What do you do with the friends who still want to be friends with the cheater?
My close friend’s husband — Fred, let’s call him — is one of the cheater’s best friends, but also a close friend of mine. It sucks that Fred says he doesn’t want to take sides and wants to give the cheater the benefit of the doubt. The cheater, of course, has been telling Fred that he didn’t really cheat because “nothing happened” while we were still married. Which is bullshit, as we all know.
I’m hurt, and I’m pissed. I don’t want to lose my best friend, but her husband, in this case, sucks. She doesn’t like the cheater, but she feels like she needs to support her husband. I don’t really want to lose Fred as a friend either, but, damn.
What to do, what to do?
Lost in Litchfield
Well, for starters you can stop thinking of Fred as your friend. You don’t want to lose him? You lost him.
I’m sorry that make things awkward with his wife, your best friend, (let’s call her “Betty”) but it is what it is. You’ve got another spineless Switzerland dude on your hands (ala our last letter and resulting kerfluffle.) The guy who wants to remain neutral and “not take sides.”
Betty’s in a pickle. She’s probably heard every gory detail about the infidelity if she’s your best friend and I would hope she believes you. But her husband is like the Flat Earth Society, unbelieving. The whole “she feels like she needs to support her husband” is bogus. In what? His delusions? That the earth is flat? That your ex didn’t cheat? Really, she’s just telling you the same thing as Fred — she doesn’t want to take sides. Supporting her husband is supporting his “neutrality.”
Mostly likely, you scare Betty to death. You’re her worst nightmare come true. Your husband cheated on you. Her husband seems to be pretty “neutral” about infidelity (she’ll stuff that thought down into a little dark box in her soul) and if she believes you, she has to believe in vulnerability and betrayal and reassess a familiar figure in her life. Why do that? That’s very unpleasant. Much better if we all settle into a nice foggy muddle-headedness about this business. Hard to judge. Two sides to every story. We love you both and want to stay out of it.
How nice for them. When people in your life do this, what they’re saying is — it’s all about THEM. They would prefer things go back to the way things used to be. When we were all ignorant of this new information. Please don’t make me re-evaluate. Please don’t make my life change because of your drama. It’s very inconvenient of you.
There’s two ways to read “friends” like this. Either they are blindingly selfish (please go away with your pain) OR they don’t believe you. They’re essentially calling you a liar.
Why on earth do they think you’re getting divorced, if not for infidelity? What bullshit could he possibly spin? Do they think you like to divide your 401K for shits and giggles?
I don’t know about you, Lost, but as I grow older, I don’t have any time for shallow, shitty people. I just don’t. I had “friends” like this once, a couple, and for the sake of my kid, I lived with the Switzerland thing for years. The woman had heard and seen every detail of the crazy (the pro se lawsuits, the dumping the kid off at her house instead of taking his visitation) and one day she said — in re some outrageous thing the ex was doing to my kid — “if that’s the REAL story.” And I was gobsmacked. Real story? Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME? You have lived side by side with me through the REAL story for YEARS. As if I would MAKE THIS SHIT UP? As if the evidence wasn’t right there at your feet? Trip over it, bitch.
(Yes, I’m still not “meh” about it.)
Painful lesson? Some people suck. Pay attention. Hang out with the people deserving of you.
How people react to infidelity says a lot about their character, their values, and their loyalty. This is useful information. I’m not saying everyone can walk into your pain, or “get it” — but at a baseline, they have to believe you. That it happened. That you’re gutted. That you didn’t do anything to deserve this.
Oh, and in the case of Fred and Betty, they need to realize that someone DID this TO you. You didn’t bring it on yourself by some flaw. You were played. You were betrayed. Your ex didn’t “fall out of love” and drift and take an honest way out, he ate cake. He cheated on you.
As I’ve said here before, not taking sides is taking sides. It’s saying “I’m okay with the status quo.” I’m not going to question the inherent injustice of this situation.
As we learned in the letter earlier this week, infidelity affects more than just the chump. It destroys community and family. Divides people against each other. It’s horrible. But instead of laying the blame for that at the feet of cheaters, the destroyers, some people find it easier to blame the victim. It’s easier to align themselves with the happy-go-lucky cheater and their new schmoopie, because you’re such a buzz kill.
I’m sorry Lost. I don’t like Fred or Betty. I think you can do better in the friendship department. I know it sucks. But part of gaining a new life is gaining new and better friends. And holding the dear ones who have your back closer. Sending you big (((HUGS)))).