My friend's husband has a whole secret life

Should I tell her about the woman he stays with when he "misses his flight"?


Cary Tennis
December 1, 2004 1:00AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I just found out my good friend's husband is cheating on her big-time. He supposedly has been doing lots of business traveling but is actually living with his girlfriend in a nearby city on the days he's not home with my friend (call her Nancy). I know that what goes on in Nancy's marriage is none of my business and I have remained tight-lipped, but it's becoming difficult to listen to her endless disappointment every time her husband seems to have "missed" his connecting flight. He even missed Thanksgiving and he's already laying the groundwork for ducking out on Christmas.

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In addition, I find it increasingly difficult to be around her for fear of blurting out something snide about her husband. Consequently, she's been asking me if "we're OK." I realize that Nancy may be choosing to ignore the obvious signs that something is amiss with her husband and that's frustrating too. I want to be a supportive friend but I'm at a loss what to do.

Any advice you can offer is most appreciated!

Conundrum

Dear Conundrum,

Some things between a husband and wife can indeed be said to be none of your business. An indiscretion, for instance, committed in a moment of rare weakness, is something that an outside party ought to think twice before revealing. But this seems different to me. This is an ongoing program of conscious deception. It involves not just emotions but bedrock matters of economic survival -- housing, income, routines of daily living.

For that reason, I think you have some obligation to inform the wife. If he were about to shoot her, you would warn her, right? If he were secretly stealing from her and planning to leave her destitute, that would qualify as something you'd tell her, right? I think this is in that category of willful harm, bordering on the criminal in spirit if not in legal fact. He's robbing her of her peace of mind. He's robbing her of her trust. And he's making a fool of her.

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So I think she deserves to know so that she can take control of her life. But you must be absolutely certain that the accusation is true. Right now it's just something somebody said. That's not good enough. If you're going to tell your friend that her husband is actually living with another woman while he's away from town, you need to verify it for yourself.

Ideally, you would learn who this woman is that he's supposedly living with, what her address and telephone number are, before you say a word. But there may be obstacles to your finding that out. In that case, like a good journalist, get it from more than one source. Consider the reliability of each source and any possible motives the source might have to lie. Ideally, at least one source will have direct knowledge of the situation. Do not assume that the accusation is true. Be prepared to learn that the accusation is baseless. Look only for the truth.

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If and when you feel certain that it's true, do you tell the wife face to face, or anonymously? I think it's best that you tell her face to face. For one thing, the anxiety and confusion she is bound to experience would be much greater if she had no idea where the news came from and no idea whom she could talk to about it. If you tell her face to face, she will see you as her ally. And if you truly are her ally, then you will gladly make yourself available to her as she struggles to accept the truth and decide what to do.

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