I don't want to be part of my friend's Adultery Club
I had a brief affair with a colleague six years ago, which I quickly regretted. My husband never found out, but I told my best friend in our village about it and she comforted me.
Now she has started a love affair with a neighbour and tells me every detail. She keeps implying we are 'in this together', but I feel I am someone who made a bad mistake, while she is revelling in her bad behaviour.
She has been a good friend to me, but I am struggling to be her confidante in this matter. How should I deal with it
Too much information: A reader does not want to hear about about her friend's affair (posed by models)
Your letter illustrates at least one excellent argument against infidelity: if anyone else knows you have strayed, you may well yourself be cast as a member of the adulterers’ club for ever.
You may feel the circumstances of your affair and your speedy regret exonerates you from blame, but to your best friend you’re just a fellow traveller down the slippery slope of extramarital trysts. She expects you to understand her motives because, at the simplest analysis, you too have deceived your spouse. And, to an extent, she’s right.
Does the fact you felt compassion for the betrayed parties and guilt at your own errant ways mean you have an automatic ‘get out of jail free’ card
What I find interesting is how often we feel our bad behaviour is less heinous than that of other people. I’ve often noted that the fact someone has been unfaithful doesn’t make them less critical of others who stray.
Sometimes that’s because they’re hypocritical. More often it’s because only people who have had affairs fully recognise the pain and damage caused when the relationship ends or is discovered. They want to shout: ‘That way madness lies!’
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I suspect one of the reasons you feel so traumatised is that it’s a constant reminder of your lowest point. You are also stymied by the fact that your former recklessness makes it hard to criticise your friend.
I can see you are in a very delicate situation: you don’t want to appear to be a hypocrite, but it’s hard to give the green light to a friend who’s behaving in a self-destructive manner. Start by telling her how much you appreciated her support when you were in turmoil. Say that it’s only because you value her friendship so highly that you are going to offer some tough love.
You understand she is in a state of ecstasy and know how intoxicating that can be (in that state of mind, lovers are loathe to look at the consequences of their actions). But tell her the painful fall-out of your affair makes you anxious for her.
Try not to sound judgmental, but remind her that in villages everyone knows everyone else’s business; it’s not a question of ‘if’ an affair gets discovered, just ‘when’.
You can say that what worries you most is that, while she’s normally so empathetic, she seems oblivious to the man’s wife’s feelings. If she calls you a hypocrite, ask her what she would have done if you had been this cavalier six years ago.
If she really is your best mate, then she will know friendship means saying the unpalatable for the best of motives.