Every so often, I find myself at the other end of a phone call from a friend who’s caught her partner cheating. I’ve asked myself a million times why my friends and sometimes even old acquaintances seem to crawl out of the woodworks to seek me out for relationship advice. Whatever the reason, I feel like I’ve become a pro at listening to my friends talk about their deepest, darkest relationship issues. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you should know how to talk to a friend who’s been cheated on, because it's certainly a complicated issue.
The first thing to remember is that you can’t fix their situation, but you can offer support for as long as they need it. In an interview with Romper, relationship counselor and psychologist Elisabeth Graham explains that it takes time for someone who has been cheated on to process their emotions, and depending on the person and their relationship, the healing process can vary. She also notes that there is no prescribed way to resolve issues like this, so you won't find a fix-it-all solution to help.
When you love your friends, you will do anything to see them happy, but when it comes to their partner, things can be extra sensitive. Here are some subtle ways to approach the situation.
1. Just Listen
When your friend talks to you about the infidelity, it’s probably because she needs to unload and unburden on someone who will be supportive and listen. So instead of ranting along with her, try to listen and validate her emotions. Play the supportive role and not the central role, noted Psychology Today, and let your friend express her grief and pain in whichever ways she needs.
2. Be Neutral
Sure you hate your friend’s partner for hurting her in this unforgivable way, but as hard as it may be, you should try to stay neutral. Calling him names or telling her to leave him may just add more pressure to her already difficult situation, and it may make her push you away if she reconciles her relationship. The emotional investment in the relationship is entirely your friend’s, mentioned Psychology Today, so it’s better to leave the judgement part to her, too.
3. Ask What You Can Do To Help
The best thing you can do for your friend is ask her what she needs. If she needs to talk, take some time out for her, whether it’s on the phone or going out to eat. If your friend has children, she may need some downtime, so you can offer to babysit every now and then. Every person reacts differently to stressful situations, so asking what you can do to help is the best way to start.
If your friend doesn’t tell you she needs help, try and anticipate her needs, like picking up her dry cleaning or bringing her dinner.
4. Be Present
When a friend is going through a life-altering stressful situation, your friendship may become a little one-sided. She may not return your calls, but make sure to answer hers if she needs to vent. Your friend feels betrayed, so let her know she can trust you by being present and supportive. Licensed clinical psychologist Andrea Bonoir, Ph.D explained in Psychology Today that someone who has been cheated on may need extra logistical support as well, so if your friend is anxious about her living situation, you can offer your couch if she needs it.
5. Let Her Find Her Own Way
Instead of offering your version of what’s best for her, let your friend figure out her path herself. Doctor of psychology, Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D. noted in Psychology Today that when a person is going through a relationship crisis, it’s important to offer support, but not advice about leaving or staying in her relationship.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.