Is it ethical to encourage someone to cheat?
July 17, 2010 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Is it ethically sound to encourage a friend to cheat on her abusive partner as an excuse to leave the relationship?

My friend is in a bad relationship, in which her partner is verbally abusive toward her and has been physically abusive once, as well. She has been in this relationship for several years and it is at the point where their lives are intertwined enough that it would be a bit of a mess for her to leave. I think that this is what is stopping her from leaving.

She left her previous (awful sounding, lengthy) relationship by getting together with this guy, and it seemed as though she used that as an excuse to exit the relationship. My personal feelings are that this isn't really the best course of action, but perhaps the ends justified the means.

Right now, I know someone to whom she is attracted. Would it be ethical for me to encourage her to romantically involve herself with him? What are the ethical/moral implications of doing so?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Well, you have an n of 1 that cheating on someone means she will break up with that someone. That doesn't mean the same thing would happen this time. My vote is that, like with any other friend in an abusive relationship, you should support her (both her emotions and decisions) unconditionally, always be there to talk when she needs it, and otherwise MYOB.
posted by emilyd22222 at 4:07 PM on July 17, 2010


MYOB
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:07 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you kidding me? Cheating on a potentially abusive partner sounds like the worst idea ever.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:07 PM on July 17, 2010 [38 favorites]


Is it a good idea to encourage your other friend to be this woman's "savior"? No, it is not. She needs to work on being healthy alone before jumping into another relationship.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:09 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not a good idea. Ethical or not, it could endanger her life, that of the other person, and anyone else involved.
posted by batmonkey at 4:10 PM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Right now, I know someone to whom she is attracted. Would it be ethical for me to encourage her to romantically involve herself with him? What are the ethical/moral implications of doing so?

How does that someone you know feel about quite possibly being beaten up by your friend's partner?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:10 PM on July 17, 2010


You should encourage her to leave her abuser, not to make the situation exponentially more complicated.

What if her abuser hurts her seriously after finding out about the affair? No, just... no.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:10 PM on July 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Before considering the ethical implications, consider the practical ones.

1) Nothing may ever come of any effort you do take.
2) Finding out that your friend cheated on him may encourage her abusive current S.O. to escalate.
3) Cheating unnecessarily damages her reputation and gives abusive S.O. ammunition with which to manipulate/harass/defame her.
4) There's got to be a more straightforward way to do this. Abuse is sufficiently messy without adding to it; if you believe that she needs a larger event to make a clean break, then you and some other mutual friends should sit her down and explain bluntly that you would like to help her get away from the abuse and encourage her to contact the police.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:10 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agree with sunshinesky. I'm not sure how physical and verbal abuse isn't already a great REASON to leave a relationship. Why look for excuses?
posted by puritycontrol at 4:10 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Forget the infidelity aspect. My primary concern would be that if the abusive partner found out about the cheating (which is the point, right?) that abuse would escalate. Rather than have an excuse to leave the relationship, your friend could potentially be setting herself up for some serious trouble. (I'm envisioning some "I'll learn you not to cheat on me, woman!" awfulness here.)

Please tell her not to do this. Encourage her to end the relationship like an adult. Offer to be present as a second party/witness if necessary.
posted by phunniemee at 4:11 PM on July 17, 2010


Is it ethically sound to encourage a friend to cheat on her abusive partner as an excuse to leave the relationship?

Fuck. No.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:11 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


nthing MYOB. I don't think it's ethical to encourage someone to cheat, and the practical arguments against such an action are many, first of which is that it could blow back into your face, regardless of your intentions.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:14 PM on July 17, 2010


It sounds like she needs a good friend, who will be there for her and help her make healthy decisions as she goes through the very difficult process of getting out of an abusive relationship, setting new boundaries, and learning how to stand on her own. It's good that you're questioning whether or not this crazy, drama-making scheme is for the best, but it sheds some doubt on your ability to be that friend she desperately needs right now.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:16 PM on July 17, 2010


It is ethically sound to help your friend find the strength to end her relationship.

