Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.
A reader writes: I have a close friend who has been dating her live-in boyfriend for 10 years. A couple of years ago, I was told by a family friend that he was sleeping with one of her friends. This family friend has been caught in lies before, so when I approached my close friend about the issue, we also acknowledged that it was a questionable source. She confronted her boyfriend and he had an excuse she accepted, but it didn't completely add up. Now, the same family friend is saying he has been spending nights with another friend of hers. I no longer doubt the legitimacy of the accusations, but how do I re-approach this subject? Is it even my place?
Beware of the risk
Mark Twain famously said that it takes both an enemy and a friend working together to hurt you to the heart; one to slander you, and the other to get the news to you. However well-intentioned you may be, repeating the allegations could not only ruin your friend's relationship, it could ruin your friendship with her as well. If there is any truth to the rumour, your friend may already be trying to quietly address it with her boyfriend. Are you willing to risk all this fallout on the basis of a hearsay chain that includes a known liar?
Heather Hamilton, Ottawa
Better to hear it from a friend
Personally, I would rather hear suspicions from a friend than find out after the fact. So I'd tell her you are worried about what you've heard and make sure you again discuss the source of the speculation. But be prepared to accept the fact that she might not believe it and choose to stay with him. Let her know you'll fully support whatever decision she makes.
Melissa Pearn, Oshawa, Ont.
Confront the boyfriend
This is an easy one. Tell the boyfriend about the gossip. Leave it up to him to decide how to address the issue. If your source is wrong, then he can speak to her. If your source is right, he knows it's time to clean up his act either by ending the affair or ending the relationship with your friend. The fact that he knows you know will be enough.
Anne Price, Red Deer, Alta.
The final word
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I'm a woman who isn't ready to face the truth about her allegedly lecherous boyfriend because of unsubstantiated third-party rumours.
I think you fulfilled your duty as a friend the first go-round. If the boyfriend is in fact cheating for the second (or third) time, he has learned to cover his tracks. And since your friend believed his excuses the first time, it means she's not ready to leave this relationship.
As Heather mentions, you're still going on unsubstantiated rumours. Your girlfriend's antenna must be up by now, and she should be the sleuth in this relationship. However, if she volunteers that she found a thong under the sofa cushion that's two sizes larger than her own, and wonders out loud if she's gained weight, then it may be worth mentioning what "crazy cousin Edna" saw.
And let's not forget, the allegations could be false, and relationships that are already precarious can be weakened to the point of no return.
Even though I like Anne's suggestion about confronting the boyfriend, it could backfire. It could allow him enough time to concoct an alibi, and then tell his girlfriend that he's tired of being spied on and she has to choose between him and you. And she already chose him the first time.
So let's give the boyfriend the benefit of the doubt. You seem more concerned about the boyfriend's behaviour than your friend anyway. He knows that people are watching him. He knows his girlfriend is suspicious. If he continues to cheat, and your friend continues to believe his excuses, then maybe the two of them deserve each other.
Regina-based Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie.