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         Cheating: Should I Tell?

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Cheating: Should I Tell

Truth Or Consequences

My husband's sister has been unfaithful to her husband for a couple of years.  She made no secret about it to us and others, and her husband had an idea something was going on.  I worked for her husband in a small office prior to my marriage to her brother, and I continue to work for him.  I told my sister-in-law if her husband ever asked me questions, I would be honest.  I refuse to lie to my boss of 15 years.

Well, my boss (her husband and my brother-in-law) finally asked me if I knew what she was up to.  I told him everything.  My boss called his wife and confronted her.  He told her where he got this information--something I didn't expect.  She immediately called me and wanted to know if I was the one who gave her husband the information.

I was horrified when I realized I was caught in the middle.  I told her, "No."  Later I told my husband what I had done.  He was surprised, but when I reminded him we told his sister we would not lie if her husband asked questions, he seemed to understand.  Please note my husband and his sister are very close.

The problem: everything seemed to blow over, but later I noticed my sister-in-law was treating me cruelly.  (She does have a cruel streak which I've witnessed her pull on her friends.)  I mentioned this to my husband, and he said she probably still thinks I ratted her out.

Three months later my husband tells me he told his sister I did, in fact, "rat her out."  I now feel I can't trust my husband.  We always had a "tell each other everything" relationship, but I don't feel that way anymore.  I feel he chose his sister over me.  I think that's wrong.  Can you help me sort this out?


Arielle, when your sister-in-law confronted you, you had a split second to decide what to do, and you made the wrong decision.  Your original decision, to tell the truth if confronted, was the right one.  Otherwise you become an accomplice to cheating. 

Having decided to tell the truth, you should have continued to tell the truth.  What you failed to realize was one day you would have to stand up to your sister-in-law.  Your husband followed the rule you both set up: if asked directly, tell the truth.  The only person who fell out of that was you.

Emerson said, "If a man dissemble, deceive, he deceives himself, and goes out of acquaintance with his own being."  If you stood up to your sister-in-law, it would have brought you some discomfort, but it was the only path to psychological freedom for you. 

If your sister-in-law could count on your silence, it would only help her ignore her conscience.  The more you blur the line between right and wrong, the more excuses people will make and the more people will be drawn over the line.  Statements like "adultery doesn't end a marriage" allow some to think they can cheat and maintain their marriage.  That statement disavows the consequences of cheating. 

Cheating is a knowingly done misdeed.  Removing the consequences virtually all religions and legal systems allow for, encourages infidelity to occur.  If professionals say stealing doesn't mean you have to go to jail, those who didn't steal out of fear of consequences, will begin to steal.  As the German philosopher Hegel said, "What the law permits, it encourages."

The more people accept the idea of cheating, the less value marriage has.

Don't expect good treatment from your sister-in-law.  She doesn't treat her husband with respect.  Don't let her actions come between you and your husband.  He followed the path of honesty.  He understood what you did in spite of his close connection to his sister.  Understand what he did in spite of his close connection to you.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


Old Sayings

I was recently involved in an eight month affair with a married man.  My affair with him was not his first.  When ending our affair, I swore to him I would not betray him to his family since I take responsibility for knowing what I was doing when I got involved with a married man.

Although my decision not to betray him to his wife and family remains unwavering, I would like your opinion in reference to his wife.  Should she know she has been deceived?  I think if the tables were turned and I was the one being cheated on, I would rather know. 


Lauren, your decision not to betray him to his wife and family may be unwavering, but the truth is you would like to tell and make him pay.  Revenge is a powerful motivator.

A myriad of sayings apply to the three sides of this triangle.  Four which come to mind are: confession is good for the soul, there is no honor among thieves, what goes around comes around, and knowledge is power. 

Why should your promise to him mean more than his vow to his wife?  Why should the word of a woman willing to cheat be good?

We are in a quandary.  Should we support you in telling, when your motivation is nothing more than revenge?  Or should we consider the wife's vulnerable position, not knowing her husband is having sex with multiple partners?

Almost always we answer the letter writer, not other involved parties.  We cannot protect this married man because his position is the least defensible.  Being involved with other women is a betrayal to his wife every single time.  But his wife, the person most in need of this information, did not write us.  And what about you?  Will you learn anything or change if you tell?  Probably not.

Mark Twain said, "Therein lies the defect of revenge: it's all in the anticipation."  Revenge is cold comfort.  It doesn't advance your life at all.  That is one thing you could learn.  Francis Bacon said, "A man that studieth revenge keeps his wounds green."  That is another thing you could learn, but may not.

From among all these sayings, which one do we believe is most important?  Knowledge is power.  Someone here could benefit from the information you possess.  His wife.  Go ahead and tell.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

A Weak Defense

I read a letter and reply in your column "Old Sayings."  The writer, Lauren, was considering telling the wife of a man she had an affair with about his extramarital activities.  You encouraged her to tell.

I am baffled.  You encourage a woman who is equally guilty to go and possibly ruin a marriage.  Tell me something.  What happens if this married couple has kids, how will it affect them?  Do you know anything about the wife?  Maybe she is the root of the reason why this man seeks other women.

So why encourage heartache and certain trauma?  I have an old saying for you as well: what you don't know, can't hurt you.  Quite fitting for the occasion don't you think?


Gregory, we didn't receive a single letter from an innocent party who wouldn't want to know if their spouse was unfaithful. People who deal with reality seek to know when they are at risk, so they can protect themselves from AIDS, herpes, paternity suits, and the other consequences of betrayal.

A rock climber takes the risk of falling.  A cheater takes the risk of being caught.  Rocks can't tell, but a spurned woman can. 

You suggest ignorance is bliss, but it is not.  It is ignorance.  What if the lump is malignant?  You ignore the lump at your peril.

Not telling is not an option with a serial adulterer, and telling won't ruin the marriage.  Cheating will.  Your final insult was to ignore the adultery and blame the victim.

(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

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