• ProbablyTrue
    188
    I have recently been placed in two situations that have caused me to question to what extent I should feel responsible for information that could or does affect the lives friends, family, and acquaintances.

    To be more specific, I have involuntarily become aware of spouses who have cheated on their partners--both are completely separate cases. I have been wrestling with what to do with this information for a while now. I know in my own case that if I were to be on the sorry end of an unfaithful relationship I would want to know the truth, should a friend or acquaintance find out. On the other hand, lives and relationships are at stake, and informing would likely cause much strife and heartache. I know that I would not be the primary cause of this chain of events, but I would become a necessary link in it.

    While mulling this over, I've wondered what different ethical systems would have to say about this. Clearly there are situations where failing to inform the appropriate parties could be viewed as immoral, such as failing to report a terrorist plot, the hiding place of a murderer, etc. The potential harm of not informing far outweighs the potential harm of informing in situations like those. However, it is not so clear when it comes to lower-stakes situations.

    Have any of you been in similar circumstances? What do different ethical theories say on the matter?
  • Galuchat
    479
    While mulling this over, I've wondered what different ethical systems would have to say about this. Clearly there are situations where failing to inform the appropriate parties could be viewed as immoral, such as failing to report a terrorist plot, the hiding place of a murderer, etc. The potential harm of not informing far outweighs the potential harm of informing in situations like those. However, it is not so clear when it comes to lower-stakes situations. — ProbablyTrue

    So, the question becomes: in what situations is it (im)moral to share or withhold information?

    Given that similarities obtain between the value systems and moral codes of the World's major book religions and systems of moral philosophy, on an inter-personal level:
    1) Sharing information regarding another's marital infidelity would generally be considered meddlesome and/or cruel (immoral).
    2) Withholding information for profit or advantage would generally be considered fraudulent (immoral).

    On an intra-group level:
    1) Withholding information regarding criminal activity would generally be considered illegal and/or collusive (immoral).
    2) Sharing others' personal information without their permission would generally be considered exploitative (immoral).

    On an inter-group level:
    1) Sharing national secrets with another nation would generally be considered treasonous (immoral).
    2) Withholding information in violation of an international regime would generally be considered treacherous (immoral).

    Clearly, whether or not sharing information is moral or immoral depends on the social situation under consideration.
  • Saeed Ahmed
    2
    You say " I have involuntarily become aware of spouses who have cheated on their partners--both are completely separate cases", and you ask a question about duty to inform.
    I agree with Galuchat, but will offer a something different, perhaps more colloquial, argument.

    What I have found so far with schools of moral philosophy so far is that they don't often seem to provide specific guidance for real-world situations such as yours.

    However, perhaps we can take this in steps:

    1. Is there a legal responsibility to inform? [this does exist in some cases where you may inadvertently learn something].
    -In the situations you describe, the answer is 'no' (in most or all jurisdictions)

    2. If you do not inform imminently, is anyone going to die?
    -No
    [you can ask similar questions to this for really bad outcomes other than death, but I think for most of those the answer would still be no]

    3. Is it clear that if you do inform you will create a net good (this is a utilitarian sort point, and can be stated more formally than by using 'net good', but here I am abbreviating a bit)?-
    -I think it's unclear. I don't believe the reason you cite " I would want to know the truth" is by itself sufficient, because your wanting something doesn't give it moral authority. On the other hand, you may be justifying this from a 'do on to others, as you would want done onto you' perspective. Even there, you may want to ask yourself, would you really want to know under all circumstances?

    You may be getting the sense that I am guiding you a certain way; I am not. If your gut (yeah, I said 'gut') tells you to reveal, maybe its the right thing. But as you say, there are likely to be consequences you may not want.
  • gloaming
    85
    Legally, the prisons would be many times in number and in occupation if it were illegal to have affairs. Fortunately, or perhaps only wisely, that is not the case, except in some jurisdictions that are not Judeo-Christian, probably other eastern religions, etc.

