Do I tell my friend that her husband left her to date a former student?
June 20, 2015 6:48 AM   Subscribe

Should I tell her what my ex-friend is up to? If so, how should I tell her?

Two of my best friends divorced about 2 years ago. I was in the wedding 5 years ago and have been there for both of them for many hard times.

Male friend got me a job teaching at a school where he was an Admin. I worked there for 3 years and left last year for a new job. We were very close but the six months before I left, he was distant.

Male friend also had very close relationships with his students. Like he would throw birthday parties for one student in particular. Drive kids home, teach this particular student how to drive. Offered to adopt this student when she had immigration issues. He texted students on facebook and was there to support them through good and bad. All around he had somewhat bad boundaries but because of his stature in the school, no one really suspected him anything. Student in particular had graduated but they stayed very close and she would visit him at school whenever she came home from college.

About 2 years ago, male and female friend were divorced, Female friend was devastated, completely blindsided. She has been soul searching trying to figure out what happened to their marriage.

Two weeks ago, male friend called me and told me that he needed me to come over ASAP. When I get there, he tells me that he had been fired. I was shocked. He was a bastion of the community. He never had a bad performance review. He then tells me that over the last year, the school community had had him under investigation for nepotism and favoritism. After several investigations they had decided that it was a distraction and had decided to not renew his contract.

At this point I have no idea what is going on, and he says but "you know what was really happening? They fired me because they didn't like that I've been dating [former student] for the past year and a half." I felt sick.

Student is 20 and in college, they have had sex. I strongly doubt that anything illegal happened before she was 18. He told me he had declared the relationship to the school when they started dating and because there were no rules against it, they acknowledged that there was nothing illegal or against the rules in what he was doing. (They have since changed the policy).

I'm doing my best to keep my feelings out of all of this question but I was horrified and have cut him out of my life. The feelings of being lied to, and the feelings of betrayal on behalf of his wife were overwhelming.

Female friend continues to wonder and struggle with the reason for their divorce. She confided in me yesterday that she spends her therapy appointments trying to find out what happened. I didn't tell her because I wasn't sure if it was the right think to do or how to say it in a way that was the least harmful. Up until that conversation, I had assumed that she knew but we didn't speak of it. I didn't tell her partly because it didn't seem like the kind of news you just blurt out, I wanted to be strategic if I told her for the optimum outcome for her.


QUESTION:

Should I tell her what my ex-friend is up to? If so, how should I tell her? I am certain that she does not already know and I am certain that male friend has no plans to tell her. I do not want to interact with Male friend to give him a "you tell her or I will" ultimatum.

I am really the one person who is good friends with both of them. I'm a bit of a unique position, in addition, several of the staff members at the school found out so the information is out there. She might just find out eventually but I think it should come from a friend.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You probably shouldn't tell her, but it might be useful if you could clue in the therapist.
posted by jgreco at 6:56 AM on June 20, 2015


You say they were divorced two years ago and he started dating the student a year and a half ago by his own admission.

Unless I'm missing something and he was dating this student or other students while married, chalk it up to a post-divorce rebound fling in poor taste.
posted by quincunx at 6:56 AM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


No. They're divorced now, and it sounds like they are out of one anothers' lives entirely. Why does she need to hear about all or any of his post-divorce girlfriends? She has no need for this information and it would actively hurt her to hear it. It would be a different story if they were still married.

I'll note that you seem to be assuming that this dude was sleeping with students the whole time, and that's not clear to me at all. Sounds like maybe he made a lousy choice of post-divorce relationship six months after a split, a common enough story, and he went about it in an above-board way that wouldn't be likely if he were in the habit of inappropriate romances with his students the whole time.
posted by Andrhia at 6:58 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because she is suffering from so much agony trying to figure out what happened, I think you should tell her. I think it may help her move on. I also think it's naive to believe that the divorce and this relationship aren't related.
posted by Asparagus at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2015 [40 favorites]


I would tell her. She seems to be struggling and some clarity (and the fact it had nothing to do with her) may be really helpful to her moving on.

Also, he doesn't appear to think he's done anything wrong here so I can't see why he's have a problem with you telling her.