It is not appropriate to use anyone as a means to an end.
posted by lover at 4:19 PM on July 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sounds like a good way to get your friend killed. Perfectly "normal" people have been known to go bat shit crazy when their spouse/sig. other cheats on them. I definitely would NOT recommend your friend cheat on someone with a history of verbal and physical abuse. There are much safer ways of leaving a relationship than cheating.
posted by GlowWyrm at 4:24 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your ethical obligation, as far as your friendship goes, is to help promote and maintain your friend's happiness and well-being. Encouraging cheating *as an out* does neither; it's a shortcut that could easily go wrong and enter physical abuse territory (and really? Encouraging her to use some other guy to build herself up? Not cool, even if Boy Toy fully understands the scope and risks of his role in the cheating scenario.).

There are more ethical and constructive avenues you can take, and I'm sure you've thought about them. Listening is the first big thing you can do for her. Offering advice when asked. Extending hospitality and help when needed.

She'll make her exit from the relationship when she's ready to do it. If cheating is her template for leaving, she'll likely find a way to do it without your assistance, and without asking you to do something you have concerns about.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:30 PM on July 17, 2010


My personal feelings are that this isn't really the best course of action, but perhaps the ends justified the means.

You are completely wrong.

If the relationship isn't making her happy, that alone is reason to leave. There's no need to stir up some kind of crazy drama to provide her with an "excuse" to leave.

That's not how grownups go about it.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:37 PM on July 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


its a really bad idea. please dont.
posted by supermedusa at 4:41 PM on July 17, 2010


She likes this other guy? Help her realize that she could be with him (or any number of other great guys) if only she'd leave her shitty partner FIRST.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:41 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a horrible, horrible idea. If you want to encourage her to live a happy life, do that, but do not meddle like this if you want to keep her as a friend. There are countless way this could blow up in your face.
posted by Brent Parker at 4:50 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's perfectly ethical, but only if you're absolutely honest with her about the whole thing.

"Look, you really need to leave X. He's poisonous, and he's made your life miserable. So if being with Y gets you away from X, then I say – go for it! Have fun! Honestly, I want you to be happy – I think the only way you can be happy is to get away from X – so if you need Y for a while, as a shoulder to cry on or somebody to take care of you or help you out or just as a crutch or whatever, please do it."

Notice that this is contingent on the central duty you have here, which (I hate to say this) I get the feeling you're trying to avoid. That is: if you know she's been physically abused, and is currently being verbally abused regularly, you really have to say something to her about it. You have to encourage her to get out of it. Lying to her and telling her you think an unfitting new romantic relationship is a good idea when really it's just a means to an end isn't friendship; it might be benevolent manipulation, but it's still manipulation.
posted by koeselitz at 4:52 PM on July 17, 2010


(And, for what it's worth, no, I don't think this is an inherently bad idea. Often people have to have some help and support to get away from a bad situation. If she wants and needs the support of having a new sexual or romantic relationship, even just for a little while, in order to get away from a bad guy, then it's a good thing. But I do think that ought to be a conscious decision on her part; because honesty, both with other people and with yourself, is a good policy, and if you're going to be dishonest with your abuser, you have to at least be certain that you're being honest with yourself.)
posted by koeselitz at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2010


Sounds:
1) Unethical
2) Probably unsafe.
Why can't she just leave the guy without cheating on him?
posted by vanitas at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2010


Bad idea.

It sounds like you think that your friend has self-esteem issues that weaken her to the point of not being able to leave a man, unless she has another one to go to. And this is probably true.

However, encouraging "serial monogamy", and a new man as the "exit strategy" is only making things worse. (the potential for the abuser becoming more abusive is only one part of the "worse" here - her self-esteem issues will not resolve until she does something by herself for herself.)

