You just found out your friend is cheating. Or maybe they’re being cheated on. Either way, someone’s been unfaithful, and now you’re the keeper of this information. (Yikes!) Never mind your state of shock — you now have the heavy burden of figuring out what to do next.
Carrying this knowledge around is stressful enough, and deciding what exactly to do with it? Well, that’s a whole other can of worms. Do you go top-secret mode, and gather more details? Or do you spill the beans right away? Any way you slice it, it’s a tough situation.
One thing’s for sure: You should tread lightly, and plan your next move carefully. It’s imperative you’re well-equipped to handle this sticky situation in the best way possible. Before you get yourself tangled up in your friend’s web of relationship lies, there’s no reason to spin out of control. Here’s what you should, and definitely should not, do when you’ve learned your friend or their partner is cheating.
When you know your friend is cheating
First and foremost, if a friend lets you know they’ve been cheating on their partner, they’re confident you’re willing to listen. Being a good listener means really focusing on what a person is telling you. No interrupting, no concocting your response, no offering advice before it’s too soon. In fact, they may not even be looking for your advice in the first place. Maybe they just need to get it all off their chest. Your friend turned to you for a listening ear, so that’s what you need to give them.
2. Don’t take it personally
On the other hand, it’s quite possible you found out your friend was having an affair without him or her having told you directly. Regardless of whether you confront your friend about it, don’t take it personally. Shasta Nelson explains in The Huffington Post it’s important to not put any blame on yourself.
It can be easy to get caught up with trying to justify why your friend never told you about their secret relationship. Maybe it’s because they don’t trust you, or they see how happy you are in your relationship so they wanted to find the same thing. Whatever the case, your friend has kept this to him or herself for a reason, so be gentle if you happen to broach the subject. And remember, it’s not about you.
3. Be honest
While you may want to spare your friend’s feelings, it’s important you stay true to what you think of the affair. Just because it’s your friend who’s the guilty party doesn’t mean you’re obligated to be on their side. Now of course, don’t go running to tattle on them, but still, be honest about the situation.
Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D. told PsychCentral, “Friends are supposed to act as ethical lighthouses for each other, so it is OK to state your views about infidelity if asked, without sounding judgmental, and without condoning their actions.” Honesty is typically the best policy, especially when it comes to friendships.
4. Don’t insert your own personal ideals
You may have a crystal clear vision of what you would do should you ever find yourself in this situation, but try to remember it’s your friend’s life, not your own. Just because you would come clean to your significant other about mistakes you’ve made doesn’t mean your friend will.
What you can do, however, is try to have them reflect on their own feelings, and help them reach a decision. Rastogi goes on to recommend saying, “This sounds like a complicated situation to be in. Personally, I am wary of affairs. How are you feeling about it?”
5. Decide your level of involvement, and step back when needed
Getting caught up in any person’s drama is bound to rub off on you. And the added stress of someone else’s affair isn’t exactly doing your overall health and happiness any favors. As Elite Daily points out, you need to decide how involved you want to be. And then, take a step back if it becomes too much. Hearing about an overload of distrust, infidelity, and deceit can be overwhelming, so remember to take care of yourself.
When you know your friend’s partner is cheating
1. Know the difference between what’s right and what’s best
It sounds so cut and dry: You catch your friend’s partner cheating, and you tell your friend the truth. Yet, it’s not so simple. Dropping that kind of bomb comes with some serious consequences, and it’s important you consider the aftermath of the lies you’re about to expose. First off, Mark D. White, Ph.D., explains in Psychology Today that you need to look at what’s right vs. what’s good.
The right thing to do is to tell your friend. However, it may not necessarily yield a good result. For instance, revealing this information will inevitably bring about a world of hurt to your friend. In one scenario, White suggests, “So rather than try to do the best thing, whatever that might be, maybe we should just do the right thing — and in this case, the right thing would seem to be to tell our friend the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.”
2. Don’t lash out on the cheater
Knowing your dear friend is being cheating on is bound to ignite a spark of anger. But it’s imperative you don’t let yourself get swept away in these emotions. After all, it’s not your relationship, so try to keep your feelings at bay until you’ve figured out how you’re going to proceed. Romper points out, “It may be challenging to keep your cool around your friend’s partner now, but lashing out in a fit of anger and rage won’t help the situation any.”
3. Consider what your friend would want you to do
What’s right for your relationship isn’t necessarily what’s right for your friend’s. Different circumstances, dynamics, and personalities all come into play. So, it’s imperative you remember, first and foremost, this is your friend’s relationship, not your own.
In White’s personal opinion, he would ask himself what his friend would want him to do. “After all, it’s his or her marriage, life, and future — what do I think he or she would like me to do? Respect what I think my friend would want: that’s my right answer,” he writes. Perhaps your friend has children. Or maybe they’ve been cheated on in the past, and said they’d rather not know in the future if it ever happened again. All these factors are important to consider when deciding whether to spill the beans about your friend’s cheating partner.
4. Decide how you’re going to tell them
If you’ve already decided you’ll be telling your friend, it’s now time to figure out how. There are lots of ways to break the news. Your friend will probably have a rush of emotions the moment he or she finds out, so you need to give some thought to how you’ll present this information. You have a few options when it comes to your delivery method, and whichever you choose will depend on how you think your friend will best respond.
For instance, Truth About Deception mentions you can tell someone face to face, or maybe sending an anonymous note is the way to go in a particular situation. Either way, revealing the truth will be difficult, but if you’re confident it’s the right thing to do, you’ll eventually be happy you did.
5. Don’t be judgmental
You may not agree with their decision, but it’s important to support your friend no matter what. Whatever choice they’ve made, they’ve done so because that’s what they believe is best for them. If they decide to stay with their partner, great. If they choose to leave, great. Either way, it’s their decision, and you need to be there to support it. This is undoubtedly a stressful time for your friend, and it’s important you remain judgment-free.