My Friend’s Husband Hit On Me

Dr. Deb would love to answer your burning relationship questions.

Today’s Advice Highlights:

  • Should you tell your friend about their spouse’s transgression?
  • What are the consequences of telling/not telling?
  • How should you weigh decisions when a deep friendship is at stake?
Dear Dr. Deb,

I’m a recently single thirtysomething with a very recent and very sensitive dilemma. My close friend’s husband just declared his love for me—the same husband she had once described to me as the love of her life.

Meg and I have been inseparable since medical school. We even completed our surgical residencies in the same hospital. Even when we moved to opposite coasts, we’ve kept in touch.

It felt like serendipity when I ended up living in the same city as her a few years later. We picked up where we left off and it felt like no time had passed. Meg, her husband, and I became part of a tight group of friends who would regularly hang out together.

There were times when Meg would be on call for work, so only her husband would join us. On one such occasion, while Meg was at the hospital and our group went out for dinner, her husband began to tell me how much he admired me. I took those expressions as nothing more than sincere compliments. I chalked it up to his reputation for being flirty and brushed it off.

I thought that was the end of it. But a few days later, I got a text message from him:

There’s no easy way for me to say this: I think I’m falling in love with you and wonder what life would be like if we were together.

I felt my blood run cold. First, I couldn’t think what I might have said or done to give him any encouragement to ever say this to me. And second, I would never have suspected this man of cheating on Meg—they’ve always appeared to have a strong, loving relationship.

Dr. Deb, I keep going back and forth between feeling awful if I don’t tell Meg what happened, and even worse if I do. Either way, I know things will never be the same.

How do I handle this tricky situation with my dear friend?

Creeped Out.

From The Desk of Dr.Deb
Dear Creeped Out,

Unfortunately, you can’t make this stuff up!

First, let’s be clear that what Meg’s husband said and did are not and will never be okay. This isn’t “harmless” behavior. It was uncalled for and unacceptable, and he (not you!) is solely responsible for this—let’s call what it is—harassment.

One litmus test for what to do in a tricky dilemma like this is to ask yourself, “What would I want my best friend to do for me had the roles been reversed?” 

Of course, no two people are the same, but when it comes to relationships, I believe that we might access deeper empathy for the ones we love, when we access empathy for ourselves. And the more sincere we are in making this effort, the closer we’ll be to doing the right thing in a difficult situation.

If Meg were a more casual friend or perhaps a colleague you didn’t see outside of work, I would lean towards not telling her. Telling her might create a crack in her marriage that I don’t think you want to be responsible for. Let her husband and serendipity eventually expose the truth.

However, Meg is your close friend and there is much more at stake. If you don’t tell her, it’s going to be difficult to go on with the friendship because 1.) you all hang out with the same group of friends and it will raise questions if you try to avoid the husband or change your demeanor towards him, and 2.) if you decide to keep the secret and act as if nothing happened, you’ll risk encouraging even more awkward advances from Meg’s husband.

Yes, telling Meg what happened might risk your friendship. Her first reaction might be denial, defensiveness, and anger at the messenger. But you risk the same thing happening, anyway, when her husband makes the same mistake with another woman and the truth comes out that you chose to keep his dirty secret.

Your most pressing priority is to care for your well-being and your friendship. Listen to your gut and choose the course of action befitting a very good friend to Meg and, most importantly, to yourself.

Dr. Deb

< It’s a Relationship, Not a DIY Project

The Look of Love: Staying in Love Through the Physical Changes >

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