I’m not going to take credit for this. I lifted it from several sources, synthesized as I thought best and added in my own thoughts here and there. Many of my sources were directed to women who’ve been cheated upon but I largely think these applys to betrayed males as well. So here it is — what NOT to say to someone who’s been cheated on.
Your friend calls you in the middle of the night, crying. She sniffles and barely manages to say, “He did it again. He cheated!” You hold your breath because you aren’t sure what to say. You want to say the right thing. However, what comes out may be the the worst thing you can say.
Right now, your friend or loved one is in a crisis. They just found out that their partner cheated. Sure, there are things they want to hear. And you want to say them, because you want to comfort your friend. And you want to let your friend know that you are there for him or her in their misery. But trust me, if you say the wrong thing now, it could come back to bite you later on. And some things you say could be even worse — you could lose your friendship forever.
Do you want to really help them? Here are the things you should never say to a friend who’s been cheated on:
1. “Everything happens for a reason.” Yes, blame this on fate. No, it occurred for some other reason — your relationship sucks and the person cheated because of it, or the person you are in a relationship with sucks. It’s not the stars, it’s not fate. It’s because of humans. Our decisions. Our failings.
2. “You need to leave.” When someone shares with you that they’ve been cheated on, they are basically opening up and sharing one of the most vulnerable and defeated moments of their life. It makes sense that you might tell them to leave. But when you first find out that your spouse or partner has cheated, whether it’s disclosed or discovered, the last thing you should be doing is making a decision about what you want to do in the long term. In fact, if you want to give better advice to your friend right now, say to them them, “Don’t make any decisions right now. Wait until the major feelings blow over.”
3. “It happens to all of us.” No, it doesn’t happen to all of us. It happens to some of us. Men included. As far as your friend, keep in mind that it happened to THEM, and they are the ones dealing with the aftermath, not you. They don’t give a damn that it happened to you or anyone else at this point.
4. “You’re too good for him.” This is patronizing at best. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. Or maybe this was the wrong person for you? I think it’s best to not fill someone’s head with superiority nuttiness. You don’t know the situation for sure. Maybe they drove them out? It’s easy to tell someone that their partner is “bad, bad, bad” and they are angelically “good, good, good” but I doubt that’s true. Life is more grey than that and so are people. Your friend probably realizes that. Afterall he/she loved this person and knows they aren’t all bad, bad, bad and is trying to figure out why they would betray them in this way.
5. “I knew that guy was shady from the start.” OK, so he wasn’t totally transparent all of the time and his mystery got the best of you, but no one really needs this rubbed in their face when you had the same gut instinct all along. You’re basically telling them that they are a moron for having chose someone who was obviously of low character and everybody but them knew it.
6. “They should have just left you first.” That’s easy for you to say. The person being cheated on didn’t want to be cheated on. What makes you think it’s easier to hear that they should have been dumped instead? How would being broken up with have made their life any better? In fact, they probably don’t want their partner to end their marriage or relationship, so you saying that it would have been better to divorce is going to sound like the ultimate insult. It is incredibly patronizing for a friend or loved one to assume that ending a marriage or committed partnership is better than being cheated on. Yes, being cheated on feels awful, but how is being dumped going to feel any better?
7. “You should really get tested.” This statement, while it’s true, could be compared to pouring salt into an open cheating wound. Now is not the time to say this. Nobody wants to feel like a VD-infected, skank whore while they are writhing in pain from being cheated on.
8. ” You’ll meet someone better.” It’s true. They probably will. Eventually. But don’t try and move your friend onto someone else or something else too soon. They aren’t ready and they don’t want to be. And no, they shouldn’t have a “revenge” affair. Don’t take your friend out to meet someone else. Don’t encourage them to cheat to “get even.” If they do that, then they will just have to get over two affairs: their partner’s and their own.
9. “You need to stop going for the same kind of guy and be more open with your options.” or “You’re too picky.” Questioning their taste in men (or women) isn’t really going to help them. People like what they like. If their tastes change because of time and experience, then it will happen. Telling them that they should pick less fit men if they are attracted to model types isn’t going to resonate. You’re just saying, “you can’t hold the kind of man you want so you need to aim lower and be more realistic.” Does anyone want to hear that?
