Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Tell My Friend Her Husband Hit on Me Years Ago?

I have pretty much decided to tell my friend that her husband hit on me several years ago. My main reason for telling her is that, if I were her, I would want to know, and also her marriage is now so unhappy that she is seriously thinking of leaving him and I think she needs to have as much information as possible to make an informed decision. However, the incidents with the husband happened four years ago and I haven’t said anything since then, having (unwisely I now believe) consulted with a mutual friend whose advice was not to tell. This was mainly on the grounds that my poor friend’s children at that time were pretty young and the marriage seemed otherwise stable. (From this mutual friend, I also heard that the husband had tried it a few times with another mutual friend before me. I would not think of passing this on, as to me it’s just hearsay).

What happened four years ago that I am thinking about telling my friend is that her cheating husband came ’round my house a few times, on small pretexts. My kids were always around until one day they weren’t, and on that day he tried to get hold of me and kiss me and get his hand under my top. I pulled away, firmly reminding him that he was married to my good friend and that I wasn’t interested. He said a few things like how much he liked me, what a lovely person I am, and blah, blah, blah, but then he left. After that, he also found me walking through my neighborhood (by calling my house and asking my then 18-year-old daughter where I was!). He was in his car and, again, he tried to pull me in for a kiss, through the open car window. I was even more shocked than on the first occasion, and I once again got out of his way, while reminding him of his lovely wife and children. He even said “Forget about J*****!.” After that he just called ’round to the front door of the house to invite me to a party they were having and also to say “Please don’t tell J*****.”

Anyway, I felt disgusted; it was not flattering but insulting to me that he could think he might just have an affair or whatever he envisioned with his wife’s good friend. I felt totally creeped out, worried for quite a while, and always looking out for his car. I hate to see him if he’s home when I am at their house. And now, since my friend has been telling me all about their problems, he and his behavior are so much on my mind.

Do you think it would be the wrong thing to tell my friend what happened, now that so much time has passed? And, even if it’s not what you personally would do, is it a reasonable decision? — Hit On By Her Husband

The time to tell your friend that her husband hit on you (multiple times) would have been when it happened four years ago, but you didn’t tell her then. As you said, a friend advised you not to and you believed your friend’s marriage to be stable and not worth upsetting when she had young children at home. Fair enough. Maybe you also felt like she wouldn’t have believed you, or, if it came down to your word against her husband’s word, she’d choose to believe the person she was building a life and raising children with. And now you have reason to think that scenario has changed and that maybe your friend would not only believe your word over her estranged husband’s, but she might also use the information to make a more informed decision about leaving him.

I still wouldn’t tell her, though, and here’s why: by admitting that you sat on this information for four years and said nothing and did nothing, you risk alienating your friend at a time when she might especially need you. You say you want to tell her because, if the tables were turned, you’d want to know, but you probably mean that you’d want to know when the shit went down…not four years after the fact. If I discovered that a good friend had potentially game-changing information in regards to my personal life and she waited years to share it, I’d feel betrayed, embarrassed, and like I couldn’t really trust her, no matter what good reasons she might have had for keeping the information from me all that time. Maybe it’s unfair, but, by sharing that you’ve kept the husband’s secret for four years, you run the risk of looking compliant or like you were protecting HIM all this time rather than protecting your friend. You run the risk of looking, in the eyes of your friend, no more trustworthy than her philandering husband.

Of course, just because you run these risks doesn’t mean the risks will be realized. The flip side is that your friend is grateful, or at least better informed to make a decision to leave her husband. But even then, that still doesn’t guarantee that her trust in you will remain intact. Or that she won’t be angry that you kept the secret from her for so long.

The truth is, if the husband is as awful as he seems and your friend is already considering leaving him, I doubt that the information you have is going to be a deciding factor in the decision. There are likely LOTS of other examples of his transgressions and dirtbag ways. He has probably been a bad husband in countless scenarios that have led to your friend finally admitting that she’s very unhappy. If her being very unhappy isn’t enough to persuade her to leave, than there’s probably a pretty big pull the husband has that some 4-year-old bit of information would do little to break anyway. What it is more likely to do is affect your friend’s trust in YOU.

