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UBT: “The Ethicist”

badfriendSeveral people, (including my husband) asked if I would UBT last Sunday’s New York Times column in “The Ethicist” by Kwame Anthony Appiah — Should I Tell My Friend’s Husband That She’s Having an Affair?   Appiah teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. and  is the author of ‘‘The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.’’

Kwame, hey, don’t invite me to your revolution, okay?

The ramparts must be manned with muddle-headed philosophy majors holding wet noodles, making gentle suggestions.

“WHAT DO WE WANT?! Don’t know really…. it’s a gray area…” “WHEN DO WE WANT IT?! Hey, just text me later…

The gist of Appiah’s godawful column is man-friend of cheater woman wonders if he should tell cheater’s husband about cheater’s long (and continuing) affair with Martin, especially since cheater asked man-friend to lie for her.

Appiah says hey, there are no good outcomes here, and your friendship with Cheater trumps any consideration of Chump. So, keep your mouth zipped, but expect Chump to be deeply hurt if he finds out. (But with any luck, he’ll never know!)

Now to feed this crap to the Universal Bullshit Translator.

I am a man (if it matters) and friends with a married woman, ‘‘Jane,’’ and her husband, ‘‘Peter.’’ The friendship is more with Jane than with Peter. Jane and I have known each other for years and work in the same profession, and I knew her before she married Peter, and I am closer to Jane.

You’re auxiliary kibble supply and you probably harbor the hope that Jane will sleep with you some day, as she’s not exactly faithful with husbands. So your orientation and gender do “matter.” (No parentheses.) Why else would you keep a “professional” relationship for years, in which Jane reveals very intimate things about her marriage and sex life.

But Peter has become a friend since the marriage. Peter and I share some typically ‘‘male’’ interests and occasionally ‘‘bro bond.’’

We grab a beer, watch football, and I never tell Bro who’s fucking his wife. 

Jane and I are quirky ‘‘intellectuals.’’ 

She’s not a Bad Person — she’s quirky! And smarter than you!

Jane is having an affair with ‘‘Martin,’’ whom Jane has known most of her adult life. I know about the affair because Jane confided in me years ago. In fact, this affair was also a part of Jane’s previous marriage, and Jane confided this to me as part of her divorce from her first husband, whom I did not know. Jane thinks Martin is her true life’s ‘‘soul mate,’’ and I think she may be right.

Based completely on what Jane tells me, I think they’re soul mates. And really, a Love for the Ages trumps fucking over some first husband, or deceiving a second. When you’re SOUL MATES everything’s OKAY!

Peter does not know about the affair. If he knew about it, I think he would divorce Jane in a minute. 

Peter has good sense. We must protect Jane from consequences and Peter’s moral sanity.

Jane and Martin likely will never be together.

Soul mates torn asunder by the cruel, cruel forces of monogamy?

Martin is married with children, and he lives in another country, and neither Jane nor Martin can change countries — it would end either person’s professional career.

Well careers are more important than soul mate connections. Less important than honesty, chumps, and children. But those careers sure are powerful enough to keep soul mates apart…

Martin visits the United States once or twice a year on business,

… until those convenient clandestine fucking opportunities arise.

and during those visits Jane and Martin spend a weekend together, usually in a hotel. Jane lies to Peter when this happens; she tells him she’s away on a business trip.

Of course she does.

I don’t judge people’s sexual lives, and I’m very liberal philosophically.

Thanks for the caveat. You were slipping dangerously close to making a moral pronouncement and the UBT would hate for that to happen, as it would have no narcissistic prattle to translate.

I’m less comfortable with adultery, because it involves lying, but usually I don’t feel the need even to have opinions about other people’s affairs.

I’m not comfortable with adultery, but not so bothered by it that I have opinions about it. It’s more like a soft pillow that needs adjusting, or a scratchy sweater. Slightly irritating, but nothing to get that worked up about. 

Recently, I found myself lying to Peter about Jane’s affair. Just casually at dinner with the two of them, the subject of Jane’s ‘‘business trip’’ came up, and I was unexpectedly faced with either chiming in with Jane about her trip or blurting out about the affair or awkwardly excusing myself. Jane said something like, ‘‘Did you get the pictures I texted of the Golden Gate Bridge?’’ and I knew she had not been in San Francisco. ‘‘Yes, they were great,’’ I said.

What should I do?

The UBT is really glad you asked. (A thousand chumps are chanting “Go fuck yourself!”)

You should: a) Recognize you crossed a huge moral line from Lies of Omission (not telling Peter about the affair) to Outright Lying (actively collaborating in a conspiracy to keep him a chump).

The UBT think you can either confess to Peter what you know and apologize for lying to him, or you can continue to be a douchebag.

It’s gonna be Door Douchebag, isn’t it? (sigh)

(By the way, what must Peter think of these intimate, casual three-way dinners his wife has with her old “professional friend” who’s seen travel pictures he hasn’t seen?)

If I continue to be friends with Jane and Peter, I end up in some small way lying to Peter, who is also a friend.

I tell myself that lying about and concealing an affair are Small Things

But I am not going to tell Peter about the affair — that’s not my role. If I distance myself from them, I feel like I’m just taking the ethical path that ‘‘keeps my hands clean’’ but doesn’t do anything positive. What use is that? 

I want to be neutral about infidelity and still think of myself as an ethical, positive person! 

And probably the strangest thing is, deep inside, I think the affair may be good for everyone.

I see a unicorn! There it is in the misty forest!

The UBT is glad you know what is Good For Everyone. Keep lying to Peter. It’s really What Is Best for Him. Chumps don’t need votes. Pat a chump on the head today!

Jane and Peter have a good marriage, and Jane needs this outlet with Martin. Maybe just allowing the lie to roll forward in perpetuity is the best thing. 

Jane’s outlet “need” for Martin supersedes everyone else’s needs. Lying is the foundation of a Good Marriage! 

But I sometimes conjure the following: Peter finds out after many years, his marriage is destroyed, he is deeply hurt and he says to me: “You knew about this the whole time? You helped her lie to me about this for years?” I don’t know what I would say. 

Name Withheld

I’d hate if this shit blew up on me. Can you help?

Quirky intellectuals. Marital betrayal. You seem to have wandered into an Iris Murdoch novel. Let’s see if the plot can be untangled.

Let’s all be quirky intellectuals in an Iris Murdoch novel!

First, it does matter that you’re a man. What you owe people depends, in part, on what they’re entitled to expect, and this depends on social understandings about different kinds of relationships.

The UBT is scratching its transponders. The UBT wasn’t a philosophy major.

What you owe people depends, in part, on what they’re entitled to expect

Are you saying you owe people monogamy, because they’re “entitled to expect” it, because, like, it was promised to them?

and this depends on social understandings about different kinds of relationships.

Huh. Maybe you’re not saying that. It all depends on “social understandings.” What if my understandings are anti-social? What if they have a small phobia of spiders and public speaking? Is it okay to lie to the Different? If it’s my cousin or my mother? Lying to my cousin is okay, but my MOTHER is DIFFERENT? It depends?

Gah. The UBT’s sockets hurt.

Your connection with Peter, as you describe it, doesn’t seem to involve much intimacy. He probably wouldn’t expect you to share secrets with him. Still, not sharing intimate details is one thing: not telling him his wife is cheating is another. It’s a betrayal of your relationship with him, and abetting her deception looks like an even more substantial betrayal.

But telling Peter about what she’s been doing would be the betrayal of another relationship, yours with Jane. It’s a bond of longer standing and of greater closeness. So you’ve been faced with a choice of two betrayals. And, in the rock-paper-scissors of these relationships, the loyalty owed her trumps the loyalty owed him.

Ethics are a big game of Rock Paper Scissors! Man, where were you at the recent G-20 summit?!

Bob was planning to blow up an Austin night club for ISIS. Is this wrong? It depends on our social understandings. Were there fedora-headed hipsters? Bearded slackers? Was the hummus locally sourced? What would be the loss to humanity of 142 Austin hipsters? Would Etsy sales go down? Would their mothers cry? Would Oklahoma cheer? Is it wrong to kill hipsters? Should I tell someone about Bob’s bomb? I’m not friends with hipsters.

NO! If Bob is your friend, your loyalty to him supersedes any ethical obligation you to have to hipsters!

WTF, APPIAH! How did you get this job as “Ethicist” at the New York Times?!

You can also try to take into account the consequences of exposing Jane’s secret. The dishonesty would come to an end, sure. But you’re convinced that the marriage, which you consider a good one, would come to an end, too. And because Jane and Martin can’t get together, you might think that no one would be better off. The expected outcome, alongside the nature of your bond with Jane, weighs in favor of your decision to maintain your silence.

Well, if the soul mates can’t be together, you might as well shut up then.

That’s not quite the end of the matter, though. What you don’t know can hurt you. Peter’s marriage may seem great to him, but there’s something seriously wrong with it. Jane is engaging in adultery. So she’s not only lying to him but also betraying their commitments to each other, commitments that the public institution of marriage dignifies and aims to help sustain.

Yes, it’s Peter’s Public Institution that will be hurt in all this. I hope he takes his Public Institution for an STD check.

At the same time, your keeping him in the dark is — insofar as you’re taking his interests into consideration — paternalistic and thus disrespectful. She’s also drawing you into her web of deceit in ways you’re entitled to resent. (You can at least be honest with Jane about that — about your discomfort with the pretense.) And then you’ve got to wonder whether a life of continual deception isn’t exacting a toll on her too. Yet, as you say, ending your friendship with her fixes nothing.

Yes, ending your friendship with Jane gets a toxic, cheating, liar out of your life. Win WIN thinks the UBT.

Of course, all this assumes you’re reading the situation correctly: Nobody really knows what’s going on in anybody else’s marriage. Conceivably, after weathering the revelation, Jane and Peter might forge a truer, purer bond, with the added strength of a healed fracture. (Not that I’d take this bet.) Maybe Peter already realizes or suspects something is wrong.

OMG, the Chump Trifecta! The Chump Must Already Know! (So my silence is okay.) Infidelity Makes Marriages Stronger! (So my silence is okay.) Nobody Really Knows What Goes On In A Marriage. (So my silence is okay, because Peter might really be an asshole who deserves to be cheated on.)

