What in blue hell am I supposed to say?
August 9, 2010 3:03 PM   Subscribe

My friend is seeing a married man. I am NOT excited at all for her. How do I stay out of it when all she ever does is talk about how great he is? Help me mind my own business.

My friend, whom I'll call Marie, told me that she met a guy. She sounded so happy, so when she told me that he was married my heart just sunk. Of course, she had all of the rationalizations for it in the world when I told her I hope she didn't get hurt. The man and his wife are still living together but "separated". Yeah, right. They also have teenage children. Marie should know better. I told her that, and she assured me that she knew that, and that "this was different". I think he's just a rat bastard playing on my lonely friends emotions. I know I can't stop her from this inevitable train wreck, what can I do when she starts gushing how great he is without exploding about how stupid she's being. I know it's none of my business but she's been hurt so bad before it hurts me to stand by and watch it happen yet again.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Say, "I'm happy you're happy, but be cautious, okay? I've heard so many stories of cheating guys who pretend that their marriage is on the rocks when really they have no intention of leaving their wives. It makes me really nervous for you, and I don't want to see you get hurt."
posted by amro at 3:07 PM on August 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Listen to her, tell her periodically that you are concerned about her situation, and specifically let her know you are worried that she'll be hurt again. Ask her, too, if she feels comfortable about the prospect of 1) being in a "mom" role with teenagers and 2) being with a man who has gone out looking for a relationship while still married.

Your strongest message may be that she deserves and is worth much more than this.

It is helpful not to explode at or criticize her intelligence, because all that will do is drive her away. But you don't have to be her cheerleader about this choice, either.
posted by bearwife at 3:09 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

say your piece, which it seems like you have, and then treat her like a friend who's dating a guy you don't like. be happy for her happy times, sad for her sad, and never say "i told you so".
posted by nadawi at 3:10 PM on August 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

I know it's none of my business

You've done all you can do. Be genuinely happy for her if she is happy. Be genuinely there for her if she gets hurt. Realize and accept that you cannot control other people and will only bring yourself and her misery if you try to.
posted by spatula at 3:11 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think he's just a rat bastard playing on my lonely friends emotions.

That's a negative attitude to take towards your friend, thinking of her as lonely and vulnerable, unable to take care of herself.

I know I can't stop her from this inevitable train wreck, what can I do when she starts gushing how great he is without exploding about how stupid she's being.

Say "That is has the potential to end badly, be careful with your heart, time and money. He's married and he's still living with her."

Repeat as often as necessary.
posted by nomadicink at 3:12 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

How bout saying something like: "I don't want to be a killjoy, but when you talk about this guy, you put me in a very difficult position. You know how I feel about him. I can see how happy you are, but it's all I can do to hold back my increasing dread for you. When we're together, can we talk about other things? And when he is divorced and you are together I will invite you to say "I told you so." And if the worst happens and he ends up being a rat bastard, I want to be there to help you through it. (And I won't say "I told you so.") But for now, can we just talk about other things? There is so much I like about you that does not involve this new guy. Can we please focus on that stuff?"

Ultimately a good friend is willing to hurt your feelings for your own good. And then withstand their anger and be there for them anyway.
posted by cross_impact at 3:17 PM on August 9, 2010 [39 favorites]

In my long and varied experience with this sort of thing, nothing you say will make a difference, nothing at all. It will all be in one ear and out the other. If you need to tell your your blunt opinions, do it once, and then don't bother doing it again. The only time anything you say might slightly resonate with her, is in the aftermath of this whole trainwreck when all the things you are afraid will happen, have actually happened. If I were you I'd save my breath until then, and even then, stay away from "I told you so" because that makes people stubborn and defensive, and just more try to steer the conversation towards how and why she thinks the situation ended up happening.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:19 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

I've been in this position with a friend before. I didn't want my views to threaten our own friendship, so I concentrated less on the judgmental stuff (aka "how can you do this to his children?") and would focus more on how it would impact her ("I just wish you could be in a romantic situation with someone who had less complications/baggage to bring to the table.") Or I would ask her seemingly neutral questions: ("So, out of curiosity-- what if things work out with you two long term and he divorces his wife. Do you think he'd want more kids with you?") Things to make her examine whether this guy really lined up with what she wanted, long term.

