Richmond Proper: To respond or not to respond, to warn or not to warn

This week’s Richmond Proper answers what to do when you catch your friend cheating on their partner, and how do you turn down a request for second date when the first didn’t go so well.

Are tensions running high in the Richmond dating scene? I’ve been getting a lot of questions about relationships lately. It makes sense; nobody wants to be the bad guy in a relationship, especially around the holidays. Read on for your advice fix on both the simple and heavy ends of the spectrum.

An anonymous reader asks,

What do I do if I know my friend’s girlfriend is cheating on him? Do I tell him about it, or just not get involved?

The short answer, as usual, is “it depends.”

It’s almost never a good idea to be the messenger of terrible news. At best, you’re forever associated with tragedy in your friend’s eyes, and at worst, your friend turns on you and begins to identify you as the enemy. The bottom line is that something wicked is going on, and the fallout will not be pretty.

So when you somehow become aware that a friend’s girlfriend is cheating on him, you should first ask yourself how close of a friend he is. Is this just an acquaintance, or someone you’re friendly with but can’t consider a confidant? Then you should leave it alone. You don’t know this guy or his girlfriend well enough to elect yourself as the Scales of Justice in their lives. Perhaps it’s a fleeting dalliance–a momentary blip, and a terrifying mistake that the girlfriend will later thank her lucky stars that she didn’t allow to continue. One can only hope. And if it’s something more, the tempest will probably reveal itself without your help. Don’t worry about the possibility of her “getting away with it.” If not now, at some point in her life she will likely agonize over it and punish herself much better than you ever could.

If this guy is a very close friend, you should consider telling him. I would say to tread softly and examine your motives carefully. Have you always disliked this girl? Are you super eager to tattle on her, just so you can say “Ha! I told you so!” Inappropriate. Go back to square one. You lose at the game of friendship. But just as you have a responsibility to warn your friend before things like drugs, eating disorders, or drunk driving snatch them from you, you’d want to warn them before they waste more weeks, months, or years with someone who treats their love like it’s disposable. If this is your motivation, tell him. Your friend will be grateful to you at some point.

If the girlfriend knows that you know what’s going on, you might want to approach her first. Simply say “I’m going to tell Bob if you don’t confess it to him yourself within a week.” This puts the onus on her, and gives her the grace to tell him in whatever manner she sees fit.

If that’s not possible, then meet up with your friend privately and give him the bad news clearly and calmly. “Hey look, I’m not saying people can’t change, but here are several examples of what’s been going on between your girlfriend and so-and-so. I would hate to see you waste your time on that. I respect whatever you want to do with this information, and I just really wanted you to know what was up.”

What happens next is a whole other story. Maybe I should do a column on how to treat a friend who’s been through a recent catastrophic breakup.

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Our second question comes from Tumblr user katesloan:

If you go on a date with someone, & you don’t have a good time/don’t like them, is it okay to just stop returning their calls/texts, or are they owed a proper explanation?

I’m firmly in the “no” camp for this one.

You don’t get to just slink into the darkness, leaving the other person to wonder about you and to slowly let the wave of rejection wash over them. If you’re old enough to date, you’re old enough to politely decline date #2. It’s time for you to master the art of letting people down easy.

As Judith Martin puts it, “The ability to say no politely is an essential social skill. All that is really needed is the ability to repeat ‘No, thank you,’ interspersed with such small politenesses such as ‘I’m so sorry’ and ‘You’re kind to ask’ and ‘I wish you luck.'”

Never just ignore another human being’s attempts to contact you. It’s common courtesy to respond, whether it’s an invitation to a stay at a Sandals all-inclusive resort or an invitation to jury duty. If you’re not interested, that’s fine! It’s your right. But just say so. Ignoring the other person makes it seem like you’re running away or avoiding rejecting them because you know it’s wrong. If you aren’t into them, you don’t need to hide it. Politely tell them the truth. Thank them for the wonderful meal, coffee, or whatever, and then let them know that you didn’t feel like there was much chemistry between the two of you, or that you don’t seem to have much in common.

Then, if they continue to contact you, block them–there’s no need to respond again. Especially don’t respond to yell “QUIT CALLING ME!” Some people will take this as encouragement.

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Need some advice or want to share your own etiquette-related story? Hit us up at Richmond Proper on Tumblr, by email, or using the form below.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her daughter, Morella.

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