In the Middle

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m caught between two feuding friends and unsure how to help reconcile them.
It’s not a shooting war, or even a war of words. It’s more like the Cold War in its
waning years: lots of snippy sniping comments, judgmental jabs, and (at least
from my point of view) a distancing that has become habit, instead of the habits
of confiding in one another, going for quick walks or coffee dates to catch up, and
generally feeling like the other is an ally, not a rival. To top it off, one is in a long-
term crisis with two members of her family having significant health issues (a
dying mom and pre-surgical husband), while the other just bought a new house
and got a promotion. I can see the stressed-out friend getting more and more
weary as she struggles and the on-the-rise one getting less tolerant and
impatient as she pursues her new and busy future. They both talk to me, and I try
to be a friend to both of them. Should I try to bring them closer together or let
nature take its course, whatever that is?

In the Middle

Dear In the Middle:

There’s a limit to what any third person can do to untangle two feuding parties.
But that doesn’t mean don’t try. Think peace talks in Ireland or truth and
reconciliation in South Africa. The only thing that matters is getting folks to talk to
one another. It’s critical that you NOT, repeat not, try to talk for either of them to
the other. You can listen, and you can make suggestions. But you should not
carry stories back and forth nor should you try and tell either of them what to do
or think.

Instead, you should talk from your own point of view, expressing to each
individually the sadness you feel seeing two people whom you know love and
respect one another being unhappy about the state of their friendship. To the one
who is up, express patience for the one who is down. For the one who is in
stress, ask what you and/pr others can do to help. Suggest that you all go out for
drinks, with other friends, as a way of normalizing some social time. And if all
else fails, just say, I think you two need to talk. This has gone on too long. I hope
they listen.