What to do when you find out one of your friends is cheating on their partner? Do you speak up about it? Or do you keep quiet and hope for the best?
Tushi, a student of a private university, has known both Farhana and Mithila for a while. Farhana confided to Tushi that she was in a relationship with her boyfriend Prabal (not his real name) for the last five years. So imagine Tushi's surprise when one fine day Mithila also reintroduces Prabal as her boyfriend!
This stunning incident promptly put Tushi in a dilemma. What should be done in such a situation? Should she talk to Mithila? Should she say something to Farhana? Would it be better to confront Prabal? Or would it be best to just keep mum?
Since it seemed that Farhana was being cheated on, she thought it would be better to talk to her first. But would Farhana trust Tushi or her relationship of five years? If she manages to convince Farhana, would it affect the friendship between Farhana and Tushi? Would Tushi be seen as the villain?
Does this situation seem familiar? It isn't uncommon. In our society, we have all witnessed or at the very least heard about an incident like this.
A multitude of opinions
Some people find themselves in Tushi's place, feeling the obligation to inform the affected person of their partner's cheating, yet feel as if it would be overstepping their boundaries.
Different people have different opinions about this. Farzana Sultana Nila, a clinical psychologist of the Center for Mental Health & Care, Bangladesh, (CMHC, B) says: "Things can work in two ways: either talking with the person who is cheating and making him or her aware of the consequences or making the victim aware of the symptoms, generally, to find out their partner is cheating and taking the right decision," she says. "In most of the cases, victims later confess that they have overlooked all the red flags out of love."
Farhana Sharmin, an entrepreneur, commented, "Such situations are very sensitive. When I came to learn that my friend's husband was cheating with her I was shocked, as they seem like a perfect couple to an outsider."
"In the beginning, I was adamant in the decision that I was going to let her know that her husband was being unfaithful. However, I detected some signs and it seemed to me that she was aware of the situation, and she was keeping up the charade of a happy marriage just to appease her family and society. Also, I felt she might not like an outsider to meddle in her personal affairs," she continued.
"So, I stayed silent for the sake of our friendship. Later, I made sure that my husband does not socialize with her husband in person, as I fear he would negatively influence my husband too. I still invite them over to my home, but only as a couple and never him alone."
As every relationship has its own circumstances, understanding and space, the decision is going to be different for everyone.
Syed Yeasef Akbar, a marketing professional, says, "Although I have not faced such a situation, personally I would prefer not to be the center of the argument. So, I would be silent and let time run its course. At some point, the cheated partner is going to find the truth and take steps that are best for their relationship."
Mahde Hasan, a filmmaker, believes that a situation like this is not bad.
"Monogamy simply is a social structure. Growing feelings for someone, even after being committed to another, is not a crime. We are human and we grow emotions. So, I do not find anything bad in this, until my actions are hurting someone else," he explained.
Once, Mahde found that his friend Bikash (not his real name) had cheated on his partner. Mahde decided to talk to Bikash, hoping that it would help him understand the situation and the conversation might also help Bikash to achieve clarity about what he's doing.
"Though things do not always work according to plan, this experience has made me reach some important realisations in my own marriage, and I have also gained better insight on how relationships work in this society," says Mahde.
The best action
After finding out they're being cheated on, the victim goes through shock and become emotionally vulnerable. In this stage, the impulse to take revenge, blaming the other, feeling insecure and even falling into denial is common. Helping them to accept the situation can work as a healer for this. So, as a friend, one should listen to them wholeheartedly without making any comment or judging, says Nila.