Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickie: “Should I Tell My Guy Friend That His Girlfriend Cheated?”

From the forums:

I thought my friend, who’s dating my guy friend, had an emotional affair with another man, but she just confided in me that it was a physical one, too. I actually introduced her to her boyfriend, but I’m closer to her. I don’t want to break her trust and I feel out of place telling her boyfriend about her cheating, so I don’t think I’ll be doing an intervention. However, I feel terrible knowing this bit of information. It looked like she regretted telling me about it, but I didn’t see much remorse in her confession and I’m not sure if the cheating is ongoing or if it was a one-time thing.

Is it wrong for me not to tell him? I feel like I should just stay out of it. This is also making me question what kind of friend my girlfriend is (she’s done a few things before that made me question her judgment, and a lot of things she says make her sound entitled and “better than you”) though it’s hard since we’ve been friends for years now. She’s also my only close friend from college in the same town. — To Tell or Not

Tell the girlfriend how awkward and uncomfortable you feel knowing this bit of information about her/her relationship with her boyfriend. Remind her that he’s your good friend too and you hate that you’ve been put in a position now where you feel like you’re betraying him by not sharing what you know while you also feel like you’d be betraying her if you do share what you know. Tell her that you aren’t sure what you’re going to do, that you can’t guarantee you’ll keep it a secret, and that you want to give her the chance to confess to him before you say anything. But understand that even saying this might mean the end of your friendship with the girlfriend. But then, it sounds like you’re kind of done with her anyway, no?

If the girlfriend doesn’t say anything to her boyfriend, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth telling him what you know. There’s no right or wrong answer — it depends on different factors, like the nature of their relationship, the nature of your friendship with each of them, the extent of your knowledge of the situation, whether you are prepared to lose one or both of these people as friends (and whom you think you might be more likely to lose if you tell vs. don’t tell).

Finally, knowing someone since college isn’t a good enough reason to stay friends. Even if you don’t have many other close friends in the town where you live. I’d start focusing on making new friends so that you don’t feel like you have to hang on to people you don’t like or respect very much.

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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.

13 comments… add one
  • avatar

    AF July 21, 2015, 10:57 am

    Hi Wendy! Thanks for answering my question 🙂 I’m so glad you gave me a link for the friend issue. I really am hoping to make new friends after I went on that night out with the girlfriend and one other friend. Having happy hour with them made me realize the different moral compass I had…not only on matters of right or wrong but in matters of the heart and friendship. I think I’m just heartbroken because I thought their relationship would last and because I thought of her as someone who I would have been friends with for life.

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  • avatar

    eelliinnss July 21, 2015, 11:00 am

    Yeah, just because someone is the only ___ in your life, doesn’t mean you need to keep them around if they’re otherwise a crappy person.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes July 21, 2015, 11:14 am

    WWS! There is no right or wrong answer here. You are also absolutely allowed to just keep your mouth shut.
    *
    I didnt have the opportunity to respond to this in the forum, but I will say I peeked at it last night,a nd thought most ppl were getting a bit too Morality Police on this. Are you allowed to judge your friend based on her actions in this situation and then view other past actions in light of this too? Yes, of course. But, in doing that, arent you doing what you said you dont like in her, namely acting like you are “better” than here/her behavior? Look, Im just saying that, in the grand scheme here, it is perfectly ok to just back away from both of them. Because it is really NONE of your business.
    *
    I will also add that I have never been in the situation of being cheated on and finding out later that other ppl knew and didnt tell me. But truly, in this day and age of technology, do you really think that boyfriend doesnt know or have ANY idea? You yourself said you thought he was having an emotional affair with this other guy.
    *
    I suppose what I see as the bottom line is this- there is no right answer. Pull away from her or both of them and/or tell her that you are doing so for this reason, or dont . I will agree with you though that hanging out with new paramour is… icky and would send the message that you are accepting her behavior. Good luck

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    • kmtthat

      kmentothat July 21, 2015, 12:03 pm

      Having been cheated on by three different people (a story for a other day), yes it is possible “in this day and age of technology” to not have any idea until one day you do finally get evidence or someone else tells you. I feel like that’s victim blaming the bf that he should just “know.” I wish someone had just told me instead of me being gaslighted for months. It really screws with you.

