If a married friend propositions you, do you tell his wife (a stranger)?
July 31, 2019 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Just what it says on the tin.

- He's a former coworker (not my super bestie or anything).

- They've been married for a year.

- He says it's not an open relationship, he's just attracted to me.

Fucking EWW.
posted by MiraK to Human Relations (59 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No, you don’t. Not your monkeys, not your circus.
posted by whitewall at 1:11 PM on July 31, 2019 [25 favorites]

Depends on if you feel like you have the time. That's really the only consideration I can think of. You'd be doing this person a favor, but they may or may not see it that way so you may be opening up a can of drama worms. So it just depends on if you feel like you have the time & energy to think about this topic more than you already have.
posted by bleep at 1:12 PM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't. Either she doesn't care (unlikely) or this would be a source of great pain for her, and there's nothing about your standing in her life that would justify the burden to you of being the bearer of that news.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:12 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes, you do tell her. This is the responsible thing to do. Her health and her well-being may depend on it.

Will it maybe suck for you? Yes. Sometimes doing the right thing sucks. But you still do it.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:15 PM on July 31, 2019 [70 favorites]

Also, look, if you do this before she decides to have a kid with this man, you may literally be saving her from a lifetime of being connected to this man. Please do the right thing. If nothing results from it, fine, but at least you will know that you did what you could.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:16 PM on July 31, 2019 [83 favorites]

If there was a text or a voicemail that I could anonymously forward to the wife...I probably would do it. I would want someone to let me know if my (hypothetical) committed monogamous partner were being dishonest with me. You are not obligated to tell her. She may have a lot of feelings when you do.

But keep in mind, you telling her is not the cause of the pain. She may learn of the pain in a myriad of ways. What if he gives her an STI, or impregnates someone else? Or leaves her for another woman, blindsiding her? Starts funneling their shared assets into another relationship?

Giving her the news now, if you can, has great potential to help her. Withholding the news does not actually protect her, at all.

I might have felt differently if there was some kind of mutual thing, or this was a drunken confession. But this dud(e) went out of his way to proposition you, knowing that you know he's married. This behavior is, frankly, potentially dangerous.
posted by bilabial at 1:17 PM on July 31, 2019 [31 favorites]

Yes, always, every time. Men can be real shits.
posted by phunniemee at 1:17 PM on July 31, 2019 [44 favorites]

Hmm, I mean morally yes, but life isn't just about morals so let's look at the possible outcomes. And if he does this to you, I feel pretty certain he is/will be soon cheating and then eventually divorced.

1.) You email her, she doesn't believe you. You never hear from them again.
2.) You email her, she doesn't believe you. They tell literally everyone and try to ruin your good name or worse.

I consider these to be the most likely outcomes.

3.) She does believe you, you never hear from them again. (Either they stay together or don't, doesn't matter)
4.) She does believe you, there is a huge amount of drama and divorce. I don't know if you could be asked to do a statement for divorce lawyers, etc. etc. Essentially a mess.

Then not telling her he goes on to cheat or continue cheating until inevitably he's caught, he gives her an STD, etc. What a shitbag.

So does #2 or #4 put you off telling her? I personally don't think it's really my place to as it's unlikely that she believes a complete stranger and I don't know the impact. Then again, I try to live an upright and moral life. Hm, I don't know. I would probably really lay into the person who propositioned me until they felt the fires of Hades boiling at their feet. This is a tough one, Mira.

(In the back of my mind is how crazy men can get if they have something blow up in their face always.)
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:18 PM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have been the wife, and I would want to know.

I suspected my husband was seeing another woman, and he even took her home to meet his mother, who said nothing to me. I didn't talk to her a lot, but she could have sent me a note, picked up the phone, anything.

Several months later, he decided to tell me he'd met someone soooo much better than me, and then emptied our apartment out when I was at work. I came home to no furniture and bare walls.

His mother then told me she'd known about the other woman since day one. I was not happy, least of all because he kept lying to me and trying to put all the blame for our relationship problems on me (to divert attention away from his shenanigans).