So, I would leave it. And I would focus instead on being a good support person to your friend as she rides the waves of her rocky marriage and decides how best to move on for herself and her children.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

26 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Laura Hope October 6, 2014, 8:27 am

    This creep’s behavior was so indiscreet and so over the top (I’ll even say bordering on predatorial), that there’s no way this is an isolated incident. He’s gotta be a serial womanizer. She either knows or doesn’t want to know. And if she’s leaving him….I don’t think telling her will make or break her decision.

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    • avatar

      joanna October 6, 2014, 8:36 am

      Laura’s right. This seems to be a symptom of someone who has tried it on multiple occasions with multiple people.

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  • coconot

    coconot October 6, 2014, 8:40 am

    As usual, I agree with Wendy on this. From the first line of your letter my gut instinct was DON’T TELL DON’T TELL DON’T TELL! And it only got stronger as I read on. Are you sure you aren’t considering telling just to feel less guilty? If I already knew my husband was a cheater, and I was considering leaving him based on that, I would not want to find out he additionally tried to cheat with my friends. Like Wendy said, I would just feel embarrassed, then be less likely to talk problems through with those friends. It’s going to be hard, but let this one lie. You could, of course, gently encourage your friend to leave the @$$…

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  • avatar

    Essie October 6, 2014, 9:26 am

    Well, I could probably argue both sides of this, but in my gut….I think you’d be ending the friendship if you told her now. If I were in her place, and found out that not just you, but the other person you told, had been sitting on this information for FOUR YEARS…..I don’t think I could ever forgive you for hiding that from me. I might go through the motions with the friendship for awhile, but it wouldn’t ever be the same. I’d be embarrassed, I’d feel betrayed.
    .
    Because what he did wasn’t ‘hitting on you’. You could use that phrase if he’d made some suggestive remarks. But this guy tried to grope you. And then he actively went looking for you (by talking to your daughter? Ewww) and tried to pull you into his car. If a stranger did that to you, you probably would have considered going to the police. He’s a complete and utter pig.
    .
    It’s your choice, of course. I think she deserved to know then, and I think she deserves to know now. But just be warned that she’s probably going to be pretty angry with you for keeping this from her for so long.

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  • avatar

    ktfran October 6, 2014, 9:32 am

    Put me in the don’t tell camp. I think for most situations, there’s a time stamp on when to come clean. In most of those situations, it’s immediately.
    .
    LW, at this point, I think you’re trying to alleviate your own guilt – although I truly don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about. He’s the jerk. Not you. And the wife is finally figuring that out. As others have said, she would probably feel betrayed by you – even though you did nothing wrong – if you waited this long to tell her. I would just let it go. Honestly, I would.

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 October 6, 2014, 10:03 am

    Wait, what? This guy forced himself on you, and tried to put his hand up your shirt? It stinks that friendship makes people feel like they can’t do anything when they get assaulted, and I’m sorry that he put you in that situation. I agree that it is no wise to tell her about this to help HER out, but if you ever needed to tell her to help YOU out, and you wouldn’t mind taking the chance of losing her friendship over it, then I say it might be ok. Hopefully if this is really bothering you, you do have somebody to talk to about it, though actually think that it isn’t so bothering to you since you are more upset about him cheating on his wife then him feeling like he can just have his way with you.

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    • something random

      something random October 6, 2014, 11:30 am

      Honestly, I agree. I don’t think there is an exact formula as to what to do in these situations. But this asshole is so disgusting, and his is unwanted, aggressive, boundary-violating advances were so over-the-top, that I think the letter writer should stop worrying about the best way to help everyone else out. If this is still plaguing her after four years, and SHE feels guilty; I think she has the right to speak her truth. And I think she really wants to. I think this is a gray enough area that nobody can really tell her she’s wrong.