      And screw it. I don’t think calling your friends out on times they are morally doing something pretty shitty is wrong. I think good friends want you to be the best version of yourself, and this isn’t being all “morality police” it’s just being a good friend. This is not to say telling a friend in an open relationship that they are “morally wrong” or telling someone they should follow your religion or go to hell are ok things to do. But things like lying, cheating, stealing, illegal activities, etc….I mean, you don’t have to listen to my opinion but if I care about you I will give it nonetheless.

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    • avatar

      smoopy128 July 21, 2015, 12:04 pm

      I think that yeah, in this day and age, people can still be cheated on and have no idea. I think sometimes in the forums we see a lot of clueless people who ignore a lot of signs, but there are lots of cases where those signs aren’t as visible to SO’s. Friends have a different perspective than partners and so her suspicion of an emotional affair could have been based on things the friend *told* her, rather than things she witnessed. She would also be privvy to witnessing different types of behaviour as a friend than an SO.
      *
      I also think that by telling you, this friend made it your business. And by wanting you to hang out with the new guy, she is continuing to make it your business. I totally agree with Raccoon Eyes that by hanging out with the new guy, you are sending the message that this behaviour is OK.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom July 21, 2015, 2:05 pm

      Seeing someone cheat on their partner is very similar to watching someone be rude to a waiter. You are seeing their true self and you know that they have a callous disregard for the hurt they will cause their partner. There are much better ways to work out problems in a relationship. I wouldn’t keep them in my life because at the point I know that they are cheating I know that they are lying to their partner and if they will lie to their partner they will lie to me. I learned that lesson the hard way years ago. The way you see someone treating other people is exactly the way that they will treat you. I don’t have any need or use for liars in my life. It isn’t a matter of being the morality police, it is a matter of having a standard in my own life. It also seriously limits the amount of drama that people bring into my life.

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      • avatar

        ktfran July 21, 2015, 3:57 pm

        I feel that’s very simplistic about people and morality. Sometimes, people mess up. I think it’s what they do after, or how they grow that shows character. Take me for instance. I was in a relationship with a great guy. He was pretty perfect and our values matched. We got engaged. As soon as that happened, I freaked the fuck out. There was another fellow I worked with and we started talking. I probably had an emotional affair with him. Not probably, I did. I started seeing a therapist and finally realized that the ex wasn’t the right person for me. Did I love him? Yes. Did I want to spend the rest of my life with someone I made excuses not to have sex with? No. So, I called off the engagement.
        .
        I don’t regret the emotional affair. It made me realize I was making a huge mistake.
        .
        Would it have been nice to figure all this out before that happened? Most definitely. That would have been ideal. But it didn’t happen that way. I don’t think I’m a bad person for it. The ex is married now and I hope he is super happy. I’m happy with my life and how it’s turning out. Bonus, I didn’t go through with a wedding only to most likely divorce weeks, months or years later.

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes July 21, 2015, 2:57 pm

      Whoa, everyone. Also, feels like the Morality Police is back in effect. I am NOT victim blaming here, if I came off in that manner, I apologize. Allow myself to try and clarify- in this situation, when you are friends with both people in the couple, it is a very very very fine line to walk. I watched it blow up in a friend’s face about 10 years ago (I was an uninvolved third party, my friend asked ME for advice on what to do, I told her same thing I said here- it was none of her business), and my friend knew a guy was cheating on his gf- she told gf, gf doubled down on relationship with the cheater and blamed my friend for lying/jealousy/some BS- the whole story didnt make much sense then in college much less now over 10 years later. So I suppose I was thinking back to that.
      *
      But I also know that, in more recent personal experience, you DONT every really know the circumstances of a romantic relationship to which you are not a party. I suppose I also feel that this is, well, an age thing. Cheating, in my opinion, is pretty immature- and I mean when there is a distinct understanding of monogamy. Im of the age that marriage looms large in pretty much any relationship. What really is the point of cheating when you can just break up? But I do have a guy friend who plays the monogam-ish game, and my loyalty is with him- but I also know (from experience) that this supposed immoral behavior of his does not translate into our friendship. Sooo, I get where ppl are coming from to say that this behavior is indicative of how they will be to friends, buuuut Im not of that way of thinking.
      *
      What Im saying is, I am sorry for making the sweeping remark of ppl who are being cheated on, do in some manner have a clue that all is not right and monogamous in their relationship. BUT, I still do believe that the cheatee, if you will, is aware of some indicia of infidelity and is turning a blind eye to it.

