When to Snitch on a Suspected Cheater

Ask Demetria: Got proof that a friend's hubby is trolling online for dates? Warn her tactfully.

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(The Root) --

"I saw my friend's husband on a dating website. They have children and I don't want to disrupt their home. I'm torn. Please help. Do I tell her, and if so, how?" --T.T.

In general, I'm not a fan of friends or family disclosing when they think someone in a relationship is up to activity that they shouldn't be up to. Even when the person is right, there's usually no definitive proof, and the person cheating doesn't readily confess. The situation turns into a messy "he said, she said," and because there's no real confirmation, the couple stays together anyway.

Even when solid evidence exists that a partner has been unfaithful, a lot of people like to shoot the so-called messenger. The person who gets tipped off may not be willing to take actions with his or her partner. Instead that person may look for someone to blame. The friend, who thought she was doing the right thing, often becomes the target of that person's anger and gets kicked to the curb instead of the unfaithful partner.

In your case, take the risk of losing your friendship and disclose to your friend what you have found. You wouldn't be a very good friend if you had seemingly solid proof that her husband was at the very least looking to cheat and you didn't tell her. And you don't need to be concerned about disrupting their home -- that's on Mr. Married for being on the dating website.

You've stumbled across something that's more damning than seeing your friend's husband sitting across a table from a woman or picking her up from her home, neither of which really indicates any wrongdoing, since there are plenty of aboveboard reasons for both to occur. You discovered a married man on a dating website, and the logical explanation for why he would be there is that he's looking to step out on his wife. Of course, there's always the chance that his wife could know -- it would be naive to pretend that open marriages don't exist -- but it's more likely that she doesn't.

Don't tell your friend what you found; show her. Send her an email -- blind-copy yourself -- with a screenshot of his dating profile and let her see it for herself. A simple, "Hey, [insert friend's name], I found this on XYZ and thought you should see" will suffice. Add that she should give you a call if she wants to talk. There's no need to add commentary about what you think her husband being on a dating site means. You're a smart woman; so is she. Let her figure it out.

He's unlikely to confess and more likely to delete the profile and concoct some wild story to tell his wife before the deadline. Trust that whatever tale he weaves will make you look inappropriate (to discredit you when you do tell her), and he becomes the good guy. Even if you still have a screenshot of what you initially found as proof, your friend will be confused and may be more likely to believe her husband's versions of events -- and as his wife, she should give him the benefit of the doubt -- than yours. There's no need to make a messy situation messier.

Once you've shared what you found with your friend, she'll likely want the backstory on how you found it. If she does, tell her. But if she asks what to do, your answer should be, "I don't know. Only you and your husband can decide that." You may be the bearer of bad news, but don't get mixed up in any back-and-forth between your friend and her husband.

If she needs to talk, listen, but don't offer any advice on how she should proceed, whether it's to confront him, leave him or any other option she may want to take. It's their marriage, and ultimately they are the only ones who can decide what to do with it.