The question: My friend thinks her husband is cheating on her. They have been married for six years and have a child. From what she’s told me about their relationship, it seems like all the signs are pointing to infidelity: things have gone downhill fast and there is no intimacy. She’s asked me what my thoughts are. I think she would be better off without him, but how can I tell her the truth about my feelings? I don’t want to lie.
The answer: Keep your opinions to yourself. And if you feel tempted to do otherwise, rewind and repeat that mantra to yourself.
Rarely, if ever, does any good come from providing candid opinions about others’ relationships – particularly when the stakes are high given that there is a marriage and a child involved.
I understand that your opinion is being sought and that, as a friend, you want to be truthful. However, brutal honesty is not always the best policy. You can still be forthright without necessarily revealing the entirety of your thoughts – this is not being dishonest.
You’re simply being a helpful friend by respecting both the relationship and acknowledging that ultimately your girlfriend has to arrive at a decision about what to do next. If any of us went through life fully verbalizing the “bubble above our head,” it’s likely most of our relationships would end.
The main consideration here is that you both have a suspicion, but no hard facts about whether or not he is cheating.
They are ultimately the only people who can come to a resolution about how their relationship should unfold. As a result, there is little to no value in sharing your opinions.
Your role therefore is twofold: to provide her support and help guide her toward making the best decision for herself and their child.
Listen to your friend’s concerns and ask her what is making her feel suspicious. Discuss with her the options she thinks she has – waiting and seeing how things transpire, starting a conversation with him, getting more information on her suspicions, etc. Let her know that you will support her however you can, but that you are not in her shoes and that it’s not your place to tell her what to do.
There are only two circumstances in which providing your candid thoughts would make sense: if you had objective, first-hand evidence that he was cheating, or if it was the early stages of a new relationship where the potential risks of providing your blunt opinion were low. Meddling in a marriage on limited information does not fit within either one of those situations.
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV’s The Bachelor Canada. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra
Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.