Hi, Carolyn: Two close friends of mine have recently decided they want to explore a relationship together. Great! The problem? One was in a relationship and had to exit it to pursue these newfound feelings.
As her relationship was never one that anyone felt was healthy, we’re happy she broke up with her significant other. However, I think it’s ill-advised to jump into another relationship so soon.
No one has asked my advice (I stated it once when they came to me with the “happy news”). How do I continue to be a supportive friend to both parties? I feel icky when Friend 1 wants to moon over Friend 2.
They aren’t hanging out one-on-one in order to give it some time, but now I feel caught in the middle — I don’t want to invite both of them somewhere and then feel like I’m being used so they can flirt without violating their “no private time” restriction. I’m suddenly thinking about who I can invite where, when previously we all hung out effortlessly together. Boo!
I know this will be an evolving situation, but all I can foresee is hurt feelings.
It’s a snotty question that I’m using only in hopes it will stick: It’s what I suggest you start asking yourself, whenever your mind starts working over the implications of a relationship between two people who aren’t you.
Applied properly, it will force you to come up with answers to such key questions as what you’re hoping to accomplish by involving yourself, why, and on what authority. This gatekeeping process will help spell out for you that in most cases any consequences are either minor, not your business, or both — and the best way to stay out of the middle of others’ drama is to override your impulse to jump in. Three sample mental dialogues:
(1) You: “They might use me to flirt with each other.”
Your internal gatekeeper: “So?”
You: “So that would be a bummer.”
Right. Minor consequence.
(2) You: “Friend 1 is jumping into this new relationship too soon.”
You: “So they might break up over unresolved feelings.”
Right! Not your business.
(3) You: “Someone’s going to get hurt.”
You: “So friends should try to stop that, right?”
You stated your misgivings, once, so now it’s not your business. Besides, “their ‘no private time’ restriction” might be full of loopholes, but it still says they’re mindful of moving too fast. Plus, can you honestly say any emotional venture in your own life has been entirely pain-free?
As their close friend, you will feel the effects if things deteriorate, yes, but don’t mistake that for having an advisory role in their courtship. Weigh in judiciously when asked, and by all means speak up if their behavior affects you directly (“Ugh, get a room” comes in handy) — but stay out of anything that falls short of that bar. Trust people to either know what they’re doing or muddle through when they don’t.
And, carry on your friendships with them as usual: Invite both when you normally would and trust them to know how to behave. Conveniently, this is how to handle it if their pairing implodes, too — but, who knows, maybe they’ll outlast us all.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat online at 10 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com.