“He Cheated on Her and I Wish I Didn’t Know!”

From the forums:


I became friends with a girl about a year ago, and we have become pretty close since then. We see each other every week, talk about life and relationships, work out together, hang out, and what have you. A few months ago, her boyfriend broke up with her after a business trip. A month or so after this, one of his coworkers who I am close to told me that the ex had unprotected sex with a girl while he was on that trip.

Now, the ex-boyfriend is trying to get back with my friend. He mentioned to my friend he’d been tested for STDs after they broke up (which I thought was weird at the time, as they had never had sex, but now this makes a lot more sense, unfortunately.) It really seems like she wants to get back together with him, and I don’t want to watch her waste her time on someone who: A) was not actually that nice to her, and B) cheats on her. They were together for a few years, so it’s not like they were casual and in the early stages of dating when this happened. They were clearly defined as monogamous.

I wish I didn’t know he cheated, because she’s a good friend and on one hand I feel obligated to tell her, but on the other hand I feel like it’s not my business and I don’t want to insert myself in the middle of anything. She deserves to know the truth though, and I know I would want to know if the tables were turned.

I just feel so incredibly uncomfortable with this, and I don’t really know what to do! I know that the person I heard it from had no reason to lie, and he didn’t know that the ex had a girlfriend as he is only in our town for work seldomly, so didn’t think he was really saying anything to cause drama when he told me about it. I just can’t imagine having to sit there and listen to my friend talk about her boyfriend, and go on double dates with them, and watch as all of his coworkers/friends know what he did and she just doesn’t have any idea and they’re all hanging out together. It’s kind of sickening, because she just has no idea and it would break her heart, and I can’t believe her ex has the gall to even try and get back with her.

Up until now, I just stayed out of it because I figured she and the ex were over and it wouldn’t do anything except hurt her to know. Now though? Do I ignore it, or do I say something? Or something else? — Privy to Info

I understand the temptation to say something to your friend, and I know it only comes from a place of wanting to protect her and wanting to share information you’d hope someone would share with you if the tables were reversed, but I wouldn’t say anything if I were you. Here’s why: you don’t know the full story and you risk doing more damage by sharing information that: a) your friend may already know; b) isn’t true; c) isn’t relevant to their relationship (maybe they had an open relationship; maybe they were already on a break; maybe they aren’t going to get back together anyway); d) doesn’t have a lot of bearing on whether the two of them are good, long-term partners.

I know you’re worried that your friend’s ex may woo her back, and it seems to you, on the outside, that a person who potentially cheated on your friend couldn’t possibly be a good partner to her, but as I said: you don’t know the full story. You don’t know what the inside of their relationship was/is like. This wasn’t a couple who was only together for a few weeks or months. You said they’d been together for several years. And maybe this was a one-time transgression — one, that in the great scheme of things, doesn’t mean that much. Or maybe it does. Maybe it would totally shatter your friend’s trust in her ex and keep her from getting with him again. And maybe that’s a good thing. Or maybe it’s not.

So why not just tell her what you know and let her be the judge? Why not give her information that will help her make a more informed decision? Well, you could, and it probably wouldn’t be the end of the world. But I’d recommend keeping quiet because maybe there’s a chance that she could be happy without knowing what you know… or maybe she could be happy without knowing that YOU know what you know. Maybe she could get back together with her ex and he, having learned from his mistakes, could be a wonderful partner to her and she wouldn’t have to worry about what people were thinking or saying — which, let’s be honest, is only going to last until there’s something else to gossip about — because she simply wouldn’t know that anyone else knew her boyfriend possibly cheated on her once. Or, maybe she’ll decide not to get back with her ex, not because he allegedly slept with someone else on a business trip, but because she simply realized it was time to move on. And maybe instead of looking back at her years-long relationship with her ex through the lens of a woman scorned, she can remember it fondly and hold good thoughts of this man she once loved.

You know how you wish you didn’t know what you know? You know how having this information has burdened you? Spare your friend the same burden (a burden that will surely be heavier than yours) and keep your mouth shut.


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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.


  1. ok, this is odd- and is the same sort of issue as in the gift giving craziness- but why would you want something ie. being someone who was cheated on without knowing, you would want a friend who knew to tell you but then you, in the opposite role, would not do the same thing ie. as the friend who knows you wouldnt say anything?

    that is odd to me. if you would rather know the information (and doesnt everyone say that? i dont remember hearing a lot of the time “id rather not know”- sometimes, sure, but not a lot), why would you act different when you are the one who has the information?

    i answered already in the forums, and i dont believe in keeping these things from people, especially people i care a lot about. i would tell, with the caveats that you have to tell you friend you dont know the whole story and you dont assume this IS the real story, and then that you will mention this and then never speak of it again.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      If it was a one time transgression, I’d rather not know.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        If my friend knew that my boyfriend cheated on me and she never told me, I’d reconsider our friendship. If she explained Wendy’s reasoning as her reason not to tell, maybe I’d be ok after a while. Such a shitty position for all.

        I think I’m agreeing with katie here.

      2. If it were a one time transgression I would rather not know too. Although if I found out that my friend knew and didn’t tell me, I would feel somewhat hurt and betrayed by the friend.

      3. Here, here kc! Place me in the rather not know camp. Unless he was a serial cheater. Then maybe. But a one-time transgression, meh. Also, didn’t they break up shortly after the trip? It sounds like there relationship was faltering anyway. So, maybe she knows and is now reconsidering. Just because she told the LW some things, doesn’t mean he knows EVERYTHING.

      4. kerrycontrary says:

        That’s what I think. A lot of people don’t reveal if their partner cheated on them. It can feel embarrassing and shameful. I probably wouldn’t reveal this to a friend of a year.

      5. I totally get the “not wanting to know,” camp. That said, an anecdote: I was in what I thought was a great relationship. We had been together a year, and things were going ewell. Out of (to me) nowhere, I was dumped, similarly after a trip. I found out from a mutual friend 6 months later that my girlfriend had cheated on me while on that trip. To this day, she’s never admitted it (and doesn’t know I know – we don’t really talk anymore, this was years ago). That said – it actually made me feel better. Because I’m the kind of person who internalizes self-doubt stuff (helllooooo therapist!) And was blaming myself in myriad ways for the break-up, which wasn’t actually my fault at all! So – that’s a time when knowing would’ve saved 6 months of self-blame. Which would’ve been great!