I'd write an anonymous note, and mail it to her, no return address. Chances are she knows, but she might not have a clue. Some men are good at covering their tracks and act normal at home, and then go "golfing" or something, when they're really having an affair. Then there's the question of STD's, if he actually does have an affair with someone else.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:19 PM on July 31, 2019 [50 favorites]

Holding someone else's gross secret (ie. his) is a burden he put on you without your consent and that SUCKS. People get away with being like this because they count on our shame preventing us from putting their behaviour in the open.

I would feel a large weight lifted off my shoulders by gently letting her know, telling her you will not judge her for whatever she chooses to do with the information and then moving on a the situation that you never consented to be in with a clear conscience.

I was very much in your shoes a few months ago, and the response I received from the dude's partner was kind gratitude and no judgement.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2019 [27 favorites]

Update: so tentatively looking her up in order to see how I might contact her IF I contact her, found her FB and saw that she has just lost her dad and also sometime over the past year been diagnosed with a chronic GI disease.


PS: I'm great at deflecting drama; my concern is about overstepping boundaries more than about getting in trouble.
posted by MiraK at 1:29 PM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]

Yes you should tell her.

Be prepared to be called a liar by both the husband and the wife. If this is the first time he has been caught, there's a 99% chance your information will be dismissed. You should do it anyway.
posted by FakeFreyja at 1:31 PM on July 31, 2019 [17 favorites]

My mother and I would have both wanted to know.

Any implication of a 'noble code of silence' on this kind of bad behavior has always confused me
posted by Jacen at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2019 [28 favorites]

I would do it not necessarily anonymously (because if the husband finds out, he's going to have a good idea anyway), but in some format that didn't require her to respond to or even acknowledge you (to spare her dignity). Email, letter...text is probably too informal. Just not over coffee.

Exception: if you feel like this dude is threatening your safety, but it doesn't sound like that.
posted by praemunire at 1:36 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nope. Just no.

Nothing has happened. You now know he is a creepy person, but you are not his friend, or his wife's friend. You are not even his coworker any more.

Some commenters are suggesting that it is unwanted emotional labor for you to keep his secret, and I suppose it is. But the unwanted emotional labor you would take on yourself if you engage is a hundred times as overwhelming. Remember, if people do stuff like this, that is not the only issue in their relationship.

Distance yourself from this person.
posted by mumimor at 1:37 PM on July 31, 2019 [7 favorites]

Are you sure you would not be endangering yourself since the dude would know it was you sending the note? Is he vengeful, the type to mess things up for you through connections to your job? Be very sure before you decide anything
posted by shaademaan at 1:41 PM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

PS: I'm great at deflecting drama; my concern is about overstepping boundaries more than about getting in trouble.

I don't think it's overstepping a boundary. If I wasn't concerned about a possible drama bomb I'd send the message.
posted by bleep at 1:42 PM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]

Context matters in these cases, I find. I once had a good male married friend confess he was attracted to me and since it wasn’t an overt gross proposition, I settled for a harsh scolding. If it had felt predatory and not just EW, I might have told.
posted by frumiousb at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Another vote for yes, absolutely tell her. This is not overstepping boundaries. It definitely sucks that her husband chose to be so sleazy when she's already going through such a hard time, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't know.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:45 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Safety is a thing I had not considered. The guy has given me a recommendation on LinkedIn, for example, and there's a chance he might retract that. Maybe badmouth me professionally? (But how? I'm currently job hunting and he is a recruiter but he isn't MY recruiter.)

Other than this idk how he can harm me. I would not be worried about violence or stalking, but if I was relying on him for professional references (which I'm not), that might have backfired on me.

So just to be super clear, btw: nobody thinks I should maybe wait to tell her, or that the timing isn't right if she's recently bereaved?
posted by MiraK at 1:46 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nothing has happened.

