When to get involved in someone else's marital problems?

A guy I know at work is acting less than honourably and I’m not sure what to do. He’s not a close friend, my b/f is closer with him.

The guy is leaving his pregnant wife and their young child. It appears that he’s doing this in order to be with another woman. He insists nothing physical has happened with this woman but it’s definitely hard to believe. I think if he were asked flat out he would say that she came along after he realized his marriage was over, but I am 99% certain that wouldn’t be the truth, whether he believed it was or not.

He’s not telling his wife the real reason he is leaving - he’s telling her it’s temporary, until he gets himself ‘straightened out’. He’s telling other people that as far as he’s concerned it’s over, and has been for a long time.

He’s just stringing her along to try to avoid potential custody problems. I believe he is also doing this in order to get his legal and financial ducks in a row before he tells her anything resembling the truth, at which point she’ll be at even MORE of a disadvantage.

I know the wife but I am not close friends with her. I like her and respect her and feel so badly that this is happening. I truly feel she has a right to know what is going on so that she can protect herself, legally, financially and emotionally.

Should I get involved in some way - tell her flat out, send her an anonymous letter, send her an anonymous email with a link to this thread? Or should I stay out of it altogether … Or should I hint at it so she can question him and maybe get some answers?


When to get involved?



When to get involved?
There are at least two sides to every marital problem, with tons of shading. Unless you are very very close to this couple and can talk and be heard by both, don’t involve yourself uninvited. If your concern is her getting legally, financially and emotionally sandbagged, feel reassured that it is very likely this wife has noticed her husband not being at home. She knows he is “getting himself together”. She has likely figured out what else he is getting himself.

I hear you … thanks.

I just know if I were her, I would want to know.

I truly don’t think she has ANY idea what he is up to, because he is out & out lying to her, in order to avoid dealing with the truth. He is going to counselling with her, he is telling her his moving out is temporary, he is spending all of his evenings and weekends at home … but he is flirting with this chick (who works for him by the way) all day long, going for lunch together, having coffee together, leaving work early together … and his poor wife has no clue.

sigh Why are people such shits?!?!? We used to be good friends with them but haven’t hung out with them much lately, because we can’t even look at this guy without feeling ill at what he’s doing.

I will most likely do nothing but I will always feel bad about it. :frowning:

When one party asks for your help.
The best thing would be to let her know you are there if she needs you.

I’m glad to see that you’re apparently in the mood to heed the advice given, and I would offer the same. What we see some people we know do to those close to them is sometimes quite awful, but you’re outside that relationship, and prior to it being breaking news, you run quite the risk of any action taken coming back to sit in your lap in a big old smelly way.

Since you asked, mind your own business.


Did you consider the fact that you may not have all the relevant data?
There may be more to the picture than what you can see.

Also, what good would it do for you to be the bearer of bad news? There’s a good chance you could lose both of them if there is a misunderstanding in what you say, or if they decide to reconcile in the future.

Be supportive, but let them work out their problems. If they see it as meddling they may resent your input.

I just wanted to note that we’ve had a sticky situation or two in the past when people have brought volatile real world issues onto the SDMB. I would not recommend linking people to threads like this one for touchy IRL issues like this one. (Not that it sounds like you want to do that anyway.)

I am not a mod, that’s only my personal two cents.

Ooops neuroman - good point. Thanks for bringing it up!

I’m a little surprised that no-one thinks that she should know … but I do agree that although my intentions may be good, the fallout would be bad, and the best thing I can do as a friend is to be there to help pick up the pieces.

Mods - you can close this thread if you like.


I would want to know. And it happened to me.

But I would not want someone I barely knew to tell me. I wouldn’t have believed anyone but a close friend (even though I knew). In other words, you aren’t close enough to her to clue her in - and there is nothing you or your b/f can tell him that will change things. In this case, butt out.

(If you discover your best friends husband is cheating on her, my answer is different).

From personal experience, stay out of it. It is really a lose lose situation. I could go into the examples, but suffice it to say, I did no one a favor, despite it being well-meaning, and wound up pissing everyone off and have no contact with any of them anymore.

Just walk on by.

And if anybody ever asks in the future, you saw nothing, said nothing, know nothing.

When you can get sex with one of them ?

