“Ask a Priest: What If My Pal Cheats on His Girlfriend?”

Q: I found out that a good friend of mine is cheating on his girlfriend. They have been together for almost four years, and he has cheated on her since the start. He is having an affair with one specific woman all this time. After speaking to him I found out that he has cheated on most of his past girlfriends as well. When I asked him about the cheating, he expressed feeling no remorse or guilt. I am struggling spending time with him and the girlfriend together as it is weighing on my conscience that she is being lied to in this way. They are in a serious stage of their relationship, and I think that they are less than a year away from getting engaged. What he is doing to her is against my values, and I am struggling ethically between being a good friend and keeping his secret or telling his girlfriend what I know. What should I do in this situation? – J.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your concern about the situation is admirable.

It’s not your responsibility, however, to reveal the deceitfulness to the girlfriend. That is a problem your friend needs to deal with.

From what you describe, your friend has a lot of problems. He likely isn’t ready for marriage. If he’s misleading his girlfriend now, he won’t likely be a faithful husband after the wedding day.

You might not be able to change him. But you can control what you do. Two suggestions might be worth considering.

First, as a good friend you might want to talk to him, man to man. Ask him if he thinks having other women on the side, when he is presumably giving his girlfriend the idea that she is his only love interest, is OK. Ask him what he would think if he found out his girlfriend had other guys on the side.

You might encourage him to make a definitive decision: either be dedicated exclusively to her or to end the relationship, for her sake. This isn’t an unreasonable suggestion, given that they are already thinking of engagement.

Second, if he refuses to change his ways, you might consider distancing yourself from him. Frankly, he doesn’t sound like the kind of friend you need.

Already you have a sense that you are somehow complicit in his dishonesty, socializing with him and his girlfriend as though everything is fine. This is not to put the blame on you — the onus is really on your friend for being duplicitous.

If you keep your distance from him, the girlfriend might wonder why you don’t hang out with them anymore. At that point, maybe your friend can do some explaining.

Moreover, should they decide to marry, your absence from the wedding would also send a signal. My guess is that unless he understands what an exclusive, lifelong commitment to a wife means, the marriage might not be valid.

For now, you might consider that man-to-man talk with your pal. And if that fails, you might want to keep your distance. For he could be heading for a serious accident, sooner or later.

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