Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stuck in the Middle With You- And You.

In a recent blog, I talked about the stickiness of getting involved in another couple's problems.

It's never been my intention to get in the middle of a couple that's fighting, but as you probably already know, some of the battling-est couples out there are quite crafty in getting others to choose sides. In my case, I've often found myself embroiled in an argument without realizing what happened. Case in point:

I am visiting a friend's house for a few days. The loving couple, stressed by a long week at work, has been bickering a bit about odds and ends.

The husband, with a studied look of innocence, suddenly asks me: "Do you think it's OK to leave a 2 liter of pop on the counter after it was in the fridge?"

Me (thinking quickly): "I just want to stay out of it."

Husband: "Well, I've heard that it's really bad to leave it out after it was refrigerated."

Me: "I really have no idea."

Wife, coming in the house from the garage: "Is he asking you about the pop?"

You see, I knew better. Years ago, I stuck my neck out for a friend, got in the middle, and swore I'd never do it again. In that situation, my dear friend was in an abusive relationship. Not only did I tell her, yes, you need to leave him, but I told her to get out quickly, pack up her child and to come and stay with me. Within a matter of weeks, they were back together, and his palpable anger whenever I was around became so awkward (I didn't want to get her in any more trouble), that I stopped coming around. And eventually, we stopped being friends.

It's next to impossible to stay friends with a fighting couple once you've voiced an opinion or taken sides. This is for two reasons: 1. Your friend has told their partner what you said, and every time the partner sees you, they are reminded of what you think. 2. Your friend knows that you now know too much- and they're embarrassed, because they now think that you believe they're a spineless wimp for staying in an unhappy relationship. Whether or not it's true.

My attitude now, which I've made clear to all of my friends: Feel free to complain away about your loved one. But don't ever look to me to tell you leave your lover- I won't do it. I will say something if it's an abusive situation; I won't be able to help myself. But that's the one exception I'll make.

This is one of the few instances where I'll gladly take the low road, in order to maintain a friendship. Because in the long run, people often stay in unhappy relationships- for better or worse- rather than striking out on their own. I don't need to get stuck in the middle.

And if they ever do get up the gumption to leave, well, I'll still be cautious about drinking that first celebratory glass of champagne. Because everyone knows, the first break-up never takes.