I have a couple of friends who are in the process of breaking up. They've been together nine years, and she found a photo of him kissing another woman. I'm friends with all three parties involved, but have been the closest with him over the years.
His soon-to-be-ex-wife reached out to me when she found this picture, but he quickly came to my apartment to relay his side of the story. He admits to lying about where he was the weekend the picture was taken, but says the photo itself is from a long time ago, and he drew boundaries with the woman in the picture after she spontaneously kissed him. Since that conversation, I've also spoken to his wife, who detailed a few other incidents she was uncomfortable with towards the end of their relationship. I have not spoken to the other woman, as I don't know her nearly as well as the couple.
I need to circle back around with him and tell him that I'm uncomfortable with his side of the story, but I can't prove or disprove that anything in particular happened, so it feels like I'm just going on my gut here. I was also planning an artistic collaboration with the woman in the photo that I'm now calling off. I don't know what she knew or didn't know, and I don't feel like it's my business to find out.
What do I say to him? We've been friends for 15 years, and he talked to me about the imminent end of his marriage, but I really just thought he was falling out of love and putting off addressing it. Now that I've spoken to his wife, I have to admit, I don't think he was as kind as he should have been, whether he cheated—beyond the kiss in the photo—or not.
I’m sure this is a terrible situation to witness your friends going through, but I think it’s important to be mindful of what affects you and what is under your control. This couple’s whole world is going to change—probably for the better, it seems—and the Other Woman will have a social and emotional minefield to navigate herself if anyone holds her accountable.
You’re a friend to all three of these people, and I get the sense that you want to keep your personal relationship with at least one of these people as intact as possible. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping with married people, then I don’t blame you for not wanting the Other Woman to bring her morals into the studio with you. I fully support your decision not to make art with a person you feel can’t be trusted.
To be clear, though, I don’t necessarily judge her for being intimate with a married man, since it’s his job as the committed person to stay loyal to the marriage. I do feel that we all have a moral obligation to do right by one another, so while the Other Woman definitely did a bad thing, the failure of this marriage lies solely on the husband, if indeed he cheated.
I can see that you’re disappointed in and uncomfortable with what your guy friend did, and you want to make yourself clear about your position before he zeroes in on you as a shoulder to cry on. You could let him know that you are still his friend, but you just can’t provide an ear for this situation. I had to tell my brother something similar a few years ago, when he tried to enlist our entire family to help him win back his girlfriend, whom he cheated on. I’m still friends with her, and I don’t want to hear anyone talking crap about a friend for making a move to protect herself and improve her life. I love my brother, but I still won’t listen to him cry about his bad decision. Buy the ticket, take the ride.
You don’t have to tell him that you know more about his behavior than he thinks, but you are absolutely allowed to create a boundary there and let dude know that you ain’t got time to dry the tears of a cheater.