I was talking to a good friend the other day and asked her why her friend Layla was a little chilly toward me. She’s cordial—not rude, not cold—but not as friendly as she could be. I don’t know Layla that well, but I’ve been in her company a few times and I like her. The feeling didn’t seem to be mutual and I didn’t know why. After all, I’m delightful; how could she not want to be friends with me?
My friend’s answer surprised me. She thinks that Layla (obviously not her real name) suspects I may know some things about her husband that she’d prefer I not know. It’s possible that her husband may be a bit of a womanizer and, since I’m friendly with a guy who works (and plays) with him, the assumption is that I may know something about his alleged extracurricular activities.
That made me really uncomfortable, primarily because she’s kinda right. I do know that the scuttlebutt is that her husband “plays around,” but that’s all I know; I don’t know any details. And then I started to think, “Well, what if I did know some details? What then?” I don’t know the answer to that, but my guess is that if I knew her secret, it would change our relationship.
It’s funny. As a commited spinster, a cheating husband of my own is something I’ll never have to grapple with. However, somebody else’s cheating husband is a topic of conversation with friends from time to time. Fortunately, it almost always involves people I know but who are not part of my inner circle. And that’s as it should be. That way, it’s salacious but not actionable. It’s none of my business, except in a gossipy kind of way.
It would be very different, though, if the people involved were close friends of mine. I’m pretty certain that I’d tell if I ever knew (or even heard the slightest word) that the husband of a dear friend was cheating on her. (I’m assuming lots of gasps here). Except for one person: I have one friend who has made it clear for many years (even before she was married) that she never wants anyone to tell her anything about her man. Perhaps not surprisingly, her husband has had more than a few dalliances throughout their marriage. She has chosen not to know, and I respect honor that wish.
But I’d tell anybody else who was near and dear because: 1) I’d feel like a terrible friend keeping a secret like that from a good friend; and 2) I think people should have all the information they can to make the decisions they need to make. What they do with the information is up to them.
I take a pretty hard line against cheating husbands—a luxury I can afford because it’s all in the abstract for me. I’m always confused by and disappointed in women who stay with these guys—again, a luxury I can have, viewing it from afar. And I would tell because I would want to be told. Many years ago, a woman I considered a good friend knew that the guy I was dating was also dating someone else. She didn’t tell me until after the relationship ended, and I was pretty angry with her. I felt betrayed by her, and I hated the fact that she knew things about my relationship that I didn’t. It changed our friendship a bit. So I understand Layla’s response to me.
So, should you tell your good friend about her cheating husband? I think most people say “no.” But I wonder if, by keeping quiet, we’re making it easy for him. Why are we protecting him?