But if your assessment is accurate, you are in a deeply compromised moral situation — one in which the cure is worse than the condition. As is so often the case, there’s no way out from under the net.

Sure there is — dump Jane as a friend. Tell Peter. And tell Martin’s wife. Protect the people who are being harmed by Jane and Martin. According to you both, there is little harm in the truth, because being lying to and having your health risked makes marriages more AWESOME. So, please, TELL.

It’s a distressing bind. Moral narcissism is about being more concerned with the cleanliness of your hands than with how your conduct shapes the lives around you. Your sensitivity to this pitfall is commendable. So is the fact that what you’re doing — though the least bad option — bothers you. Life is messy, and the best outcome often has something deplorable about it. I suppose it’s all in the title of the great Bronzino painting that one of Iris Murdoch’s characters found so captivating: ‘‘Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time.’’ If the day comes when Peter asks you why you helped Jane conceal her betrayal, you can tell him the truth. He won’t forgive. But he just may understand.

Life is messy. It’s like a Jackson Pollack painting or one of Thomas Kincaide’s lesser works. It’s a distressing shark pickled in a moral tank of formaldehyde ala Damien Hirst. I suppose it’s all in the title of Bronzino’s painting, “Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Chump.” Or written in the gum on my shoe. If the day comes when Peter asks you why you helped Jane conceal her betrayal, you can tell him the truth:

“I’m a moral coward.”

He won’t forgive you. But he just may be armed. I hope you run fast.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “Pat a chump on the head today”. Guess that’s what I got over the years of betrayal from those that knew.

    • You and me both. So many I thought really liked and cared about me and my kids….knew….helped my ex conceal. Good “moral” church going people who looked down their noses at anything unchristian… had No problem with cheating /adultery.

  • Thank you so much for UB-Translating this! When I read it in the Grey, um, Lady, I thought, “WTF??”. But hardly surprised. Such crap. Maybe we do need more welders after all! heh.

  • Mr. Name Withheld thinks and hopes that Poor Jane was just born with too many joyfully-deceitful, slutty wild oats in her system and is getting them all out… and the third marriage [to him] will be the charm.

  • It is fascinating in that ‘watching a car crash way’ to watch people co-opting to support cheaters.

    Why would anyone be friends with a cheater? Are they loyal?No. Are they honest? No. Can you count on them? No.

    To me this is the most common form of cowardice. I like the link to knowing about a terrorist act. I think the adage, ‘if you see something, say something applies’.

    Losing a cheater who happens to be a friend is no great loss. They need to know that what they are doing, cheating, is not acceptable behavior.

    • I had two what I thought were decent girlfriends cheat and their husbands who were both long term friends of mine. Dumped both girlfriends who thought the cheating was funny cause they were getting away with it. If I find out my friends have no honesty or integrity bye bye they go. I told both guy friends about the cheating and both are still my friends. Right is right! Even if I lost them as friends I would have been sad but I wouldn’t have been able to sleep nights. I value honesty, loyalty and telling me the fucking truth above all.

      • Amen! kar marie
        There was a couple that knew, we had them over once and met him several times at lunch. He always tried to cheer me up, kind of stole the conversation. Now I wish he had told me instead of the cheap jokes.
        On top of that, cheater pants husband, being the cheapo that he is, used her friend’s house as the location. I wondered how was she “paying” for the room? I got my answer: extensive babysitting.
        Imagine: you get a to do her thing in your home and then let her babysit your child. WTF in what kind of parallel universe these ppl live?

  • I had always respected Kwame Anthony Appiah and his role in getting his PEN International colleague Chinese Democratic activist Liu Xiaobo the Noble Peace Prize as he sat in a Chinese prison for his pamphlet Charter 8. All that goes out the window now.

  • So much word babble from this “Ethi-cyst” when the most solid advice is simple:

    Ask yourself, “why should I be friends with a lying cheat?”

    • The simple fact that Mr. Name Withheld is writing this letter, it says he doesn’t like the s*t he’s in.
      So tell, it’s that simple. Yeah, there will be consequences. You make it right now or you wait to come and bite you when you least expect it – something along the lines: you’ll be chumped and your friend knew about it, didn’t tell you.
      My only question for Mr. Name Withheld: just how much respect you have left for your friend Jane, knowing that she’s a cheater, liar, and she dragged you into her web of lies? It’s a good thing that your friendship supersedes the friendship you have with her Chump husband.

  • I read this over the weekend. How ethical is it to contort yourself to try to justify hiding your friend’s affair from her husband?

    Not at all.

    I love the line about no one knowing what is really going on in someone else’s marriage. My former sister-in-law wrote the line to me a few months into my ex wife’s affair, encouraging me to “try harder” to maintain my marriage to her slut sister.

    It basically says, “I know that cheating is wrong, and I know that she is cheating, but there must be something I don’t know about–can’t say exactly–that justifies this horrendously selfish and destructive behavior. It must be something ‘inside’ your mysterious and locked-box marriage. Something so complicated and non-understandable to an outsider that it SURELY justifies my sister fucking another man while demanding that you attend marriage counseling with her.”

    • Yeah, your SIL doesn’t know what goes on in a marriage, but whatever it is JC, it’s your fault and you should try harder.

    • I was told as well from my ex husband cousin. That there must have been something wrong in our marriage to make him cheat. What is funny is that his first wife cheated on him and he got divorced. He moped around for several years. You would have thought he would have understood more, but no he must have forgotten what it felt like. I have NO desire to be friends with cheaters. I figure if they can lie and cheat on someone who they are suppose to love and be committed to, what would keep them from lying to me. What kind of friend is that?? They are destructive people with no moral values, selfish and they care less about who they hurt.

      • Yes, they lie, cheat, steal our love, devotions, our very souls. I had a girlfriend since we were in the sandbox call me and gleefully tell me all about her affair with a married man and she’s married herself, moaning and complaining about the guys wife being a bitch. I told her there are two sides to every story and how dare you, you cunt call and brag about that she knows exactly what I am going through. She tells me get over it everybody cheats who cares? Well maybe the lied to and cheated upon like your husband, me and the cheaters wife. Her answer as long as she’s having fun she doesn’t care. Turns out I didn’t know my husband well nor her either. Friends I think not. I don’t wish to be friends with anyone that deliberately hurts people just cause they can. She too is dead to me and has no idea why. Bitches all of them!!!

      • Hanginginthere, I always thought that when these “friends” get chumped later, they will remember me/us. They will remember and they will get it.
        I know I did. I had a colleague telling me years ago about how his wife cheated on him. I simply didn’t know how to react. I let him vent, but I could not truly get how he felt. Now I do and I remembered him. He is now happily married with 2 daughters. I like to think life has a way of setting matters straight.

  • What I find weird, is what a softball question this was. Appiah does all the hand-wringing about how there are no good answers here — um, don’t you have the column that’s supposed to lend clarity to moral murk? This is a pretty clear cut case of innocent people being wronged.

    There are some clear lines here — 1) This is a current affair. Murk would be it happened long ago before Peter, and should sleeping dogs lie? No, it’s going on RIGHT NOW and is endangering Peter’s health and family life. Peter is making decisions about his future. IMO, there is no fuzzy question here — there is a HARM being done to Peter.

    2) The collusion in the lie is ramping up. It wasn’t enough to have knowledge, now Man-friend is a participant. He is actively conspiring against Peter.

    The only way you can see these actions as not harmful is if you don’t think infidelity is harmful.

    Which Peter and Appiah seem to believe. Sure, they couch it in language that Jane’s betrayal “bothers” them, it’s wrong, but not so wrong that it can’t continue.

    In fact, both argue that infidelity is IMPROVING.

    So, if it’s so improving, why are you both afraid of telling Peter the truth?

    Not your business? Well, Jane made it your business when she asked you to lie for her, and when she made you a conspirator in her affair.

    The lines are only clear if you think infidelity is wrong.

    That’s the value in question here. The columnist clearly thinks infidelity is defensible.

    • >>>So, if it’s so improving, why are you both afraid of telling Peter the truth?

      Excellent question!

      That is the clearest demonstration I’ve ever seen that people use that old chestnut “cheating can help a marriage” as just a massive rationalization to assuage their own basic discomfort and anxiety, a hedge against their own future betrayal.

    • The lines are clear as hell if you think lying to someone in a way that causes them to make choices that affect their entire life is OK. Infidelity is based on telling lies to someone that TAKES AWAY THEIR ABILITY TO MAKE RATIONAL CHOICES. The fucker is a flexible ethicist, in other words, he’s not…

      • Exactly, Dat! Maybe Peter would like the opportunity to meet up with someone for a weekend twice a year. Only problem is he doesn’t know it’s allowed in his marriage. I love these cowards saying “It’s none of my business”. This whore invited Mr. Name Withheld into this mess and made it his business. And It’s PETER’s business above all else. I can’t imagine what sort of slime can sit across a dinner table from another person knowing they are being lied to and betrayed and not say anything. Subhuman disgusting dreck.

        • WiseOldOwl. Well, there’s a question worth figuring out how to answer. Based on my past experience, I say your word with this woman (who is a stranger) would have no weight whatsoever, especially (like me), she feels her husband is the best man on earth who would never . . . AND, you have no proof. Likely, they would paint you as a slander for trying to wreck their marriage…I dunno. That’s what I thought of this woman with no proof.

          How do you KNOW he puts hotels for his whore on his cc? (you said you were no longer friends w/her)
          I’m sure that would be the first question asked.
          Is it rumor? Have you seen it first hand?
          Have YOU seen them together first hand?

          Curious if any kids are involved as, for me, that hurts the worst not to say something.

          Anyway, sounds like you are too distant from this, other than what she told you in the past.

          But, It’s YOUR moral compass. Not mine.

      • Well stated. The moral relativity is beyond vile. “Well, honesty is good, but only in some situations.” That’s not morality. They need to fire their so-called ethicist.

    • Yes, yes, yes! I can’t count the number of times I have called my ex out on something. The conversation always goes something like this:

      Him: I need all of your travel information for your trip over thanksgiving in case something bad happens I can get to my children.

      Me: First, I’m going on a cruise with the children. If something bad happens at home, we aren’t leaving the ship to come home. Second, I have sole custody. You have no legal rights. Like an uncle. Uncle Dad, that’s you. Third, I’m not giving you details of my trip because I don’t want you breaking into my house again.

