I currently live in a house with 3 other people, my girlfriend Julie, and 2 friends Bob and John. Outside of our household, we have a friend named Jane, who is our only friend that is married in our group currently. Bob and Jane are brother/sister respectively.

About a year ago, John and Jane started having an affair. It made everyone a little bit uncomfortable at first, but we sided with Jane because she was having some troubles in her marriage and told us that she plans to break it off. If we fast forward to now, she still hasn't broken off her marriage. Her husband was told a long time ago that Jane cheated on him, by Jane herself - but he does NOT know that it has been ongoing for so long. Her husband has made some mistakes in their relationship, which has hurt them before - but never anything like this. He does not deserve this treatment (As I believe no one does). Jane and her husband are also currently in the process of selling their home to buy their "dream home" for Jane, so she can have horses that she always wanted and lots of land. We are uncomfortable with this because we believe she does not deserve this as she has not been faithful.

Anyways, me, Julie, Bob, and our other mutual friend Sandra are planning on telling Jane's husband about it on Thursday, as we have been very uncomfortable, and we decided we weren't going to sit around and wait for something to happen anymore.

We have already told Jane's husband that we want to have a "Boy's Night out", to try to avoid Jane being there while we talk to him - but as of writing this, Jane messaged Bob, and asked him why we invited her husband out to a "Boy's Night", and it eventually came out the plan to tell him. Jane told him that it isn't our place to tell him and that she will never forgive him (Us when she finds out all of us are involved and decided together) - we are willing to risk that, as all of us refuse to sit back and let this happen anymore. As Jane knows the plan, we assume that John now also knows because we are sure they are talking to each other about it.

One thing that can happen now is Jane telling her husband before we have a chance. I kind of like that this happened actually because it gives her a reason to come clean and tell him herself which I think will end much better than if a group of people that are really just acquaintances tells him about it first.

But if she does not tell him first, we have to deal with John. As I said, John lives with me in my home along with Bob. There is no contract for him living with us, it's just a verbal agreement that he pays a 4th of the rent and utilities/bills. What I'm really worried about is retaliation as me, Bob, and Julie are directly involved and all live with John. Today when I get home I plan on taking pictures of all my expensive things, in case he tries to retaliate, break stuff, and then leave without saying anything. As he does live there full time and does have belongings in the house, I don't think it would be right for me to change the door lock code to prevent him from getting into the house to try to avoid this, so one question I have is how to avoid retaliation that will cost actual money to fix. I understand that there may be retaliation in the form of being ignored, hated, etc., but this does not concern me as I have already accepted it. Another thing is possible retaliation from Jane - if John knows the door code, so will Jane.

Another question that I have is, what is the best way for us to tell Jane's husband? We currently have a time set at 6:00 PM on Thursday to meet him for a "Boy's Night" at a local restaurant - our whole friend group minus Jane will be there to back each other up. This includes me, Julie, Bob, and Sandra.

I forgot to mention, Jane, and her husband also have a daughter who is around 2 years old. This is another reason we believe we have to do something, she is spending all of her time with John, cheating on her husband while her husband takes care of their child, and is about to buy a house (Serious financial debt) for her - we want to do something before he spends that money.

My distinct question is: How can we tell Jane's husband about Jane's affair?

My goals would be to keep everyone calm and peaceful, and avoid any expensive retaliations from negatively affected parties.

Answers that also contain a way to keep everyone on good terms would also be very greatly appreciated, we are all friends after all, but I know this may not be possible and is not a requirement to the situation.

  • 8
    This looks like a rather broad question. There's no guarantee that things will work out well. Can you ask a more specific question?
    – sphennings
    Mar 6, 2018 at 21:03
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    Having multiple sub-questions does not really work for this format. Perhaps having the one question: "How can we tell the husband?" with remaining calm, avoiding expensive retaliations and keeping existing friendships if possible as goals rather than additional questions, could fix the broadness issue here.
    – Jesse
    Mar 7, 2018 at 3:26
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    not a lot of answers address jane's safety is she is outed for cheating with no notice (recall that the original plan was to not inform her AT ALL). We don't know what the "some mistakes in their relationship" are, and the OP mentions the possibility of retaliation from the husband. Cheating is complicated and none of us, including OP, likely fully understand why she's doing it and what dangers she may face if outed without time to prepare / find somewhere safe to go. We may like to believe that this will end in nothing more than a confrontation and breakup but that's not always the case.
    – user371366
    Jun 2, 2018 at 16:30
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    if one wants to intervene so forcefully in someone else's relationship (although that really should be saved for things like abuse), the bare minimum should be to negotiate a very generous deadline on when they will disclose the cheating and work with them to help them prepare for the fallout however they believe necessary.
    – user371366
    Jun 2, 2018 at 16:32
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    @dn3s You make a really good and overlooked point. I am in the camp that the husband should not be told, but Jane should know that remaining friends with someone who would do this is not a right that person is entitled to.
    – kleineg
    Jun 4, 2018 at 16:57

4 Answers 4


There is no good way to tell someone that their spouse has been cheating on them.

