The Cheating Husband. Do You Tell?

 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?

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12 Responses to The Cheating Husband. Do You Tell?

  1. Abi says:

    I have been in this situation before and it was REALLY awkward. In the end my friend (who has much more sass than I do) told him he had till the end of the week to tell his fiancee or she would tell her herself. In the end he confessed he kissed another girl, but not that he had had sex with her. My friend ended up telling her that he did indeed slept with this other woman (they were roommates so she definitely knew they had sex) and her and the fiance broke up.

    When it comes down to it I would much rather be told than not told! Especially if I was going to make a lifelong commitment to the guy.

  2. If that was me, I will inform her by sending her an anonymous email about everything that I know. But before doing so, I will have to make sure that my facts are straight.

  3. Sometimes, we just have to pick up the pieces and move on. What I learned was to love ourselves and be happy.

  4. It is better not to tell. Do not get into the middle of a brewing storm.

  5. Kath says:

    Agree that clarifying where you think you stand when “dating” is important, with each other, yes. Can be hard as sometimes it sounds like one of you is getting serious and it could be *the end*. Still good to know though.

    Btw looking forward to reading the new Singlism book – see you're a contibutor, congrats.!

  6. eleanore says:

    @Kath: Glad you like the blog. I'm having fun doing it. So…let me try to 'splain. Dating can be complicated when there's more than two people involved, no doubt about it. I think dating more than one person at a time is perfectly fine and probably the norm when you've just met them. There's not likely to be an expectation of exclusivity at the very beginning.

    However, once you're in a relationship with someone and there's the understanding that you're “the only one” and you learn that you're not…well, that's different. I have learned that it is important to make sure that both parties have the understanding of exclusivity. In fact, it needs to be voiced…out loud…so nobody's confused.

  7. Kath says:

    Hey Eleanor, I love your blog. But I'ma bit confused, in one blog you say you're happy to date two guys at the same time (ref. when your pal tried speed dating), but then in another blog you say you were hurt when the guy you were dating was also dating someone else. Is this because you'd tell someone if you were dating other people, but he didn't tell you so you thought he wasn't?

    I don't understand “dating” more than one person really, perhaps that's to do with my upbringing, but it feels deeper than that – but I accept that is me, and other people have different feelings. I don't understand though how someone can be really intimate (physically and emotionally) with more than one person – it feels false.

  8. dclicious says:

    To AllegrinaF

    Their may be something to keeping a spare. Before my elderly aunt died she told me to always keep a spare. She said u don't have to sleep with both. One can just be a “friend”.

    Also, us intllectual Spinsterlicious types know that one man can't take care of all of your needs!!! Just sayin…

  9. AllegrinaF says:

    Hmmm, my next door neighbour (female) married plus 2 kids has just started seeing another guy. I don't judge her on it. I'm in a relationship with a guy who is always on the look out for my replacement and I've sworn I will play him at his own game if only I can find 'his' replacement – no luck yet. So I just sit back and listen to her tales. Her husband is too much like one of my ex 's for me to have an sympathy for him, he's really put her through it over the years and they are very different people. She has now hit 30 something bored.com (sheesh I remember this only too well!). Also, the chap she is seeing is married, much older, kids have left home and I understand is known for his extra maritals. There's a lot of it about, every where I go there are messed up relationships. I am beginning to think that man kind just isn't meant to be faithful to one partner, hence I am looking forward to singledom. Less complicated…..

  10. dclicious says:

    I've always told my friends to tell me if my guy was cheating. I WANT TO KNOW!!! It happened to my in my 20s. My best friend at the time and I were dating best friends. She went out my guy and another woman and didn't tell me. Our friendship was never the same.

    I always ask my friends if they want to know.

  11. Cham says:

    You don't waste your time wondering whether to tell or not to tell. You dump both of them and move on with your life. You recognize drama for what it is and are smart enough to stay far far far away.

  12. “…by keeping quiet, we’re making it easy for him. Why are we protecting him?”

    I think that's right. It imagine it feels like becoming a conspirator in the cheating if you keep the secret. If people were more open about condemning infidelity I think it wouldn't happen as often.

    Then again, I've never been in this position. Even so, I would want to know. I could never forgive someone for disrespecting me like that and I think I would end the relationship right away if this ever happened.

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