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Carolyn Hax: Evaluate your motives before revealing friends' affair

Evaluate your motives before revealing friends' affair

Q: A friend revealed to me that she is having an affair with a good friend's husband. I wish she had not told me because it puts me in a very awkward position of keeping this secret both from her husband and the wife whose husband she is smugly sleeping with.

I am sensitive to this because some time ago I discovered my own husband's infidelity with another smug woman. As painful as the discovery was for me, we eventually worked things out. A few people eventually told me they were suspicious but afraid to say anything. I wish they had spoken up. I was totally blind.

Now I feel compelled to inform these parties despite the fact that it is "none of my business." What can I do?


A: You can take a hard look at your biases before you act on any compulsions. Is the good friend's husband "smug," too?

Maybe viewing infidelity through the Jezebel lens helped you make peace with your husband's actions, but it's misogynistic and unfair. Both parties in your husband's affair and both parties in your friend's affair are accountable for their choices.

You can let your non-disclosing friends off the hook; they had suspicions, not a confession, and so whether to tell you was an even tougher call than the one you're struggling with now.

Bias doesn't put you in a position that's any less awful; it just means you need to take extra care to screen your decision for self-serving motives. Decency demands that you act in service of the greater good, versus the ax your history moves you to grind.

One thing you can do without much agonizing: Tell your friend how you feel about this cow pie she dropped in your lap. That's your business, and it's entirely appropriate to object to her thoughtlessness.

It's also the first step on a solid path to a clear conscience. As part of that conversation, invite your friend to help you decide what to do now, no threats, with one non-negotiable feature: You won't lie to cover her tracks.

Not only does that dramatically limit your friend's ability to operate in secrecy, it also keeps you within the limits of knowing your place.

If you watch any TV, offer to pay for a portion of the cable bill

Q: I share an apartment with a close friend. With Internet and DVDs, I hardly ever use cable. So, while I want to be a good roommate, responsible for my half, cable is a redundant charge for me. I've brought it up casually once, but she seemed reluctant to engage me. Should I just suck it up and dish out?


A: If you watch any TV, then, yes.

It's certainly fair for you to say that if it were up to you, you wouldn't have cable, and then ask if it's something she could live without. If she says it's still important for her to have it, then you can respectfully request that she assume responsibility for it. If you wander in and start watching something with her, though, then you must offer to chip in generously (to pre-empt hard feelings and bean-counting). Maybe not half the monthly nut, but a week's worth at least.

Carolyn Hax: Evaluate your motives before revealing friends' affair 03/31/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2011 4:30am]
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