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VICKI IOVINE / Girlfriends' Guide to Family

Mum's the Word if You Suspect Friend's Husband of Straying

March 12, 2000|VICKI IOVINE

Dear Vicki: I'm in agony over this dilemma. I think my girlfriend's husband is having an affair and I don't know how to tell her. I've been hearing rumors that he's been showing up places with this younger girl, but I've tried to ignore the gossip. But last weekend my husband and I tried a hip new restaurant and there he was with the same woman who had been described to me by the gossips, so I have to believe the worst. Now I don't know how to break this horrible news to her. They've been married eight or nine years and have a 6-year-old daughter.


Dear Bearer: If you never take another single word of advice from me for the rest of your life, take this: Don't say anything! First of all, chances are they'll reconcile and you'll be loathed by both of them. I believe so strongly in the intricate mysteries of each couple's relationship that I can't even imagine a reason why an outsider should ever voice her opinion or share insights about them.

Not only do I think you should never be the one to reveal to a girlfriend that her husband is enjoying friendships, but I've sworn all my own girlfriends to the vow that even if they walk into a room and discover my own fabulous husband in bed with 12 girls from the Crazy Horse Saloon, they will never mention it to me. Hey, my life is very happy, thank you, and the way I see it, if my mate is keeping me this satisfied while carrying on his extracurricular activities, good for him.

OK, so that may sound rather flip, but the truthful essence is that people who have committed their lives to each other often do so with all sorts of special "understandings." Even more to the point, finding out that your husband is messing around is nearly as devastating as learning that he's been hit by a truck, and very few of us are prepared for the emotional blow that comes with that information. I sincerely believe that most women will eventually discover the telltale signs for themselves. And by that time, she will have prepared herself for the body slam that realization brings.

I've watched close friends go through crises like this, and one thing that seems consistently true is that the wife is the last one to know. That's not because the woman is less observant or intelligent than all her friends and neighbors. It's because she has so much more invested in wanting any bad behavior to pass or be explained by coincidence or temporary insanity. Most of us commit to our life partners and start families with them with a trust and faith that statistics simply don't support; after all, half of all first marriages end in divorce. Still, if we can't hope for the best, how could we ever even share a mortgage, let alone a couple of kids and the care of an elderly in-law?

Here's something else to consider: Not all couples who've been faced with one or the other's infidelity want to end their relationship over it. Think about it--if you learned that your husband had succumbed to an "out of towner" for a one-night stand, but that he was not emotionally attached to the other woman and hadn't seen her since, would you break up your family and divorce? Don't tell my husband I said this, but I don't think I would. We have something together that's so much bigger and more important than an evening of bad judgment that I can't really imagine throwing it all away over too many martinis and stupidity.

If any of you tells my husband that I said this, however, you are no longer my friend. The point about this is that patching up a damaged relationship is hard work and the last thing the devastated couple need is to feel that their friends and relatives are watching them like lab mice. Of course, they will be observing, but if they act like all is normal and good, they help the relationship restore its own normalcy and goodness. Put it this way: There's enough bad news in this world to share with those you love--who needs to shop for more?


Vicki Iovine is the author of the "Girlfriends' Guide," a columnist for Child magazine and parenting correspondent for NBC's "Later Today." Write to her at Girlfriends, Southern California Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, L.A., CA 90053; e-mail

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