Ethical Dilemma #2 – Would You Tell Her?

Creative Commons License photo credit: RubyPanther

Two weeks ago I asked the readers of The Daily Mind whether they would give a poor family money if they also had to give money to a drug dealer. You can see the great conversation (and debate) that ensued by clicking here.

This week I have another question that I would like to ask you all. I really enjoyed reading your responses last time and it gave me much joy to see how many intelligent, compassionate and thoughtful people were reading this blog. Here is this weeks Ethical Dilemma:

Your best friend has just told you that he is cheating on his fiancee. Both he and his fiancee have been friends of yours since high school. You are angry at your best friend for what he is doing and want to tell his fiancee but at the same time you promised him you wouldn’t. Would you tell her? Why? Why not?

I am really interested to see what you have to say with this one as relationship issues such as this can evoke some really strong emotions/memories in people. Please feel free to share any point of view that you have – I want to hear all the angles.

36 thoughts on “Ethical Dilemma #2 – Would You Tell Her?

  1. Hi! This does seem like quite a dilemma. But the phrase “you promised him you wouldn’t” took away questioning on my part. If you promised do you keep your promise? I believe you do though it is tempting to reason well he’s not being trustworthy so why should I be? Telling her would probably dissolve my anger toward him but create personal conflict within. This is a good question and reminds me to be careful on who and what situation I am promising to keep. Linda

  2. I would most definately tell her. I have been cheated on and if I knew that one of my friends knew and didn’t tell me it would just make the pain that much worse. Once my friend were to cheat on his fiance that would be where our friendship would end. By keeping his secret you are now a part of the lie. Either way you end up lieing. I hope that I’m never faced with this dilema.

  3. Yes, I would tell her. It would a breech of my ethics in breaking the promise. I would rationalize in this manner. As Linda stated he isn’t being trustworthy so why should I. If I was the one being cheated on, and wasn’t aware of it, I certainly would what someone to tell me. I am actually living this situation right now. I have a female co-worker who’s husband is cheating on her. I caught him with the other woman. I told her. They are getting divorced. The only difference is we haven’t been friends since high school.

  4. You’re screwed. Either way, your best friend is pathetic and his fiancée is hurt. Might as well speak your mind and accept any consequences that come. At least, you’d be sound at heart.

  5. This is a difficult situation. My first reaction is to tell his fiancee because they’ve both your best friends and you want what is best for both of them. Obviously this situation is not best for either of them. But when I think about the bigger picture, I would suggest noninterference. This may be something that they need to work through together at some point and your involvement might make matters worse.

    Since he said not to say anything, then just leave it at that (as difficult as that may be). If he feels the need to tell her, he will. From my perspective, keeping things from each other at this point in a relationship will likely lead to a shaky marriage, but this just might be the path they need to take at this point in their lives. Everyone is presented with different challenges throughout their lives in order to learn more about themselves and life in general. This could just be another lesson.

  6. I would go back and tell the so call best friend, I can not keep my promise and why. Shortly thereafter, if he did not come clean or stop the cheating, I would tell my friend, the finance, about the cheating.

    Though I would really need to know that this is more than ‘hear say’ before causing havoc on another’s life. Even best friends lie, for whatever reason.

  7. First of all, I would never agree to keep the secret of cheating in the first place. I think it’s very unfair for my friend to ask me to keep a secret like that. If he said, ‘can you keep a secret’, I would be honest and say probably not, especially if it involves lying, cheating, etc. So, that being said, if he just blurted it out, I would tell him that he had to either come clean about it to his girlfriend, or I would tell her. That’s his choice now. Call me brutal, but I won’t harbour something like that. I would also lose a whole lot of respect for him after that and I’m guessing our friendship would suffer for it.

  8. I agree with Karen… shouldn’t make promises like that to begin with!

    But to work with the scenario, I’d need to tell my friend just how badly he’s hurting his fiancee’. Even though she doesn’t know about the affair, the things he’s doing affect his relationship. He needs to quit the affair and move forward.

    What can I control in all this? Since I’ve promised not to tell, I don’t tell! If he doesn’t change his actions, perhaps it’s time to start spending time with other friends for a while.