      Him: I never broke into your house. Stop the drama. Are you going to give me the details of your trip?

      Me: Are you going to give me the details of when I can expect a child support check?

      Him: That’s a separate issue. Look, we have both done bad things to each other….

      Funny, each time we have that conversation, I’m reminded that I was in that marriage too. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Yet, here I am, and I never cheated.

      Sometimes, I feel like I’m the exception, not the rule, because I am honest, I work hard, I don’t cheat others in any way, and I give without expecting a return. Where is everyone else? Did the Body Snatchers turn everyone else already?

      It seems like cheating spouses are everywhere. And in today’s society, everyone just turns their head the other way like it is no big deal. I just don’t get it. When I try to maneuver in the singles and couples scene, I feel about as befuddled as my 76 year old grandmother trying to use her iPhone.

      • Lately I’ve been wondering if being honest is the exception. I’ve been honest, never cheated, do my best, enjoy helping others and treat everyone with respect. I mentioned to my cousin tonight that I think Satan must be taking over the world. There seems to be so much dishonesty and manipulative behavior going on. I could never feel comfortable misleading anyone

        People are so quick to make an excuse for the cheater and look to the Chump as being defective and if you had played your cards right Cheater wouldn’t have a wandering eye.
        It’s frustrating to know so many people excused him for cheating after all he is a great guy.
        “He told us you two weren’t getting along,” do you think maybe Cheater having a GF could have contributed? Cheater distancing himself from the family? short temper, his name calling and ridiculing things I did or said.
        People were quick to believe what he told them that I was mentally unstable and an alcoholic.
        I had a minor fender bender in the school parking lot and he told everyone I had been drinking and driving in the school parking lot while kids were getting out of school. Wasn’t true, fortunately I have copies of the police report to prove it.

        I trusted the cheater with whole heartedly. X would often tell me not everyone thinks like you or trusts like you do.. You’re so honest, not everyone is like you..
        Maybe he was right, I’d like to believe there are other honest people out there.
        Dating sites make me cringe, the men all say pretty much the same thing about themselves.
        Don’t trust them I feel afraid to ever fully trust anyone again especially never again as much as I trusted cheater/liarI..

        • Most people think Cheater is a great guy, and can’t imagine him doing the things he did or said. I can tell by the condescending look on their faces looking back at me what they are thinking.
          Cheater was a victim to Chumps (me) irrational mood swings and rages.., he just couldn’t take it anymore. ( this is his explanation as to why he left).
          I thought I’d take the high road and keep everything to myself. Didn’t want to put my business out int the streets, thought it was tacky. Not anymore, I’ve been quiet too long and putting up with far too much BS and lies.

        • Its the age of entitlement. It started probably about 35 years ago, give or take.
          Where vapid nonsense became the norm.
          Unfortunately, those morons are now having kids and dragging them up the same way.

        • Yes, Brit, I totally and completely understand. I always thought, “Perhaps the fact that you drove me crazy…made me act a little crazy?…” When a person is intentionally lied to and manipulated and gaslighted (gaslit?), he/she might act a little crazy because that shit makes a person think they are going crazy!

          Have you ever had an experience where you saw something or knew something existed, but you couldn’t tell anyone because you were afraid of how it might be interpreted by another person? That’s how it feels to live with a cheater. It’s the “Did you just hear that?” game (times 1,000) played constantly.

          Brit, I also have the unfortunate experience of dealing with a smear campaign orchestrated by a charming, yet malignantly disordered, ex. We have been separated for almost 2 years, and divorced for 3 months. I can say that it does get easier. Although, it never gets to the point of actually being what anyone would describe as good. I accept that he will never be responsible, and that I have to protect the children from him.

          • Looking back I see the steady decline and his increased moodiness and anger over nothing. Yes, I remember hearing things he’d say and wonder if he said that.
            Rather than question him and fear of being accused of starting an argument I wouldn’t say anything and pretend it didn’t happen. Some I couldn’t repeat because no one would believe he would be capable of saying such horrible things.
            So many stories he’d tell me of a business trip seemed to be off if you know what I mean. Sometimes he’d tell the same story again and it would be different than the first time he told me. hmm…, I would come up with some excuse for him, my intuition told me different. He was almost constantly telling me how much integrity he has and how honest he is, so if I were to mention I thought something was off naturally he would be in denial and question either my sanity or laugh and say he wasn’t like that…, yeah, right.

            Extremely charming and manipulative, plays the victim roll well, can turn a minor event into a catastrophe embellishing, twisting the events and making me out to be unstable and an instigator.

            No, they will never be responsible. Good idea to keep your children close to you and protect them as much as possible. They aren’t good role models. Who knows, after awhile he might not see them at all, They might stifle his new lifestyle.
            They are so selfish and self serving they don’t think of their children.

      • Incredible comments, Kelli! So very very true. Our exes are like stupid shadows of the people we thought they were, and they don’t even realize just how dumb they really are now.

        And the world is also very different than we thought pre D-Day, very mind boggling. I love your analogy, like your grandmother with the iphone. When I first started dating my now-husband, I was almost frozen in fear….it had been over 25 years since I had dated and I had a few trust issues! (I also had never even heard of a Brazilian wax and could not understand why everyone on the porn site I found on my ex’s computer on D-Day were oddly hairless…was it a disease? Did I misunderstand and I was a lot hairier than I though? Sheesh….)

        ANYHOW, the entitlement never ends. My ex felt entitled to walk away from his own children because facing them was just not comfortable or rewarding. And he never look back. Small miracles.

        • Oh, Kelly, you lucky duck! I envy you! I wish my ex would just walk away and never look back. He did leave, thank goodness. He doesn’t do anything with the children. He doesn’t do ballet recitals, doctor visits, nor does he know the “Frozen” song (I have 3 and 4 year old girls). He doesn’t pay court ordered child support. He doesn’t pay half of the girls’ expenses. He doesn’t show up. He doesn’t call to check on the girls. He doesn’t care.

          What he DOES do is pick up the children every-other weekend for his supervised visitation–but no overnights because the psychologist who did our custody study found him creepy–and promptly drop them off to his grandmother who is the one who wants access to the girls.

          If he wouldn’t get absolutely disowned for walking away, I have no doubt in my mind that he would be gone so fast. But, the ex is epically irresponsible and needs his family to help him fix his screw ups and pay his bills and pat him on the head and tell him that he is a good boy. So, no dice on that.

          But, one day….

          • Oh that won’t last forever, Kelli. They can only keep up even a slight semblance of normalcy for so long, especially once their cover (you) is blown.

            My ex had no family left by D-Day (parents died years before, does not speak to his only brother), so he had no one to whisper in his ear but his AP’s and minions. I know that the whispers were: “Why are your children so judgmental? You have nothing to be sorry for! Life goes on! Don’t they know their mother is “crazy”?

            So ex felt like he owed our children very little and tried even less to connect with them post D-day than the normal little sociopath. Our children were understandably upset with their father and he was just too far above them to explain himself, face their anger and sorrow, or (gasp) humble himself before them. Now 4 years later, they are all NC.

            I only need to have email contact with ex quite sporadically for (very) few remaining financial issues, perhaps one cold yet polite email every 6 months or so. Oddly, that appears to be infinitely more contact and more thought than ex and our children give each other.

            Of course my youngest is 16 (2 were adults even by the time ex left), so I am sure we are in a different situation. But yes, one day, one day sooner than you may think.

  • So if I’m following Appiah’s line of thinking correctly, most of us here at CL would be considered “moral narcissists.” My head is spinning.

    • Hi Liz, think a few people could try and say this, but to the majority, we are not moral narcissists because we care about the outcome, that’s our reason for taking action.

      My ex on the other hand (and another sicko I went out with when I was young) are moral narcissists (and generally lots of other kinds too) because they are very judgmental of others and are wonderful, giving souls to everyone they meet, they pray for people and stuff and attempt to bring healing and wonderful things… Flowers… Hearts etc.

  • Moral narcissism? WTF? So now a person is being narcissistic if they tell a truth that enables an unsuspecting victim make a decision which affects their entire life? What drivel! This column sent me over the edge because this so-called ethicist twisted himself in a knot to conclude that it would be unethical to tell the truth. And let’s not forget the part about Jane pulling the letter writer into her deceit by getting him to lie to her husband, It was sickening! There was not even the perfunctory toss-off to terminate the friendship with Jane. There was absolutely nothing ethical about this answer.

    As an aside, after Dday, I learned one of my colleagues knew about X’s affair. I immediately terminated our friendship and have not spoken to him since that day. He tried to contact me after my dad died and I threw his message in the garbage can. He is not my friend and never will be. Friends don’t let friends be unknowingly exposed to STDs!

  • Stupid advice horribly written. Mr. Appiah is an embarrassment to those of us who earned philosophy degrees from good schools that required us to think and write clearly. Really, NYT, this is the best you can do? A patchwork of timeworn infidelity mindfuck clichés dressed up in cheekiness, tut-tutting. and pointless caveats? The author ultimately thinks right and wrong depend on how long you’ve known the people involved: I guess there’s no need to oppose ISIS for their attacks in Paris, since I don’t really know any of the victims. My desire to not be bummed out “trumps” my minuscule loyalty to the suffering of, hey, strangers.

    It’s also maddening to see how infidelity is treated as a Special Exception to ordinary rules or morality. I have a strong suspicion that a person asking this NYU prof. whether they should, say, come out as gay or trans—at work, to family, etc.— would be greeted with a (righteous) chorus of how important it is to “stop living a lie” and “live authentically” and “speak your truth.” But cheaters and their friends and family? Oh, it’s all very complicated for them, don’t you see? And if they do anything wrong it’s probably someone else’s fault.

    Times Editors: You call this column “The Ethicist?” Pffft. Since it’s apparently all about how the problems of others affect ME, why not call it “The Narcissist” and be done with it? Or perhaps, “What Would Your Asshole Mother-in-Law Say?”


    “Of course, all this assumes you’re reading the situation correctly: Nobody really knows what’s going on in anybody else’s marriage. Conceivably, after weathering the revelation, Jane and Peter might forge a truer, purer bond, with the added strength of a healed fracture. (Not that I’d take this bet.) Maybe Peter already realizes or suspects something is wrong.”

    By all means lets buy into some random bullshit that might happen or be going on instead of the actual facts.

