What do you do when you know your friend has cheated on his girlfriend?

The fall semester had just wrapped up and I headed over to my buddy Andrew’s house because I had said we should go for a walk. The high of the day barely nudged above thirty degrees. No snow, but crisp, lip cracking winter weather. I planned to talk to Andrew about his writing and reading, but also tell him I had heard a rumor that he had cheated on his girlfriend by making out at a party, and perhaps having sex, with a woman in our graduate program.

Andrew and I are similar guys: Our folks live back East, we identify as Appalachian and Southern, and our heritage roots in West Virginia. We both have cats. We originally started off as writers of poetry. Both our last jobs were tossing pies at pizzerias. Our girlfriends work for traditional agriculture—for a farm and a nonprofit—championing organics and they are close friends.

As Andrew and I walked on a trail by his house, he pointed out the gnawed stumps of saplings cut down by beavers. In the stream we had just crossed on a bridge, Andrew pointed out the dam the beavers had created. On a larger tree, the bottom bark was gone. Andrew said that the beavers probably used the bark to clog up the spaces between the wood of their dam.

Andrew explained that beavers don’t live in dams like I thought. They create dams to foster fish. Small fish hide around things in the water so big fish can’t easily spot them; but beavers sitting on their dams just snatch any and all fish from above. I admire Andrew for these investigations and insights of the non-human world that he tells me.

As we looped back toward his house, I was thinking about everything I wanted to tell him as I stepped in a squishy mess. I didn’t try to wipe it off or figure out if it was mud or dog crap. I kept walking alongside Andrew.

“I need to talk to you about something as a friend,” I started. “You can stop the conversation whenever. But I need to tell you some things.”

“Okay,” Andrew said. “How about we turn around?”

I figured that he was willing to hear what I had to say. He probably already knew what it was. I told Andrew about the rumors.

“Well,” Andrew said. “First, I’ve figured out I’ve got a bit of a drinking problem. And I can honestly say I’ve got no idea if I did the first thing.”

I was glad to hear that it might not have happened, but I also didn’t believe it was fair to brush off one problem with another. I didn’t say this, though. I just nodded.

“But yes,” Andrew said. “I slept with her.”

“Oh no,” I said, even though I wanted to ask, Why?

Before I could question, Andrew answered, “Again, I was drinking and we were alone and it wasn’t a good situation and … .”

“Damn,” I said.

“That’s the first time I said it out loud,” Andrew said.

“Well, thanks for trusting me to talk to me about it,” I said.

We continued to walk further back. The trail dipped underneath the Union Pacific’s tracks. A train clacked into town.

I had considered hitting Andrew if he told me he had cheated. When he told me, even though he had betrayed our similarity, I didn’t hit him because it wasn’t a pattern. It was once. A mistake.

Still, his girlfriend didn’t know. He wasn’t sure when he would tell her. He said it wasn’t a good time.

I looked at a small steamroller parked on the grass beside a newly poured cement walk that connected the trail to another section by the university. Orange plastic stripes staked around the walkway fluttered with the light breeze picking up. Some sunrays cut through the cloud coverage.

I told Andrew that I thought he should tell his girlfriend. This was something he was covering up and he was building more of his relationship on top of it. I said, when he told her, he’d have to tear everything down on top of this and start over again once it’s unburied.

He said it was going to be hard to tell her over the break, because they’d be traveling and seeing family together.

“You know,” I said. “When you’re back, I’ll ask you if you told her.”

“Yeah,” Andrew said.

We left it at that.

At home, I told my girlfriend Lauren everything. I said that we should probably keep quiet until after the break, unless directly asked by Andrew’s girlfriend. If he didn’t tell her, I said, then I would.

Lauren agreed, and then told me to take my shoes outside. I remembered I had stepped in something on the walk. I was too caught up in our conversation to notice it.

On the back stairs of my place, I scraped off what turned out to be dog crap from the clogged grooves of my soles. I brought out a mixture of water and a splash of bleach in a cup and sat it on the railing. The bleach disinfected and masked the sour smell. I did my best to clean everything, brushed the mess into the yard to disintegrate, and brought my shoes back inside.


Read more on Why Good People Cheat on The Good Life.

Why Do Good People Cheat? is the result of a joint call with elephant journal love and relationships. Begin reading their series with  the hit first piece, How to Be a Cheater.)

Image credit: VanDammeMaarten/Flickr

About Chris Wiewiora

Chris Wiewiora earned his MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. His nonfiction about relationships has also been published on the Billfold, Nerve, the Rumpus, and many other magazines. Read more at


  1. Jezabelle says:

    It’s your friends responsibility to talk to her. Not yours. At no point in time is it your responsibility. It is their relationship, and unless you are a part of it, you have no duty to tell her.

  2. Let’s try again- maybe the paste didn’t work yesterday…

    This is not a tale of; again, A MAN betrays A WOMAN’S trust.

    The turd in the punch bowl, the toad in the trail and the EleF***ingFant in the living room is the drink.
    [As is the case with so many of the articles at GMP]

    This a story about a couple of drunks deciding to get it wet behind the back of the people they regularly see; maybe a sin, maybe simply bad form.
    Andrew admits he has a drinking problem.
    After years of drinking and twice as much time not drinking I will bet my paycheck she was drunk too- sane & sober people rarely get laid impulsively with a drunk while they are sober.

    From my chair, and it is an old and creaky chair, the sub-plots are Chris is a poor excuse for a friend and a rat.
    “If he didn’t tell her, I said, then I would.”
    Why? What good would it do her? Is she your sister? Who are you to decide to change her life?
    “I told my girlfriend…everything”
    From here it seems you dug deep into “your friend’s” vulnerability and turned it into brownie points with the woman you’re seeing. Did you run this by your buddy? To me it seems you were without the balls to threaten Andrew as you bragged to your sweetheart you would do.

    How are men supposed to discuss their foibles and failures when they can expect public humiliation from the person to whom they turned?

    [Let’s get out front on the issue. In this case “balls” is shorthand for character, courage and spine. It is a phrase common to the vernacular of the world in which I live]

  3. And you really, really, really expect him to tell her the truth?
    ‘Babe, remember that night I came home late and you had sat up for hours waiting for me? Well, I was out digging someone else, and that’s why I didn’t even have the energy to make love to you. Oh well, but I’m sorry, let’s pick it up from where we left…..!’
    Not to sound obnoxious or anything, but I really think you and Lauren have an obligation to tell Andrew’s girlfriend. You say you all love and care for each other, well then that means the best for her too. Tell her, whether it’s in the middle of a game or lunch with family or wherever. Just tell her. It’s a good thing that your conscience is eating you about this, and it’s another good thing that you told Lauren. But, even as you wait for the ‘right time’ just know that Lauren is observing you. She may not say it, but somewhere in her heart and mind she knows your similarities with Andrew, and now she is secretly battling a fear that you, like Andrew, already have or soon will cheat on her as well. What you choose to do now is what will save all relationships.
    And just by the way, when I finally discovered my man was cheating on me, and everyone in our circle of friends and relatives knew, I didn’t hold it against those who had hinted or tried to tell me. My deepest hurt is with those who knew, but kept quiet and watched from a distance ‘to protect me and my relationship.’
    It’s your choice.

  4. This is not a tale of, again, A MAN betrays A WOMAN’S trust.

    The turd in the punch bowl, the toad in the trail and the EleF

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