    2. Because people don’t actually want to know. They merely think they do.
      The truth is the overwhelming majority of time when a woman is told her guy has cheated, she throws a total bitch fit…. and then forgives him. During this time there are usually many rationalizations such as that the messenger did not have all the information, it wasn’t true, the messenger is a meddlesome bitch, etc.

      In this particular case, this messenger is WAY too invested in her friend’s relationship. I like how she “knows” that they never had sex (wtf they were together several years, but never had sex? What? I’m sorry I can’t get excited about “cheating” in those circumstances). I know plenty of women who told their girlfriends they were virgins and the truth was anything but (usually these were women from very conservative churches and social groups). They told ME the truth because I did not give a shit.

      Absolutely no good ever comes of telling. Have you ever heard of a story ending up well where the cheated upon was told? You don’t go telling unless you have absolute rock solid proof. And even then, the messenger will still probably get tossed most of the time.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        Huh? A story ending up well would be a cheated on spouse moving on without a cheater of a partner.

      2. Avatar photo Astronomer says:

        I’ve been on the other side of this problem. My roommate suspected my boyfriend was cheating on me and told me what she knew/thought in a very rational way. I never could confirm whether or not the information she gave me was 100% accurate, but I really, really appreciated it. It made me take a more critical look at my relationship, and the whole thing wasn’t good anymore.

        Roommate and I stayed friends until she married my best friend from college(!) and they got creepy-religious together. We’re still friendly when I’m visiting that city and we happen to run into each other, though. No reason not to be.

        Boyfriend and I broke up shortly thereafter. We’d been together for three years, but I got over it pretty quickly. Roommate even set me up with a new person, who was dead-sexy in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Happy endings, indeed.

      3. Avatar photo Astronomer says:

        Also, I’m not sure if I emphasized enough how much I appreciated my roommate being frank with me. I felt like someone had my back and I would be okay, even if my relationship was tanking. That’s a powerful feeling.

    3. I think the key here is that the LW doesn’t 100% know what happened. She wasn’t witness to what happened. If I saw something happen, there would be no question that I would tell. I would have to. But in a case like this, I’d be more inclined to follow Wendy’s advice.

  2. Avatar photo theattack says:

    I think the LW probably would have known if her friend had an open relationship though. And I just don’t feel that it’s the LW’s place to decide if it’s important for their relationship long term or to guess if her friend knows about it or not. The point about it maybe not being true is my only reservation too. I think the LW should say something like “I heard this second hand, so I don’t know how much truth there is to it or if you’ve already heard it, but I felt it was my job as your friend to give you all the information you could have. I won’t ever bring it up again, and I won’t judge you for whatever you do with the information, but …..”

    1. Avatar photo theattack says:

      Also, I’m imagining that if I found out my husband cheated on me and my friend knew but didn’t tell me, I would probably be equally angry at my friend as I would be my husband. I just can’t imagine having friendships where telling something like this isn’t a basic requirement.

      1. I can’t imagine keeping that to myself. I can maybe understand coming to the conclusion that it might be the right idea, but it always seems to come out in the wash anyway, and what, then I have to pretend I’m only just hearing about it now? I think I respect my friends enough to know they would make the right decision for themselves.

      2. But did your friend witness the cheating? Hear it directly from your husband? If the answer to these questions is “no”, i can’t imagine telling.

      3. Avatar photo theattack says:

        It doesn’t matter to me. I would want to know regardless, and a friend who didn’t tell me all she knew would not be a friend anymore.

      4. I can respect that.

        I have friends that would agree with you on this, so I try really hard not to know anything I might have to tell.

      5. See that’s funny if she came to me and told me that with that info, I’d think she was a gossipy trouble making bitch.

      6. lets_be_honest says:

        Really?! If your friend said she heard this and thought you should know you’d immediately think she was a bitch? Talk about shooting the messenger!

      7. Avatar photo theattack says:

        It seems to me that the only reason to think that is if you assume she’s incorrect and doesn’t have your best interest at heart though. (But that’s JUST MY OPINION, SO NO ONE GET OFFENDED.) I always assume that my friends are trustworthy and kind-natured, so even if I ultimately decided it wasn’t true, I would never be mad for them trying to help me out. I’m also very picky about my friends. I’m not friends with anyone that I can’t fully 100% trust their judgment, so maybe that’s why.

      8. yea, i agree. dont keep very important information away from me! what about if you knew my place was burglarized while i was on vacation? are you going to keep that to yourself because it might effect me in a bad way? i think that telling a friend you heard about cheating -even if you just heard about it- is really looking out for them.

      9. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Exactly! Even if the friend knew that nothing was taken from my house, she should still tell because maybe my house isn’t as secure as I thought it was, and I should have the opportunity to rethink some structural issues. Maybe it’s the wrong house, or the wrong neighborhood, or we just need some better locks, ya know? The LW’s friend needs a chance to replace the locks on her relationship or to move across town to a different boyfriend if she would feel better.

      10. ohhhh nice analogy. haha

      11. The problem here is telling you about a burglary pits you against burglars. Telling you of suspected cheating? That pits you against your HUSBAND. In absence of hard proof, most women are (um, and SHOULD) going to choose their husband.

      12. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I guess I don’t think of it as choosing sides at this point.

      13. wait, who made any statement about choosing a husband over a friend or vis versa? people should make the best choices for themselves given the information they have. if you have a pretty fucking crucial piece of information that could sway a huge choice a person has in their life, such as their partner, why would you hold that back?

        i would never assume that once i told my friend they would just automatically leave the partner, and i wouldnt ever even advise them to do that or hope that they would do that. i would hope that they would take that information, figure out its truthfulness to the best of their ability and then make an informed decision that is the best for them.

      14. This is an interesting analogy. It makes a lot of sense to me. The thing, though, with it being a person instead of a house is that if you found out that your house, in fact, had not been burglarized, then it probably wouldn’t change much about your feelings toward the house. You’d be happy and move on, but when it’s a person, I can’t help but wonder if there’d be some lingering doubts? Or at least some kind of conflict between you and your boyfriend while trying to determine whether it was true or not?