My friend's heart got badly broken anyway. The man chose his wife ultimately, my friend felt like a fool. I was there for her, without a hint of "i told you so" and our friendship remained unharmed by her choices.
posted by np312 at 3:25 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you're really uncomfortable even hearing about it, tell her so. "I know you're happy and OK with this situation, but I'm not. You're a big girl and you can make your own decisions, but I don't want to hear about or discuss them, and I won't." Then change the subject.

But definitely be there without judgment or told-you-sos when things (inevitably, imho) fall to bits.
posted by KathrynT at 3:37 PM on August 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Exact situation I was in. One of my good friends was "with" a man she absolutely adored but was completely bad for her. Using her for emotional support and sex. He wasn't married, but he did have a GF when they met and always kept her on the side while doing whatever with other women. This wasn't just youthful ignorance either. They were both just over 30.

This lasted for a year.

She would come to me and want to talk about it. The good and the bad. About every two to three months we would have heartfelt talks about what she was going to do. It became too much of a strain and I couldn't be nice anymore.

It's not your place to support her after making your position known. I viewed the same as if she had some type of addiction. You can be her friend, but that doesn't mean you have to feed the addiction.

She eventually saw the light, so to speak, and moved on.

My point? You can't do anything to help. You can only do your best to stay sane. I told her not speak of him around me that worked pretty well.

Not the nicest advice, but after months and months of the same cycle it got too much for me. My and your mental health is more important that supporting your friend's poor life choices.
posted by damionbroadaway at 3:42 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're really uncomfortable even hearing about it, tell her so. "I know you're happy and OK with this situation, but I'm not. You're a big girl and you can make your own decisions, but I don't want to hear about or discuss them, and I won't." Then change the subject.

But definitely be there without judgment or told-you-sos when things (inevitably, imho) fall to bits.
posted by KathrynT

This. I came here to say this, but KathrynT beat me to it, so I'll just quote her for emphasis.
posted by patheral at 3:53 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Telling her to not talk to you about him will just hurt your friendship with her in the long run. Friendship is about sharing your life's experiences with each other and if she can't share such a big part of her life with you then how can you still be her friend? If she doesn't tell you about the good times, then how can you expect her to tell you about the bad times?
posted by p1nkdaisy at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Telling her to not talk to you about him will just hurt your friendship with her in the long run.

Constantly bombarding a friend with an uncomfortable subject will hurt the friendship as well. If the OP gently tells her friend that this is a taboo subject I don't see how it will hurt their friendship. Neither person should have to bite the bullet.
posted by patheral at 4:22 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing the point that you don't have to talk about this situation with your friend if it makes you uncomfortable. I once got back together with an ex-boyfriend, fully aware that it was a bad idea, knowing that it would end in tears, and a good friend did one of the best things a friend has ever done for me--she refused to engage when I brought him up. Whether I was gushing or complaining or justifying, she'd nod politely and change the subject. Her tacit disapproval brought home the point that this was a Bad Idea better than anything she could have said.
posted by corey flood at 4:26 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think he's just a rat bastard playing on my lonely friends emotions.

That's a negative attitude to take towards your friend, thinking of her as lonely and vulnerable, unable to take care of herself.

You're reading more into this than is actually in the original statement, and judging and chastising the OP for it. Perhaps the OP knows her friend better than you ( "I know it's none of my business but she's been hurt so bad before it hurts me to stand by and watch it happen yet again. ").

At any rate, I like what KathrynT says.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:27 PM on August 9, 2010

i've been told that my relationship is a taboo topic, not to be discussed.

how can it hurt a friendship to hear that? think about going out with your friends, think about every single story that even mentions someone's significant other - now imagine that one person at the table has been asked not to discuss her partner. can't you see how that might change the dynamic? how that might hurt things? it's hard to be in a conversation where one person is free to say "boyfriend and i did this, and that, and this other thing this weekend." "omg, boyfriend said the funniest thing last night", "i was discussing politics with boyfriend and it occurred to me, blah blah blah" and the other person isn't.

you can set boundaries about topics or how in depth you want to discuss certain things, but to unilaterally say "i don't want to talk about him" is pretty much saying "i don't want to talk to you as long as you guys are dating".
posted by nadawi at 4:34 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

For the sake of dissent, it is possible that it actually IS different and that they are very in love. These things do happen. (Not that I would know...)

