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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

Below is Dr Matt's Answer
to a Burning Question


Giving Space & Honoring Personal Prerogatives

Amanda, Maryland, age 44, Female, Separated......

Hi Dr. Matt...

My best friend and I have been extremely close bonded for ten years or so I thought.. We are both married but now I am currently separated..   She has been having an affair with another man for about a year but I only found out about it recently.

I expect that a true best friend will tell you lots of secrets... So, why would she lie and hide this affair from me?... I feel that for some reason she did not trust me with this.... She is 48 and thru out our friendship, folks assumed we were "more than friends" because of the tight bond we had... They would often say how they felt our happiness and love around us...

When I found out about this affair, I told my friend to tell her husband and be with the new guy or to end the affair cause she will lose in the long run being dishonest... She then yells at me saying I act as if she cheated on me... where the hell did that come from?

So basically she has choose to tell me with tears in her eyes that her feelings for our friendship are dead and I no longer am special to her as I once was and the friendship is over.   Okay... after ten years of tight like twin sisters she is walking away and not caring anymore.  I don't understand this at all... It is like we had a few spats due to her dishonesty.

I am trying to only be a concerned friend not judge her and I lose her anyway?  Hmmm  just don't make sense... Now this friend of mine is telling others "we are not friends anymore," so they assume that I have done something wrong.   It really hurts my heart and I miss her so....the ten years we have been friends we have talked at least twice everyday on the phone.

I feel bad here and pray that her emotions are not really dead that she just needed space to deal with this  but why all the hostility?  Can this be fixed you think with time?

Thank you for your time...

Dear Amanda:

Cheating on your spouse is "living a lie"—so it is expected that other forms of "dishonesty" will accompany the act of adultery. Your friend needs your compassion, and not your judgment. You see, embedded within the concern that "she did not trust me enough to tell me the truth" is your judgment. The fact is, she did . . . what she did, and what is done . . . is done—it's water under the bridge. Any concern for what she "should have done" is a judgment on your part.

From what you have explained to me, this is my impression of "where the hell" her reaction came from: It would have been best for your friend to come clean about her affair by deciding for herself that she needed to do the right thing, the honest thing--as opposed to you telling her to tell her husband about the affair with the justification "she will lose in the long run."

I agree with you, she was bound to lose in the long run because of her dishonesty. Nevetheless, it is always best for the emotional and spiritual growth of an individual who is "living a lie" to initiate the honest remedy by her own volition—as opposed to you trying to initiate it for her.

If the tables were turned, you would also prefer to exercise your prerogative to do the right thing— instead of having the right thing imposed upon you.

So here are the facts AND the water that has passed under the bridge:

** She made a huge mistake by cheating on her husband, and
** You made a mistake by the way you failed to honor her prerogative to initiate
      the right thing on her own, without feeling forced.

If you will own your mistake, this will be the first step in mending your relationship with your friend—if she will also go along with your invitation to reconciliation. In the end, it's her prerogative and this is a decision you cannot impose upon her.

The best you can do is to "own your stuff," and completely forget about the "blame" you are putting on her—feeling that this problem is primarily "due to her dishonesty."

If you will grasp what I will now explain, this key concept will be a very liberating for you!

All the problems that come out of her . . . belong to her; whereas,
all the problems that come out of you . . . are yours!

I call this the Division of Response-Ability. This means, your friend is not to be BLAMED for any of the feelings or emotions that come out of you; conversely, all of her feelings and emotions are also her direct response-ability, and YOU cannot be blamed from them.

Nevertheless, you are directly response-able for the Set Up that constrained your friend to a sour response, when you told your her to tell her husband about the affair. And sure enough, her response to your Set Up, was sour! The Set Up is yours, and the "sour response" is hers.

And she Set You Up to a potential sour response, when she didn't come clean about her affair. And sure enough, you did react to her decision not to trust you, with a "sour response." And in this case, the Set Up was hers, and the "sour response" was yours--your Response-Ability.

If you haven't yet read what I've written at this page of my website, Response-Ability, please take the time to do so. This Key Concept will serve you for the rest of your life.

Again, to request or require an apology from her for not confiding in you, is to have your focus in the wrong direction--it is YOU judging HER. She will eventually need to make things right with her husband and you and others, but the process of making things right must be guided by He who Judges all humanity. You will honor God as you leave all Judgment to Him.

In the mean time, put your complete focus upon yourself, and the mistakes you have made in regard to your friend. Own them and admit to them. This is the best you can do.

Now, it is easy for me to tell you to extend compassion to your friend. Yet, I know that "compassion" is something you cannot do, in the same way you mow your lawn or sweep the floors. Compassion is NOT a choreography that can be cognitively contrived. Instead, compassion is a quality that naturally flows from you as God makes you a clean vessel capable of containing compassion. The true principle is thus:

Pure water cannot flow from a bitter fountain; neither can bitter water flow from a pure fountain. This means, you cannot simply "choose" to be a pure vessel, a pure fountain; instead, you must be MADE CLEAN and PURE by the Creator's Power--there is no other way.

In regard to your friend and her Response-Ability, . . . cheating is wrong! It's not the right thing to do, thus the instinctive intuition is to "hide it" from a husband and often from even a best friend.

In expecting that she should confide in you about her secret sins, you were putting yourself in a position higher than her husband, as you expected to be privy to every devious detail of her life. Again, whatever she shares with you, is her prerogative to share--it should be volunteered and not required. You are crowding her space as you require and "expect" her to devulge all secrets to you. True friends do NOT expect, . . . they give space and unconditional compassion.

This is most likely NOT what you wanted to hear, but if you want to save your friendship (if it will be saved), you need to apologize for NOT respecting her space and her prerogative to direct her own life as an adult.

All the best,

Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

* * * * * * *

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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

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