Telling a friend that her husband may be cheating can be costly. You risk insulting your friend’s husband and damaging your friend’s relationship. If your allegation is correct, her sense of security and feelings of self-esteem may suffer. If you are also a friend to the husband, he may blame you as a traitor. Though affairs vary in circumstances, they usually leave multiple victims by injuring the partner and testing the loyalties of friends and family members. Your friend and her husband may be initially upset; but your sensitivity can transform your choice to tell into an act of service.
1. The Benefits of Telling
Most people involved in an extramarital affair try to keep it secret, according to Anita L. Vangelisti, author of "The State of Affairs: Explorations in Infidelity and Commitment." The cheating partner may believe the costs of telling the spouse about the cheating outweighs the benefits. However, most experts believe that couples achieve better outcomes when the partner confesses. Couples usually report that telling is beneficial, according to Ryan B. Seedall, professor of Family, Consumer and Human Development at Utah State University. Couples are usually able to return to the same level of functioning they had prior to the affair if the offending partner tells the spouse.
2. Confront Your Friend's Husband
Forgiveness of a betrayal is more likely to occur when the betraying partner asks forgiveness and makes amends, according to Peggy A. Hannon, associate professor of Health Services at the University of Washington. You can give your friend's husband an opportunity to come clean by giving him a deadline, after which you will tell if he does not. The delivery of the message to the husband is more important than your style of delivery; your experiences with your friend and her husband will guide you. Whichever way your friend's husband reacts is his issue; your job is to be supportive. Your courage to face the issue with your friend and her husband sends the message that you are supportive.
3. Encourage Communion Between Spouses
Many people condemn cheating, but cheaters may be responding to unmet needs, according to Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., associate professor at Monmouth University. Your friend can make a better decision about moving forward if she communicates with her husband. Discussing an affair may provide an opportunity for couples to clarify how to create a better future. Your friend may need express her feelings of betrayal. However, in the end, she must make a decision she can live with. You can help her realize the need to talk things through with her spouse.
4. Mobilize Support
You can provide social support, but crisis of the affair may uncover multiple needs for help from the community. Counseling, spiritual advice, childcare and other services may be needed to help your friend and her spouse restore balance to their lives. Ask your friend what needs to be different for her to have a better marital experience. Help her find and mobilize the resources she and her family needs. She may have family, other friends or a religious community that can pitch in to help your friend and her husband stabilize. Resources in the larger community can be located by calling (area code) 2-1-1, the information and referral hotline for communities in the United States.
- The State of Affairs: Explorations in Infidelity and Commitment: Communication and Marital Infidelity; Anita L. Vangelisti
- Contemporary Family Therapy: Disclosing Extra-Dyadic Involvement (EDI): Understanding Attitudes, Subjective Norms, and Perceived Behavioral Control; Ryan B. Seedall
- Personal Relationships: In the Wake of Betrayal: Amends, Forgiveness, and the Resolution of Betrayal; Peggy A. Hannon
- Journal of Social Psychology: Something's Missing: Need Fulfillment and Self-Expansion as Predictors of Susceptibility to Infidelity; Gary W. Lewandowski Jr.
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