Q: Your friend tells you about cheating on a partner. How should you handle the situation?
A: Not only does a relational betrayal have an impact on the people intimately involved, it also impacts those who hear about it. It makes sense that this type of discovery would change how you look at this person, as well as question that person's judgment.
Keep in mind that your friend is telling you for a reason. This type of information is something they recognize that they cannot share with just anyone. While you might be disturbed by the news, this is not the time or place to offer your own perspectives on what they should or should not do. Chances are that your friend has been internally struggling with the situation. It is not your job to "solve" anything, and if you tried, you likely would find yourself very limited in your capacity to do so.
You do not have to condone someone's behavior in order to support them. You can be a listening ear for them to process and determine for themselves what their best next steps are.
It also is important to focus on how this discovery might affect your friendship. People engage in this type of betrayal for a plethora of reasons, and it is understandable to be hurt and skeptical about their commitment to other boundaries within other relationships. Once your friend has had a chance to get the issue off their chest, you could communicate what this information means to you and any concerns that might have surfaced regarding your friendship because of it. It might provide an opportunity for the friendship to repair and grow.
JEFFREY KRAFT, licensed therapist at Pinnacle Counseling
A: Unfortunately, your friend has put you in an awkward situation, at best, by confiding in you. Now how to handle it?
First of all, resolve to be the kind of friend you'd like to have, and act accordingly. Suppose you're true blue, no matter what. Then keep this secret, and let the chips fall where they may. Tell your friend that you're there for them without judgment, in good times and bad.
On the other hand, if you feel uncomfortable hanging out with the couple, limit it. Your friend was forthcoming with you, so do the same with them and say that you are uneasy being all together when you know the truth. Perhaps you can hang with your friend, independent of the partner, until their relationship resolves itself.
Whichever path you take, the last thing you want is to be caught in the middle of this mess. If you spill the beans to the partner, and the couple work things out, that could leave a wedge in your friendship that's hard to ignore. In this case, mum's the word.
My advice is to be mindful that people do things for myriad reasons, many of which we will never know or understand. Be a good friend; be kind and honest and treat your friend with respect. You hope they'd do the same for you.
HEIDI DULEBOHN, etiquette expert