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      • kmtthat

        kmentothat July 21, 2015, 3:31 pm

        Is he monogamish with the understanding and consent of his partner? That’s a whooooooooooooole different ballgame. I fully acknowledged that it’s a clusterfuck and telling the bf may not break up the couple but blow up the friendships she has with each of them. But yeah, I think it’s hard to know when to stay out of things totally. What if it were your BIL cheating on sister, would you really say nothing then? I think it’s easy to say “not my problem” and hope to God they find out some other way, but really, her friend made this her problem.

        And nope, the generalization still doesn’t work that the “cheatee” is always aware and turning a blind eye to it. I guess it’s easy to think that when you’ve never been cheated on? And maybe be on a high horse and think “well I’d know better, I’d see something.” Sometimes you really, really don’t. Anecdotal evidence is not an absolute. We are REALLY going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph July 22, 2015, 8:35 am

        I think the more appropriate comparison is “what if it were your sister cheating on your BIL?” In this case, the LW has stated that her allegiance is more toward the GF than the BF even though they are both her friends. Since in most cases people are closer to their sibling than the sibling’s spouse, the reverse of your scenario makes more sense.
        I also think the sister comparison breaks down when you think about blowing up friendships. I know some families are genuinely estranged, but sibling bonds are much harder to break than friendships. Also, there’s maybe an expectation that you can confide these things (an affair, for example) in your sister even if you couldn’t with a friend.
        .
        If my BIL were cheating on my sister, I would absolutely tell her, and weather her wrath if she didn’t believe me. If my sister were cheating on my BIL, I would not tell him.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros July 21, 2015, 3:43 pm

        Yeah, I think most people do eventually figure it out, but even those who do go through a period of time where they don’t know. No one typically finds out instantaneously, even if things have been rocky.

        I agree that it’s really hard when you’re friends with both people. I think that’s why there is more of a question of whether to ignore it or not. If my BFF cheated on her husband, I’d feel bad that she hurt him, but I wouldn’t feel obligated to tell him. Of course, if I had known him first or was equally as close to them, it would be harder to make that decision.

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  • avatar

    booknerd July 21, 2015, 11:51 am

    I thought Dan Savage had great point about the Gawker scandal and Ashley Madison hack about privacy. It’s really not anyone’s place to judge. You don’t know their life or their relationship. Regardless, if you do feel uncomfortable, tell her how you feel and that she should tell him before you accidentally or not accidentally let it slip.

    I also want to say, I was in a long term relationship wiith man who cheated on me with many people. I’m sure I don’t even know the full compass of how many people he slept with while we were together. Roomates knew, some of our very close friends knew, most likely everyone knew, and although at the time I wished someone had said something, it wasn’t their business. It wasn’t their place to tell me. And honestly, if I’m being completely honest, would I have believed them, or the man who was quite good at lying and manipulating me? In my gut, I knew he was cheating. It’s crappy she confided in you, and everyone’s entitled to their own opinions and ideas about it, but it’s really not your business or your place to tell.

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  • kare

    kare July 21, 2015, 8:11 pm

    My friend cheated on her now fiance a lot a couple of years ago. I didn’t tell him because well, I wasn’t friends with him. Everyone makes mistake. We were also pretty sure he was cheating on her. She ended up getting pregnant a few months after ending her last affair, and she decided to do everything to make the relationship work. It was rough to see – he was completely irresponsible and barely supported her pregnancy despite them living together. She put up with everything out of guilt since she had cheated on him. Now a couple years later, they’ve both grown up and put parenting their child first. Do I think they’re soulmates? Not at all. But they both seem happy and their relationship is a complete 180 of what it once was. It’s easy to judge someone’s relationship from the outside, but that doesn’t make it right.

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