    “Coming Clean” isn’t always the best answer. If someone makes a mistake, it’s how they handle it and move on that’s important. Causing pain & confusion to someone else isn’t necessarily the right thing to do.

  9. There are clearly many ways to approach this one, and people so far have listed some fine rationalization for their chosen actions. As for me, the promise made is the sticking point. Daryl made a strong case, but it kind of becomes a question of two wrongs making a right. If we fail to keep our promises, if we violate our friend’s trust, we sink to the level of the friend who broke his vows, don’t we? (This, of course, assumes that he promised not to cheat in the first place.) Telling the fiancee would seem to be, in a way, lessening one’s respect for oneself, having failed to keep our word. I would discuss the issue heart-to-heart with my soon-to-be ex-friend first (cheating is just wrong), and ask him to come clean out of respect and honesty. Being a bit of a sideways thinker, if that were to fail, I might have to opt for slipping the information casually to a mutual friend, and letting the grapevine do its thing. After all, I never promised – in your scenario – not to tell ANYONE…. The fiancee certainly deserves to know about the infidelity, and make her own decision on how to proceed. (This, of course, assumes that she isn’t cheating on him, as well.) 😉

  10. First I will talk my friend and find out what all this happened, if he is still continuing his another affair, I will try to convince him and will pull him out of that- then i will ask him to confess everything to her fiancee and I will be with him to support him. But if he is not listening, then i will talk to her about this

  11. i would definetely tell, this would stop ruining of 4 lives…mine-living in guilt, my friend’s and his fiancee’s-finding out after getting married is more disastrous and that other girl’s-whats the fun of living in fear of losing your boyfriend or being tied up with someone who is involved with a third person and engaged to be married?
    i would definitely tell her, even havinh promised, promise is smaller when it comes to friends and real life.
    besides, if the guy is insensitive enough to be cheating on fiancee, why care about making such promise to him?

  12. I wouldn’t tell her. Instead I will try to make my friend’s mind.

    But later he wouldn’t understand, I would tell her.

  13. I completely agree with Jessica – sometimes, terrible/immoral things such as cheating (however, although to me cheating may be terrible & immoral, I’m in no place to deem something right or wrong. Maybe there’s some justification to his cheating, maybe she’s cheating also, or he was just brought up with different morals, and views the term “cheating” in a much different way than most people in the West?) need to occur, in order for the problem to be overcome. Having an outsider break into the bond of a relationship could cause more problems than if you would just let nature take it’s course. It’s up to his fiancee to either realize or not realize what he is doing, and make her own judgment on how to react.

    It’s like when the government is unstable or corrupt – at the moment it seems catastrophic, but eventually, every aspect will eventually balance itself out, same with relationships.

  14. My fiancee went through something like this before I was with him. His girlfriend of two years began cheating on him with multiple guys just after she went away to university. All of their mutual friends knew and naturally objected, and they kept nagging her over a three month period to tell him. It took my man’s best friend to issue an ultimatum to her: you tell him or I will. She did tell him when she came home for Christmas (beautiful timing), but I really doubt she would have done so without the external input.

    Having said all that, I’m really in two minds about all of this. On one side, I think that if I were being cheated on, I’d want to know and I wouldn’t care who told me. I’d have to tell and deal with the side-effects as they come. Worst case sceanrio: they split up and both of the friendships fail. At least I’d be able to look at myself in the mirror, you know?

    On the flip side, it really isn’t any of my business. Maybe she already knows, maybe she cheated before, maybe things aren’t right in the relationship etc. etc. Who am I to charge headlong into a personal matter with accusations of cheating?

    For me, I think it would depend on the couple – how would she react, how would he react etc. but I would always lean towards telling as opposed to keeping the secret.

  15. I would convince my friend to tell his fiancee the truth, and i will ask him seriously to do this, and i will support and encourage him.. if he didn’t tell her the truth, i will try to judge the situation, does he love her and he is sorry for what he is doing and he is willing to stop cheating her? if yes then i would not tell his fiancee, hoping that every thing will be fixed. But if i found that he is cheating her with his feelings, and he does not love her or care about her, i would tell her slowly in a nice way for her benefit..