She was propositioned. That is, in and of itself, an act that exceeds what would be considered appropriate bounds in the vast majority of marriages.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:46 PM on July 31, 2019 [50 favorites]

I think you should. He made the choice about boundaries already; if he didn't want his wife finding out he shouldn't have tried it. His excuse that he's just attracted to you so why not *shrug* doesn't sound like this was a rare moment of torment breaking him down to do something he'd otherwise neverever consider (which is not an excuse either, but he could have at least tried), so...in summary, fuck him, it'll be a favor to her in the long run.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:48 PM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]

I would not tell her unless I knew her at least a little (in which case I would tell her), but I would tell him never to contact me again either way. If it somehow impacted my career down the road I would feel free to share the story with anyone else. Because here’s the thing—when he propositioned you, he made you a part of this story, so it’s now your story to tell as you need to. If he didn’t want anyone to know he attempted to cheat on his wife, he shouldn’t have tried it with someone he had a personal or professional connection with, or someone who might contemplate what to do. It is now your choice to make, because it’s your life too.
posted by sallybrown at 1:49 PM on July 31, 2019 [7 favorites]

I feel like if it were me, and I had the proposition in writing, I would send to the wife. If it was in person/verbal, there's too much possibility that my contact would be seen as shit-stirring and I might not do it. (But it depends on how egregious.)

I would probably write an email that said, "You don't know me, but I am a former coworker of your husband's. I feel strongly that women should look out for one another and I would want someone to tell me what I am about to tell you. Your husband propositioned me on XXX date. Attached is a screenshot of the communication. I did not invite this communication and found it unwelcome; I have now blocked [husband] on facebook and blocked his texts. There is no need to respond to me, and please accept my sympathy."
posted by juniperesque at 1:50 PM on July 31, 2019 [61 favorites]

Also, as trite as it is, what would you want if you were the wife in this situation? Would you want to know if your husband or LTR was cheating on you? What would you think of the women who knew he was hurting you and through inaction made the choice to aid in your humiliation and betrayal?
posted by FakeFreyja at 1:51 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

nobody thinks I should maybe wait to tell her, or that the timing isn't right if she's recently bereaved?

If you are going to tell her, tell her as soon as possible. It will hurt either way and this way she would be spared the thoughts of weeks or months in which she might have known already.
posted by sallybrown at 1:53 PM on July 31, 2019 [13 favorites]

If you're going to tell her, tell her now, be up front about your identity, and make yourself available for follow-up questions. Yes, this exposes you to a great deal of drama and retribution, but imposing an arbitrary bereavement delay or trying to deliver this unfortunate payload anonymously in order to protect yourself, while understandable, is just serving to jerk this woman around further.

That said, you did not ask to be recruited into moral hazard by this creep and your own wellbeing comes first. If you feel like saying nothing is the safer choice for you, don't feel guilty about looking out for yourself.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2019 [8 favorites]

I vote tell her. A few years ago a very good friend of mine found out her husband of a few years had been serially cheating on her her entire marriage. Some of the people were strangers, others acquaintances/friends. Who knows how many women he might have propositioned that turned him down but said nothing?

As long as your safety isn't in question, I definitely support telling her - especially if you have any "paper trail" to back it up.
posted by jzb at 2:27 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

This guy is a recruiter, he offers you a recommendation and then he hits on someone he knows is looking for a job? This gets worse and worse. Seriously, in the Me Too era what we're worried about is potential backlash on LinkdIn?

Speak up for the women in this triad. Please, empower her. Tell her.
posted by citygirl at 2:28 PM on July 31, 2019 [12 favorites]

Yes, whether she is recently bereaved or not. In fact, the fact that this guy is behaving this way while she's grieving makes him even more of a shit.

Don't tell her you know she's just had a death in the family.
posted by bilabial at 2:28 PM on July 31, 2019 [11 favorites]

Sorry can you please explain how anonymity would jerk her around? I'm considering an email from a fresh Gmail address sent from a library computer so I would be available for follow ups. (Quite decided I don't want to leave her in the dark, thanks everyone.)

The proposition was direct and verbal. We ran into each other at a coffee shop and he straight up offered "How about an NSA fling, I'm really attracted to you." I said are you and your wife in an open marriage and he said nope, and also no pressure. He wasn't disrespectful. All the ew is from the situation, not from his demeanor.
posted by MiraK at 2:31 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

How direct was the proposition? Was it verbal?
posted by bluedaisy at 2:32 PM on July 31, 2019

yeah his wife isn't your problem and also if this was me personally and I would set a boundary with him that I felt safe with.

