Ask­ing for a friend

Your prob­lems solved

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - by The Midults

Q:Dear A&E, I co-own a busi­ness with my old­est friend. We’ve al­ways been close – we hol­i­day to­gether, our wives are friends. But I re­cently dis­cov­ered that he had a f ling with a fe­male em­ployee who then re­signed. Af­ter deny­ing it for months, he shrugged it off. I now sus­pect he’s hav­ing another af­fair. I feel as though I no longer know him, and I cer­tainly don’t trust him. My wife is threat­en­ing to tell his wife, so it’s po­ten­tially a mas­sive mess. I’m stuck be­tween my loy­alty and my val­ues. — Stressed

Dear Stressed. Ex­cuse us while we pop a beta blocker. This is such a mas­sive mess that we’re go­ing to an­swer your let­ter to­gether, be­cause we feel too un­safe to split up. And we can sense your shock that the narrative of your life (two friends who went into busi­ness to­gether and lived hap­pily ever af­ter) is about to change com­pletely.

First things first… When your life moves har­mo­niously in par­al­lel with some­one else’s, you can be­gin to think you are the same per­son. But you are not. Nor are you re­spon­si­ble for his choices, so free your­self from some of the guilt you feel with re­gards to be­ing com­plicit in your friend’s be­hav­iour. We have seen men we know re­turn from stag par­ties or busi­ness trips hor­ri­fied by the ac­tions of their mar­ried friends (strip­pers, pros­ti­tutes, etc), and slightly trau­ma­tised by the fact that they have felt com­pelled to keep these se­crets. They hadn’t be­haved badly but felt com­pro­mised by as­so­ci­a­tion.

In nor­mal cir­cum­stances we would say that his mar­riage, his fi­delity, his choices are ac­tu­ally none of your busi­ness. You could make your dis­ap­proval or dis­com­fort known, then de­tach and go about your daily life. You are not, how­ever, in that sit­u­a­tion, as there are two huge and in­con­ve­nient com­pli­ca­tions:

1) The work is­sue – namely that it is not OK to have sex with em­ploy­ees. When you go into busi­ness with some­one you have to trust them to re­spect the pro­fes­sional bound­aries. And since he hasn’t, you need to set him an ex­plicit bound­ary that says, ‘Never, ever do this. It im­per­ils the com­pany, com­pro­mises our rep­u­ta­tions and cre­ates an un­safe en­vi­ron­ment for fe­male em­ploy­ees. The bosses set the tone.’

2) Now to the un­ex­ploded (as yet) bomb that is your wife’s re­la­tion­ship with his wife. Your wife is likely to feel very threat­ened, and not just be­cause of your stress, the threat to your friend­ships, the im­pli­ca­tions for your busi­ness or the fact that she is now com­plicit in the in­fi­deli­ties. She may also feel threat­ened be­cause we all want our guy to hang out with the good guys, not the bad guys. Not the pri­apic id­iots. So her telling his wife is as much about your mar­riage as theirs. She is pro­tect­ing the moral com­pass of your fam­ily.

De­spite the gath­er­ing storm, there may be some bar­gain­ing to be done here. Is it worth ask­ing your wife to say noth­ing for a while? And telling your friend that he has two months, say, to get his house in or­der; to go to cou­ples’ coun­selling, or find a way of com­ing clean, or start tak­ing what­ever steps he needs to work out what he wants? If he re­fuses, on his head be it – it’s up to your wife what she wants to do. Be­cause this is a man in cri­sis – he has man­aged to cre­ate chaos in ev­ery seg­ment of his life: home, work, friend­ship. He may shrug it off as no big deal, but he sounds to us as though he is deep in self-de­struct mode.

So buckle up, Stressed. And re­mem­ber that, how­ever charm­ing the sto­ry­line (child­hood friends, decades of noth­ing but love and laugh­ter…), very few things last for ever. And, when it comes to hu­man be­ings, noth­ing moves in a straight line. This man is your work hus­band and he’s cat­a­stroph­i­cally rock­ing the boat. It will be OK. But, right here, right now, it’s hard to tell what OK will look like.

Do you have a ques­tion or dilemma that you’re grap­pling with? Email Annabel and Em­i­lie on [email protected]­graph.co.uk. All ques­tions are kept anony­mous. They are un­able to re­ply to all emails per­son­ally

We have seen men re­turn from stag par­ties hor­ri­fied

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