  16. I sure hope I never find myself in this situation! To me the loyalty of a friendship is pretty sacred. It can even include my friend behaving like a complete ass… If I even promised my friend not to tell, I certainly wouldn’t break that promise without speaking with him first. The situation gets a lot more complicated by the fact that she is also a friend – and – that they are soon to be married.

    Here is what I would do:
    I would first try to reason with my friend and explain why he should confess his sins to his fiancee. If he refused to do so I would tell him that I would have to tell her myself, even if it meant ruining our friendship. Since she is also a close friend, I would feel obligated to let her know this about the man she was about to commit her life to.

  17. I also agree with what Karen has stated.

    The least suffering would come from him coming clean on his own.

    The next least suffering would be telling her about his admission.

  18. Bro’s over Ho*s right? Hahaha…I know that was awful, I really am just kidding and I apologize; that was way out of line.

    I would make him tell her himself. I don’t want to be in the middle of it; and if I were to keep the secret, then eventually it would come out and it would be incredibly devastating to her that he had been doing it for so long and I knew about it the entire time! Even if it were “a one time thing”.

    Really a miserable situation for all. I am reminded of another scenario that maybe could be of use for the next discussion because the victim is an entity…What if your coworker was embezzling or otherwise inappropriately (fraudulently) using your employer’s resources for his/her own gain? I am currently taking a Fraud Accounting course and would be interested in your readers’ reactions. Just my thoughts. Great blog by the way.

  19. I agree with Karen. I would not make the promise to keep his infidelity a secret in the first place. If I made the promise, then I would keep it.

    As it involves 2 good friends and cheating though, I would tell him that I cannot keep a secret such as that. Especially as it seems as though they have some very important things to talk about and work through.

    I would lovingly advise him him to tell her and to play open cards. If he really loves her and wants to marry her but wants to have a fling before the wedding (I’ve heard that some people have this urge), then he should communicate it to her in the spirit of fairness and openness. Sure, this may mean that she calls off the wedding, but then she would have the Truth and can make an informed decision. At least then, he would be telling the person directly involved and not a third party.

    I would also chat to her. I would not tell her about the affair, but would encourage her to listen to her intuition.

    Ultimately, they should deal with the karma between them, good or bad. Honesty and Truth will prevail eventually. It always does.

  20. hahaha, might just mention we (the daily minder and I) are good friends offline.. and just to clarify.. i would not tell her because that is taking the action the friend should take, and you cannot live another’s life for them.. and 2nd, the company you keep is the 2nd biggest factor in determining the way your life unfolds.. and if my “friend” did not think he should admit his mistake to his wife.. then he is not very good company to keep along the way.
    anyway, my wife said: she would make him tell his wife. and then if he did not, she would tell her.

  21. I would flat out tell her… I wouldnt even feel bad for not keeping the secret.
    Its always better knowing.

  22. This is an interesting situation. Do you break a promise, or continue to allow one of your friends to be cheated on? The obvious thing would be to never have made the promise in the first place. However, since that is no longer an option, a new choice has to be made about the situation.

    One way of looking at it is like this: Keeping a promise like that could cause you to feel bad and cause inner-turmoil because the promise you made is one that is inadvertently hurting a friend. One the other hand you could cause inner-turmoil because you made a promise and then broke it. The solution in this situation might be to choose the option that causes less turmoil for yourself. This could be viewed as a selfish solution.

    Another way of looking at it: This is not your problem. You chose to make a promise not to say anything because you wanted to take yourself back out of the situation. By promising not to ay anything you can remove yourself from the situation and no longer be a part of it. You go on acting as if you had never heard anything in the first place. By not saying anything its almost as if you never knew. Besides you would hate to ruin a friendship. This could also be considered selfish.

