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I left my best friend after she had an affair: Was I wrong?

Sometimes we have to feel confident that we made the best decision possible and just move forward.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

About six months ago, my BFF of 10 years, Penny, confided that she was having an affair with our mutual close friend, Amy’s, husband. Our families are all friends and her burdening me with this information was extremely difficult for me. I was torn between my promise of secrecy to Penny (with whom I was much closer than Amy) and with my wanting to tell Amy what was going on. I knew about the affair for two weeks before they were caught. During that time, I was shocked at the lying, backstabbing and deceitful behavior I witnessed by Penny toward Amy.

Penny’s husband found out about the affair. Amy was devastated (she has 4 kids) and I was so sad for her. Penny and her lover decided to leave their respective marriages to be together. In the immediate days after the affair came out, I supported Penny. I watched her kids, listened to her and did everything a BFF should do.

Amy was very upset with me and I understood. Amy and I talked during this time and I started to realize that I was supporting the wrong friend. Although I originally felt loyal to Penny, I started to realize I couldn’t support what she was doing to Amy.

Penny started talking horribly about Amy and I kept rethinking all the lying and deceit I had witnessed. It felt like all the wonderful qualities I loved in Penny had vanished. Her loyalty, generosity, and kindheartedness were replaced with selfishness and vindictiveness. I didn’t feel the same about her anymore. I also was hurt that she had burdened me with her secret.

After thinking long and hard about it, I ultimately decided to end our friendship. Definitely the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. I second-guessed my decision many times in the weeks afterwards. I felt extremely alone, and still do at times, almost five months later. I thought we would be friends forever, and we probably would have if I didn’t end our friendship.

Amy and I are still friends. We have spoken at length about the situation and it took her awhile but she has forgiven me for not telling what I knew. She acknowledged that I was put in a terrible position etc. I appreciate her forgiveness. Irene, did I do the right thing or did I leave my BFF in her time of need? Thanks for your insight.

Signed, Daisy

ANSWER

Dear Daisy,

You thought long and hard about your decision and did what you felt was right. Given the circumstances, it would have been difficult, and probably untenable, to remain friends with both women.

We choose our friends based on qualities we admire; additionally, our friendships often reflect our values. Aside from Penny placing you in an uncomfortable position, you saw another side of her you hadn’t seen before. She displayed a lack of empathy and loyalty to your mutual friend and wasn’t above asking you to participate in that subterfuge.

Sometimes, it’s easy to obscure the complexity of situations like this one and think of it as simply choosing sides. You’re asking whether you chose the right side, your-once BFF or Amy. However, it’s more complicated. This incident precipitated a change in your feelings about your once-best friend. (Also, by making the decisions she did, Penny had to realize there would be consequences in terms of her family and her friendships).

I think you have no choice at this point but to move forward with your own life, feel confident you made the best decision you could, and to be a supportive friend to Amy—who among the three of you, may have the greatest need for a shoulder to lean on right now.

Best,
Irene


Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about the impact of extramarital affairs on friendships:

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Category: Friends with different ethics

Comments (16)

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  1. Malea says:

    Comment removed by moderator at request of poster.

  2. Abdul Rauf says:

    Wow. I have thought that this was much a difficult question to resolve. But in my views, if affair was exposed and that’s been finished now, dont leave. And if the affair to another guy has been revealed by you and it still exists, then do leave her.

  3. jitterbug says:

    I went through the same exact thing with a bff of ten years.

    I gave her emotional support for 5 years, when she was in love with a guy in a long-term relationship. I didn’t approve, but I refrained from condemning her–(he lied to her for the 1st six months about having a gf)

    She finally broke free–and then had an “oops” with one of her male friends who had a long-term live-in gf. *Supposedly* they were on the outs, & just living as roommates. What really bothered me was that in this scenario, she KNEW the guy’s gf, she was part of our extended social circle. She’d even talked to the guy’s gf about their relationship,. When she started to criticize the guy’s gf, based on the info she’d gotten from talking with her–I had a little sense of uneasiness.

    When she finally told me about the “oops” –I was flabbergasted that she crossed that line. I ran into the guy’s gf a few months later, & I had a really hard time looking her in the eye……….And I told my bff how that made me feel a few days later.

    It didn’t occur to me to realize how much she’d put me on the spot by dropping that in my lap. My bff started to distance from me at that point, and put me through a year of emotional hell, wondering wtf I’d done wrong.

    A year after I’d ended the friendship, I found out that she’d also tried to seduce a mutual married friend. He turned her down—and she sent his wife a friend request on FB a few weeks later……..She’d never admitted any of this to me–I’m sure she knew I would’ve called her out for that. Which finally explained the erratic behavior I’d experienced with her. At least, learning that helped to validate my decision to end the friendship.Painful as it was………..

    Finding out that someone you trusted & cared for is capable of calculated deception, can really shake your faith in humanity—-I’m still trying to repair from that.

    • Daisy says:

      Thanks- your last paragraph totally aims this up for me. Months later in still repairing as well. But each day gets better :-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Its really difficult and i agree that you can’t support something you dont agree with. Its hard isnt it- because say penny was your sister rather than a friend…. you woouldnt agree with what she had done but im betting that you would forgive her enough to have her in your ife because there is great love there and its family.

