Do you ever wonder why the hell we trust people?

by Janelle Hanchett

Just sometimes, ya know? Like when somebody you absolutely knew was trustworthy – somebody you considered family, somebody you invited into all areas of your life, somebody you would have sworn felt the same about you – turns out to be a goddamn liar without any particular capacity for, oh, you know, integrity?

It’s impossible to write this post without being annoyingly vague, but that is the burden we must bear, for this isn’t a story I can detail. I can, however, tell you this: A person my entire family loved like a fucking brother – a non-blood relative each of my kids called “uncle” – betrayed the shit out of us, lied about it, kept lying about it, lied some more about just in case there were some lies left untold, and then, just when we were about to open conversation with him in the hope of some reconciliation, re-engaged unapologetically in the same shit that ended our friendship in the first place.

But the details are unimportant.

The point is, and the thing Mac and I have been asking ourselves since this happened a couple of months ago, after all the tears and rage and confusion – is how difficult it is to not simply shut down the entire friend division of life.

After a loss and betrayal like this, the feeling of “How could I be so wrong about a person?” is overwhelming, and I question my ability to assess character, morality, integrity.

And in the pain and confusion, there’s a side of Mac and me that never wants to open up to anybody again, never wants a new friend, never wants to let anyone come over on motherfucking Christmas.

As in, friendship closed for business until further notice.


Because truly, how can you love somebody so much and have them throw ya away for nothing?

For real, how can we be so goddamn wrong about people? 

That’s the thing, you know? That feeling of having been hoodwinked, played, taken for the ultimate heart ride. But this time, we included our children. This motherfucker caused serious emotional pain for our children.

And I had to navigate that, answer their questions about why he doesn’t come around anymore, and how much they miss him, and I had to come up with something to say beyond: “Some people are fucking assholes.”

Because that wouldn’t have been entirely true anyway, though I wanted to say it in the heat of my sadness. I wanted to rail and scream and tell them we were simply wrong about this person and fuck him and the boat he rode in on.

But that ain’t true, and I know it. And they need to know it.

Instead, I told them, “Well, he made some decisions that make it impossible for us to be friends, but we loved him, and he loved us, and we had some great times together, but sometimes love isn’t enough.”

Sometimes love isn’t enough. Sometimes it isn’t enough to counteract the brokenness and imperfections of a person, their inability to show honesty or decency or maturity, and you have to let both parts stand. Sometimes you have to accept a person is just too fucked up to trust.

Even though you want to.

I know, I know. “We don’t harm people we love.”

And to that I say, Lolllllllllll. That’s a good one. Either we do harm people we love, or no human on the planet knows how to love, because come the fuck on. Seems to me we harm the people we love often.

I’ve been harmed by AND harmed every single person I love most on this earth.

Seems to me we have love and we have all this other shit inside of us too, parts that do harm, and the people around us feel both.

But with most people, the people we keep in our lives, the support and love and devotion and service is way bigger than the harm, so we can tolerate a person’s humanity, their brokenness.

There’s a difference between imperfect and FUCKING TOXIC AS FUCK.

We gotta let the toxic ones go.


But then we’re left with all the love we shared and nowhere to put it. We’re left with memories of the pain and the friendship, and the confusion of where the fuck it all went wrong.

Part of me wants to shut off, shut down, shove everyone away. Mac and I took turns saying, “I’m never trusting anyone again.” We were joking, sort of. We were being dramatic, sort of. And yet, I see people who do exactly that. I see people hurt by the inevitable betrayal of humans, by the imperfections of those around them, and turning themselves into impenetrable fortresses.

I get it. We have to survive somehow. And honestly, in moments, it’s rather appealing.

But this isn’t a threat to my continued survival, and as such, it’s something that simply hurts, a lot, and makes me question what I thought I knew of people. Makes me wonder what I could have learned, and should learn, and will learn. I look for my part in all this: Where were the signs? What could I have done better? It’s all we can do, I guess. Try to gain some wisdom while also recognizing that sometimes there is nothing we can do, nothing to foresee, and people are just goddamn WEIRD.

