Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today, we're hearing from this DM'er, whose friend recently got cheated on by her boyfriend. The friend is now talking about sleeping with someone else to get back at him, and our letter writer wants to know: Should they stop her? Here's what they wrote to me, via Instagram:
Well, I know exactly what I'd say if your friend was the one writing into this column: Don't do it! At the risk of sounding like a kindergarten classroom poster, two wrongs don't make a right. If your friend is genuinely trying to work through this betrayal with her boyfriend, adding more betrayal to the mix is certainly not going to help. What it will do is create a lot more pain and heartbreak — for the boyfriend, sure, but more importantly for her. This boyfriend has to live with the fact that he cheated on someone he loves, with all the rightful guilt, shame, and regret that should bring into his life. Does your friend want those things in her life, too? Personally, I wouldn't.
If the only way a person can fix their relationship is by cheating, then the relationship is simply not worth fixing. I genuinely believe that a couple can move past infidelity, especially if it's a one-time thing that the offender can thoroughly own up to, apologize for, and use as an opportunity to make themselves a better person and partner. But the only path forward involves a whole lot of honesty, humility, communication, and self-reflection — from both parties. You can't go tit-for-tat with this stuff. One partner has to accept that they've done wrong, and find healthy ways to atone for it; the other has to accept that they've been wronged, and find healthy ways to heal from it. If your friend doesn't want to make this relationship work, fair enough. She certainly doesn't have to, and breaking up with him is an option she should consider. No one can deny that he'd deserve it.
But your friend didn't write to me, you did, and the path forward for you is not so clear! On the one hand, you want to stop your friend from doing something bad, something that would likely blow up in her face and cause her further harm down the road. On the other hand, you want to be a safe space for your friend to share her honest, unfiltered thoughts after such a significant heartbreak, without feeling like she's being judged, or lectured, or being read the kindergarten classroom rules. I think there's a solid argument for either path here, depending on how serious she actually is about going forward with her plan. Let's break this down.
First, in defense of stopping her: Your friend is in a dark, vulnerable place right now, and possibly not thinking clearly. It makes sense to try to prevent her from doing something she might regret — especially when that thing is as serious and impactful as cheating on her partner, and not like, getting bangs. If you feel like she's actually close to pulling the trigger on this (if she's downloading dating apps, making plans to meet up with an old flame, etc.), then yes, I think it's worth at least attempting a conversation before she does anything. Needless to say, you can't control who she chooses to sleep with, and this cheating decision is hers and hers alone to make. But you can at least check in with her, make sure she really wants to do this, and understands what the consequences are likely to be.
If you do attempt that conversation, I would keep the focus on her wants and needs, not her boyfriend's. Emphasize that you're not looking to protect the cheating boyfriend from pain here — he deserves plenty of it. You're looking to protect her. Tell her you want to make sure that, if she's actually invested in repairing her relationship, she gives it an honest and real effort. And if she's not invested in the relationship anymore, why waste valuable time and energy staying in it, only to cheat? Encourage her to dump him so she can go have sex with as many people as she wants, guilt-free.
On the flip side, here's a defense of not intervening: I think there's a decent possibility your friend is just blowing off steam right now, with no actual intention to cheat. If that's the case, I think you should let her vent, without pushing back too hard or getting into a whole debate about the actual ethics of revenge-cheating. Let's be honest: Your friend's reaction right now is an understandable, if imperfect, one. She's experiencing this horrible, gut-wrenching, world-bending pain, and it makes sense that she might fantasize about inflicting that pain back onto her boyfriend so he can know just how bad it feels. It might not be the most ideal way to process hurt, but it sure is human.
So, let's say your friend is speaking about this in purely hypothetical terms right now, talking about how she should be allowed to have sex with someone else, imagining what her boyfriend's reaction might be if she did, but not actually taking any concrete steps to make it happen. Does that warrant an intervention on your part? I would say no. Let your friend have messy, problematic feelings in response to a messy, problematic situation. Be a trusted, safe confidante for the thoughts that she might not feel comfortable sharing with anyone else. Hear them with an open mind, and yes, a grain of salt.
Your friend is going through a lot right now. She's lucky to have someone like you by her side — it's clear you have her best interests at heart. If she's really on the verge of cheating, by all means, try to talk her down. Barring that, I think you should just let her feel her feelings, free from judgment. You can support the fantasy without supporting its actual, real-world manifestation. Maybe the fantasy is all she'll need, anyway. Good luck.
Last week, we heard from this woman, whose boyfriend dumped her in a very turbulent moment of her life — she'd just experienced a death in the family, a financial crisis, and a cancer diagnosis all in a row. Now, things in her life are looking up, and a recent reconnection with her ex has her wondering if she should take him back. Here's what she wrote to me via Instagram:
Congratulations on finishing your treatments and becoming a breast cancer survivor. That is really wonderful news. I think you should celebrate by doing something nice for yourself — like not taking back a man who dumped you the moment you got sick.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou: When people show you who they really are, believe them. And this man has shown you exactly who he is. He's someone who will bail on you the minute things get tough, someone who refers to his girlfriend's cancer journey as "too much drama," and someone who will completely ice out a person he's known for 15 years in the darkest moment of their life. This guy has shown you that he's unreliable, unempathetic, selfish, and cruel. The question is, will you believe him? I think you should.
And here's the unfortunate reality of being a living, breathing human on Earth: Even when you're cancer-free, your life will not be problem-free. The years ahead will inevitably bring more difficulties, more losses, more anxieties, more heartbreak, more "drama," as your ex so kindly put it. Hopefully, you'll never again have a year as terrible as the one you've just been through, but you know that some future challenges will be unavoidable. You need a partner whom you can trust to stick around — not just in the good times but in the bad times, too. Someone with the courage, character, and conviction to help you overcome the worst things life may throw at you, as you'll do for them in return.
To be clear, I might feel differently about this situation if you didn't have a 15-year history with this guy before you started dating him. If he were just some random dude you met on Tinder and you'd only been on a few dates, maybe he really wouldn't be the right person to help you navigate such a personal and challenging moment of your life. It's hard to build a brand-new connection with someone amid so much turmoil, and perhaps your ex's suggestion of revisiting the relationship in a few months would have been valid if you were just getting to know each other. In that case, there probably would have been better people for you to lean on anyway. But after 15 years of shared history together, he should have stuck around. He was the person to lean on.
There's also the fact that he promised to remain your friend throughout this process and then completely ghosted you once you started your treatments. He never once checked in on you, asked how you were doing, or offered his help. This man may not have "owed" you a romantic relationship — obviously, if he felt he was dating the wrong person, it was his prerogative to leave, even if most people (myself included) would find his timing abhorrent. But after knowing you for 15 years, he absolutely owed you some respect, compassion, and support as you navigated such a difficult period. Maybe he was avoiding you out of cowardice, or maybe it was straight-up selfishness on his part. Ultimately, it doesn't even matter — either way, his behavior indicates that he is not a person worthy of your time.
You have finally finished your cancer treatments and can call yourself a cancer survivor. That's a hard-fought victory that you should be really proud of. Your own strength and courage — two things your ex clearly lacks — are the reasons you're standing here today. And I think you should view this moment as an opportunity for a fresh start. Do away with anything in your life that no longer serves you. I think this man should be at the top of that list.
Go find a partner who wants to live an actual life with you, with all the ups and downs it will inevitably bring. After all you've been through, you deserve that much and a whole lot more. Congratulations again on your clean bill of health, and good luck. I'm rooting for you.
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