So like, if I was attracted to him I would say "you go find a poly counselor and do the work over the next few months to open your marriage and we'll talk, until then you are not allowed to contact me outside normal routine work communication"

If I wasn't attracted to him I'd say "you go find a poly counselor and do the work over the next few months to open your marriage and don't ever contact me outside work ever again."

Yeah I get it there's a sisterhood to defend, but also this could backfire and you could threaten the safety of your coworker's spouse to the point that the spouse blames you and takes her drama out on you.

You have zero anything that ethically provides you safe passage to the wife besides your own irritation at being propositioned by her husband. His actions confer you no moral high ground other than to set a hard ass boundary with him.
posted by nikaspark at 2:33 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

He is a recruiter and you are in the middle of a job search? At a minimum wait until you have a new job, the last thing you need is to have drama spill over into that.

Overall my inclination is to not get in the middle of other people’s relationship issues but if you decide to tell her, there are some good scripts above.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:34 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

In case it's unclear, my question about his marriage was just from sheer shock at being propositioned like that, I didn't know what to say and that's what I blurted out.
posted by MiraK at 2:37 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sorry can you please explain how anonymity would jerk her around?

There 100% are couples who have gotten weird, deceptive anonymous messages intended to sow discord in the relationship. If your message doesn't get ignored or laughed off entirely, then she has to do the work of determining whether her anonymous informant seems legit or is just fucking with her before she even gets to tackle the fun problem of whether or not her husband is cheating on her. I mean, it's possible an anonymous message will make her realize that her long-suppressed suspicions have been correct all along, but you run a high risk of just creating more stress and uncertainty for her before she gets to deal with the actual reality of the situation. Also, if she confronts her husband about it without verifiable details, he's in a much better position to lie and spin and practice covering his tracks better in the future. I guess what I'm saying is, if you're gonna do this, you gotta bring receipts.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:41 PM on July 31, 2019 [23 favorites]

I'd want to know. Would you? I think that's your answer.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 2:53 PM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]

I am going to go against the grain and suggest you talk to the guy and tell him it is not cool to proposition professional contacts. And that you do not contact his wife. Unless any of the commenters happen to be married to this guy, we literally have no idea what she wants. This woman has just lost someone close to her. What if her only emotional support is her husband, and his support is critical to her well-being? There is no way to guarantee that telling her will result in a good outcome for her. Dan Savage and others have pointed out that no one knows what a marriage is like unless they are inside that marriage themselves.

I’m somewhat shocked by how judgemental people are being about the fact that he expressed interest in a sexual relationship with the OP. Jimmy Carter believes that lust in your heart is just as bad as actual sexual activity, but a lot of us disagree. I would not call it cheating, I would call it disrespectful. Still, I am not the boss of that man nor his marriage. More importantly, I have no idea how devastating that news might be to a woman dealing with a chronic illness and a recent death.

I think feeling responsible for any part of this situation is unnecessary, unfortunate, and there’s no obvious good choice. If you do decide to tell the wife (I totally understand why you might), be prepared for the possibility of a bad outcome. I hope very much if that is your choice it works out for the wife and for you, OP. Again, free to go back to that guy and give him all the shit you want.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:12 PM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]

I would not call it cheating, I would call it disrespectful.

I mean?? The only reason it's not 100% cheating is because the OP turned him down. His wife is sick and bereaved, he knows this, he admitted she had no foreknowledge of his deciding to try this on, and he still wants to get his dick wet. He's garbage and his wife should know.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:22 PM on July 31, 2019 [50 favorites]

I was cheated on and after the fact, the staggering number of women who felt like NOW THEY COULD TELL ME that my piece of trash ex propositioned them pissed me off beyond the bounds of my ability to express it.