Agreeing with everyone that expressing your opinion once is enough. After that, just don't talk about it, or be vaguely non-responsive when she brings it up. She'll get the hint and stop talking with you about it.
posted by nosila at 4:50 PM on August 9, 2010

Well, maybe you do have to say that, unfortunately.

Your friend is doing something pretty seriously wrong. It's not just herself she's hurting. If she loses some social value over it, she should.

I don't enjoy the thought of punishing her but by making it an unfit topic for conversation, such that you don't withdraw your company altogether but you do indicate that she's doing something unspeakable, you stop feeding her addiction. But you will still be there for her when this guy blows her out and she has no other friends left, which unfortunately is the likely outcome.
posted by tel3path at 5:05 PM on August 9, 2010

Well, the next time she gets all excited, why don't you ask Marie when the separation period's going to be over so his divorce can be finalized? If she says that she doesn't know, ask her if he's shown her the paperwork he's filed, because you'd like to throw them a small party to celebrate their official "coming out" as a couple when the time is right.

(Note: Legal separation prior to divorce is a real thing, and the time period varies by state. If your friend is saying that her boyfriend and his current wife are legally separated as a precursor to divorce, then the boyfriend should have no qualms whatsoever showing her the paperwork involved. That said, by definition, "separation" means they cannot reside together. However, with the economy the way it is and so on, many people are fudging on this issue.)

If she is uncomfortable confronting him about it, I'd probably say: "Well, Marie, if you can verify he's legally separated, it'll keep a lot of people from gossiping about you or putting your relationship down. I just want you to be happy and not constantly having to defend your decisions or worry about what other people think."

I realize this is kind of an asshole way to talk about this with her, but the truth is, either he's legally separated or he isn't and your friend shouldn't feel bad about verifying this for her own peace of mind. If he is legally separated, you SHOULD be supportive and happy for her; not everybody can control whom they meet and when they have romantic feelings.

However, most of us here (probably correctly) believe your friend is being played. Instead of telling her not to talk about him or saying "told you so!", be logical instead. If she gets defensive or refuses to verify his story, I'd simply say, "Well, Marie, you already know I'm protective of you and I'd be very upset to hear you got your heart broken again. I hope I'm wrong about this, but maybe it's best if you keep your relationship with this guy to yourself for awhile until you're sure about where things are going. I'm happy that you're happy, but since people gossip and make assumptions, true or false, it's probably best if you keep your relationship with ______ private for now. That includes me, too, since I'd hate to get dragged into any divorce proceedings as a witness, especially since I don't know these people except for what you tell me."

Really, dragging you into this drama is putting you in danger. Danger of being confronted by the wife, the kids, or the boyfriend. All it takes is somebody grabbing her phone and scrolling through messages or getting into boyfriend's emails and seeing your name once on some ongoing chat or discussion log to drag you into court; if boyfriend isn't separated and his wife finds out he's having an affair, you could get dragged in as a witness when SHE files for divorce.

If you explain it to Marie in such a way that it's clear you're trying to protect yourself and not necessarily lecturing her or putting her down, she may actually think twice about talking about him with you. Maybe not. If not, then just change the subject when his name comes up. Don't respond. Don't feed the drama. Either she'll get it or she won't.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:12 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have relationship(s) that I choose not to discuss with a decent number of people. It's not ideal, and it does make me feel a little lonely sometimes, but I certainly can maintain friendships with those people. We just talk about other stuff.

Making it verboten is not, however, the best way to go about this. It will embarrass her a lot, and she's probably already pretty embarrassed.

I would just hang with her in situations where it's not easy to talk in depth about it. More movies, bigger groups, out in public. Fewer intimate coffee/drink one-on-ones. Then when she brought it up I would be as boring as possible. "Oh, hmm." Eventually she won't talk about it as much. Or you can do stuff like this: "Oh, he's separated but they live in the same house? They must get along really well." that will ideally make her think. Or "well, your happiness is really important to me". Rinse, repeat.

Yes, she's not being too savvy, but focus on the fact that this guy is the one who is married, and he's the one who is lying, and try not to be too hard on her.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:18 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You've done all you can do. Be genuinely happy for her if she is happy. Be genuinely there for her if she gets hurt. Realize and accept that you cannot control other people and will only bring yourself and her misery if you try to.

