My best friend is cheating on her husband and during lockdown, she asked me to tell him that we were going for walks when she was actually seeing her lover. It was wrong on so many levels: the infidelity, putting her family at risk during social distancing, and making me lie to my fiancé. Now that the rules have been relaxed, she is seeing him more than ever and still getting me to lie for her. I’ve talked to her, but she says that it’s ‘ just fun’. I find it terrible, yet I can’t cut her out of my life. I’ve not told my fiancé because I don’t want to betray her trust, but it’s weighing on me. —At a Loss
Dear At a Loss,
Dear At a Loss, clearly, the muddle you find yourself in would be a tense one under any circumstances, but with the backdrop of lockdown and all the feelings of isolation and disconnection that it throws up? Well, we bet you feel wired to the hilt.
It’s tough to witness someone sneaking around this way – like watching a car crash in slow motion. If caught, her life will shatter into pieces, although this is not your responsibility.
Relationships falter, collapse, stutter to an end all the time, but she is making you her secret-keeper and emotional bodyguard. Maybe it was titillating to be complicit at the start. No longer.
She has dismissed this affair as ‘just fun’, but she knows, you know, we know, (everyone knows) that she is taking enormous risks with the emotional health of her family and relationships. At some point she will, presumably, have to work out why. But, for now, she just craves her fix.
The problem with ‘just fun’ is that it’s just fun until it’s not.
We are not going to lecture on her lockdown stupidity. It was wanton irresponsibility and she should have known better, although she clearly does not have access to that measured and logical part of her brain right now. Poor her. Poor you.
Now, to friendship. Friendships have huge currency for us. Sometimes they feel as though they are keeping us alive. Other times they feel as though they are dragging us under. We are often quite co-dependent in our friendships, and seeking the deepening of these connections, we can find ourselves taking responsibility for others’ circumstances and decisions. And suddenly you find yourself an accomplice to infidelity.
Asking people to keep secrets can be an act of ownership, of control. And actively asking you to lie and cover up is not an act of friendship. You need to understand where you end and she begins – these intense best-friendships are so precious, romantic even, but you have to hold yourself still and solid within it or, as you now know, things can become toxic and painful.
Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living, is clear on this: ‘A healthy friendship,’ she writes, ‘is one in which we are never earning each other’s loyalty or proving our friendship to each other.’
Sometimes, she adds, we hold on to friendships too tightly: ‘Several different women have come to me with this problem: “I have a really good friend who makes me feel like c—p all the time.” To that I say: “No, you do not have a really good friend who makes you feel like c—p all the time. Because a good friend does not make you feel like [that].”’
Now, we are not suggesting that you break up with your friend. But, and it’s a big but, in asking you to lie she is isolating you from the people you share your life with.
So this is what we think you should do: build a boundary. Tell her you love her and that you are here to talk, but you are not going to lie and compromise yourself in this way any more.
Detach with love. People hate boundaries, they rage against them. Fine – it may hurt if she kicks against you, but remember that it will pass. And there will likely be a reckoning. That’s when your newly boundaried, consistently loving friendship could really count.
Tell us what you think our reader should do in the comments section below.
Do you have a dilemma that you’re grappling with? Email Annabel and Emilie on [email protected] All questions are kept anonymous. They are unable to reply to emails personally.
Read more from The Midults: My alcoholic brother is drinking again but says it's 'under control'. What should I do?