    It is self-serving, to be sure, and one could argue that it is a breach of a contract and therefore unethical (think of William Ross' Seven Duties). Or, if you prefer, Onora O'Niell would ask the cheater if he/she thinks his/her spouse would agree in principle, and consent, to his/her acts outside of their marriage. Most of us would see simplicity in the matter with those 'tools'.

    Morality is a sub-set of the greater field of ethics. If it's unethical, it's also immoral.....somewhere. Again, in some circles the denizens would argue that cheating is acceptable with some justification, even with or without the spouse's consent.

    Let's muddy the waters. What if the injured party is your sister? Or, what if the cheater is your very best friend....or brother? Would you let your father know that your mother was cheating on him? Why not?
  • chatterbears
    240
    I think the real question is, what is holding you back from revealing the truth to the people that should know? If someone was getting cheated on, irrespective of who it is (my mom, best friend, co-worker, random stranger), I wouldn't even hesitate to tell them.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    I would imagine, that if you have an obligation to inform the cheated, you have at least the same obligation to inform the cheater of your intentions, and give them a chance to own up on their own part, or else bump you off to keep you quiet, or possibly to let you know that they have that sort of open relationship, but prefer to be discrete with each other about the details, so butt out.
  • ProbablyTrue
    188
    on an inter-personal level:
    1) Sharing information regarding another's marital infidelity would generally be considered meddlesome and/or cruel (immoral).
    Galuchat

    Can you expand on this? Why is it viewed as cruel to bring someone up to speed on the reality of the situation they are in? Should I be more interested in protecting the cheater?

    " I would want to know the truth" is by itself sufficient, because your wanting something doesn't give it moral authority. On the other hand, you may be justifying this from a 'do on to others, as you would want done onto you' perspective. Even there, you may want to ask yourself, would you really want to know under all circumstances?Saeed Ahmed

    No, of course my wanting to be informed doesn't give it universal moral authority, but if I subscribe to a particular ethical system I should attempt to act in a way consistent with it. As for the last part, I'm sure there is some set of circumstances that are so undesirable that knowing would be the worse of the two, but I think in general finding out the truth is best.

    Legally, the prisons would be many times in number and in occupation if it were illegal to have affairs.gloaming
    I'm definitely not suggesting infidelity be criminalized. My questioning isn't borne of a prudish view of sexuality. If people want to have open relationships then more power to them.

    What if the injured party is your sister? Or, what if the cheater is your very best friend....or brother? Would you let your father know that your mother was cheating on him?gloaming
    This is what I was hoping the discussion would lead to. Interestingly, my gut reaction is that the closer in relation or proximity to the offense I am, the greater my responsibility to "meddle".

    I think the real question is, what is holding you back from revealing the truth to the people that should know? If someone was getting cheated on, irrespective of who it is (my mom, best friend, co-worker, random stranger), I wouldn't even hesitate to tell them.chatterbears

    In one case the question is closed to me because I was told in confidence by someone else who also unwittingly found out. The pool of people who know the truth in that instance is so small that even anonymously informing would likely make it back and damage multiple relationships. In the other, I haven't been in contact with the offender for over a decade. I just happened to be acquainted with a coworker of theirs and it was relayed to me as a funny/absurd story because of how egregious their offenses were. Another layer to that cake is that the offender was formerly a pastor.

    I would imagine, that if you have an obligation to inform the cheated, you have at least the same obligation to inform the cheater of your intentions, and give them a chance to own up on their own part, or else bump you off to keep you quiet, or possibly to let you know that they have that sort of open relationship, but prefer to be discrete with each other about the details, so butt out.unenlightened

    You imagine this, why? I have considered informing the cheater as a way of informing the cheated, giving them a time frame to own up to it before their spouse is given an anonymous tip. In both cases, I know with a high degree of certainty that they do not have an open relationship. There has already been fallout due to their infidelity and the lies they have told to cover up their actions indicate that this is not an open secret. Based on the "bump me off" and "butt out" parts of your response, I take it you are strongly in the 'don't inform' camp. Why is that?
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    You imagine this, why?ProbablyTrue

    No, I'm in the inform camp. But I'm only there to the extent that you care about their relationship, and in that case your duty is to both parties, and it is a duty of care rather than a duty to do justice to the wronged party as you see it. You never have a duty to be the moral police of another's relationship.

