I'm not sure this is the friendliest place to start but, here goes.
There's not one single person in my life I've never been mad at. No one. If you are reading this, I have been mad at you. I was mad about your political facebook post. I was mad at something you said that hurt my feelings. I was mad that you made a decision I thought was bad for you, and you didn't listen to my advice. I was mad that you canceled plans, or made a joke at my expense that I was a bit sensitive about, or didn't listen to me on the phone and did the "uh huh" thing and I could totally hear you typing an email.
However, I got over it. I forgot about it most of the time. I might remember I was mad at you once, but probably can't remember why. I probably never said a word about it, and knew that the feeling would pass. If I knew you didn't mean to hurt me or upset me, I probably recognized that and moved on. I also was probably not that mad. It was like a tiny mad, like a fruit fly.
Sometimes, though, I do say something. Sometimes, my feelings are hurt or something you did was insensitive and I felt you needed to know. Other times, I'm just mad and suffering and need you to be miserable, too. That's a pretty big one. Why should I be sad or mad alone? That's not fair.
And when that's happening - I am probably NOT approaching you in a constructive way. Just ask my husband. I'm probably going to say something rude or passive aggressive. I know better, but instead of saying, "when you did that, I felt hurt and here's why," I actually say, "what the hell were you thinking?"
Maybe you've been mad at me. And maybe your approach made me get defensive and immediately fire back with why I'm not wrong and you are. Maybe you have been defensive too.
But here's the thing: if you are reading this, there's never been anything I was mad at your for that I couldn't get over, or that we couldn't work through. And I always want to get past that stuff. Because relationships are very important! But, relationships are sometimes hard. Not always, and they don't have to be, but we make them that way by being all complicated and defensive and angry.
So how do we make them less hard? How do we remove the blame and the purposeful hurting and the defensiveness?
In my marriage, we've done a pretty good job at this. It takes effort and work and we aren't perfect at it by any means. Sometimes, Matt admits he's wrong and apologizes for something, and I take that opportunity to belabor the point about how bad I felt. I was fine, but felt like I needed to punish him more. I should have said I was sorry too and let it be.
But other times, we do better. Other times, Matt or I say "when you did that, it hurt my feelings," instead of "what the hell." And then, we can reply from a constructive place, instead of defensive place.
I also have to keep the "movie in my mind" under control. Am I really dealing with the true realities of a situation, or am I now fighting a battle I exaggerated in my head?
I say we make it simple. First, ask yourself if it's worth worrying about. Did they mean to hurt you? Are you misunderstanding it? Is it minor? Are you making it bigger in your imagination?
If you believe it must be addressed for your relationship to be ok, or that mentioning it can really help that person be a better human, talk to them in person or on the phone, and address the issue calmly and from a place of constructive and positive communication. Don't blame, instead say how you feel. "I felt hurt by what you said/did."
Then, when you are that person being told you hurt someone, don't be a jerk about it.
I have taken great pride in my adult friendships. I have a big and deep circle of friendships, and that is one of the things I am most proud of in my life. And 99 times out of 100, we do great at managing our conflicts. Sometimes we don't. But each time, if we try a little bit harder in our moments of anger or sadness, we can build stronger bonds in those friendships. And that is something to be very grateful for.
I'm going to keep working on it, friends. :)