It's not easy to accept the uncomfortable truth that cheating isn't always black or white. Good people aren't always faithful — and sometimes, those good people can be your close friends. If your friend is cheating on their significant other, here's how to navigate this delicate situation.
Before you express any potential feelings of judgment, confusion, or disappointment, let your friend share their perspective. This is crucial, especially if your friend is turning to you for support or if you suspect you're among the first person to hear about this news. "Do not jump to conclusions," warns Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show. "Get all the information you can so you understand what is going on." It's important to let your friend do most of the talking — especially before you visibly or verbally react or offer advice. "Listen, and listen carefully," he says. "Make sure you allow your friend to tell their story and give their explanation."
Regardless of your own views on cheating, your priority as a friend should be to create a safe space for them to open up. "If you pounce on them with accusations and judgment, they will shut down," Dr. Klapow says.
While it might be tempting to help your friend navigate the next steps — whether that's coming clean to their partner, breaking off their relationship, or seeking support from a mental health professional — Dr. Klapow suggests the best course of action is for you to simply listen. "The general rule is not to intervene directly. This is not your relationship. Your job is to support and guide — not to solve," he explains.
In addition, know that experts don't always recommend that the cheater tell their partner what happened. Even if they might deserve to hear the truth, knowledge can be a painful burden sometimes. "'Coming clean' and 'just telling them' is not always the best route," says Dr. Klapow. "Protecting someone who's been cheated on may involve not telling them immediately, thinking about the best way to discuss it, and letting the couple deal with the problem."
No matter what your friend reveals, keep in mind that it's important to keep the information between the two of you. This isn't your story to share. Intervening or gossiping will likely jeopardize your friendship. Remember, your friends can fight their own battles.