Do You Have to Take Sides When Friends Fight?
I hang out in a group of good friends, and last month two of these friends got in a huge blowout fight and no longer speak to one another. Most of my friends have since drifted away from one of the instigators, but some of us still want to be friends with both people – myself included. Their argument was personal between the two of them, but the people who have pulled away say there are too many warning signs that one particular party here is emotionally crazy. All this feels so silly to be dealing with in our 30s, but my question is serious – is there any harm in trying to remain neutral in this situation? The people who think one friend is crazy are good judges of character and I trust them, but on the other hand, I've never had a bad interaction with the "crazy" party and would feel terrible dropping them as a friend. Do I trust the instinct of a couple people and drop the friend, or do I stay a loyal friend until specific instances prove I should walk away?
– Cray or Nay
Yikes! Nobody likes drama like that, but we’ve all been around it in one way or another. How you handle this situation says more about you than it does about the two fools who had the blowup, or the rest of your circle, CON.
What I notice about your question is thar you didn’t tell me what ‘crazy’ behaviors you’re on the lookout for from this friend. Did they do something really atrocious? Did they cross a line that should never be crossed, or is it impossible for you to imagine how and why they behaved as they did? We’ve all had fights and done or said stupid things. Every person, no matter how wonderful or sane they are, annoys someone, somewhere, and has hurt someone’s feelings. That’s life. So what if two of your friends don’t like each other? What I’m interested in is why you would let other people dictate who you’re friends with. Are your alliances stronger than your convictions? Because you said something in your question that I totally agree with: you don’t want to take on someone else’s drama, or treat a person as though they’ve let you down when they haven’t. A lot of folks walk around pulling what I like to call the George W. Pre-Emptive Strike (or just the George W. for short); that guy had a reeeaally strong feeling that he acted on before he found any proof, and we all know how that turned out. If a person is scared of being hurt it’s easy to justify an anticipatory strike to cut off pain and suffering at the pass, but the bummer is that you can end up generating a whole slew of consequences that you never saw coming. Making a call based on your fears instead of evidence sucks. It’s not fair to you or the other people involved.
So here’s my advice: find out if your friend is emotionally unstable or not the good old-fashioned way – let them reveal their self to you through their actions during the course of your friendship. You don’t need to get involved in these peoples' conflict, or to even talk about it with this person if that makes you uncomfortable. Unfortunately, taking sides in the way your friends are advising you to is a passive form of involvement, at least partially based on hersay. If in the end you find this friend to be unworthy, or unstable, then by all means unfriend ‘em. I encourage you to trust your first instincts in the matter to not take on someone else’s drama, or abandon a friendship over a rift that doesn’t involve you. Live in accordance with your values, so you can be the kind of person that you feel good about, CON, even if it’s a bit of an emotional risk.
The Mission’s resident advisor gets booked months in advance by San Franciscans seeking help with all kinds of relationship issues. So we asked Jessica if she’d come on board to do a weekly advice column, Truth Talk, for The Bold Italic. If you have a burning question for Truth Talk with Jessica Lanyadoo, you can post your question anonymously here or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check back on Wednesdays to see if she has an answer for you.