    Jane is cheating on Peter = Fact.
    Maybe Peter already knows = random bullshit.

    Isn’t it just so much fun when they justify what is a fact with random possible bullshit? I bet we’ve all encountered that haven’t we?

  • I’m another “Jane,” but the one betrayed by several people and for years, while people in my husbands office knew. From my perspective the witnesses either had never experienced betrayal firsthand or had got some satisfaction (schadenfreude), they were cowards, were cheating themselves, or had no interest, empathy and were indifferent to the ‘real,’ damage being done to UNAWARE PARTNERS and their families. Just like this article talks about…. ‘Club mentality,’ and business as usual it’s not really anything to do with me. And my question is why do people like Appiah, Perel, Savage, Gilbert and Greenwald defend individuals rights to conduct a secret parallel life and one their partner is unaware of and why all this deception? expressions of: a “seduction addict,” sexual and emotional ‘exuberant Defiance,’ Monogamish, Secretly and defiantly railing against perceived “Puritanical Glee!” Which is all fine but why is there such a compelling need to hold unaware partners


    While one partner making unilateral decisions concerning the other who is completely unaware? What is that? For anyone conducting a secret parallel life without their partner knowing and exposing them to significant emotional and physical harm I can only say that I wish someone had the courage or compassion for my situation being part of a social game and unaware participant and on my behalf that someone would have sent me an anonymous letter like this one:

    To Whom It Concerns (Use Name when possible)

    Re: ___________________________(Name of individual/sexual perpetrator)

    Perhaps you already know or have suspected what this letter concerns. You may also have no idea at all and this information will come as a shock. In any case it is vital that we reach out to you, as there are implications for your health and the health and well being of your family.

    Your partner has been sexually and emotionally deceptive while conducting a secret parallel sexual life and one that you may be completely unaware of. The other person is __________________________(name of other partners if known)

    This is an anonymous letter for the partners of people who commit sexual and emotional deceit. We hold all those people who willfully perpetrate and justify their compulsive sexual secrecy and behavior accountable to those to whom they have pledged fidelity.

    Since it is a known fact that most people who commit infidelity do so without practicing safe sex submitting unaware victims to exposure to STD’S. We feel it is our duty to warn and allow you to protect yourself from this reckless behavior. We regard this as a human rights issue and a form of domestic abuse by stealth.

    Our sole purpose is to level the playing field with the knowledge of what is going on so that you can make informed decisions for your own life and that of your family.

    • I do think a lot of the secret keeping is an act of collusion. I’m sure ex’s friends were aware of his little fuck friend’s presence when I wasn’t around but I believe they had their own little fuck friends out in the parking lot, or Waffle Hut, or wherever whores congregate when away from their spouses.

      • Me too. It is interesting, though. I informed the two known APs’ husbands and was willing to answer questions. Both refused to believe it (the “slunts” are as good at lying as my stbx it seems). I was stunned.

  • Unfortunately, covering for a cheater is as common the ILYBINILWY line most of us get. I know so many people like this that it breaks my fucking heart.

    Everybody takes the stance that they don’t want to get involved. As if telling is a bigger offense than the actual betrayal. In my case, I know my X’s family knew what was going on, but they were all lying vile hyenas so I didn’t really expect that they would ever clue me in. But, I know he had friends that knew. People we socialized with. People who were at parties at my house, went to ball games with, people who would hug me whenever they saw me. So it’s not bad enough that my husband betrayed me, but these people knew about it, and did absolutely nothing.

    Even sending me an anonymous email would have sufficed. Yes it would have hurt to find out that way, but at least I’d know. At least I wouldn’t spend 6 months post D-day lying in bed and wondering how many people knew I was getting fucked over and never said a word.

    • I so agree. If just ONE person had sent me an anonymous note about X’s over-the-top flirtatious behavior at parties or conferences with students, I could have dumped his ass years ago. That’s not even to mention the major affair that everyone knew about for 8 years (except me) or the minor affairs other people knew about. Oh well, those same people who are on my side morally nonetheless have heeded X’s admonition not to socialize with me post-divorce (save one). They closed ranks before, and they’re closing ranks again.

      • No kidding.

        Crapweasel used to go for long walks with one of his friends. This fellow had heart surgery at a Very Young Age–life saving–young kids yadda yadda. I thought he (and his wife) were MY friends, too. I made them dinners, the whole bit.

        Turns out, on these long walks, Crapweasel was pouring out his…lies…about how I was such a crazy awful bitch, and [friend] was convinced our marriage would never last. They knew all about the cheating. And still they came to my house and I fed them at my table. Never a word!

        In the aftermath, I gave [former friend] holy hell. He was so *confused*…what did he do wrong???

        Now–several years later, he asked an actual friend of mine at a kids ports thing, “how was I doing, was I OK, etc.?”. I told her to tell him to go fuck himself, and why. He was apparently still confused as to why I gave exactly zero fucks about his “concern” for my welfare… what an asshole.

      • I agree, that is the real crime of it. Had I known that my Ex was fucking a lot of other people because I was apparently so horrible (though he was fucking me too, w/o protection so I assume w/o with the others as well), I would have had an equal opportunity to get rid of him and meet someone else. It’s such a moral copout for people to say this kind of massive deception and exploitation is okay because the perpetrator and the victim are married. If I was so horrible, he could have just told me that. Then I would have had an equal, informed opportunity to decide if I wanted to be in that kind of a relationship.

        • I had two of his male friends come to me right after DDay and both said the same thing, “he is not my “brother” and I knew he was a player”. At the time, I was still numb and my brain was going in a million different reactions to even compute what exactly they meant by that statement. Player…meaning, a fake, phony asshole or player as in cheater. It wasn’t until months later that these comments kept coming back to me and I still wonder what they meant and if they knew he was cheating but didn’t tell me.

          I do remember vividly the conversation I had with STBX as I stood in the kitchen with tears streaming down my face after finding more of the porn on his tablet that he had replaced me with and said… “if you don’t want me…Let me go. Let me go be with my kids and grand kids who I do know want me and love me. And if you have one ounce of love and respect for me, then all I ask is that you never Let. Me. Be. The. Last. To. Know.

          Guess what? I was the last to know. Looking back, he never responded and only hung his head. That should have been my answer I guess. The result was I was robbed of 14 yrs of being in my kids and grand kids lives. I would have gladly welcomed an anonymous letter, note, hint, or a wink and a nod to clue me in. Once I knew the truth, I didn’t have to ponder what the ethical decision was going to be.

  • The fact that he doesn’t know the right thing to do is telling. He is being “played” by Jane, who narcissistically is engaging in her favorite game…getting others to erode their boundaries. Who else saw the pinball machines light up when he answered the question if he got the Golden Gate Bridge text and he lied about it? Extra rounds of play for her! And for what? She is stealing his resources, his trustabilitly, to continue her selfish endeavors. The real question to ask yourself Mr. Appaih is how far will you go? At what point would you not lie? hmmmmm

    • That is a great point about what Jane is doing and what he is allowing her to do: eroding his reputation, integrity, trustworthiness. He is now the go-to guy for fungible ethics and spineless friendship. She owns him like a Pimp with his whore.

  • My guess is the letter writer has either banged Jane in the past, or is hoping to in the future. Or at least he is a cheater himself.

    Soulmates, my ass. Soulmates don’t fuck their spouse all year holding out for a weekend fuckfest with the soulmate. They leave, get together, and endure the consequences.

    My internal Ethicist has a rule. I don’t lie for my friends. I try not to lie, so why in the hell would I do it for someone else. Liars suck.

  • Dear Quirky Intellectual –

    Once Jane asked you to lie/cover for her – she was no longer your friend. As a self-proclaimed intellectual, you should be smart enough to know that.

  • Well here is a question. I have what I use to call a friend, who during drinking a bit to much, told me that over 10 years ago he had sex with another woman. It was the one night stand version. I have pulled away from him because I have issues with someone who would do such a thing. Does one have the obligation to tell his wife of something that occurred over 10 years ago?

    • This former friend knows how your marriage imploded? I would tell the wife. Or send the anonymous letter to her. Only you know if you feel this guy is a player or truly remorseful.

      • He may have an idea… but not for sure how mine has blown up. And I do believe he is remorseful. But scared as hell of the outcome! If he was doing it today and it was ongoing sure I would tell her. 10 years ago?

        • You pulled away from this guy because he displayed the same lack of character as your spouse. If you feel he is scared as hell of the outcome, than maybe you need to put all of your thoughts on the table with him. Frankly his tool box sucks. The tool box of default skill sets we all have when we are stressed. Mine does not include ONS with the excuse of alcohol. I’m pretty confident yours does not either.

          In this instance maybe you should contact him, tell him your thoughts about why you are no longer close friends and how you feel about his awful actions to his wife. He needs to really look at himself. Of course he is afraid of his wife’s reaction to this betrayal. She may dump his cheating ass! He will lose his cake! Jesus! Why is it cheaters ONLY think about their actions AFTER they step out?!

          If he is remorseful, he has two options: 1. Be Courageous and tell his spouse. And do some serious work in therapy to address his sucky skill set. Go into MC with the wife if she chooses to continue the marriage OR 2. Somehow the wife is informed that her spouse is not transparent and seriously risked his future with her. Alcohol is not an excuse.

          That’s what I would do. There is no Switzerland and no hiding under a rug.

          • I’d like to think the ONS was a one time thing 10yrs ago and forget about it. The guy I married began by making out with an ex gf. 5yrs from that it progressed into fucking a co worker at events, which then led to his decade long soulmate, who was someone he picked up drunk at a bar! In between there was porn, massages, escorts, websites. How do you know if this friend does all of these things too? You don’t. You only know what he told you.

  • The “Service Soon” light is probably flashing on the UBT after that load of crapola. What utter nonsense. I had no idea moral narcissism is an actual thing. You can be too concerned with the cleanliness of your hands? Is there moral OCD?

  • Years ago I was friends with a couple (the husband introduced my husband and I). I was closer friends with the husband in the beginning. Then he started acting weirder than usual. The wife came to us in the middle of the night, crying that she wanted to die. She had just finished an unscripted and unplanned “Intervention” when the OW had called her and told her sordid details. They were separated at the time (she did NOT know he was having an affair – only that he ‘needed space.’) and she went to his parents’ house to confront him. His parents sat in on the confrontation. He was furious at her for bringing this dirty laundry for his mother to hear. It was devastating to her to realize that his dad already knew and had helped him keep the secret.