      Letter writer, I would be prepared to lose your friend over this. Your friend may have heard these kind of confessions before and be willing to sit through the discomfort enough to make it through the other side of this with you. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Still, from my perspective you are allowed to free yourself of this; none of it was your fault or doing and I don’t think it would be excessively selfish.

      However, if your motives are purely to push your friend into leaving her louse of a husband; its
      borderline inappropriate to tell. Your meddling more than is a friends place to do. Proceed with caution.

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  • Amanda

    Amanda October 6, 2014, 10:12 am

    Eeeewwww…this guy’s a scumbag. But that doesn’t mean you should tell. She probably already suspects that he made several passes at her friends. She doesn’t need the confirmation. If you want to be a good friend, focus instead on being there for her. Listen to her as she sorts out if she wants to leave her marriage. Support her in whatever decision she makes.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. October 6, 2014, 10:31 am

    Yeah, the time to tell has passed. I’d want to know if my husband was doing such things, too, but not four years later. If I were your friend and you told me now what happened four years ago, I’d frankly question your motives. I think you want to tell for you, not for her. It sounds like she’s already questioning her choice of husband. Don’t make her question her choice of friend, as well. She’s going to need all the friends she has to get through whatever comes next.

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  • FireStar

    Firestar October 6, 2014, 10:49 am

    I’m all for telling the truth but think the statute of limitations has run out on you. I don’t think it’s reasonable to tell now. It isn’t just your motives for telling that would be questioned – bu your motives for staying silent so long. I wish you told your friend something at the time. I get not wanting to do the whole confrontation. I’ve said on here before something similar happened to me but I didn’t want to do a whole confession about it since it was just an idiot trying to make a play and the transgression wasn’t enough to warrant a confrontation…and I felt it would have ruined our friendship had I done that…but saying something like “what the hell is up with Herman getting handsy? Is he off his meds?” shows you are dismissing it – so not making it important enough to affect your friendship (though really buddy assaulted you and I would have been fine with the full play by play at the time from you) – but couching it as incredulous and somehow related to some sort of medical condition that made him loose his damn mind conveys enough to her that she can see about her husband. Not the most honest way of addressing it but it walks the line between conveying something happened and minimizing it for the sake of the friendship. The whole situation sucks. That guy is a jackass and I’m sure his jackassery has come out I multiple ways over the course of the marriage and hopefully she will be done with him shortly in any case.

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  • Crochet.Ninja

    Crochet.Ninja October 6, 2014, 10:24 am

    you should have told your friend when it happened. THAT’S when she needed the information. too late now, leave it alone.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy October 6, 2014, 10:55 am

      I could understand NOT telling a friend that her spouse hit on you in certain situations (like, if it was just a one-time inappropriate comment said after too much drinking or something like that), but what this guy did was way, WAY out of bounds and was clearly planned or thought about ahead of time, AND it was physical. The friend should have been told from the beginning. Since she wasn’t, the ship has sailed, and it’s really too late now.

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      • avatar

        Datdamwuf October 7, 2014, 10:19 am

        I am with Wendy on this and I went through this scenario myself. When I was divorcing my ex due to cheating (and abuse) my good friend who’s support I really needed did exactly what you want to do LW. She told me my ex had hit on her years ago and it really hurt more than it helped. I had a very difficult time forgiving her for keeping that information to herself as it might have alerted me to husband’s behavior much sooner. Her reason for not telling me was exactly this “I was afraid you would not believe me and I’d lose your friendship, I love you and I couldn’t bear to risk losing you”. I forgave her but it was very difficult to hear that someone I love would ever think I wouldn’t believe them, it definitely dented my trust in her for a long time.

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny October 6, 2014, 11:54 am

    I was engaged to a guy and after the wedding was called off, I had all of these people tell me these things he had done and said throughout our relationship that made them think he wasn’t good for me. But, no one said anything while we were together. Sure, I probably would have resisted the information and maybe ignored it for a while, but it was hard to swallow, after the fact. It made me feel really stupid and naive. Don’t do that to your friend now. If she really is getting ready to go through a divorce, she’ll need your support.

