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Is It Disloyal To Be Friends With My Friend’s Enemy?
A reader struggles with whether it is disloyal to maintain a friendship with her friend’s enemy.
I pride myself on being a loyal, good friend. However, I don’t know how to handle myself in the company of people that my close friends consider their “enemies.”
I feel uncomfortable socializing with someone who has offended or no longer speaks to a close friend of mine. Often, these “enemies” of my friends are people I know and like, and I don’t really have any reason to not like them.
Yet, if my friend sees me talking to one of these people at a party or hears I have been with that person in a group situation, I can tell they feel hurt and betrayed by me. I have at least eight to ten people I consider my close friends… so where should I draw the line?
Everyone has a little drama with someone, and if I avoided all of my friends’ enemies, I would be walking on eggshells wherever I went! These enemies include ex-husbands and boyfriends. Is it disloyal to say hello to them?
The list goes on and on. Where do you draw the line of being disloyal to a friend’s enemy? Do we fight our friend’s battles?
This brings to mind that old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
But it’s not quite that way here, is it? Rather, you’re asking: “Is the enemy of my friend also my enemy?”
We certainly like to stand by our friends, but all these circumstances have to be exhausting for you to keep track of who it’s okay for you to associate with and who is “forbidden.”
Each of the situations you described sounds pretty innocent to us. There is no blanket answer to your question. Rather, what constitutes loyalty and appropriate behavior depends on a number of factors:
1) The reason your friend sees the other person as an enemy
If something extreme or very heinous was done to your friend, you could understand how he/she might feel hurt to think you would befriend the “enemy.” For example, if the other person threatened your friend, he/she might feel like you should have nothing to do with that person.
2) The timing of the “rift”
If your friend just got divorced from her husband, you could predict that it might still be raw and hurtful to think you were maintaining a close relationship with her ex. If they have been divorced for a decade, you would hope your friend would have moved on.
3) The context of getting together with the “enemy”
Having a date or private tete-a-tete with an “enemy” (and doing it in secret) is very different than innocently bumping into that person in a social situation—for example, at a party or wedding, such as the situation you described.
4) The nature of your interaction
If you discuss your friend’s personal business with the enemy or reveal confidences, it’s natural
that this would be seen as disloyal. But greeting someone and asking about mutual friends is simply being courteous.
Although someone is your friend’s enemy, that doesn’t make the individual your enemy—-with the caveats being one or more of the factors described above.
It is surprising that you run into this problem so often. Perhaps your friends are overly sensitive or they are misreading your intent. If the latter is the case, and you are close friends, you should explain that your relationship with their “enemy” doesn’t negate the close bond you share with them.
Irene & Sheryl
Friends need to use common sense in determining whether it’s disloyal or insensitive to befriend a friend’s “enemy.”