Dear John: The Friend Who Knew Too Much

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


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What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected]


Dear John,
I have a big problem or question that I don’t know what to do with. It started with me doing something very wrong, I know. For about a year, I had an affair with a good friend’s husband. Neither one of us is the cheating type (I’m not married, but I’ve never been involved in anything like this) and I don’t know what we were thinking but after about a year, he realized how much he wanted to stay with his family and I lost a lot of weight and sleep just from the stress and guilt of doing something so hurtful to my friend. So we were grateful it hadn’t blown up, we admitted the whole thing was a mistake, and we broke it off.
But that wasn’t the end of it because I learned a lot about my friend’s husband and his business that she doesn’t know, and I am constantly struggling with whether I should warn her about certain things based on information I have that she doesn’t have. For example, I know she is considering throwing a lavish wedding for their daughter because she has no idea how much her husband’s business is struggling. And this is just one of many examples of things like this. I feel like I owe it to my friend to say something, but how could I possibly explain away knowing what I know? I feel so helpless because I really want to help my friend to make up for what I did. How can I, though, when I have no basis for even knowing these things?
Knows Too Much

Dear Knows Too Much,
I can understand why you might want to make up for your betrayal by helping your friend in any way you can, but there’s really not much you can do. Because while she may have had a lousy friend in you, she has a worse husband. Not only does he cheat on her with her friend, but he keeps her in the dark about their finances and who knows what else. So even if you were able to dissuade her from spending too much money on her daughter’s wedding, you have no way to protect her from all the things you don’t know about – and married to a guy like this, there are probably lots.
You feel guilty, but this is not how to assuage it. If you want to do anything, contact her husband and tell him your concerns. Urge him to be honest with his wife about their financial health and anything else she has a right to know. Then, if you’re still looking for ways to make up for what you did, be there for her when this all comes crashing down, as it sounds like it inevitably will.
Dear John,
I have a brother who is a spanker. We both have kids in the 7-10 range and we disagree on how best to discipline them. The kids love to play together and are always asking us for sleepovers and I think it would be great to do that especially now that summer’s here, but here’s the problem: my brother says I have to accept his approach to discipline and understand that if my son does anything seriously wrong, there is a chance he could get spanked. Likewise, he wants me or my husband to spank his son for a serious rule violation because, according to him, spanking only works when it’s applied consistently. I don’t want to misrepresent my brother here. He is a sweet, gentle guy, not some hothead looking for any excuse to hit a kid. He probably resorts to corporal punishment four times a year or so (according to him). I don’t think he’s overdoing it; I just disagree that it’s EVER appropriate. So how do we balance our disagreement about this with our desire for our kids to have a lot of fun together this summer?
Hands Off

Dear Hands Off,
Your kids can still have a lot of fun together this summer. I just don’t think it can happen without your supervision.
If you don’t believe spanking is ever right, then you simply can’t leave your son in the care of your brother. To his credit, he has been perfectly clear with you where he stands on the spanking question. So you can’t do that. Nor can you spank his son, as is his odd wish. This doesn’t preclude the possibility of the kids spending a lot of time together; it just rules out sleepovers and drop-offs. So get them together as much as you can. Just make sure you’re there, too.
Dear John,
I hope you can get this in before Fourth of July. I planned a big get-together at my house and invited all my relatives who live in the area. Unfortunately, I invited two uncles who, unbeknownst to me, are in the middle of a huge battle over God knows what. I only even found out about it when one of them called me up and yelled that if so and so shows up, his family will leave. I really want this to be a nice party and I certainly don’t want to add any fuel to any fire. Should I uninvite one of them (I’m much closer to one than the other). Assign people to keep them apart? How do you handle a stressful family situation like this?
Don’t Want Any Fireworks

Dear D.W.A.F.,
If either of the warring factions places conditions on their attendance, politely explain to them that, yes, you heard there were issues between them, but those issue are just that…between THEM. You have no problems with either of them, so you’ve invited them both and you’re looking forward to seeing them. If one of them decides he won’t attend because the other one will be there, that’s unfortunate, but it’s his choice, and you sincerely hope to see him at the next family function. If they insist on acting like babies, it’s up to you to act like the adult.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 4, 2012.


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