Whether it's out of loyalty to the unfaithful friend or to protect a loved one from the hard truth, many of us keep quiet about our knowledge or suspicion of cheating in relationships.
When I firmly suspected a friend was being mistreated, I created countless excuses to defer responsibility.
"It’s not my place to say anything. I don’t want to meddle. She or he will find out eventually."
As an outsider, I didn’t feel comfortable intervening in private matters. However, if I was free from all accountability, why did so much shame and guilt accompany my secret keeping?
If your skin crawls whenever you're in the cheater’s presence, or if you can no longer look someone in the eye, it’s time to reconsider keeping quiet.
The following three excuses are the most common reasons we avoid talking about cheating. But we need to seriously rethink our approach:
1. Pain: We don’t want to hurt the people we love.
There’s no way around it: Telling people they’ve been cheated on is going to pack a huge punch. Even if your friend suspected it all along, affirming his or her fear is like bringing a nightmare to life.
As long as their inkling is mental and rumors are just rumors, the issue can be written off as imaginary. Once your opinion (or better yet, proof) is presented, however, the problem unavoidably exists.
To avoid inflicting pain, we keep the truth to ourselves. We don’t want to cause damage or heartbreak.
But you must remember your information isn’t the source of the pain. The pain comes not from learning about the cheating, but from the cheating itself.
Delaying the talk will only cause more suffering, and never telling someone what you know will cause a problem of its own.
2. Protection: We don’t want to expose our friends.
Though incriminating photos can circulate and cheaters can be caught in the act, we most often learn about cheating when we are confided in. Someone lets you in on his or her secret and suddenly, you’re forced to bite your tongue.
You wouldn’t betray a friend’s trust, no matter how strongly you disagree with his or her choices, but a conversation about cheating can still be had.
If you feel someone cheated because he or she is deeply unhappy in his or her relationship, tell the person to end it and come clean. If you feel he or she made a huge mistake that won’t happen again, tell him or her to beg for a second chance.
Your job is not to talk to the person being cheated on. Rather, it is to make sure the right person does.
3. Timing: It’s not the right moment to bring it up.
Perhaps you feel it’s too soon to mention it. Or perhaps the cheating happened so long ago, it hardly matters anymore. Either way, there’s never going to be a perfect time to break terrible news.
"Yes, I’d love to grab drinks tomorrow! Oh, and one more thing: Your boyfriend has been sleeping with his personal trainer."
If you’re waiting for the right moment, know it’s never going to come. Now is as good a time as any. No one who’s been cheated on wishes he or she found out later.
Suspecting or knowing someone is being cheated on is one of the most painstaking dilemmas. Mustering up the courage to tell your friend (or a more appropriate messenger) isn’t easy.
But in the end, there’s no valid excuse to avoid addressing this issue. We have a duty to our friends and family to remain honest, keep them informed and have an opinion, even if these responsibilities aren't always well-received.
Wouldn’t you want to know?