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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, November 27, 2006

Friendly Obligations

Morning folks, and happy post-holiday-first-full-week-back-to-work.

So I got to catch up with an old friend a couple of days ago and she shared some unfortunate news: that her relationship with a man she really cared about had fallen apart.

More importantly, the friend was disturbed that in a recent encounter with the man he behaved erratically and lashed out - not in a physical way - at her and made bizarre comments and accusations to boot.

My friend was concerned that she had never seen this side of the man before.

Here's the sticky part. I have known for some time that the man has what us lay-people might simply describe as "issues" or "problems." Someone more qualified than me might say the man has emotional problems. The truth is many folks in my old circle of friends were aware that the man had issues. So when my old friend told me months back that she had begun dating the man after another mutual friend had introduced them, I assumed that the other mutual friend had also given my friend at least the hint of a warning about the man's emotional state.

There was no warning. So now, playing Monday morning quarterback, I'm left to wonder if I should have tipped off my friend. I didn't think so then, and for the most part, I don't think so now.

I think it was a safe and fair assumption on my part that the friend who introduced the pair would have given a warning.

But I do think someone should have told my friend that her new guy was known to lose it somein bizarre ways.

I suppose I understand why the mutual friend did not offer a warning when the "love birds" were first introduced. The mutual friend probably didn't want to interfere or taint the waters.

But I think that on some level there is an obligation there. I would send a buddy into a dark alley knowing there were unchained hungry wolves at the other end. I'd tell him "There are wolves at the other end of the alley, so walk down it at your own risk!"

Of course, that's easy for me to say after the fact.

17 Comments:

  • I hate to sound like Ann Landers but there is such a broad array of "issues" that could affect an ethical decision in your case.

    Does the man have "issues" concerning a compulsion to wash his hands a bit too much or does he like to light street bums on fire? That, that, would definately be something I'd pass on to the woman.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:56 PM  

  • ...and another thing. Don't be such a player hater. This guy's already got "issues" and you're inclined to disadvantage him further? :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:57 PM  

  • This is a tough one, because even if you know someone to have issues, it's not fair to speak behind that person's back. After all, everyone deserves another chance, right? And is it ok to let a friend start a relationship with such trepidation? Almost like it's a foregone conclusion things won't work out?

    On the other hand, if it were a close friend of mine whose best interest I had in mind, I think that would take priority. I would totally let her know how this man had behaved in the past and warn her to watch out for red flags.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 1:31 PM  

  • Just read the news! I was curious if your office is at the Miami Hearld?!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:16 PM  

  • Yeah, Winter. I work out of the Herald's Miami office. But I wasn't there when the disgruntled guy caused his scene. I took the day off Friday and was lounging on my porch when a co-worker called me and said they'd evacuated the building, etc.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 2:46 PM  

  • Matt, good question...about the issues, I mean. I don't think the dude was going to light any homeless on fire. On the other hand, I know his issues did not involve compulsive hand washing. I'd say he was somewhere in between - a pot and stove short of bunny boiler.

    And MB, I think you're right. I'm still a little torn. But I suppose if I had known that the friend who introduced the two hadn't warned her, then I would have felt some obligation.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 2:49 PM  

  • I had a similar experience. When I questioned the mutual friend why there was no warning that the guy was a little bit crazy, she said that I have a tendency to bring out the best in people. That made me feel good.

    By Blogger mist1, at 3:29 PM  

  • Let me tell you a story...

    Once upon a time in a land far far away, there lived a young princess named Yasamin. This princess had many friends, but none like her friend the Duchess Danielle. One day whilst walking through the gardens at the castle, the princess and the duchess ran into a rogue fellow she knew by the name of Mike. Now this rogue had known Princess yasamin for a few years and she knew of many issues he had. So when the Rogue started to date the Duchess Danielle, Princess Yasamin felt it was her duty to tell her friend of the Rogue's issues.

    When she did, the Duchess called her a liar and a jealous woman. She discontinued calling on the princess for quite a while.

