Virginia Ironside's dilemmas: A friend of mine made a pass at my husband

"I wouldn’t let her know how angry you are – expressions of emotion give away your vulnerability – be icy cool instead"

 

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Dear Virginia,

My husband told me a few months ago that a friend of mine had made a pass at him at a party. He thought it was funny – he didn’t do anything about it. But I can’t get it out of my mind. I feel like confronting her and telling her husband, but a mutual friend is against the idea. She is rather a pious woman and she tells me I must forgive. How can you forgive someone who’s betrayed you like this? I am so angry that every few days, I have to stop myself going round and throwing a brick through her window – or worse. What should I do?

Yours sincerely, Diana

Virginia says...

You don’t describe exactly what happened. Was it a drunken kiss or did she, entirely sober, go up to your husband and suggest they sneak away to a hotel some afternoon in the future? Each action, I agree, would be a pain, but the first could be understandable if, for instance, she was very drunk indeed. Who knows, perhaps she can’t even remember what happened. And have you seen her since? Isn’t she rather surprised you haven’t been in touch?

I’d be tempted to write her rather a cold letter explaining why you haven’t been in touch. I wouldn’t let her know how angry you are – expressions of emotion give away your vulnerability – but be icy cool instead. You probably shouldn’t send it. But if you did, you may find she grovels, in which case I hope your brick-throwing tendencies will die down.

Because brick-throwing is never good. It shows that you mind – terribly. It shows you as hysterical, insecure, crazed and out of control. In reality, too, the brick might land on her husband, an innocent friend, a charming little dog or, worse, one of her children, possibly permanently brain damaged by your thoughtless action. You could end up in prison, with your friend playing the role of injured party.

As for forgiveness – it’s a weird one, this. I feel that forgiving someone is sometimes a way of preventing being consumed by the anger and upset you feel about what has occurred. It sidesteps the issue, negating the original injury. There’s a chemistry about forgiveness: hurt = anger and pain. Anger and pain + forgiveness = tranquillity. Forgiveness is the flour in life’s oil and water mixture. After forgiving someone in this way, everything turns into a bland white sauce.

But to forgive someone when you’ve fully acknowledged the pain and fury – as you have – is, often, a brilliant act of aggression in itself. Because what you’re really saying is: “You poor little worm. You are so desperate and tragic you can’t help being horrid and treacherous to other people. I understand. You’re not in control of yourself. You’re to be pitied. I forgive you.” You’re actually saying that now you’re beyond being hurt. They are poor, sad little urchins, throwing pebbles at you. But you yourself are too big, mature and generous even to be touched.

When Jesus on the cross told his followers, who were enraged at the jeering mob: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”, he was saying, in effect, that they were just sad little uneducated idiots. Granting forgiveness just seems a more noble and admirable way of saying it.

So forgive your friend by all means. But remember that behind this act of forgiveness lie not only admirably compassionate feelings but also, in the end, ones of huge arrogance.

Your husband thought it was funny. It didn’t even occur to him to take advantage of her offer. Come on, Diana, aren’t you too big to care?

Readers say...

Tread carefully

This is one of those situations in which the way that it should happen in an ideal world and the way that it will actually happen in practice are very different.

People who feel shamed, and under threat of having their reputations ruined (you have not said if she has any children and if you have a common social network) can fight very dirty. 

Given that its a “he said, she said” situation, it is quite likely that she will go on the offensive with a vicious counter accusation if you confront her. The practical thing to do would be to cut off contact and, if asked why, then maybe mention it privately, so that she is less likely to react like a cornered animal.

Hugh, by email

You should be glad

She hasn’t betrayed you; she has just done what plenty of people consider to be normal, ie looked for an opportunity of getting together with someone for company, love, sex etc. The fact that some of those people are already attached does not stop them from doing this. It’s everyday behaviour, and you should not get over-stressed about it.

Instead, you should feel pleased, for two very good reasons: firstly, your husband is attractive enough to become the subject of someone’s attentions, and secondly, because he is completely faithful and transparent enough to share the experience with you. Would you prefer that he was unattractive, or afraid to tell you when such things happen for fear of your overreaction, or that he had flings behind your back?

Paul Wilson, by email

You’re angry with the wrong person

Did your husband also find it funny to see your pain and confusion at this betrayal by your so-called friend? Was he massaging his own ego in telling you? I would save the brick reserved for her window and aim it at his head!

Ruth, by email 

Next week's dilemma

My friend of 50 years was jailed for two years for child abuse. I was so shocked. We both belonged to a large friendship group, with dinner parties at our friend’s home. Since then, contact between us all has stopped. No Christmas cards, emails, visits, nothing. It’s as if a pall of embarrassment has fallen on us all. My friend didn’t answer the message I sent him on Facebook saying I’d always consider him a friend. He’s a pensioner and I’ve always thought him a nice guy, educated, generous and well liked. He was full of remorse, but two of the girls are, according to reports, still traumatised. What should I do? 

Yours sincerely,

Greville

What would you advise Greville to do?  Write to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a box of Belgian Chocolates from funkyhampers.com

(twitter.com/funkyhampers)

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