    Later, as more details emerged (like there was a real affair partner that he jilted, hence the phone call, then an affair that could be justified because they were SOUL MATES), it was revealed that another mutual friend knew about the affairs, too. He was with the husband when he bought lingerie from Victoria’s Secret. The wife tried to defend this friend’s honor. He supposedly tried to get the husband to confess. He was honorable. Truly. Yet they continued working out at the gym, getting buff. He was so ethical that he TRIED to get the man to confess. Since he couldn’t change the man, he joined him in his hobby of becoming more sexually desirable.

    It’s been 22 years. When I think of the mutual friend that kept the secret, I still throw up a little bit in my mouth. The respect I once had for this man was lost in that one moment of realizing that he participated in the collusion. This young wife had a toddler and had just given birth to a second child when her husband suddenly claimed he ‘needed space.’ She had no idea what was happening. Two men (3, if you count her cheating husband) could have illuminated his philandering ways. Given more information, she may have made decisions differently or more quickly or at least been tested for STDs sooner. Nausea is rising up even as I write this.

    On a different vein, the couple divorced. He quickly married his soul mate in a lovely mountain wedding. They lived happily ever after until he met his next soul mate a couple of years later. He had the good graces to call his dear friend, his ex-wife, sobbing that he he thought something might be wrong with him. Her advice to him was that he do everything in his power to stay faithful to wife #3. Make sure that when he committed this time, he was honest. And also keep paying child support. Her new husband is a millionaire but she wouldn’t budge on that one.

    • >>”They lived happily ever after until he met his next soul mate a couple of years later.”
      I love justice. Your friend sounds like a very “head on her shoulders” type of lady. I’m happy for her happy ending.

      You were a good friend to her. That is priceless.

  • Wow, this was a great UBT masterpiece! Seems like there may also be some sexual tension and kibbles for Kwame and Jane that both are enjoying at Peter’s expense. They are both in on the sexual secret that is scandalous and exciting! And also get to talk about it at dinner in front of the Chump! Peter may even need a napkin to cover his hard on and Jane probably needs a mini pad to prevent more laundry!
    He is most likely loving this himself and CL makes a good point when she poses the question of why does he (Peter) even know all this? Why is Jane sharing these very personal details? Looking for more excitement? Looking for understanding or acceptance of her cheating? Looking for Kwame possibly to service her in between visits with international AP now that he knows she is game for cheating? I guarantee it is not for no reason.
    And one has to be HIP don’t they?
    Being judgmental or preventing someone from wasting their life is just so uncool these days.

    • Without a doubt, this guy is hoping “Jane” will eventually fuck him. Otherwise, why would he be so chummy with her in the first place?

  • It is so bizarre that the Letter Writer gets accused of “moral narcissism” because he is considering unmasking an affair that the has known about for YEARS, but Jane apparently is not an entitled narcissist. I mean if her love with Martin is so darn pure and they are not freaking narcissist they should just be willing to sacrifice a bit of their career. But oh no!, this oh so very important people must keep things status quo. It is totally not about cake, not about cake at all. They are very offended that you would suggest this is about cake. This is about a very pure love, that has had to endure sooo much.

    • The writer is just a fucking fence sitter. He needed to hear what would make him look better so he could fall on that side of the fence. The guy is just a cake eater too.

  • My sister’s best friend in high school had a physical relationship with her NYU ethics professor! Not this guy (timing is off by just a couple of years), but makes you wonder about the folks they hire at NYU.

    I am dealing with a related issue right now (three friends, when was the marriage ended/was there cheating?) but in the end I decided it was worth the risk of losing the friends and that I had to let folks know it was a possibility.

  • Boy Chumplady.. my head hurts reading that “ethicist’s” dribble.

    I would have answered the letter with the following:

    This is not hard… Tell Peter and get the hell away from the Toxic Whore Jane. If possible, tell Martin’s wife. Then make some new friends. Friends who aren’t dishonest Twats.

    How is that?

  • By the way, my brother DOES have doctorate in Philosophy and he thinks cheating is WRONG! So there you have it!

  • Every narcissist considers that their own brand of “ethics” and life philosophy trumps all others. Scratch a disordered person and you’ll pretty much always find a “philosopher” buried underneath their skin, ready to wax eloquent on why THEIR transgressions are actually all for the betterment of mankind.

    I had never heard of the “philosopher” who gave the shitty advice here, but just reading his nonsense clues me in to what he really is. As to the letter writer, if Peter ever finds out that his wife is cheating and the letter writer knew about it the entire time, I hope Peter hunts him down and inflicts considerable bodily harm upon him.

    • Well, now that the letter has been published — the entire New York Times reading population knew about Jane’s cheating before Peter did.

      Peter has been utterly chumped.

  • Ethics?…snort….This is the prevailing viewpoint on infidelity = best to stay out of it. Yes, cheaters put everyone in their lives in a very awkward position. Generally, I would agree that unless you are a close friend or family member, you can take this position.

    But please note to the Chump, like me, this “Switzerland positioning” = you are worth nothing.

    Post DD2, I learned from close friends that they told my EX they were not supportive of his actions. Oh yes, and they told him before DD#1 too. However, not one person talked to me.

    If you are a close friend, I believe it is your role to tell the Chump. I believe that you are in a position to ask if they are really happy in their relationship and to disclose in a nice way what you know. Likely something has already happened to talk about…like my EX’s increasingly erratic behavior and when he moved out for a short time before a false reconciliation. I heard crickets during those very difficult times too.

    Post DD2, looking into the eyes of my “close friends” was the most difficult thing to do. I try to be a big person, but I see clearly that they are not my friends. They are not in my life now.

    I don’t mean to sound bitter but why would anyone would want to be friends with someone who openly and intentionally belittles, cheats and lies?

  • I read that NYtimes article last week. I was shocked and sickened by the vast number of commenters on the article who said variations of “Nobody Really Knows What Goes On In A Marriage” and in effect, what happens between Jane and her husband is between them… while missing the obvious fact that affairs are carried out IN SECRET, that is what makes them affairs. So no, it is NOT “between” the married partners.

    • Here’s analogy:

      Neighbors, friends, teachers etc… Who notice a child who wears the same clothes every day, appears tired and often sleeps in class, wears long sleeves and jeans even in the summer, is evasive about his/her home life, appears hungry.

      Do the adults who have knowledge of this child just sit, wait and see what happens because, you know, no one REALLY knows what happens inside of anyone’s home. Or do these adults ask questions, visit the home, call the parents to investigate? And if these adults do discover the parents aren’t really the kind of people they claim to be, do these adults call CPS or not.

      For me it is not about the “it takes a village” crap. It’s about doing the right thing. Do it anonymously if you have to, but make the call. Send the letter.

      • Exactly ANC. Send a letter, make the call! Save a Chump today!

        I am so grateful for those that gave me the truth! Lord knows satan wasn’t gonna tell me anything but more lies.

        • Yes, I wish someone had told me. And there are the so-called Switzerland friends who have made it clear from their actions that they knew about the cheating, yet still showed up for dinners and parties in my home, then a WEEK later after D-Day (seriously WTF??) were socializing with Cheater and OW as the newly acceptable couple. I’m convinced those so-called friends knew.

          • ANC – great analogy. Since I don’t have kids, I watch out for animals being mistreated. Its in my blood I guess, but I also watch if kids are also being mistreated. Being in animal rescue for so long, some of the homes you go to to return a dog on the street are not pretty. Parents have some issues…kids are all dirty…bad diapers. Anyway, once I called both the Humane Society (their Bulldog just got hit on the road and we had returned him to family, unharmed) and Social Service ‘s about the children in the home. I hadn’t seen a worse place for a child. Maybe meth involved, I don’t know. But, guess who showed up? Animal control and not one call back from Social Services. So, before we left the campground, we reported the case to the manager there. Hope she got those kids and dog taken away from her.

            Sorry if that is off topic.

            • I guess my point is, always watch and report your surroundings and don’t turn away thinking somebody else will take care of it.

              • I think the Kitty Genovese case showed other people will not take care of things. Preventing bad things from happening is often left up to one brave soul willing to swim against the crowd.

  • This makes me really sad. In my case everyone knew he was cheating – his work colleagues, his family, university friends, even my kids. And no one said a word. I found out ten months after he moved out to “find himself” when he confessed in a phone call. I was trying to get a separation agreement in place and I guess he had finally accepted that I wasn’t ever going to do a pick-me dance, so he threw it out there in a last ditch attempt at drama.

    I suspect now that his paramour was not the first, and that there were women at work and hookers over the 30+ years we were together. If one person had said something it would have saved me so much pain; I would have had a chance to rebuild when I was younger, not when I was in my fifties. I don’t blame my kids, who were also put in a horrible situation; they were young teenagers and he told them not to say anything and to “respect his privacy”. (How could a parent do that to a child?) I do blame all the adults involved, though. And I wish them all in Hell, liars that they all are.

    The worst part for me was the casual betrayal by people who I thought at least respected me. My life didn’t matter to any of them. I don’t know if I will ever really trust anyone again, to tell you the truth. I find it pathetic that a so-called “ethicist” would completely ignore the betrayal of the chump and the family, ignore the years of pain, emotional anguish, and financial betrayal that these kind of situations produce. That our lives are of so little note to these people that betrayal is acceptable under any circumstance.

    I am so glad I can come here. I really don’t understand the world sometimes.

  • Man friend wants to get into cheater woman’s pants. If she cheats with Martin, she’ll cheat with him, right? Peter can’t be that stupid…or maybe he’s just willfully ignorant and doesn’t want to see the truth. Jane wants the kibble of power and self-indulgence; Martin does too. Peter doesn’t want to rock the boat. Man friend sees Jane and Martin’s fun and is teetering on whether he should do it, too. Right now he feels superior to such “unethical” behavior and now he has permission to keep silent!

  • I like how you pointed out the rationalization that they couldn’t leave their careers and that it somehow justified the behavior. (Well, we can’t leave our careers so we can never really be together which justifies just an occasional screw.) So, clearly, their careers are more important than the people they are married to and their feelings. They are more important than being with their soul mates. These “intellectuals” have very important “jobs”.

