Dear Clementine

Our resident expert, Clementine, offers her sage advice on friendship and infidelity.

Image Credit: Erika Raxworthy

Dear Clementine,

A dear friend of mine recently had an affair and is newly pregnant with her (now) boyfriend's child. I knew she was unhappy in her marriage, but had encouraged her to seek marital counseling. Recently, she shared that this affair has been going on for over a year - a secret she has kept from me all this time ("knowing I wouldn't approve," she said).

I feel hurt for her husband and betrayed by her secret. I understand that I don't know the inner-workings of their marriage, but I love and respect both my friend and her husband and am trying to be supportive of both parties.Recently, my friend asked if I'd be throwing her a baby shower, and I'm having a hard time feeling celebratory while forgiving her for the lies and deception. Her husband is a broken man - still grieving the loss - and it seems unnatural to throw a party amidst this very messy, disastrous breakup. (It does not help that I don't like my friend's new boyfriend -  he has been rude and aggressive to my friend and myself on numerous occasions.)

I suppose what I'm asking is this: how can I support my friend when I disagree - to the core - with her actions? How can I move past my own hurt to a forgiving, accepting place? Do I throw the shower?


Dear Uncelebratory,

Oh, dear. There's so much I want to say about this. But let me answer your three questions first: I'm not sure you can. I'm not sure you can. I'm just not sure.

My ambiguity has no place in an advice column, I know, but problems like this one fall into that murky silvery sludge of indecision that puddles up in between all the easy black and white life stuff. Relationships are tricky, especially when everyone's rules are so written-in-concrete. The ever present judgement all around us makes it impossible to change course if ever we find a sweeter path. People just can't fall in love when they're already supposed to be in love! That's not how it works. Nope. You're married, you cheated, and now you suck. It's, like, a law.

Let's look at her situation from another angle, though. It's scary territory, walking away from the conventionally accepted set-up – husband and wife, 'til death we do part – even when it's awful or abusive or clearly not the life anyone should be living. Change of any kind takes mad guts. Adding a guy she's only known on the down low, an unexpected baby, and a whole lot of scandalized friends and family to the drama takes it so next level.

I don't think anyone, including your friend, would say she handled this right. But is there a right way? Affairs are not cool. They're secret by definition, and usually not the sort of secret that ends with a happily packed room of smiling loved ones ready to hear a joyous "Surprise! I'm in love with another man!" I've never been to a party like that. I also doubt there's ever been a get together in existence themed "Surprise! I'm having a baby! Just...not with my husband." So awkward. And sad, too. Although this could very well be a happy change for her life, we're all still conditioned against such changes. You tell me your heart breaks for her broken husband, and you tell me you don't like her new boyfriend. Even the baby can't catch a break, as you don't feel particularly celebratory about his or her arrival amid this very messy, disastrous breakup. Yes, it's all super sad.

What if my advice was to immediately stop hanging around with such a bad person? Is your initial impulse to fight for her? Are all your fiercest words tripping over themselves, trying to spill from your mouth all at once as you extoll her goodness and try to keep your hands from making fists? Or did you just sigh and feel a deflated puff of sadness in your throat while you try to find a word that sounds a lot like good-bye? That's where we start and maybe even end. Is she worth your struggle, or is it time to walk?

In your mind right now, she might be a little like a criminal: a cheater, a liar, a thief who stole her sweet husband's life right out from under him, a con who has teamed up with a pretty crappy partner-in-crime. When she's around, what else can you do but clutch your Clare Vivier a little tighter, and keep an eagle-eye on your husband so he doesn't succumb to her wily ways? Oof. As long as that's how you see her, there's very little hope of a future friendship, much less a fete for that babe of hers. I wish your friend had left her husband before she pursued a new love. I wish she'd been honest the whole way through. I wish he wasn't sad.

But that's all wishful thinking at this point, isn't it? So now what? As usual, I'm going to beg you to be honest with yourself and with her. Clearly define (or decide it's time to redefine) your requirements for those you keep in your life, and ask yourself if she still fits within those parameters. Tell her you're in mourning for what once was, and utterly unsure about how to celebrate what's to come. I'm sure she'll understand, because she's probably experiencing the same exact sadness and uncertainty.

I can't tell you what to do. I'm sorry, I just can't. I can, however, tell you that your job is not to judge. I can encourage you to be gentle. I can secretly hope that you don't erase people from your life just because they're trying to rewrite their own. I can tell you honestly that I'm pulling for you. All of you. And I can silently beg you to have a party for that sweetheart baby.

That’s the only way I live my days.