I got chumped many years ago during my first marriage, and I wish I’d had you back then (would have saved me years of anguish and therapy bills). It was a very ugly situation where my then-husband had a long-term affair and then left me a week before Thanksgiving… and brought his affair partner to his family’s house to celebrate the holiday. 1998 was not my favorite year.
But that is old business. I’m writing today because I’m feeling terribly conflicted about my best friend’s behavior, and I’m uncertain what to do.
This woman, “BF,” and I have known each other our entire lives — our mothers grew up together, and our grandmothers were friends from the neighborhood. We are “third generation” friends. We both had shitty dads. BF’s parents split up when she was 2, my mother kicked my dad out when I was 6. For many years after that, we were a kind of family (like Kate and Allie, except we didn’t live together and there was no little brother). My mother remarried when I was 12, BF’s mother has never remarried. BF and I both had flawed, difficult marriages in our 20s/30s. I eventually remarried and had a daughter. She has remained single.
Now we are in our early 50s. I am deeply in love with my husband of almost 20 years, our daughter is a bright, fun, talented teenager, and we are devoted to each other and happy as a family. BF has been single since her divorce 16 years ago. She has had relationships, traveled, and has invested her money well such that she doesn’t need to work. She owns an apartment in Manhattan. She is athletic, slim and trim, and wears clothes beautifully. She has an amazing head of hair. She is considerate and generous.
Despite everything wonderful she’s got going for her, she has been the affair partner of a married man for the past 5 years. This is not the first time she’s been an affair partner — for many years she was in a relationship with a man who has a common-law wife, but they no longer have a physical relationship and she now considers him one of her “best friends.” These are the two I know about.
When she talks to me about these affairs, my stomach clenches. She tells me about how these men love their wives but the sex is gone, and that she believes this is true of MOST if not all women in long term relationships. That she is not responsible for the wellbeing or safety of the women who are married to the men she is with. That these men talk about how special she is, and how they’ve never felt such a connection to anyone in their lives. And as an extra special punch in the gut, I learned a week ago that despite being hypervigilant about Covid precautions, she was also meeting the married man for sex in a hotel during the pandemic, but it was ok becasue the hotel is a luxury, upscale venue and was nearly empty, she trusts him, he gets tested all the time, and she needed to be touched.
I am no fool and I read what I just wrote and realize my BF is behaving awfully. We do not share values, ethics, or morals. I think it’s disgusting, to be honest. And on top of that, she watched me suffer through my own chumpification — including suicidal ideation, depression, rage, anxiety, and having to rebuild my life from the ruins.
So here’s my question — do I go no contact with this person who is the closest thing I have ever had to a sister? Do I tell her I am horrified by who she’s become? Do I ask her to stop talking to me about her dalliances and keep the rest of her? I love her so much, she’s not cheating on me, we have a long history, and I don’t know any of the people involved.
Would love your advice.
My Best Friend is an Affair Partner
I’m hearing you have a lot of shared history with someone who makes your stomach clench. And I’m hearing a lot about her, and not much about you.
she watched me suffer through my own chumpification — including suicidal ideation, depression, rage, anxiety, and having to rebuild my life from the ruins.
What sort of friend was she to you then? Supportive? You said she “watched” you suffer. A curious way to put it. She was there, but at a remove? Was she emotionally invested in your suffering? Righteously upset on your behalf that your then-husband could treat you this way?
Perhaps to see a friend chumped solidified her Chump Is Loser narrative. (Versus the cheater is the loser and the chump is someone who was conspired against and victimized.) Look, that’s the conventional take on cheating — winners, losers, the glamorously star-crossed, the pathetically chumped. You’d hope your real life PAIN would take some of the gloss off that, but maybe that’s how she sees it — this unfortunate thing happened to you, and in this scenario, she’d rather be in the power seat. The actor. Not the acted upon. As if relationships were zero sum games.
The irony to me in this, is that YOU actually moved on and are happy. You invested in a new life. Found love, had a child. Whereas BF is still stuck in some pick-me-dance hell cycle she tries to dress up as sophistication. Okay, she’s wildly desired. Yeah. Every other Wednesday. As a side piece no one is ever introduced to.
