Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I have a big mouth and I sometimes forget to snap it shut. I’m
currently caught in the middle of a divorcing couple and one of my
friends. I am close with Sarah and my friend Johanna is close with
David. They all used to be part of an extended social group that I do
not participate in. But it’s the kind of extended family of choice (not
blood) that gathers for major holidays, birthdays, sporting events, etc.
Since a bitter divorce and custody battle, Sarah has been excised from
the group. Her son is still part of family events, but she is being
actively shunned. Even in their divorce proceedings, David made it
clear that the group did not want her to participate in gatherings.
Sarah told me she feels like she escaped from a cult, which I repeated
to my friend. I thought I said “in confidence” but that may be
retroactive wishful thinking. Anyhow it has gotten back to David, and
through him to the whole group, and now Sarah is angry with me for
making her life worse. I’m angry with Johanna for repeating what I
said. What now?
Dear Loose Lips:
There’s no substitute for appropriate discretion and no way to turn
back the clock on your loose lips. You owe Sarah a big apology. The
good news is that she’s likely to accept it, if coolly, because her life
sounds sufficiently disrupted that she’ll still need close friends, albeit
ones that she may– and should– be more cautious around sharing her
true feelings with.
If this is a habit, it’s a bad one. Over time you will accrue not only
resentment but also possible shunning of your own. No one likes their
confidences betrayed, even if it is accidental. And worse, if you were
trying to curry favor with your friend using the gossip as cheap
currency, you have more than a bad habit you have to correct; you
have a problem understanding the boundaries that friendship imposes.
Take a time out to look at your behavior. Then talk to each of them
and apologize for having put them each in a difficult situation by your
rudeness. After you have had your heart-to- hearts, be very simple and
clear in future communications. It’ll take a longtime for the trust to
rebuild. And it should.