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Should I tattle about a cheat?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 28, 2012 08:37 AM

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Q: Dear Meredith,

I have two friends who have been married for more than a decade, and one of them was (is?) engaged in an affair with her ex. I am equally close with both parties. I asked the spouse who is having the affair if something was going on and she admitted her dastardly deeds but claims the affair has ended. I'm not convinced.

To make matters worse, I often see this couple at parties with the person she was having an affair with. I care deeply for both of my friends, but I feel I am being disloyal to the friend who is being cheated on. If my friend knew, their marriage might end and there are children involved.

Should I say something? Should I stay out? I have a hard time believing her spouse doesn't know what is going on, but it might be easier for me to see the affair from the outside. For those of you who have been cheated on, would you want a friend to tell what they know? I'm in uncharted territory here, and just not sure what to do. I want to maintain a friendship with both parties.

– Should I Stay Out or Say Something, Boston


A: There's no right answer here. Even if there were, it would depend on the couple in question -- and on you. Maybe the cheater confirmed the wrongdoing to you because she knows that you're the kind of person who'd tell her partner and clear the air on her behalf. Or maybe she told you because you're a vault with secrets and you represented a safe way to confess.

And as for the couple -- do they seem unhappy? Does the cheater want to stick around for the right reasons? Does the victim of this cheat ever complain about the relationship? Would the news of the cheat shock anyone? Are these people honest with each other about other things?

I've changed my mind again and again about whether I believe friends should disclose cheats. In your situation, you have to think about your own needs first. There are too many unknowns for you to base this decision on what you think is best for your friends and their family, so it has to be about what you can live with.

Once this woman confirmed the cheat -- which was a very intentional decision, by the way -- she put you in a bad place. You have every right to cope with this information by doing what feels right to you, whether that means disclosing the betrayal or staying silent and watching how things play out. This has to be about your sanity.

You can start figuring out what you want to do by asking the cheater what she expected you to do with this information. You can ask her why she confirmed this cheat to you (as opposed to her spouse) and why she wants to stay in her marriage. You can ask why she's keeping this a secret and why she continues to hang out in social circles with the ex. You can ask whether anyone else knows, because it'd be great if you could make this decision with other friends.

Get more information and then decide what feels right in your brain and heart.

Readers? Should the letter writer tell? Would you want to know? Are there any rules with this? Discuss.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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