September 2, 2013 8:21 AM   Subscribe

I drunkenly fooled around with a married friend and now feel terrible about it. What, if anything, do I do next?

At a rowdy, drunken, late-night party, a friend and I ended up fooling around for a while before I realized I was too drunk and went home. We did not actually have sex, but it was more than an innocuous kiss. I am single, but my friend is happily married. I'm not close to my friend's wife, but I've met her once or twice and we are Facebook friends.

I feel bad about what happened. My inclination is just to never mention it again and let my friend tell his wife when / if he wants to, but do I have an ethical obligation to do something more? Do I need to tell her myself even though I barely know her, or do I butt out because for all I know they have the kind of relationship where this is permissible? Do I bring it up with him or avoid contacting him or act like it never happened? Help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total)
My inclination is just to never mention it again and let my friend tell his wife when / if he wants to

Your instincts are quite correct.

but do I have an ethical obligation to do something more?

Absolutely not.

If you tell his wife, you're doing so to unburden yourself at the expense of their marriage.
posted by atrazine at 8:24 AM on September 2, 2013 [48 favorites]

Agree with atrazine. But:

Do I need to tell her myself even though I barely know her, or do I butt out because for all I know they have the kind of relationship where this is permissible?

That's pretty bullshitty, and you probably know it. Avoid getting so drunk that you make choices like these that are likely to complicate friendships--and other people's marriages.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:27 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

My inclination is just to never mention it again and let my friend tell his wife when / if he wants to, but do I have an ethical obligation to do something more?

Your inclination is correct. Your ethical obligation is to yourself. You promise yourself you will never, ever do something like this again. And you don't.
posted by Dolley at 8:27 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you tell his wife, you're doing so to unburden yourself at the expense of their marriage.


It's not about clearing your conscience, you lost that luxury when you acted improperly. Make this a learning experience and make the choice now to not do such things in the future.
posted by Cosine at 8:30 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with the above. And don't bring it up with him and yeah, keep your distance from him, at least for a while.
posted by Specklet at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2013

All of the above!
But. He may want to talk about it. If it's necessary to do so, wave it off, make it clear that it was a huge mistake and it will never ever happen again, and that he should consider it forgotten for all intents and purposes.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 8:48 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm going to go against the grain and say that if I was the wife, I would want to know so I could make the decision whether I wanted to stay with a cheater or leave. Telling her might risk their marriage, but the real risk was her husband's choice to cheat.

You aren't obligated to tell her since she's not your friend, but if I were her, I would like to know.
posted by parakeetdog at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

if I was the wife, I would want to know

Get back to me when news of a one-time, fairly innocent, drunken fooling around session has destroyed the trust and faith in your marriage and looks to be driving the two of you towards separation.
posted by Cosine at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2013 [15 favorites]

I agree with atrazine. As for how to deal with the dude, however, I think you should address the issue directly with him, as soon as you seem him next. Make absolutely clear to him that it was a mistake and will never happen again, and that you will respect whatever decision he makes regarding telling his wife or not. Be prepared, though, that if he decides to tell his wife, you are likely to be portrayed as the "bad guy" (by her, if not him). You will have to live with that, I'm afraid.
posted by Halo in reverse at 9:01 AM on September 2, 2013

I would also consider backing off on your friendship with him. I have married male friends who I have vibes with, especially when alcohol is involved and I don't hang out with them. Facebook friends, sure, a chit chat or friendly chat at social gathering we're both at? Sure. Something light and none of the intense emotional sharing that might come natural because you are "such close friends" or whatever bullshit you're using to pretend it's completely platonic.

Many of us as humans can lie to ourselves so well and so hard about our intentions and feelings interacting with others ESPECIALLY relating to crushes/attraction. I'm a really sexual person myself, and I know it, so if a have a "deep friendship" with a man I know we are in a great position for sexual intimacy which for me grows out of that kind of friendship quite naturally.

