Ah, the Age-Old ‘Should I Tell the Friend About Their Cheating Significant Other’ Dilemma

by on July 15, 2021 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

Straight Up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

Dear SWAT,

I know this question has been asked of a million advice columnists already but I’d like to hear your take on it. I recently discovered my friend’s boyfriend of seven years is cheating on her. Should I tell my friend?”

Sincerely, Phillip of Bankers Hill

Ah yes, the age-old, “Should-I-Tell-The-Friend-About-Their-Significant-Cheating-Other” (SITTFATSCO) question. You’re right. SITTFATSCO is probably the oldest and most often asked question of advice columnists. In fact, it was the very first query answered by the very first advice columnist, midwife Cinderwench Wartyface, in the Hertfordshire Town Crier in 1547. It went like this:

“Deary Cinderwench, mine own freond’s jointress hath committed adult’ry with a hairy scallywag. Shoulds’t I acquaint hire? Sincerely, Eathellrelda from Boggy Slogs, Hertfordshire.”

To which Wartyface replied, “Dear Eathellrelda, Fucketh if I know.”

And that’s pretty much how every advice columnist since has replied to that question. There’s just no right answer.

And there’s no ignoring the problem either. Because ignoring in this case is still a bold action. If you say nothing, there is a grave risk that the friend will find out you knew and hold it against you. However, speaking up destroys friendships too. Often, those who blab are not believed. Sometimes because of simple denial.

Other times because the cheater is an expert gaslighter who will spend all their post-coital conversations suggesting you are trying to sabotage their relationship for selfish reasons. So I can’t really say which option will provide the best results, I can only say what I would probably do. And I would probably blab.

I am reminded of Becky, whom I used to date. I didn’t learn she was hitting on friends until after she tried to grind on my pal John who promptly squealed. At first, denial being what it is, I didn’t believe him. It just seemed out of character for her. Becky was this quiet and seemingly innocent young girl. Was he mistaken? I wondered. Surely he misread the signs? It wasn’t until the next day, when I told another friend, Dave, about what John had said, when the whole, scuzzy truth about Ms. Floozy emerged. “She made a move on me too,” said Dave. “And Harry, and Dick, and Tom and . . .”, rattling off a list so long it would make Pamela De Barres seem like a closed-legged prude.

This is why I would say something. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because the idea of everyone but me knowing my woman is a strumpet hurt as badly as the strumpeting itself. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, least of all a friend. But that’s just me. You must decide for yourself if the risk is worth it. Either way, prepare for rocky roads ahead.

Oh, and if you do decide to spill, be certain that you have solid, first-hand evidence of her infidelity. Hearsay won’t do. And be weary of what you think you witnessed. Did you see her making out with someone on a park bench for 10 minutes? Or did you simply witness one of them reaching across a lunch table to hold hands for a moment? For all you know, that could be her brother. Or maybe she’s meeting an event planner for a surprise party and was really grateful in the moment – a mistake that will almost certainly destroy the friendship.

Dear Ed, I know you’re not a marriage counselor, but I have a long-running fight with the wife. She thinks I should mind my own business regarding two things. The first is when I see someone NOT cleaning up after their dog, I’ll say something to them. Often in a rude tone because of all the times I have stepped in dog crap. The other thing is when people talk or turn on their cell phones in movie theaters, I’ll snap at them to “turn it off!” I believe in both of these cases, it IS my business, as I’m trying to enjoy the movie. What do you think? Is it okay for me to confront people like this?

Signed, Busybody Bob in OB

Dear BusyBobby,

Of course you are within your right to confront these people. But the question isn’t whether you have the moral grounds to speak up. The question is, do you want to put your wife in an uncomfortable situation?

You need to read between her lines here because I doubt that the real reason Mrs. Bob doesn’t want you to confront these people is because she doesn’t believe it is yours or her business. Any idiot can see that it is. Nay, I would bet Lamborghinis to lollipops that hers is an issue of public drama.

Maybe she had an aggressive father who was always getting in people’s faces over stuff that wasn’t his business. Maybe she’s worried about the situation escalating into violence? It is a reasonable concern. I mean, for all you know, the Cell-Phone-Movie-Talker could be an ex-con who hates it on the outside and is looking for a reason to go back to prison. Or maybe the Dog-Poop-Not-Picking-Up neighbor is some lunatic stalker with a potful of rotting rabbit heads she uses to plant under the sheets of people who provoke her.

Regardless, the point is, as a good and caring husband, don’t you want to respect her aversion to public disputes? That doesn’t mean you need to be a pushover. Instead of confronting the Movie-Talker, alert the theater manager inconspicuously. Instead of getting agro about the uncollected dog poop, take Mrs. Bob’s hand and gently lead her away from the pile while making vomit-faces at the Dog-Poop-Leaver that the wife can’t see.

Make sure to get marital credit though. Tell her afterward, “Sorry honey, but I disagree. Dog poop on my shoe is my business, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I will keep quiet to ensure your feelings of safety and comfort.” Lay it on nice and thick so you can score as many of those ever-valuable marital credits to be cashed in later.

Now if you are alone, or with someone who does not care about such confrontations, feel free to call out the offender respectfully. I do not recommend saying anything “in a rude tone” since very little good comes from sudden aggression. Best to defer to kindness. Go ahead and kill them with that and I promise, not only will you have better results, but will be far less likely to wake up with a rotting rabbit head in your bed.

Edwin Decker (of Ocean Beach) is not a licensed therapist or psychologist. In fact, his only qualification is the 25-plus years as a bartender listening to the liver-aching of desperados and dipsomaniacs. Heed his advice at your peril. Send questions to ed@edwindecker.com


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie July 15, 2021 at 9:50 am

Where does your nickname “Swat” come from?


edwin decker July 16, 2021 at 7:48 am

Straight Up With a Twist


Geoff Page July 15, 2021 at 11:53 am

I would add a bit of an exception to the Busybody Bob response. Age. You see once you’ve reached a ripe enough old age you get to say whatever you damn well please and people begin to make allowances for you. You can say whatever is on your mind freely because you’re, well, old. And, there’s no need to worry about the wife, if she’s still around after all these years, there’s not much anyone can do to embarrass her. If she has sufficiently trained you by now, it’s on her.

But, if you’re a younger man, Busybody Bob, you have to follow the societal rules for your age, which may well match the advice given here. Hang in there, one day you’ll be able to throw off the oppressive yoke of common decency and be free.

Signed the name given me by my family – Get Off My Lawn Guy


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