I Know About His Affair—Should I Tell?: Ask Harry and Louise

Our husband-and-wife team takes on the question of whether to interfere in another couple’s troubled marriage.

By: Harry Jaffe, Louise Jaffe

Dear Harry and Louise:

One of my colleagues is cheating on his wife. It’s the old story: I know and really like both the adulterer and the spouse. What do I do? Tell? Keep my mouth shut?

Torn Between Friends

• • •

HARRY SAYS:

Don’t ask; don’t tell. Simple as that. Mind your own business. This isn’t about you. Until it is.

If you are truly close to the husband, make yourself available as someone who will listen without passing judgment. Have a beer with him. He might need you. The role of a friend in these often calamitous situations is essential and often beneficial. The easy path is to gather and gossip, to wring your hands with your colleagues and cast aspersions at the adulterer. This is a petty and selfish enterprise. The more difficult course is to keep your counsel and put yourself in the position to offer your opinion, if asked.

The truly hard part is to listen and not offer advice. It’s also the most helpful.

• • •

LOUISE SAYS:

Don’t talk. That simple advice grows from two beliefs that have solidified in my brain over the past ten years or so. The first: No one, and I really mean no one, knows what is going on with someone else’s marriage. It is so easy for us to sit back and say, “They’re lousy together, she’s an idiot, he’s a snake. . . . ” Behind closed doors, this couple may be sharing a life that is unlike anything you would accept but that is working for them.

For example, he could have faced years of emotional abuse and is finding solace in the arms of a kind woman, or hubby could have told wifey years ago that he wanted out and she agreed to ignore his extracurricular activities as long as they maintained the semblance of a marriage. The list goes on and on. We will never know, because we can never know any couple’s marriage.

And the second: The messenger is often left at the bottom of the heap after the bloodbath.

Stay out of this one.

• • •

HARRY SAYS:

We agree! But really, Louise, wouldn’t you like to find out what goes on behind those bedroom doors? 

LOUISE SAYS:

Absolutely, positively not. Unless they have a question, of course.