Dear Readers - I raised a controversy - To Tell or Not to Tell on a Cheater - and you sent me an avalanche of responses!
The YES people stood firm: Tell!
Even if it means losing friendships with the cheater and the partner, too.
The NO forces held strong against meddling into secrets behind couples' closed doors.
But big surprises came from an unexpected source - the men and women who'd been betrayed by cheaters. Their personal stories shed an inner light on loss, hurt and personal dignity.
This is the first in a series based on your many responses:
Reader - "It's almost never a good idea to get in between a couple with issues like that. I'd only tell in these circumstances: 1) the cheater caught an STD and told me about it. 2) The partner being cheated on is a long-time friend and my not telling would be seen as a betrayal. 3) I'm aware that the cheater has had a child by one of their other partners.
"If I'm not that close to either partner, and have no knowledge about diseases or illegitimate kids, I'm going to keep my mouth shut. Also, usually the betrayed partner suspects something if it's gone on a while."
Reader - "I told my friend (sister-in-law) that her man was cheating; I lost her friendship, my partner left me, too. Would I do it again? You bet I would!
"She was young, had an infant from him, and had her whole life ahead of her. I believe I was a true friend by telling, so she could make informed decisions. The bottom line: I'd want to know too!"
Reader - "I'd have to be CERTAIN there's cheating; and I'd have to be very close to the cheated-on. The less involved I am with the situation, the less likely I'd speak out. If my boyfriend were the closer friend to the cheater, I'd ask him to tell his friend that I'm going to spill, and to urge him to come clean. I'd also prepare to lose the friendship of the couple, including the wife."
Reader - "Ellie, flip this around: "Would YOU want to know if your spouse was cheating on you? And would you punish the messenger who told you?"
"I bet you get MORE "yes" answers from people wanting to be told, than from people who'd become the messenger."
Reader - "Cheating happened to me over 15 years of my marriage, which came to an abrupt head years ago so my comments aren't based in pain or anger.
"I believe it's NOT a messenger's duty to tell. People in such situations often suspect the truth and have their own reasons for avoiding confrontation, whereby the truth would come out and require action.
"Even if the partner's unaware, it's a lose-lose for everyone if someone spills the beans even when there are potential health risks.
"BUT, the messenger has an obligation to confront the cheater... to try to bring him or her to account for their behaviour, to point out the potential health issues, the moral and marital issues, and where the behaviour can lead. To avoid doing so is to condone the cheating. Over time, the behaviour becomes entitlement; "friends" then become complicit in the marriage breakdown and potential health issues.
"I wouldn't have expected mutual friends to tell me but they sure as heck should've told him."
Been There Too Long
FEEDBACK Two direct answers to the writer (June 26 column) who was friends with a couple but knew the husband was cheating with several women:
Reader #1- "I agree she shouldn't tell the wife for fear of breaking up the marriage and affecting the kids. The wife must already know something's not right and may need more time to be ready to admit it.
"If I were in that situation, I'd confront the husband, asking him to tell his wife, or stop, or ensure his wife has zero health risks. I'm sure that'll result in the writer losing both friends, but if she's really concerned about her friend's health there's no other way.
"However, when confronting the guy, she should stick to the facts, not her judgments."
Health Most Important
Reader #2 - "Every situation needs to be thought thoroughly through. Some people just don't want to know while others need to know."
Tip of the day:
More insights and surprises on cheating, in Parts Two and Three over the next days.