I disagree; I think its alright to not be genuinely happy for someone who is effectively destroying a relationship in secret.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:31 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Depends on how much energy you want to spend on your friend's love life again. You can always say, "dude, he's a playah!" and refuse to talk about it with her again. Is she over 21? Are you her mother? Her caretaker? No? Then decide how much you want to be involved in her drama and either accept her for what she is or move on.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:32 PM on August 9, 2010

I would approach a conversation with a friend in which she gushes about involvement with a married man pretty much the same way I'd approach a conversation with a friend in which she gushes about her super fun shoplifting habit. Neither is something I approve of, but neither hurts me. It made me uncomfortable when a friend of mine used to talk about her shoplifting, so I'd respond with a frown, a shrug, and a change of the subject--pretty much, "I don't know why you're doing that, I think it's wrong, and if you think it's the right choice for you, I'd rather not talk about it."

This isn't just a relationship with someone you don't like, it's a relationship that is very likely to damage a whole family--and both partners know that, but persist. I can bite my tongue while a friend goes on about a relationship with someone I find boring or dumb, but an affair with a married person who has kids? Gross. I don't want to listen to that.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:17 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

You obviously care about your friend very much, and are concerned about her getting hurt. This speaks to your loyalty and caring for your friend.

You also are to some extent claiming that she does not know what she is doing with regards to this relationship. You are saying you know best. It sounds like you are saying this without having met this person. You are not believing her when she describes how happy she is. I think it's important to try and hear what she's saying. It is absolutely possible that you are right, that this guy is a rat, and is not a positive thing in your friends life, and all that she will get out of this is unhappiness and heartbreak.

But your description of how she tells you about this relationship is quite positive, but you refuse to believe her.

Also, you don't know what the outcome of this relationship will be. I actually know of 2 relationships besides my own, 8+ year relationships that started as affairs but nonetheless end up in productive and happy relationships. It is not a "happy" thing and there is shame in admitting that, but just because it is seen as shameful, indeed, in your eyes it is shameful, but there are all kinds of happiness in the world. Now, that said, I'd like to emphasize that I'm not claiming your friends relationship is that.

Another aspect of all of this is that the man is still living in the same house as the spouse he's separated from. This is, sadly, more common given current economic conditions. Also, the man has a shared parental role there, no? So there is a real duty there and he needs to figure out, assuming that marriage is headed toward divorce, what his next move is. He has work to do, resolving the end of his marriage. If he does not have a plan, he needs to get one soon. Without a plan, I think your friend will care about it. And actually as I think about it, it's possible that if this fellow has no plan and is NOT headed toward divorce, he is then a relatively safe "fling" for your friend. She may have no illusions about the long term prospects for this relationship.

This sentence: "I know I can't stop her from this inevitable train wreck, what can I do when she starts gushing how great he is without exploding about how stupid she's being."

So, is this inevitably a train wreck? I say no. It's a possibility that it's not. I hope you can see that it may not be a the devastation you think it *must* be.

You also indicate you are suppressing exploding at her. You are preventing yourself from speaking your mind. That is A GOOD impulse. But perhaps there's a way for you to express your fear and concern for your friend, rather than focussing on the fact that it is apparently your JOB to correct her and to call her stupid. Good friends who call me stupid without also expressing their love and concern for me don't stay friends long. If you tell me I'm stupid very soon I'm going to stop seeking your counsel. I implore you to consider the fact that there may be another way to express your concern for your friend which is safe for you and respectful of your friend.

I think I understand very well where you're coming from. I have been in this situation in the distant past and handled it poorly. With time, I have gotten better about finding civil and loving ways to express disagreement with the life choices my friends make. I've also gotten better about accepting that it's not my job to tell everyone else how to make good decisions. I'm busy enough trying to make my own good (and bad) decisions.

Best to you.
posted by artlung at 6:50 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

If the man and his wife are amicably separated and living in the same house, I kinda think Marie should ask for (a) paperwork, or (b) to meet the wife. If he has a bunch of excuses if she asks for proof of this, and they still have to hide their phone calls and she can't call the house and crap like that, then I think we all can be pretty sure that he's one of Those Jerks.

At this point (assuming that he's feeding her the traditional line of bullshit), Marie is going to get her heart broken anyway. The only things that'll vary are how long the affair goes on before he dumps her and how much time she spends moping about him afterwards.

