Stumbling upon evidence that a friend’s partner or spouse is getting it on the side might take the prize as the worst moral conundrum of friendship. What to do with the information you wish you didn’t have can be a heart wrenching decision. If you tell, you’ll hurt your friend deeply. If you don’t tell, you are hurting the friendship.
On one hand, what goes on in someone else’s relationship isn’t your business. On the other hand, wouldn’t you want to be told if roles were reversed? Unfortunately, in our modern world, sex can have unexpected consequences beyond unintended pregnancy. Sexual infidelity can damage health and well-being beyond the emotional health of the relationship. There’s a lot on the side of telling, but pause before you go forward. This is a charge that cannot be rescinded. It’s one of those crimes in which the accusation itself becomes the guilty verdict.
Here are some ways to answer the big question – to tell or not to tell?
First, do you know what you know?
Seeing your friend’s spouse in a coffee shop flirting with an attractive person isn’t always what it appears to be. In the drama of thinking you saw what you saw, memories become skewed really fast. A look becomes a wink, the brush of hands becomes fondling under the table, a friendly kiss becomes a roll in the sheets. Suspicions might be right, suspicions might be wrong, either way, you have to be completely clear about what you saw or heard first hand. To tell or not to tell is the question after you are clear about what you have to say. If you decide to tell, don’t pass on your conclusions – just the facts, nothing but the facts.
Next, are you prepared for the fallout?
So, perhaps you saw, without question, irrefutable evidence that extra-marital relations were happening. Can you take the hit of being the person who spills the beans? Your friendship with the cuckolded spouse is going to change. Whether or not the marriage survives your revelation, you will represent the information that changed the partnership forever. You might lose your place on the dinner party list. But sometimes the love you have for a friend has to outweigh what would be easier for you. The very best of friendships can survive all the peaks and valleys of life. If this is such a friendship, roll up your sleeves because a lot of listening and support will be needed soon.
Finally, check your motivation – twice.
Jealousy can lead to a perverse desire to see a “perfect” couple come crashing down. When you think about telling your friend, do you feel sad for the pain your friend will be facing? Or do you feel something else? Why do you feel that this is the role you must play? The universe has a way of giving people information when they are ready for it. If you do not tell, your friend could find out another way, or not. She or he may already know. One sure way to check your motivation is by answering this question – have you gossiped about this to other people? If you have, then you’ve already shown what kind of friend you are. It might be better to keep it to yourself – and that includes passing it on to others.
Finally, if you are sure you want to tell, take great care in how you say it. Meet with your friend in person. Don’t do it in public, over email or phone. Speak plainly and clearly. If they believe you, ask how you can support them. If they don’t believe you, then you’ve done what you can. Speak with love and act in love. Friendship is a process of witnessing each other’s growth through the events of life. So reach out with love and let the chips fall where they may.
Have you ever had to tell a friend an awful truth about their cheating mate?