I would just say something simple like:

Jane's Husband, I don't want to tell you this but if my wife were cheating on me I would want some one to tell me. Your wife is having an afair with John. I'm so sorry I didn't want to be the one to tell you this horrible news, but I feel that you have a right to know.

  1. be direct.

  2. express sympathy and empathy

  3. be prepared to answer questions.

He may ask detailed questions like how many times a week? or how long has she been sleeping with him? and he may ask why it took you so long to tell him.

He will probably be angry. And since you are present, some or all of that anger may get directed at you. You need to be emotionally prepared for this so that you don't take it personally.

Personally I think it will be very important that you apologize for not telling him sooner. It may mitigate some of his anger. Though he may not be angry at all, he may be in denial instead.

You ask specifically

How can we keep everyone in the situation calm and peaceful?

  1. Don't phrase anything as an accusation.
  2. keep your voice tone low and slow
  3. pause before you speech and a) relax your muscles and b) take a deep breath.

By remaining calm yourself, you keep yourself from contributing to the escalation of emotions. Though you can only control yourself and it is very likely in this situation that Jane's husband, Jane, and John will let their emotions run wild.

Regarding the possibility of revenge, if you are concerned for your stuff move it somewhere else like a storage shed. If you are concerned for yourself, you should move as well. If you are only mildly concerned then just put a new lock on your door and put a camera up in your room. You can get them at BestBuy for a few hundred bucks.

On personal note, I'm sorry that you sided with Jane originally. Betraying her husband shows a severe lack of honesty and trustworthiness on her part. I'm glad that you have decided to look out for her husband now. He deserves to know that his wife is not being faithful. You may want to do some reading on betrayal trauma to help you deal with Jane's husband's reaction when you tell him what is going on. My apologies to you for the short answer, I hope it helps anyways. Good luck.

  • Me moving is not really an option, I just purchased the house we live in about a month or 2 ago, I am the only person actually on the mortgage contract, in other words - it's fully my house that I will be paying for for the next few decades likely. I also can't just pick up all my stuff and move it to storage, and I can't just lock everything in a room - a majority of the house is my stuff. I also can't afford to purchase a camera currently because I've had a lot of expenses for the house. Would it be beneficial at all for me to take pictures of all my things? Mar 6, 2018 at 21:39
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    As for the rest of your answer; thank you for posting it. We sided with Jane at first because we wanted to stay out of it. We didn't think it was our place to get involved, and thought (Incorrectly obviously) that the situation would work itself out. We see now how wrong we were and regret it fully. Again, thank you for your answer. Mar 6, 2018 at 21:40
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    @SomeGuyWithaTomato I'm no lawyer but from my simple understanding of the law, If you want to be able to recuperate your losses from any harm John my cause to your property you will need proof he caused the damage which is why I recommended video surveillance. Though if it is your house he could damage anything any were so surveillance is not practical. The only option I see is to watch him carefully and if you see any behavior that violates the lease to begin the eviction process immediately. Mar 6, 2018 at 21:53
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    Well there is no lease. But as I understand from a little bit of research, I'm basically his landlord and he is a subtenant because all of his rent is paid directly to me. It's not really possible for me to watch him carefully as I work during the day (7AM-4:30PM) and he works during the night (3PM-11PM). (By the way, I unmarked your answer not because I don't think it's a good answer, I just want to give others some time to answer before choosing one. I will mark an answer in the next 24 hours.) Mar 6, 2018 at 21:56
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    @SomeGuyWithaTomato hmm well if you think that he is a legitimate risk you should look into your localities rental laws, and maybe post a question on legal stack exchange. If he posses a real risk of damage the only options I can think of are to watch him or evict him. Mar 6, 2018 at 22:00


If Jane's Husband is just an acquaintance, I would stay out of this as it may not be your direct business.

Jane is your friend, and you should discuss it with her instead, emphasize that you strongly discourage the way she behaves and that she should be honest with her husband.


Talking to her all together, if you, Bob, Julie and Sandra are all there to tell her how wrong she's been acting, might help her think twice about the situation she is in and maybe act on it, and that if she really loves her husband and has plans of future with him, this will eventually come back on the table sooner or later and it should be cleared up ASAP.

Since Jane is your friend, you need to respect what she wants and does, even if it is terribly wrong. Make it sound like the friendship you all share with her is at risk if she continues acting this way since none of you approve of her behavior.

By not telling her husband, and talking directly to Jane about it :

  1. You avoid retaliation from anyone
  2. You remain a good concerned friend by talking it out seriously and putting Jane in a "danger zone" where she risks losing you guys as friends, which may help her decide to tell her husband herself

That said

I definitely side you on the fact that it's hard to just sit three and witness a honest person being cheated on, but if after doing what I suggested you, nothing changes, then I would definitely recommend you telling the husband as you planned, following the aforementioned advices :

  • Being direct, but calm
  • Emphasize on the fact that you are sorry to be the one telling him these things
  • That you put yourself in his shoes and couldn't just remain without doing anything

I hope this helps and good luck with this affair. Also, if you do decide to tell the husband about it, make sure to honestly and calmly tell John of your intentions, which may greatly reduce the risk of retaliation from him.

