Before my brother married H, her friends arranged a girly spa day before the wedding. She has a really tight circle of girly girlfriends, and I was sitting in the garden at Mangwanani spa with them when the conversation turned to this little conundrum: “If your friend’s husband was having an affair, should you tell her?” To my amazement, the near-consensus was “No”.
All five of them reckoned that the shock of getting that news invariably creates an association between the betrayal and the friend that delivered the news. So the friendship would be irreparably damaged; the messenger was doomed to get shot. So they said no.
The catch, though was: what about if it were you? Your partner is messing around, and you’re the only one who doesn’t know? Would you want that? They were unanimous on this too: firstly, they said, at some level you would know intuitively. And secondly, they added, you still wouldn’t want the news to come from one of your friends. Let it come from someone else.
I don’t know. A friend recently told me: “My mother said that it was worth it as it was more important to be honest than to be liked. I think she is right.” I tend to agree, but I’ve also had to dodge (sometimes unsuccessfully) quite a lot of social bullets in my time. I’ve chosen honesty over being right; honesty over preserving a friendship ; honesty over more comfortable alternatives. You end up with a very small (but very resilient) social circle.
So: honesty or preserving the friendship? Which do you choose?