Chumps, I’m sure you have some (cough) well-meaning people in your life who have said exactly the wrong things to you after infidelity. Either out of schadenfreude, ignorance, or you’ve-got-chump-cooties-don’t-touch-me! syndrome. So, at the earlier suggestion of anotherErica, I have compiled a list of What Not to Say to a friend who has been cheated on. Feel free to add to the list in the comments. I’m sure you guys can top whatever I’ve got here.
1. “There are two sides to every story. I like you both. I just want to remain “neutral.”
Thanks, because that’s exactly what a friend in need needs — Switzerland.
“I just want to remain neutral” is really about that person and their comfort level. They’re saying that it would be difficult for THEM to negotiate their social life with this knowledge. They’d rather go back to a safer, happier time when they could think well of you both and not have awkwardness. So, let’s pretend, deny the ugliness, and make them feel better, okay?
If you’ve got a friend who feels “neutral” about cheating, I’d say let them keep their neutrality and you take your friendship elsewhere. Neutrality says a lot about their character, and none of it good, IMO.
2. “You know, if you just work harder, you could save this.”
This person supposes a) that you didn’t work hard to save this and b) a marriage can be saved when one party is completely checked out. The former is insulting, the latter is delusional. HelloooOooo blame shifting. Anyone who wants you to accept fault for another’s cheating has no knowledge of infidelity and should keep their pie hole shut.
3. “I’m so glad I don’t have that kind of drama. The biggest problem I’ve ever had with my husband is when he bought that old TransAm.”
This is an actual comment I received from a co-worker. Because what chump doesn’t need smugness? Actually this person probably does have problems bigger than a TransAm. Word around town was that her husband was gay. But again, comments like this are all about the person making them and nothing to do with you. Your experience is very threatening. Let’s make you Other. You’re a person with Drama. Me? I don’t have drama!
4. “I’m so glad Brian would never cheat on me.”
Okay, I’ve put smugness twice. People, DON’T BE SMUG! This is another actual comment I got from an old college friend, who came to visit me post-divorce. This is what I said: You think I chose this? Do you think I married someone I KNEW would cheat on me?
This is another case of “Ew, keep your chump cooties away from me” with a dash of schadenfreude, I suspect. Young people these days call such people “frenemies.” If someone fell down a well, would you say “I’m so glad I’m standing up here where it’s warm and dry. I could never be so clumsy as a to fall down a well!” If your friend falls down a well (or in the case of infidelity, is pushed) — throw them a rope! Don’t stand there with your bare face hanging out, congratulating yourself. If you think stupid, smug thoughts — please keep them to yourself.
5. “It’s about time you got over this.”
People don’t heal on the time lines we would like. A true friend recognizes that you’re grieving. The best thing they can do is listen, be present, and realize it’s a process the chump is going to have to work through. A friend should do what you would do for anyone else who suffered a sudden loss — bring a casserole. Offer to babysit. Sit with them awhile.
One gift that results from getting through infidelity is greater empathy, and a loss of smugness. Chumps, there are new chumps freshly minted every day. Be a friend. Lend a helping hand to a fellow chump. You GET IT, and so many people don’t. I’m of the opinion that you’ll “get over it” faster if you’re allowed to grieve, and that includes getting pissed off that you were chumped. It takes time, but with love and understanding (and a few casseroles), you WILL heal.