He Was Cheating On Her

He was cheating on her. He showed me his latest phone. This was a few years ago, before every phone was casually surfing the Internet. He said, “check it out, it has a browser”. So I took the phone, and not knowing what I was doing, I hit the button that was for “History”. His entire browsing history was for “Adult Friend Finder”. Checking out profiles, responding to them, checking messages, and so on. The full history.

AdultFriendFinder is the site married people use to cheat on each other. It’s also a site where married men pick up prostitutes who advertise there. His wife was one of my closest friends, as was he. We had all worked together, played together, hung out for many years.

I gave him the phone back. “Nice phone,” I said. “I should get one of those”. He took it and maybe realized what I had just seen as he went in the other room with it while I spoke with his wife, one of my best friends.

I didn’t say anything to her. None of my business. You can say, “well, what if she gets a disease?” My answer: she would’ve already gotten it. There are many things one doesn’t know in a relationship between two people:

A)     What goes on in their bed at night, every night.

B)      The small tensions that add up after ten, twenty years. I’ve never even known anyone for twenty years straight and they had been married for over twenty years.

C)      I had no idea if she was cheating as well. And it was none of my business to try and find out.

D)     They clearly had some issues in their relationship (no judging: I’m not saying they are good or bad issues) but the last thing they needed (my assumption) was me in the middle of those issues, or perhaps even causing issues.

E)      Perhaps he was an addict of sorts and he was working on getting better. Or not. Again, none of my business. I could talk to him separately about it but, the flip side is, if he felt he was having a problem he could also talk to me (or better people) about his problem. There are many outlets for people to talk about their addictions. I’ve dealt with my share of addictions. When I was neck deep in them the only people I would talk to about them were…well, nobody.

F)      The loss of money, the death of a loved one, and betrayal by a loved on are among the hardest feelings I’ve ever had to deal with. Why would I then endeavor to cause one of those feelings by someone I loved.

G)     If I “spread the word” of what was going on I had no idea how it would affect their child, or how it would affect their financial situations. Betrayals are a black hole at the center of a huge galaxy. The galaxy is the children, friends, finances, emotions, careers, loves, that swarm around the black hole but are eventually sucked into it by the enormous gravity emanating from the black hole. Nothing escapes the black hole of betrayal


I don’t know if I did the right thing. Years later she found out anyway. They are still together. Their child is growing up into a healthy young person.  My friend tried to talk to me about it once and I expressed sympathy and was silent while she spoke. I just wanted her to know she had an ear that would listen to her.

Nobody is free from guilt. Nobody can be judged. We each try to make our way through the world. We fall in love for the wrong reasons and only realize too late. Perhaps we are escaping one situation only to jump into another. Perhaps we are addicted to drama and the intrigues around romantic love provide plenty of material for drama after drama. A series that never ends unless we learn to turn off the TV and sit quietly.

I look back at where I have failed, where I have caused too much drama: with money, with relationships, with family, with friendships, with business partners. Each year I think I build a better and better bullshit detector, so I can avoid these situations. But each year I find more ways that my bullshit detector needs to be tweaked. Just last week I got bullshitted again, twice, but I caught both in time before they caused real damage.

I’m never going to get it completely right.  That’s the nature of the beast. Life is a contagious disease that adapts year after year to all of the antibiotics we use to try and kill it. But life continues to spring from our hearts.

The best bullshit detector is silence. It's accepting what you have, what you have chosen to have, this very moment, because you wouldn't be here if you hadn't chosen every step along the way. If you stop responding to the fleeting misery that surrounds us, stop fighting it, debating it, regretting it, analyzing it, arguing with it, and instead listen to the permanent empty spaces that lie in between, you’ll find the real love you were looking for. It’s everything you hoped it would be.


  • jenn cress

    love the last paragraph!

  • Kathleen Dale

    I find that the very best bullshit detector is my lifestyle of radical truth. If I am fully truthful myself, in all situations, I can never be lied to for long. It’s an unexpected side effect of what I thought was an ethical decision, but turned out to be the most practical one I ever made.

    • I am a big believer in honesty. But I think first rule is “do no harm” . I try to make sure my honesty doesn’t harm anyone. They don’t need the grief from me.

  • Hi James, I understand your reasons for acting as you did. I once had a very similar situation, debated for a long time whether to say anything, and finally decided not to. However, I now believe that was the wrong decision.

    I now believe the right thing to do would be to put this back on the person doing the cheating.

  • bthewall

    Another great article.

    However, I think that the past participle of ‘bullshit’ is ‘bullshat’, not ‘bullshitted’. Any grammar teachers out there reading this?

    • I think “bullshit” is a colloquialism, so its usage is not necessarily grammatical, because the word itself is not grammatical. If you wanted to speak of the feces of an entire male bovine in a grammatically correct way, you would say something like “bull excrement.” If you say to your friend, “I think you bullshitted me about that” – your friend would realize he hadn’t been able to fool you as he had hoped. If you said, “I think you bullshat me about that,” your friend might likely think what a hopeless weinie you really are.

      • Dr jb

        Where’s the punch line ?

