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Middle(wo)man
November 15, 2012 4:00 PM   Subscribe

How does one go about mediating between estranged lovers?

John and Jane are in love but have hurt each other deeply and, despite the love, have cut each other off out of the hurt (or so the story goes). Jane has no access to John but is trying to reach him, so she has enlisted the help of... let's call her Jen.

Jen is good friends with Jane, but does not know John from Adam. Sorta. However John and Jen are in the same circles, and Jen has access to John, which is why Jane is asking for Jen's help.

Now, my question is, where would Jen begin? My view is that love is between two people and Jen has no business even being in this picture, but let's pretend this is okay. John has shown he is willing to speak with Jen. Jen has asked me what she should do, and I have no idea what to tell her, but I'm curious... 1) Have you ever been in this situation? 2) What would you do if you were Jen/tell Jen if you were me? "Stay out of it" is not an option.

Thanks...
posted by lilacp to Human Relations (27 answers total)
 
....I'm going to re-name Jen "Beeper" if I may, I'm getting confused.

Can you explain why Jane is trying to get hold of John? If it is about something like "Jane has some property she needs to return to John" or "Jane has discovered she is pregnant and John is the only likely father", then....that's definitely a reason that Beeper should reach out to John and say "look, Jane really needs to talk to you about something kind of urgent here." But if it's just that Jane misses John, then....Beeper should say that "um, sorry, this is kind of something I should stay out of."

You're right that "love is between two people," but if this is a situation in which "love" isn't necessarily a factor, then yeah, Beeper should help out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Hey John, this is Jen, Jane asked me to tell you that she would like for you to give her a call."
"No, I don't know what she wants, I'm just passing along a message."
posted by Daddy-O at 4:04 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Jen has no business inserting herself into this, period. If she's going to anyway, I suggest she keep it short and to the point with something like, "Jane loves and misses you and she would like to talk about what happened. She asked me to ask you if you're willing to talk to her."

But really, Jen should stay out of it.
posted by Maisie at 4:05 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


(good point, EC. I assumed it was about trying to reconcile, but maybe it's not.)
posted by Maisie at 4:07 PM on November 15, 2012


Yeah, if it's anything other than Jane being pregnant, or possibly STD-related, Jen should stay well out of it.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:13 PM on November 15, 2012


"How does one go about mediating between estranged lovers?"

One, who knows better, doesn't.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:14 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Is it mediating or is it message-passing? I'd say that one instance of the latter is fine. The former is not, unless all parties are on board.
posted by rtha at 4:15 PM on November 15, 2012


Reaching out through a vague acquaintance - really? If you were John, would you really want to feel like your ex was seeping back into your life through any possible crack she could get to you?

If I were Jen, I would assume these two people cut each other out of their lives for a reason, and like with any other relationship, I would respect the No Contact decision (or at least John's wish to abide by it). Unless, as EmpressCallipygos says, this is about some sort of urgent matter in the Jane is pregnant or there are finances/property matters to settle, "staying out of it" is really the right approach here.

If there is some reason we don't know of that staying out of it really isn't an option, could you let us know more about that? Otherwise I suspect most of the answers you get here are going to be similar to the ones you've gotten so far ...
posted by DingoMutt at 4:18 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have been in this situation before, or something like it.

At the most, I would be willing to pass on one piece of communication, and only one, and it would need to be short. "Hey John, Jane wanted me to pass on the message that you should call her or whatever. I'm sorry to intrude and I'm sorry if this is weird. I'm just trying to do a favor for a friend, you know? Anyway, peace."

I would be very clear that I would not relay any messages back, that I would not become a go-between, et cetera.

I would do this only in the event that John had somehow cut off even the option of talking to Jane, even if he wanted to, but to be honest I can't think of a single scenario in which he wouldn't be able to undo that if he wanted to hear from her.

If I got the sense that John genuinely did not want to hear from Jane, I would leave it alone. In that case, despite anyone else's protests, "Stay out of it" is an option.