A real pal would encourage and help her leave by offering a bed to sleep on while she sorts out new living arrangements.
posted by dabitch at 5:02 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your friend sounds like someone who jumps from frying pan to frying pan to frying pan. What you propose is to dump her out of the frying pan into a vat of molten lava. There's a list a mile long of things that could go wrong with your proposal, and the single good thing that could happen as a result of it is not really what should be happening, because really, she needs to exit the bad relationship, stay single for a while and straighten her self esteem out, and only then find a new partner; one who will treat her right.

So, no, it's not an ethical solution. It's not a non-ethical solution, either. It's just a bad idea.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:02 PM on July 17, 2010


Yeah, seconding dabitch and seanmpuckett. These horrible, abusive relationship situations aren't pieces of simple bad luck that randomly befell your friend. There's some deep-seated issue with her psyche and relationship models (childhood abuse? low self-esteem? daddy issues? who knows?) that's making her attracted to these awful guys and awful interactions. Even in the best-case scenario where she leaves Old Guy and hooks up with New Guy, she's likely either (a) to have an abusive and messed-up relationship with New Guy, or (b) to leave New Guy for yet another abuser.

Rather than focusing on the local problems with this current relationship, supposing you help your friend address the global issues by helping her to get some counseling or treatment? As others have said, her best chance at breaking this cycle is to remedy the underlying problems that make her seek these situations in the first place.
posted by Bardolph at 5:14 PM on July 17, 2010


You should encourage her to leave her abuser, not to make the situation exponentially more complicated.

Yes. This (or at the very least least encouraging her to get into therapy) is the only safe, ethical, and loving thing for a true friend to do in this situation. For you to encourage her to cheat on her abuser as a way out of the relationship is to encourage her to put herself in potentially deadly harm's way. To frame it as a question about the ends justifying the means misses the point entirely.
posted by scody at 5:25 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two wrongs do not make a right.
posted by Flood at 5:25 PM on July 17, 2010


Would it be ethical for me to encourage her to romantically involve herself with him?

You'd be encouraging unhealthy behavior in an already unhealthy individual and potentially making an unhealthy situation even unhealthier, demanding on just how much of a asshole the current boyfriend is. Does that sound ethical? Safe? Sane?

What are the ethical/moral implications of doing so?

You gotta stick around and listen to her drama and be there. After all you're injecting yourself into this. If you're going to be her partner in crime in a while, ethics demand you see her through the entire thing.

Of course, there's not much ethics following with criminals, so maybe that's stretching the analogy to far, but you get the point.
posted by new brand day at 5:26 PM on July 17, 2010


Should I encourage my friend with the motorcycle to sell his protective gear so that the next time he wipes out he gets scraped up and will stop riding?

Should I give my next paycheck to my junkie friend so that he can hurry up and hit rock bottom already and decide to kick?
posted by Rhomboid at 5:39 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are you kidding me? Cheating on a potentially abusive partner sounds like the worst idea ever.

This, and InspectorGadget's response, and dabitch's:

However, encouraging "serial monogamy", and a new man as the "exit strategy" is only making things worse. (the potential for the abuser becoming more abusive is only one part of the "worse" here - her self-esteem issues will not resolve until she does something by herself for herself.)

I can't see any way in which this is likely to make things better. More likely it will muddy the waters (giving the abusive partnert an excuse to be abusive), possibly result in a third party getting his arse kicked, and teach your friend nothing about how to exit a toxic relationship.

You want to talk worst-case scenarios? Look at this, this.
posted by rodgerd at 5:55 PM on July 17, 2010


Sounds like a good way to get your friend killed.

Sorry to chime in late, but to confirm an abusive partners delusions (if applicable, which it usually is) is the last thing you want to do.
posted by Pax at 6:13 PM on July 17, 2010


No, it's not ethical to encourage someone to do something unethical. Have you talked to her about how worried you are?

The thing about breakups and other turning points is that they reorient your trajectory. Support her in decision-making that will lead her onto a path where she is proud of her ability to take care of herself.
posted by salvia at 6:19 PM on July 17, 2010


She needs to search out a new relationship when she is no longer being hurt, and can think clearly.

