My parents divorced six years ago, when I was 10. I live with my dad by choice, and he is a great dad. The problem is he has no luck dating. I know why, but he doesn’t, and I wonder if I should tell him. It’s his toupee. He thinks no one notices, but really no one says anything because he is so nice and they don’t want to hurt his feelings. Should I clue him in?
My Magic 8-Ball says: “Don’t count on it.” Here’s why: You dislike your dad’s toupee so you imagine other females do, too. You may be right. It’s also possible that, rather than nice, he seems hopelessly naive. Or maybe he appears needy or desperate to connect. Each woman he dates will have a different perspective of him based on her past experiences, values, availability and attraction patterns. So tell him honestly how you feel about his toupee, but don’t add the imagined opinions of others to bolster your view, OK? Then trust that your dad will meet the right woman someday. So much of matchmaking is a matter of timing, anyway.
My wife and I have been friends with another couple for over 20 years. We stood up for each other at our weddings, are the godparents of each other’s children, vacation together at least once a year with the kids and once a year without kids. You get the picture. We’ve been close. The husband in this other couple recently shocked us all by admitting to his wife that he had an affair and wanted a divorce. It’s incredibly sad to see friends going through a breakup, but the worst part of it is that they want my wife and me to take sides. The other husband keeps telling me he needs my loyalty. Is there a way to maintain friendship with both of them?
Yes, very carefully. If you want your friendship to survive the dissolution of their marriage, don’t kowtow to the prevailing concept of loyalty. Many people believe that loyalty means, “Hey, I’ve got your back no matter who you have hurt or what you have done.” But from a spiritual perspective, loyalty means you do not abandon your friend in difficult times nor do you sympathize when they attempt to justify why they behaved badly. Instead, you listen and consistently invite, expect and demand their growth toward ethical behavior.
If you maintain friendship with the cheating husband, be clear that nothing his wife did or did not do propelled him into an affair. The affair was a conscious choice and he used it to justify a divorce. Don’t let him off the hook if he complains that he couldn’t help himself or other such nonsense. Just remind him that he could have just as easily made a choice that would have caused less harm, such as securing a divorce before engaging in relationships with other women. Of course, that takes courage, which he obviously lacked in this situation. It’s amusing to me that he wants you to be faithful to him but that he failed to exhibit the same quality in his marriage.
Both you and your wife should tell your friends—directly and plainly—that you refuse to take sides. Don’t assume that they will figure this out by your behavior. Remember, this situation is an opportunity for your growth, too. So practice good communication skills, even if you find it challenging. And if being friends with both members of this couple has ill effects on your own marriage, take some time to heal that raw nerve before returning to helping your friends move into the next chapter of their lives.