Uh Oh, you’re in trouble, somethings come along and burst your bubble…. I’m showing my age again with that lyrical reference to the hit song Trouble by Shampoo, popular in the mid 90’s. But it does sum up pretty well how you’re going to feel if you suddenly stumble upon this particular news that you wish you hadn’t…..
As a matter of fact, it can be such a difficult situation to find yourself in that you decide to just pretend you didn’t hear it at all. And I can’t say I blame you. If you intend to pretend you didn’t know, justifying it to yourself that it is hearsay, or not your business, nor your place to get involved, then you will need to be very careful that you never mention it to another soul, and do not let on that you knew, NEVER!!
If your friend finds out that you knew, particularly if you knew before she did, and you never told her and stopped her from playing the fool, you can almost guarantee the trust between you will evaporate, if not the entire friendship. Having said that, it seems most women believe that they would want to know....
Of course, believing something in theory, about how you will feel or behave under abstract circumstances which we all secretly believe, or at least HOPE, will never happen to us, can be quite different to how you actually feel when it does actually happen to you. So if you do decide to tell your friend, you best be prepared for her to shoot the messenger.
It seems only natural that her first instinct will be to trust and protect her relationship, especially if she is invested, for example living with, married to or has children with the partner in question. The news you bare threatens her very security and the core of the life she has been building. If this news is a complete surprise to her, she will be reluctant to take it in straight away.
Tell her the facts, and the facts only. Either what you heard, or what you saw, and express that you didn’t want her to be the last to know. Deliver the news sensitively. Preferably in person, in private. If she is angry with you, or throws accusations at you about jealousy or gossip, tell her that you understand she is angry and hurting, and confused and scared. Assure her that you will respect her wishes and will not involve yourself further or tell her what she should do. If she changes the subject, do not raise the issue again, except to check in and see how she is.
Let your friend know that you are there for her if she wants to talk about it. If she does want to talk about it, be prepared to listen. Ask her if she wants advice before you offer any. She may be trying to make excuses for her partner, or justify behaviours, or talk you out of what you think you know. The only time you need to step in is if your friend starts blaming herself.
If your friend asks you for details, tell her what you know. If she asks for your opinion, tell her you aren’t too sure what to make of it, which is why you brought it straight to her. (And make sure you do. Don’t tell your other friends, and if you do tell another friend to decide what you should do, either you both agree to NEVER say anything (risky) or you both agree to tell her together so she knows who knew and that you were NOT gossiping or laughing about it behind her back. Tell her almost as soon as you know yourself. If you wait weeks or months “trying to decide what to do” this will be at the expense of your friend and she will not likely forget and forgive this quickly.
Be patient with your friend. Allow her to go through the grief, including denial and bargaining. If she forgives her partner, whether they admit the truth or not, that is her choice. This is not your relationship. I know you care and it can be painful to watch your friend stay with someone who doesn’t deserve her, but give her some credit. Acknowledge that this is her life, her journey and her responsibility and you respect her ability to make the best decisions for herself and her family. Empower her. This is nothing she cannot handle if and when she is ready.
Remember, you never really know the status of anyone else’s relationship. While the infidelity might seem like a deal breaker for you, your friend may see it differently. Perhaps they had an open arrangement that you didn’t know about or perhaps your friend turns a blind eye for financial security. Whatever the reason it does not concern you.
Your job, after you tell your friend is to be there for her in exactly the same way as you were before. To support her while she navigates this herself. Not to become over invested in the outcome or over involved in her life or the situation. DO NOT STAY FRIENDS WITH THE PARTNER if they separate. Loyalty ladies, don’t make her say it!!!
Speaking of her partner, if you are close with them or not…do not blackmail her partner to tell her. Blackmail is unbecoming and just as dishonest. If you want her to know so much, you tell her and take responsibility for that choice.
If your friend never mentions this to you again, respect that she is drawing a boundary and don’t push it. It may be too private or painful for her to share. Do not discuss it too much with your other friends after the fact, even once they all know. If it comes up, express concern for your friend then state that it is her private business and if she wants to discuss it with you all as a group, she will.
Have you ever had to tell a friend that her partner was cheating? Or had a friend tell you? What happened? Did the relationship survive? Did the friendship?
Your best Friend ForNever
NB: As I was writing this piece, a Facebook Page that I follow called "Surviving Female Friendships" (based on the title of her book) written by Nicole Zangara shared this article about exactly this topic!! The article, published in Bolde by Giulia Simolo, was entitled "Telling My Friend Her Boyfriend Was Cheating Ended Our Friendship".