      15. Avatar photo theattack says:

        You seem to underestimate my ability to argue with inanimate objects.

      16. Hahaha.

        “Now did you really keep your doors locked when that burglar showed up? Because Nancy swears she saw him go inside. I want to believe you, and I know nothing is missing, but your door IS kind of flimsy now that I think about it…”

    2. lets_be_honest says:

      I think if you are going to say something, this is the best thing to say.

    3. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

      I’m not sure that the LW would know if her friend had an open relationship. I only found out about my SIL’s several years after the fact and we are very close. If I was to have an open relationship there is no way I would tell my friends/family. It’s no one else’s business, IMO.

      1. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Maybe not, but then it doesn’t really change anything. The friend says “Thanks, you’re a good friend for watching my back.” and leaves it at that. There’s no bad that can come from making that mistake.

      2. TA? Have you ever actually tried to tell someone you suspected their husband was cheating? I’m curious how they reacted?

      3. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Nope, I’ve never been in that situation myself.

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        Good question! I wonder if anyone here has.

      5. I don’t think its a fair comparison Breezy… this LW is concerned about a friend who is dating. Thinking about reconnecting with an ex boyfriend… Not engaged. Not married. No children. I think there is a different threshold if you are concerned about a friends marriage, because they’ve taken that step (in that case I would go to the cheater and say “I know this, and if I know you must not be very good at keeping a secret, which means others know… I don’t want my friend to get hurt and I’m now in a terrible position – so you can tell them or I will”) but with a random boyfriend!?! I think I would go with Katie’s “this is what i’ve heard from one person, haven’t a clue about the veracity, but I felt uncomfortable keeping something from you that you might want or need to know… none of my business of course, here to support you regardless”

      6. although if they did have an open relationship, then there’s no harm done by telling her. I agree that people shouldn’t approach it as “OMG this sleazeball cheated on you” because this will come across as rude if they had an open relationship. if you just state the facts without making a judgement, there’s no harm done.

  3. Yeah, I agree with Wendy totally.

  4. Skyblossom says:

    I think a friend has your back. So, you tell the friend what you know and how you know it and then they can decide where to go from there.

  5. I think Wendy’s advice sounds really smart and mature. But I would tell her. I would say, “I heard from XYZ that this happened. It is hearsay but I wanted to tell you. Take it for what it is worth.” I also have had conversations with my friends in the past that start with “I am bringing this up once, are you sure about this relationship? If you are, I won’t hold a grudge or take a side, but I love you and I am worried about you getting hurt.” Once I bring it up, that is honestly the last time. If you bring it up nicely, it shouldn’t hurt your friendship.

  6. kerrycontrary says:

    I totally agree with Wendy. I wouldn’t bring it up.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      Ok, also, I’ll add that the LW heard this second hand. While she doesn’t believe the original source has any other reasons, the LW didn’t witness the cheating herself. If she did witness it first hand then maybe, MAYBE, I would tell my friend. But also, how did the original person find out about the cheating? From the boyfriend or from the girl he cheated with? I just would never rely on second hand information for something like this.

      1. Agreed, and I said so in the forums. If I witnessed the cheating firsthand, I’d say something for sure. I’d want to know this information from a friend IF she knew with certainty it was true. I think I’d drive myself nuts trying to figure out how to proceed with a friend if she told me someone MIGHT have cheated on me but she doesn’t know for sure, it’s just something she heard from someone who says X told him.

      2. As the recipient of second and third hand false rumors, I agree with this whole heartedly. If you didn’t SEE it, or hear it from my husband/boyfriend, then don’t…just don’t.

      3. I think that’s a valid point, but there’s no bright line here. in some cases you can be very sure that second hand information is truthful. especially if there are multiple, independent sources.

      4. Yes about rumors. When my boyfriend & I first started dating, everyone & their mother wanted to relay bad information about the other to each of us. Like, once my friend felt the need to tell me she saw him at the mall with his ex—VERY recent ex, & he & I weren’t even official yet, so I didn’t really care, PLUS he’d even told me about it. But hearing it from my friend upset me, because it was couched in all of this “beware, beware!!” language (which was totally unnecessary)

        That’s just one example, & one I forgot about until now… but regardless, I’m very “stay out of it” for shit like this. My friends & I all agree (except that one friend I mentioned above), so I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if (hypothetically) they kept quiet after seeing my boyfriend cheat on me. And I wouldn’t blame them. (This comment is more directed at the above discussion— every friend group rolls differently, I guess)

      5. Yeah, I can’t see myself being too pissed at a friend who withheld cheating “information” either. I think I’d be too busy being pissed at my SO? Or, I think I’d be more upset at mySELF for not knowing somehow, than I would be at someone else for not telling me. I wouldn’t think it was any of my friends’ business anyway. I’d be more *embarrassed* that they knew about it, than angry.

      6. But she isn’t perpetuating the rumor, she would be telling a friend what she heard. Is it worse for the friend to be talked about and not know.

      7. Avatar photo Northern Mermaid says:

        Rumors are jerks guys. I posted in the forum about malicious gossip coming from my ex about this same issue, and my already “keep your nose out of everyone’s business” attitude is even more solid after having to deal with that.

      8. Avatar photo Northern Mermaid says:

        Also, someone told my BOYFRIEND that I was a cheater and couldn’t be trusted—totally concern trolling him. Of course, he knows the story and trusts me, AND (Because the rumor mill is how it is) by the time someone got around to getting the “information” to him the part of the story that involved me cheating on my ex with my current boyfriend was lost. Boyfriend was just like “Yeah! I heard she cheated with me! What a slut, right?” Rumors and gossip so rarely have an altruistic motive.

      9. But what if it is true? My aunt had a husband that cheated on her for years. He was a doctor and could explain long nights at the hospital. It was an open secret to everyone but her. She was really played the fool and when they finally divorced, so many people came forward about what they knew. Is that really better?

  7. Liquid Luck says:

    I agree with the people who are saying tell the friend what you know, but emphasizing that you don’t know if it’s true or not and you won’t speak of it again unless she brings it up. All the excuses for not telling (maybe they were on a break, maybe they had an open relationship, etc.) are ridiculous, because if any of those things are true then it won’t matter anyway and there will be nothing to lose by spilling what you know. Besides, it sounds like this guy wasn’t exactly shy about telling other people, so she’ll probably find out at some point, and that point should be now.

