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Dear John: Friend’s Affair Has Him Feeling Guilty

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


What’s your problem? Write to John at dearjohn@golocalprov.com.


Dear John,

I’ve got a friend I’ve known for a long time. My whole life, practically. He’s married, I’m not, but I like his wife and the three of us used to spend quite a bit of time together. For a little under a year, he has had a girlfriend. A mistress, I guess. He just sprang this info on me out of the blue one day, and I was pretty shocked. As far as I knew, everything was fine at home. This was just really out of character for him. I’ve tried to mind my own business about the whole thing, but he’s making it hard. He invites me to do stuff with the two of them the way I used to do with him and his wife, which I’ve done a couple of times. More and more I’m starting to feel pretty bad about it, though. I ran into his wife recently at a store and suddenly I just felt really, really sorry for her and angry with my friend. What should I do here? Tell him to get his head out of his ass and realize he’s screwing up bigtime? Just let them sort it out? I’m not about to tell his wife anything, so that’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about. One more thing I should mention is at least they don’t have any kids.


Fourth Wheel


Dear Fourth Wheel,

You don’t know how your friend feels. You don’t know how his wife feels. And you don’t really know much about their marriage; you just know how it looked from the outside. Which is not the same thing.

Here’s what you do know: you like your friend. You like his wife. And you’re uncomfortable with the idea of socializing with your friend and his girlfriend and thereby giving them your tacit approval. Right? So that’s what you should tell him.

Explain to him that you have no idea what his marriage was like, but you do consider his wife a friend and seeing him cheat on her is upsetting to you. So while you’re happy to hang out with him one-on-one (assuming this is still the case), you’d rather be left out when he’s going to be with his girlfriend. Nothing against her; it’s just not fair of him to pull you into his lie and make you a party to it, no matter how badly he wants to pretend you’re all buds and nothing’s really changed.

Dear John,

I am really, really upset. I’m a college student and I did something I really regret. I was at a party and hooked up with a guy that I knew just from going to the same clubs, seeing him around campus, etc. We were both pretty drunk and when he asked me if he could record us having sex, I said yes. At the time it seemed kind of exciting, I guess, and I was curious to watch it, never having recorded myself having sex before. But now I’m having anxiety attacks over the fact that he has this video and he can do whatever he wants with it and I won’t even know. Like every time I pass any other people and they start to laugh after I’ve walked by, I immediately think did they see this video? Is that why they’re laughing? It’s starting to make me insane. I have gotten in touch with this guy and asked him to erase it and he promises me he will, but when I see him again and ask if he has, he says he hasn’t but promises me again that he will. Then why hasn’t he yet? And even if he erases it, will it be stored somewhere else? I can’t even think of the possibility he’s already shared it with someone else, because then it will literally be impossible to get back. I am so upset over this! What can I do?




Dear Panicking,

I would start with the guy. How well do you know him? Do you have any mutual friends whom you trust and who might be able to intercede on your behalf? However you do it, either on your own or through a friend, I would try to emphasize to him how upsetting this whole thing has become for you and ask him to take your request to erase this video seriously and to do it right away. No, you won’t be able to be completely certain there are no other copies, but it may offer you some reassurance.

Then I think your next step should be to take advantage of whatever mental health services are available at your school. Stories like yours have become all too common among young people, and counselors at your school should be able to help you deal with the anxiety you’re feeling. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to worry about it or that it’s not a big deal, because the simple fact is this is obviously a big deal to you. Don’t be reluctant to seek help. Alcohol and sex have been an awful combination on college campuses for many, many years, but now the ubiquity of digital cameras and the proliferation of sexually explicit imagery have led to countless stories of heartbreak and devastation. Don’t just suffer in solitude. If you feel like you need help, then get it.


Dear John,

Like a lot of people, I’ve been hit pretty hard by the economic conditions the last few years, and I am struggling. It’s pretty bad, and my wife and I have a young baby. I know we’ll be getting things that we don’t want or need for Christmas, and they’ll probably total a pretty penny. And that’s what I could really use! Which leads me to my question. How bad would it be to ask for money instead of gifts? I don’t see why anyone would mind – I wouldn’t expect any more than they would pay for a gift, and it would save them the trouble of shopping. My wife thinks it’s a bad idea, but when you get right down to it, what’s so bad about it? And believe me, I’m only even thinking about it because I could really use the money.


All I Want For Christmas


Dear All I Want,

I totally see your point and I’m sympathetic to your plight, but tradition, custom, whatever you want to call it, makes asking for the cash equivalent at any gift-giving time something that you just don’t do. Looked at in strictly practical terms, what you say makes perfect sense, but a gift is not supposed to be looked at in strictly practical terms. It’s not supposed to be such a coldly economic transaction. (And believe me, I realize that when the Christmas ads start showing up around Halloween, this can sound a little naïve, especially when what you really need is money!) But I think there’s a more acceptable way for you to accomplish the same goal. If you have a young baby, there must be all sorts of things you need, right? Why don’t you let everyone know that all you want for Christmas this year are practical baby things – anything from furniture or a car seat to clothes, toys, books, or even food. You’re going to have to buy these things anyway, so if you receive them as gifts, that’s money that will be freed up to be put to other uses. And people can feel good about giving you a present for your family in a way that they never could just handing you a card with cash inside.


John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at dearjohn@golocalprov.com .

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