Sunday, September 2, 2018

When Friends Betray Friends

Speaking of friends betraying friends-- see previous post-- Carolyn Hax addressed a similar question in her Washington Post column.

Here the situation is slightly different. A woman has had a group of friends for decades. This tells us that she is not a child or even a young person. She has just discovered that one girlfriend has been having an affair with the husband of another girlfriend. And she wants to know how she should react… toward the friend who is having the affair. Should she press to have her expelled from the group or should she offer forgiveness?

She calls herself Anonymous, and writes:

I have a close group of girlfriends I have known for decades. We have helped each other through very difficult times over the years, and laughed and celebrated a lot as well. As you can imagine, we have also gotten to know each other's husbands and children very well.

I recently learned one of our girlfriends has been having an affair with one of the husbands. It has been devastating news, on many levels.

The core question for me, beyond of course surrounding and supporting the friend who is the wife, is how I move forward with the friend who is having the affair.

One scenario is to walk away from the friendship given all the intentional pain this has caused to so many. But is there a scenario where time (or something other than time?) might heal something like this?

I am mourning the loss of the friendship . . . but angry at the hurt this has caused, and the selfish motivations.

— Anonymous

As opposed to Almond and Strayed-- she previous post-- Hax does not try to drown the question in psychobabble. She does not have the answer because there is no answer. Yet, she frames the issue intelligently and offers an astute analysis.

I would add, that Anonymous is not the only one who is suffering. Other friends are facing the same moral dilemma. She should coordinate a response in coordination with her other friends.

In her words:

The answer is, there is no answer. There is no “how” — at least, not one I can supply for you. You move forward only how you want to and are willing to.

You can walk away from the unfaithful friend, the end, sure. That sounds justified, and avoids the angstier shades of moral line-drawing.

You can also stand by her, frailties and all. All decisions have consequences, and this choice would probably have steep ones — costing you this whole group, perhaps — but it’s still your prerogative.

Or you can take a break from the cheating friend to see how you feel over time. You can prop yourself open to forgiving her under the right conditions, like her taking full accountability; maybe your conditions will eventually be met, maybe they won’t, maybe you’ll stop caring whether they are.

Or maybe you’ll ultimately miss her more than you resent her . . . or realize your friendship with her runs deeper than it does with the friend she hurt, her profound betrayal notwithstanding?

If I had to guess why you’ve asked this question: You know you’re supposed to end this friendship, but you’re hoping for a loophole.

And if so, fair enough. Every friendship involves looking the other way on temporarily horrible personhood, after all, and it’s not for me to dictate the limit of anyone’s neck. Wanting to find enough good in an old friend to justify holding on means you’ll probably find it.

You just have to weigh doing that — and weigh the value of this person to you — against the message that sends to the wife, and against the social costs of associating with someone who so richly earned her spot as Pariah No. 1.

Note the last remark. Associating with a woman who has betrayed her husband and a girlfriend brings a social cost. Associating with bad people rubs off. It influences the way people see you. Be wary of compromising your own reputation for fear of not seeming to be a nice person.

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