In an ideal world, our friends approve of the things we do and support us. But there will be times when friends may have an issue with one of our life choices, and this can cause conflict. One of the most common of these events involves infidelity. If a friend cheats, can you still stand behind them?
Infidelity Changes Friendships
When we become friends with someone, we embrace their personality and quirks, so it stands to reason that cheating on a spouse or partner would change the friendship. The personality traits that we once valued in our friend (such as honesty and faithfulness), can become altered in a friend's eyes.
More than that, if your friend asks you to cover for them with regard to their infidelity, they are taking advantage of your friendship. Asking you to lie on their behalf pushes the acceptable boundaries of a healthy friendship.
Avoid Interrogating Your Friend
Despite your personal beliefs, it is not okay to interrogate your friend or press to get details of their affair. You can tell them that you are disappointed in their behavior but at the same time it's not your job to judge them. A better approach is to explain why you are against infidelity, such as: your parent's marriage ended over an affair, you were affected by infidelity personally, you feel that this is unfair to their spouse, or you witnessed a friend's relationship problems over cheating.
Other tips to think about include:
- Don't bring up your friend's romantic history. Saying "You always pick up losers!" or "Why can't you find someone more appropriate?" will not help the situation.
- Don't offer predictions, such as "You know this will only end in heartache" because deep down your friend already knows that.
- Don't get angry. Infidelity is a very personal subject, and you may feel bitter toward your friend, but try to remain calm so your pal knows they have a place to come when they need to talk.
Honoring Your Values While Supporting Your Friend
If your friend openly tells you he or she is cheating on their significant other, you have to be honest in telling them how you feel about it. While your friend might claim that "it's none of your business," it will affect your friendship in some way. We become friends with people who share our values and outlook, so if someone we've included into our social circle is being unfaithful, it will change the way we view them.
If you know your friend's spouse or partner, this complicates the situation even more. Your friend has put you in a difficult position by telling you about their affair. To support your friend and still maintain your personal values, tell your friend that:
- You care about them and are not judging them.
- You feel strongly about infidelity, and while you support your friend you may need to distance yourself from their behavior. (Note: You are distancing yourself from the behavior and not your friend.)
- You want to help your friend, and will be there for them if they need to talk about things.
You may need to spend time away from your friend for a while. Make sure that your friend knows that you are making the choice because you do not want to be associated with their behavior, but that you hope you two can be good friends again somewhere down the line. If your friend eventually comes to you after the affair and needs to talk, avoid saying "I told you so" and instead focus on listening and helping them.