She deserves to know that he is engaging in this shit behavior and endangering her health and physical safety, not to mention the emotional component of what's going on here. 100% tell her. She may not believe you, but you will have done the right thing.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:43 PM on July 31, 2019 [29 favorites]

Seconding prize bull octorock's explanation of why anonymity is painful/scary. I know someone who got one such message, and is now wondering both "am I being cheated on in this way" and "am I being stalked?" Not great.
posted by peppercorn at 4:48 PM on July 31, 2019 [8 favorites]

Regardless of what you do I’d make sure you are “shields up” before you do it. You may not expect a physical or aggressive response - but people can unpredictable under stress. There will be ways of harming you or just messing with you that someone with motivation could do.

- Lock down your social media accounts (make sure you aren’t listing any home information / phone numbers etc)
- Delist yourself from the phone book etc.
- Maybe tell a close friend what you are doing (not the details) and have a plan in case something does escalate and you need some support or someone to vent to (outside of this thread)
- Keep a copy of the good reference he gave (screenshots etc) in case it ever becomes an issue and you need to explain to anyone (unlikely but worth the 10 seconds to make a copy). Seems like you can hide references in LinkedIn so shouldn’t be an issue if he tries something dumb there.

Also sounds like you did a little research about the wife - don’t mention that you did that to anyone else especially the wife, and if you do wait to tell her, don’t give that as the reason (e.g. don’t mention anything about her father or Illness etc). It may make you look like the stalker and cause more drama than it’s worth (I’m imaging what we would be advising the corresponding ask me from the wife in the future “Help - some random person says my husband is cheating on me and she appears to be stalking me and knows my medical and family history!”)

If you do correspond I would send anonymously, with the barest factual details, and without any return address, or if not anonymously from a standalone throw away email address (in case it gets abused).

Stay safe and good luck whatever you do. Also eww is right!
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:49 PM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]

Wow. I'm on the fence with this, but just the sheer circumstance of it all makes me say, No. Don't tell her. For your sake. Here's why. You do not know her. Just the fact that you are being advised to do the above things to keep yourself safe, means you shouldn't even go there.

If she doesn't know you, she can question your credibility even more. Her spouse can deny it all.

Further, if you two were indeed still working together, this is flat out sexual harassment that could be reported. Which makes me wonder how many other women he's propositioned (who he's given a reference too.) He's being predatory. If you can, think of a way to report his behavior. That also may not go anywhere, but you never know. He may have had complaints from coworkers.

I'm sorry this happened to you. It's total harassment and you shouldn't worry about his wife because it will further burden you. If you had hard evidence you could show her then I would say yes, tell the wife. But you don't.

Think about it. This creep just put the emotional burden of his relationship with his wife on YOU! You seem to care more about her than he does. You're worried about the fact that she's grieving and ill. I mean-- that is already WAY TOO MUCH BURDEN ON YOU for something that you didn't ask to be a part of. If you continue to pursue telling the wife, it will make your life miserable. Let it go. You don't owe anyone anything. HE OWES HIS WIFE EVERYTHING. Not you. Don't get sucked into it.
posted by jj's.mama at 6:11 PM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

I would wait a period of time, perhaps 1-2 months, and then tell her (I'd use an anonymous email from public computer, so she can follow up).

The wait time is to let her grieve her dad without having to also grieve her marriage, and also to put a bit of distance between the proposition and the telling-her.

In the meantime he will likely proposition or cheat with other women, and it will be less obvious who told her, thus protecting you. Plus by then you'll probably have a job so he can't screw you that way.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:31 PM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]

Thank you everyone for your advice and for taking the time to explain your reasoning. You've helped me think this through and make decisions.

Re: whether to tell his wife or not, I'm going to tell. Just as one human being to another, I think I owe her this information.

Re: whether to tell her now or wait until her bereavement is no longer recent, I think I will wait a month or two, just because I personally would rather not deal with something like this only three weeks after losing a parent. Waiting a short while feels like the kinder thing to do.

