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.
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?