I think given the situation, it's not overly reasonable of Marie to expect you to be superhappy for her, and it's fairly reasonable for you to say that you are uncomfortable with the situation, say your piece one time (after reiterating about the proof of separation), and then ask if we just drop the subject. It's not great for the friendship, no, but neither is the friendship breaking up over this issue, or someone getting involved in a bad situation and the friend can't get her to see that the situation is destructive to herself.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:14 PM on August 9, 2010

I think it depends on your own values/morals/however you want to state it. It's all fine and well to say "Just be happy for her" etc. but if your friend is doing something you think is immoral or reprehensible, then why should you have to be okay with it?

If one of my friends were dating a married man or woman, I'd give them shit. Because I think it's wrong and it's against my moral code and I hold my friends and family (and, especially, myself) up to a high standard (and perhaps that's not fair, but that's just me), and also I am generally pretty blunt or at least honest with my feelings. In fact, one of my friends once cheated on her husband and I told her I wanted nothing to do with it--don't involve me, don't tell me about it, and certainly don't bring that other person around my home. If she wanted to talk about her marriage, that's fine; if she wanted to leave her husband and pursue the relationship, fine, but not only did I not want to be put in an awkward position with her and her husband, I didn't agree with her decisions and it would have been hypocritical for me to be cool with it when I was so livid with another friend's husband for cheating on her. People can jump on me for this, but I held firm to my own beliefs and values and I was able to maintain the friendship without getting involved or condoning my friend's behaviour.

Now, it may be a totally different scenario for you, depending on your own personal views and your relationship with your friend. But if it makes you uncomfortable or offends you, I think you were (and are) justified in telling her. Anyways, to get to the point and answer your question: I would decide if you can live with her choice or not, and if not you can either tell her to keep you out of it and not talk about him around you or you can decide not to be around her at all. You may lose your friend or she may withdraw from you (or vice-versa) until the day (likely) comes when it all blows up in her face and she needs a shoulder to cry on or realizes her mistake.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:17 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Throw a surprise party for her birthday or other event. Call the dude at home to invite him. If he doesn't show, make a nice speech at the event about how everyone who loves and cares for her is there. If he does show, then you did a nice thing for your friend.

If his shocked wife blows up and he gets pissed then he was lying to your friend and hopefully she'll see you helped her find that out. If she gets mad at you for making the truth obvious, then you're free of a poor friend who values drama over your wisdom.
posted by anildash at 8:33 PM on August 9, 2010

I don't know bout that, anildash. To me, that's just asking for trouble by getting directly involved and stirring the pot. I think there's a big difference between speaking your mind and meddling/trying to prove you are right; contriving a "surprise party" sounds really manipulative.
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:20 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You've gotten a lot of good advice about telling her how you feel once and then changing the subject. The one piece I would add to that is a warning that you will not lie to cover for anyone, period. It's one thing to be aware of something you don't condone, and it's another thing to be asked to lie to conceal something you don't condone, and making it clear that honesty is paramount to you is entirely fair. If it so happens that this guy and his wife are indeed "separated" while still living in the same house then no coverup will ever be necessary and everything is cool. But if what you suspect is actually the case, it's perfectly fair to alert her that you are not going to lie should someone ask you a direct question.

Disclosure: I say this as the ex-wife of a relentless philanderer. The first episode of infidelity I took incredibly personally, and had quite a bit of anger and rage that someone I'd never even met would willingly participate in something that caused me so much pain. That was over a decade ago, and I've moved on, but even today I would have a hard time maintaining a friendship with someone involved in such a relationship, and if that sounds harsh and judgy, so be it.
posted by ambrosia at 9:21 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

This has happened to me with 3 different friends and I've ended 3 friendships over it. I may seem like a jerk, but in the long run I'm happy I did it. People that do these things, do these things and I can't be involved in the years of pathetic phone discussions and creepiness of it anymore. But I am an old lady of 37 so YMMV. (Also, I've already gotten enough character study to write several shitty screenplays.)
posted by Kloryne at 9:30 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Found a mistake in your question here:
I know I can't AM UNWILLING TO stop her from this inevitable train wreck, what can I do when she starts gushing how great he is without exploding about how stupid she's being.
Fixed that for you.

Is your friend fucking herself up? Being (obviously) used? Is she making you uncomfortable with her self-delusion?

Tell her so. Quit pussyfooting around. Challenge her instead of cowering in a corner. Do you have a responsibility to her as a friend? Yes. It consists of honesty and that's mostly it.

You can help make her life better by being honest with her, brutally so if necessary, and forcing her to be honest with you, and (in turn) with herself. Does that make you (and apparently many of the commenters here) uncomfortable? What a pity.

