What to do when a friend tells you they’ve been cheating on their partner?
Few topics can elicit an emotional response like that of hearing about a partner cheating in a relationship. Of course, the most charged response will likely come from a partner who just found out they’ve been cheated on, but even as outsiders to a relationship, learning that our friend or family member is cheating on their partner can create significant discomfort.
So, what to do if someone has chosen you as a confidant for such information? The following tips are provided to give you some guidelines for navigating this difficult situation, but as always, honor your truth and trust yourself.
The first thing is to embrace any discomfort you feel. No matter how you choose to proceed with this information, it is important to honor your own feelings about the news. It’s okay to be sad, shocked, disappointed, neutral, indifferent, or any of the other feelings that might come up for you. Now is not the time to judge your own reaction.
Do your best to reserve judgement, both for you and for your friend or loved one. Cheating is complicated, and while we may have some very strong feelings about what we are being told, this person has come to us because they trust us. Even if we don’t like what we are hearing, we can hold judgement at bay and practice empathy for everyone involved.
Listen to Understand
Try to really listen to your loved one, even if you don’t agree with what they are telling you. Try to separate the behavior from the person, and approach the subject with genuine curiosity and without an agenda. Ask questions, be a proactive listener, and find out what your friend needs from you and others right now.
We can be a good friend and listener, and show up in the moment without judgement, while still honoring our own thoughts and feelings. How are you going to show up in this situation? Will you decide you can’t be a secret-keeper? Will you decide to support your friend no matter what? Do you want to offer support if your friend chooses to tell their partner? Will knowing this information affect your relationship with the other partner? Will you decide this friendship isn’t a good fit for you? No matter where you set your boundaries, the what-where-when-how is up to you.
If a friend or loved one has shared with you that they’ve been cheating on their partner, you may feel uncomfortable and that’s ok. Do your best to approach the discussion as a proactive listener, without judgment, and know that it’s okay to set your own boundaries.
If you or a loved one have experienced a history of cheating, a relationship coach may be able to help you break unhealthy patterns and show up authentically.