    It may be that falling out is what is required, or it may be that infidelity is keeping the relationship going. Inform, therefore, but take the responsibility for your virtue, and pay the price for it, which may be high.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    Ya'll are weird. Kicking the hornets nest is its own reward. :naughty:
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    "Cheating" is only your name for a behaviour, and you do not know exactly what the behaviour is, and, not knowing, you are guaranteed to be wrong. So on that account, butt out.

    Let's suppose you think you know exactly what the behaviour is. Be assured that at most you know only a little, and that at best superficially. With respect to what you do not know, and that's the part that matters, you are again guaranteed to be wrong if you act on it.

    The only thing we do know is that you're itching to get involved, and that for your own reasons. Here's what you do: absolutely nothing. You do not know what people are doing or why they're doing it. Be certain of this: you do harm and possibly a lot of it if you speak, and no good if you do.

    Marriage is complicated; you cannot help it but only make whatever it is worse. Leave it completely, abso-effing-lutely alone.

    The exceptions are when crimes are being committed. But your duty to inform under those circumstances fall under a whole other set of rules. You're being told, here; it may make for a fun discussion, but in reality it's not up for debate.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    Jesus bloody Christ what kind of friend lets you be a cuckold out of sympathy for you?
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    revealing the truth to the people that should know?chatterbears
    Please make clear just what "should" means in your post.
  • chatterbears
    240
    'Should' is referring to the people who have been wronged, but are oblivious to it. Rather than be ignorant of this information, OP 'should' tell them so they are enlightened and can make a decision themselves based on this new information. It's also a contribution to dishonesty by the OP.
  • creativesoul
    3.5k
    I would imagine, that if you have an obligation to inform the cheated, you have at least the same obligation to inform the cheater of your intentions, and give them a chance to own up on their own part, or else bump you off to keep you quiet, or possibly to let you know that they have that sort of open relationship, but prefer to be discrete with each other about the details, so butt out.unenlightened

    Yup...

    If you feel obligated to tell one cheated on, I would think you ought tell the cheater that...

    Guaranteed they would want to be the one to let em know, if they did not already know. And your moral obligation is met.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    Let's try again: what do you think "should" means? "...is referring to people" is incoherent as any sort of definition.

    I'll tell you what I think but you need to go first; its your word.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Some jobs (in the US at least) come with mandatory reporting requirements. If you, as a teacher for example, or social worker, or a few dozen other job titles, know or suspect that persons are being harmed or will be harmed, you have a legal obligation to report it. Your situation is NOT a mandatory reporting one, literally or figuratively.

    Leave it completely, abso-effing-lutely alone.tim wood

    I agree.

    You can not predict what the consequences of your tale bearing will be. There is a quite good chance that you will make the situation worse by informing so-and-so that the partner is having an affair.

    You might be assuming that the relationship is perfect, except for the dirty cheating spouse's slimy affair. Maybe the relationship is dead, and the spouse has found companionship, consolation, and pleasure with someone who was livelier. Is tale-bearing going to make the unresponsive partner suddenly lively and fascinating? Probably not.

    You don't know... maybe murder or a serious beating, or two murders will be the result. Who are you to have zero tolerance?

    tumblr_pf16nvljyA1s4quuao1_540.png
  • ProbablyTrue
    188
    No, I'm in the inform camp. But I'm only there to the extent that you care about their relationship, and in that case your duty is to both parties, and it is a duty of care rather than a duty to do justice to the wronged party as you see it. You never have a duty to be the moral police of another's relationship.unenlightened

    But I do not care about their relationship one way or the other. Their relationship being mended or discarded is entirely up to them. I'm only interested in informing the victim of what the facts on the ground are. It is up to them what to do next. Also, in one case I am not allowed to say anything because I said I would not. In the other, I would only ever inform anonymously, otherwise the chain of information would become very clear, and I do not want to damage more relationships than is necessary.

