Is My Mentor Crossing the Line?
We talked on the phone for five hours, and now I want to redraw a boundary—but I don’t know how.
Unlike Sasha, however, Amy had a harrowing marital experience (the husband turned out to be abusive), followed by a long and distressing divorce. Since then, she has become very bitter toward doctors from India, which she shows through passive-aggressive comments toward Sasha's husband. Recently, Amy and Sasha's husband had a falling-out (which was prompted by something inappropriate he said) that has led to both ladies calling me to complain. I've played this part before, just as I’ve repeatedly asked both not to involve me. However, the drama doesn’t seem to end. Should I mediate an intervention and insist that the two make up or break up once and for all without dragging it out? On a selfish note, I dread being divvied up between the two, as I don’t have the free time to indulge in separate rendezvous with Amy and Sasha.
Caught in the Middle
You say that, thanks to her awful marriage, Amy is bitter towards Indian doctors in general. I guess that’s possible, but are you sure you’re giving your friend enough credit? Isn’t it just as likely that she doesn’t like Sasha’s husband because, well, his personality is unlikable? You say he made an inappropriate remark to her. So, this one time at least, she did have grounds—beyond his job description and ethnic origin—for starting a fight. The unanswered question here is whether, inappropriate remark aside, Sasha automatically took her husband’s side. (You seem to imply so much, since it was Sasha herself who called you to complain—not her husband.) In that case, I’m with Amy.
That said, the three of you share a long and unique history. So I’d make a last-ditch effort to repair Sasha and Amy’s friendship before you give up on the trio. I suggest calling Amy’s husband and asking him to send a one-line email apology for whatever it was he said. If he agrees, call Amy and tell her that, for the sake of the three of you, you’d like her to accept the apology, drop the subject, and move on. Ideally, that will keep the peace for another few months at least. If it doesn’t, you have my permission to divide and conquer. I’d also suggest setting up Amy on a date. It sounds as if she needs to be reminded that there are good guys in the world! Only, please—no cardiologists from Calcutta …
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
Several years ago, I became friendly with another man, "Fred," at work. (I’m a guy, too.) He's a bit of an odd duck (i.e., dysfunctional, but loyal and sweet), but I enjoy his company. However, over the last few years, he has made several comments that lead me to believe I’m his best friend, while, to me, he’s more of an acquaintance with whom I enjoy spending time when I can. This may be attributable to differing lifestyles. He’s single and underemployed, while I’m married with a family and a full-time job and am also trying to finish a graduate degree.
At my old job, Fred and I both developed friendships with a woman, “Wilma.” But Fred developed romantic feelings, and the two engaged in a relationship (despite the fact that she was married). After she broke his heart, he complained bitterly about her. However, none of this changed my opinion of either one of them. After I got got a new job, a year ago, I maintained friendships with both of them, though I saw each separately—about once a month.
More recently, Wilma asked my assistance in getting her a position with my new company. I put her in contact with the right people and gave her a glowing recommendation. She got the job.
Now Fred says that he’s deeply offended—and that my loyalty to him should have superseded my desire to help Wilma. He also thinks that, once he told me what a horrible person she was, I should have ceased all contact with her. He is upset enough to never speak to me again. I maintain that I did nothing wrong in helping a friend and would do the same thing over. Did I violate some sort of "bro code," or is Fred acting like a middle-schooler?
Hell had no fury like a—well, in this case—man scorned. Which is to say, yes, Fred is acting like a sixth grader. But you’re expecting too much if you think he’s going to be rational on any subject even tangentially connected to Wilma. You may have done nothing wrong from an ethical standpoint. Your mistake was to tell Fred the truth about what you did. Since he and Wilma probably have no contact anymore—and were therefore unlikely to confirm your story—why didn’t you just shrug and say that you had no idea how she got the job? Conversely, telling the guy that you wrote the woman who broke his heart a glowing recommendation—if that’s what you told Fred—is rubbing the rejection in his face.
If I were you, I’d take Fred out for a beer and apologize. Tell him you were thinking with your professional cap on (not your friendship one), and that you hope the two of you can get past it. You don’t have to promise never to speak to Wilma again—just reaffirm your bond with Fred. Think about it this way: He’s the only one of the three of you who’s alone right now. Even Wilma has her cuckolded husband to keep her company (and to quietly humiliate, but that’s another story).
Friend or Foe
Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.