Re: whether to be anonymous or not, I'm going to remain as anonymous as I can manage with a minimum of effort (random gmail address, no identifying details, public computer). That's for my own safety. As I said above, I feel like I owe her this information, but I don't owe it to her to expose my identity to her. (If they figure out it's me, then I'll deal, but I don't want to roll out the red carpet for her or him to question me, harass me, or retaliate against me. )

Also I honestly don't think I am responsible for:
- convincing her that I am telling the truth - she is free to believe me or not.
- making it less possible for her husband to squirm out of it - however they handle my information is up to them.
- stopping her from worrying that I am stalking her - I can't help what she worries about, and the info I have about her is all from her public website anyway.
- staying available for her follow-up questions or other emotional "aftercare" - I might respond if she asks a respectful follow up, but I don't think I owe her this.

I've been pulled into one small corner of these two people's relationship against my will. I just want to exit that corner in an ethical way -- emphasis on exit, and a firm NO THANK YOU to any additional considerations.

Thank you all for helping me figure this out!
posted by MiraK at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2019 [49 favorites]

I’ve been researching grief a great deal but it is my bedtime post sleepy time aid. I will message you tomorrow. I think our fundamental urge to minimize suffering of those going through things is misguided because of a few factors and I do have research. So I’m anti waiting.

Delaying won’t help. She honestly will always be thinking about her father and on the topic of grief it would help if people outright acknowledged it happened to her. Grief! Can’t avoid it!

I do support telling her. Also check the MetaTalk thread where I point you out as a great and inspiring AskMe responder! Ok I’m a bit loopy, goodnight.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:21 PM on July 31, 2019 [8 favorites]

You might reconsider the anonymity/no further contact. I had a vindictive stalker who sent a note to my boss's wife alleging that he and I were having an affair. We were not. I believe I know who this stalker was, but I cannot prove it. The lingering fear and anger I felt from this incident stay with me, more than ten years on.

Your instinct to reach out to her is a compassionate and humane act. Anonymizing yourself and refusing further contact is a de-humanizing act. I think you can be honest with her that you are protecting your own identity for the time being because you're unsure about how this information will be received by her -- this is understandable behavior, and reassuringly human. But so is acknowledging the seriousness of your accusation by standing behind it. Treating this information like a grenade that you toss over the wall and run away from is not.
posted by woot at 3:33 AM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

The truth diminishes with time. If you want to do it , do it now. All time that passes is on the side of the liars. Time provides not only a dimming of memory but also better excuses and pivot accusations like "why did she wait all this time? can't you see she trying to BLAH BLAH BLAH"
posted by French Fry at 5:57 AM on August 1, 2019 [10 favorites]

If I were the wife, I'd want to know now, even with the other shit going on in my life. If my partner is an unreliable asshole I'd rather know before I rely on him for support in a tough time or make any more decisions under the assumption he'll be there.

Also, if I were tipped off anonymously, I would appreciate the anon person at least specifying that they are not someone I know. I was cheated on many years ago and other than the betrayal itself, one of the things that hurt most and in a way I would not have expected was realizing that some of my friends already knew or suspected. I felt on weird thin ice around so many people, trying to figure out what they already knew about my deep and fresh personal hurt, that I hadn't told them, and it made me feel vulnerable and exposed and stupid at a time when I could really have used some support and to feel that the people I trusted most had my back.
posted by Stacey at 6:51 AM on August 1, 2019 [13 favorites]

Some commenters are suggesting that it is unwanted emotional labor for you to keep his secret, and I suppose it is. But the unwanted emotional labor you would take on yourself if you engage is a hundred times as overwhelming.

Strongly disagree with this. Neither of these situations is emotional labor but really that’s besides the point. Look, there are shitty people in this world and this man has negatively impacted your life, whatever you decide to do. Deciding on one course of action that is not the right course of action because it’s easier and hiding behind “well he’s making me do his emotional labor!” is not good.

Sometimes the right thing to do comes with a cost. You should still do it*. That’s part of the deal of being a good person in an often shitty world.

There are legitimate arguments on both sides as to what right thing to do is. Only you can decide that but don’t just take the easy way out.

I believe the right thing to do it tell her. I’ve been her and I wish someone had told me. I might not have acted on it right away but there were many years of this going on where I had no idea, and it would have at least spared me SOME of those.

