You have a friend who is having an affair or is thinking about having one. What do you say? If you’re a woman, you just might encourage her. At least that’s the result of a recent study I stumbled upon.
OK, granted — it’s a Ph.D dissertation and not published in a peer-reviewed journal. And, its sample size is tiny. Still, it illuminates how friends or family members, who may be having affairs themselves or had one in the past, tend to support or even encourage an affair.
It caused me to reflect on the cheating friends I have known as well as my own affair. I confided in my best friend at the time who also was friends with my partner. I’m not sure why I told her; For support? Out of guilt? Because the secret was too big to carry alone? She didn’t talk me out of the affair, but she didn’t quite encourage me either. I’m not sure it would have made a difference either way. Would I have stopped the affair if I was going to lose her friendship over it? I’m not sure.
But should she have spoken out against it?
It’s a fine line to walk for a friend. Having been on both side of infidelity, I understand how amazing it feels if you’re the cheater and how demoralizing it feels if you’re the one being cheated on. I haven’t condoned the affairs of friends who have confided in me and I certainly wouldn’t encourage them. But I have, gently, tried to talk them out of it.
There’s a certain danger in telling others about your troubled marriage and affair. Friends can give bad advice, often to justify or rationalize their own bad choices. If they start badmouthing your spouse, too, it complicates things if you reconcile. You may lose your friendship over it, and your may even lose the spouse you’re cheating on to the friend you’ve confided in; there’s a reason people engage in mate poaching.
When I discovered some family members knew about my former husband’s affair — or at least strongly suspected it — and didn’t tell me, I was distraught. It seemed that they were part of the cover-up and deception. And yet that is the role I have played for friends who have confided their affairs to me.
What about you?
- Have you supported a friend or family member’s affair?
- Have you tried to discourage it?
- Have you lost a friendship over an affair?
- Have you mate poached?