DEAR KELLY: My best friend and my boyfriend used to be really close. I never cared that they Snapchatted all the time. I used to brag that we were three best friends. My best friend told my boyfriend that she used to cut herself in junior high back when she had all kinds of family problems.
Later on he told someone else, not in a way to spread gossip, but more when someone was talking he shared that my best friend used to cut and was messed up, but that now she’s doing so well. He was trying to show that she has pulled her life together, but I think it came out wrong.
When she found out he told what she used to do, she flipped out and now hates him. It’s so bad because I’m in the middle of two people who can’t stand each other and it’s getting worse every day. She tweeted about it, he replied and then they got into a Twitter war that ended with her calling him a name and him deleting her from his Twitter.
The whole things has just blown up. What do you do when your two best friends hate each other and you are stuck in the middle? How do I pick whose side I’m on?
DEAR TRAPPED: We are only stuck in the middle when we allow ourselves to be. You don’t have to be trapped if you don’t want to be, and you don’t need to take sides when it’s two people you care for deeply. It can be tempting to take a side, but the reality is that won’t help things and you will become exhausted by the whole thing.
The reality is that it isn’t your battle to fight. It’s between them. Avoid getting drawn in to the he-said, she-said word war they are entrenched in. Here is what you know: He broke her trust by telling someone what she shared. But did she tell him this was a big secret and she didn’t want anyone to ever know about her personal history? If she asked him to keep quiet and he didn’t, then he owes her an apology for breaking her confidentiality on something so personal. If she never mentioned to him how she wanted this to be confidential and he wasn’t aware of how private of an issue this was, then this is simply a misunderstanding that went awry. He may not have intentionally hurt her feelings, but he needs to acknowledge that he shared something private that he maybe should have kept to himself.
Where the real issue lies is that they brought their battle into social media and made everyone aware of their feelings and said things they will probably regret one day. It is easy to get over an argument but very hard to get over something when your whole social group is aware of your feelings and you call each other names for everyone to see.
Social media + disagreement + hurt feelings = drama.
You can offer ways to get them communicating again – not via Twitter or Snapchatting but by actually talking face to face. It works so much better than using any phone or computer. Offer to arrange a time and a place where they can meet and talk about what happened. If they reject your attempt to help them resolve this, then bow out completely. There is nothing you can do if they don’t want to put this issue to bed.
Tell them both that you will not be put in the middle. Tell them that you care about both of them and until they can figure out a way to either work this out or learn to let it go, you will not be pulled. Since they can’t get along, let them know that this means you won’t be able to spend as much time with either one. If you can only spend time one-on-one with them, it means someone will be left out. Hold your ground and don’t let them try to persuade you to take a side. If they want to share their feelings, you will respect their feelings and their privacy but you will not partake in the bashing or bad-mouthing of either of them.
Being neutral is the only way for you to keep both people in your life and avoid losing someone you care about just to please someone else. The argument is between them and your job is to stay out. Picking a side means you will alienate someone and in the end, you will be the one who loses. Stay out of what has happened and stay firm on not being pulled to one side. Hopefully with a little time, forgiveness on both sides and a little bit of maturity they will resolve this argument and decide the friendship is worth more than just throwing it away because of a miscommunication and hurt feelings.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.