Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
I caught my good friend’s wife cheating on him; we’ll call him Mike. I was seated at a restaurant when I saw her and a different man walk in together. They were holding hands, touching each other, and I saw them kissing. She did not see me, but I took a photo in case I needed proof. You’re probably asking, 'Are you sure it was definitely her?' Yes, it was.
I wanted to tell Mike right away, but I didn’t because I genuinely do not know if he would want to know. I don’t know what the terms of their marriage is behind closed doors. Then I sat on this information. Now it’s been a few weeks and I feel like I missed my window. What should I do? What would you do?
OK, so that’s not ... ideal. I am really sorry you're in this position and I'm sorry your friend is, too. Harboring this information probably feels horrible. As people say, secrets make you sick, and you’re keeping a big one.
You have a couple options, and I think of these as the possibilities I would pick from if I were to find myself in your situation.
You tell Mike. You mentioned a key word in your letter: information. That’s what you have. Put aside judgment of the situation and your own emotions. You have information you want to share with your friend privately and, hopefully if you can, in person. You can show Mike the photo and say, “This was taken on X date at Y place at Z time. I wasn’t sure if I should tell you or mind my own business but I realized if it were me and the situations were reversed, I would want someone to tell me.”
Understand that if this isn’t part of their marriage (and whether it is or isn't is not your concern), Mike may take his anger out on the messenger. That’s OK, and you can’t take it personally. This is not about you. This is about their marriage and the actions of his wife. You can say that you are here to listen without judgment and without unsolicited advice (that’s key). You can also say you are cool with ignoring it, moving forward and pretending it never happened. Do whatever Mike wants you to do here.
You have probably wondered if this is going to cause a riff in your friendship, and it honestly might. Sometimes these kinds of experiences can bring us closer together and sometimes they can drive us apart. I don’t know what will happen in this case and it sounds like you might not either because you didn’t feel comfortable voicing what you saw right after you saw it. That’s fair, but then you would also have to live the rest of your life knowing that you harbor a huge secret that he doesn’t know. That will change your friendship too.
Confront his wife. Yes, I know this might be the more dramatic option, but it’s giving her the opportunity to fix her own problem. You can approach her privately and explain what you saw. Again, keep your own judgments and emotions at bay. This is not about how you feel; this is about you giving information to the people for whom this information concerns.
I would say as little as possible while also making it very clear what you know. “I have a photo of you kissing someone who is not Mike on X date and Y time. I took the photo myself and I saw you myself. Your marriage is your business, and you need to tell Mike the truth. I am giving you this opportunity to handle it between the two of you, which is what Mike deserves. If you do not tell him, someone else will.”
Mike’s wife may want to talk to you at length after this. After all, she has been caught. She might try to explain it away, lie to you or try to pump you for more details to see just how much you saw and how much you know. The most important thing if you take this route is to not engage with her after your first message, unless it’s to say something like, “Again, this is not my business. Please have this conversation with Mike.” The last thing you want is to be part of this problem by conversing at length with the accused party. If nothing else gets in the way of your friendship with Mike, that certainly will.
Neither of these options are fun or easy, but sometimes true friendship is tough.
Wishing you the absolute best,
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