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Stuck in the Middle of an Argument Expert Christine Fife

Last year, a guy I was dating and my best girl friend seemed to be seriously battling over things they didn’t agree on every time they saw each other. They never seem to be earth-shattering issues. Just that their opinions go in opposite directions. I cared for both of them very much, but I was ready to slap both of them after listening to both sides of the argument for two weeks.

A couple of young woman had been sharing the apartment across the hall from me. A few months ago they got into a terrible fight over bills and cleanliness and borrowing things without asking. I had become friends with both of them since they had moved in, but I wanted to stop answering the door when I saw them through the peephole—I was sick of listening to how each of them was certain they were right about the situation.

Whether the people involved are friends, romantic relationships, or even family, life sucks when you’re stuck in the middle of an argument between two people you care about. I know so many people who have been in this rock-and-a-hard-place position and too often they feel like they are forced to make a choice as to whom they believe to be “right.” I’ve certainly been guilty of jumping to agree with a friend who pleads a better position to me only to end of losing the other friend or occasionally even both! But I’ve come to believe that it is absolutely possible to remain objective while supporting both sides.

When your friends or relatives are not getting along, what you hope for is that they will work their differences out and go back to being happy with one another. You choosing a side is most likely not going to help make this reconciliation happen. And, their objective in talking to you is to get you to agree with them. Perhaps they each just need a friend who knows both of them to hear them out and help them figure out how to resolve the issue. Most likely, even if it is just the subconscious desire, is that they want a resolution to the situation and since you know both of them you may have the magic answer.

Be sure not to lie to either person. If one of them tells you something that sounds like they made a bad choice or that they were not being sensitive to the other person, don’t blow sunshine up their backside. Don’t be rude to them either, but help them talk it through to see that maybe they are somewhat at fault for the argument. On the flip side, if you feel that one of them really is on the fairer side of the situation, don’t just boost their ego by telling them the other person really is to blame for everything. Instead, help talk things through with that person to give them alternatives ways of understanding why their friend might be viewing the situation the way they are. Offer suggestions on how they can be the bigger person and either let it go or tell their friend that they wish they could see it from their side, but that they should just agree to disagree and move on.

Some things are going to be very, very difficult to resolve, and there will be times when the two people you care about won’t be able to work it out no matter how hard you try to support them both. Try to keep open and honest channels with each of them so they know you care about them both. Tell them you want to remain friends with them both and that you’d like for your friendships with both of them to continue to grow even if it can’t grow with all three of you together. Who knows, maybe in the long run, if you remain friends with each of them they’ll be able to find their way back to each other.

-By Christine Fife

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