Expert Speak

One of your married couple friends is having an affair; should you tell their spouse?

You're friends with both people in a marriage, and then you find out one of them is having an affair. What should you do as a mutual friend?
friend talking about spouse

Prachi vaish newPrachi Vaish is a clinical psychologist and marital therapist, with over 11 years of experience. She specializes in couples’ therapy and recovery from trauma from divorce, extramarital affairs, abusive relationships etc.

Suppose you find out a married friend is having an affair…

It’s fantastic when friends of the same group get married to each other, because then the friendships stay intact and loyalties don’t have to get divided. You can all continue to hang out together and the bond only deepens. But what happens when both partners are your close friends and you know a secret about one? A secret that can hurt the other…an affair…what do you do? Do you tell the other?

If you don’t tell

Knowing about an affair of one partner when both are close to you can be quite tricky emotionally. It’s possible that the friend involved in the affair herself/himself confides in you because they need to vent or they might even need a confidant to ease their clandestine meetings. Or you might accidentally discover the affair. In any case, if you decide to keep the information to yourself and are equally close to the other spouse, you will end up with a tremendous emotional turmoil when you spend time with the other, acting normal, knowing fully well that their partner is with someone else. Also if and when the affair comes to light, your friend might invariably bring up that you knew, and then you will lose your other friend because of the betrayal involved.

Related reading: Should I tell my husband that I cheated on him?

If you do tell

If you decide to go and spill the beans to your friend because you feel indignant and think that he/she deserves to know, then again you stand to lose at least one of not both friends. You will definitely lose the one whose secret you spill. As for the other, you don’t really know how they’d take the news. Most of the time the first instinct of the partner is to defend their spouse and “shoot the messenger” and in that scenario you’ll be the villain. Moreover, you don’t really know what the equation between them as husband and wife is and you might be stirring a hornet’s nest, which can lead to a lot of emotional pain.

emotional pain
Representative Image source

So what do you do?

It seems like both options are tricky and difficult. So what is someone in your position supposed to do? Here are a few ideas:

Stay neutral

When one friend confides in you, it’s a natural reaction to want to take either side. But refrain from either supporting your friend or giving him/her a moral lecture. Just because they are confiding in you, doesn’t make it your business!

Set boundaries

The moment you realise that you’re about to become party to a secret that you ethically shouldn’t be a part of, do not hesitate to clarify to your friend that you are not comfortable being involved in this, because your loyalties lie with both partners and it would be very difficult for you to lean one way or another. You may fear that this might drive your friend away, but on the contrary, this will raise their respect for you.
experts advice

Don’t play detective

When you find out the secret of an affair from one partner, willingly or accidentally, there is a natural tendency to dig for more on the situation from either partner, because you feel smug in the knowledge that you know something they don’t. No, you aren’t evil, it’s human nature! But fight it.

Play guardian angel instead

If you’ve been friends with both for long and know their love story, you probably know what brought them together. Use that information to subtly try and reconnect them if you can. But don’t turn into the fretting aunt/uncle who plays nosy matchmaker!

Being privy to an affair between two friends can be a delicate and complex situation but if you keep your priorities clear and stay neutral, you might be able to save both friendships, and in rare cases, even their relationship!

How to react to your partner’s extramarital affair

Effects of an extramarital affair on the partner

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2 Comments

  1. This can be really tricky and difficult situation. And I think the best way out is to stay neutral. Life has taught me that no matter how close you are people listen only what they want to listen.

  2. Sadly, this can be an extremely tricky situation. I have been there and it was an emotional torture. However, before I had to interfere, both parties found out and confronted each other…This piece really helps in handling such a sensitive situation smartly!

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