What would you do if you knew your friend was having an affair?
August 13, 2018 11:38 AM   Subscribe

What should I do if I know my best friend (A) is having some sort of affair on her husband (B) with another married man (C). C's wife (D) is one of A's really good friends, and they all still hang out often knowing something is happening. I tried to look past it and ignore it, but B would come to me with concerns or his anger if C would show up somewhere, and because I am good friends with both A and B, it makes me sad to see someone else hurting.

One of my best friends, I'll call her "A," married her husband ("B") a little over a year ago, they had been together for 8 years, have a home and she has a daughter from a prior marriage. I was her Maid of Honor. Without making this too long, I was made aware that she may be behaving inappropriately with another friend of ours ("C", a male), who is also married with 2 children. C's wife (I'll call her "D") is one of A's best friends also, and they live in the same neighborhood, a couple houses from each other. Things have been brought to my attention, concerns were made, and I witnessed some things I considered inappropriate. A's husband, who I have been friends with also for a while, doesn't like C, and makes comments as if he knows there is something inappropriate going on. I have spoken to A once or twice, and she has referenced how she feels like she needs a "fling," or a hook up buddy. I've expressed to her that she is my friend and that I won't judge her but that I don't think what she is doing is appropriate.... I've told her that she's making a really bad decision, and that this could affect two families, and that this person in particular is not worth the mistake she is making. I have to note they do not have an open relationship, and B would be crushed to find this out. But, like I said, he has made comments that give me the impression he knows something. A denied anything physical ever occurred (I have my doubts, and I've never dug for information, it has just been told to me) but admitted that her flirtations with him are inappropriate, that they had just been friends for so long and that's just how they were together, that nothing inappropriate was going on. She has told me that she knows he is cheating on his wife, has covered up for him (gone into their home to hide his evidence), and that his wife knows that he is not happy.

ALL four of them hang out together often, they attend concerts together, they spend a lot of time with one another despite how many times B has called me or made a comment on how much he wants him away from A, and doesn't like him. Nothing is said. A and D have a "great" best friend type relationship, and they do a lot together. A listens to D cry about how her marriage is falling apart and how unhappy she is, A witnesses D home taking care of their two children knowing full well what C is up to.

I've expressed my discomfort in the situation, and I'm almost disgusted in my friend, A. I know everyone is their own person, and I shouldn't be here to judge someone by what they chose is right/wrong... but I feel I've lost a friend (or two) over my level of discomfort. They have stopped speaking to me, inviting me to events, it's awkward, and I'm feeling like I've lost a best friend. I can't stomach it, that she is covering up for someone cheating, may be cheating herself, and then can look this woman (his wife) in the eyes and pretend to be her friend.

Ive been there to comfort her husband, and when I call someone out, or say something is inappropriate, it always comes back to me- because at the end of the day A and B are married, they wake up together, and they have each others sides. But what everyone is doing is fake and really bothers me. I never say anything or stick my nose into things unless someone has asked me for an opinion or has brought up their concern about something.

My question is, should I just let this friendship fade because I'm just way too uncomfortable with this situation... I can't even be around them all in one room, and they are together often. Should I say something, and tell them I'm not sure why I'm being "excluded" from events that we have always shared together, ask if I have done something, or should I just pretend as if nothing is happening and put a smile on my face? I feel this loss of friendship the most, because she meant, and still does, mean a lot to me but I just cant stomach it anymore and am starting to question her moral compass. Am I a terrible friend for not just supporting her, or letting her live her life how she feels best?
posted by MamaBee223 to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They are all getting off on the drama. If that doesn't spin your raspberry, stop listening to them about this. I think you'll find when you aren't allowing yourself to be party to the drama they won't have anything else they wish to discuss. It sucks, but that's what they're telling you.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 11:54 AM on August 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

My question is, should I just let this friendship fade because I'm just way too uncomfortable with this situation... I can't even be around them all in one room, and they are together often.

If being around them as a group makes you feel bad, I give you permission to not do that anymore.

Should I say something,


... and tell them I'm not sure why I'm being "excluded" from events that we have always shared together, ask if I have done something, or should I just pretend as if nothing is happening and put a smile on my face?

You said you feel uncomfortable spending time with them as a group. Assume they have picked up on this and solved the issue you raised in your first question.

.... I just cant stomach it anymore and am starting to question her moral compass.

It sounds like you've let her know how you feel. There's nothing else to do besides figure out whether you still want to spend time with her, knowing what you (think you) know.

Am I a terrible friend for not just supporting her, or letting her live her life how she feels best?

