A woman looks in horror as a couple in front of her begin to kiss

Should you tell on a cheater?

by Fran Creffield - October 22, 2012

Knowing someone is a cheat is uncomfortable whether you know their partner or not but is it ever your place to expose them?

There are many different scenarios when it comes to the question of cheating but what do you do if you discover that someone you know is conducting an affair when they are already committed to someone else? There are few more difficult moral dilemmas and at the end of the day you will need to do what feels right to you. In order to discover what that is here are some things to bear in mind.

Is the cheater a friend’s partner?

There’s little worse than discovering your friend’s partner is a cheat. It places you in a horrible position where you risk losing your friendship whichever course of action you decide to take. If you say nothing every time you see them together you will probably feel uncomfortable. If they are making plans to get married or have children it can be even worse because your loyalty to your friend will make you want to raise the red flag and stop him or her from making a terrible mistake.

If you expose the cheat and your friend is in love with them you may not be believed and it could be perceived that you are jealous or vindictive and only trying to spoil their relationship.

Cheaters tend to be very good at deception; so good that they even begin to believe their own lies (DENIAL = Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying) but their partners can be suffering from denial too – they know that something is wrong but they don’t want to admit it and may be angry with the person who forces them to see the truth.

How did you discover this person was a cheat? If it is because they made a play for you then your friend is likely to feel jealousy as well as hurt and betrayal. If it is because you have seen them with someone else make sure you have your facts straight before you say anything at all – is there any chance you could be mistaken?

Is the cheater someone you met online?

Unfortunately, some people will try to online date when they are still in a relationship.  Sometimes they are genuinely looking for a new relationship and don’t have the courage to leave the old one until a new one has been formed but there will also be people who lead a double life and enjoy the thrill of dating while still maintaining their other relationship.

In either case they will have started from a place of dishonesty – someone who openly declared they were married would be unlikely to attract many dates – people who want a committed, monogamous relationship will usually steer well clear of anyone who still has emotional ties elsewhere.

If someone is listed as ‘single’ on their eHarmony profile and you discover this is a lie then you may feel compelled to warn other members so that they don’t fall for their deception. The best course of action is to call customer support, who will investigate immediately. It is in the interests of everyone for us to know if someone is deliberately misrepresenting themselves.

Who’s to say?

The majority of people who have discovered their partner was cheating on them say that they wish someone had told them – they often had suspicions but just needed something concrete to support them before they could make the final step and leave. Whenever they confronted the cheater they were met with a wall of denial, excuses and often ended up questioning their own judgement, or even sanity – they were sure something was going on but were constantly told otherwise. Someone exposing the truth could have saved them from years of unhappiness and uncertainty even if it was painful to hear the truth.

People who have never been in this position are more likely to advise you to mind your own business. This is because personal relationships are so fragile and we are socialised to turn the other way when we see emotional pain in others. No-one wants to be the bearer of bad news but holding secrets is no more comfortable for most of us.

Check your motives

At the end of the day you need to decide what course of action feels most comfortable to you. One way of finding out is to ask yourself what your motives are for whatever you decide to do. If it is to protect, honour, show respect or love someone you will probably feel fine about your decision whatever it is. If, however it is to expose, humiliate, retaliate or hurt someone then even if you do the right thing your motives will have been wrong and it will probably backfire on you.