She slept with her friend’s husband — must she now be the group pariah?
D ear Carolyn:
I have a close group of girlfriends I have known for decades. We have helped each other through very difficult times over the years, and laughed and celebrated a lot as well. As you can imagine, we have also gotten to know each other’s husbands and children very well.
I recently learned one of our girlfriends has been having an affair with one of the husbands. It has been devastating news, on many levels.
The core question for me, beyond of course surrounding and supporting the friend who is the wife, is how I move forward with the friend who is having the affair.
One scenario is to walk away from the friendship given all the intentional pain this has caused to so many. But is there a scenario where time (or something other than time?) might heal something like this?
I am mourning the loss of the friendship … but angry at the hurt this has caused, and the selfish motivations.
The answer is, there is no answer. There is no “how” — at least, not one I can supply for you. You move forward only how you want to and are willing to.
You can walk away from the unfaithful friend, the end, sure. That sounds justified, and avoids the angstier shades of moral line-drawing.
You can also stand by her, frailties and all. All decisions have consequences and this choice would likely have steep ones — costing you this whole group, perhaps — but it’s still your prerogative.
Or you can take a break from the cheating friend to see how you feel over time. You can prop yourself open to forgiving her under the right conditions, like her taking full accountability; maybe your conditions will eventually be met, maybe they won’t, maybe you’ll stop caring whether they do.
Or maybe you’ll ultimately miss her more than you resent her … or realize your friendship with her runs deeper than it does with the friend she hurt, her profound betrayal notwithstanding?
If I had to guess why you’ve asked this question: You know you’re supposed to end this friendship but you’re hoping for a loophole.
And if so, fair enough. Every friendship involves looking the other way on temporarily horrible personhood, after all, and it’s not for me to dictate the limit of anyone’s neck. Wanting to find enough good in an old friend to justify holding on means you’ll probably find it.
You just have to weigh doing that — and weigh the value of this person to you — against the message that sends to the wife, and against the social costs of associating with someone who so richly earned her spot as Pariah No. 1.
My husband’s best friend and his wife, after a variety of diets, have permanently settled on a plant-based diet. It has become a philosophy they love to study, promote and one might say “preach” about. They never make any exception in their eating. It’s become who they are.
We willingly eat any foods they serve, though when we dine out with them we sometimes choose non-vegan meals for ourselves. Now nearly every meal includes conversation about the benefits of plant-based eating, and it pops up in conversation even while the guys golf or do other activities together. We have become extremely frustrated. Even after telling them we are happy they’ve found a diet that works for them, we choose to continue our own way of eating, and do not wish to keep hearing about it — still it continues.
My husband does not want to lose this friendship of so many years but is reluctantly considering an ultimatum. Do you think this friendship has come to an end?
If you just can’t abide the preaching and they just won’t stop, then, yes. Maybe their evangelism — and your attendant feeling that you’re being judged for your choices — has drained off enough of the basis for their friendship to make estrangement the only logical option.
But if the core affection endures and the preaching exists independently as its own nuisance, then to walk away would be to leapfrog over a few less-drastic options.
Yes, you’ve told them you’re not interested in hearing about it. But you can still follow up: “We know the costs of our diet and choose it anyway. What will it take for the preaching to stop?” Square up for the come-to-Beano conversation. Not to defend their tactics, but maybe if they feel heard versus merely deflected, then they’ll back off.
And/or, you can deploy humor: “Every time you talk diet, I’m ordering steak.”
Or lighthearted accommodation: “OK, we’ll take two minutes of plant infomercial — go.”
And the option remains for loving — if limited — indulgence. Feeling pushed to his limit doesn’t mean your husband can’t choose to redefine it. He can still, from here, accept the preaching as-is on the grounds that it doesn’t drive him quite nuts enough to justify walking away.
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