DEAR CAROLYN: This is a very difficult note to write. For years I have concealed from my best friend that her husband attempts to grope me when she is out of the room. The first time it happened, I was in the guest room, and he entered late at night and tried to kiss me, which I rejected in shock.
My friend adores this man, she praises everything about him, his wit, his wisdom and his appearance, and seems completely happy with him. Her social media feed is full of smiling photos of the two of them sharing adventures.
I don’t see my friend very often, because she lives in a different part of the country. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t told her; stupidly I hoped it would stop happening. I also wondered if somehow I brought this on myself by being open and friendly. (Until this happened, I genuinely liked him.) As well, I was sure the revelation would either destroy her happiness, which I had no desire to do, or would turn her against me. Until this, I had no secrets from my friend.
I go out of my way to avoid him whenever I see my friend, and suggest we do things on our own. Recently my friend told me I had changed, I was no longer the fun, loving person she remembered, and she was questioning our friendship. She asked what had happened to cause me to change. Is it time to tell the truth?
DEAR ANGUISHED: Yes. I’m sorry.
Embracing her while avoiding him was a valid and compassionate choice, but only if you were able to pull it off. You weren’t. Not your fault. Blame your friend’s acuity and the quality of your friendship. And, of course, the groper: They all made it impossible for you to distance yourself from the husband without also distancing yourself from her.
So, Plan B. You tell.
Telling right away the first time would have been a valid and compassionate choice, too, by the way, especially if you had reason to believe it wasn’t a onetime or isolated mistake.
That’s because the validity and compassion lie in your intent. You kept the husband’s secret not out of cruelty or self-preservation, but to stay out of your friend’s marriage. That’s fair.
Now you’d be telling not to punish the husband or protect yourself, but instead to let your friend know her husband’s behavior is costing her in ways she may not realize. That’s also fair.
Which brings us to another truth-telling you’re due for: Neither you nor anyone else invites unwelcome sexual advances — or, if he succeeds in these groping attempts, sexual assaults — by being friendly; you weren’t stupid to hope the husband would stop; you wouldn’t destroy her happiness by telling your friend what happened; you wouldn’t turn her against you.
The husband is responsible for the groping attempts.
The husband is responsible for not taking no for an answer.
The husband is responsible if the truth of his actions destroys his wife’s happiness.
The husband is responsible if he falsely counter-accuses you. A real risk.
The husband is responsible if your friendship ends.
I’m sorry this happened to you. It’s not fair. But it is your responsibility now to fill in the blanks for your friend.