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    • something random

      something random October 6, 2014, 12:08 pm

      Ugh, that sucks for you, va-in-ny. Sorry you had to go through that.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra October 6, 2014, 1:16 pm

      Yeah I kind of had that happen to me too. MANY of my friends did not like my ex. I’m talking well over 10 came up to me after we broke up saying how they’re glad we weren’t together anymore. My best friend even told me a few months ago when we were talking about how he got engaged “You know Lyra, I f***ing hated him.” And I realize that now! I see what they saw now that I’m out of it. But yeah I agree, it would have been nice if they had told me that WHILE I was dating him. I had wool over my eyes, sure, but if enough had come up to me to talk to me about it I’m pretty sure I would have realized that something was going on…

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      • avatar

        ktfran October 6, 2014, 1:43 pm

        While I do think it’s crappy that people will say something after the fact… really? just keep your mouth shut… I will say, barring abuse or harm, I won’t say anything at any time. All I will do is be there for a friend when he or she needs me.
        .
        I tried, in the kindest way possible, telling my BFF while we were in college that her boyfriend sucks. I didn’t say that. I told her how she’s not herself. She use to be so independent, and how I miss that girl and I named some examples. Well, we didn’t talk for three years after that. We’re bff’s again. She later told me how she keeps the letter I wrote her and appreciates that I saw what she couldn’t.
        .
        But if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have done what I did. I mean, I lost her for three years.
        .
        IDK. I guess damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. Or, as I have now decided to do. Keep my thoughts to myself and just be there. To listen. To comfort. Offer encouragement. To be/do whatever my friends need.

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      • avatar

        va-in-ny October 6, 2014, 1:50 pm

        In my case, I feel like they were saying these things in order to try to make me feel better – like they were helping me confirm that I had made the right decision in ending the relationship. There’s really no “right” way to handle these things. It’s going to sting no matter what. I will say that i never head any accusations like those that the LW is experiencing.

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  • avatar

    AmyP October 6, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I think it’s more than OK to tell. It is valuable information (given the friend is waivering about the marriage) and better late than never.

    It may toast the friendship, but that’s the friend’s choice to make.

    There were lots of perfectly respectable reasons not to tell four years ago–she might not have been believed, the couple might have stayed together no matter what, it might have been a one-off, etc. Those reasons have largely expired now.

    I don’t think you have to tell, but I think you can tell.

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  • avatar

    sadie October 6, 2014, 6:13 pm

    I’m the OP.
    Thanks so much to Wendy, and all you other helpful commenters. I think I see it more clearly now, I’m always rather a fence-sitter and also make excuses for people’s unpleasant behaviour – I’m glad to hear your strong opinions on him. I thought it was predatory too, and scary, it thoroughly freaked me out and I’d never experienced approaches like his. In fact, an additional reason for not telling has been, and still is, that he knows where I live and he knows I don’t have a man in the house. So, I will take the advice to keep it to myself, and yes I think you’re right that it’s possibly for my own sake that I wanted to tell, and not the best thing for my friend. Love and peace 🙂

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  • mylaray

    mylaray October 6, 2014, 7:04 pm

    I wonder if this is more about seeking validation from your friend that her husband is a creepy jerk, and that he acted completely inappropriately with you. It also seems like you want to seek revenge against the husband. Your letter reeks of an agenda. You want your friend to have as much information so she can make “an informed decision”. But her marriage is already falling apart right now and she needs a source of support more than a friend trying to sway her one way or another. I’m sure she already feels betrayed by her husband and she doesn’t need to feel betrayed by a friend who kept a transgression like this for four years. Your friend will come to her own decision and right now is not the time to tell something that happened 4 years ago.
    .
    I’m sorry your friend’s husband actrd that way towards you and you have a right to be angry towards him but I see telling your friend as hurting her more than hurting her husband. There is a risk in losing a friendship if you say something now.

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    • something random

      something random October 6, 2014, 8:58 pm

      This comment actually has me reconsidering my position. But I keep imagining how awful it would be to have to constantly be polite towards the husband when visiting or how sick to my stomach I would feel when my friend was trying to use me as an impartial ear of what she should do and how she feels.

