You walk into the bar one night and see your married or “unavailable” friend with another person, and they are being more than just friendly. Perhaps you hear a rumor that someone you know is cheating on his or her significant other. If you are really unlucky, maybe this situation has occurred with a relative. What do you do in this situation? Do you tell the significant other, or justify your silence by stating that it is really none of your business?
I have experienced all of these situations. I married my first husband when we were far too young, and found myself cheated on many times. Sometimes I would learn of an infidelity immediately, or it would take a while to get through the grapevine. Unfortunately, there is no textbook, no-fail method or answer to this situation. While it would be easier for those stuck with this dilemma, no matter what you do, someone will get hurt. Since only you know the people in the quandary and how they are, I am going to give you a few different ideas on how to handle (and possibly share) your new found knowledge.
Confront the friend.
Talking to the cheater can be the first or last place you want to go. If you know the cheater to have a lying, defensive, or abusive personality, you do not want to take this route. You certainly do not want to find yourself with a black eye over out of this ordeal. However, if you think you can approach your friend in a civil and non-threatening manner, you can. Start by telling them that you saw (or heard) what they have done. Attempt to refrain from using statements that infer judgment or show hostility. Depending on the reaction, the next step involves inquiring about the significant other’s knowledge of the infidelity. Give the cheater a timeline, if necessary, to tell his or her significant other of the affair. Hearing information like this from the cheater is better for the significant other than hearing it from a stranger or friend. The problem that arises here though, is that the cheater can lie to the spouse further or minimize the infidelity.
Tell the significant other yourself.
If the above step is impossible, or the cheater has refused to confess, you can contact the injured party to inform them of the infidelity. Special care must be taken here as you can be accused of lying, attempting to start trouble, or just plain taking things out of proportion. However, if the cheater is still involved in a sexual relationship with his or her significant other, they are putting that other person at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Again, be prepared to be called every name in the book by either the cheater or the cheated. If you have to, send an anonymous letter or e-mail to the significant other.
Keep the information to yourself.
While I do not personally recommend this route, I understand that it is sometimes necessary to keep what you know to yourself. However, you need to realize and accept that this could potentially eat you up inside and create a major rift in your friendship. Also, know that if you choose to keep the information to yourself, you may be in trouble later on, if the significant other finds out you knew about the infidelity.
Whichever path you choose, just remember that many people are going to walk away from this incident scarred and in a great deal of pain. Know that you may be pushed away or hailed as the ender of a great injustice. No one can predict what will happen when an affair is discovered. Personally, if I had learned of my second husband’s affairs sooner, I would have left. But, the reality is that I did not know until three years after the first one. In that time, I had became pregnant after having a tubal ligation and even more dependant upon my husband. We are working through it now, but I will always resent those who chose not to tell me. I should not be surprised though, as accepted and overlooked as infidelities have become. The world will never know true and complete monogamy, and this situation that will replay until the end of time.