Hence, I do not be "really good friends" with married men. They have a best lady friend and it's not me. Other people have different relationship boundaries or vision of friendships in relationships than I do, and that's fine, but it's a boundary I uphold for myself because not doing so has resulted in SO MANY sexual gestures or oopsy we got feeling situations with married or partnered men that I'm just not going there any more. What's more in observing how people who believe in having both a spouse and "best friends" works out, I've just seen the same "surprise!" incidents like this happen so often I think it's just a likely thing that will happen if you choose to have close friends who are attractive and hang out with them a lot and allow the intimacy to grow "platonically". Yes some people make it work, and some people do the open marriage thing and it works, but it requires a lot of awareness that this is a likely thing to occur and you have to be prepared to preemptively stop such things from happening.

I had a good friend whose boyfriend made a pass at me and I didn't tell her. Years later she told me, "I feel like he was cheating?" I said I thought so. I don't have an answer on whether it's better to tell or not tell, but I really think you should back off on trying to be friends with this guy and let him sort out why this happened and how to deal with it in his marriage without your help in "talking about it together".

If you make this something you need to resolve with him it's another thing drawing you two together and him outside of the trust of his marriage and it's kind of weird.

Of the married men who have made passes on me while married I am happy to hear a yearly update in their lives, I haven't mentioned it to their wives (once the wife was even there but I think uncomfortable) and I stopped hanging out. That was it. If they learn from it or decide to be faithful or not to their spouses it's not my business other than that I'm not interested in being part of it, or being present for any more accidents.

It always starts innocent. You might not be anything like me and so this may not apply, just what I've learned from my own experiences.
posted by xarnop at 9:05 AM on September 2, 2013 [23 favorites]

Exactly how did you get into this position? It sounds like underneath it all, you might want to break up this marriage. Be very careful, I propose to you this situation is not what it seems.

Let me assure you a million percent this guy is explicitly not your friend. Drunk or sober, when you are married, you know it. He's put you in a painful and awful position. Be very very careful.

Stop seeing this guy as attractive. He's the type to cheat on his wife without warning or reason. You say they're happily married, so as far as the wife knows, her relationship is solid. I mean, it's not like they're separated or the marriage is on its last legs or anything... The conclusion is either this guy is super immature and doesn't take his vows seriously -or- this guy is super unethical and a dirty cheater. Neither possibility is the type of person you want to be associated with.

You can get hurt here in many ways, including damaging your reputation amongst your friends.

I suggest you back slowly away from this fellow. You don't want him spreading malicious rumors about you out of fear you might blab first to mutual friends, right?

No, I don't think you should vilify him or anything! Rather, you need to open your eyes and see this situation for what it is.

"Happily" married men who drunkenly fool around with friends at parties are exactly the sort of men you shouldn't touch with a 50 ft pole.

This guy is not your friend, at best he's a frenemy, and you should be wary for your own sake.

His poor wife. Certainly she'll find out soon enough who she married, so don't get sucked into this any deeper, OK?

Protect yourself.

Be polite and distant and never speak of this again.

If he contacts you about what happened, pretend you were too drunk to remember.

Back away from the drama. I know it's tempting, but back away, back away.

(And drunk or sober, never ever again kiss someone already in a committed relationship!!!)
posted by jbenben at 9:35 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

No big deal, IMO. Minor damage here and there remotely possible, but hasn't happened. Calm down and keep quiet. Forgive yourself.

That said, you have a data point from your behavior that you can use to improve it. You really don't need metafilter to tell you this was not a good idea, do you? Just be aware that like everyone, everywhere, the first casualty of your alcohol use is your sober judgment, which you know would have prevented this easily but which you put to sleep by drinking. You're damned lucky enough of it remained to put the skids on this.

This goes in the box of 'things I can't believe I did' and narrow misses. It's far from the end of the world and you are not a terrible person and your friend is not going to go kill his wife and run off with you. Just some transient embarrassment all around. Forget part of it, but remember the lesson. Alcohol and judgment are inversely related. With you, perhaps enough that you might want to be more careful.