    IF this did happen and it was cheating, that doesn’t mean it will definitely be a dealbreaker anyway. But at least both parties will have the information going into it, rather than one of them being in the dark. I think it’s absolutely possible to overcome cheating, but for that to happen both parties need to at least know about it and work on whatever issues lead to it in the first place. If he really learned from this and it was truly a one-time thing, then he should be able to convince her of that. And if he can’t, then she probably doesn’t want to be duped into getting back together with a guy who did something she thinks is unforgivable anyway.

  8. I’m always torn on this. I think instead of looking at it in terms of what it will result in (like whether she’ll take him back or not), you need to decide what values you want to act on, based on yourself and your friendship. Is it more important to you to be honest and open with your friend or to mind your own business and give her relationship privacy? I don’t think either one is better or worse, but it depends on your values and the kind of friendship you have.

    1. yea, this is how i come to the conclusion that i come to- i guess it sounds stupid to say so, but honesty is a huge value of mine, and so then its something i value a lot in others too.

      1. Same. I would for sure want someone to tell me. Some people might value their privacy more, but I value honesty and being able to make well-informed decisions.

        I was dating a dude whose ex had a baby, and based on some Facebook photos that I couldn’t see, my friend wondered if it was in fact his baby. So, she told me about them. If I’d found out months or years later that she saw them and didn’t tell me, I’d be completely baffled, and if she said she didn’t want to butt in, I’d think she was cold-hearted or lazy.

        I know that Wendy’s advice comes from a good place, and some people might appreciate the decision not to tell, but I wouldn’t.

    2. I like the way you laid this out. I value privacy. I also like to stay out of others business because you never know what goes on behind closed doors. So, I guess that’s where my decision to not tell is coming from.

      Unless I’m in immediate danger… then, please tell me everything you know.

  9. What I don’t understand is, is the friend who told you he got tested for STDs the ex-girlfriend or the co-worker? Because it sounds like it was the ex-gf. If that’s the case, and if you’re correct that they weren’t sleeping together, then she has to know. Maybe she doesn’t know he cheated per se, but she has to know he slept with somebody right around the time they broke up. Right?

  10. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

    I would stay out of it. It is not your place to try to alter your friend’s life choices whether you think they are good or bad.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      But by not sharing the info, she IS altering her friend’s choices. She’s taking them away from her. No?

      1. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        No. It’ second hand information that her friend may or may not already know. It would be one thing if the friend was saying things like “I don’t know if I can trust him” or “He told me about his STD status, that was odd.” then saying what she has HEARD, not what she knows, would be appropriate. But to have an out of nowhere conversation about a rumour so that the LW doesn’t have to go on double dates with the guy? Not appropriate.

      2. CattyGoLightly says:

        Actually, my main reason is not so POOR me doesn’t have to go on double dates with them. What’s upsetting about this scenario is that my friend isn’t in on the truth. She’s being lied to by everyone, including myself, and I am a big proponent of honesty in all of my relationships/friendships. It would be upsetting because she would be making an uninformed decision about her life, which just doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t sit right with me at all.

        Thank you for assuming the worst about me based off of one sentence. Even though my sentence directly after that was ” It’s kind of sickening, because she just has no idea and it would break her heart, and I can’t believe her ex has the gall to even try and get back with her.”

        I’m worried about her. Period. If I knew her life would be better with me keeping my mouth shut it wouldn’t be an issue, but I don’t know that. I also don’t know if it will be better if I say anything. I was just trying to do what is right for my friend, which no one can really know anyway.

      3. I think she should butt out of her friend’s choices insofar as she shouldn’t tell her with the intent of keeping her from getting back with her ex. She should tell her so that the friend has this info, period. And then not judge if they still get back together.

      4. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Her motives definitely affected my response. But this is just a rumour and could cause her friend more harm and worry for nothing if it isn’t true.

      5. I saw the double-date thing as less of a motive and more of what she expected the fallout of not telling to be. I think it would still be selfish to tell your friend because you wanted to unburden yourself, but I think her original reason for wanting to tell her is still out of concern for her friend.

      6. CattyGoLightly says:

        Thank you!

        I would not tell her just because I felt like it is what’s best for me. I would try and do what is best for her! I was just trying to figure out what that was.

  11. I’d agree with staying quiet if the LW’s friend had gotten back together with her ex and seemed happy now. In that case, LW would be raising trouble in a situation that was maybe resolved already. But LW’s friend is only considering to take her ex back, after he dumped her nonetheless. The chances that they’re going to be happy ever after in this scenario don’t seem that high to me. So I don’t see much to destroy for the LW by telling her (they are not together now), and the prospect of something being gained for LW’s friend by keeping her away from a guy who already cheated on her & dumped her.

  12. Avatar photo mrmidtwenties says:

    Damn, I hate this topic, it’s important cause it happens a lot, but it’s so tricky, I think the best option is to discuss with your friends when you’re single, whether they would want you to tell them if the SO cheated on them. Obviously that doesn’t work for this LW, so I got nothing.

  13. I would tell her, only because she is contemplating taking him back. If the relationship was over and done, I would say no. She deserves to know the truth about him. And if, by chance, she already knows, no harm done. I would want to know if it were me.

    1. I agree with all of this.

      Also, the whole debate of having not witnessed it personally, reminds me of the “it doesn’t count if it’s in different time zones” thing. Just because no one saw it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

      I would tell her, because that’s what I would want a friend to do for me. With the disclaimer of being second hand information, then drop it and let the friend decide what to do with this information.

      1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        And just because someone said it, doesn’t make it true.

  14. Going sort in the opposite direction of what I argued above, one thing that I’m thinking more and more is that people end up in the kind of relationship that they want anyway, regardless of what anyone tells them. Like, if someone is with a serial cheater (not the case in this example, I know) is it really likely that they have absolutely no idea and nothing else in the relationship is going wrong, something that they could influence? I hope this doesn’t come across as victim-blamey towards partners of cheaters- correct me if it is – but I’m getting more and more disillusioned over time witnessing people absolutely ignoring evidence that their partner is cheating on them (or otherwise acting badly) and carrying on. And no concerned opinions of friends could ever change that.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      I agree with this. It’s like you sort of can’t influence people much when you see they are making bad decisions (whether it’s relationships, money, their social group, whatever). They have to want to change and come to their own conclusions.

