You know how it is – you get that call (or more likely that text or PM) from a friend that says “so and so” and I broke up. In this community you may hear, “I’ve been released” or “I had to release her/him”, etc. Whatever you call it, this friend and their significant other have split. You may also be friends with the SO (significant other). This is never a fun position to be in – you feel really bad for your friend(s) and want to help and be supportive.
Wait. Which one should you support? If you’re an s-type, then support the s-type half of the couple? The partner you’ve known longer? The one you see most often? Such a difficult decision – with a very simple answer.
Both. You can support both.
Now I’m not talking about extreme cases where abuse have been involved. I’m talking about most cases of a split: they fight a lot, they grew apart, their communication sucked, they didn’t fit like they thought they would, even infidelity.
Here’s the thing. I’ve said it before – this community (even in Los Angeles) is like a high school in a small town. Eventually everybody gets to know who everybody is and it can sometimes feel like everybody dates, has sex with, or plays with at least some people you know. That being said it can be really helpful to maintain at least a casual friendship with both parties. I like to keep my drama cup close to empty. Many people love drama – (whether they realize it or not) and will take one side and perhaps start bad mouthing the other person, spreading gossip and what they know from one side. Here’s the problem with that – it’s only ONE side. This means you only have half a perspective. You don’t have all the pieces. Even if (and this is rare) the friend who contacts you first gives a fairly accurate break down of how things happened and how *they* felt/feel about it (sometimes even taking responsibility for their own mistakes *gasp!*) – you are still missing huge chunks of information.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard one side of the story and been completely convinced that the person in front of me was the one that got screwed in the relationship. However, especially due to my time as a therapist, I know there is someone else’s truth out there that I haven’t heard. The puzzle is not complete. The last thing I want to do is jump to conclusions or act upon assumptions until I’ve heard the other side.
So how do you maintain neutrality? Just listen. Offer an ear and a hug and maybe some chocolate. Listen with the knowledge that this isn’t all the info, however, this is their truth in that moment and typically all they want to do is vent. Maybe cry and eat a cookie. Just because you maintain friendship with both of them doesn’t mean you’re betraying one or the other. If you tell them, “You know I am a friend to you both. I am here to listen and support you however I can. When you talk to me it stays between us.” Then stick to your word – there is no need to run to the other person and spill the beans.
I promise you it is absolutely possible to support both parties with honest communication and emotional maturity on all fronts. So don’t get caught up in drama if you don’t have to. If there is any “side” to choose, make it yours.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.