Help! My Friend Is a Bigot!
Should I stop talking to her?
Dear Friend or Foe,
Since our romance ended, my high-school sweetheart "Tom" and I have been good friends—more like brother and sister than anything else. I'm the mother of two now, and he has a wife, "Judy," and three children. Our families visit a few times a year—we live a three hours' drive apart—which everyone enjoys. In between visits, Tom and I regularly catch up by phone. These conversations can be truly personal, although not too intimate.
During the last visit, Judy took me aside and told me that she's seeing another guy. The relationship is sexual. She made me promise that I wouldn't tell. I'm not the type to reveal others' secrets, but I'm mad she told me this one. Clearly, I don't need to know what is none of my business. But what really hurts is that my relationship with Tom has become awkward. I don't know how to pretend that I'm ignorant of Judy's adultery. I don't know whether Tom knows. So I have become reserved in our formerly lighthearted and frank conversations. Tom now thinks it's something he has done.
What, if anything, should I do or say? By the way, Judy didn't purposely drive Tom and me apart. There's no jealousy there—and no reason for jealousy.
Please Don't Tell
You're absolutely correct in being angry at Judy. Nor can I imagine why she chose to tell you—knowing that your first loyalty is to Tom—unless some conscious or unconscious part of her wants him to know. She's put you in an incredibly awkward position. It's highly likely that this will all shake out without you getting involved—i.e., that the news of her infidelity will escape through some channel other than your mouth. But if Judy keeps up the double life, I think you're well within your right to take action.
Start by writing Judy a confidential e-mail (or call her or write her, whatever you're most comfortable with) in which you tell her more or less what you've told me. Say that you're not judging her behavior—her marriage is ultimately her business—but that confessing to you about the new guy has put you in an incredibly uncomfortable position with Tom, who is your oldest of friends. You feel bad and guilty knowing more about what's going on behind the scenes than he does. You're a terrible actress. And you no longer know how to talk to him on the phone. In fact, he now thinks you're mad at him!
Since Tom and Judy have three kids together, it's in everyone's interest that they stay together. As such, you might also urge her to give up the affair and/or confess to Tom and seek marriage counseling before it's too late and there's nothing left to save. If she blows off your letter, you should consider telling Tom yourself. But, ideally, it won't come to that—and Judy will do the right thing.
Friend or Foe
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Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.
Illustration by Jason Raish.