    2. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

      Yup. People are going to make the choices they want to, even if we think they are bad choices and we give them x, y, and z reasons not to make those choices. And that is okay, it is their choice to make. It is very freeing to let go of trying to help your friends make good decisions about their lives.

      1. THIS!

        Another reason, besides privacy, why I butt out. People do what they’re going to do anyway. And do you know how hard it is to make a decision for yourself when you have others yammering at you why you shouldn’t.

    3. sobriquet says:

      Aw, that reminded me of the LW who found a thong in her husband’s laundry hamper and he had no explanation for it. Did we ever get an update on that one?

  15. Hm, if I were cheated on, and it were a one time thing, never to be repeated – I would probably rather not know. However – in this case, I would hate to be the only one not to know, if my friends knew, you know (haha). So I say tell her.

  16. If it were me, I would want to know, so I would afford that same honesty to my friends. I’ve been cheated on before and all my friends just assumed I knew and said nothing. It was pretty horrible to realize that not only have you been cheated on, but that everyone knew but you. It was shitty and humiliating all in the same moment, not really a feeling I’d wish on any friend. I wouldn’t pass on the information as 100% true, but I’d simply state I heard this about your ex and if it’s true, I’d want you to know because I care about you and want you to have all the information possible about your ex if you guys are thinking about getting back together.

  17. Also, am I reading the letter correctly in that the LW states that her friend and her ex never had sex?

    “He mentioned to my friend he’d been tested for STDs after they broke up (which I thought was weird at the time, as they had never had sex, but now this makes a lot more sense, unfortunately.)”

    If this is the case, I’d be hard pressed to assume the relationship was an “open” one if the couple wasn’t having sex with one another. I mean, I don’t much about open relationships personally, but would someone be okay with their partner sleeping with others but remaining celibate with one another? Also, if they were dating for a few years and not sleeping together, sex could be a bit more of a “big deal” for them, making the cheating that much worse.

    1. Wait, if that’s the case (& wow, I totally missed that), then I’m actually having the opposite reaction as you are? haha. Like— well, if they weren’t even ~having sex~ thennn… .. . (ellipses, forever)

    2. Depends on why they’re not having sex. There are some open relationships where one partner is asexual, the couple doesn’t have sex, but the sexual partner is allowed to have sex with others.

      1. But I was definitely wondering about the “no sex” part, too! I concluded that they were maybe young and she was a virgin, waiting for sex until later.

    3. I can’t decide if she meant it the way you took it (as in they’d never had sex) or as in they hadn’t had sex yet since thinking about getting back together.

  18. starpattern says:

    I really just feel like if I were in the friend’s position, I would want to know. I would want my friend to bring it up in the nicest, least judgmental way possible and not harp on and on about it and make me feel like a total dumb ass, but I would want to know – especially if everyone else knew – so that I could address it with my boyfriend and make my own decision about it.

    And really, can we let this be a lesson to those one-time-truly-regret-it-never-do-it-again cheaters? I mean, go ahead and take that kind of secret to the grave, ok. Don’t go blabbing to coworkers and friends about it. Just causes a bunch of pain and awkwardness for everyone.

    1. Amen to your last paragraph. If you’re going to do something stupid one time, don’t let people know. If you feel you must get if off your chest, either tell your therapist, one confident whom you completely trust or a stranger. Common sense people. Common sense.

      1. So, maybe I have changed my mind. I would possibly tell. But do so in a way that you don’t judge your friend. Give her the facts of what you know. Don’t say anything about not getting back together with him. Hell, don’t even tell what you think of the situation.

        I guess it would be shitty if all my friends knew about this, and I didn’t. And then I heard whisperings behind my back. I wouldnt’ like that either.

        I dunno.

      2. starpattern says:

        Yeah, it really is a lose-lose situation any way you slice it, I think. All the more reason the ex/potential bf messed up by letting other people know. You’re exactly right, this is the reason therapists and anonymous forums exist – confess that crap to someone who won’t tell everyone you know and make a huge mess of things!

    2. Yeah. If anything, I’d tell the dude in this case “your co-worker told me a fucked up story. Thought you should know.” Then I’d watch his reaction, and tell him to tell her himself if it was true.

      1. starpattern says:

        Good point, if she can comfortably/casually arrange a one-on-one with this guy in person, his reaction would be telling.

  19. I think that the guy already basically told the LW’s friend that he cheated on her when he said he’d been tested for STDs. If they haven’t had sex, why else would he need to be tested?

    She has enough information just from this statement that if she wants to know more she will ask him directly.

    1. I’ve been trying to figure this out. I wonder if he meant that he got tested as preparation for them getting back together, referring to people he may have slept with during the breakup? I guess it depends on whether the LW literally meant immediately after they broke up or just at some point in the breakup. I don’t really understand why he’d tell her otherwise.

    2. Yeah, that’s what guided my response even more when I gave my opinion in the forums… if he told her this, then she has to know he’s slept with people ~while~ they were broken up? And shouldn’t you assume that anyway, you know, if you’ve been broken up for MONTHS, that the other person mayyy have been with people during that time?

      I guess I don’t see the difference between him slipping up on vacation, & sleeping with other people (possibly) while they were apart. Especially since he broke up with her IMMEDIATELY after the one-night cheating.

      1. Hmm, I’m not sure if I’m understanding what you’re saying. I assumed the issue wasn’t that he may have slept with other people during the breakup, but that he may have done so while they were together. And to me, those are two very different things. One is cheating, and one isn’t.

        I see it as that she COULD decide to ask whether he got tested because he cheated or because he slept with people during the breakup, but unless she has other reasons to suspect, I’m not sure she’d do that, or if he’d even tell the truth.

      2. Yeah, I worded myself oddly— I think maybe we disagree anyway, though. Basically, I’m saying since he broke up with her ~immediately~ after cheating, there’s barely even a clear line between what he did while WITH her, & what he may have done while *not* with her?

