One of the things that hit me really hard from my separation and subsequent divorce was that a very good friend of mine knew about my husband’s affair. Yet, he opted not tell me.
When I asked my friend why he didn’t tell me, he simply said he didn’t want to get involved. He was a dear friend of mine, and it was really devastating to think he withheld this very important information.
My husband was sleeping with one of our employees. Coulda filled me in?
But prior to that experience, to be honest, I probably would have done the same thing and simply looked the other way.
Is it bro-code? Marriage-code? Is there girl code? Meddling lines you just don’t cross? Shouldering the responsibility of blowing up somebody’s entire world is a big weight to carry. Cheating is a touchy and sensitive subject and adult relationships are complicated. Complicated as fuck.
Do you know a couple where someone is cheating? Where you think someone is cheating?
I do. And I have been really struggling with how to deal with it. Especially in the wake of my experience.
I don’t want to disrupt someone’s marriage, their kids, their home, their whole life. It’s not that easy to just “break up.” We aren’t in our 20s. Unraveling your life is really complicated. Houses, finances, kids, friends, families. It’s complex. And it’s a fear that many don’t want to face. I wouldn’t want to be the one to throw that decision in someone’s lap.
But let’s be serious, how many times have you had this conversation with your friends:
“Doesn’t she have to know?”
“Maybe she just looks the other way.”
“Do they have an open marriage and we just don’t know?”
Maybe some people just don’t want to know? Maybe they are trading security for happiness? Is a happy life in ignorance better or worse than a painful one with the truth? This last question is one for the ages and one I’m not even going to try to answer here. But it’s certainly some mental floss to chew on. And the answer may not be as easy as you think.
After experiencing it first hand, I have decided that it’s far better to know the truth and then make your own decision after you are fully informed.
Shockingly, many of my friends encouraged me to stay with my husband and try to work it out. And many had quite different opinions. But nobody knows your own situation better than you.
Recently, I have been armed with this information regarding someone else’s marriage. It’s weighing on me like a ton of bricks. Like a massive karmic decision I have to make. It’s as if the universe forced this information upon me to ‘do good’ for someone else. Because I learned how painful it was to be in the dark. The world wants me to help someone else. Ok. Ok. Maybe I am reading into it too much. But COVID is making me a lot more theoretical. But getting back on track here, once you unleash this information on someone it cannot be undone. And you have changed their world forever.
I have honed in on a few guidelines:
Be prepared to lose the friend. Your friend may never speak to you again. It’s a risk. It’s one thing to have a feeling your husband might be unfaithful, it’s another ballgame to know that other people know and confront you with it. Your friendship may be damaged forever. Make sure to include in the conversation that whatever decisions they make – you have absolutely no judgements held.
Make sure the “proof” is not hearsay. Heresay won’t get you anywhere. It will only be dismissed. Sitting down with your friend and telling them you heard something through several degrees of separation is a complete waste of time. In this particular instance, I viewed it with my own eyes. So am I obligated to deliver the facts?
Tell them not to confront their spouse. You do not want your friend to immediately confront their husband or partner. Advise them to digest, think about it, marinate, take a week to really and truly think about the news they have learned. Formulate a plan. The absolute worst thing you can do is react immediately.
I waited several months before I told my husband I knew about his affair with our bartender. It gave me time to get my ducks in a row and figure out my next steps. It enabled me to deal with him in a non-defensive and non-confrontational way.
Arm your friend with a few detective tools. Often cheating husbands and partners put their ‘sidepiece’ in their cell phone under a friend’s name. For example, the cheating husband I know puts his girlfriend’s name under his friend’s name, Jason. When the phone rings, the wife has no idea who it is. These are a few of the “tricks” I have learned men use. More to come on that.
So – what would you do? Let me know in the comments. Or shoot me an email. I love getting your notes.
Image credit: Closer, a 2004 Mike Nichols film starring Natalie Portman, Julie Roberts, Jude Law, and Clive Owen. All are wildly unhappy and entwined in relationships laden with insincerity.