I'm really not a fan of keeping non secret information from friends unless there is a good reason or you think they would rather not know. Clearly she wants to know what happened to her marriage and it's seems pretty likely that him having inappropriate relationships with students, even if not consummated until after the divorce, almost certainly played a huge role in him divorcing her seemingly out of nowhere.
posted by whoaali at 7:08 AM on June 20, 2015 [20 favorites]


In this instance, I'm in Camp Tell. The poor woman is so obviously bewildered and struggling to figure out what went wrong in her marriage, and is spending much of her therapy time going round and round the subject. I think in this instance it would be a kindness to tell her - it would give her some clue as to what went wrong, and reassure her that the demise of her marriage was in no way her fault.

I know the conventional wisdom is that "it takes two to ruin a marriage" but I think in some cases it just takes one if that one is seriously cruel, clueless, selfish, and/or has a major personality disorder. I don't know if this guy has a diagnosable personality disorder or not, but he is certainly selfish, unethical, and has poor boundaries. I don't think there is going to be a happy ending for the unfortunate young woman he is now dating, either.

Even if he wasn't technically dating a student, it sounds as if he was grooming her. Bad news. Tell your friend so she can put the blame where it belongs - on HIM.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:13 AM on June 20, 2015 [23 favorites]


If you tell her, be prepared for her to dislike you for telling her.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:21 AM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


This merely an aside, but that guy tenured? I ask because if so the school would have to make a strong case to fire him.
posted by Postroad at 7:25 AM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was a three year marriage, with the divorce two years ago...?

I feel like your friend really, really needs to move forward and put this relationship in the past.

And this seems to have little to do with her marriage? The title is "left her to date a former student," but that doesn't match up with the timelines.

It sounds like she is having a hard time coming to terms with the end of the relationship. Perhaps it would be a kindness to not indulge that. Just because she is still dwelling on him doesn't mean others should indulge that -- it sounds like this is more the sort of conversation that would help her remain stuck rather than help her move on.
posted by kmennie at 7:28 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


How has she handled you continuing to be friends with him (until this)? Does she know you've now cut him off?
If anything, I would just bring up casually, "Wow, did you hear your ex got fired?" Tell her the basics - without your speculation that this is why he left her - and let her do whatever she wants with that information. She may hear it elsewhere, better to come from you, a friend.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:31 AM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


In this wonderful film called "The Weatherman," Michael Caine's character put it best: "The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same thing."
I believe you already know what you want to do, so I want to offer some guidance without giving you a yes/no answer.
* If you feel compelled to tell her because you would like to know in that situation, then examine both the feelings you have and the possible consequences (and be honest...there is both good and bad that could come of this).
* If you feel compelled to tell her because you think it is your duty as a friend, try to convince yourself why a good friend might not share such bad news.
You seem to be suffering as much, if not more, than your friend. It won't be easy, but the best advice I have for you is to commit yourself to a course of action, and then forgive yourself for the bad that comes of it.
posted by Mr. Fig at 7:39 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would tell her. If I found out you knew, and didn't tell me, I'd feel betrayed by two people.
posted by Aranquis at 7:40 AM on June 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


You probably shouldn't tell her, but it might be useful if you could clue in the therapist.

Jesus Christ no -- this is unethical on so many levels there are not enough fingers to count them on.

OP, I think you should tell your friend as this is likely to be or to become public knowledge in the wake of her ex-husband's contract termination. As you have said that they divorced two years ago and he and the former student started dating 18 months ago, I would not propose this as the reason they got divorced.

I'm a bit of a unique position, in addition, several of the staff members at the school found out so the information is out there. She might just find out eventually

This is hot gossip, because humans are dreadful. She's going to find out. Better than it comes from you than someone else.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:46 AM on June 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


You tell her because she's still trying to figure what type of man she married, and how she was so completely duped.

It sounds like the school also felt duped, such that they hired investigators. This is serious level deception from him. She needs to know that he's this level of dishonest. Were I her, that would make me feel a whole heap of vindication and relief.

She will only be mad at you if you don't tell her what you found out, and what action you took.

He sounds like a sociopath - charming, manipulative, deceitful predator. No one can say he was cheating while married, but the signs something was going on were there (offering to adopt her when his latest victim had immigration issues?? WHOA.) The school was right to catch on, even without the dating, he was over the top.