Please feel free to clarify if there's more to the story.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:20 PM on November 15, 2012


"Stay out of it" is not an option.
If Jane is holding a gun to your head, call the police. Staying out of it is always an option.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:25 PM on November 15, 2012 [18 favorites]


This is not complicated or hard, unless there's something you're leaving out Jerri.

"Hey John, it's Jen. Jane's trying to get in touch with you, no idea why. So, you excited about the new Hobbit movie?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:28 PM on November 15, 2012


Jen says to John: "It's none of my business, but Jane would very much like to be in contact with you. I'm sorry if me saying this makes you uncomfortable, but I feel like I can't stay out of it.*"

And then Jen truly never speaks of this again unless John brings the matter up.


* - I'm assuming that Jen is one who feels that saying out of it is not an option. If this isn't the case, then I agree with b1tr0t.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2012


Jane has no access to John but is trying to reach him

What is he, on the moon?

Jane can 'access' John herself. There's email, phones, calling information, addresses via Zabasearch, Facebook, a letter sent c/o his workplace if it came to that. Or c/o his parents. Plus, Jen knows where he is. Jane could ask Jen.

But if Jen has decided she really wants to be the point guard here I think she just says what people have said above 'Hey John, just passing along a message from Jane....' and hands him an envelope, in which, presumably, is an explanation from Jane.

Unless John has a restraining order against Jane. In which case Jen is actually betraying John by doing this.

In short, this sounds like a great idea if Jen likes bad ideas and drama.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:36 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Staying out of it is most certainly an option, unless one party involved is threatening suicide or harm to another party, and if that's the case, Jen sure as hell better be taking that seriously by going to the police about it.

Tell Jen that these two people need to seek a professional mediator in the form of a counselor and that they're being rude to all their friends by recruiting their help on matters that ain't nobody's business but theirs.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2012


This is really stalker-y. I'm not saying she's a stalker. I'm saying that this is the kind of thing that stalkers do. They enlist friends and random people to continue to contact people who have indicated that they do not want to be contacted.

The only thing I'd do would be to say "Hey, I'm sorry that your ex is acting a bit stalker-y. Is everything okay for you? I won't repeat back what you've said." Then "Is there anything I can do to help you?"
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


When my children hadn't heard from their father in several years and started wondering aloud whether he might be dead, I sent a letter to his relative that said "if you are in touch w/him please pass on my contact info and let him know kid1 & kid2 would like to hear from him." I did not ask him to get involved personally in any way, and I asked only once. And that was for kids and an absent parent. Adult estranged lovers really ought to be able to handle things on their own. If they can't, then it's probably not meant to be.
posted by headnsouth at 5:06 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Butt out.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:30 PM on November 15, 2012


Yeah, as someone who actively hid from an old flame -- who then hired a detective to find me when he couldn't on his own -- Nthing that Jen should butt out (unless it is one of the scenarios posited above in terms of "I am pregnant, can you give him this note?" type thing). That idealized romantic movie crap is usually not the case. When someone "cannot access" another person, there is usually a reason for it.

I would not have appreciated it if some passing acquaintance had come to me and told me "John is looking for you and misses you terribly and is sorry he hurt you and yadda." Really? And my relationship to him is your concern because WHY exactly??? I don't want to talk to him and I also do not want to talk to you about any of it. Thank you. (I would take that about as well as someone popping in to chat with me while I was having sex. Really? You think now is a good time to talk? Have you ever heard of boundaries??)
posted by Michele in California at 6:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was (am?) in John's position. All it did was make me ticked at the messenger. Jen would be smart to stay out of it if she runs in the same circles as John.

However! If she really can't, she could do what another friend of mine did. She told me Ex came to her and asked her to get ahold of me. She told him no, but then basically relayed the message by telling me the story. I'm far less peeved with her than the person that called me to tell me the message from my ex. "Hey John, how's it going? Yeah, crazy running into you! Jane was just asking if I ever see you. I guess she's been trying to get in touch with you? Why? I dunno. I told her I wanted to stay out of it!"
posted by peacrow at 6:09 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as someone who actively hid from an old flame -- who then hired a detective to find me when he couldn't on his own -- Nthing that Jen should butt out (unless it is one of the scenarios posited above in terms of "I am pregnant, can you give him this note?" type thing

But this is not what's going on here. Nobody is saying "Tell me where John is so I can get ahold of him." Someone is saying "Please pass John a message for me: ask him to call me" or something similar.

