Auntie SparkNotes: My Friend Won't Dump Her Cheater BF
I recently found out that my best friend's boyfriend cheated on her with a girl that she not only despises, but is also a well-known floozy (keeping it PG).
Over spring break he managed to get himself in a situation where he was not only alone with this girl, but also drunk. (This girl has been after him for some time but he has supposedly found her obnoxious, and he also does not normally drink, so it's unclear to me how he managed to land in that situation to begin with.) They were already having issues, so a breakup I would have understood.
My friend was gone from school most of last week when the news started to spread (courtesy of the floozy), but he had not told her yet. Many of her friends, including myself, let him know that if he did not tell her soon that we would be informing her before some random person did. I was anxiously awaiting a call expecting to go something like: "He cheated on me with Floozy!! So I broke up with him. Bring ice cream." However, she was completely calm when I picked up, and said that she wasn't even that mad at him -- not even when she found out that he’d slept with her, not just hooked up.
Everyone who knows what happened think she is being a total and complete idiot and were shocked seeing them hold hands on Monday. I personally would have dumped him so fast his head would spin. To me, cheating is a non-negotiable. Like, how hard is it to not to get drunk and sleep with someone you don't even like as a person? Plenty of people have been avoiding this situation for centuries. Plus he wasn't even completely honest with her at first when he "admitted" it.
Anyways, she knows that I don't understand her decision, but how can I deal with the fact that she's still with him? (Side note: we're also ALL in student government together, including Floozy.) I think she's making a huge mistake and needs to respect herself more and realize that she deserves better.
I mean, okay! Because of course, you’re fully entitled to react to this situation by considering what you would do in your friend’s shoes. And of course, you are fully entitled to decide that, in her shoes, you would react in a wholly different way than she has. But if you’re going to do this, then you need to do it:
a) in private, while
b) sitting on your hands, and
c) singing to yourself, as needed, “It’s her life! And it's not my business! It’s HER life and it's NOT my business!” (For maximum effect, I recommend doing this to the tune of Bon Jovi's "It's My Life." Guitar solo!)
And that, to answer your question, is how you deal with any and all disapproval you feel over other people’s relationships. Because all the rest—the cheating, the “floozy,” the drunkenness, the denial—is totally irrelevant when the people involved are Not You. (Note: And can we knock it off with the “floozy” nonsense? It’s not like this whole thing would’ve been somehow less terrible if he’d slept with a confirmed virgin.)
Basically, despite what you (or your school’s gossip machine) may think of your friend’s decision to stand by her man, it’s still her decision. And ONLY hers. And if you care about your friend—which, presumably, you do—then you’ll recognize that the last thing she needs during this painful time is for everyone and their mother to be scrutinizing, dissecting, and judging her for the way she’s chosen to handle it... and that she especially doesn’t need her self-described best friend referring to her in third-party conversations as a “complete and total idiot” for making a difficult choice. (Seriously? That’s so unkind.) Not to mention that when you call your friend names and accuse her of failing to respect herself, what you’re really doing is failing to respect her—and her ability to make choices according to her own values, judgment, and perspective. Maybe cheating isn't a deal-breaker for her. Maybe it is, but other circumstances surrounding the incident made it a forgivable offense in her eyes. Or maybe your version of this story is missing some vital information that would make it all make sense, but which your friend has chosen not to reveal, because it's not up to her to defend her relationship to curious, gossiping bystanders.
Which brings us to this: sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, people are going to make decisions that you find puzzling, mystifying, or downright inexplicable. And as long as these decisions don’t affect you, for the sake of your own sanity, you’re going to have to learn to chalk them up to missing information or just the wonderful variety of the human experience and simply shrug them off... or spend your life in a state of nonstop indignant flailing over the inability of the rest of the world to conform to your personal standards. And nobody wants to flail.
So please, breathe deep, dig deeper, and see if you can’t muster up enough faith in your friend to support her decision even if you don’t understand it. Accept that she has reasons, even if she’s not sharing them, for having made the choice she did. And if, by some chance, it turns out that this guy is just as much of a snake as you think he is? Accept that this was her mistake to make, not yours to prevent. Because a good friend is the one who says, “I’m here for you,” but the best friend is the one who resists the urge to say, “I told you so.”
Have you ever had to bite your tongue over a friend’s bad choice of S.O.? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: No-Tell Bro-Tell