Every woman has a story of having her heart broken by an ex-boyfriend. But whether you broke up because you weren’t compatible or he cheated on you, making the decision to finally walk away is a tough one.
Cheating is one of the most toxic and unforgivable behaviors out there, but how do you respond when the cheater is a close personal friend?
Why Do People Cheat?
It’s important to first realize that cheating isn’t always black and white, and oftentimes, it’s shrouded in shades of gray.
A 2017 study revealed that out of 500 people who cheated, “43%…cheated out of anger, 77% reported doing it because they felt a lack of love in their relationship, 70% said they cheated due to some type of neglect, and 57% attributed their cheating to low self-esteem,” according to SELF.
Can We Talk?
Your friend has invited you out to a coffee shop one afternoon. Sitting at your table and holding a warm beverage in your hand, you notice your longtime friend looks nervous and that this coffee date—which you’ve done a million times before—probably won’t be like all the others.
After a brief period of silence, she begins with, “I need to talk to you about something.”
Your Friend’s Confession
Your friend takes a deep breath, looks you in eyes, and says, “I cheated on my boyfriend.” She pauses before adding, “Please don’t hate me.”
Cheating is something that is universally loathed because it’s the cause of countless heartaches, breakups, divorces, and trust issues. Perhaps you’ve been cheated on before or it’s why your parents divorced when you were a child. You yourself would never cheat on a significant other, so how do you respond in this situation—especially when it’s a friend?
Take The Time To Process Your Feelings
First and foremost, news like this is a big deal, and therefore taking the time to emotionally and psychologically process it is key.
Just as your friend is processing the totality of what they’ve done and how it’ll impact her romantic relationship, you too need time to process this revelation about your friend. Not surprisingly, you’ll probably have a lot of mixed feelings about it.
Ask Questions To Understand Their Point Of View
There are many reasons why people cheat, and your friend is going to have her own individual reason. With this in mind, it’s important to understand her mindset so you can better help her. Asking, “What do you need me to do?” is a good place to start.
Whether your friend did it because she was lonely or as payback for perceived wrongdoings, and whether she’s remorseful or prideful, keep in mind that you might not like her answers.
Because She’s A Friend, Reserve Judgement
Take the time to hear her out and understand her point of view, but reserve judgment. Remember, she came to you seeking help for a reason.
So whether she spends an hour venting to you over the phone, needs your shoulder to cry on, or wants to spend the afternoon eating ice cream, be there for your friend at the moment and allow the dust to settle before figuring out your next move.
Make Your Boundaries Known
Perhaps your friend’s significant other is also a close friend of yours—would you be able to have get-togethers knowing that she cheated and he’s oblivious?
Now that you’ve heard her side of the story and offered emotional support, it’s your turn to make your feelings known. Whether you’re willing to protect her secret or you believe her significant other deserves to know the truth, be honest with what you are and aren’t willing to do.
Take A Step Back If Needed
Try reversing the roles. If your friend was confiding in you that it was her boyfriend who had cheated, you’d probably tell her that he was a deadbeat loser, that she should dump him ASAP, or that she can do so much better.
Now that all the cards are laid out on the table, be honest with your friend, and, if needed, tell her that you need some space and time away from the friendship to process everything.
Determine If The Friendship Is Worth Salvaging
No matter how you sugarcoat it, your friend is a cheater. No time machine or magic wand will undo what happened, nor will it change how you now view her. Because if she cheated once, who’s to say she won’t do it again, or, even meddle in your own relationship?
Cheating is toxic behavior and an enormous breach of trust. Whether you’re guided by your moral compass, lack of trust, or ability to forgive, you need to figure out whether you want to save the friendship.
Not An Ideal Situation
Either way, the situation you’ve now found yourself in is not an enviable one.
While your friend’s significant other now has to decide whether to continue his romantic relationship or break up with her, you now have to make the choice regarding whether to continue your friendship.