  • http://talll.com

    If you stop responding to the fleeting misery that surrounds us, stop fighting it, debating it, regretting it, analyzing it, arguing with it, and instead listen to the permanent empty spaces that lie in between, you’ll find the real love you were looking for.”

    doesnt that translate to being dead, more or less? how can you stop fighting misery?

    • Well, most people fight it by dwelling on it, wondering “what if” or “how could I avoid…” or “what should I now…” when often the best thing is to do nothing.

  • anon

    why did u post this again?

    • It was in my newsletter before. About 1 out of 4 of my newsletter posts I post here.

      • Dr jb

        How do we get your newsletter?

  • Joseph Andelin

    James, we judge every day. Yes, you should judge, but not pronounce a final judgment.

    • I agree. Sometimes we are afraid of “judging” because we are not supposed to be that way to others, but its really the only way you make it through life.
      And I think you can judge, and be understanding, and have empathy, and be forgiving and be helpful, all at the same time.

  • kamalravikant

    I love the way you show that you can make yourself better, then show that beyond that, the next step, real freedom is just acceptance of this delicious moment. And this, oh, beautiful, “If you stop responding to the fleeting misery that surrounds us, stop fighting it, debating it, regretting it, analyzing it, arguing with it, and instead listen to the permanent empty spaces that lie in between, you’ll find the real love you were looking for. It’s everything you hoped it would be.”

    Beautiful ending. Nicely done, James.

  • Pat

    I think you leave them alone until they deal with it. I think it was not an accident that your friend let you see his phone history. And that is why he eventually told you. Also, I believe that the she had to know as well. It’s almost impossible to live with someone and not know how they really feel about you. If you live with someone and all they want to do is have sex with other people, it is obvious. People can pretend on the surface that they dont’ know what is going on for a long time before they admit it out loud.

    I was in nearly the same situation before and I just avoided them. How can you be friends with someone who is living a lie? Leave them to themselves and eventually they will have to be honest with each other.

    It sounds like you did not avoid them, instead you played along with their lie. And so it became your lie as well, and that is why you still feel guilt.

  • mgmarino

    james – your ideas on alternative college attendance are gaining popularity …….


  • People are going to do what people do. The wife likely knew the husband was fooling around – maybe she wasn’t ready to deal with that. I think you have to very careful about putting yourself in the middle of others’ intimate relationships.

  • cindy

    As always….excellent blog.
    I thought I might share a moment from my weekend…..
    I saw my dad this weekend for the first time in 6 months yesterday. As the evening of visiting wore on we got involved in a discussion about how college is needless for many people. Our discussion went on for about an hour and also got into the topics of the president and buying into what the media is trying to sell. I am 38, my father is 76 and a retired journalist. After about an hour I realized that much of discussion sounded awfully familiar…I asked himif he had read any James Altucher lately???
    He smiled and said “I just finished I Was Blind But Now I See”..he had downloaded onto his Kindle months ago and just read it a week ago. We then spent the next couple of hours discussing the book.
    It was a great moment with my dad. Even more so because we both found our way to your writings on our own.
    I guess I am more like my dad than thought……I’m Lucky.
    Thank you again….for like the thousandth time;)

  • You said it all James …

    Life is a contagious disease that adapts year after year to all of the
    antibiotics we use to try and kill it. But life continues to spring from
    our hearts.

  • Ethical_AFF_User

    Pedantic maybe, but AFF isn’t really for cheaters (although sites like that do exist). AFF is mostly for swingers, who are all consenting, not cheating.

  • D. Himel

    seems very unmindful to me…responsibility to the other, perhaps giving good council is the best approach. Friends owe each other guidance…sometimes even when they don’t want it. Sometimes (perhaps in this case) he just wanted someone to speak with about his shit…to leave people alone in their own troubles is narcissistic, and somewhat selfish and typical of the North American attitude of self interest. This doesn’t require judgement, only listening, discussion and compassion…on occasion people are actually participating in destructive behavior, and the role of friends is to provide context, support and open hardheartedness…this rampant individualism so prevalent in American culture that says hey man dont get involved is disturbing…the whole point of mindfulness is to see things as they are and develop non judgmental compassion, not indifference or emotional bypass so to speak.

    • Funny thing about your comment is that he is not American. It’s always interesting what biases we all bring to the table. It’s hard to avoid.

  • AnotherSimpleMan

    Maybe his wife was using the same site and they had an arrangement.

    Or, maybe after many years of witnessing his wife’s many instances of infidelity, and afraid of losing his house, car, children retirement and savings, he decided to do the same. Maybe she approves, and this works for them.

    One-sided evidence is usually a poor basis for a hypothesis.

  • Kay

    You gave that couple a powerful gift, that of listening without judging. As a woman who divorced her husband for those reasons, I would have appreciated that gift. You find out who your friends are at times like these. People tend to pass judgement, blame, and take sides. You stated that the couple is still together which is admirable but the shadows of all those other women will linger in their bedroom. There are things we tolerate for the sake of our children for me unfaithfulness was not something I could tolerate. Please continue to give the gift of listening without judging.

  • Tracy

    You inspired me. Thank you.