Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Three years ago, when I was happily married, a friend from a college friend group proposed an affair. I declined and avoided seeing him one-on-one.
Now I am going through a rocky divorce. He proposed an affair again. I am still not interested. I told him that and he told me he and his wife have “an understanding.”
I was initially just friends with him, but did get to know his wife over the past few years and I really like her. Do I have an obligation to tell her he repeatedly comes on to me? I have no interest in an affair with him and have no problem saying so, but I see them as a couple every six weeks or so in a group. I feel weird catching up with his wife about their new car or most recent vacation while knowing her husband is interested in an affair.
— I Just Like You as a Friend
In a just world, you’d have an affair with the wife.
In this world, I am uncomfortably on the fence about what you tell or don’t tell her about her husband. On the one hand, this guy sounds terrible and my every impulse is to yell, “She needs to know how terrible he is!” Because it sure sounds as if he’s lying to you and deceiving his wife. And even if it’s 100% true that their marriage is covered by a clear and mutual “understanding,” he still went after you when you were in a marriage that for all he knew was a faithful and trusting one, and he’s still not taking your no for an answer. Which of course puts his whole “understanding” story under a cloud of suspicion, because in the best-case scenario he’s still crossing lines and still OK with your cheating on your husband.
On the other hand, of course, their intimate life is not your business. Your business begins and ends at how you conduct your relationships.
So really the only answer is to keep a polite distance from the husband to the extent possible in your friend group, and remain cordial and in unspoken solidarity with the wife.
Unless of course you can tell him you’d like to talk to his wife about this “understanding,” since he’d be OK with that, right? Call it. If it’s not a bluff, then his hitting on other women isn’t a secret, and you can keep pleasant company with the wife without that weighing you down.
Is there any way to deal with someone who feels that politely excusing yourself from a conversation or social gathering — because the subject matter makes you uncomfortable, because you’re tired, because you need to introvert — is unspeakably rude? I’m guessing nope?
— Nope, You Have to Stay!
Depends. The intimacy of the relationship makes a difference to how you manage.
But in general, my advice is to just do what you need to do — “I’m heading out, goodnight everyone” — and politely rebuff corrections that cross personal boundaries. Applies across the board.
— Washington Post Writers Group