Sunday, August 9, 2015

8/10/15—Keeping Your Bad Choices To Yourself

Something happened to a friend recently that has me hopping mad. And fortunately she said I could write about it. ;)

Let's call my friend Laura. Laura is one of the kindest, most spiritually aware people I know. She is someone who really walks the walk and, in many ways, she has been a role model for me on my path for many years.

She has a workplace friend, Penny (also a fake name), who has been having trouble in her marriage and has sought out Laura for both a listening ear and advice.

Last week, Penny's husband (let's call him Dick) propositioned Laura! It was very clearly a come-on...not a well-intentioned, but misunderstood gesture. It was a come-on!

Now, this kind of thing really isn't shocking. I'm sure it happens daily. But think of the position my friend is now in. Does she tell Penny? Does she hide it from Penny? Does she put it back on Dick to tell Penny? And if she does that, will Dick twist the truth to make her look like the aggressor? This one, 15-second exchange has now put Laura in an impossible lose-lose situation!

It's the rare Penny that would thank Laura for exposing her cheating husband and keep her as a friend.  (Penny's previous complaints about Dick had nothing to do with cheating.) What's more likely is that it will anger Penny or, at the very least, make her feel very uncomfortable around Laura. And seeing as how she and Laura work together, this throws a wrench into every part of Laura's life. And she did nothing to court it!

What Dick did, essentially, was drag Laura into his drama with Penny. You could argue she was already there, as a confidante of Penny's. But this is a whole other level. He put Laura into the position of imploding their marriage, imploding her friendship and imploding her workplace environment. And he thought nothing of it! Too weak to take responsibility for his own marriage issues, he "recruited" Laura to do it for him. Either she exposes his antics or betrays her friendship.

The more I thought about this situation, the more I thought about the other ways people do this kind of thing. When divorcing parents confide in their children or expose private things about their spouse to their children, they're doing the same thing. They're putting the kids into a lose-lose situation that is completely unfair. They're placing the weight of their issues on another's shoulders.

We also do this when we hear—or share—certain heavy secrets. Or when we tell someone something very private—true or false—about a friend of theirs. Or when we give them a peek inside something in our life that puts them in an uncomfortable maybe we shoplift or shoot heroin something. You could call it a cry for help or intervention, but it's misplaced. There are people who take those secrets on as a course of their career...priests, psychologists and counselors, to name a few. Putting it on an innocent bystander is just thoughtless and irresponsible. 

Laura hasn't decided what to do yet. Her first instinct was to call Dick and tell him that he needs to tell Penny what he's put the hot potato back in his hands. But then she doesn't trust him to tell Penny the truth about how it all came to be. So she just sits, paralyzed. Which is how it usually ends up that the wife is the last to know. There just is no good solution. 

Sometimes our lives suck. And it's almost always from a situation we had a hand in. And, while none of us likes to clean up messes, we all have to clean up our own messes. We can't place that in the hands of friends or children or even strangers. IMO, the only chance Dick has of saving his marriage is to come clean. But maybe he doesn't want that. Who knows?

I have not been in a situation this bad, but I can't count the number of times I've known of friends engaging in "dangerous" relationship behavior around their children. Maybe they're bad talking the other spouse or maybe they're flirting with someone in front of their child. It always makes me feel uncomfortable and puts me in a situation where I wonder if I should say something or let it go. It almost always permanently damages my relationship with the other person, regardless of what I choose to do. 

As we go through the coming week, consider the kinds of things you place on the shoulders of others. Sure, everyone needs a sounding board. But if you're going to behave like an ass, don't be surprised if you either get called out on it or find your friends slipping away. 

Take responsibility for where you are in your life and if you do get called out, be responsible enough to not displace your anger on the friend or family member you confided in. Those people are not in your life to share the burden of your bad choices by taking your side in everything. Sometimes it's the better friend who tells you what an ass you're being so you can make the positive changes needed to put your life back on course.