May 31, 2001
To Speak Up or Keep Silent
Outing a Cheat?
Last week I was meeting my husband for lunch at a local kosher restaurant. On my way to the ladies' room, I noticed a friend's husband sitting at a back corner table with another woman. They were clearly playing footsies, touching under the tablecloth and smooching. I pretended not to have seen them, turned around and went my way. I immediately told my husband what I'd seen, and he told me I should stay out of it and mind my own business.
Normally I agree, but in this case I know my friend and her husband have had serious marital problems, and she has confided in me that she wonders why he is so cold and distant. I feel such sadness and pain for her -- they have a young child -- and such anger toward him. I don't know how I can face him socially and disguise how I feel. I don't know if I can "mind my own business" because I'm not sure it's the right thing to do. Also it pains me that he would do something like this in a kosher restaurant. Isn't it almost as if he would like to be caught? If you're going to conduct an extramarital affair, at least be discreet. Please advise before I lose another night's sleep.
Saw Too Much
Dear Saw Too Much,
Your problem lies somewhere between a serious but not fatal case of ethics insomnia and existential angst due to conflicting desires to protect your friend, coupled with an acute urge to smack her philandering lummox of a husband on the head with a treif frying pan. This is, of course, entirely understandable, especially in light of the fact that this man not only was cheating on his wife, but to do so in a kosher restaurant -- well, wouldn't you agree it almost redefines chutzpah?
Yet, oh loyal friend, surely you know that to interfere in anyone's marriage is to play with fire -- and not just any fire, but the kind that may backfire, often reducing a friendship to ashes.
Under normal circumstances I'd caution you to stay out of it; yet since this not-so-kosher cad paraded his infidelity so egregiously, and since we must address the problem of being unable to "disguise how you feel" when you encounter him socially, consider this:
How about phoning the husband at work and presenting him with what you saw and how you feel. Be sure to let him know that you will not hurt or embarrass his wife and your friend by spilling the beans. Rather, you are telling him in order to share your own feelings of disappointment, hurt and anger. Let him know that it is your hope that he faces the problems in his marriage more directly.
This way, you hit the ball squarely back into the husband's court and let him catch the full force of his actions and a small taste of their consequences. Good luck.