Should I Tell My Friend Her Boyfriend is Cheating?: Ask Harry & Louise

Our husband-and-wife team advises a reader stuck in the middle of her friends' relationship drama.

Dear Harry and Louise:

My friend Sue is a thin, blond, anxiety-ridden girl who talks about her boyfriend, Noah, nonstop. He’s an attractive film major. They have been dating for three years. At the beginning of this year, I was very close with another girl, Hannah. She would show me texts from Noah along the lines of: “I like you.” And: “We can make this work, I but I have a girlfriend, so we would have to keep it on the down-low.”

I was so surprised. Hannah never acted on it, and I didn’t hear much more. I would still see Noah and Sue together, and Sue seemed as obsessed with him as always—so I thought it petered out.

Yesterday I had the displeasure of running into Hannah at a party. The first thing she did was brag to me about how much Noah had been texting her again, along the same lines as back in September. I don’t know if it ever stopped, or if I am just hearing about it again. And I don’t think she has relented to his requests of late-night sexcapades. But just the fact that Noah is asking sounds like cheating to me.

Do I tell Sue? Do I tell Noah I know what’s up? Deliver some sort of ultimatum? Or do I do nothing at all and let fate play out?

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You are in an influential but not impossible position—influential because you could instigate change in this tricky predicament, and not
impossible because you have the clear option of staying out of it completely. History and literature are chock-full of examples of death coming to the messenger. My goal is to keep said sword out of your gut.

I advise not talking about this with Sue or Noah. The one I would encourage you to talk to is Hannah, the person who came to you. Tell her you don’t trust this guy. Remind her that her delight is coming at the expense of someone else’s trust. Draw a picture of a guy who is a loyal boyfriend by day and a hunter by night. Illuminate that he is not inspired enough by his attraction to her to change his life in any way. Remember, she came to you. You did not insist on intruding in her personal affairs.

None of these responses involve you giving advice. She didn’t ask for any, so it’s best for you not to provide it. All you will have done is offer your opinion about the sticky, icky situation she presented to you.

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Noah is a jerk, at worst, and a dummy for putting his desires into words that can be tweeted about and displayed at parties. (Advice to would-be cheaters: no texting, emailing, tweeting.) My evil and conspiratorial side wants to set up a sting operation where Hannah lures Noah to a purported rendezvous and Sue shows up to expose his sorry self. But your questions are easy to answer: Choose door number five and do nothing. To insert yourself into this combustible threesome is to risk making enemies of all three. You would be outing Noah and Hannah, and bringing grief to Sue. Steer clear and let fate play out.

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No sting operation, no setup. This is not a Lifetime movie, it’s people’s lives. No need to be the master puppeteer manipulating actors on the stage. Be a safe place for Sue to come to.

Hanna seems to have toxic potential in this mix. Why is she flashing Noah’s entreaties when she knows they could hurt Sue? Maintain a safe distance from Hannah, too.

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