Marilyn and I are casual friends who have been bumping into each other for years at the same veterinarian. After not seeing each other for a long time, we finally met again at the supermarket—and decided to have lunch to catch up. Marilyn has been divorced for 5 years, and while her breakup was going on, I had lent her my ear a few times on the telephone when she needed it. During one of our conversations, she confessed that she had been having an affair for 7 years with a married man. I asked if that was the reason her marriage was breaking up. She insisted, “No, my marriage was dead years before that.” I just listened, since that’s what I sensed my friend needed most.
Now 5 years later, Marilyn has dumped her married lover, has had a few relationships, and is alone and fairly lonely. During our lunch, she said she recently connected with a former crush from her seventh grade class! He’s a highly paid attorney, working for a large law firm. At this point, they have seen each other a few times and have enjoyed each other’s company. He told her he’s in the midst of a divorce.
I know people at this company, so I asked around. The buzz on this guy from more than one very reliable source is that he’s a player. For all I know he’s “seeing” lots of women while he’s courting my friend. Rumor is that he’s been “going through a divorce” for the past 10 years, he’s had multiple affairs with women, single and married, at the firm, he’s got 6 kids, he’s a very devout Catholic who doesn’t believe in divorce, and besides all that, he’ll never leave his wife because alimony and child support would financially wipe him out. But I note that he sees Marilyn on Saturday nights, so there certainly must be some bona fide breakdown in his communications at home.
What do I do? Do I tell Marilyn about my findings? If so, I could be implicating my own sources, and also, there are laws about libeling someone’s reputation. Would Marilyn even want to hear about what I know, or would she want to "kill the messenger"? I also secretly wonder if this is Marilyn’s spirit-world retribution for cheating on her own husband years earlier. After all, what goes around comes around. Marilyn has said she’s keeping this relationship purely platonic until this guy decides what he truly wants to do at home. So obviously, there has been discussion between the two of them that he is uncertain of his next steps. Is she fooling herself into believing that anything will EVER change with this guy’s home life? Marilyn is not one of my clients who has commissioned me to ask significant questions. What do I do?
Clients often ask me what they should do after they find a friend's lover cheating. Often, they are burning to do something—anything—to save their friend. My best advice is to speak directly to the cheater and let him/her know s/he’s been spotted on the make. Sometimes this is the impetus that gets him/her to clean up his/her act, and the person who caught him/her in the act is off the hook as a troublemaker. But I don’t even know this guy. Although I’d like to protect my friend, is it really my business to do that?
So many people are faced with this dilemma, I thought I’d open it up to your comments. For the first time in all my psychotherapeutic years, I am asking YOU, my readers and loyal fans, for HELP!