No. We all get to choose who we want to be friends with. Sometimes a person's choices makes them no longer a candidate for friendship. For example, if it turned out a friend of mine was a white supremacist, i would stop being friends with them, regardless of their other redeeming qualities. Only you can answer whether that's the case for this friend.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:57 AM on August 13, 2018 [17 favorites]

It seems like you feel you're being put on the spot to repeatedly take a position or make a judgement on what's happening, but I can't see when/why that would be necessary, particularly since they've stopped speaking to you and inviting you to events.

On one hand you say you don't like to stick your nose into things... but on the other hand you wonder if you should ask for an explanation as to why you're not invited to group events, knowing full well it's because you've been disapproving of their conduct.

Frankly, it sounds like the drama is fueling their sex lives, so if you want to find a way to quit being involved, just think about how gross it is that they're literally getting off on the attention you're giving them.

You will feel better to remove yourself from this entirely.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:59 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

It is hard for me to tell from what you have written whether all four spouses know what is going on? So when you ask whether you should say something, are you imagining talking to your friend, or one of the spouses?

I think it’s okay to tell your friend you are uncomfortable and don’t want to be around C or D. Privately. And without the expectation that anything is going to change. You then have to ask yourself, if nothing changes, do you still want this friendship? It’s okay if the answer is no.

I would not under any circumstances say anything about this to B or C or D. Doing so will only worse the drama.

The whole situation sounds exhausting to me so I would nope out, but YMMV.
posted by mai at 11:59 AM on August 13, 2018

What would you do if you knew your friend was having an affair?

If directly asked for advice, express my considered opinion that breaking marriage vows on the sly is a well tested recipe for generating severe unhappiness all round. In private, in my own mind, resign myself to being completely powerless to stop other adults making decisions that I understand to be self-destructive.

Am I a terrible friend for not just supporting her, or letting her live her life how she feels best?

No. You sound like somebody who has been coping with other people's cluelessness with considerable tact and wisdom. You're also perfectly allowed to prefer not to be around clueless people once they have chosen to reveal their lack of clue to you.

It's also completely reasonable for you to be grieving over the corrosive effects of said cluelessness on what apparently used to be a really good friendship.

Words of advice for young people
posted by flabdablet at 12:00 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

"I've expressed to her that she is my friend and that I won't judge her but that I don't think what she is doing is appropriate." That is judging her. Your entire post is judging her.

If this were my best friend, quite frankly what I would do is tell her husband I'm sorry but she's my best friend and I can't discuss this with him any more.

I do my best to avoid drama, so I wouldn't be hanging around with them as a foursome anymore. That sucks, since they're all your friends, but maybe find some new people who aren't so self-centered and focused on their own drama.
posted by lyssabee at 12:04 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

My question is, should I just let this friendship fade because I'm just way too uncomfortable with this situation...

This is one of those beautiful AskMes where the question perfectly states the best possible answer. You are being invited into a world of nonsense and foolishness. Decline the invitation.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:04 PM on August 13, 2018 [38 favorites]

They come to you to talk about their drama but they are leaving you out of social events. They're using you. This is not a healthy dynamic. (I'm not saying you can never be friends with A, B, or D --- it doesn't sound like C is your buddy anyway -- in the future. But right now, let it fade.)

Other people's drama becomes our business two ways: when we put ourselves into it or when they involve us. If you say anything, it's not like anyone will likely take your wise counsel to heart, to just keep out of it. Focus your attention on your own life, and on your friends whose lives align with the way you want to live yours -- openly and drama-free. Then you won't be tempted to judge or advise, and you won't be called upon to act as a sounding board or arbiter.

Their mess is their mess; if you don't want to get messy, steer clear without making comment.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is an inherently unstable and volatile arrangement. You are, at best, a fifth wheel, and the most disposable member of the drama. When this all goes down, which it will, you are not going to be able to remain friends with these people.

The two whose side you are on -- because you are keeping their secret -- are A and C, whose actions you have the least respect for. You may be able to keep one or the other of their friendships, but I don't think both because I anticipate that A and C break up shortly after the pressure-cooker of their overlapping lives blows up.

B and D will, I think rightly, feel betrayed by you, because you have known and withheld your knowledge to their detriment. You lose these friendships if ever they learn that you knew.

Given these eventualities, I think that the way to minimize your losses is to tell A that she is behaving cruelly and inappropriately -- being the other woman and the shoulder for the wife to cry on is fucking cruel, okay? -- and that she needs to knock it off at a minimum. She won't.

Then you start the fade. Make new friends. Reach back out to old friends you haven't heard from in forever. Whatever social supports you were getting from these people, get from someplace else, because one way or another this situation is going to blow up no matter what.

