Debate This: Should You Out A Cheater?

By the time you hit your Saturn Return, the probability that you’ve been on the giving or receiving end of a romantic infidelity is about as high as your credit card debt. But what happens when you’re privy to the less than virtuous activities of a friend or acquaintance’s significant other? The moral conundrum of whether or not to out a cheater is fraught with shoot-the-messenger peril and weighted with Golden Rule considerations. And the potential outcome of ratting out a rat is just as complex and diverse. Should you risk life and limb to unveil the truth or keep your nose out of someone else’s business? Two ladies argue the costs.

Years ago I lived with my best friend who was a gay guy. He had become friends with a girl he worked with. So the four of us—me, my friend, his friend, and her boyfriend—started to hang out a lot. My friend started to develop a crush on his friend’s boyfriend. One night they hung out at the beach alone and messed around. When I confronted him, he finally admitted to me what had happened.

I had become friends with the girl by this point. I told my roommate he needed to ‘fess up. He didn’t. Then I went to the boyfriend: “You tell her or I will.” He didn’t. I finally told her what happened. Ultimately it sort of worked out in her favor because she was getting fed up with her boyfriend (he was an alcoholic and had cheated before) and had developed a crush on another guy she worked with. So my telling her freed her to go and explore that. After that, she and I actually became best friends. She said I was the only person in her life who was honest with her. And she appreciated that.

The biggest driving force was that it happened in our circle of friends. The four of us kept hanging out and she was the only one who didn’t know. And that’s not fair. I got to the point where I couldn’t not tell her. I knew that I was going to lose at least a few friends over it, maybe all three of them. I didn’t want to get involved. But it just came to the point where I had to. In the end, wouldn’t you want to know?

“Claire McCracken,” 26, Kansas City, MO

When confronted with evidence of a friend’s boyfriend’s cheating, you’re, of course, compelled at first to tell her about it, but I’ve never found that to be a good thing in the end. Depending on how crazy about him she is, she’s going to do one of four things:

1) Call you a liar, especially if your evidence is hearsay, and it usually is.

2) Break up with him, but ultimately resent you for throwing a monkey wrench in a — in her mind — awesome relationship.

3) Stay with him anyway, which will make things insanely awkward between the three of you going forward.

4) The less frequent dream outcome — she thanks you profusely, dumps him and listens to your boy-judging wisdom forever and ever.

I know the fourth reaction isn’t unprecedented, but it has never, ever happened to me. I always get the other ones. It just isn’t worth it, and besides – when someone is frequently cheating you, don’t you always kind of know it? You either choose to ignore it or not, and if you’re going with the former, you don’t want someone else butting in and essentially telling you you’re wrong for doing that. Especially not a friend.

Anonymous, 25, New York City