    I also like how you pointed out that the person who sent the letter must have a questionable reason for his relationship with “Jane”. I mean the writer knew that being a male might “mean” something or he wouldn’t have pointed it out. He knows why it matters although he probably can’t face the truth. I’m sure Jane gets kibbles from him too. The OW in my situation immersed herself in a hobby filled predominantly with males. She can’t get enough attention from the boys. She and Jane have that in common I guess…

  • During final DDay, I found out that a couple of “friends” had helped x get in contact with various sluts they’d met SO THAT HE COULD INVITE THEM TO OUR HOME for the large group events x loved to throw. This happened more than once. I confided this to another friend and she felt they both had changed and “it was a long time ago and they were different people now.” I was confused by that perspective then. Not any more. Neither of those guys is my friend or will ever be given a foothold in my life again. I’m sorry, but that makes you scum in my book.

  • I will be eternally grateful for the folks that had the decency to tell me the truth of what was going on with satan. Without their compassion I don’t know where I would be right now or how much more I would have endured at satan’s hands…

    …one of them said, ‘Honey, don’t let him get the best of you. You are such a nice person you deserve better than him anyway. He was chattin all of us up…it could have been anyone of us. I won’t wait on him anymore when he comes in here…none of us will. We just walk away from him. He is a sorry excuse for a man.’

    …I had lost over 50 pounds by the time they told me…and I have never been heavy…so…I looked like I was dying…and I was…the truth gave me strength to care about myself and start taking action to save myself…he was watching me die and I think that is exactly what he wanted me to do.

    • you said: “the truth gave me strength to care about myself and start taking action to save myself” — that captures the essence of the situation perfectly… we deserved the TRUTH. I don’t know why these other people lack the common sense and compassion to see that.

      • They lack empathy, concern, class, grace, kindness. So much today is built on lies and deceit. I just trust all of them suck. I kicked everyone to the curb who was in on his affair and condoned it. Fuck him and them. All I need worry about is me and my dogs.

      • Yes. Exactly. They gave me what I needed to make decisions that I needed to make but couldn’t cause I didn’t know what I was dealing with.

        We do deserve the truth…these other people aren’t human…they are disordered narcissists…monsters.

  • The Ethicist is doing pretty good at one point:

    “At the same time, your keeping him in the dark is — insofar as you’re taking his interests into consideration — paternalistic and thus disrespectful. She’s also drawing you into her web of deceit in ways you’re entitled to resent.”

    …but then just won’t follow these true premises to the proper conclusion. Ethicist needs logic training.

    • I don’t think the author means “paternalistic,” which refers to how a father (pater) or father figure might use his experience and acknowledged authority to dictate a better outcome for a son he loves. It’s heavy-handed behavior, but it implies an intent for a good outcome. There is nothing loving about the intent of the cheater in this example, who is assisting in the betrayal and harm of this chump.

      Better word choice might be “poisonous,” “pernicious,” or “depraved.”

  • This letter and response by the “Ethicist” sullies the term “friend.” In what universe is someone called a friend who lies in covering up adultery committed against said “friend”? How is that being a friend?

    Ethics are only murky is lying and cheating is acceptable or justifiable as CL has pointed out.

    Also, wouldn’t a true friend care about their friend’s integrity and well-being? When these two get discovered, the fall will be steep. Why isn’t the “Ethicist” pointing out that this is a moral failure pattern and encouraging this writer to do so as well? I suppose that would take moral courage and true care for a friend, though…

  • Kwame, where did you get your morals?
    Morality is doing the right thing even when it’s the most difficult thing to do.

    Kwame, that article was a crock of shit! In essence: Take the easy way out that’s what everyone is doing these days anyway so follow the herd. IT’S WHAT’S BEST FOR EVERYONE ESPECIALLY YOU!

    Thanks CL for disecting the crap out of that BS. I hope Kwame reads your blog. He needs your help screwing his head on tighter. An ethicist with screwed up morals. Why should that surprise me?!

  • Ughhhh, I was just reading about another Ethicist, Mr. Cheaterpants Extraordinare, Charlie Sheen. He has known he was HIV positive for four years and paid “millions of dollars” to keep it secret. Yet he’s the victim cause it’s taking money away from his kids. What a slime bucket.

    • Just read this. Did he tell ALL of his sex partners over these past 4yrs to get checked? How about his recent X wives?

    • It made me laugh to hear about it… AS IF everyone doesn’t already know you’re a man-whore, Charlie. AS IF any woman with two brain cells to rub together doesn’t know you probably have hordes of STDs making friends in your body, after such famous behavior.

      He spent MILLIONS to cover up what most people pretty much assumed already, AS IF you actually had a good reputation to uphold?.LOL – good!

      • I think he’s pretty OK with ID’ing as a man whore. I’m just being judgemental from the articles I have read about him. I was wondering how authentic he has been with his sex partners and didn’t know if his millions spent on hush money were to prevent these partners from finding out. Because THAT is perverted, especially with a potential death sentence like HIV.

        • I’m really hoping this kind of thing is something his sexual partners can have litigated… and millions more can be drained from his fortune.

          Tangentially, the whole “safe sex” thing agitates me a LOT. It’s NOT safe sex… it’s safER than going bareback. That’s ALL. Slapping a rubber on a diseased cock doesn’t make sex with it SAFE… not against diseases and not against conception. It’s only safER than without it.

          Jumping off a bridge with bungees is safER than without them… but it doesn’t make jumping off a bridge SAFE. Gah – it’s a huge pet peeve.

        • ANC, I read that he had unprotected sex with quite a few people without telling them about the HIV and that he might be brought up on charges. But who knows what the truth really is. I do not buy his story he is trying to help people though, with the exposure.

  • I kind of liked Charlie Sheen till I realized his character on Two and Half Men actually WAS him.

  • Kudo’s CL. One of the best UBT I have ever read. Makes me sick and pissed at ppl who knew and said nothing in my own blown up marriage. Unforgivable.

    However, i know of a woman friend that is legally separated from her AH. She bought her another home, he dates her couple times a month, she is financially taken care of and TRULY believes his BS that he is in mid life crisis. He told her he just wants space and focus on his business. I don’t know him personally or have proof that he cheats, but there are several reliable rumors about him financially supporting a stripper in Vegas for YEARS and has even bought her a car and pays her rent. Another friend who’s husband is good friends with the “assumed cheater” says she knows all of this but doesn’t want to say anything. And since they are separated legally, does it matter.

    Hell to the YES, she should protect her friend. I’ve heard soon to be Chump say, “if he was cheating that would be it, I draw the line there.” UH, REALLY? So far she is in a fantasy fairytale world believing the h BS.

    Should I step in and tell friend X or encourage the gal that knows for sure to do it.

    Either way, it sucks. And there is ALOT of energy being for Douche to cover his tracks. ALL SAD!!!!

    • Encourage the person with evidence to do it. Otherwise chump probably won’t believe it.

  • If I see someone who’s walking down the street and about to fall into a whole, I don’t tell them because I’m a moral revolutionary and I’m very liberal philosophically. So philosophically, have a nice trip!

    What a douche.

    I once met a professor of philosophy who tried to tell me the most important thing in philosophy is understanding philosophy. When I asked him which one was true he couldn’t tell me. What’s the point of it that? Seems to me some peoples philosophy is just a tool to create ambiguity to use in their mental acrobatics to try and “transcend” objective morality.

    I wonder if people like Appiah are truly confused or if they just create this stuff to try and justify their moral excrement to any doofus who would listen. Because I’m sure this guy sits around and thinks up this bull supposing that’s it some sort of intellectual engagement and deep, deep philosophical progress. And the best thing he can come up with is that relationships are like bones.

    Oh yes, he’s a revolutionary. My bad.

  • This post is connected to me in a way because one of my first research jobs as a grad student was together with my now ex-cheater and under Appiah´s and another famous professor´s supervision. I remember Appiah because he spoke like a British lord, was very sophisticated but seemed somewhat wishy-washy to me.
    (I just had a flashback on how another researcher on the team was writing love poems to my ex (though she knew we were dating) and how I made fun of them. But I now realized that adult women don´t just write poems to men if they don´t receive some sort of encouragement (unless they are totally clueless).
    OMG…huge red flag I overlooked. …)

    Another ackward coincidence with this post is that my cheater husband always wanted to do another degree in Ethics! But when I was upset on how two of our friends-colleagues had cheated on their also academic-spouses (with students or colleagues–like my husband did) cheater would say that we had no right to judge them, that we didn´t know what went on in their marriages, and that was an issue that belonged completely to their private lives! Go figure the reasoning behind the ethics of fancy university ethicists!

      • I would say yes. I think even though they may have a handle on different schools of thought, it in no way means that they themselves firmly subscribe to any or know which one to subscribe to. You can’t know your head from your butt when you think truth is a relative thing (wishy washy). I think many people pride themselves in having an “open mind”. While it’s valid to a certain degree, taken to the extreme leaves one morally compromised. And flexible ethics is a result.

    • Speaking from personal experience, I do think philosophy has a higher-than-average degree of narcissists than most academic professions. However, there are some good, ethical people in the profession (just so we don’t tar everyone with the same brush). One of my staunchest supporters since D-day has been an ethicist.

  • Wait, is this column supposed to be about the RIGHT thing to do or the EASY thing to do? The article is all about what choice presents the lowest personal cost to the inquirer with a smattering of inconsequential nattering a about Peter’s right to self-determination. (A smattering of nattering…I just inadvertently cracked myself up! I think that should be the new Chump Nation description for cheater apologist drivel.)

    • I love it Free Vixen!!! Here! Here! I second that!!!!

      LMAO! It is the perfect definition!!!! LOL!

    • Ding, ding, ding, Free Vixen–a winner! Love the “smattering of nattering,” and can’t wait to use it!

    • “Wait, is this column supposed to be about the RIGHT thing to do or the EASY thing to do?”

      Exactly Free Vixen! Oh and yes, my ex himself was a “smattering of inconsequential nattering”.

  • The ethicist is not any such being. I agree with the blog post and UBT, if a friend of mine was fucking his or her spouse over, or harming other people similarly I would not help them do it, I would expose, and the friendship would be over. However, I take exception to this:

    “You’re auxiliary kibble supply and you probably harbor the hope that Jane will sleep with you some day, as she’s not exactly faithful with husbands. So your orientation and gender do “matter.” (No parentheses.) Why else would you keep a “professional” relationship for years, in which Jane reveals very intimate things about her marriage and sex life.”