    "Cheating" is only your name for a behaviour, and you do not know exactly what the behaviour is, and, not knowing, you are guaranteed to be wrong. So on that account, butt out.tim wood

    Call it what you like. I do know what happened in both cases. In the first case I am loosely friends with both parties involved. One of the cheaters owned up to it with his wife, but they abruptly cut off contact with the other couple(they were friends). The cheated person in the other relationship lost his friends and doesn't know why.
    In the second, a friend of mine was privy to a state investigation that lead to the resignation of the cheater, who worked for the state. So yes, I do in fact know the details.

    The only thing we do know is that you're itching to get involved, and that for your own reasons. Here's what you do: absolutely nothing. You do not know what people are doing or why they're doing it. Be certain of this: you do harm and possibly a lot of it if you speak, and no good if you do.tim wood

    Ah yes, I'm just trying my hand at home-wrecking. You got me.

    Please make clear just what "should" means in your post.tim wood

    I can't say I speak for Mr Chatterbears, but I believe he means that I ought to inform the wronged. Of course you can't get an ought from an is, but you can get it from a few more is's. I ought to inform the wronged if it is the case that I adhere to a particular moral code and it is the case that this moral code requires I inform the wronged in this situation and that I want to act consistently with that moral code.
    I think you already know that's what he means when he says "should", but I guess we'll have to play these linguistic games first.

    You can not predict what the consequences of your tale bearing will be. There is a quite good chance that you will make the situation worse by informing so-and-so that the partner is having an affair.

    You might be assuming that the relationship is perfect, except for the dirty cheating spouse's slimy affair. Maybe the relationship is dead, and the spouse has found companionship, consolation, and pleasure with someone who was livelier. Is tale-bearing going to make the unresponsive partner suddenly lively and fascinating? Probably not.

    You don't know... maybe murder or a serious beating, or two murders will be the result. Who are you to have zero tolerance?
    Bitter Crank

    You're absolutely right. I cannot predict the consequences which is why I am apprehensive. I know that things would likely get worse, at least in the short term. But in the long term? Opposed to what you posited about my assumptions about their relationship, I think it is very likely that their relationship is troubled already. That's part of the equation for me: the cheated is not living in a fool's paradise. Even if they were living in a beautiful lie, it would be a questionable decision to let them stay. As it is now, the cheated person is more likely to be in an unhappy marriage and the worst of it is just beneath the surface.
    Perhaps you're right about the cheated partner being dull or unresponsive, but this is not a tale of new love. The cheater was picking up prostitutes and playing out rape fantasies. Maybe he's changed his ways since then, but something tells me that isn't the case.


    Let's muddy the waters. What if the injured party is your sister? Or, what if the cheater is your very best friend....or brother? Would you let your father know that your mother was cheating on him? Why not?gloaming

    This is more of the spirit I had hoped this discussion would be in. Where does one draw the line and why? What ethical frameworks could be used to view this in different ways? What does proximity have to do with it?
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    But I do not care about their relationship one way or the other. Their relationship being mended or discarded is entirely up to them. I'm only interested in informing the victim of what the facts on the ground are. It is up to them what to do next.ProbablyTrue

    Truth for truth's sake? But no, because you want to be anonymous, and hide your own part. In my book, I call that hypocrisy.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Have any of you been in similar circumstances? What do different ethical theories say on the matter?ProbablyTrue

    How we might react offers you a healthy dose of reality, but it doesn't provide an ethical solution. If I were in your shoes and the person were my brother (who I have a strong allegiance to) whose wife were cheating, I'd be on the phone immediately to him. If he were the cheater, yeah, well, she'll find out if she finds out. If it were a distant friend, I might butt out. With others, I might call the cheater and offer them a chance to fess up. It really would matter what my relationship was to the respective parties, how significant the loss of the relationship might be to me personally or professionally and such. Of course, all these considerations are political, not ethical. I'd be just trying to sort out how to best deal with a cheater so that I don't end up in the middle of a shit storm.

    And keep in mind that these loyalty issues go beyond just infidelity issues. Do you tell your friend's boss that your friend is stealing from the business bank account? You probably do if the boss is a better friend. Again, not an ethical response, but a realistic thought.

