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Ratting Out a Cheater

What do you do when a good friend is blissfully unaware she's been cheated on: burst her bubble or keep quiet? See what your relationship experts had to say in this installment of the 4-Way Panel.

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Dear 4-Way,
Recently, one of my close girlfriends went out with me and a separate group of my friends she hadn’t met before. We went to happy hour after work and had a great time—we all drank way too much, and a few members of the group hung out until very late. The next day, I found out that my girlfriend slept with the long-term boyfriend of another close friend, who wasn’t there. My friend didn’t even know he had a girlfriend. Now, when the girl he cheated on talks about how great her boyfriend is and their plans to buy a house and move in together, get married, and start a family, I feel sick. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news—I know it’s none of my business—but I also want to protect my friend from marrying a guy who will likely cheat on her and hurt her in the long run. Do I tell her or just keep quiet? —NL, New York, New York

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
Rough spot, NL! So, which friend are you willing to lose? And are you willing to lose both of them? Here are your options, as I see them:

Scenario 1: You tell the friend who whored around that the douchebag she slept with has a girlfriend, who’s one of your best friends. She tells you she’s hooked on this dude and she doesn’t care.

Scenario 2: You tell the original girlfriend—or OG, as we’ll call her—about your friend’s sleeping with her main squeeze while she turned her back. OG gives you this crazed look like you just threatened to drown her grandmother and asks why you would ever tell her such a horrible lie—clearly, her man would never cat around on her. You look like the bad guy because Douchebag lied his ass off to save face, and you lose the original girlfriend as a result.

Scenario 3: You tell OG the whole story; she asks how you know. You tell her that unfortunately, the girl he slept with was a friend of yours, who told you, and that you felt OG had a right to know. OG is upset but sees that you are a true friend and thanks you for telling her the truth, realizing how hard it must be for you.

Scenario 4: Do what a friend did for me in the past: Pull the guy aside. Tell him you know everything and he has two hours to tell his girlfriend, or you’ll tell her for him. Then you’re off the hook, out of the middle, and a hero to all women. I appreciated my friend more than ever, and chances are, your friend will feel the same way about you.

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
Wow, this is a tough one. My first instinct is to tell you to just stay out of it altogether; if he’s cheated before, he’ll cheat again, and your friend will eventually find out. Plus, you’re friends with both women. If you tell the woman he cheated on, she’s probably going to hold it against the woman he cheated with, rather than hold it against her boyfriend—even though that woman had no idea he had a girlfriend—so it doesn’t seem fair for the friend he cheated with to take the fall. She’ll take it anyway, even if the boyfriend eventually tells, but if it were me, I wouldn’t want to be the bearer of the news that was responsible for all that anger.

Also, it really isn’t any of your business. While your heart’s in the right place, this is something that doesn’t involve you. Even our best friends often have things going on in their lives and their relationships that we don’t know about. Maybe this couple has some sort of open relationship that your friend hasn’t told you about because she wants to keep it private. You just never know.

But all that said, if it were me and my boyfriend were out screwing around while I was talking up our rainbows-and-sunshine life, I’d feel like a complete idiot if one of my closest friends knew what a cheating douchebag he was and never told me. Think hard about whether your friend is the kind of person who would really want to know this information—some women (à la Joey’s mom on Friends) might not, but I’m betting most would. If you think your friend would want to know, tell her. Don’t tell the boyfriend in an effort to try and scare him into manning up. He’s sleeping with a known friend of his girlfriend, so he doesn’t seem like someone you can rely on to man up. Besides, your relationship is with her, not him. Talking to him would only convolute this even more, in my opinion.

Good luck. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes … and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be in hers. 

The Lesbian Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
I’m glad to hear you’re thinking deeply about the honorable thing to do in this situation. I wish I could honestly say that there’s one right way to respond in this scenario, but I just can’t. In my mind, this isn’t like a math problem that has only one outcome; there are just too many unknowns and variables.

One school of thought is to ask yourself if you would want to know if your own fiancé had cheated on you. Even if your answer is yes, that doesn’t mean that your friend would want to know. And even if she would, does that mean that you’re the best one to break the news?  Another strategy is to go to the guy and let him know you know and see how he reacts to what you say. A bit of finesse is required here. If you approach him in a heavy-handed judgmental way, like, “Hey you, creep, I know you f’in’ cheated on your girl,” I don’t believe he’ll be very willing to talk with you in an honest way. If you approach it thoughtfully, you just might save the relationship, instead of breaking it up.

No option is easy here. Each may leave you wishing you could save your friend from pain. The bottom line is that there’s no guarantee of that, but you can do what you think is best. That’s all we can ever do, NL: our best.

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this isn’t the first time your close friend’s boyfriend has strayed.  Your friend is either delusional or blind if she hasn’t sensed her boyfriend’s infidelity.

I would tell Cheater Boyfriend that you know he slept with your friend. Don’t feel like you’re stepping in where you shouldn’t here. He’s the one who—ahem—stepped where he shouldn’t. You can’t help but know what you know. His careless, subversive actions put you in this awkward position. You’ve done nothing wrong—keep it that way by making him be honest with your friend.

The come-clean-with-your-friend/his-girlfriend ball is now in his court. If he fouls out, that’s his problem, not yours.

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