10. “The best way to get over a guy is the get with another!!!!!” This is also the best way to make yourself feel even worse in the end. Let alone the fact that you’re essentially telling them to have a “revenge affair” (even if the cheater isn’t aware of it and is long gone), and that you’re using another human being to get back at them and make yourself feel better. What kind of person would that make your friend?
11. “Everybody cheats.” This is a generalization and it’s not true, so please stop stating as it’s so. It just sets up a ridiculous expectation and make it impossible for your friend to ever trust a love interest again. One landmark study actually found that in any one year, only 2.4% of people reported cheating on their current partner.
12. “You really had no idea?” Not a good idea to call your friend a clueless twit, in essence.
13. “It has nothing to do with you, it has everything to do with him.” Maybe, maybe not. That’s a cop-out. In reality, the cheating probably did have something to do with him/her and yeah also a commentary on the friend and their relationship. Yes, your cheating partner could be of low character and this is what they do. But more often than not, cheating is a symptom of a larger problem in the relationship. It’s a poor way to deal with it, but statistics bear out one simple fact: Few happy and content people cheat. Don’t rob your friend of the opportunity to look in the mirror and own up to his/her mistakes in the relationship such that it made her partner cast off with someone else. Right now it won’t be possible, but people do learn from infidelity and can become better partners and make better choices. Let them figure that out on their own.
14. “We all knew but no one wanted to be the one to break it to you.” This is never an acceptable thing to say. You should always tell your friend what’s up, even if it might upset her initially – she deserves to know the deal. You tell this to your friend, they will never trust you again. Why should they? You held back critical information from them.
15. “I know who he cheated with. She’s hot.” It doesn’t matter if she was hot or not, he still cheated and it still hurts. But saying this will destroy their self-esteem even more. Call them an ugly loser, why don’t ya?
16. “I know who he cheated with and she’s way uglier than you/fat/stupid/old/whatever”. As a corollary, nothing like driving one crazy wondering why your love interest cheated with someone who is believed to be less attractive than you. Here’s a way to drive someone batshit and drive their self-esteem even lower. In reality, maybe the affair partner is less attractive than your friend (or you are saying this to make your friend feel better), but affairs are rarely about trading up in looks. They are about one person finding someone who is giving them something they critically need and are not getting – whether it be attention, understanding, time, sex, whatever.
17. “I wish I could help you, but I’ve never been cheated on, so I don’t really know what to say.” This is just a jerk thing to say; if you haven’t been cheated on, just lend an ear so your friend can vent.
18. “Men are such pig/ Women are such sluts.” Sexist generalizations are stupid. It’s not helpful to classify someone’s most important partner as just one of a whole group of unwholesome and awful people. Inferring that one’s partner has no integrity, cannot be trusted and, in fact, is a lowly, awful person with no redeeming qualities may feel good in the moment, but if your friend ends up staying with that person, they will never want to look you in the eye again and you may end up not only losing your friend, but creating an enemy. Besides, see above, the cheating may be a sign more of a relationship that’s poor than some-gender based prattle about how your gender is so superior to your partners’ gender. It may make you feel good, but it’s wrong. And it allows the person betrayed to not examine themselves and their decisions and actions in the relationship.
Not a lot. Let them vent. Let them process what’s happen. Realize that logic for them is a bit elusive right now and all your good advice probably isn’t really being heard. Do yourself and them a favor: Be supportive by listening, being empathetic and validating their feelings. This might sound like, “I am so sorry you are going through this. It must feel awful right now. I understand that you are feeling so sad and angry. It sounds like you are feeling terrible. What can I do right now to help? What do you need from me? ”
Perhaps the most important way to support a friend after infidelity is to simply let them know, “I love you and I am here for you. (Even if you can’t resist throwing in a one-time “…Whether you stay with that cheating s-o-b or not.”)