  • you need to respect what she wants and does, even if it is terribly wrong. By "respect", do you mean "accept"? Because doing willfully something terribly wrong is exactly the right way to lose someone's respect.
    – Beejamin
    Aug 28, 2019 at 10:45

Jane is right in that you are involving yourself in a business that isn't yours, and I suspect a good share of the reason is that you cannot manage your feelings about this affair and you are looking to unburden yourself.

Now you've dug your grave much more deep by deciding on a course of action with incomplete information. You do not seem to know what arrangements the couple has, if your picture of her husband is correct or her story is different. And you have picked a stranger over your friend.

From the perspective of Jane, your friendship is probably finished. While you see her betraying her husband, she sees you betraying the friendship.

Through Jane, you have also put John in a very difficult situation. He cannot possibly be in good relations with all of you after this. He will have to pick sides, but Jane will never be his completely (as it seems), so which side is he going to pick without being the big loser in all of this?

The right thing you should have done is approach Jane and John and talk to them explaining that you are uncomfortable with their affair, it violates your ethical standards and you find it very difficult to stand by and watch it.

Ok, you didn't. When you're on the wrong road with no opportunity to turn around, speed up and enjoy the surprises ahead.

With all the above understood, you should see clearly that you already picked a side - Jane's husband and your own ethical standards. Now stick with your choice.

  1. You need to throw John out of your house. You already take pictures of your valuables - do you really think this will get better after a while? Trust, once smashed, is very, very difficult to rebuild and will usually remain damaged.

  2. Your friendship with Jane is already over. Officially end it.

  3. When you've cleaned up there, only then are you ready to face her husband with the bad news, because until you do 1 and 2, you are still accomplices.

  4. When you talk to the husband, be clear and factual and explain why you are telling him. ("We can't cover this up any longer, we decided we need to tell you something about your wife. No way to put this nicely, so... she's cheating on you. Again.")

This can end in three ways:

  1. "yeah, I know. What else is new?" -- you might be surprised, but it happens.
  2. He can direct his anger towards you, seeing as you've known for a while and covered it up, and blame you for supporting the affair, especially if parts of it happened in your house.
  3. He can turn against Jane and John and try to recruit you as allies. As I said above, IMHO you already picked his side, so go the whole 9 yards.

I don't think there is anything left to fix, or I would recommend an apology to Jane and John and a reversal of plans, but IMHO that ship has sailed.


In this answer I will try to stay out of "you should" (hello IPSBot) territory as it is off-topic on IPS, and in the on-topic "how".

Also I will refer to Jane's husband as JH, as you have not given him a name.

Helpfully, you and your friends have already decided what y'all will do to resolve your problem, and that is "Tell JH all that you know".

Your question though, is not "How to tell JH?", its "How to communicate with all parties involved to minimize retaliation?"

In that aspect, I suggest communicating with the potential retaliators about your concerns. John/Jane will know that all of you have told JH on Thursday, so minimizing retaliation could start by softening that blow.

In their mind "[OP and friends] have broken our trust by revealing our affair to JH" is their potential reaction, and just cause. This can be reframed as, or at least married to your and your comrades viewpoint of "John and Jane burdened [OP and friends] with a terrible secret which we cannot bear any longer and are now trying to resolve that burden".

Directly addressing Jane and John with this viewpoint (before telling JH), may allow them to pause and rationally consider other perspectives before taking retaliatory actions.

Some potential starting points for getting this message across to John/Jane:

[We (OP & friends)] have decided (,as you may already know,) to inform JH of what we know in regards to your (John/Jane's) relationship over the past year. We feel unfairly burdened by this secret, which has been weighing heavily on us. We feel that it is neither ethically nor morally acceptable to not share this information with JH and regret not having resolved this sooner.

Then it might be a good idea to take an even more direct approach and share your concern about retaliation

We are concerned that you [John/Jane] will take retaliatory action against one or more of us, and want to request that everybody involved do their best to act like calm and rational adults.

Provide potential channels for recourse

We understand that neither of you may even forgive us for doing this

And maybe

John, we would understand if you no longer wished to live in our shared house

With this last proposal and anything else I might write, I am straying into "what you should do" off-topic territory.

On that note:

Keep in mind that I cannot predict the actions of others any better than you. You and your friends are not blameless innocents in this situation and while you are doing "the right thing" now, this does not mean you should or will emerge unscathed. Good luck.

  • Thank you for your thoughtful answer. I think it's a very good idea to talk to everyone involved as you said. Mar 6, 2018 at 21:54
  • Thanks :), also I noticed you are new to SO, I advice you hold off on marking an answer as accepted for at least 24 hours (maybe 12 in such a time sensitive issue) to give slow typers such as myself and users who are not online right now time to address your question and give you a wide range of answers Mar 6, 2018 at 21:56
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    I am not new to SO, I've created this account as to hide my identity. I'm actually very active elsewhere on SO! But I agree with you, I will unmark the answer now. Mar 6, 2018 at 21:57
  • Okay, I assumed based on the fast-accept, creating a separated account is pretty common for here (I am one myself). Also, thanks :) Mar 6, 2018 at 21:59

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