    One of my few friends is a man 20 years younger than I am. We’ve worked together professionally on the same team for years (on and off) we do the same work even when we don’t work together. We became friends over those years, we debate politics, religion and a whole lot of other issues. We also share personal stuff to help each other work things out, usually it’s family stuff or boundary issues, all over the road. Sometimes it’s just for a safe place to vent. We have talked about our sex lives, marriage and many other things that matter to us. He in no way wants to fuck me, nor do I have any desire to fuck him. His gender is not an issue. We are friends, end of story.

  • Well, I have a slightly different experience with this, although I am still for telling the chump, with one ‘however’. Many years ago a friend of ours was having a very blatant affair and everybody knew but her husband. They had 3 young kids at the time. H and I felt horrible for her husband that everybody knew but him. So, my ethical husband met him for breakfast and told him what he knew. I backed him on that decision. Holy Hell did that cause a huge mess because Cheater had so many friends who knew! The guy got really really angry (and he had anger issues) about his wife and we weren’t sure what he was going to do next. Suddenly we were worried he was going to go beat up his wife or worse. All the people that knew about the affair thought it was the worst thing we could have done and that it was none of our business. Anyway, yes, they had a huge fight but it didn’t turn physical, thankfully, but the backlash was quite severe for H and I as they blamed US for breaking up their marriage, and also that none of new how volatile her husband would react. Also, H didn’t have any real proof, just all the rumors. Looking back, I think we should have had some proof.

    Fast forward to my ‘ethical’ X. The rumor mill started going around town that he was having an affair. Ha! Hogwash, was all I could think when it got back to me. The woman who told me, who wasn’t the best of my friends, probably told me in the wrong way and she had no proof whatsoever. I wrote her off completely as trying to destroy my good husbands’ reputation and it caused a huge fight and I quit talking to her. I didn’t know what her motive was for saying that when we were so ‘happily married’.
    And, I certainly wasn’t going to believe THAT. Talk about total denial.

    If she had proof, and it wasn’t just her word, or been a better friend, it may have been different – but…

    So, that backfired on her until I caught them red-handed and I felt horrible for how I treated her and did many apologies.

    So, I think if you’re going to tell – and morally I think you should be aware of any negative consequences but, at least, YOU know you did the right thing.

  • Life is messy. It’s like a Jackson Pollack painting or one of Thomas Kincaide’s lesser works. It’s a distressing shark pickled in a moral tank of formaldehyde ala Damien Hirst.

  • One time I was privy to wrong doings that were going on in my own home.

    I threw my brother-in-law, who was living with us at the time, out the night I found he was fucking a good friend’s wife. A couple that was very, very, good friends with me and my first husband.

    At a bar earlier in the evening, I was telling a group of girlfriends about how I heard my front door open and close late at night after we all have gone to bed and wondered if my BIL had a schmoopie we were unaware of. HA HA HA . The cheater wife leaned over and whispered, after she had a little to much to drink, how did I know that SHE was the late night intruder in my home.


    I whispered back, after I collected myself half shitfaced as well, that she needed to separate from her husband or tell him she is screwing my BIL and our friendship was over until she sorted things out. Also, she could explain to her husband why I want nothing to do with her, because if he asked ME I was not going to lie for her.

    Her husband came to me about a month later at a party, after he found out about everything, and told me he bought a gun Uh, Okay. So, Chump, what are you going to do with that gun? His response, “Kill Bill”.(not his real name).

    I looked at him and said, “Chump, neither one of them are worth the gun powder to blow to hell and especially not a stint in jail while the fucker raises your child.”

    That ended his insanity. Chump left town, when to another state, fell in love again, married and had a couple of more children.

    Cheater wife married my BIL (now ex). That was about 30 years ago and they are still married.

    Right or wrong. This is my way. Tell the cheater that if they don’t fess up lickety split, you will do it for them.

  • ‘Right or wrong. This is my way. Tell the cheater that if they don’t fess up lickety split, you will do it for them.’

    This!! I say, give them a chance to fess up or you’ll do it for them.
    Might get you killed…but hey – them’s the chances you take for morality, right? 😉

    • Yeah, might get you killed. Something to think about. Although, I never felt threatened, I did tell my husband, my BIL and the wife what he said to me that evening

      These were people we knew intimately. We couple dated with them all the time, we were in baseball leagues, bowling leagues, parties and our children grew up together..

      I must say going forward, I will hand the chump the business card I had made and tell them they might want to check out the website.


      • CalamityJane (posts seen a bit out of order tonight) but just want to say. I LOVE your ideas of having cards to pass out. How subtle and ingenious. You know when you’re suspicious that something is way ‘off’, and you go waving flags to the internet to help you late at nite when you’re confused and have nowhere to go for info…it was a a real Indiana Jones effort to find the golden box of C/N and C/L.
        I like your suggestion a lot!!!

  • My high school friend is a major serial cheater. I found out in 2013 she had had a very LTA with her very close friend’s husband. I live in another state but she told me who the guy and his wife are.

    I cut off contact with her a few months after she told me. We never had words but I’m sure she knows why I ended the friendship. She was having two other on-line EA’s all at the same time. It was all too much for me so I just stopped calling her and stopped answering her FB messages. I eventually unfriended her on FB and now I have deactivated my FB account so I have no idea what’s going on with anyone anymore. I found out a lot of my friends were cheating by rekindling old relashionships on FB while silly me was busy posting silly jokes and recipes.

    Anyhow, because I do not know the AP of my ex-friend, or his wife, I never told the wife. I contemplated sending her a message telling her what I know but I have zero proof of the affair to offer. I only have the word of my ex-friend telling me who the guy is/was.

    I know he put hotels on his work credit card and they would meet up at the park for “walks” but that’s it.

    Do I tell this woman what I know?

    She is a total stranger to me.

    • oops, I hope I don’t double post but my last reply is out in the universe somewhere.

      It sounds to me like you are no longer close to this friend and you have no idea who the woman is whom you are about to destroy her life with this info.
      You are a stranger with no proof.

      First question asked would be How do you know about this affair? Where’s your proof?
      Or, are you trying to sabotage me in someway and why? Are you a stalker?
      So, w/o proof, it’s pretty hard to get involved on rumors alone.

      How do YOU know he is putting his whore up in hotels on his work cc?
      Or go for walks in the park? Since you are out of touch with this friend.
      Do you see them together? That would make a big diff.

      Funny your comment on FB. I thought and still think it IS about recipes and jokes.
      Thing is, I never thought a professional dog show was where a bunch of this stuff happens…I guess like any hobby. pffft…I could NEVER see myself going back to an old flame from high-school. Oh, how easy and flawed that would be. No thanks!

      • My ex-friend told me of her affair when I was in her state to visit my brother. We were at her pool and she pointed him out to me.

        That is the only proof I have. Because she told me, we are no longer friends.

        • Yep – your word (or perception) against hers. Nobody heard you have the conversation? Then, it IS just gossip or could be fantasy from her side. Who knows, but glad you’re rid of her no matter. She sounds like pond scum.
          I think it would be different if you were closer to the people involved.

    • I have no idea how a ‘friend’ could play this game with another ‘friend’ unless he had other motives.
      Which, I think you’ll all implying that his turn will come up with this slut-friend and pick him next for her next fling. The whole thing is very sickening. I would probably puke up my lunch if I were in the middle of that conversation. This ‘friend’, at their level of friendship, is cheating on his own ‘friend’ by lies of omission. I think we all know where that is heading..

  • Ah yes, I have seen cheaters and their minions like Mr. Name Withheld. My ex and his little cabal of playmates LOVED to play droll little games like these—>Cheating Wife: “Mr. Name Withheld, you got my pics of the Golden Gate Bridge, RIGHT?” Mr. Name Withheld: “why YES, and they were lovely. I heard you worked SO HARD at that business conference, too, it’s AMAZING you had time to send those pics to me!” Giggle giggle snort, eyes meet with strange vibes, all the while laughing how stupid Bob is! “We have a secret Bob doesn’t know!! It is an intimacy only us evolved immoral narcissists can share! ”

    While Bob thinks: “What’s wrong with this picture? Something feels off. I must be depressed, or crazy, or something.”

    And pretty soon they start despising Bob for being so dumb, and they start tells each other and everyone else that Bob is “crazy,” a bit unreasonable, poor Cheating Wife has to pull all the weight in the marriage, etc etc

    I would have advised Mr. Name Withheld that he is participating in the gaslighting and abuse of Bob, his own friend. And one day when Bob figures it out, Bob’s whole world will collapse and he will freefall in horror as he realizes the depth and breadth of the betrayals by his wife and friend. The days, weeks, months and years of lies. The incredible deceptions that his wife and friend built around him like threads of an invisible web, vast, complex and untangle-able.

    Or if Bob never figures it out, then Mr. Name Withheld allowed him to go to his grave disrespected and abused, and without the basic human dignity of having had truth and agency in his own life and marriage.

    But in fact all Mr. Name Withheld can apparently think is: “I want to be like the cool kids! I’m popular!! I’m in! By the way Cheating Wife, am I cool enough yet to sleep with you, or at least participate in a threesome or something? One day you’ll realize it’s me you want and not Mr. International Boyfriend.”

  • My daughter outed her dad. She sensed somthing wasnt right when they were constantly bumping into Tweeny. I cant imagine the amount of guilt that she carried around. And it still pains me that her father thought it was ok to make her his confidant.
    I was told by a coworker who saw Idiot and Tweeny at Target. Funny thing is she didnt even really know me… She walked up to me in the hall and asked if she could talk to me. We went to a quiet place and she said ‘ i saw him’ and from the look on my face she knew she had done the right thing. She gave me all the details. I thanked her. It was incrediably brave. She left the business a couple of years ago but still texts me every now and then asking how I am. I value that.

    • Your ex is a complete and total selfish asshole laying that on his daughter. Her response to inform you was a healthy decision and reflects highly on you, Clip.

      There are a lot of kids out there who hold it in and it horribly screws up their head to be the confidant of a parent’s illicit affair. Talk about total mind fuck for a kid. It’s mental abuse in the highest order.