When she talks to me about these affairs,
Why does she talk to you about these affairs? Why do you let her? Are you trying to spare her feelings, Friend? Because she sure as hell isn’t sparing yours. She knows you were chumped! She witnessed your suffering!
She tells me about how these men love their wives but the sex is gone
This is the oldest line in the book. Is this sex really gone? I doubt it. But let’s avoid the dead bedroom rabbit hole (if you’re unhappy, get out! make new arrangements! speak! buy toys! don’t endanger the health and well-being of someone you purport to care about! use your words not your genitals!) … BF is telling you she’s okay not being loved (they love their wives), she’s content being used for sex.
And she’s telling you, she’s okay conspiring with these men against their wives. For dead-end sex that may be hot, but is squeezed in between some man’s Primary Schedule. As I’ve said before about OW, they suck the dick of the patriarchy. Perhaps she tells herself she is using them. (Fuck the COVID! I want to be touched!) She’s bought into this power structure. She thinks she’s a power player. She’s Wednesday.
and that she believes this is true of MOST if not all women in long term relationships.
They don’t put out? So they deserved to be lied to, fucked around on, and have their health risked? Is this what she tells herself? That the wives deserve this because they Won’t Have Sex? (But they’re loved! How unfair!) But she Will Have Sex, so this makes her superior.
That these men talk about how special she is, and how they’ve never felt such a connection to anyone in their lives.
Flattery is cheaper than paying a hooker.
And as an extra special punch in the gut, I learned a week ago that despite being hypervigilant about Covid precautions, she was also meeting the married man for sex in a hotel during the pandemic, but it was ok because the hotel is a luxury, upscale venue and was nearly empty, she trusts him, he gets tested all the time, and she needed to be touched.
Hey, so long as it was a luxury hotel.
GAH! Didn’t your head explode? Why aren’t you deflecting this gut punch?
“BF, I’m horrified that you’re taking these kind of risks, and worse, putting this man’s family at risk. You don’t need this douchebag. Find someone ethical to touch you. Hell, you can get a massage now if you’re vaccinated. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!”
We do not share values, ethics, or morals. I think it’s disgusting, to be honest.
Right. So what do you share, besides history?
do I go no contact with this person who is the closest thing I have ever had to a sister?
I think first you give her a chance to know how you feel about all of this. It sounds like you’ve kept your mouth shut. And I wonder if you aren’t being chumpy with her, because you fear the answer. That your feelings don’t weigh very heavily on her. You seem at pains not to lose her (a woman you don’t share values with who upsets your stomach when not metaphorically punching it). But she doesn’t seem at pains not to lose you. Test that.
Do I tell her I am horrified by who she’s become?
Yes. But I’d couch it in language of — is this relationship bringing out your best self? Is this who you really want to be? Are these your values? I got mine, fuck everyone else?
And I’d fill her in on the chump experience — that unknowing “sexless” wife of her affair partner — what that abuse feels like. Does she care? No?
That entitlement is a very ugly look.
Do I ask her to stop talking to me about her dalliances and keep the rest of her?
Do you compartmentalize well?
I love her so much, she’s not cheating on me, we have a long history, and I don’t know any of the people involved.
Not knowing the people involved is irrelevant. YOU are involved! This is about YOU being pressed into affair conspiracy with BF. A CHUMP. She wants YOU of all people to be her confidant and not judge her after knowing what you suffered.
You can pass that cup. You can knock it off the table. Stick up for yourself.
BF, I don’t want to hear another word about this sick thing you have with Alfred. Don’t press me into your affair secrets. You’re conspiring in the abuse of his wife. I was once a wife like that, and the pain was so bad I thought about killing myself. So, yes, I judge you. I don’t know why you would do this to another person. Or choose such an unworthy person to invest years of your life in. I’ve lost respect for you.
And see how she reacts. You’ve eaten a lot of shit sandwiches. Spit it out. See if she can handle your truth.