the other woman

Reader H. A. asks:

you give love a bad name

Nobody likes bullet holes through their fantasies. Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My friend (in her twenties) is currently having an affair with a much older married man who has a child that is only a few years younger than my friend. My friend comes to me for advice on the relationship, and it is basically impossible for me not to judge her, based on the situation. I care about her and know that this is not going to work out well for her in the end, and I’ve called her out on it, but I know that my disapproval of her decision will likely alienate her from me. What do I do about this?

Dear H.A.:

You’re right. By telling your friend you disapprove of her choice, you’re making a move towards losing the friendship entirely. As I’ve mentioned before, voicing your disapproval is particularly tricky in something like other people’s relationships, even if you know for a fact the relationship is damaging. Even if you love her to death, telling her that her bf is bad news just won’t go over well.

But you can also voice your opinion without necessarily being judgmental about the situation.

We all know, either from experience or from our mothers or from Hollywood, that illicit relationships with married guys typically don’t end well. Your friend knows this, too, and she’s chosen to go through with the relationship anyway. Telling her it’s not going to end well is redundant and she doesn’t need your moral counsel to learn the lesson she already knows.

Instead of making the issue “what she’s doing is wrong and here’s why”, make it about your feelings. That’s the only thing you have a right to preach about, anyway, because you actually own those, whereas you don’t own her body, her right to choose what she does with it, or the relationship she’s in.

The next time she asks for advice on the relationship, simply refuse to give it to her. Tell her you’re not comfortable commenting on the relationship because you feel it’s destructive to someone she loves, and that’s it. No need to launch into how anti-feminist it is to promote male promiscuity and lying to wives by being the other woman. No need to moralize about being nearly the same age as the guy’s offspring. You’re simply commenting on your part in the relationship, which is outsider.

She’s apparently getting something out the relationship — attention? money? sex? emotional connection? — or she wouldn’t continue with it. Until her need for whatever she’s getting wanes enough in comparison to other needs (like her need for your approval), or until she finds somewhere else to get her needs met, she’ll probably keep up the affair. And unless you say something about not wanting to hear anymore about it, she’ll probably keep asking you for advice.

If you feel that the relationship is too destructive (if he’s physically or verbally abusive, say), then maybe you should tell her you can’t be friends until it’s over. As with a lot of my advice, this sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes an intervention is the best way to go.

However, I don’t think a friend having an affair with a married man is a terribly strong reason to quit being friends with her. Especially if she’s capable of talking about other things and being a good friend otherwise, treat it like you would any other junky boyfriend. It’s a phase. Either he’ll leave his wife and marry her (doubtful), or the affair will end, probably in a lot of drama, at which point she’s going to need your friendship more than ever.


1 Response to “the other woman”

  1. 1 nuc99705
    July 9, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Good advice. Eventually this will come to an end and she will be the ex, not the wife and their friend ship will be stronger.

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