One of my close friends, Sarah, recently told me that her brother-in-law has been massaging her on Facebook. Like lovey-dovey messages, right after his wife, Sarah’s sister moved to another country for work.
“This is so weird. How can he do that? Did you tell your sister about this?” I asked.
“No, I spoke to my husband, and he said not to break my sister’s marriage and just to keep quiet,” Sarah said.
“What? So your sister knows nothing about her husband creeping on you the moment she moved? Wouldn’t you want to know if something like this happened to you?” I can get pretty worked up about things like this.
She was quiet.
I got her message. Loud as the thick silence that was her answer.
Backstory: A decade back, someone from my high school told me that Sarah’s soon-to-be husband had a few female friends with benefits when he was in university a while back. I got to know about this a month before her arranged marriage.
(Arranged marriages still take place in certain South Asian communities, although they are now of an upgraded variety, where the groom and bride spend more time getting to know each other, and the parties have more say in rejecting an inappropriate match.)
If both parties consent, I have no issues with having friends with benefits. But what bothered me was that Sarah had no idea about her fiance’s past, and she had never had friends with benefits. It is commonly hypocritical for men in South Asian countries to look for innocent virgins while they have been around the block.
So, I had told Sarah about what I had heard. Because I thought she had a right to know. She had confronted her fiance, and there was some (temporary) bad blood between us.
She got married on a bright Tuesday morning. And I was still her bridesmaid.
Everything was good until she told me about her brother-in-law.
I thought I was the judge and the jury
What Sarah decided to do about her brother-in-law was very different from what I would have done. I struggled to understand her point of view. Why should her sister live a lie with a creep who clearly had a wandering eye?
But then again, who am I to say what’s wrong or right? Not every woman sees the world as I do. It seems to me now that Sarah would have preferred if I hadn’t told her about her fiance just before her marriage. Perhaps it ruined her good vibes unnecessarily because she is still married to the guy and has three kids anyway.
Would I want to know if my partner had dirt on them?
Yes, I would very much like to know if my partner cheated on me or had done something shady in the past because I want to honor my truth and authenticity. But I have to admit that every time I heard of something shady about a partner from an outsider, it did not end well.
Maybe Sarah thinks that I only told her about her fiance to free my conscience and that I hadn’t thought about the consequences of how she would feel. I can partially agree with that too. Perhaps honesty at all costs is not the best policy for all.
Why do people stay together after infidelity?
There was no infidelity in Sarah’s case. It was just some lame hiding of the past in an arranged marriage, which unlike in love marriage, doesn’t really give you too much time to explore every inch of the last two decades of each other’s lives. But I can’t help but wonder what Sarah would want if I found out that her husband was cheating on her?
I had always found it hard to understand why people stayed with spouses after infidelity. According to experts, “between 60–75% of couples do stay married following an affair being discovered.” This obviously does not agree with the way I look at life, but as I’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve seen that trust and love aren’t the only needs a marriage fulfills. These are not even requirements for some.
I have learned the hard way that a marriage or relationship can mean different things to different people. Based on one’s value system, they may prioritize keeping the peace in a family, not disgracing parents, financial security, and companionship more than love or trust. Or maybe they really love their partner despite being cheated on. Perhaps forgiving is a big part of their upbringing. If remaining with the partner genuinely makes them happy, who are we to claim otherwise?
Anyway, should we hold one’s past against them?
On the other hand, people make mistakes and change all the time. So have I. Age and experience ripen us. We are all works in progress marching towards death at all times. So, is it really fair for us to judge people by their past?
Some people don’t share their past with their spouses because of malicious reasons. But sometimes, they just don’t want to relive painful memories and are ashamed of their past behaviors. Whatever their reasons for withholding critical information, it’s not our job to judge them.
I know what Sarah wants from me in the future. I will honor her worldview and be the friend she wants me to be because her friendship matters the world to me.
So, next time you hear some dirt about a friend’s partner, what should you do?
- First, think about what your friend wants and how she views her world, not what you want and your preferences in a similar situation.
- It’s even better if you explicitly discuss this with close friends before either of you even get into a relationship. This way, you clearly know their preference if this situation ever becomes a reality.
- Then, you can act according to her requirements and not feel guilty about your action or lack thereof.
Friendships are such precious gems. Let’s not let our partners ruin them for us!
Previously Published on medium
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