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My Best Friend Is Having An Affair With Her Much Older, Married Coworker — Should I Stop Her?

"Do I just have to let her learn from her mistakes?"

Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed, and sometimes I give our readers advice.

So I've invited you to message me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places) with your biggest problems — and I'm solving 'em right here on BuzzFeed, one DM at a time. Let's get right to it.

Today, we've got this woman, whose best friend is having an affair with an older, married man. Should she try to intervene? Here's what she sent me via Instagram:

Screenshot of an Instagram DM: A woman's BFF is having an affair with an older, married coworker. Should she stop it?

Your best friend is involved in something really screwed up, and she certainly shares some responsibility for the role she's played in this mess. And yet, I can't help but feel sorry for her, because when this affair inevitably blows up, the wife isn't going to be the only one who gets hurt — I think your friend is in for a lot of pain, too.

Let's break down the facts as we know them. This man is much older than her. It certainly sounds like he's got more life experience than her. And then there's the fact that they work together. Does this guy wield power over her in the office? Is he her superior?

Coworkers in an elevator holding pinkies

You also mention that your friend is a virgin. I should note that I think our cultural fixation on "virginity" as some virtuous thing is toxic and harmful, but I take your point that she's possibly inexperienced in the world of adult dating, and I think it's a relevant concern here. Is this her first relationship? Is she not picking up on certain red flags and warning signs as a result?

A woman at work having her shoulder touched by an older man

And your friend, frankly, sounds like she might not be ready for a relationship of any kind right now. You suspect that she's staying in this affair because all of her friends are married, and you worry she might even try to get herself pregnant to keep this guy around. I don't know whether that's sheer immaturity, or a larger mental health issue that needs addressing, but I do know that anyone who would take such drastic and self-destructive measures to stay with someone is probably not ready for an adult relationship.

All of these factors combined — your friend's much younger age, her junior standing in their workplace, her lack of dating experience, and her capacity to self-destruct — paint the picture of someone who is uniquely and distinctly vulnerable. I think your friend was an easy target for a man wanting to cheat without consequences. If he was looking for someone over whom he could exert control, a person who would care about him more than he has to care about them, he certainly found it in your friend.

To be clear, I'm not saying your friend gets a pass here. She's a willing participant in this affair. That is bad, and she needs to take ownership of the harmful choices she's made. But I think you should reserve your harshest judgments for the man cheating on his wife by preying on a much younger, vulnerable coworker.

Which brings us back to your actual question. What the hell can you do about this? Well, the first thing you should do is the thing you've already done: Talk to her about it. Tell her this is wrong, encourage her to end it, and offer your help in doing so. But talking sense into her hasn't worked over the past nine months, so I'm not optimistic it will suddenly work now. Beyond that, I think your only option — as you yourself suggested — is to let her learn from her mistakes.

An anguished woman

And the lessons she's going to learn from this will likely be painful ones. She's clearly attached to this guy, while he still seems pretty invested in his wife: He's living with her, going to counseling with her, taking trips with her. I think your friend is setting herself up for some heartbreak here. And hey, maybe that much is fair enough — there are no prizes to be won when you participate in affairs. On the less fair side, there might also be professional consequences for your friend. Secret affairs don't usually get disclosed to HR, and I wonder what protections she'll have at work, if and when this situation implodes.

An anguished woman at a laptop

Your friend stands to lose a lot here. But one thing I hope she doesn't lose in this mess is, well, you.

A friend comforting another woman

You don't have to condone your friend's actions to recognize that they were not made in a vacuum. And you can hold your friend accountable for the damage she's done, while still giving her love, empathy, and a place to heal.

The fallout from your friend's actions is likely to be severe. Maybe she's setting herself up for that — and maybe you can give her a soft place to land anyway. Good luck.

A friend comforting another woman

That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DMer, share them in the comments! I'll be reading...

Want more advice and updates on previous DMers? Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places). And if you want to submit a question to be featured in the column, DM me — just be sure to read the rules below first.