“I just wanted to make sure I reached out and thanked you,” she says.
“For what?” I ask.
“For talking to me so much about my breakup,” she says.
“Of course,” I tell her. “You’re my friend. You’d do it for me.”
“Well, you make it sound simple,” she says. “But I know you’re his friend, too.”
“I am,” I say. “I love you both. That hasn’t changed.”
“See?” she says. “That’s what I’m talking about.”
“You don’t feel like you have to pick a side,” she says.
I laugh. “That’s always amused me. How often people think they have to. There doesn’t have to be a good guy and a bad guy in a breakup. As much as people might want it to be that way, it usually isn’t quite that cut and dried. Sometimes people just aren’t compatible. Or maybe, sure, they did a garbage thing or two, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a garbage person.”
She nods. “And while I’ll admit that part of me has gotten a certain satisfaction when people said ‘fuck that guy, he’s dead to me now’ in the past about some of my exes, I don’t think he deserves that kind of scorched earth by our friends, even if I need a bit of distance for a while. Know what I mean?”
“I do,” I say.
“But yeah, people’s possible knee jerk reactions were actually part of why I took so long to break up with him. I didn’t want to lose them as friends. Or for them to punish him,” she says.
“So thank you for being one person I didn’t have to worry about,” she says.
“You’re welcome,” I say.
Solomon and the Baby
There’s a story from the Old Testament that’s long been one of my favorites. King Solomon is confronted by two mothers who live in the same house. Both women recently had one of their children die and are fighting over a remaining child, a son. Each claims they are the mother of this surviving child. Of course one of them is lying. But both seem so sincere.
So King Solomon orders that the only fair judgement in this case can be to cut the baby in half. He calls for a sword to do this.
One of the mothers is quite fine with this arrangement. She states that if she doesn’t have the baby, it’s all the same to her that neither of them does.
The other begs Solomon not to cut the baby in half. She tells him he can give the baby to the other woman so long as the king does not kill the child.
And from this, the king declares the second woman the real child’s mother — because she would give up her own son to save his life.
When Someone Is Good with Both People Losing So Long As the Other Person Doesn’t Win
It’s an old story but a good one.
Now, sharing time, loyalties, and friendship is a bit different than sharing an actual human being. Most of the time you can stay fairly friendly with both people without too much difficulty, provided neither friend objects. In a lot of instances, splitting your friendship in half isn’t like killing a baby at all.
But what I’ve taken from the story of Solomon and the baby is that it’s always a bad sign when one person wants you to choose. When they would rather no one have you in their life than the other person. They’re good with both people losing so long as the other person doesn’t win.
If a friend tells me that they’ll no longer be my friend because I’m friends with someone they’re breaking up with, then that’s a sign that we aren’t meant to be friends.
If a lover says “it’s them or me,” then that’s an eye-opening moment, too.
Except for instances where basic safety is at risk and there’s a potential for abuse (which unfortunately has happened to me; I wrote about the one understandable poly ultimatum I’ve ever had issued to me in this post), “it’s them or me” is the worst kind of red flag.
Now that said, it isn’t always easy when the shoe is on the other foot, when I see certain exes socially because we have mutual friends. For them or for me. Especially in that acute healing period where one or both of us is unsure about what to become next. How to proceed from here.
And I can’t prevent an ex from blocking me, scorching earth, or demanding the same from mutual friends.
But I always try to do my best not to fall into those patterns myself.
I’ll risk losing Solomon’s child if I have to, knowing that he’ll live a full life somewhere else.