Your friend is allowed to be ignorant, but she doesn't get to choose it, and you don't get to participate in it. You have other responsibilities and you should tend to them.
posted by waxbanks at 10:39 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I never had a friend get involved in a scenario like this, but I definitely witnessed my dearest friend completely destroy his life. He went from married, employed, stable, to divorced, unemployed and alcoholic within the space of a few months.

I spent loads of time with him. I expressed my disapproval of his choices, and he knew very well that he was hurting himself. I tried to be a positive, encouraging force for good in his life. So did his parents, and his sisters.

And then he killed himself. He recorded himself singing a cover of "Don't Worry, Be Happy," emailed it to his sisters and then he hung himself in his room. While it had always been a fear we had for him, no one saw it coming.

In retrospect, I don't think any of us, even his parents, realized how truly sick he was. His depression, his mental illness, was far too great for us to comprehend. What I saw as simple binge drinking before, I now understand as self-medicating behavior. My friend was in such mental and emotional pain that he simply could not cope.

Many of his loved ones were brutally honest with him about his behavior, but it didn't stop him, and in the end it didn't assuage our own remorse at losing him.

My point is that while it's easy to view this as a healthy person "who knows better" making a really poor choice in her life, there may be other unknown factors at play that nobody really understands. Such blatantly (to you, at least) self-destructive behavior could be indicative of deeper emotional issues, and those emotions are likely to have far more control over the situation than you or even your friend could hope to exert.

It's good to be honest about your concern, and your disappointment, and it's especially important to be loving and encouraging to your friend. But in the end, maybe she needs professional help? Maybe she needs to discuss her emotional needs with a counselor of some kind. Someone who is divorced from the situation itself, but is professionally invested in helping others with mental and emotional issues.
posted by jnrussell at 7:56 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

a lot of people seem to be answering "how do i judge my friend and ruin the friendship?" which is a fine question, i suppose, but not at all what the OP asked.

How do I stay out of it when all she ever does is talk about how great he is? Help me mind my own business.

demanding to see the seperation agreement? scheduling manipulative parties? constantly hounding her about her terrible life choices? these are not suggestions geared towards "help me mind my own business."

OP - you mind your own business by doing just that. let your friend discuss normal dating things and refuse to engage her if she brings up the drama or the wife or the kids or what have you.
posted by nadawi at 1:43 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

True, nadawi, but the question "how do I mind my own business" is a bit obvious. You answered it quite succinctly yourself.

So the larger question, the inferred question that seems to be on everyone's mind (including the OP's) is whether it's really OK to mind your own business in this situation. Hence all the long-winded sharing of similar experiences and the wide array of good-to-bad-to-terrible advice.

But yeah, you mind your own business by not bringing it up, politely changing the subject when necessary, and doing your best not to think about it. Personally, I'd have a really hard time following that advice. It would take a lot of work for me not to say, "stop being crazy!", and I think a lot of that people (including the OP) feel the same way. What advice is there to give about that? Ignore your feelings? Remove yourself from the situation? Pretend nothing is going on?

In this situation, it seems to me that minding your own business requires some level of ethical compromise in order maintain your relationship with your friend. To me the question is: "how can I reconcile my extreme ethical discomfort and my concern for my friend's well-being with my need to be understanding and not rock the boat?" And for me the answer is that I can't and I would definitely rock that boat. This may explain why I only have a few friends.

Taking the high road is lonely, and sometimes downright obnoxious. No one but you can judge what that high road means in this situation. Perhaps it is more ethical to speak up, but taking a long view, perhaps its more practical (and ultimately more ethical) to keep quiet and just be there.
posted by jnrussell at 2:21 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing: she is an adult, and he is an adult, and together they are in what is known as a "consenting adults" situation. They will have to deal with the consequences, which is as it should be. (I have a theory that some people like train wrecks the way some drama queens / kings can't stand a lack of drama and create it when necessary.) Meanwhile, what they do is nobody's business. You don't have to approve, condone or participate.

It is also worth considering that you have no way of knowing what the facts are with him and his wife (although you are probably right). Regardless, the only people responsible for his marriage are the two people in it.

I know it's hard to watch someone you care about do something that seems so profoundly unproductive, but it's her life, and it is what it is.
posted by SuzB at 3:28 PM on August 10, 2010

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