        So it all blends too much for me, as an outsider, to even be like “what a scumbag” let alone “definitely, she should be privy to this info”…if that makes sense?

  20. This is such a hard one for me. On the one hand, I’d want to know. Absolutely, I want to be in the position where I can decide for myself whether or not to stay in a relationship where infidelity has occurred. On the other hand, for all the reasons Wendy stated, I’m not sure if I’d tell.

    There have been a couple situations in my own life where this has come up, and I never have come to the right solution. The first was two friends, one of whom witnessed the boyfriend of the other cheating. These two girls were absolute best friends, and the one told her best friend, “Look, I saw your boyfriend making out with not you at this party, and then they left together but obviously I don’t know what happened after that.” Girl refuses to believe her best friend, stays with the boyfriend (who goes on to cheat on her like a million times, so eventually she came to realize best friend was probably telling the truth), but they still were never friends again. Eventually cordial, but never friends.

    Another is a sorority sister but not super close friend of mine, whose relationship has been at various points on and off, or in varying degrees of exclusivity. I saw her and her boyfriend at a college reunion, and the way she was speaking about him made it seem like they were on again, and serious. But I also saw him kissing not her later that night. I didn’t say anything, because she never explicitly said they were together and exclusive. Maybe they are and he’s still kind of a douche. Maybe she hopes they’re close to being again. Maybe they’re not at all and she’s just more invested than he is. In that case, because I didn’t know, I didn’t tell.

    I think the second scenario is more like the LW’s situation, although slightly different in that I saw it myself. But still, I wasn’t totally sure of the status of the relationship, and what was and wasn’t okay, so I didn’t say anything. I questioned whether or not that was the right thing every time I saw them together for the rest of the weekend. I think if I had been closer to her I maybe would have said something, but also if I’d been closer to her I might have had a better idea of the status of their relationship.

  21. sobriquet says:

    I would tell her. How could you not tell her in this situation when so many people already know? These things have a way of getting out. If she finds out later from someone else she will feel like an idiot. If she finds out now, from a friend, she can have some control over the situation.

    I would NOT make a big deal out of it, though. I think that’s where these situations get tricky and friends end up turning on the messenger. Don’t state it as a fact, just put the information out there and step back. Tell her what you heard and when you heard it, let her know that you simply are not comfortable keeping this information from her, but that it may not be true and you will in no way judge her if she decides to get back with him. And then step away from it completely. If she decides to get back together with him, trust that she made the best decision for herself and leave it at that.

  22. Sue Jones says:

    I would always want to know the truth. The truth will set you free.

    1. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

      Also, ignorance is bliss. lol.

  23. She should tell the guy in question. She’ll get all the info she needs from his reaction. Then tell HIM to tell her.

    1. See I’d hate that if I were the friend. If I were in that situation, I’d want people to tell me directly rather than pressuring my bf behind the scenes. A forced confession isn’t that greater either – it’ll probably just be the most minimal version the cheater can get away with.

      1. starpattern says:

        Ahh I agree with this too. This is such a delicate, fucked up situation and I hope it never happens to me.

      2. Ironically, I kind of think it’s OK for LW to either directly tell the friend, with the disclaimer that she doesn’t know it for certain, or to keep her mouth shut. So in my book, ethically speaking, she can decide either way. But no meddling behind the scenes!

      3. CattyGoLightly says:

        Exactly! I don’t want to blackmail her boyfriend into telling the truth, if there’s something that needs to be said. To me, that doesn’t really count because someone is making him do it.

  24. In this situation, where the couple isn’t together, and the guy is trying to get back together with your friend without honesty… well it doesn’t sit right and I would tell. It’s not even wanting to give her a heads up about cheating, it’s to bring to light the reason behind the breakup because otherwise she’s potentially starting to rebuild a life under false pretenses where she might just be happier moving on. Her decision of course, but if I was the LW I would want my dear friend to make an informed decision.

  25. When it comes to cheating spouses my philosophy has always been MYOB. However, I would make an exception in this case. She isn’t back with him yet and having all the information will help her make the decision.

  26. But we don’t know the guy is dishonest. All we know is that LW is considering passing along gossip of which she has zero direct knowledge. She may consider the source of this gossip to be a responsible person with no particular axe to grind, but there is no possible way she can no that for sure. So, she would be passing on derogatory information about the guy without being certain it is even accurate. This is the stuff of middle school drama. No, you are not a bad person not to relay to a friend what somebody else has said about them. That can simply be hurtful. It is irresponsible to pass along ‘knowledge’ of cheating when, in fact, you have zero direct knowledge that cheating has occurred. Yes, cheating on one’s significant other can happen, but so can lying about third parties. The liar can be very convincing and seemingly upright people can lie outrageously. LW simply has no basis to know that what she was told was true and, absent that, should reject out of hand the idea of sharing the gossip.

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      Exactly. I posted below before I read any comments…

  27. trixy minx says:


  28. This has actually happened to me twice, where people I thought were good friends of mine kept information like this from me. (In one case, the guy I was dating had slept with an ex while we were together; in the other, the guy I was dating had been arrested but not prosecuted for rape.) Their rationalizations were similar: they weren’t 100% sure it was true, they didn’t want to stick their nose in my business, blah blah blah. In both cases it backfired pretty dramatically: I found out another way (because, let’s face it, the truth tends to come out eventually, no matter how much some might wish it wouldn’t), and ended both friendships. What’s the point of having a supposed close friend who doesn’t have your back? People deserve the opportunity to make informed decisions about their lives (even if they then go on to make terrible decisions), and withholding information like this robs them of that ability. Plus, it’s so, so patronizing to in essence decide for someone else that you know what’s best for them.

    1. Well, it cuts both ways. Many a friendship has been lost by a friend saying something about a friend’s SO, which the friend wasn’t ready to hear. The SO had an explanation, true or not, the friend believed it and took it out on the teller of the tale/truth and stuck by the SO. This happens even when both friends no the info is true. The friend is not willing to part with the SO, is talked into another chance, the SO now loathes the friend, drives a wedge, and voila, ex-friend. In this case there is zero, absolutely no evidence in the possession of the friend, other than ‘this guy told me that…’. That’s not evidence, that’s not knowing, that’s not having a friend’s back to pass along the tittle tattle, that’s just making trouble and drama. If you are going to go around actually believing and passing on everything that third parties tell you about how ‘they know’ that one of your friends was cheated on by her SO, you are going to create a hell of a lot of unnecessary drama in your own and your friends’ lives. And this isn’t even a current SO. This is an ex, whom a friend might or might not get back together with. Please!

