friendsYou’re at the mall doing some serious damage to your checking account, when just as you’re about to add another pair of overpriced stilettos to your arsenal, you spot something out of your peripheral.

It’s your friend’s boyfriend walking hand in hand with a woman who, ironically, is not your friend.  For the sake of your blood pressure, you briefly entertain the possibility that the woman is a cousin or a sister that he is particularly close with.  But the sloppy French kiss he lays on her outside of the Auntie Anne’s let you know that’s, most likely, not the case.

Now your shopping spree is abruptly cut short because all of a sudden you have a decision to make.  Do you whip out your phone and alert your friend on the spot?  Maybe hide behind a trash can to snap a stealth style photo so that you can have some concrete evidence?

Or do you just mind your own damn business?

Now, first, there are some factors to consider.  How serious is the relationship between your friend and the cheater?  Is it just some temporary fling whose frivolity will eventually resolve itself?  Or is there a possibility that one day you’ll be front row at the two’s wedding, making the choice to speak now or forever hold your peace?

And, more importantly perhaps, is how serious is your relationship with your friend?  Are they some casual acquaintance that you share laughs and the occasional happy hour appetizer with?  Or is this the type of friend that is more family to you than your actual kin?

Because involving yourself in this kind of situation has the potential for some major drama.  If your friend decides to stay with their significant other, despite your warning, you become the odd man out.  There’s tension between you and the significant other, which means tension between you and your friend, which means that now your entire friendship is in jeopardy, despite that fact that you’re not the one who has done wrong.

Silence is not without its implications either.  If you say nothing, you run the risk of idling by while your friend suffers through a tumultuous relationship.  And then there’s the inevitable awkwardness if yours is the shoulder she chooses to cry on.  How much guilt, or at least discomfort, can you endure knowing that her cheating boyfriend isn’t the only one keeping secrets?

But there has to be very clear boundaries between best friends and boyfriends/girlfriends for those intimate relationships to remain healthy.  And the line between protection and interference is far too fine.  So, many people opt for silence.  It’s better to completely absolve oneself from the situation than to endanger the relationship with the friend.  It’s just not worth the risk.

Besides, what’s the point?  You know you’re friend.  If you tell, they’re not going to do anything about it anyway.

Perhaps.  But is your friend’s imminent inaction a truly legitimate reason to keep quiet?  Because that’s has more to do with your own feelings and not theirs.

I mean, is this really about salvaging your friendship by not telling? Or is it about you feeling salty about what won’t happen if you do?

She’s weak.  She’s stupid.  How could she stay with him and not listen to me?  These are the very rational thoughts and fears that have run through your head if you’ve ever had the displeasure of confronting a friend about a cheating lover who, in turn, did absolutely nothing about it.

But are those judgmental thoughts and hurt emotions really unavoidable?  Isn’t it possible to tell your friend that their partner is cheating without becoming emotionally invested?  Isn’t it possible to inform your friend without being burdened by your own expectation of the outcome?

See, with my closest friends, I look at myself as somewhat of a mandated reporter.  It is my obligation to inform them if I see, or become aware of, anything that could be potentially hazardous, emotionally or otherwise.

It’s not my job to persuade, or judge, or convince, or climb atop my soapbox and preach.  But it’s my job to tell, to simply present the information.  Nothing more.

And I think that is the most important factor to consider in this type of situation: When it comes to that particular friendship, what role do you play?  What is your job as friend?

Well with the select few people in my life that I have granted the title of “friend” my job goes beyond laughs, fashion advice, and juicy gossip.  My duty is to support my friends through this thing called life by doing whatever I can to make it less harmful than it already is.

So, to me, I’m negligent in my responsibility as a friend if I say absolutely nothing.

That’s why I would tell my friend if their significant other was cheating, even if I know they wouldn’t do the same for me.

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