    I'm prepared to offer though a stronger ethical stance, and one that I can't say I'd necessarily adhere to, which is in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, you tell the person. Consequences be damned. You ought to tell the person he/she's being cheated on.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Truth for truth's sake? But no, because you want to be anonymous, and hide your own part. In my book, I call that hypocrisy.unenlightened

    Not truth for truth's sake, but truth for the person being cheated on's sake. Hypocrisy would arise only if the messenger were a cheater himself and yet he felt the need to out all other cheaters. Anonymity permits the person to be informed without causing personal damage to the messenger. Considering the messenger did nothing wrong here, why should he be forced to make his statements publicly and be subject to criticism?

    Generally speaking, I see anonymity as a useful way of expressing candid and unpopular thoughts without the consequence of damage to reputation. It actually increases honest, open discussion. Such is the basis of TPF.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    I do know what happened in both cases.ProbablyTrue
    Really? My distinction was that at best you had only shallow, partial knowledge. But you seem to think you know it all. Do you know it all?

    I can't say I speak for Mr Chatterbears, but I believe he means that I ought to inform the wronged.... I ought to inform the wronged if it is the case that I adhere to a particular moral code and it is the case that this moral code requires I inform the wronged in this situation and that I want to act consistently with that moral code.
    I think you already know that's what he means when he says "should", but I guess we'll have to play these linguistic games first.
    ProbablyTrue
    To the first, all I can say is, grow up! The existence of a personal moral code is not by itself a warrant for anything, much less imposing it anywhere.

    "Should," past of shall, also functions as a kind of imperative or quasi-imperative instruction to act under some obligation. In hypothetical form, "If you want X then you should do Y," it is not objectionable because the underlying reason is clear.

    The problem arises when the underlying reason is not fully laid out or is inaccessible. Should, in that case, becomes a shorthand, a code, that obscures and even hides the reasoning behind the imperative, and thus concealed becomes vicious. So the question is, why, exactly and explicitly, do you think you're obliged to reveal what you think you know. Why even, exactly and explicitly, do you feel a need to go there?

    In day-to-day use, "I should do laundry," or, "I should get a job," the should is reasonably transparent. In your case, it isn't. Before you inflict yourself on others, you need to know exactly why you're doing it. If you're not willing to do that work, and work it is, then you need to keep quiet. In my opinion if you do that exercise you will discover that you have an agenda all your own, and that you should keep it to yourself.

    And because this is TPF, let's visit Kant. He says that the maxim of your action should be such that it could be universal law, that people are to be treated as ends and not used as means, and that we all should act in such a way that our action tends to a creation of a kingdom of ends. In short, by acting you're saying that what you do to others, others can do to you. If then you speak, why do you speak? And for whom do you speak? .
  • chatterbears
    240
    Let's try again: what do you think "should" means? "...is referring to people" is incoherent as any sort of definition.

    I'll tell you what I think but you need to go first; its your word.
    tim wood

    Then clarify what you are asking next time. You can look up the word "should" if you want to, as there are clear dictionary definitions.

    When I say should, and as the dictionary states, he is obligated to share that information. I'll give you two different ways of saying it, since you're confused.

    1. He should tell the people who have been wronged.
    2. He is obligated to tell the people who have been wronged.

    There is a difference between a moral obligation and a moral virtue. In this situation, he has a moral obligation to reveal this information with the people who have been wronged.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    Tend to agree with @unenlightened's common sense approach. What would also guide me would be the fact that all things being equal I would feel guiltier about unforeseen negative consequences arising from not informing than from informing. Or at least from not doing anything as opposed to trying to do something positive. There's a Kantian shade to that too regarding duty etc.
  • gloaming
    85
    Let us suppose the person being cheated on is not related by blood, and that the cheater, your sister, is sleeping with someone you know is carrying serum HIV.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    Not truth for truth's sake, but truth for the person being cheated on's sake.Hanover