I know in my heart that “never loving a new person again” is not the solution. I know that openness to deep friendship is not the solution. But goddamnit, I would have staked my life on this fool.


I suppose I find myself making the ultimate choice again, to let the fucked up nature of humans exist alongside their exquisite beauty, and holding so damn close the friends who’ve stuck around, the family by my side—to remind me not only of the fleeting nature of connection, but the sacredness of the threads that remain.

I have never felt more grateful for the friends in my life who exist like rocks, have withstood the test of years. If nothing else, I see that, and it’s blinding in its brilliance.

So here’s to more ridiculous loving.

Mac gave me this card a few months ago, and it feels so right.


Join me in January

for the first workshop in my series, and then write with me ALL YEAR. 

Write Anyway” is for the person who:

  • has a nagging question or persistent feeling of “You should write this,” but isn’t;
  • can’t decide what to write about;
  • constantly hears the “you suck why are you even trying?” voice when she sits down to write;
  • is too afraid to write what they’re really feeling/thinking/experiencing;
  • is agonizing over what people will think;
  • is obsessing over perfection; and/or
  • getting bent out of shape for 3 days over assholes on the internet criticizing in ways that hurt (and somehow they always hit where it hurts). Insulting intelligence. Name-calling. Making fun. Crafting Reddit threads against you.

  • John Hanley

    The Great Man, as I referred to my therapist, gave me a great gift back in the day, and one that became a core Hanley Family Value: “We don’t hurt people in our family and if we do, we make it right.”

  • CEEP

    A family we had known for 7 years. Their daughter whom we had known since she was 10 abused our child and videotaped it. Of course it wasn’t “abusive enough” for law enforcement to do anything about even though the video made the 17 year old girl’s mother throw up. These people were as close to family as it comes. I definitely grieved the loss of the mother’s friendship (she didn’t do anything about her daughter which I would expect even if not required by law enforcement). My other child (age 5) grieved the loss of the 17 year old because she wasn’t involved and didn’t believe it could have happened.

    I am cautious now. I made such a horrible mistake in trusting these people. I can’t trust myself to have good judgement about people.

    • Erin

      It is not your fault. This you must know, that the horrible happened but it isn’t your fault. It is the fault of the 17 year old, and the family that did nothing. There was nothing that indicated that you couldn’t trust this family. I know these words won’t make it easier. My heart goes out to you. I hope that you will find peace <3

  • Christina

    I think the hardest part in situations like this is explaining it to the tiny minds that do not yet have the mental framework to understand deep betrayal. How to answer their questions of “why”, when you do not have the answers yourself. Trying to model compassion and continued openness when you might not fucking feel any. Your heart breaks for yourself, but then ten-fold for the tiny humans who should not have had to learn this lesson this early. They will look to you for how to navigate, and you will show them how to feel their feelings and find a way to keep going. I may not know you outside of your writings, but of that I am confident. People suck, but also they don’t. Wasn’t that entirely insightful and helpful?

  • Kasey

    I don’t know if there’s anything worse than a betrayal by a dear friend or family member. I mean, apart from like genocide or something, you know?

    We have a family member who is frankly an unsafe person emotionally. It’s very hard because this person refuses to understand why we put boundaries on the relationship and regularly creates manipulative, hurtful scenarios that then have to be dealt with.

    I used to advocate for reconciliation with this person. Like, hardcore advocate for it. Now, honestly… I feel like I can’t do that. Sometimes a person is simply too toxic even for a “we will try our best to love you up close despite your crazy.”

    Years into this, I still really struggle with this. I want love to be enough. But you’re absolutely right. Sometimes it just isn’t.

