To tell or not to tell?
By Zahra Barnes
After it happens, one question will probably consume your thoughts: to tell or not to tell? You may be worried that you’d be an awful friend if you didn't tell her, but an even worse one if you did.
“You have to evaluate the situation based on what your friend has shared with you and what you know about her relationship,” says Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York-based marriage and sex therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.
Here, a few ways to figure out whether you should spill the beans or keep your lips firmly zipped.
1. What Type of Person Is Your Friend?
This dilemma is so tricky because your loyalty to your friend can pull you in two different directions, says Greer. On one hand, you don’t want her to be with a dude who gets frisky with her girlfriends. On the other, you want to protect her feelings.
One way to decide whether you should tell her is by being honest with yourself about her personality. Does she always, in a very self-assured way, joke about how flirty her husband is? Has she tsk-tsked cases of celebrity cheaters, saying she could never be with a man who didn’t only have eyes for her? Does a green-eyed monster lurk right beneath her surface, or would she not bat an eye if a Jennifer Lawrence lookalike hit on her husband at a party?
If you know her really well, chances are you’ll instinctively have a hunch about whether she’d want to hear about what happened.
2. How Far Did He Take It?
Think back to the moment your friend’s husband got a little too fresh for your liking. Did he have five too many whiskey gingers, then say your rear end made him wish his wife took spinning as seriously as you do (ew)? Or did he enter full slimeball territory and try to kiss you, or insinuate that he’d be open to starting up something behind your friend’s back?
Whatever the case may be, try to determine if it seemed like a one-off when he wasn’t in his right mind (not that alcohol is ever an excuse for unwanted sexual contact), or if he was serious.
“If it was innocent and wasn't a true overture, you don't have to alarm her by telling her,” says Greer.
3. How's Your Friend Doing Right Now?
Let’s say she just had a baby. While it’s wonderful to introduce a bouncing bundle of joy into the world, it’s also one of the most stressful things a couple can go through. If your friend usually comes undone at the first sign of something going wrong, you may want to hold off on telling her until her life is a little smoother.
“You want to pick your timing carefully, and this is not the time to make a big deal,” says Greer.
If she’s the kind of woman who could easily partner up with Olivia Pope, you have a little bit more leeway and shouldn’t necessarily let other stressful events in her life stop you from being honest.
4. Should You Bring It Up with Him?
While you may not be sure if you should broach the topic with your friend, most times it’s a smart idea to let her husband know your shop is absolutely not open for his business. In the moment, free to say something like, “Whoa, what was that?” or ask him what he’s doing or thinking, says Greer.
Of course, you may be so shocked as it happens that you’re at a loss for words. If it’s possible to inconspicuously bring it up next time you see him, let him know you’re uncomfortable with what happened and ask if he plans on telling his wife.
“If he says no, especially if he says it was just innocent, you could say that bothers you and as her friend, you’re going to let her know what happened,” says Greer.
If in his mind all he did was pay you a compliment or tell a joke that didn’t land, he may be like, “Uh, okay, you go do that.” But if he gets upset with you, it just proves your point—why would he mind if he really had innocuous intentions?
“It’s not your responsibility to protect their marriage, it’s your responsibility to be honest and a good friend to her,” says Greer.
5. How to Tell Her
If you do decide to sit your friend down for a chat, focus on being gentle, honest, and supportive. Try something like, “I’m telling you this because I love you. It might be no big deal, but I thought I should let you know because I would want know to if our roles were reversed,” then explain what happened.
Keep in mind that your friend may immediately come to her husband’s defense, in which case you did your due diligence and can let it go.
Worried you may be blowing it out of proportion? “You can say it in a more playful tone to lessen the magnitude,” says Greer. “Her response will tell you what’s going on with them and whether this behavior is normal.”
If you know deep down that she’d be upset with you for not telling her even the smallest instance of her husband being inappropriate, it’s probably smart to do so.
Know that trying to be a good friend can come with a risk. “She might deny it because it’s too upsetting to deal with, or she may blame you and feel like you’re the one who likes him,” says Greer. Again, being non-judgmental is key—even if she gets mad at you now, she may come around later and want to open up.
Ultimately, remember not to blame yourself if you unexpectedly wind up in this situation.
“If you weren’t wanting that kind of behavior from him, it's not your fault,” says Greer. Even if you were the flirtiest person in the world, her husband shouldn’t take that as a green light to see how far he can take it.
This article was originally published at Women's Health Magazine. Reprinted with permission from the author.