    Yes, and that is morally suspect, because it relies on a judgement of the morality of the parties. Who knows, perhaps the cheater is trying to escape an abusive and controlling relationship? One cannot assume the equality of other things.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Yes, and that is morally suspect, because it relies on a judgement of the morality of the parties. Who knows, perhaps the cheater is trying to escape an abusive and controlling relationship? One cannot assume the equality of other things.unenlightened

    I suppose, but that seems a rationalization more than anything else. If I overhear your plot to murder your neighbor, should I keep that tidbit to myself because I don't know if you're trying to free yourself from the abuse he's been exacting on you and your family for decades? Sure, the seemingly immoral act of cheating or murder may be oddly justified in certain situations, but like everything, you've got to make the best decision you can based upon the information that you have. To do otherwise would free yourself from ever having to make a decision, justified on the basis of hyper-prudence.

    The question of whether you've made a correct decision is answered by looking at what information you had before you, not upon what you'd do if omniscient. So, if I should see my brother's wife in a passionate embrace with another in a far away restaurant, I could conceal that information under the make believe notion that I'm protecting her from having to return to the evil hands of my brother, or I could just admit that I'm taking the easy road of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil because life is easier that way.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    I reason, you rationalise, they are very naughty. If you wind back a way, you will see that I advocate action and honesty, on the basis that you actually care. What I'm arguing against is acting with the protection of anonymity and not taking responsibility for the consequences.
  • ProbablyTrue
    188
    Truth for truth's sake? But no, because you want to be anonymous, and hide your own part. In my book, I call that hypocrisy.unenlightened

    My anonymity is not for my sake but for the sake of those in the chain of information that do not want to be involved. It would become clear immediately if I came in my own name. I would have zero problem with

    Really? My distinction was that at best you had only shallow, partial knowledge. But you seem to think you know it all. Do you know it all?tim wood

    How much knowledge is sufficient? How would I know if I had sufficient knowledge? I don't intend on taking a skeptic's stance on the matter. I don't think I need to know the ins and outs of their relationship. I know of a serious event, or series of events, that I think the other party should become aware.

    To the first, all I can say is, grow up! The existence of a personal moral code is not by itself a warrant for anything, much less imposing it anywhere.tim wood

    I might have used the wrong term when I typed 'moral code'. Let me rephrase it by saying if I intend to act ethically, and I am convinced a particular ethical framework is the best way to do so, and this particular ethical framework indicates that I should act in a manner where I inform the cheated, then in this instance I ought to inform the cheated.
    If you think this is somehow childish, I'd like to know how. Part of growing up is learning to navigate complex problems, sometimes ethical problems. We are all walking around with an innate set of ethical views, but sometimes our intuitions about a specific problem will be ambiguous. In these cases It's probably best to see what the different ethical views on the matter are and why. This is not me trying to justify a forgone conclusion, but rather I'm trying to look at the problem from diverse perspectives.

    The problem arises when the underlying reason is not fully laid out or is inaccessible. Should, in that case, becomes a shorthand, a code, that obscures and even hides the reasoning behind the imperative, and thus concealed becomes vicious. So the question is, why, exactly and explicitly, do you think you're obliged to reveal what you think you know. Why even, exactly and explicitly, do you feel a need to go there?tim wood

    The underlying reasons are 1) I feel a fairly strong sense that someone ought to inform the cheated 2) I am somebody 3) I feel strongly that I would like to be told if I were cheated on 4) I think the truth is almost always preferable to a lie, even when in the short term the lie looks more appealing. I suppose a fifth reason could be my feeling of astonishment that nobody else in this chain of information seems to feel this way.

    And because this is TPF, let's visit Kant. He says that the maxim of your action should be such that it could be universal law, that people are to be treated as ends and not used as means, and that we all should act in such a way that our action tends to a creation of a kingdom of ends. In short, by acting you're saying that what you do to others, others can do to you. If then you speak, why do you speak? And for whom do you speak? .tim wood

    I think the categorical imperative lands on the inform side. Would I rather live in a kingdom of truth or lies? Should justice be thwarted or encouraged? I don't subscribe to Deontology, but I think the answer is clear enough. The categorical imperative still relies on someone's intuition about the world they'd like to live in, so it could just be my initial intuition.