After everything hits the fan, you will be able to say to B and to D that you tried, that you weren't comfortable and you told A and then you stopped being friends with her. That will be pretty thin -- they may still feel like you should have told them -- but it will at least be something that you did over and above enabling and turning a blind eye to this awful behavior.
posted by gauche at 12:23 PM on August 13, 2018 [18 favorites]

I shouldn't be here to judge someone by what they chose is right/wrong

On the contrary, this is one of the best bases for judging people you can have, if the wrong is great enough. Breaking up a friendship because you think a friend is behaving contemptibly is a perfectly sound choice. It also has the side benefit of extricating you from what sounds like a drama full of weak and disagreeable characters.
posted by praemunire at 12:30 PM on August 13, 2018 [30 favorites]

My friend group started something similar to this a few years ago—someone in the circle started sleeping with a husband and double talking about it to everyone, everyone really knew what was going on, keeping it from the wife, lying about it, cover stories, the whole 9. I noped right out of the whole thing, did not look back, and do not regret it one bit.
This is a form of entertainment on some level for some of these people. I find this horrible and do not think judging A for her behavior is in the least bit wrong. Aside from being morally problematic in and of itself, her behavior is how we determine if someone like A will eventually do something as massively shitty to us as well.
Leave this all behind.
posted by oflinkey at 1:45 PM on August 13, 2018 [8 favorites]

You get to decide who is and isn't worth your time. You DO get to judge that, and you should exercise that judgment on a regular basis! You are not obligated to condone anyone else's behavior by rewarding them with your time, friendship, effort, and the indication to others that you are totally fine with what they are doing. In other words: if your friends are crappy, you don't have to be friends with them; why would you want to?

What you don't get to do is dictate their behavior. That's not your place, and what they choose to do is all on them (since it has nothing to do with your actual life/safety/ability to work and pursue your own relationships) but you can decide that a personal boundary of yours is "I don't hang out with ridiculous high school drama timebombs because it's gross and reflects badly on me as a person who keeps poor company" and defend that boundary by being elsewhere.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:53 PM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

On some level, they are all getting off on this, and they've cast you in the role of Greek chorus/disapproving parent. Your discomfort either annoys them or makes things all the more exciting. Either way, it gives them something to talk about and ratchets up the emotion. As someone noted above, you are the most disposable member of the group and when this all blows up, as it inevitably will, it will have been impossible to play your part to anyone's satisfaction.

This is a classic case of needing to take care of yourself and have your own back. There's nothing wrong with backing off from a situation that makes you deeply uncomfortable, not least because it makes you see your friends in such a poor light. Frankly, their behaviour indicates that your feelings are nowhere on anyone else's priority list for the moment. The only one who will look after you is you.

In your shoes, I'd back off--not too hard to do since they are already excluding you from social events--and then stand by with a bag of popcorn to see what happens next. It might well be that one or more of these people will come to their senses after all this is over and be all the better for what they have learned. If that happens, you can decide then whether you want to forgive the drama and duplicity and give one or more of them a second chance.
posted by rpfields at 3:46 PM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I dumped a friend for this. I told her exactly why: I know you are cheating and this is against my value system. I can’t condone this. (She also worked at the same company; so did he.) She didn’t like it but tuff beans. Life is consequences.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:21 PM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Nobody's got time for these drama llamas. Your lengthy description of the situation is indicative of the volume of your mental space that these other people's affairs are taking up. Time and attention span are not renewable resources. Protect yourself.

Not that you can't move forward with the culpable parties if they ever come to their senses and end this mess. Until they do, though, you have every right to stop implicating yourself in the whole shebang.
posted by iusedhername at 12:26 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think you have gotten sound advice but in case you need a mantra to get through, I think this is a very fine example of “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
posted by like_neon at 12:39 AM on August 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I can’t tell if you’re single or not. But either way, if it was me, I wouldn’t want to bring a significant other around this group due to the drama and the whole weird scene. Cultivate new friendships and fill your life with more positive activity.
posted by amanda at 6:18 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm in the middle of a divorce because my wife was having an affair with someone inside our social circle. Dude would come over to my house, eat my food and drink my beer, and the whole time he was railing my wife behind my back.

I sort of had a feeling, but... you don't want to accuse just on a hunch. After I filed the papers and made the announcement, many "friends" came forward to say they knew or had feelings but didn't want to get involved. They were involved though - they'd keep quiet at the lies and inconsistencies or they'd avoid me altogether to avoid saying something that would tip me off.

That's bullshit behavior.

I wasted many months trying to patch up a failed marriage like a goddamned chump. It was and is completely humiliating.

