You Can Help Your Friend Recover From An Affair
I’ve been there. You probably have also. A friend or family member has an affair. Things exploded, as they almost always do.
While opinions may vary in your social circles and cultures, in mine, this is typically a big deal. There’s usually lots of drama. People choose sides, and more often than not, that side is the “wronged” one. Often the other partner is met with shunning and character assassination.
Often there is a sage in the stands that always had a feeling the person would do this. Typically I am not a fan of that sage. Who sits in wait for this sort of thing?
My anger is towards these people, who seem not to care whether they are making things better or worse. They want to be “right” and on the side of the “righteous.”
They want to perform today’s method of stoning in the square and scream the sins of the sinner loudly wherever they have a chance. They tell everyone and a jury forms. Some don’t even know the person in question, but they certainly have an opinion that they are happy to pass on.
A private matter becomes very public, often because people are paying more attention to the drama than their hypocrisy.
The partner cheated on is sometimes numb, and sometimes loudly on the offensive. At least they have an invested interest in the situation, but how about the people who are surrounding them? Are they encouraging outbursts or lending support to get them through this with as few regrets as possible?
Usually, in my circle, I am a friend to both parties. My choice is almost always to remain friends to both. There often is one friend with whom I have a closer alliance, the “primary friend.” I respect that friendship but also don’t neglect the bond with their partner.
I made a decision a long time ago that my support trumps my judgment in my friendships. I also believe my job as a friend is to encourage my friends to be the best human they can be.
While most are shunning the offending partner, I am going to be available to them and stand by their side as needed. Yep, they have screwed up. Most of us have. I haven’t cheated on a partner, granted, but I have hurt people in so many other ways. Maybe not intentionally, but that is certainly arguable.
I don’t choose to be a fair-weather friend. I am not there for my friends only on the sunshiny days, but I am also going to hold their hand through the tornadoes even if these tornadoes are in their path because they headed right towards them.
Now I am going to tell a friend who is cheating that it is OK. If someone has committed to be faithful in a relationship, it’s wrong if they’re not. As a friend, it’s my job to tell them. Once.
When I tell them varies. I want it to count. I want My friend to hear me. This conversation may not be the first day when things explode when everyone is emotional, but at some point, I need to say the words. Just not too many.
I typically warn my friend it is coming and ask for five minutes where they will listen to my thoughts on the matter. I then promise never to be the one to bring it up again.
While I promise not to bring it up again, they can bring it up themselves. We can talk about it all they want, but if I fail in my commitment and bring it up myself or continue beyond the point where it is helpful, the “magic words” are “We’ve already discussed this.” My mouth will clamp shut.
How helpful is it for people to bring up your flaws or wrongdoings time after time after time? Family members or friends who care about you don’t do that. It’s all about them when they do, and not about the desire of good for you.
Then there’s the other partner, the one wronged. Yes, sometimes they need time to vent, but other times it becomes an unhealthy obsession.
As a friend, you have to figure out where they are and how to steer the conversation and activity best. Is there something you can do to help them feel better about themselves instead of worse? Can you figure out a way to bring some normalcy into their world and help them escape the pain for a bit?
I think too often people try to squeeze in the middle of relationships and make themselves part of it all. They love drama. It’s none of their business, even when they care deeply for one or both people involved.
This is time to set your feelings aside about what has happened (you’re not a critical party here) and, instead, look out for the welfare of the people. While they may not be able to see the long game, you know life can be good for them again. Help them to get to the other side with their dignity intact and their future bright.
It’s typically a dark time for all involved. Make it better. Pay attention to whether you are the best person to be consulting with them and whether they even want your assistance. Sometimes they’re too emotionally tired to deal with you, also, and tolerate you because they just don’t have the energy to tell you to butt out. Be sensitive to this and decide for them, if necessary.
If they do want to talk through it with you, listen, respect their relationships and their emotions, and help them make the best decisions for themselves and the relationship.
Speak with as little judgment as possible. Try to eliminate any emotion from your speech other than compassion and kindness. If you speak harsh words about their partner, and eventually they get back together, your friendship may suffer.
Relationship problems are complicated, and you need to handle with care. Don’t be the one who runs away. Don’t be the judge, jury, and the one who pulls the switch to the electric chair. Be present and be their friend. It’s a high calling.
Kim McKinney loves a good story and experiencing all of life with her family and friends. She is fortunate with the family she was born into and picks her friends well. Kim tries not to be the broken record stuck on listing everyone’s faults. Often she is successful.