Shared Spirit: Straddling Fence Might Be Impossible
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Shared Spirit: Straddling Fence Might Be Impossible

When two friends divorce, it's hard not to take sides, especially if there's an accusation of abuse.

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

A hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart conversation with your friend might be necessary. (Photo by MarMaVi via Wikimedia Commons)
A hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart conversation with your friend might be necessary. (Photo by MarMaVi via Wikimedia Commons)

Recap: Naomi’s close friends Laura and Bob have decided to divorce, causing Naomi pain and bewilderment. She had seen them as the perfect couple.

But Laura said Bob is a confirmed narcissist and has doled out abusive behavior throughout their marriage. After umpteen sessions of marriage therapy, Laura is finally ready to throw in the towel.

Naomi’s job, of course, is to remain a loyal, supportive friend while Laura navigates the rocky terrain of divorce. But Laura expects Naomi to figuratively divorce Bob as well, now that she knows about his dark side.

Naomi tried inviting Bob to join her and Lenny for a Shabbos meal and almost lost Laura in the process. Laura was furious at the “betrayal”: How could Naomi team up with the enemy?

The dilemma: Is it possible to straddle the fence, even when a divorce isn’t amicable, and remain friends with both sides?

In a Perfect World

In a perfect world, you would maintain your friendship with both warring partners. As you aptly said when presenting the situation, you’re not divorcing Bob; Laura is. So what’s the problem?

Laura will naturally crave your empathy and trust as her close friend. And since she feels terribly wounded by Bob, your continuing to befriend him will engender a sense of betrayal.

“How can you be kind to him after everything I told you, after all that he’s done to me?” she cries out. “Don’t you care about me?”

Your reassurances will fall on deaf ears. Much as a child seeks a parent’s protection from a bully, Laura wants to feel safe in the cocoon of your friendship — which means dismissing the man who hurt her.

In this case, it’s either one or none.

Wish I had better news for you.

— Donny Fuchs

Another Sit-Down

Now that I’ve reached the milestone of being half a century old, I face the world with a stronger stance. In my younger years, I worried about people’s reactions to my words and actions; now I find it empowering to be myself — unrestricted and unfettered.

Every one of us has an obligation to do what’s morally right in whatever situation we encounter. If you’ve examined your predicament from every angle and feel that both Bob and Laura are entitled to your friendship, it would be wrong to dismiss Bob, considering the time and effort you’ve invested in the relationship. So sit Laura down for a good, old-fashioned, heart-to-heart talk.

That’s another thing I dabble in at my ripe older age: advice giving. Try it; it’s a lot more fun than taking advice.

Make time for another lunch date, even though it’s not her birthday. Imagine the following conversation.

“Laura, I love and care about you, and nothing will change that. But I need you to understand something.”

“Yes?” She’ll raise her eyebrows and look questioningly into your eyes.

Whisper a silent prayer and soldier on. “The same way we’ve enjoyed a relationship with you for more than 30 years, we’ve also built a strong bond with Bob.” Take a meaningful pause. “I want to keep that bond.”

Laura’s eyes narrow; she resembles an angry cat about to pounce.

“Wait.” You hold up a hand, take a deep breath and continue.

“If the situation were reversed, would you reject me or Lenny? Can you just toss out a relationship that has spanned decades, filled with shared joy and laughter, meaningful milestones, tears and tragedy, and feel justified in doing it?”

“Well,” she might sniff or dab her eyes.

Grab her hand, squeeze it and gaze at her with empathy and caring. Let warmth pool in your eyes so she can see it, feel it, reach out and practically touch it.

“I know you, Laura. You’re too good for that. You would never toss one of us out. That’s just not what a friend does.”

Understanding dawns in Laura’s eyes.

“I guess you’re right,” she says.

You breathe a huge sigh of relief.

“You’re the best,” you exclaim, giving her a hug.

And all’s well in the world — sort of.

Let me know what happens.

— Barry Kopps, life coach

Have a dilemma for our readers to solve? Contact Rachel at

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