Maybe It’s both? I have, in the past had to remove myself from friendships because they put me in difficult, uncomfortable or seemingly impossible situations. I wont lie, the truth is I have usually blamed the other party for putting me in that position to begin with and felt resentful that I “had to” end the friendship! As with all things in life though, sometimes some things come full circle, and you can see the other side a little more clearly.
What if there is something weighing on your mind and heart that you want and need to discuss with your nearest and dearest, but telling them would put them in an uncomfortable position? By not telling them, you are lying by omission and diluting the closeness you can share as you are not being your true self, and if you do tell them, you risk losing them because you have put them in a situation or position they didn’t appreciate?
I am not talking about breaking the law, or putting anybody at risk of harm, I am talking about moral dilemma’s. Say for example you have a falling out with a friend and you need to tell your bestie about it…. But she is also friends with the other person and if you tell her, you are seen as gossiping or bad mouthing, and putting her in the position of taking sides, even if that is not what you meant to do, you just wanted to talk to your friend about what you were going through?
Would your friend rather you were honest to preserve the friendship, or would she rather you keep quiet so she isn’t impacted or involved? Will she be hurt if she finds out through the grapevine instead of from you directly? These are difficult questions to answer, and as I reflect on situations from my own past, I can see that my own beliefs and values have contributed to me finding myself in a difficult position then blaming my friend for putting me there.
In the past I would have always said “I want to know. You can talk to me about anything.” However once the news was out there, I then felt stuck, involved, like a terrible person no matter what I did and really, really, resentful that my friend told me. So does that mean my real answer is “Don’t tell me?” How can I call myself a real friend if there are things my friend can’t tell me? Because as it turns out maybe I really can’t handle the truth? I don’t like to think that there are things my friend can’t tell me?
I think, part of the problem though, was that my friend told me without considering the position it was going to put me in, and did not ask my preference. I was unprepared for the position I was going to be in, and didn’t know that I was going to have to examine my values and make a choice on my behaviour based on those, and that I would be compromising at least one of them in favour of the other. For example disclosing a secret to one friend that would save her from heartache, but destroy the friend who confided in me initially? Or keep the secret for the first friend, knowing that my other friend was being hurt by things she did not know about right now but probably would find out about in the future? (And potentially lose that friend because I knew all along and chose to say nothing?)
Which friend do you value more? The first (longer standing) friend who confided in you? Even if the answer is yes, does that justify participating, even just silently in the hurt of the newer friend? If you want to call yourself a friend to both parties, what do you do? Is it better to justify to yourself that it was none of your business, and not your place to say anything. (To be fair, this is probably true.)
Having found myself in this situation, I never did say anything, instead I removed myself from the situation, by ending the friendships. Honestly I could no longer call myself a friend to either of them no matter what I did, and that upset me more than anything. Although I blamed my friends at the time for involving me, in hindsight I see that my inflexible beliefs on how to be a good friend meant I could no longer be a friend at all. The problem with this was that I assumed I knew the future outcomes… which I couldn’t possibly predict. (Would the second friend ever find out? If she did, would she ever know that I knew? Would she actually be as hurt as I imagined?) In reality I suppose I involved myself instead of remaining impartial and just watching to see what happened. Fight or Flight I guess. Sad but true.
Putting myself in my friends’ situations, I really see no way in which they could act either, to save the friendship, so blaming them is unfair. Don’t tell me the truth, and create distance between us, or tell me, but put me in a difficult position by doing so?
So, what do I think the answer is if I find myself in a situation where I really want to talk to my friend, but the thing I want to talk about would put her in a terrible position at odds with her values and morals? Well first off I should try talking about it with my psychologist, who is trained and impartial. If I still feel the need to broach it with my friend, I should first ask her how she would feel if a friend wanted to talk to her about something, but the information revealed could put her in a position she would rather not be in, would she prefer not to know, hypothetically speaking.
If I did tell her, I’d have to do so in the knowledge that I was risking the friendship and accept responsibility for it if things had to end. Sometimes, whether we know it or not, we ask for too much. At the end of the day, no matter how close you are, we all have to be able to feel ok about ourselves, and usually a person’s values will win out, even if they wish they could have chosen differently.
Everything is better out than in, but please do choose your audience carefully, for yourself, for them, and for your friendships. It’s probably not worth the risk. Remember, psychologists get paid not to judge and are pretty confidential for the most part. Choose wisely.
Your Best Friend ForNever