Anyway, please tell your friend. She deserves to know what kind of person he really is. I hope she can finally move on.
posted by jbenben at 7:55 AM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Better than it comes from you than someone else.

That's my take. And she's beating herself up over something that she had no control over. If it was my friend, I'd do this:

a) sit her down and ask her if she wants me to tell her. Just say, "I have information, do you want it? It's going to get back to you eventually, so you can't put it off forever."
b) be willing for her to be angry/take it out on me/question why I knew all this backstory and didn't make a bigger point about it before. I'd be willing for the friendship to end, temporarily or permanently, if it means she can process and move on.

If you're not willing to live with option B (and understand that she may find out another way and come back to you and say "how come you never threw a flag on his relationship with this student?" anyway), I guess you wait and see how the chips fall when she finds out. Because his relationship with this student was always inappropriate, and I can't tell from the way you're telling it whether she understood the extent of the boundary issues he had with his students in general and this girl in particular.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:01 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think there is a big difference between telling your friend that her ex husband was fired because he acted unethically per the school, including dating a former student, and telling your friend that you think that her ex husband left her for another woman. I'd tell her the former, because it is about to become public knowledge, but not the latter. Your friend already knows her ex husband had poor boundaries with this student, and she can draw her own conclusions.
posted by sm1tten at 8:02 AM on June 20, 2015 [27 favorites]


Tell her the facts, but leave your speculation out of it. She's going to find out sooner or later, especially if her ex marries the former student, and it'll be hurtful if you knew but didn't tell.
posted by MsMolly at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would tell her, because this is going to become public gossip and finding out from a stranger has the potential to be stressful and humiliating. There are going to be jackasses who spring this on her in a public situation to TRY to get a reaction.

I would lead with, "I want you to know ex has been fired. The school said it was because of nepotism and favoritism; he called me and told me it was really because they were mad he's been dating an undergrad for the last 18 months. That was after your divorce, of course, but I don't want you to hear it from someone else and be surprised."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:06 AM on June 20, 2015 [23 favorites]


(Also after just 3 years with no kids, there's probably not alimony, but if there ARE any spousal support arrangements in place, like one of them is buying the other out of a house over time, she definitely needs to know about the change in his financial circumstances.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 AM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Tell her, because:
(a) She will eventually hear it one way or the other--Facebook stalking him, the news, gossip.
(b) It's clearly PLAGUING THE SHIT OUT OF HER and she won't be able to stop rehashing "But whyyyyyyyyyyy? Everything was so perfect and out of the blue he left meeeeeeeeee!" until she knows why.

Btw, if they divorced 2 years ago and he's been dating the student since she turned legal/a year and a half ago, I think it sounds fairly likely that was the reason he wanted out. (Just in time for her to turn 18?!)
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:13 AM on June 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Your friend is suffering and deserves to know so she can make sense of what happened to her marriage. So I would tell (though I agree with those who say keep as close to the known facts as possible, and allow her to connect the dots in her own way perhaps in consultation with her therapist). I don't think you have an ethical obligation to keep it to yourself and I think it would help your friend.
posted by gerryblog at 9:35 AM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just want to say, I don't think telling her will end the questions she has about why it happened. It will just give her another set of circumstances to obsess over. The only reason I'd tell her is if you really do think she might hear it from others.
posted by Elizabeth907 at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are laws in some states that prohibit relationships between teachers and students (and in a couple, if I remember right, former students) even if the student is over 18.

Depending on what state you're in, and what exactly he is/was being investigated for (which he might not have been truthful with you about), it's entirely possible that this is just the beginning of a major can of worms. I'd vote toward giving her a heads-up anyway, given what you've described, but given the possibility that this is going to hit the grapevine (and depending on laws, the nightly news), it's only fair for her to be prepared somewhat.

Given the way you described how he told you about him being fired, it makes me suspect that the details aren't quite as simple as that... it sounds like he was in damage-control mode, trying to make sure you heard his story from him first.
posted by stormyteal at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


I once dated a guy who was involved in some shady stuff, and was constantly gas-lighting me. I was too young and naive to know it, and was always trying to figure out what I was doing to make the relationship go sideways.