    I tend to defer to consequentialism. In this case, it's not perfectly clear which decision would have a better outcome, but once again my intuition makes me think that the harm to their relationship in the short term would be the broken egg that makes a future omelette.

    Even from a strictly utilitarian view I think I should inform. At present, I am suffering with the knowledge, the cheated will not like the knowledge itself but will be happy to know it, and the cheater currently must take great pains to keep the initial lie by fabricating many more.

    Yes, and that is morally suspect, because it relies on a judgement of the morality of the parties. Who knows, perhaps the cheater is trying to escape an abusive and controlling relationship? One cannot assume the equality of other things.unenlightened

    From the outside, they had a good marriage. He was formerly a youth pastor so their relationship was a bit more public than most. She could have turned into a controlling monster in the intervening years, but she was always a soft-spoken and a genuinely nice person. I see your point though. Maybe she too is picking up prostitutes so who am I to out one and not the other? I think most of life entails us making decisions with incomplete information. In this case I have few data points, but one of them looms large.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Even if they were living in a beautiful lie, it would be a questionable decision to let them stay. As it is now, the cheated person is more likely to be in an unhappy marriage and the worst of it is just beneath the surface.ProbablyTrue

    1) "Let them"? Who gives authority over people outside the relationship to "Let" anybody live the way they are living?

    2) "Unhappy marriages"? Many marriages are unhappy. "Marriage" has been defined as an inherently unhappy state. Life involves a lot of unhappy arrangements (like work, for instance) that one just has to put up with. Propagating the species in a reasonably effective manner works better with two people (even if they are unhappy within the normal distribution of unhappiness).

    3) "Beautiful lie"? If it is working, don't take it apart to fix it.

    4) "Cheated"? Well... "Birds do it; bees do it; they say in Boston even beans do it." The institution of marriage still carries with it very outdated (paleolithic) meanings. "Ownership" still lurks in the background scenery. That's why we say "cheat". "You Bitch! You cheated me out of my sole ownership of your vagina!" (Or whatever organ is involved).

    Some people are so possessive they don't want their spouse to have close friends: It transgresses on their painfully narrow definition of relationship -- solely owned proprietorship.

    Look: Some are going to search for people outside of their primary relationship to have affairs with. If the marriage is reasonably happy, what difference does it make? If it is unhappy (without the affair) what difference does it make?

    Suppose that I know that the person having the affair (that you also know, but not very well) is an extremely vindictive person who isn't above having some bones broken if she is crossed. How would you feel about me telling this Mafia daughter that you are planning to tell her husband that she is having an affair? You might have something quite unpleasant done to you. Sure, I would bear some guilt for you her having your thumbs cut off (sans anesthesia), but my guilt would be easier to live with than you having your thumbs sliced off and then living without those ever-so-useful opposable digits.

    Of course... far fetched scenario pulled out of an old movie.

    In reality, people "snitch". ("Snitch" goes along with "cheat".) Marriages blow up periodically whether there is any cheating and snitching or not. People go into marriages (relationships in general) with all sorts of unreasonable expectations of ever-lasting happiness and bliss, and roses, picket fences, great sex, cute accomplished, obedient, respectful children, and so on and so forth. These daydream-marriages generally end up getting run over by the garbage trucks of reality.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    In this situation, he has a moral obligation to reveal this information with the people who have been wronged.chatterbears
    Please make the case. I'd like to see it.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Would I rather live in a kingdom of truth or lies? Should justice be thwarted or encouraged?ProbablyTrue

    Setting aside what kind of world we would like to live in, we do -- in fact -- live in a world where right and wrong are often ambiguous, and the appropriate response from others (like you) is -- in fact -- even more ambiguous.

    All this ambiguity is troubling; I have been hung on the horns of ambiguous moral decisions numerous times. When I was young, black and white were much closer to a checkerboard pattern. As I have aged, the black and white tiles have become fuzzier and fuzzier (especially in interpersonal categories like this). Sometimes I can't even tell whether there is a pattern.
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