I was seeing, both aware of the other. My friend and I ended up making plans to go to the movies and then dinner, just him and I, which felt a lot like a date to me. In my perspective, I was treating him the same way I always had: as my best friend. It wasn't until recently that I fully understood how he might have misinterpreted the situation and thought I was leading him on. Now I understand why he thought it was appropriate to kiss me and why we are no longer the good friends we used to be.
The real trick here is recognizing when you've made a friend your emotional fluffer. Maybe if I had realized it before I wouldn't have made a mess of things and, more importantly, I wouldn't have lost my best friend.