Our lives seem to have seasons. For a time being my husband and I were in a season of graduations, then marriages, then kids, and now we are in a season of divorces. I used to laugh at the fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce statistic smugly thinking that my friends would not be in that category, but now reality has set into my life. Fifty percent of marriages ending in divorce is a conservative number among my friends.
Most of the stories are similar in that they began with an emotional affair on the part of one spouse and then ended with a physical affair. In some cases the affairs did not last but in many of the cases both parties divorce and then remarry. As a friend to both spouses and unfortunately sometimes even a friend to the “other one”, the boundaries of friendship seem to become strained no matter how much like Switzerland I attempt to become. Having learned from many past mistakes, here are a few suggestions as to how to handle learning that your friend has committed adultery.
Don’t rely on gossip. This is not a time to listen to information second or third hand and rely on it as if it was gospel no matter how reliable the source. Instead observe your friend for yourself, looking for any indication that the gossip was true before you say anything. This simple step can reduce the effectiveness of gossip especially if it is not true. It there are indications that your friend is having an affair, then do not discuss it with anyone until you have had an opportunity to speak with your friend first.
Consider your friendship. Many friends run the other way instead of confronting a friend who is cheating because they don’t want to get involved. If you are really their friend, you are already involved and divorce does not just affect the person getting the divorce, it affects everyone around them. In some cases an affair and then divorce can have a ripple effect on the work environment, a group of close friends or the church. Consider these questions. How much do you really value the friendship? Is this a friendship you would like to maintain no matter the outcome? If so, then you may need to confront them. If not, then walk away and don’t spread gossip.
Think and pray before confronting. Ask God to give you the right time and place for a confrontation. Ask for understanding from their perspective what happened, not from your perspective. Recognizing that there usually is far more to the story than what you can see right now and usually more than one version of the same story goes a long way to understanding your friend. The point of confrontation is for reconciliation of your friendship, not an opportunity to say, “I’m right, you are wrong”. Most likely, this is the time when your friend really needs a true friend.
Gently confront. True friendship is not based on performance; it is based on love for one another. Everyone makes mistakes, some are larger than others, some are more obvious than others, and some are more destructive than others, but nonetheless, we all make mistakes. By reminding yourself of times when you have made a mistake and needed a friend helps to keep the conversation in proper perspective. Most important to remember is to speak the truth in love to your friend. Do not mince words or fail to say what is right, just do it remembering that you too have been wrong in the past and will be wrong sometime in the future.
Being disappointed by a friend’s affair does not mean that you have to lose the relationship. Rather, this is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship if your friend wants your friendship going forward. Your friend may not be thrilled by the conversation and in the end, your relationship may end but at least you will know that you did what was right, no matter how difficult.
There is hope for your exhaustion. Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort. If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment. Or you can send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org.