    Then one dark and stormy night, someone knocked on the castle gates, begging entry. To Princess yasamin's horror, it was Duchess Danielle with a big fat black eye and split lip. She had nowhere else to beg for protection and of course, being the wise and kind person she was, The Princess took her in and took care of her. The next day, they went down the to local sheriff and had them take pictures of Danielle's bruised and battered body. The duchess cried for days. She eventually apologized for not listening to the Princess. But alas... the friendship had already been torn to shreds.

    the moral of the story? You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. Either way... your gonna feel like crap at some point. So you might as well fess up and warn her ass. that way she won't feel so alone when he really loses it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:46 PM  

  • I'm a big proponent of the "speak now or forever hold your peace" phrase. I will only say something once to warn/notify a friend of a potential problem, then I will drop it. And the words "I told you so" can never be uttered, either.

    I've had people warn me about men before, and I've seen my girlfriends (and boyfriends) walk into relationships that looked like trouble from the get. But you know what? I never listened to the warnings, and others rarely listened to warnings I've given them. People are still going to do what they want, so you might as well be honest and then drop it. I think.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:09 PM  

  • At first I was tempted to say Que Sera Sera and let her find out on her own accord. But to have one friend say, "Cool, but I hear he's a bit touch'n'go ..." and then to have ANOTHER friend say, "Great, but watch out for odd behavior," would be hard to ignore. I wouldn't assume his rep preceded him. The more warnings, the better in this case.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 7:11 PM  

  • I agree with Matt on this one. Deciding to warn someone away from dating a certain person would depend largely on whether their particular compulsion were an annoying superficiality or something that I thought could pose a threat to your friend's safety.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 PM  

  • a warning is always a good thing...even if it goes unheeded...which is usually the case. An old friend of mine had started dating this guy. We all went out one night and she asked what I thought. I told her be careful because I could see him controlling her and eventually getting abusive. I didn't tell her not to date him. She can make her own decisions. She made excuses for him and kept dating him. Eventually she left him after he punched a hole in the wall, told her he imagined her face there and she remembered my warning.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:34 PM  

  • If I may be so bold as to comment on this, I think that friends should always come first in cases like this. Granted, you couldn't know if he'd freak out on her but if he already had a history, chances were good.

    There's no point in dwelling on it now but it is something to ponder for the future should a similar situation present itself.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 12:41 AM  

  • You should ether say nothing (always preferable) or take her to lunch and work it into the conversation, lots of sympathy, saying something like "Oh, yea, well, EVERYONE knew he was nuts. What, nobody told you? Yea, he's been nuts for YEARS." Right, say nothing.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 12:48 AM  

  • Definitely depends on the "issues". If they're of a type liable to lead to violence - either verbal or physical, then warn; that's what friends are for.

    But warn 'em once, then shut up, & be there for the friend when they get hurt, if they do.

    Like Yasamin says - you may well get caught both ways, but at least if you've warned them your conscience will be clear on that one. Even if you get the reputation of being a worrier/trouble maker/tale-teller.

    Then there is the old story: - something needed doing. Everybody thought that Somebody would do it, but in the end Nobody did.

    Which isn't so bad when it's a relationship breaks up, but when there's someone in hospital, or the morgue . . .

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 5:20 AM  

  • I'm torn, JB. If both are friends, you risk losing one or both if you inform one or the other about perceived oddities in their mate. It depends on the perceived oddity (i.e. likes to bite off own toenails, showily sniffs finger after each public butt scratch, thinks happiness is a 3-day bender lubricated with cocaine and Viagra), but I'd do it only if prepared to lose both as close friends.
    This falls in the category of "Do you tell her/him s/he's cheating?"

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 11:24 AM  

  • James, even if you told your friend about the "coo-coo", she would not have believed you - until she saw it for herself.

    Here's my question. Why do delusional friends try to hook up their crazy friends with people? If you know your friend is nuts, don't think he's going to be any less nuts when you hook him up with someone. And when said crazy friend does the crazy stuff he/she will inevitably do, the introducer is never surprised. They say something like “I thought he had stopped doing that." What the hell?!

    By Blogger Angie, at 11:44 AM  

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