      This guy came to the letter writer’s home while she was alone. He tried to kiss and and shove his hands up her shirt. This is horrible. This is how date rapists behave more than horny philanderers. And then he talked to her teenager to find her taking a walk and cornered her with his car. This event sounds extremely disturbing. I understand the instinct not to want to destabilize a friends life over something that seemingly has stopped and that you think you can manage on your own.

      But what if time went on and instead of you being able to put it behind you, your friend kept wanting to talk to you about her husband and there problems? What if she kept inviting you over and you had to keep looking at this creep? Wouldn’t you feel you had to separate yourself a little?

      So I guess my question is would you rather space away from a friendship without any explanation or provide one? Which is kinder?

      I tend to think if it comes from a compassionate place, the truth is kinder, even if the recipient isn’t able to see it in the moment and it costs the friendship. Because I’m not sure is kind to oneself to even try to be a shoulder and support system, here.

      I don’t think one should meddle in a friend’s marriage. But isn’t guessing that this letter writer will probably hear about another grievance or assuming this the end and so honesty isn’t necessary, also a form of passively trying to influence this friend’s life path?

      If this conversation was happening four years ago it wouldn’t even be that gray, most would think she should tell. The fact that it’s four years later has me thinking the answer really depends on how much of a burden it is on the letter writer. Is it about her feeling pissed off? Is it about her feeling concerned for the welfare of her friend? Is it about her feeling guilty for not saying something? Is it about deciding to put down this friendship or keep smiling and listening?

      If she’s really just sick about it, I still think it would be okay to tell. I also think if she loves this friend enough to be uncomfortable and live with it quietly so she can remain a supportive part of this friend’s circle in a trying time, that would be okay, too. I just think this letter writer took on too much responsibility for the friend’s marriage when she didn’t say anything four years ago. I don’t think any of the relationship problems are on the letter writer. I hope she isn’t blaming herself. And if she is, I hope she find’s away to get rid of that unwarranted guilt for something that wan’t her fault.

      It sucks because maybe LW

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    • avatar

      sadie October 7, 2014, 5:11 am

      I wish I could get together with you all in a room with tea (or coffee) and nibbles, I’m replying to you Myra to assure you I have no agenda that I’m aware of – if she knew and wanted to stay with him I’d still support her. As others have said, she may already know or at least suspect him. I’m fairly certain I haven’t been his only victim because I heard of one from my other friend (the one who advised me not to tell in the first instance), but I haven’t spoken to that woman, she is more of an acquaintance than a friend, but what I heard was a very similar tale, and that woman was also recently single and a friend of the family. I feel sick that he did it to me and probably others, sick that I didn’t tell her at the time, annoyed with myself that I sort of let myself feel it was best not to say by consulting with a friend who is probably even less brave than me in speaking out… Anyway, thanks again for input, I think it’s helpful to ask people who are intelligent and caring but anonymous. X

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      • something random

        something random October 7, 2014, 1:24 pm

        @Sadie- I just saw the response you posted prior to mylaray. I’m sorry you are in such an awkward situation. These kind of guys choose thoughtful, vulnerable, non-confrontational people on purpose. They are experts at shocking others into inaction. Please don’t be hard on yourself. Many people have had the exact same reaction to let it go just like you did. Trust me. Hindsight is always 20/20. Good luck with everything and moving forward.

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  • something random

    something random October 6, 2014, 9:01 pm

    Okay that was unkind of me not to spell check and add more paragraphs. I hope my response is still readable.

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  • avatar

    S October 7, 2014, 6:26 am

    What you describe isn’t being hit on, it’s being assaulted and stalked by this creep. I agree that you should have told your friend when this happened, and have made it very clear to Mr. A-hole that if he came near you again he’d end up with a kick in the balls. This was not some drunken pick up line. But yeah, telling your friend that 4 yrs ago her husband tried to force himself on you… as Wendy points out, not likely to go over well that you witheld that information.

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