My advice: You are already involved. Just come clean, speak the truth as you see it, and then walk away. I wish just one of my friends had done this. It would have saved me months of misery and wondering if I was losing my mind.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:55 AM on August 14, 2018 [77 favorites]

A few thoughts:

First, I agree with Pogo_Fuzzybutt 100%. Think about how humiliating it is to engage in friendly group interaction with someone the group members know, but you don't know, is having an illicit affair with your partner (especially if the partner is part of these group interactions as well!). By their presence for those interactions and by virtue of their unrevealed knowledge, the group members necessarily participate in that humiliation. To me, this comes down to a moral decision, and I would suggest the OP give some though as to what she would want out of a friend were she in B's or D's shoes. I don't think there are too many Bs or Ds who, after the fact, think, "I sure am glad my 'friends' who knew about this and hung out together with all of us while my former partner and former friend were screwing behind my back didn't say anything about it to me."

Second, several people have implied some version of "they are all getting off on this." I would like to suggest that people who take this view go do something anatomically improbably to themselves. A and C may be "getting off on the drama," but B and D clearly are not. Rather, B and D are being lied to by their partners, not to mention by "friends" in the know through omission, and they're suffering due to the sense that something is going wrong in their relationships -- with more suffering inevitably to come.

I have a somewhat checkered relationship past, and I've played just about every role there is: the cheater, the cheated-on, and the extra-relationship person. It's taken quite a bit of personal work to (hopefully!) figure out what it takes to be a halfway-decent relationship partner. One thing I can say for sure is that things like what the OP describes never end well. Moreover, if A and C are putting the OP in a position to participate in their affair by effectively lying to B and D, they are not her friends.
posted by slkinsey at 8:01 AM on August 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

I tried to diagram an alliance chart to see which of your friends seem to be on your side. Seems like none of them, but a couple of them like to use you to grease the wheels of their drama, that is, give their doings that little extra punch that comes from confiding their secret to a neutral party. I get the impression that although you are their friend they aren't yours. Also, it seems to me that at least one of these people isn't in on the game, and will be hurt if or when they find out how their trust has been abused by a faithless partner. What will you say if they ask you why you didn't speak up?

Your options are to remain quiet, speak up, or walk away. Remaining quiet or speaking up requires you to exercise an ethical principle, one way or another. Walking away, you can put your ethical parameters on hold, unless one of the group asks you to explain your reason for leaving their tender circle.

When you say you were "made aware" of certain behavior. Should we assume that you aren't the only person besides this crew that knows about all this? Also, third hand info often sets the stage for misunderstanding. It may be that some of the stuff you've described is not quite as it appears. It's probably not your place to sort this out, but if it involves someone who's dear to you, you might profit by having a frank discussion with that person. By profit I mean you might salvage a friendship that might otherwise be left behind.
posted by mule98J at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Please PLEASE tell the spouses what’s going on. You can do it anonymously if you want but PLEASE tell them. I was the cheated-on spouse in a very similar situation and it was fucking humiliating to know that this had been going on while I was oblivious. I wish our mutual friends had told me the second they knew something was up.

What your friend is doing is supremely shitty and selfish, unspeakably cruel to the partners, and abusive to the partners. They deserve to know the truth.
posted by a strong female character at 2:37 PM on August 14, 2018 [10 favorites]

New friends, get them. A, B,C, & D’s phone numbers, lose them. You owe no explanations and it's time for a life change.
posted by evilDoug at 9:54 PM on August 14, 2018

It sounds like you’ve witnessed inappropriate things but the wife has denied it and you’re not sure as to the extent of whether or not they are actually having an affair. This is the best situation to be in because you can nope out of the whole thing and take a giant step back from all of these friendships without feeling obliged to actually tell the husband, because right now it’s just suspicion, not actual fact.

And besides it sounds like the husband is suspicious enough all by himself and has enough information if he wanted to follow it up he could, without involving you. I’d leave the whole thing alone and if anyone wants to know where you are, just say the group dynamic was making you uncomfortable and you need some time out. They all know what’s going on, when the players are ready to actually deal with it, I wouldn’t want to be around, people love a scapegoat.
posted by Jubey at 12:05 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

What I've done in similar situations varies based on my relationships with the people involved.

If they're not close friends, I steer clear and make it none of my business.

If I'm close friends with the cheater, I tell them I think what they're doing is wrong and tell them why I think so. (Some people think we should always be supportive of our friends no matter what; I instead feel that we should have friends who help us be our best selves.) I maintain contact with them but am careful to avoid abetting their cheating.

If I'm close friends with someone being cheated on, I tell them my suspicions. It sounds like you may be close with both A and B; if that is the case, I would probably tell A that if they don't come clean with B that I will tell B on a certain date.
posted by metasarah at 8:48 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

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