Listen. If you’re dating someone who you share mutual friends with, that’s great. I’m really happy for you. If you break up with this person at some point, that’s very sad and I will to listen to your weeping and pat you on the head because we’re friends, and that’s what friends do. But if you break up with this person and I have to deal with both of you putting me in the middle, turning me into your mailman, and dropping your pent-up frustrations on my head, you need to back the hell up. I mean it.
You could say that I’m taking advantage of this column to complain about goings-on in my life, perchance goings-on that displease me. And you would be right. But let’s be honest, all of us have or will, at some point, be in this position. It’s awkward, it’s frustrating, and mostly, it’s unfair. So really, my passive aggressive ranting is helping people, right? We’re agreed. Great.
As the friend, your role is to listen and be supportive. As the ones involved in the break-up, your friends’ roles are to appreciate your listening and support, and not put you in the middle. Sure, they’re both in a lot of pain and are frustrated, we get it. But you are , as mentioned, a friend, not a walkie-talkie connecting the two exes. They need to work out whatever issues they have between themselves without dragging you onto the front lines. Advice is fair game. Transmitting info, or being expected to, is off limits like cake to kid at ten on a school night.
There will be tension. It’s inevitable. Be warned: when this tension is lifted and both parties are seemingly at peace, you should probably be on the alert. They still want to know everything about the other’s life, and if they aren’t talking about it to each other, they’ll want you to be their informant. Don’t ever be the informant, unless you were planning a slow, painful suicide anyway. One of them will inevitably get angry for something you said, or didn’t say, and generally find a way to hold things against you. Second, just stay out of it altogether. They can’t fire canons at each other, so they’ll turn them against you. Of course, if you’re a fan of overly delayed apologies and lessons learned far too late, ignore everything I say.
What you can do is listen. Listening is great. Listening is one sided. The second they start asking questions, though, get out of there. Run for your life. “So does he/she ever talk about me?”…. Seriously? Of course they do, you just broke up and I know both of you. This is a completely unfair question. Anything following it will be even moreso. It will only lead to frustration on their part, and frankly, it’s not your place to share this kind of info. Inevitably you will betray someone’s trust by saying something they didn’t intend to be passed on. Sharing is not always caring. Have you ever heard any news of an ex that made you feel good? Exactly.
It’s not your place to communicate anyone else’s feelings, thoughts, actions, or anything else related to their existence in any way, shape or form. In fact, it’s not your friends’ place to ask you to. This isn’t middle school and we’ve all outgrown passing notes. However much it bothers your broken up friends, put your foot down and draw a line in the sand. Of course, you’re all still pals and you should still be there for them. How will you know when you’re not just being there and being put in a tough spot, though? Your guts will scrunch up and there will be a growing inclination to punch your friend in the face.
…. Okay, that’s not true. That’s just me and I wouldn’t really hit people, I’m not a violent person. But just think about what the other party would feel if they knew what you were saying. If your sense is that they would be unhappy with you speaking for them, it’s your cue that you need to step back and avoid the hailstorm of misplaced emotions that will inevitably land on your head. Even if you think it would help one person to know the other said one small thing, it doesn’t. It sets off a chain reaction of assumptions, neediness to know more, and betrayal of the person whose words you passed along. Just hole up in a dark cave until the storm blows over and don’t talk to anyone, not even through sign language.
Look, no matter what, it will be a tough time. The good thing is, though, that eventually, one way or another, everyone will get past it. If you brave the storm and hold your own, you will come out of it. Don’t try to please anyone, especially not everyone, because it won’t happen and you’ll end up with a lot of hate aimed your way. Nobody wants that. All they want is a little validation and support, and that’s all you need to give. The rest will evaporate over time, so don’t stress so much about it and eventually your friends won’t either. Especially if they’re very good friends who will read this as a plea from you for some sanity, so they shouldn’t be angry at you now that they’ve finished reading it.
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