Oh… wrong idea… :wink:

(Usually its best not to meddle… unless you know more)

I would want to know. You would want to know. So, I would tell her. He’s going to screw her over unless she knows what is happening and takes steps to protect herself. Unless it’s going to make your boyfriend mad at you, or cause you problems at work, I think it’s the right thing to do. You know another human being is being wronged, and is being set up and lied to. Tell her what you know, and it’s up to her to decide what to do with it. It’s the right thing to do.

If you would want to be told, then you should tell. As long as there is no immediate danger to you (as in, is your bf going to be angry, or is the husband your superior, etc.)

Do you know someone who’s close to her - her best friend, sister, etc.? Maybe you could tell that person and they could let her know. If you do decide to let her know, I’d do it in person, not anonymously or anything like that.

If it was me, I’d want to know and if my friends all kept something like that from me, I wouldn’t consider them friends. I would consider them people who put their own self-interest (not being uncomfortable, not getting too involved, not making waves) in front of my own. To me, it’s just like watching someone fall down on the street and not stopping to help them.

Plus, is there any chance he’s sleeping with both of them? I’m sure she and her OB/GYN would want to know that so that STDs could be tested for before she gave birth. I know when I was pregnant, they tested on one of my first office visits, but that was it.

Ethically, you should tell her. Practically, you should keep your lip zipped.

In the abstract, people have an absolute right to know they’re in danger of getting screwed over. Many people would like to know (or at least claim they’d like to know), and there’s no danger to yourself, so you should tell her. In the concrete, however, telling people this kind of thing often makes them quite angry…at you. Quite often they don’t believe you, or accuse you of trying to stir up shit just for the sake of stirring shit. Especially when they can point to evidence that the SO really is trying to work things out, like counseling. And Og help you if those two patch things up, even temporarily. You will be Evil, Interfering Bitch Supreme for sticking your nose in their business and trying to break them up.

Dr.J and I were in a situation some years ago where we had to decide whether or not to tell someone about this sort of thing. The girl was his best friend from home, as well as being my best friend at school and my roommate. The guy had become someone we considered a friend over the duration of their relationship, but he was mainly someone we hung out with because he was dating our friend. She’d always said she would want to know if her SO was screwing her over. This guy flat-out told Dr.J he was going to break up with our friend and already had someone new all picked out. Was already meeting new chick for psuedo-dates around campus, IIRC. He’d broken up with her in the past, which had absolutely devastated her and resulted in days-long crying jags.

Pretty clear-cut we should tell her, right? Wrong. When confronted, the boyfriend claimed he’d only been joking around (by then I think things had fizzled with the new chick) and that he’d had his doubts, but now he loved her more than ever. He was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and we were shit on a shingle. (Actually, given the earful she gave me afterward, I think we would have had to work our way up to shit on a shingle.) The row between them was all our fault, Dr.J had no business whatsoever saying a thing to her about it and starting trouble where there was none, etc. She’s engaged to someone else now, and while I’m fairly certain he’d never do anything of the sort, it would be a cold day in hell before I’d tell her he was messing her about like that.

Agree with stay out.

The only exception is when there is actual violence or implied, threatened violence “That b*tch can’t leave me I’m going to kill her”-type statements. Only then in those cases I think you involve yourself uninvited.

OTOH maybe you could offer to babysit or otherwise offer practicle help her adjust to her new situation – sounds like she could use a friend and all the help she can get in a lonley, sad and awful situation.

Enter into these disputes only if you think the potential benefits of doing exceed the risk. And I’d assume the risk to be loss of friendship of both individuals in the relationship, along with allied friends and family.

So usually it’s not worth it, except to protect life and limb (and perhaps sanity).

I agree.
People make a massive emotional investment in a relationship. They are usually incredibly touchy about such bad news, as it usually involves betrayal.

Long ago a friend of mine was engaged. Another mutual friend and I both suspected it would not work out well (the new person had already told us our original friend would spend far less time with us after the marriage).
I kept quiet, my friend didn’t.
My two friends stopped talking.
The marriage broke up badly, but my two friends took years to get back together. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’re welcome.

Thanks to all for your thoughtful honest responses.

A LOT of people know about this situation and it’s bound to become common knowledge soon enough I guess.

One friend is considering talking to the wife’s parents, with whom she is good friends. But that to me puts her parents in an uncomfortable situation.

I am seeing her tomorrow at a ball game … I feel like SUCH a hypocrite sitting there listening to her talk about their plans for the summer, and their new baby that’s on the way, etc … when I know she’s in for such a fall. :frowning:


Dropping a hint is tempting but she is a very proud woman and I think she may be determined to only see & hear what she wants to right now anyway.