Should you tell your friend you caught their partner cheating?


What you need to know:

  • If you catch your friend’s partner cheating, it might be tempting to heed the adage, “honesty is the best policy.” But experts say that deciding how to handle this scenario is a little more complicated than that.

Your best friend has been lamenting that their relationship is not going on well. Then one day, while minding your business in town, you see their partner in a sexually compromising situation. You pick up your phone to alert them, but immediately pause to think; should I tell them? Should I say the reason things are going awry in their relationship is because of infidelity?

You are conflicted. They might believe you, but then again, they might scold you for poking your nose into their private affairs. There is also the possibility you might be left with egg on your face if they choose to reconcile with their partner.

Before you speak

Before you sit your friend down and deliver your findings, find out the kind of relationship they have. For example, are they in an open relationship where going out with other partners is permitted? At the same time, sex therapist Clare Prendergast, says you should find out whether they already know about her partner’s philandering, and whether you may have misjudged the scene in which you caught them.

“Always remember if your friend decides to continue with the relationship, she and her partner may see you as a constant reminder of what happened, regularly bring you up in their arguments, or kick you out of their circle completely,” says Claire.

This is echoed by Sheri Meyers, the author of Chatting or Cheating. She says the best thing to do is to keep off due to the nature of presumptions and assumptions that will be going on in such a relationship.

“Do not tell what you have found out unless you have proof-positive evidence. And even then, why would you want to get involved in such drama?” she wonders. By no means should you confront your friend’s partner when you bump into them cheating under the claim of protecting your friend?

Burden of proof

Cheating partners will often go on the defensive. This will be compounded by the fact that the partner you accuse of cheating was not directly caught by their spouse.

“The chances of proving your claims will often be next to zero unless you got a recording of the actual cheating event. There will be denial at first. Then conviction, and eventually a teaming up of the partner you busted and your friend against you,” says Meyers.

The outcome might be muddier if you are a male friend telling on another man. Even if you have video evidence, you may still come under scrutiny over your keenness to stage a recording and the interests you have vested in your friend’s relationship.

Right vs good

Mark White, the author of Doctor Strange and Philosophy, says ultimately, the decision to tell or not should be informed by what you think will uphold your moral character.

“First ask yourself, would she want you to tell her? Once you have an answer to this, respect it by either laying out hints, telling your friend straight up, or keeping silent about it,” he says.

Family therapist Lawrence Kibiru says you could lay out hints or suggestions that could lead to the ending of the affair and the mending of the relationship.

“Instead of bluntly saying that you caught him cheating, or saw him with an acquaintance you are suspicious about, you may point out a few major causes of relationship breakdown such as cheating, and suggest counselling where this can be unearthed and dealt with more efficiently,” he says.

When you tell

If you decide to tell, be ready to compassionately understand your friend’s reaction and guide them out of the quandary.

“Your revelation will set off a series of reactions, especially if their partner has never cheated before. She may feel angry at you for bursting the bubble of her otherwise happy relationship. She may be embarrassed or even get defensive.

Whatever her reaction is, do not shove your proof down her throat day in day out,” says Meyers. “Instead, walk with her through it as much as she may want you to.”

The bottom line

There is no right or wrong way to handle this situation because every friendship and every romantic relationship is different. Also, there is no guarantee whatsoever that your friend will react one way or the other when you tell them their partner has been cheating on them. All you can do is make sure you have your story straight, try to practice empathy, and trust your gut instincts.

Most importantly, make it a point to remind your friend that you are there for them while they cope with the emotional fallout of the infidelity.

Regardless of whether they are able to express their appreciation for your honesty, they will likely be super grateful to have a loving, supportive person to lean on during such a vulnerable time.

 Get firm evidence

If you are absolutely sure the interaction falls under the category of infidelity, get proof. You may not have to use this. But, it is better to have proof, just in case you decide to share the information and just in case your friend does not believe you.

• You might take a picture or record a video of your friend’s partner with their illicit lover.

• Be discreet, if you decide to do this.

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