(people always say the wife knows on some level but that is very much not always true)

*as long as your safety, etc is not compromised
posted by sillysally at 8:18 AM on August 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

The "right thing" would have been for the creep to not proposition her. Beyond that, the OP doesn't need to take on the work of doing the right thing in a shitty world. It's absolutely not her responsibility. She's been harassed and is essentially a victim. Her safety is and was already compromised. Period.
posted by jj's.mama at 10:58 AM on August 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have been the wife and I would want to know. After divorcing my ex-husband I was approached by a woman he'd been having an affair with and she told me he had propositioned to her and just needed time to get rid of me.

Knowing your partner has propositioned to somebody isn't worse than being oblivious to the fact your partner has been doing that behind your back. She will probably suffer greatly, but one day she will thank you for doing it. Truth will set you free and all that.

It is nice of you to consider what she has been going through at the moment, but if you decide to wait 1) all manner of things might happen between her and her scumbag of a husband, such as having a baby to soothe the pain of bereavement 2) you will have this on the back of your mind for longer than it's worth.
posted by longjump at 11:16 AM on August 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

I didn't tell when the creep who was married to my very dear, very pregnant friend propositioned me (I was in the middle of a separation and was not EVEN ready to deal with other people at this time). I don't know how someone could even think that this would be okay but he did! I didn't. I heard later that they did indeed split up so apparently it wasn't only me he was hitting on. Just my anecdata; YMMV.
posted by Lynsey at 1:10 PM on August 1, 2019

I have been the person to have to tell somebody about cheating, and in my case it was a good friend that I had to tell, and there was both immediate fallout, and probably minor lasting fallout. Then again, it might have cemented our longterm friendship, as we are still good friends.

Either way, I'm glad I did it, and yes, contacting a stranger is less cut-and-dry for me but I'd still do it.

The messenger almost always gets shot, but principles and empathy are more important, I think.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:16 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Don't do anything immediately. Really think this over. Don't expect thanks. The wife could think you're some crazy trying to break up her marriage and cause her misery. The husband could do you professional or personal harm. The whole thing could be good for no one.
posted by xammerboy at 10:03 PM on August 1, 2019

Thank you for deciding to tell the wife! We make each other safer and happier when we show solidarity like that.

One huge help with this is that even if she doesn’t believe you this time, she will the second or third time someone does this. Your sending a note makes it easier.

Also - I would rather know even if someone is my mainstay through a painful death, I wouldn’t want deceptive sympathy from a cheater who would do this to me in that situation.
posted by corb at 10:19 AM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


I wrote an anonymous email to her the day after I posted this thread, with wording based on advice from you all:

"Hi there,
I'm sorry to be writing this email to you, but I think women need to look out for each other, and if I were in your shoes I would want to know.

I'm an acquaintance of your husband. A couple of days ago, he asked if I wanted to have a no-strings affair with him. I turned him down because I know he's married, and I've blocked him on my phone and social media.

You don't have to believe me or respond to me. I've never even met you. I just wanted to let you know. I'm sorry to bring you this news. Wish you only the best. Take care."

A few days after I sent this email, my former co-worker withdrew the recommendation he had written for me on LinkedIn several years ago. I was a bit worried whether he would come after me, but nothing else happened. And, whatever, I don't really care about his recommendation. I just got a fab new job without it :)

Today, his wife wrote an email response to me:

"Thank you for reaching out to me. I've suspected something for a while now, but I didn't have any proof. Your email gave me a reason to go digging. It turns out [husband] has a very serious problem.

You could have had no idea but I received your email after returning from my father's memorial service. I had just finished giving his eulogy. The timing seems horrible but actually it was a wonderful gift. I feel so much better knowing for sure. I'm very grateful to you and wish you the best as well. "


Thanks MeFites for your good advice and your listening ear. There were a lot of different opinions on this thread, but even if I didn't take some of the advice given, I appreciate you giving it. You all helped me think this one through properly. <3
posted by MiraK at 3:40 PM on September 6, 2019 [22 favorites]

Good for you!
posted by sallybrown at 4:00 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

That was a supremely humane - and classy - way to handle this. I'm so glad you chose to support a woman whose husband didn't value her. We all deserve better. And congratulations on your new job!
posted by citygirl at 4:51 PM on September 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

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