My Friend is Cheating on My Other Friend. Who Do I Protect?
I’m in quite the sticky wicket here and need an unbiased opinion. I met a guy (whom I’ll call “D”) and his girlfriend (“J”) my first weekend after moving to New York City four years ago. It was one of those beautiful, kismet kind of stories on how you meet wonderful friends in a city that’s so full of people. We’re all fans of the same college football team, we like all the same nerdy shows, we have similar lifestyles, and we had all just moved to the city in the same week. Even though we met in Manhattan, we discovered that we lived around the corner from each other in Brooklyn! Our friend circles blended and we were all pretty happy—just normal millennials struggling to live in the big city.
Two years ago, J came to me crying. She confessed that she had slept with a mutual friend. She begged me not to tell, saying it was a mistake, and that she was going to work things out with D. I said OK, on the condition that she was going to tell D and try to patch things up with him—and she agreed. At least she said she did.
She never told him and recently, I found out that J has since been with two other people and is currently hooking up with a yet another guy at her job. She has also used me as an excuse to D in order to hook up with Workplace Dude. I’m so torn on what to do. I feel taken advantage of and manipulated. I’ve known them for four years now and I would hate to lose them, but what can you do with someone who is a habitual liar? If she can’t be trusted with her boyfriend, how can I trust her as a friend? If I tell D that his girlfriend has been cheating on him, I may lose them both. In a city where making friends is hard, what should I do? Do I cut my losses and run? Or do I hang around, pretend there’s nothing wrong, and just let them make their own choices?
—Frustrated Friend from New York City
You know those games at state fairs that make it look so easy to win an enormous, fluffy teddy bear? You hand over your money and try shoot water into a duck’s mouth or scramble up a horizontal rope ladder but can never, ever nab the grand prize? That will be your friendship if you hang out with J and D and pretend nothing is wrong. J is like a carnival con artist who has already rigged the game and you’ll either end up being her sidekick or a sucker—and neither role seems suited to your values.
Losing friends stinks, especially when you’ve known them for years, and making new buddies is indeed tough. However, by using you to deceive her boyfriend and jamming you into such a compromised position, J trashed your genuine relationship some time ago. I agree with your intuition that revealing what you know to D isn’t going help you remain tight with him. You’re dealing with a chronic liar—who knows how J might spin things? Moreover, do you want to get in the middle of their twisted relationship drama? I recommend keeping your head high, explaining to J that you can’t abide by her deception any longer, and walking away. Maybe one day when the dust has settled and the carnival has rolled out-of-town, D will seek out your friendship and solace with the knowledge that you refused to be part of J’s sideshow.
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