I have had drunken friends hit on my wives before. They were drunk. I won't even mention the drunken wife stories or the drunken fauxscot stories... all in the dim past. Keep your mouth shut and watch your boozing and make better decisions. You'll be fine.

The goal, over time, is to live a good life and not hurt folks. A lot of paths lead through empty wine bottles, so to speak, but if you just work on being good and getting better, it will all work out.
posted by FauxScot at 10:43 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm going to go against the grain here and say that not only should you keep your mouth firmly shut, but that you should not feel bad about this.

You really have no idea what's inside their marriage. For all you know, she doesn't like making out and being able to indulge that need occasionally with other people is what keeps him happily married.

Did you enjoy it? Good! Did he enjoy it? Good! Now don't make anyone miserable, including but not limited to yourself.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:48 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Responding as a person in a polyamorous marriage: my spouse and I would never make out with someone without first clarifying that we have, not the "permission," but the loving support of our spouse, who trusts to engage in such activity. This not only makes it clear there's no "cheating" going on, but that the make-out partner must recognize our prior central commitment, lest they entertain fantasies of displacing it.

As for fingersandtoes idea--yes, it's certainly possible that making out with others keeps the man you made out with happy in his marriage, but unless he does so with the knowledge and support of his wife, that doesn't mean that it is supportive of *her* needs. You can't have an "open relationship" without being open with your partner about what's going on. . .

In short, I agree with others--don't go to the wife of this man to make yourself feel better, but do ensure you avoid repeating this encounter. If drinking makes you forget to have a conversation with a potential sexytimes partner about doing so responsibly (healthwise and with regard to emotions and attachments), I suggest you make a rule for yourself not to make out drunk, or not to get drunk when you're in the mood.
posted by DrMew at 11:02 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah.. I agree with fingersandtoes here. Stop beating yourself up over it. Keep your cool. Don't meddle into their relationship (especially since you don't seem to know much about their relationship at all), unless you want to get involved as a third wheel or something (which it seems like you don't?). Don't act like it never happened, because it did happen and clearly it will affect you. Try to do better next time. Best of luck.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 11:02 AM on September 2, 2013

I agree with FauxScot and the others, this incident in itself is pretty minor, and not worth telling the wife about since it could so easily be blown out of proportion. I would back off from the guy without making any dramatic statements.

That said, only you know whether or not it is a sign of larger, more serious patterns in your life (or your friend's, but dealing with that side of it is his problem). If it is, this is a chance for your to address those issues now before the next round does some serious damage.
posted by rpfields at 11:02 AM on September 2, 2013

So, if my husband did this with someone and then he told me about it honestly and fairly promptly, I would be more-or-less okay with it.

If he did this with someone and I found out from her before he told me (whether he'd meant to tell me or not), I would feel like he'd been dishonest, be royally pissed, and lose some trust.

Don't talk to the wife yourself.
posted by anotherthink at 11:12 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

These types of questions divide mefites into two clear camps: those of us who would want to know and those who wouldn't. I personally would very much want you to tell me immediately and directly that you slept with my spouse. Others would not want that. Therefore, there is no "correct" answer and you must base your decision on your own moral compass.

I think the most important part of this for yourself is that you clearly feel you made a bad choice and you can make changes in the future (limiting your alcohol in certain contexts, for example) to avoid this ever happening again.
posted by latkes at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

(Addendum: If you slept with my spouse, I guess my first choice would be that you told my spouse, "I need you tell your wife this in the next week or so, otherwise I need to tell her myself", thereby giving spouse a chance to come clean.)
posted by latkes at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

It sounds like underneath it all, you might want to break up this marriage.

I genuinely have no idea where this is coming from. Nothing in the OP's words indicates this.

I personally would very much want you to tell me immediately and directly that you slept with my spouse.

