Friday, August 31, 2012

Would You Tell?

I made a big mistake with a friend recently. Her marriage has been in trouble, since...well, since it began. Her husband has been physically and verbally abusive to her and her children for years. Their most recent argument had been particularly bad, and she sought me out to talk.  As she was talking with me about  how she had finally had enough, she slipped in, "...and I think he may be having an affair, too."

I have heard the he's-abusive-but-I-love-him story  many times over the past 12 years or so, but this was a new development and, as the infidelity goddess, my interest was piqued.

"What makes you think he's having an affair, " I asked as casually as I possibly could.

She went on to tell a very familiar story. He flipped out if she attempted to touch his phone. When she did get her hands on it late at night while he was sleeping, it was completely blank - no texts, no emails, no phone call history - even though he was always using his phone. He went out a lot in the evening and at least once a week he would suddenly get mad about something - anything - and he'd stomp out of the house and be gone for hours. If she asked him where he had gone or where he was anytime he wasn't at home, he'd get very angry and she'd back off in fear, and he'd never tell her where he was. Their sex life was not good, as you might expect.  He constantly complained that she wouldn't give him enough sex, but whenever she offered when he came back from one of his evening "outings," he always declined.

Wow, I thought.  This guy was barely even trying to hide it.

I've been around long enough to know that nothing strains a friendship like unsolicited advice, so I just looked sympathetic, adding in a gasp to indicate my shock every now and then. If she didn't ask the question, I wasn't going any further.

But then she asked.

"Kat, do you think he's having an affair?"

My answer was swift and definite, "Yes."

She looked like I had slapped her in the face.

I wanted to say, "Hey, don't be mad at me.  I'm not the one cheating on you," but I chose instead to ask her a few questions. Did he clean up just before he got mad and stomped out?  When he came home, did he head straight for the shower? Did he ever whisper into his phone when he was talking?  Did he excuse himself to go into the bathroom a lot (presumably to text her)?

I asked her several other questions, and pointed out that the signs she had been noticing on her own were common signs of infidelity.

She was appalled. Shocked. She talked about how she wanted to handle it.  Given his propensity for violence, I suggested that she not accuse him directly.  I also suggested that she consider getting a restraining order if she was going to actually attempt to leave him again.

She left and I heard from her again the next day.  She told me that she went straight home and confronted him about it. So much for my advice, I thought. Then she told me that I should know that he had a perfectly good explanation for everything and he was definitely not having an affair.  She had overreacted and I had convinced her to interpret things that way because I never liked her husband.

Wow.

How did I manage to get such a stupid friend?

The truth, though, is that many people just don't want to accept the reality that their spouse is cheating because then it means they either need to do something or accept it, and they don't want to do either. What they want is for it not to be happening, so they think like a small child who doesn't think something exists if he just pretends it's not there.

I don't believe in forcing anyone to accept it. There's something to be said for the, "ignorance is bliss" approach.

As for my friend, she's right that I don't like her husband.  How could I like a man who treats his wife and children like that? But that has nothing to do with the fact that I am 100% certain that he is cheating on her.  I probably never would have told her if she hadn't asked me directly.

My question for you today, Prowlers, is would you tell?  If you knew a friend's spouse were cheating, would you tell your friend or would you keep it to yourself?

11 comments:

Krazy said...

I would tell ONLY if she asked, but knowing she would probably not talk to me again. If she is a really good friend, I know she would eventually appreciate it.

SL said...

I wouldn't say anything unless directly asked as well. However, if I thought there was a chance my friend would respond like yours, I would probably not tell him/her and instead repond with a vague answer

Anonymous said...

I was in the same situation once with my best friend. She asked, and I said no, although I know for certain he was cheating....because it was with me.

In general though, I think I would stand by not telling. Why be the bad guy?

Anonymous said...

I think you handled it corrrectly, and you were right, he is she just doesn't want to face/accept it.

Cara Janes said...

Just yesterday a friend of mine was telling me that she's afraid her husband is having yet another affair. I know for a fact that he is, but I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell her! I guess I feel like these women don't want to know. And, actually, I think it's better that they don't know.

Lusting Lola! said...

Wow. Why ask your advice if she's not going to even consider it? This is such a sad story. Do you think you two will remain close friends?

I'm not sure if I'd tell or not. I think it would have to be a case-by-case thing. I'd have to really consider my friend's personality to know if she'd be willing to accept the news.

HK said...

I believe that I am faced with a milder version of this very situation. One of my best friends--I don't use the term lightly; we have been friends since grade school--is married to a woman in whom most marital horror stories find their inspiration. She is selfish, juvenile in dealing with conflict, and controlling to boot. My best friend is still in the naive stage of gender relations. That is, he still believes that women are the "fairer" sex and worthy of being placed on pedestals...rather than seeing them as no different than himself, flawed human beings.

His broken worldview causes him to behave submissively toward his wife (toward any woman really...I've seen the pattern play out in his past relationships) which does him no favors in winning his spouse's respect (something that I see evidence of whenever we hang out as a group). She has also been spending an unhealthy amount of time with some asshole from her native country (she's an Italian citizen), and many of the typical signs of an affair are present.

I of course have no absolute proof of her straying, but one does not always need to see flame to know that something is on fire.

So, as a friend, I reveal my suspicions to him, but I couch them in abstractions. We'll launch into a discussion about our marriages, and I talk about how women generally do so and so when causes x and y are at work. Often, I work the cause of an affair into the conversation. It's the only thing I can do to help him.

Now, if I had concrete evidence then I'd show him for sure. He's a good guy, and he really doesn't deserve what she puts him through.

Anonymous said...

I would tell them especially if they appeared to need the info because it would affect their decision tree. You can't withhold information when it affects someone else. It's like being a bystander in an accident and assuming someone else will come along and clean things up.

Marcus said...

I think in the end, the truth is always better, especially if it was asked for.
The signs and symptoms listed in this post hit too close to home, yet I'm still not sure if she technically "cheated" on me, but in some ways I wish she had, because in an emotional affair NO ONE is getting anything.

This guy seems dangerous and hopefully she will listen to you in the end and stay safe.

Anonymous said...

I never ask difficult questions (ie questions w/ potentially painful answers) if I am not prepared for the answer, good, bad or indifferent. When I asked a difficult question by a friend or family member that I care about and I know the answer may hurt them I always ask "Are you sure you want to know what I think?" That gives then an opportunity to second guess the decision to ask the question. That being said, I think you handled the situation appropriately...

Inferno said...

Anybody I consider a good enough friend that I'd become involved with their personal business is also intelligent enough to have either figured it out already if it's happening or at least smart enough to see the possibility when the facts are put forth.
As for if I'd tell them... yes.
Those few monogamous friends I have that could end up in such a situation I would consider it a duty to tell.
Most people I know though I don't consider close enough to get involved.