How To Tell A Friend Their Partner Is Cheating On Them, According To Experts
When you catch a loved one's partner cheating on them, it can really put you in a difficult spot. You'd obviously want to tell them right away, but of course, it's not that simple. After all, it's not your relationship, it's your friend's or family member's. So what should you do in this situation? What's the best way to tell someone you love that their partner is cheating?
"This is a tricky subject," marriage and family therapist, Erika Labuzan-Lopez, LMFT, LPC, tells Bustle. "Sometimes we do need to let our friends know bad news if it will ultimately help them or if it's something they need to know. But people have different views about whether or not they would want to know if their partner is cheating in the first place."
Your job as a friend is to first think about whether or not your friend would be open to hearing about it at all, Labuzan-Lopez says. Then, it's important to understand that your loved one may not react in the way you anticipated.
"Your friend may have strong reactions, have misplaced anger towards you, or pull away from you after you disclose what you know," Labuzan-Lopez says. "These are not reasons not to tell your friend. But these are reactions that are normal. So you should be prepared."
If you're ready to tell your loved one that their significant other is cheating, here's what you should do:
1. Make Sure You Know It's Actually Cheating
"Before you start accusing people or gossip with mutual friends, make sure what you're seeing is cheating," relationship expert Dr. Megan Stubbs tells Bustle.
Ask yourself what about the interaction makes it seem like cheating. Were they touchy-feely to the point that they looked like a couple? Or were they just having a nice chat over lunch? It could just be a friend, a family member, or even a co-worker.
"It's also important to note that your friend may have an open relationship with their partner," she says. "So don't jump the gun before doing your own research."
2. Do It In Person
Once you've done your research and found that that your friend's partner is cheating, make sure to break the news in person. It may not be the easiest thing, but as Stubbs says, this isn't a text or phone call kind of conversation.
"If indeed there is cheating afoot, be mindful of the place you tell your friend," she says. "Have it in person and in a place where their partner isn't likely to interrupt by coming home or grabbing a quick latte."
3. Try Asking About The State Of Their Relationship First
If you feel awkward about bringing up the subject of cheating up out of nowhere, Stubbs says it's a good idea to approach it by getting a feel of the relationship first. "Ask how the relationship is going," she says. "If positive, try something like, 'I care about you and your well-being very much and I wanted to talk to you about something I saw between your partner and another person. Maybe I misread the situation, but here is what I witnessed," Stubbs says.
However, if things are rocky with their relationship, she suggests trying something like, "I'm sorry it's been rocky, but there's something I'd like to share with you." Either way, you're already talking about their relationship.
4. Be Direct
How you say it is just as important as when or where. "Don't say, "Hey, I really like your sweater. Billy is cheating on you. But did I ever tell you that you make the best nachos?" You may have good intentions, but this type of delivery won't make the news hurt any less," Stubbs says. "Only present the facts. Don't add unnecessary commentary (i.e. "She would cheat"), and if you have solid proof, it's always good to bring it up.
5. Offer Up Your Support
If you decide to tell someone you love their partner is cheating, it's important to let them know how much you care about them. "You can start the conversation by saying you have concerns and then offer your support," Labuzan-Lopez says. "You can also ask your friend how they want your support during this time and what you can do to help them. They may not know that yet, but assure them that you will be there."
It's also good to be mindful of the fact that getting this information may be the start of the grieving process for them. So if they're in denial and don't want to believe you right away, that's OK. "Just present the facts you have without additional opinions, and if your friend doesn't believe you try not to take that personally," she says. "Instead recognize that the denial makes sense after receiving shocking information, know that you've done what you can, let it go from there and then focus on supporting your friend in a way that's meaningful to them."
You can't control how your loved one will react when you tell them what you've witnessed. In the instance that their partner really did cheat and they break up, the blame shouldn't fall on you. At the end of the day, it's not your relationship and all you can really do is just be there for a loved one when they need you.