Breaking Up is Hard to Do (Or See)

Lately, I seem to be torn by divided loyalties. Not only are my loyalties divided between two family members, they are now being divided between two friends who once were business partners. They need each other and the business needs them, but as intelligent as they are, they don’t seem to communicate well. They hurt each other, expect too much from each other, blame each other. And since I’m close to both of them, I am in the middle. I wish I could sit them down (or better yet, bang their heads together) and get them to listen to the truth of the other beyond recriminations, guilt, and regret, but it is not my place.

windSometimes outsiders can see what those involved cannot see, but we cannot feel the emotions that are driving our friends apart, and so we can only stand by, ready to listen if they want to talk. Even if I wanted to do something, it’s not my fight, and inserting myself between them will add fuel to an already combustible situation.

I grieve for them and what they are losing. I grieve for what I am losing. But, as with my family situation, I can’t run their lives for them, and I can’t change anything. Maybe no one can. Maybe the roots of the conflict go back too far to untangle. Maybe the breakup has gone forward too far to be rewound. Maybe . . . maybe they will find a way to set aside their feelings and make it work after all, but I don’t hold out much hope. Their loyalties to each other and the business were in conflict, and without reciprocity, loyalty becomes a type of servitude, adding even more conflict to a complicated situation.

In fiction, conflict is all important, and even in life, some conflict is beneficial — one partner was aflame with fantastic ideas, the other partner more down to earth and able to put those fantasies into action. But too much conflict puts a strain on even the most congenial relationship, and this partnership was not always congenial.

I’ve never had to deal with a divorce between two people I cared about — usually I knew only one of the parties. But now I know how I would feel — terribly sad and powerless.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Is “Constructive Criticism” Constructive?

I lost another friend today. Apparently the power of my negativity is slaying them right and left. And even worse (according to this friend anyway) I don’t take “constructive criticism” well.

This got me thinking: why should you take criticism, constructive or otherwise? If it concerns your job, then you bluereally have no choice but to take it. If you ask a friend for a critique of your faults, then you should be graceful if you hear something you don’t like. But if someone points out your faults without being asked, then why should you “take it well”? Even if you know your faults (especially if you know them), criticism is hurtful.

Conversely, is it ever acceptable to offer constructive criticism? I don’t presume to know how people should live or how they should deal with their problems, so I don’t offer advice unless it is asked for, and not always then. But somehow, people assume they can offer me “constructive criticism” and expect me to like it.

“Constructive criticism” seems to be a euphemism for “I’m saying terrible things about you and you’re supposed to be grateful.” I guess I lied when I said I don’t offer advice because I’m going to do it now: if someone has a character trait you don’t like, deal with it, don’t expect them to change to suit you. If you are friends, be aware the person you are criticizing probably has a list of things they don’t like about you, but they are too kind (or too reticent) to tell you.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.