There are a certain breed of folks in this world that like nothing better than when two people are fighting. Especially if they don’t like one of them. They seize in like a thirsty tick with one person and then needle and aggravate the situation in an effort to make sure those two people never speak to each other again. They aren’t interested in resolutions or happiness. They’re too busy getting their jollies off on the animosity they help create. They love the bitterness and the jealousies. This person will poke and prod by pretending to be “protecting” their friend. They will posture and puff up and make grandiose gestures in a very public manner so that everyone around them will think they are being heroic.
In reality, they are simply being a bully.
They wallow in the gossip and intrigue and are thrilled at the demise and hardships of one of the fighters. It reminds me of an audience watching a boxing match, except in this case, it’s an audience of one. And that audience is lethal to any kind of harmony.
The truth is…they don’t really like either of the people arguing. How could they have any love in their heart for either person and revel in the misery created by the upset? They can’t. The truth is this person doesn’t feel empathy at all. This type of person isn’t interested in there ever being a resolution of any kind because their fun would come to an end. Their time in the limelight will dim if the two people make up and become friends again. They won’t be needed as a sounding board and they won’t be in the loop, hearing all of the nasty and cruel chatter.
This kind of triangulation is the pathology of a narcissistic sociopath.
I have always tried to be a peacemaker.
I say “tried” because I am not always successful. When two people don’t like each other, it is my opinion that they can still be inclusive and cordial without always having to be at each other’s throats. Rather than agreeing with the person that’s upset, I always ask them to try to work it out.
“Invite the girlfriend! They are a couple now and you need to find a way to accept this and make it work out for all of us. And besides that, I like them!”
“Perhaps I am not the best person to tell these things to. Why not try calling or going by for a visit to talk it out? Let her know how much you miss her and love her.”
“I am sorry that she never returns your calls. Maybe she’s just busy. Here, I’ll call her and you can talk to her.”
I confess that sometimes I just give up and take myself completely out of the loop.
I remember a triangulation like the one I describe that happened a while back and one of my friends said the most profound thing to the person that was angry and trying to get her to come over to her side. She said “Why would I take sides when this is something that will eventually work itself out? Where will that leave me? I like both of you very much! I am an adult and can be friendly with each of you separately. I’ve been doing that for months, so why are you asking me to choose now? She knows I am friends with you and it doesn’t bother her at all.”
The problem with this kind of behavior is that somewhere along the battle lines, someone will be accused of forcing another to choose sides. In some cases this is true. People want you to choose sides. I have never been a proponent of side picking. It brings back these ugly memories of childhood games of Red Rover.
Red Rover is a game that begins with a child team leader picking peers to be on their team. It’s horrible to be picked last, but if you’re scrawny, thin and perceived as physically weak, expect to be picked last. The teams line up facing each other and they all hold hands. This was my favorite part of the game because it meant I got to hold hands with my friends. Okay, my perception of the game wasn’t totally square since the object of holding hands was to prevent a player from the other team from breaking your line.
The team leader calls for a member from the other side “Red Rover, Red Rover! Send Katy right over!” and I would run as fast as I could, aiming my skinny frame towards one of the clasped hands of the other team in an effort to break them apart. If I was successful, I was added to their team. If not, I was out of the game.
That’s what happens when friends fight and the only people they have listening to them are ones that relish a fight and continue to add fuel to it’s blaze. It’s a never ending game of Red Rover and eventually, one of them isn’t strong enough to break the toxic hold the person has on their friend, and they are out of the game.
What do you do when one of your friendships is facing a triangulation of peril?
I triangulated friendships when I was a child in grade school. That’s when you learn at an early age that triangulation never works. That’s when you get your tender, young feelings hurt as your best friends make up and tell each other what you did. Then neither of them like you anymore. That is when human beings are supposed to learn the ins and outs of being a real and true friend.
Triangulation never works. If you are an adult and this is behavior you are still exhibiting, then please seek professional counseling. Perhaps there is a game of Red Rover in your past that you have never quite recovered from.
I have never asked anyone to choose sides. Rather than force anyone to be my friend out of loyalty, I have sat back and watched what could unfold and there have been some major disappointments, but I grew from them. There have also been a lot of delightful and beautiful resolutions, ones that I will always cherish.
So here is my advice to anyone that has this going on in their lives.
The only thing you can do is let the friend know that you love them and will be there if they change their minds. You can not make someone be your friend. They have to want that.
Stop participating in the game of Red Rover the toxic influence has arranged for their enjoyment by letting the situation be. You don’t have to keep responding to their taunts to “Come on over!”
Until the situation changes, you can always make other friends and move on. There are more people out there that can appreciate you for who you are, rather than try to force you to be someone else. The gossip and intrigue eventually runs dry when you stop participating in the triangle.
Besides, is this a friendship or connection that is worth the hassle? Sadly, the odds are that they aren’t.
Is someone that would be so easily swayed into this kind of battle someone you want to continue to be close to? Who is to say that this won’t happen over and over again? This could be a pattern in this person’s life and you can not break someone else’s patterns.
How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to keep this person in your life?
Know this…friendship, like love, shouldn’t hurt all the time.
When someone is a friend, they behave like one. A real friend is someone that will say exactly what my friend said. They won’t participate at all, but will let everyone know that they are capable of being there for everyone, rather than picking sides in a fight that can not be won.
In the game of Red Rover it is the team with the most members that wins, but in real life, it is the person that held on fast to your hand to help you win that is your friend. Look for that quality in the relationships you hold close to your heart. Look for those friends that will support you with love and laughter, rather than with hatred and gossip.