    Thats the difference between friends. You choose your friends. I imagine that there will be times when Penny needs you and feels betrayed by you for ending the friendship. She must think she is having a hard time too. I dont condone what she has done, though it must be something she must have seriously thought about to give up so much for that man. He gave up so much too. Its not right but they must really feel love or so they think to turn everyones lives upside down.

    You have to do what feels right in the end and if you couldnt stand being around penny then of course you end it.

    im trying to imagine my best friend doing something like that- would i support her? How would i forgive her? Would i stick by her?

    Its tough but you made your decision.

  5. Anonymous says:

    …BELIEVE THEM!!” -Maya Angelou

    I have occasionally found myself in a situation where a friend with whom I had spent much time over the years behaved in a way that was deeply disappointing. Although I pride myself in being a loyal, supportive friend, there are certain behaviors that reveal such negative character attributes that it would be hard to feel that I could trust that person again. Even though the “wrongs” these friends committed were not against me personally, they could have been, and who knows, someday WOULD have been, if I continued to be in a close, trusting relationship with such friends.

    Finding out that Penny was able to betray Amy told you something fundamental about her character that had not been revealed before. She was willing to behave this way toward someone to whom she was supposedly a good friend. So, it is highly possible that she would betray you, as well, if the situation were right (i.e., she may have tried to get your husband to cheat with her). If she would do it to one friend, she would do it to another.

    I do not mean to oversimplify this very complex situation. I am sure Penny does have some good qualities, otherwise you would have never been friends with her in the first place. But when someone falls from grace in a serious way, as much as it hurts to see them fall, you have to let them fall. It is a choice that person has made, and there are consequences. Your friendship was, sadly, collateral damage. You do not want to lose her friendship, but what choice do you have?

    You have learned who she is. That knowledge is painful. But now that you know, you can’t go back to innocence about her. Amy could not trust her, and unfortunately, neither can you.

    • Mitsy says:

      Excellent post. Once someone has done something so horrible (whatever it might be), sometimes you just have to realize that the bell can’t be “unrung”. It shows what someone is capable of–that they cannot be trusted.

      I’ve posted a lot about a former friend who is now mostly just a co-worker. She is hot or cold depending on her mood & how she’s getting along w/her guy. She is more cold than warm or friendly most nights. But, I have to remind myself that she also had affairs on her men in the past. Someone who has been married 5-6 times has some issues & I know she messed around on the last husband. So, in not wanting to “lose” another man, she hangs on to an emotionally abusive man who manipulates her. She & I are not close anymore due to his control and I think she knows this. However, her dysfunction is far greater than this current love interest. I think I refused to see some of her issues years ago but it was not until the last couple years that I saw a change in her behavior towards me. I do not trust this woman anymore. If I could warn someone (friend or lover) to not get involved with her, I’d tell them to tread lightly because her moods can change on a dime. I suspect that is why she has so many failed relationships behind her & virtually no close friends around her now.

    • Daisy says:

      Thank you- your words are very comforting!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Daisy, I think you did good. Penny is being selfish and should never have put that burden on you. Penny knows full well the consequences she was walking into concerning the affair. Hopefully, you guys can be cordial if you find yourselves in the same company but taking a stand concerning your morals shows great character! Perhaps, in the future Penny and her new man will feel remorse for what they’ve done but I wouldn’t count on it.

    I truly feel sorriest for the 4 kids. Sheesh! Prayers for them!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Though it is hard because Penny was your best friend for such a long time, you made the right choice for Amy’s well-being and for your conscience to be at peace. What you miss is how Penny used to be – and have nostalgia for times past – this is what could be making you second guess yourself. But had you not made this heartbreaking yet wise decision, as being around Penny’s lack of empathy and loyalty would sooner or later have a more harsh impact on your life than it already has. There are incidents that can happen between best friends that can change that relationship forever – even if you have past history and deep caring for that person.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Daisy,
    YOu did the right thing. IN this situation, your frriend’s behavior was consistently out of line,
    was hurtful toward others and showed bad morals.Loyalty and giving friends a chance to change when they are the way Penny is is good to a point, but after all she did you would only be becoming the villian she had by remaining in the friendship. Maybe she will realize at some point the errors of her ways partly due to losing you and you will be able to become friends with her again, but you did the right thing. Don’t guilt yourself for not telling, you only knew for a short time, and needed to figure out what to do. Best of luck to you.

  9. Jacqueline says:

    Admitting to Amy that you made a mistake, shows your character. You definitely made the right decision as far as Penny is concerned.

    • Daisy says:

      Thanks- even 9 months after this has settled I needed to hear that. I still hold a lot of guilt for not telling Amy and anger towards penny for putting me in the position she did.

  10. Anonymous says:

    yes she did make the right decision and I agree with the 1st comment. Though I will concede that it can be difficult to come that point quickly when you’ve been BF’s for 10 years. the fact she wasn’t willing to just drop Penny, is just a reflection of that commitment. I hope Penny realizes all she has lost in this selfish behavior. So many lives are affected…

  11. Anonymous says:

    I congratulate Daisy on making the right decision, although it took a bit of time. It would have sent a message to Penny earlier if Daisy would have said, it’s your life and you can do what you want but I can’t support your behavior: if you don’t come clean, I will.

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