The OP did not have sex with the married friend. There was no sex.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Contemplating telling the wife is total drama-making and exactly the sort of thing one contemplates when the real (possibly unacknowledged?) goal is to split these two people up.

OP, don't do it.
posted by jbenben at 2:57 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think a lot of the agency of this dude is being disregarded here. Like, he's the one in the relationship. I'm surprised that the whole "lol shitty other woman and her tricksy vagina trap" thing is being rolled out here when probably quite a few of the same people were just shitting on that on the front page.

Really, he's the one in the relationship, you're not. Yes it's a bit more shitty because you knew he was, but that's still his commitment and not yours.

I'm mostly with jbenben that i would be wary of being "friends" with this dude post this event. Friendships seem to pretty much end, quite often, when anything like this gets injected in to them. And plus, now you know he's that kind of guy.

I notice that you don't even mention how drunk he was, and it's possible he was just nursing a few beers throughout the night, no? This may very well have been a fairly calculated move on his part or at least just being really impulsive and "eh i want to make out with her and she's right there". As jbenben said, you could easily be thrown under the bus here as "really drunk and just started making out with me" with some creative framing around that.

Also if you notice i didn't pass any judgement on whether or not you should tell his wife. I think you probably shouldn't, but just because if this isn't a one time thing she'll find out anyways... and there's a large possibility of it being a bit of a nuclear bazooka where you're too close to outrun the explosion and fallout, and a lot of it gets on you.

I'm not as much in the camp of the other people who think that you'd just be doing it to clear your conscience and just be all "i did my part" even though that's racking up a ton of favorites. And that's mostly since i think there's a pretty legitimate point of "well i'd want to know".

But really, save that for if you see him doing it with someone else. Reporting this types of things tends to go a lot better when you're just a witness and not a participant.

File this one in the databank as something to watch out for, and him as someone to watch out for.

And really, i'd do some thinking not just on "what led me to this?" but fuck, focus on him a little bit. How drunk was he? how did the situation play out? Who initiated it? etc. It just seems quite plausible that doing this with you was the cookie he thought he could get away with stealing from the jar here, when it came to his relationship.
posted by emptythought at 3:00 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

1) You are not a party to the marriage, therefore you have no particular responsibilities WRT it and whatever terms (i.e. vows) it's based upon; however, it is generally a bad idea to be in, or in a place to potentially be in, a relationship with a married person where you don't know for a fact that the other person is OK with it. ("For a fact" as in you've actually spoken to the other person.)

2) Following on #1, nthing the suggestion that you put up some serious boundaries between you and this dude. Again, it's his responsibility--when I was married, I deliberately avoided certain situations (involving privacy and/or alcohol) that included women that I was strongly attracted to; I don't regret this particularly, even though I regret the marriage itself--but nonetheless, for your own good, I'd make that fence as high as it needs to be. If it's still low enough to chat over (or through), then fine and dandy; if not, well, the alternative could be much, much worse.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should probably keep it to yourself.

If the guy elects to unburden himself to his wife, prepare for some fallout.

The notion that you are somehow blameless because you are not the one in the marriage is rhetorical nonsense designed to whitewash the conscience.

You should never insert yourself into anyone's relationship. You made the mistake once by making out with the guy. Don't make that mistake again by telling the wife.
posted by PsuDab93 at 9:02 AM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

The OP did not have sex with the married friend. There was no sex.

"Having sex" is a surprisingly subjective category of behavior. If my spouse kissed and "fooled around" in a sexual way with someone besides me, I would want to know pretty immediately so I could make my own, informed decision about how that behavior fit or didn't with agreed-on sexual behaviors.
posted by latkes at 10:26 AM on September 3, 2013

I think a lot of the agency of this dude is being disregarded here.

His "agency" isn't relevant to answering the OP's question.

OP, you were drunk and did something stupid. It happens. If it doing stupid things while you're drunk continues to be a thing, then look into cutting down on drinking. Otherwise, realize you'd done something that didn't make you feel good, decide if that's an issue, forgive yourself and then move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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