Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Don't be drawn into being a pawn for either spying or lying
Tell me more, tell me more: A good friend who lives out of town worked in my city over the summer and dated another good friend of mine. Fun for all of us. At the end of the summer, Friend A moved back home. While Friend A is hoping to keep a long-distance relationship going, Friend B is happily dating other people. A visits B often. They hang out, sleep together, A goes home, B breathes a sigh of relief and goes back to enjoying the single life.
A is frustrated that there is no talk of a commitment. B is more than content with things the way they are. Friend A occasionally asks me for reports on what B is doing with whom. B occasionally asks me to lie to A about same.
At what point am I allowed to be upfront with them about their conflicting motivations?
Carolyn: That point already whizzed by your ear: When B asked you to lie, the answer was, "No."
And when A asked for reports on B, you should have said, "Ask B."
It sounds as if you'll get other chances to try these. And because B is possibly putting A's health at risk, and because B is a close enough friend to confide in you, please also tell B that what s/he's doing stinks.
Tell me more, tell me more: Well ... it's not like I haven't done what you've suggested more than once. At first I did a really good job of staying out of it. Then I found out sometimes A would float seemingly innocent questions my way ("So what did you do this weekend?") in order to confirm/deny B's reports. I have no plans of knowingly playing agent to either one, but you're right that B is seriously playing around with A's emotional and physical health. Are you saying "If you don't tell A, I will" is the right move here?
Carolyn: So you've said point-blank, "I'm not going to lie for you," and B still asks you to lie? And A is pushing for commitment that clearly isn't coming? Bad relationships do have a way of bringing out the worst in people, don't they ... but if B is still trying to use you against your friend, that makes B a special case.
Either way, if you plan to remain close with both, I suppose you're due for an "If you don't set A straight, I will."
But there's an argument to be made for washing your hands of both of them till they resolve this. Not severing ties, just okay-whatevering. When A asks questions, either answer or don't for your own reasons; it's not your job to divine A's motive. And when B asks you to lie, tell B you're going to answer A truthfully or default to "Ask B."
I suggest this because it isn't just B playing games; A gets what B is up to, and is trying to drag you into it instead of just facing it. If you make a point of being transparent, you can't be used to shield anyone else.