As for you, what you're proposing is little more than meddling.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:20 PM on July 17, 2010


Nope.
posted by 2oh1 at 6:52 PM on July 17, 2010


Help her find a shelter for battered women or let her live with you after the relationship ends. Support her emotionally or even financially if necessary, but don't endanger her. That's all your plan would end up doing.

If you aren't willing to do the first two things I suggested, then mind your own business. You don't have her true happiness/well-being at heart.

On a slightly related note, I used to volunteer in a shelter for battered women here in PA. Not sure where you live, but this shelter was wonderful. It's really hard to abandon your life and go to an unfamiliar place. The folks who run these shelters know how hard it is and try to make it as much of a home as it can be. If she has no one else in her life she can run to, it's always a good place to turn. Plus, they are meticulous about who knows where the shelter is and who they let onto the property. Very safe places, in my experience.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:52 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


How is her relationship any of your business? Back off. Let her make her own decisions and mistakes. Your role is to listen and offer tissues, not advice. Let her know you'll be there whatever she decides and detach with love.
posted by kidelo at 8:25 PM on July 17, 2010


It sounds like she's usually attracted to abusive men if she's dated more than one of them. How do you know that this guy won't abuse her as well?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 PM on July 17, 2010


Bad, bad idea. If this new guy rejects her that might further damage her confidence. That loss of self-esteem could make her more willing to accept her current relationship. She's not a puppet for you to manipulate even if you have good intentions.

Treat her with dignity and respect. Encourage her to leave because she deserves better.
posted by 26.2 at 12:38 AM on July 18, 2010


Encouraging someone to cheat on their partner is unethical under any circumstances, but it could also be particularly dangerous in the case of an abusive relationship like the one you've described. You say that their lives are intertwined enough to make leaving this relationship messy, but adding cheating to the mix will only make it that much messier! Your friend needs to learn to pick up and leave without clinging on to the next guy that comes along. The best thing you can do for her is be there to support her, but definitely don't suggest cheating as the quickest way out. Hopefully, she'll come to her senses and end the relationship on her own.
posted by HStern at 12:41 AM on July 18, 2010


No. Abuse is excuse enough to get out of there. Don't help her heap pain on top of pain.
posted by cross_impact at 10:50 AM on July 18, 2010


Even if she did cheat, there is no guarantee that would break up the relationship. It may escalate the abuse, could lead to stalking by the abusive guy, who knows. Your friend needs to get healthy (and I think you do too, if you can't see how f'ed up and dysfunctional it is to encourage two people to get together so she can leave an abusive relationship. She'd be using (and abusing) the other guy's good faith in developing a relationship - how would you feel if you were used romantically to get out of an abusive relationship?). She needs to get help for her abusive relationship situation, not figuring out how to get out by getting into another one and cheating on her current partner. Unfortunately, this is a choice SHE has to make to improve her situation. She cannot be forced by anyone to leave; she has to value herself and her life enough to get safe and stay safe, which is a ton of work and for which she would need a lot of support for. I suggest contacting a local women's shelter, or calling a domestic violence hotline (google them for your area). In the meantime, please read (and have her read) Why does he do that? by Lundy Bancroft. This is an amazing book and explains why abusers are abusive, how to get out of an abusive relationship, and how to support friends/family who are in one.
posted by foxjacket at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2010


I'll skip mentioning that this could escalate the problem and everything else that's already been mentioned. I will say that this could be bad for you in the end as well if you were found to have a part or to have encouraged your friend to make this decision. It's not smart at all. Plan an intervention and get her out in a way that leaves with strength and dignity not a mistake that could further harm her in a number of ways.
posted by grablife365 at 7:26 PM on July 18, 2010


The thing is, anyone she's liable to be interested in right now is probably also abusive/has flaws that are attracting her.

I know you're thinking it's the lesser of two evils - cheat and get out of really bad relationship, or stay in really bad relationship, but... until she can realize what is going on within her, for her to want to stay in a bad relationship, future relationships are probably going to be similar.
posted by Locochona at 7:43 PM on July 18, 2010


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