    We take comfort in the good relationships, though. We choose to build our community among them. I think your instincts are right, your feelings perfectly valid. Relationships are hard. Sometimes impossible. But there’s value in keeping on being brave and reaching out to find the good ones that make life richer. <3

  • Joodzy

    So it’s not just me who’s been hurt by someone I considered a good friend? The person who used me and allowed me to help her financially when she needed to find a new venue for her business. We lunched weekly. Until one day she decided she didn’t want to be in business anymore and she bounced her mortgage cheques. Now I’m in the position of having to foreclose and be stuck with a building for which I have no use.

    I told my husband I no longer have friends.

  • Emily Xaviere

    I 110% feel you. Except this keeps happening with my blood relations, my mom’s significant others, and in laws, which makes me want to shut down on human relationships. Period.

    This last week, my husband and I jump started the process on buying a condo. Which my in laws are helping with. And long story short, I found out that all my worst fears about my father in law hating me are basically true.

    He doesn’t believe my serious health issues are real and has been “waiting for me to grow up” so he can counsel me about how to live my life. He admitted to ignoring me and freezing me out…constantly. So this sucks.

    • Emily Xaviere

      For additional context, I already had to cut my biological father out of my life. I almost did the same with my mom when she was not well but refusing to seek help.* I’ve spent 20 of my 30 years having to be frequently around people who behaved as if they wished I wasn’t there.

      *Mom’s good now. I suspect she’s undiagnosed bi-polar though, so I wait for a crash.

  • Margaret Sky

    “Sometimes love isn’t enough.”
    Cynical though it may sound, I love that you said this. Quite the opposite of what the media would have us believe. I’m also impressed that you are letting yourself live with the massive irony: that your friend is both effed up and there is still a lot about him you love. Sometimes trusting people is trusting them to be…themselves, with all their messed up shit and dysfunctional behavior. And I agree, sometimes loving and trusting them to be themselves also means getting the hell away from them for your own safety and/or sanity.

    So sorry to hear you are dealing with huge betrayal, and that you’ve lost a friend. Sounds like you were brave enough to cut ties, which can be so hard to do.

  • Danielle

    I really needed to read this tonight. I’ve been going through something similar. Thank you.

  • Kate macaulay

    “Love is not a victory march” -Leonard cohen
    “Because my heart is just a muscle, and simply put it’s sore” -ani fucking difranco

    Sorry Janelle, music helps me at times like this especially Ani’s “raincheck”

  • Oleva

    Really needed to read this today. It is so hard to trust again.

  • sara

    this! all of this. this is why I have come up with the Yurt Plan, which is to go into the woods, build a yurt, and be a hermit.
    Damn world, damn.

    • Rachel Romano

      ^This made me smile 🙂

  • Rachel

    I feel you. 7 years in a relationship. Married. 3 year old son. And then I found out all the lies. My ex-husband was a bad guy. I had no idea. Blindsided. At first, you feel like a chump, but really, he’s a sick bastard. All the manipulation and gas lighting and flat out declarations – and even when caught red-handed, they can’t come clean. I thought I could never trust another human being. But then I met my person. He is good and kind and wonderful and I opened my heart to him. You an Mac will find your people again.

  • Jeri

    It’s like you’re in my head. That’s scary and comforting at the same time. 😉 The betrayal of a friend is hard enough to deal with but then it’s like a part of your life has been ripped away. Like divorcing a friend. People do suck, sometimes.

  • Courtney

    Someone I brought into my business as a partner, had with my family at holidays, shared over-generously with (money, my life) had been trashing me behind my back for five years!!!!! The entire partnership. She trashed my body, marriage, kid, entire life. I got this lady introduced to presidents! Well, I should have known…it was a typical high school thing I overlooked: she trashed a lot of people, including her “closest” friends and family. So why did I think I was special. I learned a lot about why I’d let someone so toxic be so close to me. Still learning why I tolerated this behavior and lacked boundaries….ugh. I so get this post! Betrayal is tough. I never had a girlfriend do that before!