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dear fifi

Dear Fifi: Do I have a moral obligation to expose my friend's affair?

Tuesday is Dear Fifi day. That’s today!


I got some great advice the other week, and while it was given to me in a specific circumstance, it has come back to me a few times since.

It was: don’t worry about things that haven’t transpired yet. Deal with what’s happened, don’t think about things that may not happen, and tackle what comes next when it arrives. Focus on today’s problem, and the one after that, and after that. 

But if you need some help, I’m always here


Dear Fifi,

I’m struggling with a moral dilemma. A friend of mine has been having an affair with an older, married man for over three years. I’ve known about it for more than two years and my stance so far has been that its none of my business and I shouldn’t tell her how to live her life; but at the same time I think the whole thing is stopping her from seeking out a viable, meaningful relationship with someone her own age. She’s turning thirty this year and I’m afraid the longer she’s caught up in this the more difficult it will be for her to recover. I also feel complicit in their shared deceit. 

She’s never asked me to lie for her and there were times I thought it was over if I didn’t see him around for weeks or even months at a time but he would inevitably turn up again. I don’t think she’s under any illusion he’s going to leave his wife for her. From my point of view it seems mainly sexual, with him leaning heavily on her for emotional support and ego-stroking.

On the few occasions I’ve been able to get her to talk about it, her opinion is generally that it’s a dysfunctional thing that will run its course eventually. But what about his wife and teenage children? This is what’s been bothering me the most lately – if I think cheating is morally wrong (and I do) do I have an obligation to expose the affair? Or, when they both admit they’ve no intention of running off together – is his family better off not knowing the truth?

I hate to say this, because I think your intentions are fundamentally good in some senses, but you’re far too invested in this. You’re not complicit. You’re not involved.

Your friend knows what she’s doing is wrong but clearly doesn’t want to stop. She doesn’t need the situation explained to her by you again. That’s the long and the short of it.

This is not your problem. There is no moral dilemma here for you – your friend does not ask you to lie for her about this relationship nor does she talk to you about it much and burden you in that sense. In fact, you say you’ve had to repeatedly try to get her to speak about it with you. Your instinct that this is none of your business is a good one, and you should listen to it.

Stop pushing her on it. At the end of the day, you don’t want to know. It’s obviously weighing heavily on your mind and you’re powerless to really do anything, so stop looking for more information.

The only issue for you here is concern for your friend, plus an understandable desire not to be caught up in any way the affair. She hasn’t made you complicit in facilitating it or knowing much about it, and you’ve told her that you’re worried for her. That’s all that can be done here by you. You’ve expressed your concern, she knows you care about her moving on and meeting other people. Once those two boxes are ticked, I think you have to know when to leave well enough alone.

Of course, I’m not saying you have to be comfortable with what your friend is doing, condone it in any way or help her lie to people or anything like that. If you find what she’s doing hard to reconcile with the other, better parts of who she is, then maybe stop being as close a friend to her.

Perhaps what’s really troubling you is trying to reconcile this affair with liking someone you consider a good person. Maybe you’re losing respect for her. But interfering in the situation won’t do any good that I can see, yet I can think of countless dire outcomes.

It’s hard to watch someone you care about making mistakes you see as preventable, but you can’t live their life for them. Any meddling you do in this situation has the potential to create great harm, and very little good.

You’ve made your views known. Now try to move on. Know when to leave well enough alone. This isn’t your hornet’s nest to kick.


Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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