  • How’s this word salad? A response in the comments section from ‘Linda’ [uber sophisticated and educated]: “So, the Ethicist decided prior to publication that it is without question ethical to intervene in the marriages of others with information which is not directly solicited? The ethical aspects of any decision to be made by “Name Withheld” are thus discussed in terms of “betraying”, “deceit” and “forgiveness vs understanding” etc. Apparently in the world the Ethicist lives not only can “friends” share–unasked– information about the acts of one spouse with the other spouse, but the friend is allowed to base his “ethical” decision-making on his own evaluation of the consequences to his friends’ marriage. Jane’s visits with Martin (ala “The Same Time Next Year”) are automatically judged as “adultery” and a “continual deception”.

    The value-loaded language used in this column is such a barrier to examining and understanding any ethical aspects of the situation as described that the ethical questions which might exist in a messy situation about human relationships are hidden under the garbage of judgements already made.”

    – sorry. Still word salad.

  • TheClip – it sounds like she was a fellow chump. And, that’s why you believed her. People like that can be very believable and sincere. I guess we all know this, instinctively. She had no other motive than for you to know ‘she saw’.

  • An interesting note to all of this is that “Jane” is telling her friend exactly what she thinks of him by believing he’ll keep her secret. And, she clearly used him to triangulate against her husband (on the spot “back my lie up” over dinner). “Jane” knows he has no morals. She knows his integrity is shallow at best, otherwise she would never have dared to tell him.

    My brother tried to do this to me years ago (I was about 20 years old at the time). I was PISSED that he thought I would cover up his crappy behavior for him. I threw his ass under the bus and never looked back. Heck, I’m still offended that he thought I had no integrity. Asshole.

  • And from a family therapist: As a family therapist, the writer’s awareness that the affair may be “good” for everyone in some way is telling. Affairs often serve hidden relational functions. A friend once told me about telling her husband she was having an affair. “I know,” he said. “I’ve tried to stay out of the way.” Her affair meant he didn’t have to try to meet her demands for sex or romance, which were harder for him than being lied to. After they divorced a year or so later, he came out to her as gay. The affair clearly was an outgrowth of his lack of real desire for her- the lie he was hiding that complemented hers. It let my friend have a sexual partner who physically desired her, when her husband couldn’t recognize that he did not.

    We know nothing of real detail about Jane and Peter, nor can we. Neither we nor the writer really knows if Peter has or had affairs, or if he never wants sex, or if he really wants to be married to Jane anyway. Maybe Jane subliminally hopes he finds out and leaves her. We simply don’t know. Affairs aren’t normally morality tales of “betrayal.” One partner may have an affair with stamps or work or alcohol, the other with a person. Few of us ever know enough to make snap ethical judgments.

    The writer should tell Jane he won’t lie for her and he’ll have to stop socializing with her and Peter if this all continues. And please tell her to go to therapy. A friend can say that. But Jane and Peter’s marriage is their issue, not his. Stay out.

    Not a family therapist I would want to go to. But then again: the hidden relational function my husband’s affair served me, was that I meant nothing to him. So yes I suppose it did serve me. I discovered I was married to a narcissist who didn’t do emotion (but does do providing for), and that making my needs smaller and smaller to fit in, was making me very unhappy.

    • ah yes, stamp collecting… and infidelity (aka massive deception and betrayal) are so similar.

    • So let’s re-apply that family therapist’s logic to another case of deception: “Who knows if Bernie Madoff’s victims didn’t secretly want to have their entire fortunes stolen. After all, many liked Bernie personally and thus liked being within his “circle.” They may have harbored monkish tendencies, and implicitly wanted to head into retirement with no money so as to relish the integrity of giving up one’s worldly possessions. Others might have wanted the challenge of rebuilding a fortune lost to a Ponzi scheme. Those with economic Munchhausen’s syndrome may have felt a deep, primitive pleasure at being robbed blind by someone they trusted. We will never know, and thus the government should not have interfered with Madoff’s deception.”

      • Great call, Tempest. Infidelity’s cousin, thievery from a trusted individual.

  • (By the way, what must Peter think of these intimate, casual three-way dinners his wife has with her old “professional friend” who’s seen travel pictures he hasn’t seen?)

    This is why my back gets up when a so-called friend always wants to come around me and my partner too often without a partner of their own.

    I had (past tense) a female friend who was always encouraging to bring my husband with me although she never had a date herself. And looking back on it, I have good reason to believe that she was hoping to date him.

  • I don’t see any scenario in which Peter would be okay with being deceived by his male friend. Isn’t it part of the “man code” to tell other guys important stuff like that?

  • Really,

    Sounds an awful lot like the parents of full blown addicts. We can’t call the police on baby girl for taking all the money out of her spouse’s account. She hasn’t pawned mom’s jewelry, taken dad’s car or skipped off with her parents’ savings.
    Let’s only hold baby girl accountable for doing something to us. Those other people she stole from or lied to don’t matter because we live in an insular bubble safe from our demon spawn’s destructive behaviour.

    Mr. Ethicist is basically saying that man-friend hasn’t been harmed by cheater so why bother getting upset; Peter doesn’t count. Nobody but the self absorbed man-friend counts in this scenario. All the advice is reference man-friend’s comfort and status quo. Nowhere does Mr. Ethicist actually stake any moral ground. Peter does matter. Every human being matters.

    Mr. Ethicist seems to place more importance on the friendship between cheater and man-friend. What kind of friendship does he really have if she can place no value on what morally, legally, culturally and ethically is a stronger bond than just a friendship. Oh yeah, he might get laid if she tires of her twice a year paramour.

    Mr. Ethicist has his moral head so far up his ass he can taste it.

    • Mr. Ethicist seems to place more importance on the friendship between cheater and man-friend.

      I found that a lot of date relationship advice seems to prioritise the friendships of married individuals more than the marital relationship that they have.

      I find things written such as: “If my wife (and the mother of my child) does not get along with my female friends, that’s a dealbreaker.”

      • Yes, I’ve seen lots of things written that seem to view friendships as the most important thing in your life. I’m too much of a loner I guess. I like other people but don’t really have a lot of time to socialize outside of work. I’d much rather spend that time with my daughter. There is no Gayle to my Oprah, lol.

  • It does get murkier. I recently divorced my wife of 20 years because I learned of her multi-year affair with her former boss that ended six years ago (not her first affair). After his affair with my then-wife, the boss filed for divorce from his wife, which was final three years ago. It ended their 20-year marriage.

    I’m wrestling with whether to tell the ex-wife of the boss that her husband cheated with my ex-wife between 2004-2008.

    It is clear from their divorce file that the boss’ now ex-wife and his grown daughter believed during the divorce that he had been cheating during the years he was in fact cheating with my EW, but they had no proof and he denied it. Infidelity can justify a disproportionate division of assets in a divorce action in this state, but the boss’ ex-wife obviously did not know about my EW at that time and lost out. Knowing the information now could not benefit her legally. Had I found out about the affair while the information could have affected her settlement, I most certainly would have told her.

    Telling her now would confirm the truth – that he did cheat. I think she has the right to know he was cheating during their marriage, and that they did not “just grow apart.” Personally, I would want to know, but some say telling her now would just hurt her – that she may have moved on.

    I feel like by not making her aware of the lengthy affair makes me part of the conspiracy to keep the affair a secret from her. I also hate to think of her suspicions being a source of torment or unfinished business for the rest of her life, or her EH making her look silly to their kids for her supposedly unfounded suspicions. I am wrestling with this, and have been for months.

    • Tell her. It will confirm that she wasn’t crazy. There is no statute of limitations on the truth, in my book.

    • JK – that’s an easy one. I’d definitely want to know. He put me through too much crazy and none of it matters now, but it would ease MY mind.

    • Personally, I’d love to know the details of the other two ‘suspected affairs’ I thought he had. Too bad one woman killed herself and the other has moved away.

      • Yes, I would love to know the truth myself. They love keeping their crappy little “secrets”.

        • Yep – Anita, now that I’m pretty much at a meh…none of it would surprise me. But, I would like to hear it just to remind me how much he sucks.

  • Chump Nation.. i missed the open comment session for this article and sent the following to the editor:

    “Mr. Appiah, Name Withheld, et al.,
    This is not an academic question or dilemma. The subject is real-life ritual and intimate partner abuse. None of the musing spectators appear to have been victims of shattering betrayal like this.

    I am. After 25 years of thinking my husband was my best friend and exclusive lover, my brain exploded, as if shot point blank, with the devastating discovery of his multi-year adultery. His best friend, our long-time friend, knew.

    If a “scales of justice” or utilitarian approach is the system of analysis here, the risk of the betrayed spouse NOT being informed outweighs telling him. Apart from the fatal risks associated with untreated HIV, some common STDs are associated with heart disease and cancers; there is no male test for one of the most common STDs (HPV). It is not possible to list all the psychological and mind-body symptoms here. Some include: PTSD, insomnia, panic attacks, earlier dementia/aging (one woman’s hair turned white with shock), inability to discern when someone is lying, complex grief, humiliation, loss of sex drive. And this list does not even include effects of the sociopathic method of blame shifting, or using the “chump’s” normal human flaws and normal marriage conflicts to shift blame from adulterer to betrayed spouse. This method is usually employed to justify multi-year infidelity.

    Life involves much suffering. It cannot be avoided. Peter, and all victims of intimate partner abuse, deserve an accurate diagnosis so they can choose the right treatment for their suffering. Or perhaps a better analogy is so they can identify the real enemy and protect themselves.

    If Name Withheld saw a thief breaking into Peter’s house or robbing his wallet, or more appropriate here, hiding a destructive bomb, would silence be a thoughtful option? When the thief is the trusted wife, and the coin of the realm is the husband’s right to make decisions about his own sexual/physical health, sanity, and how to live his one and only life, it is no longer a literary allusion.

    This is real life. It is not a titillating Hollywood movie or, at best, a harlequin novel. Sociopathic and narcissistic behavior is real. Good is good, evil is evil. Everyone is capable of both. To me, the most cunning evil is when it is disguised as good.

    The right thing is clear. Tell the truth, Name Withheld.

    Not only is it real and good, you should keep in mind that the affair will eventually come out. Now or later, be there for Peter when he tries to figure out what is real again. Be sure to tell him about”

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