    My personal thought is that you should tell her about the cheating that is taking place. First, the guy has already broken a promise he has made to her and does not deserve the curtsey of your promise. Second, it is a promise that you should not have made in the first place, and both you, and the guy you made the promise to, know it. Third, you are saving future heartbreak. Fourth (and in my opinion the most important), you are now helping him cheat by allowing it to continue, whether you condone it or not. If the S*** ever hit the fan you would be lumped into the whole thing with him.

    Either way i would tell the guy i made the promise to that i was going to tell her. I would explain why, and tell him that i should have never made the promise to begin with. I would not allow him to do something like that. I would then remind him that if it ruins our friendship, it was his fault for risking our friendship by bringing that situation into it.

  23. First, I ought to keep my promise to my friend that I wouldn’t tell. Second, BUT I would want to know if my partner had another intimate relationship. I thought about this for several days. Going back and forth between telling her and keeping my promise. I decided that I would keep my promise.

    I know my friend doesn’t want me to tell her. I know I promised not to tell her. I think that she would want to know because I would want to know but I don’t know that she would want to know. So, I think if I told her I’d be doing it for me and not for her. I’d be making it all about me!

    The only thing that I can do in this situation is decide whether I will keep my word to my friend. Now, that is all about me.

  24. I want to add that just because the guy made a mistake and broke his promise, it doesn’t mean that he ought to forfeit all expectations that others would keep their promises to him. People are not without value, or morals, or all bad because they made a mistake. After all, who hasn’t (made a mistake)?

  25. I have learned to not make promises lightly. If someone asks, “If I tell you this, will you promise not to tell anyone?” The answer is, “No. If you tell me something that I need to share, I will share it. If you’re not OK with that, please don’t tell me.” It may be cold, but it is honest and helps you to always be ethical. So I would not have made promise #1.

    In this situation I would tell me friend to confess to his financee. I would badger him until he did so. If he refused, I would inform him that I am going to tell her before I actually told and give him a deadline so he can ‘fess up if he wanted to.

  26. I’m with Karen, for the most part. Don’t make a promise like this. But, since it’s done, I say go back to the friend and say, “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this information except to give you a virtual hit in the head: My friends don’t cheat. You need to stop, now, — you’ve made a commitment to your fiancee. Go get checked out for STDs and STOP the affair. If you can’t/won’t stop, then cancel the wedding because you are not ready to get married.” Hand him the names of a couple of therapists and tell him that you are not qualified to be his therapist or his confessor.
    Now, here is where I part with most of the writers here: Don’t tell the fiancee! What’s more, if the friend stops the affair, I don’t think HE should tell the fiancee either.
    If he stops the affair, but tells the fiancee about it, he feels better, having “come clean,” and she now carries the burden. That’s not right.
    If he gets caught, either he was careless with his condoms or because the woman he had the affair with doesn’t like being spurned and seeks out the fiancee on her own – which happens – he is going to have to deal with it.
    A deadline is a great idea, but the deadline is “end the affair, or I’m not going to be your friend.” (Deadline means Tonight, not “I have to end the affair face-to-face and she’s in Peoria.”)
    The friend should get his act together, pray that he hasn’t given her a disease, and keep this ugly secret a secret for the rest of his life.

  27. A true “friend” wouldn’t place you in that type of position in the first place. Ergo, I owe no true faith and allegiance to someone who is not a true friend. I would spill it.

  28. Is he cheating with a man or woman? Your post doesn’t say & I ask as this did happen to a friend of mine.

    The fiance(later husband) confessed it to the maid-of-honour. She kept her vow of secrecy. Result 6 months later: many ruined lives & relationships over this one & a nasty health scare. As it turns out, the “other man” wasn’t exactly faithful to the fiance….

    Same thing could have happened had it been “another woman”. I know 3 women who had affairs with married men & not one of them was being ‘exclusive’ to the man, despite what the man was thinking.

    Question: why do people who have affairs always think the other person is being honest?

  29. First I would tell the best friend sorry but I can’t keep my promise and give him a time limit to tell the fiancée the truth in person or I will (because the fiancée is also a friend of mind). If she was someone that wasn’t and I only knew her through my best friend as an acquaintance then I probably wouldn’t tell her but still urge my friend to think about what he’s doing and what he wants to do moving forward.

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