Meanwhile we hung out regularly with a large group of people. Most of them were somehow involved in what he was doing, and those that weren't knew what was going on anyway. I was the only one who didn't know. So when I eventually found out, from a disinterested third party, not only did my relationship end but I walked away from my entire social group as well. The fact that not one of them took me aside and said "hey, you know about this, right?" told me that I could never trust any of them ever again. That they didn't care about me enough to treat me as a friend.

So I say, if her friendship is important to you, tell her. Tell her in person. Be gentle and be kind. Tell her you're sorry to be the messenger of bad news. Don't speculate on what may or may not have been happening during her marriage. Just tell her the facts as you know them. If it were me, I would try to time it so that you're telling her one or maybe two days max before her therapy appointment.
posted by vignettist at 11:09 AM on June 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


Just want to highlight this:

"Given the way you described how he told you about him being fired, it makes me suspect that the details aren't quite as simple as that... it sounds like he was in damage-control mode, trying to make sure you heard his story from him first."

(emphasis mine) That's a really great point. You should still stick to the facts, tho!

This person sounds like an accomplished liar. Your poor friend.
posted by jbenben at 12:05 PM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would want to know, I would want a friend to tell me. I hate hate hate being the last person in my social circle to learn something that impacts my feelings.
posted by vunder at 1:59 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Given the way you described how he told you about him being fired, it makes me suspect that the details aren't quite as simple as that... it sounds like he was in damage-control mode, trying to make sure you heard his story from him first.

Absolutely. Believe nothing he says. If you decide to tell his ex-wife that he got fired, I'd leave out anything he told you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:08 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


They were married three years. Then he decided he wanted to bang barely-legal teens. Or at least, seriously cross boundaries with them to the point of risking his job, which he's now lost.

Your friend is laboring under the assumption that she did something to contribute to the marriage ending and she doesn't know what. She's brought it up with you that she's in pain over this and she can't seem to move on.

She needs to know. It will be painful for her. It will soften the blow a bit to come from someone who can say, "I'm on your side and I've cut him out of my life. He disgusts me." (I am a huge proponent of not taking sides in breakups but this is a special circumstance, and clearly you have taken a side.)

Since you taught at the school where he worked, that's an understandable reason as to why you would know before her. Frame it in that way. You don't have to mention his private confession to you.

Totally agree with above posters who say that, "I have to tell you ASAP about why I was fired!" is him trying to make sure you hear his version of the story first. I'm not saying he's lying, but he clearly crossed boundaries way before his relationship with his current girlfriend started and there may very well be more to the story than an innocent May-December romance.
posted by Pearl928 at 10:46 PM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Female friend continues to wonder and struggle with the reason for their divorce. She confided in me yesterday that she spends her therapy appointments trying to find out what happened."

Wow, I feel just awful for her. Years ago, my BFF was in a comparable situation as your friend, and it was then, and still is now, incredibly painful for her to know deep down in her gut she's never gotten the truth about why her marriage suddenly ended. Your friend has been spending significant amounts of her time and money in therapy (so glad to hear she's pursuing therapy) with the specific goal of trying to get at the whole truth of what happened here -- which is the very knowledge you now possess! How can you not tell her? She has basically been asking you if you know. You've known for 2 weeks. It would be downright cruel to keep this from her any longer. Tell her. Even if her emotions get the better of her at first and she takes it out on you a little bit (shoots the messenger), it's still the right thing to do. Tell her exactly what he told you. Patiently answer every question she has. Telling her is the next right path for you, and I'm sure of it.

And good for you for cutting this man out of your life-- he sounds like a reputational risk to everyone who worked closely with him. "We were very close but the six months before I left, he was distant." You know that's probably because the timing coincided with when "he wanted to bang barely-legal teens," (as Pearl928 correctly points out here) right? Don't fall for any more of his bullshit stories. Bullets dodged for both you and his ex-wife.
posted by hush at 9:59 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tell her.

If you've ever been in the position of not knowing, it's awful. And if it were you in her position, you'd want to know, all of the amateur privacy advocates be damned.
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:39 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


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