Dear Ibby, I think my friend's girlfriend is cheating on him ... Do I tell him?
Ooo, what a complicated question with an equally complicated answer.
Telling your friend he's being cheated on is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of thing. There are a million reasons why you both should and should not do it ... and a cubic hundred zillion outcomes of making either choice.
Of course you have a certain responsibility to watch out for your friends. That's why they're your friends, because you care about them enough to watch their back and ensure their well-being.
However, getting involved in something like this has a number of consequences you might not have foreseen, and you should be comfortable with taking them on before you proceed.
That's why I made you this little questionnaire right here. It should help you figure out whether this is a road you want to go down, and if it doesn't, fuck you.
Ask yourself this shit:
1.) Are you ready to ruin lives?
Great! Because you're about to. I don't know how long your friend and his girlfriend have been together, but that'll determine the extent of the life ruining you're about to inflict.
If they've been together for a while, live or work together, and have the same social group, your disclosure of this information is going to turn their worlds upside down. Depending on how your friend takes it, the effects of you telling him will range from causing him weeks to months of anger and sadness, to him having to spend a shit ton of money to move out, to him having to rework his social group so he doesn't have to see her.
Even if they decide to stay together and work through it, you've ensured a pretty uncomfortable domestic life for your friend for the foreseeable future.
In rare circumstances, the person you tell will take it well. Knowing he's being cheated on might cause his girlfriend and him to have a series of much-needed conversations about boundaries, trust and intimacy, and their relationship might be stronger for it. Or, your friend will take it well because he wanted to break up with her anyway and now he's got an excuse.
Only you know how your friend would react, I'm only so psychic.
Of course, people are remarkably resilient. People get cheated on and break up all the live long day. Both your friend and his girlfriend will be okay eventually ... or they'll never get over it even after years of therapy. Just ... think about that, okay honey bunny?
2.) Are you okay with potentially losing the friendship of your friend and/or his girlfriend?
Ever heard the expression "Don't kill the messenger?" You're the messenger and you might get killed (not literally, although maybe).
If this is your absolute best friend in the world, or even second or third best friend, I'd say you have a good chance of retaining the friendship after you tell them. When you're close to someone and involved in their life so much that you've achieved "best friend" status, your relationship often takes precedence over romantic relationships and it is kind of your place to watch their back.
If it's just a friend, a guy you really like but wouldn't necessarily take a bullet for, I'd stay out of it. It's not really your place to meddle in his shit if you don't know him super well.
Either way, your friend might resent you for interfering with his relationship. Even though you were just looking out for his best interests, if you take something away that he loves, he might not have the maturity to appreciate your gesture. He might kinda hate you, and his girlfriend definitely will.
... Or, he might not. He might find your disclosure of this information to be incredibly kind and genuine, and see you as a better friend for it.
Who knows? Just another thing to think about.
3.) Does his girlfriend totally suck a fuck?
Is this chick a universally hated twat-wad who treats your friend like shit? Is she controlling, abusive, or jealous? Does she step on kittens? Is she mean to servers? Can he do way, way, way better? Is he just with her for regularly scheduled sex or because her Dad gives her a $10K/month allowance to spend on jewels and botox?
I'd say if you and your friend group want to blast this bitch into hyper-space, never to be seen again, because she's a dick, then tell your friend she's cheating on him. Usually, when someone's friend group agrees someone's girlfriend or boyfriend is an asshat, they're right, and it is actually better for your friend to go through a little heartbreak.
On the other hand, if you actually like his girlfriend and she's your friend too, and she's a nice, caring person ... think twice. She might actually be really good for your friend, and she might have her own personal reasons for doing what she's doing that you know nothing about. You're almost guaranteed to fuck her shit up and lose her friendship as well.
4.) Is she actually doing something wrong, or do you just think she is?
You might not know the specifics of your friend's relationship. He might have a deal worked out with his girlfriend that they can bend the lines of monogamy. Maybe they have an open relationship, maybe they have a policy where they can fuck other people when one of them's out of town, or maybe he gets turned on by the idea of her being with other men. You! Just! Don't! Know!
Maybe they have terrible sex or his dick doesn't work, but they love each other, and the only way his girlfriend can stay sane within the relationship is to fuck other people.
Don't assume that just because she's cheating that it's wrong. That could be your own assessment of the situation and you could be projecting your own morals and ethics onto other people.
That being said, it's a different story if you know for sure that your friend and his girlfriend have a 100 percent monogamous relationship and that she is definitely breaking some kind of boundary.
Either way, make sure you're crystal clear on the parameters of their relationship before you decide to get involved. You can do this by casually mentioning that you've always wanted to try an open relationship to him and seeing what he says. Talk about these issues as if they were happening to you, as if you're just talking about them between friends, without inferring that you're actually talking about him.
Just realize that people usually cheat for a reason, not just because they're shitty, selfish people. Sometimes they are, but ... you get it.
5.) Would you want to be told if you were getting cheated on?
Some people would, some people wouldn't. Sometimes, when you're happy and the cheating poses no real threat to your relationship, the saying "what you don't know won't hurt you" is actually true.
But that all depends on how you view cheating. Maybe you'd want to know regardless of how much it would hurt because you want the choice to stay with your partner, or because you're concerned for health reasons. Maybe cheating is an absolute deal-breaker for you.
Just give your self a day or two to think about how you'd feel if the tables were turned. Imagine yourself in his shoes. Picture the outcome of knowing and of not knowing. Then, cross-examine your feelings with how you think your friend would react.
6.) Is this your business?
Unless you're the person your friend's girlfriend is cheating on him with, it's definitely not your business. In fact, unless you're actually in it, another person's relationship is never your business. That being said, by telling him what's going on, you make it your business. You're suddenly an active participant. You have to be okay with this suddenly being your problem if you want to tell him.
To be honest, I'm of the school of thought that other people's relationships aren't your business. The only times I'd personally consider telling someone they're getting cheated on is if they specifically asked me to tell them, or if their girlfriend or boyfriend fucking SUCKED. Otherwise, I can't pretend to know what's going on inside someone else's relationship and I don't feel that it's my responsibility to get involved unless I'm asked to.
Sometimes, it hurts people less to be unaware of things they don't absolutely need to know about it. That's just my opinion though; I'm not right or wrong here.
Most people would disagree with me because they see cheating as a black and white, right or wrong situation, but I've been writing this column and researching this subject long enough to recognize that it's not always that simple. Cheating is an incredibly subjective, highly complicated situation that can't be generalized. Every single person has a different experience or reaction to it.
It's sort of unfortunate to me that we live in a society where someone's physical dalliances hold such power when it comes to destroying healthy relationships. It seems to me that if two people really love each other, something as insignificant as meaningless sex shouldn't have the potential to eradicate the happy life they've built together. That diminishes the relationship and sends the message that love is classified as one's ability to only fuck one person. That makes no sense to me! But heeeey.
It's a different story with emotional cheating, when one person has strong feelings for the person they're cheating with. That poses an actual threat to a relationship, and is something that should be discussed much more openly.
But, I digress. Bottom line is, consider as many outcomes as you can when you're deciding whether to tell your friend. Or, disappear to Mexico and live out the rest of your life as a taco farmer because problems can't physically cross geographical borders!