      And how can you date a guy, find nothing off about him, not know he was arrested for rape, and feel angry that your friend didn’t tell you? If the guy was falsely arrested for rape, then there really isn’t a problem. If he is an actual rapist, then shouldn’t you be able to spot such a huge, basic character flaws on your own? It’s like, I really can’t forgive my friends for not telling me that my SO was a drug addict.

      1. allegrofox says:

        About the last paragraph, I have to say this: Rapists and abusers are, very often, HELLA good manipulators and actors. They are sweet, charming, polite, lovely, right up until they aren’t. They aren’t all slavering maniacs, or deadbeats, or even remotely strange, and nobody wears a nametag or a sandwich board that says “Hi, I’m a rapist.” Other people not being able to tell what they’re really like (and sometimes defending them, “Oh he seemed to nice and polite, he can’t possibly have done that!”) is exactly how rapists manage to keep raping people.

      2. And so are abusers. And women return to abusive partners over and over, because they have become dependent on the relationship or the guy can be just so sweet, smooth, and forlornly apologetic as he begs a second chance. And these are situations knows for absolute certain what the guy is, based upon her own repeated personal observations of his direct behavior to her.

        Now, on to the dynamic of telling. Whether the friend knows or suspects her SO is cheating, a rapist, whatever, or whether she is living in blissful ignorance, she is invested in her relationship and she loves the guy. The friend’s reveal to her will be beyond awkward. The revelaton throws the friend into a combination of embarrassment that the guy she is devoting her life to is a scoundrel, upsetness that her ability to judge men and see what is happening in her own relationship is being questioned, and denial that it could possibly be true. She is angry, frightened, and shamed and she lashes out at the friend as often as not. She loves as is dependent in at least some sense. She wants to cling to her relationship. The friend is just a friend.

        It is like when you sit around for hours worrying about a kid or other loved one who was supposed to be home at 9:00 and now it is midnight and you haven’t had even a phone call. You are scared shitless and hoping the person is alright. Then the person comes through your front door. Relief, elation, but at least a bit of anger as the adrenaline emotion turns to that.

        Now, you’re in the midst of this painful revelation to your friend and she asks you “are you sure, how do you know this?” You say “no direct knowledge, but I think the source is reliable”. Your friend’s denial latches onto this and your are at best a purveyor of untrue gossip and at worse a malicious person trying, for some unknown reason, to destroy her perfect relationship..

        So, you talk your friend down off the ceiling. You part on good terms. The friend confronts her SO. He denies all and she believes him. Or, he confesses, weeps, is overflowing with apologies and promises to do so much better. He says he was a fool. How could he hurt the one person in his life that he has truly loved? He will do anything to make it right. Your friend agrees to give him another chance.

        Things go well with her friend and her SO for the next month. Of course, the guy hates and fears you as the friend who told the truth about you. Like the abuser who works to cut his SO off from her friends, family, and support he makes it his business to get you out of her life. Very often he succeeds. The friend sees how hard he has been trying, senses improvement in the relationship, and isn’t going to let a little impediment like you stand in the way of a lifetime of happiness with her SO.

        Look at all the letters to DW. The guy and the relationship are described in the LW’s own words. And yet, when the perfectly obvious MOA advice is given, there is a torrent of excuses and lashing out at the commenters. It is not what the LW wanted to hear. She wants to know how to fix and save her precious relationship, not to be told how awful her SO is. Same deal on telling a friend, especially when you are not even certain of your facts.

        It is very wrong to hold your friends responsible for policing your relationship and to hold them responsible for not passing on every piece of tittle tattle. If you were thinking clearly and not trying to shift the blame for poor judgment from yourself onto your friend, you would know in your heart of hearts that had the friend passed on the tittle tattle that you would not have MOAed and that you would resent the friend’s intrusion into your relationship, based on nothing more than second hand gossip.

        You can say you would have left the dude. But, most LWs don’t. And an awful lot of the commenters are of the ‘you must make every possible effort to save your relationship’ stripe. So, a friend is very well advised to hesitate to pass on the gossip.

      3. AllegroFox says:

        I think you’re misunderstanding me, Oldie – I don’t disagree with you. I was referring specifically to the comment to Lucy: ” If he is an actual rapist, then shouldn’t you be able to spot such a huge, basic character flaws on your own?” You can’t. It’s not a visible flaw out there to be spotted. You can’t tell that a rapist is a rapist by looking at one, often not even by talking to one and spending time with one. And implying that you *should* be able to just opens the door to victim-blaming and other grossness.

      4. Certainly not blame the rape victim. Perhaps a little blame the supportive SO of the rapist who doesn’t want to see or admit the dark side of her man. Like the wife of Sandusky in the Penn State scandal. Rape is a crime of violence, and dislike/devaluing of women bordering on hate. Not saying the SO should be able to discern ‘my man really seems like a potential rapist’, but she should be able to sense that something is off about him. He might be a smooth talker, but underneath it all he dislikes women, sees himself as superior to his mental caricature of them, and has a tendency to violence and disrespect for societal boundaries. I think it would be hard to miss all of that in a prolonged intimate relationship with the guy. In my heart, I ‘know’ that Mrs. Sandusky knew there was something very off about her husband and his interaction with young boys, while she was present in the house, and that to preserve her marriage, she chose not to know. I could be completely wrong about that and it may be very unfair to hold her to the ‘she must have known’ standard, but there it is.

      5. Btw, if I am correct in my opinion, she would be far from the first wife/SO to stand by her accused rapist husband/SO and lash out at all the liars who are unfairly hounding her good man. How do you think these women will react to a friend who told them ‘you might not have heard, but I know your guy was arrested but not charged with rape’?

  29. Bittergaymark says:

    Say nothing. Its all hearsay evidence. And people, coworkers especially, aren’t immune from lying…

  30. CattyGoLightly says:

    Hey guys, LW here!

    I wrote a follow-up in the forums if you want to read that, but I will write another one here.

