It was the viral, soap opera-esque story none of us could escape last week: Two sisters claimed they had busted a cheating wife who was sexting at a baseball game and posted the play-by-play on Twitter.
The sisters — Delana and Brynn Hinson — said they were sitting behind a woman at an Atlanta Braves game and noticed her sending raunchy texts to a man who was not her husband. After the game, they claimed to have slipped the unsuspecting husband a message detailing what they had witnessed.
“Your wife is cheating on you. Look at the messages under Nancy,” the note read. “It’s really a man named Mark Allen.”
While the story could have been fabricated (The Huffington Post reached out for comment from the Hinsons but never heard back), the scenario certainly got people talking: Should you expose someone who’s cheating? Is doing so noble or just plain nosy?
We posed the question to psychiatrist Scott Haltzman and marriage and family therapist Sheri Meyers, the author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love, and Affair-Proof Your Relationship. Below, they weigh in on whether there’s ever a circumstance that demands you tell someone his or her partner is cheating.
Should you tell a stranger about his or her cheating partner?
Haltzman said he understands why it might be tempting to report an affair so “justice can be done, like in the baseball game example.” But for the safety of all involved, it’s best you keep the information to yourself, he said.
“It’s inadvisable because you don’t know enough about the individuals involved to understand the circumstances behind it and you may not be able to identify the risks to either you or the person being exposed,” he said. “For instance, if the spouse of the person having an affair engages in domestic violence, you could be setting up that other person to be at risk. Alternatively, if the spouse has an angry streak and can track you down, you could be setting yourself up for being at risk.”
Meyers agreed: “There’s a lot of presumption and assumption going on. What business is it of yours? I’d say ‘no’ unless you have proof-positive and even then, why would you want to get involved? It’s none of your business.”
You could tell someone you’re merely friendly with but you’d probably be out of line, said Meyers: “If you’re not close enough to hold their hand and support them through the process of confrontation, grieving and adjusting to the news, you are probably not the one to be sharing the news.”
Haltzman said doing so is a good way to lose a new friendship.
“The onus of proof will probably lie on you,” he said. “Because an individual who is engaged in infidelity will often deny it at first, it becomes your acquaintance and the spouse versus you. You’re not going to win that one.”
How about a close friend?
In this case, you’re in a unique position to tell your friend if you come bearing evidence, said Haltzman, though he said it’s best to frame the issues as concerns rather than accusations.
Meyers said you’d be a “covert accomplice” if you didn’t speak up — though be sure to tread lightly.
“If this is coming as a complete surprise, your friend may go into denial, become defensive, be embarrassed or feel devastated and angry, sometimes at you for bursting the bubble,” she said. “Whatever the reaction, be compassionate.”
Or a family member?
It depends on how close you are to the person, Haltzman said. “If the family relationship is distant or strained, bringing up concerns about an affair may end up harming your connection with your family member and the spouse,” he said. “On the other hand, if your relationship with your family member is closer to that of a friend, revealing what you know may be the only legitimate course of action.”
Is it appropriate to tell a co-worker?
Unless you’re close friends or family with the co-worker, keep your mouth zipped, said Meyers.
“You have no business getting mixed up or creating drama in their personal business,” she said. “Plus, chances are you don’t know what the personal agreement is between the couple.”
Haltzman was even more cut and dry: “Unless it affects your work directly, keep your mouth shut.”
What about someone whose parent is cheating?
Keep the information to yourself especially in this case, Haltzman advised.
Meyers agreed: “A parent’s infidelity has a profound impact on both children and adult children. It feels like a betrayal of everything they believed in and their sense of security,” she said. “If it’s your own child and it’s your partner who’s cheated and caused the divorce, the child — depending on their age — should be told in a loving way by both of you so they can ask questions. But anyone else’s kid? Don’t tell them. Absolutely not.”
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