You might know the terrible position: You are minding your own business when suddenly, you stumble upon your best friend’s man – and he’s kissing someone else. Or you catch the cheater as he’s slinking out of a hotel lobby with a woman who is definitely not his wife. Or perhaps you stumble upon the blog kept by your buddy’s wife, and she’s detailing all her trysts – and none of them are with her man, who thinks she is entirely faithful to him.
So…you now know the truth. The question is, do you tell?
The answer: It depends.
Most people who be glad you told them they were being cheated on by someone they thought was faithful. On the other hand, it’s always hard to be the one who has been duped. In a long-term relationship, the first instinct is usually to believe the partner, rather than the friend…and that can mean a tattling friend is left out in the cold, even though they aren’t the ones who have done something wrong!
It’s the “shoot the messenger” syndrome, and it’s quite common. When we’re hurt, especially in a moment we never saw coming, the first response is usually anger. That anger tends to be directed toward the person who has caused the initial pain – in the case of cheating, that would be the messenger. The injured party won’t work through to anger at their cheating partner until the first wave of hurt is over…but in the meantime, the friend who spilled the beans is in the line of fire.
So if you do tell your friend about their cheating partner, be prepared for rather cool relations, if not outright fury toward you. Try to understand the reasons why, and make sure you are available when your friend needs a shoulder to cry on.
On the other hand, if you are talking about a cheater who is in a long-term relationship or marriage, you might wind up losing your friendship by telling the secret. People who have invested a great deal of their time and energy in a relationship will often fight to save it – and whether right or wrong, the cheater will see YOU as the “bad guy” for upsetting the apple cart. This means that if they do work things out, you will be the one left out in the cold.
Doesn’t sound like it bodes well for friendship, does it? But on the other hand, if your friend is sleeping with a serial cheater, there is much more at stake than a friendship. Your friend is probably being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, and that is a definite “need to know” scenario.
In the end, the decision on whether to “out” a cheater is a delicate one, and should be made with the full knowledge of the consequences. If you tell, you might lose a friendship…but if you stay quiet, can you live with the consequences if something goes horribly wrong? The decision is unique to each situation, but one this is always the same: It’s definitely NOT easy.