    To clarify, this guy has broken up with her several times throughout their relationship, every 6-8 months. Part of the reason they break up is because differences in religion/sexuality. I really wouldn’t judge her for having sex, because I mean.. I love sex. She’s just more on the religious side, and he’s not, and she wants to wait for marriage… and he really wants to bone now. You see the problem. I think he gets really frustrated with the no sex part of their relationship… because he’s told me that’s the case.

    Also, he oscillates between telling her “I want to marry you” and then breaking up with her. He takes her engagement ring shopping, then breaks up with her. He’s done this two or three times.

    Also, both my friend (the ex girlfriend) and my friend (the coworker) mentioned the STD test. They don’t know each other, and have never met, so to me that says they both heard it from the ex boyfriend. I asked my friend “Don’t you think it’s weird that he got an STD test even though you guys never had sex?” and she said that he had lied about getting one before they were in a relationship because he had an unprotected one night stand (seems to be a habit…)while they were still casual, and maybe he was trying to make up for that.

    I’m not just sitting here gleefully thinking about all the D-RAMA! this is going to cause. If I wanted to cause a shit storm, I would have told her when I first found out. I didn’t think it was relevant though because they weren’t together and all it would have done is hurt her tremendously, and it wouldn’t help her in the future. When I say I can’t imagine having to sit there on double dates, it’s because I would know it’s all a lie, and she’s being lied to, and it’s not fair to her at all. She deserves the truth from him. I want her to have the best, and I guess I just don’t know if the best is her knowing this, or me “keeping my mouth shut.” I’m still kind of torn between it. Earlier in the thread they were talking about truth vs. privacy, but I love both of those things! They’re both really important qualities.

    Maybe she does know, and hasn’t told me. Of course that is in the realm of possibility. Of course I don’t know everything about their relationship, and it would be presumptuous of me to think I did. I normally support whatever decisions my friends make in terms of their relationships, because they know more about it than me. In this case, that’s what is so upsetting. That there is the possibility that there is something that would matter to her, and she might have no idea.

    Anywho, thanks everyone for the input. Her ex has already decided that he’s changed his mind yet again, so it sort of just resolved itself anyway. Inaction and waiting paid off.

    Until the next time he changes his mind.

    1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

      Well, he would be a FOOL to marry somebody he’s NEVER slept with. Those people usually have so many fucking hang-ups it’s a NIGHTMARE…

    2. So with this added info, this is obviously a pretty awful relationship & he’s not a good longterm partner for her anyway. But also: She should really know this by now, even without the cheating info. If he’s broken up with her several times already and she always takes him back, that’s on her. So in my view you’re not obliged to give her the 201th reason why he’s a jerk.

      1. btw I’m not saying he’s a jerk because he wants to have sex, but due to lying about STD tests and stuff.

    3. yikes, yea, he is a terrible partner regardless of the cheating, then. the cheating -or not cheating, or whatever happened- is a total moot point to the rest of the relationship, which is going to fail regardless. yikes.

      well with this additional info, i dont think it matters what you do. she has every reason to break up with him, and she really should… sad.

      1. CattyGoLightly says:

        Yeah, I guess I still feel like she should know if she ever decides to take him back. I’ve tried nicely talking about the way he treats her, and how they want different things out of life… I don’t know. I feel like cheating would be something she’d want to know though.

        Like I said, he’s not that nice to her, and I don’t see either of them realigning their values.

        Good thing he changed his mind.. yet again.

  31. CattyGoLightly says:

    I mean, I like test driving the car myself so to speak, but I guess that’s just different values between them.

    Thanks again everyone for your input! I really can see both sides :/

  32. So none of y’all have had the conversation with your best friends along the lines of, “So if you’re boyfriend cheated on you and I found out… would you want me to tell you? And do you promise not to get mad?”

    I mean shit… cheating happens all the time. If my friends knew/heard my bf was cheating and didn’t tell me… I’d be livid. The world has eyes and ears, so regardless, I’d find out eventually because no one is as clever as they think they are. But anyway, nothing, in my opinion, is more humiliating than being the last one to know about something in your personal life.

    Honestly, I’m all about minding your own business… but I would definitely like to know/would tell. BUT here’s the thing… why in the world were you ever in the position to be privy to this info? I try to steer myself from gossip for this exact reason.

    1. CattyGoLightly says:

      Trust me, I did NOT want to know. It’s not like I ferreted this out, because it’s not my frickin business and if I had my choice it would have stayed that way.

      My guy friend from out of town, who is coworkers with the ex boyfriend, said it out of the blue. He probably didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to say “Did you hear that X slept with a girl without protection on that business trip??? He had to get tested and everything!” because the coworker didn’t know that X had a girlfriend. He lives on the other side of the world, isn’t that close to the ex boyfriend, and thought that they had broken up before X went on the business trip or something. He didn’t know that it was right after said trip.

      He did not tell me because I was begging him to, believe you me. He really did just bring it up out of nowhere. After he told me, I said “But X was dating my friend at that time…” and it was really awkward because he realized what an awkward position he had put me in by gossiping. Trust me I did not ask/want to know.

      Also, I know I would be mad if I got back with an ex and my friend didn’t tell me that they knew he cheated.

      On the other hand, since he changed his mind, I’m gonna let that sleeping dog lie. If they stay broken up, and she doesn’t have to make a decision about being with him, then I feel like there is nothing good that can come of her knowing. Only a lot of sadness/bitterness.

      From now on, I think I will be having that conversation about whether my friends would want to know or not. It really does depend on the person!

      1. That conversation just gives you the right to shield yourself behind “but you told me that you would want to be told if I knew your bf cheated”. The conversation at any point of time, other than when you know of and perhaps the friend already suspects, cheating is a hypothetical, not bound to the emotions that will arise when the revelation occurs. Saying you want to be told if, is not the same as being happy you were told and accepting the information with grace when you are told. In the hypothetical it seems like a safety net that will give you added assurance that all is right with your relationship, since you haven’t had a warning from friends. As the reveal happens, your relationship appears to be crashing around you, you still love the guy, the friend is the bearer of unwanted news — shit happens. “Don’t shoot the messenger” is a common phrase for a reason. A lot of bearers of bad news are shot.

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