“One of my [26F] best friends [28F] since college is starting an affair. She’s been with her partner for eight years and he’s not perfect, but I sincerely believe he tries his best. I know my friend is unhappy, but she doesn’t want to leave him because, frankly, I think she doesn’t have the ego strength to ever be alone. She has no self esteem, she’s depressed, and now she’s starting an affair with another man who has no idea she’s in a relationship.
How can I still respect her? I’ve always been outspoken about my intolerance for cheating. It destroyed my parents’ marriage and has really crippled our shared best friend [26M] confidence after he was cheated on by a long time girlfriend. I know cheating doesn’t make you a monster, but I’m worried I won’t look at my friend the same way again. I still love her, but she’s doing something so hurtful- she’s avoiding talking to me about it because I think she knows where I stand in general re: adultery, but she’s keeping it no secret that she’s hooking up with this other guy.
What should I do? Pull away? Disallow her from talking to me about the affair? Am I just a judgmental monster? I feel guilty and torn up….”
I was once very close with a friend who absolutely hated his job. He hated it so much that all he could talk about was how much he hated it. Any attempts to redirect our conversation to anything other than how much he hated his job was met with indifference and neglect. So I had to sit him down and communicate with him that I understood how much he hated job and that he was venting to me without asking for advice. I also explained to him that this hatred was consuming his personality and it was changing him into someone I didn’t particularly enjoy spending time with. After I explained to him that he could always get a different job or change things at his work so that his work was more palatable, I had to develop a boundary with him that I could no longer listen to him talk about his work. He said he understood.
Our friendship didn’t last long after that conversation.
According to this article from Psych Central, it appears that while the likelihood of someone or their partner currently cheating in their relationship sits at less than 6%, the chance of infidelity rises to 25% over the full lifetime of a relationship. Considering many of us have been in relationships in the past and know of many others who have been in relationships, it becomes very likely that some of us have either experienced infidelitous relationships first-hand or knew of someone who experienced infidelitous relationships first-hand.
Your friend implicitly understands that this is a clear boundary violation for you based on your personal and mutual history together. It is an event that you have had some extensive first- and second-hand experience with. Maybe it is time for you to flesh out that boundary with your best friend, that it is something that greatly upsets you to hear about how she is violating her monogamous commitment with her long-term partner.
Just because she is your best friend doesn’t mean that you have to passively accept her clearly unethical behavior. In fact, passively accepting might enable her to justify her own behavior retroactively (i.e. “Look at me talking about this taboo thing with my friends. They’re all okay with it so this behavior must be okay.”). As for the degree of boundary violation and what you want to do with it is up to you. You can decide if you want to continue to be friends with this person knowing that this person has this clear character flaw that might or might not negatively reflect on your own friendship with this person going forward. That price of admission is for you to pay. If you choose not to be friends anymore, you’ll also have to decide if you want to tell your friend’s partner that he is being cheated on.
I will also mention here that one of the only constant in life is change. People change all the time. It is clear that there is a lot of changes on the horizon for both your friend and for her partner. So even if you decide that you need to temporarily keep some distance, you can also choose to leave that door open for when she is on her path back to recovery.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
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