STDs, pregnancy, and other critical events are a legit reason to need contact with someone. Jen should contact John and say "Look, Jane says she urgently needs to get ahold of you. I declined to pass on a specific message but you might want to call her."

This is neither complicated nor crazy.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:43 PM on November 15, 2012


I've been the person who requested no contact. It's really awful when some random with no idea decides to intercede on one party's behalf.

Please: mind your own business.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:14 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


If Jane is asking Beeper to intercede (sorry, just too many J-names to keep track of) when Beeper "doesn't know John from Adam", that would seem to imply that not one person who knows both John and Jane is willing to relay a message from her to him.

That should be a hint.

BTW, contrasting pseudonyms like "Adam, Betty, and Carla" ("Juan, Maria, and Pedro", "Chan, Hwang, and Li-Feng", "Akiko, Musashi, and Sakura", etc.) work better than alliterative ones like "Jane, John, and Jen" or "Paul, Paula, and Phil". The names are phony anyway — make them easy to remember.
posted by Lexica at 7:28 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


despite the love, have cut each other off out of the hurt (or so the story goes)

Or so the story goes.

Since Jen doesn't know John at all well, there is no way for her to know John's emotional state, including his reasons for keeping his distance from Jane.

The "story" smacks of a star-crossed lovers narrative created by Jane to justify her desire to reconnect with John.

John has chosen to keep away from Jane, for reasons known best to him. That decision should be respected by all parties, including potential intermediaries.
posted by nacho fries at 8:53 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Assuming that Jen is another person, not you, I would say "I don't want to get involved in this". Jen getting involved in a relationship that she wasn't party to in this fashion is somewhat creepy and is outside the bounds of normal adult interaction. Jen has to consider John's feelings on the subject, not just Jane's. Given that both of them decided to cut each other off because of the hurt, it's reasonable to think that John doesn't want any kind of contact with Jane because of said hurt.

Jen might even be shooting herself in the foot with the social circle that she shares with John, if word gets around that she's prepared to meddle and interfere in this fashion.
posted by Solomon at 1:53 AM on November 16, 2012


My view is that love is between two people and Jen has no business even being in this picture

Your view is correct.

but let's pretend this is okay.

Okay, as long as we're also allowed to pretend that up is down and water isn't wet.

1) Have you ever been in this situation?

Yes.

2) What would you do if you were Jen/tell Jen if you were me?

Stay out of it.

"Stay out of it" is not an option.

Yes it is.
posted by flabdablet at 2:13 AM on November 16, 2012


Honestly when I was caught in this situation I lied. (I'm "Jen")

I lied to Jane because Jane was being very unreasonable making not getting a hold of John “not an option” and I wanted to keep being friends Jane

I don’t remember exactly what I said but something that indicated I tried but he’s not interested. Because their situation was more stalkery than people knew and I wasn't going to be a part of inflicting that on John.

That was 10 years ago. I think now I would just confront my unreasonable friend and say I want no part of it. Even if that cost me my friendship. But back then, lying worked great.
posted by French Fry at 6:11 AM on November 16, 2012


I was John and Jen/Beeper reached out to me on Jane's behalf. I was fucking pissed. Jane (or in my case Jose) was stalking me and I had cut off contact with him totally, for a great reason (he told everyone we were in love, star-crossed lovers, blah, blah, blah).

Having Jen/Beeper trick me into talking/thinking/dealing with him was an amazing betrayal. Fortunately, I wasn't actually friends with Jen/Beeper and didn't see her socially so I didn't care that I had to cut her from my life. But if she had shown up at social event afterwards, man, I don't know. I probably would have punched her? I would definitely used all of my subtle social powers to black-ball her from the group.

So, you know, tell her to stay out of it.
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:53 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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