Is Honesty Really The Best Policy?

Image by Josep Ma. Rosell via Flickr

I had an interesting encounter with a married friend the other night. My husband, our two-year-old son and I went to dinner at “Jack,” “Jill” and “little Johnny’s” house. They’re friends of ours, and we were looking forward to catching up with them after not seeing them for several months.

I should mention now that Jack and Jill have a one-bedroom apartment, so all six of us were essentially in one room the entire night. You’ll soon find out why this is important.

We were having a great time, and the wine was definitely being enjoyed (more so by the men than by the women and kids).

Out of the blue, Jack gave me a look. You know, The Look. I turned around, hoping that Jill was behind me, and The Look was directed at her. She wasn’t, and it was not. When I turned back, Jack was still giving me The Look.

I brushed it off. Really, we’re all married here, right?

Then, he gave me a hug. Or, in the same vein, perhaps I should say, The Hug. Was that his hand sliding down my back and hovering on that no-man’s-land area below the small of my back, just above my butt?

I discreetly moved away, trying to assure myself that I was just imagining things. Perhaps Jack’s hand had slipped. But then, how many times has a guy’s hand “accidentally” slipped when touching a woman? (Don’t answer that, guys.)

I sat on the couch, next to Jill, and started playing with the kids. This had to be a safe zone. But no. Soon, Jack was also on the couch, in between Jill and me. And I found that my feet and legs were ever-so-gently being caressed. My discomfort was now official.

So, what were my husband and Jill were doing during all this? Well, we were cooking, talking, drinking, and following the micro-people around the room. There were always two adults interacting with the kids, so it was actually pretty easy for Jack to be “alone” with me.

At that moment, I couldn’t think of what to do. Finally, I played the baby card. I ratted out my son and announced that he was too tired to continue the night. We had to leave. (I must admit, it’s nice having a kid to blame things on as a way out of sticky situations.)

But what happened really troubled me, and I had to consider my actions. Had I done anything to warrant The Look, The Hug, and The Caress? No.

Still, I was feeling guilty, like I had done something wrong. I have a lot of male friends whom I hug, or put my arms around, or dance with. I’m comfortable with physicality with men who are not my husband. But this was different.

I debated over telling my husband, but I wasn’t sure what that would accomplish. This could be a serious accusation to make against a friend. My honesty could hurt Jill, especially if I was misreading things. And it very well could have just been the wine guiding Jack’s hands. But that didn’t make it okay, either.

If I didn’t tell my husband, I considered how I would handle the situation should it arise again. I’d never had this problem before with Jack (or any other male friend, married or single, for that matter). I thought maybe I could limit my interactions with Jack and make sure I was never alone with him. But then, I remembered that this whole uncomfortable encounter happened with our respective spouses and children in the same room. So that idea went out the window.

I thought of trying to see Jill alone. But on the evening in question, we had talked about the things we were going to do together in the upcoming weeks. Specifically, we had talked about having them over for dinner. In our apartment, our kitchen is in its own separate room, and Jack and I are usually the cooks. Should Jack try something again, I couldn’t very well announce mid-dinner preparation that my husband needed to take over in there.

I mulled about this for a few days, but in the end, I couldn’t shake that guilty, uncomfortable feeling. What helped me make my final decision was the fear of it happening again. I would want my husband to be aware of an existing problem should I find myself in the same situation. And I wouldn’t want to have to explain to him (my husband) that this was not the first time I had had a problem with Jack.

So I told him the truth. I didn’t expect my husband to fly into a rage about Jack’s actions. Nor did he. And after I was honest about my what happened, I felt better. I wasn’t hiding something shameful. But, why should I be ashamed when I tried to remove myself from the situation?  At least now, I feel like my husband and I can stand together as a united front, should we ever need to confront Jack.

But I still wonder. This had never happened before, and there’s a good chance it will never happen again. So, was honesty really the best policy? Have I hurt my husband’s opinion of his friend? Should I even care about that? Will our friendship ever be the same? I now wonder about Jack’s commitment to his marriage, since he seemed to have no problem hitting on me while my husband, his wife and our children were all right there. What does he do when the circumstances are a bit more favorable?

I think I did the right thing, but who knows? What would you have done if you were in my shoes?

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  • I think you did the right thing by at least telling the hubby about the incident.

  • I agree with Dennis- you totally did the right thing. If we can’t tell our spouses about our fears, then who can you tell? Hopefully the next part of this story (for your sake) isn’t that you find out your friends are swingers and interested in something that you are, obviously, not comfortable with. But you have me curious to know where things will go from here! Good luck!

  • Jennifer, I’m going to be pissed off for you! This is actually a pretty common sexual predator move in the sense that here you are the victim of this guy’s advances, and he’s the one who is guilty of putting you in this uncomfortable position, yet you are the one worried about everyone else’s feelings and friendship, because you re such a nice person. Unfortunately, that is exactly what this “friend” is counting on. He purposely would have hit on you in front of everyone in this subtle way, because it prevented you from making a big deal out of it. If he’d done it privately or in a more forward manner, you would have been in a position to reject him. He knew by cornering you in this way you would feel trapped. I think you were very right to tell your husband and I think you need to tell his wife that you feel uncomfortable around her husband, ecause he doesn’t seem to respect your personal boundaries. If this couple’s friendship is worth preserving, they will apologize for making you feel uncomfortable…

  • My phone cut off the rest of my response…The truth is your friend will probably deny the situation and think that you’re reading too much into things. However, if and likely when her husband cheats on her she will wish that someone had pointed out, as Dennis calls it, the booger in her nose. When Tiger Wood’s wife found out about his infidelity, she didn’t just feel betrayed by him, but all the people who had known about it and never said anything. We don’t always like the truth, but we respect the people who tell us the truth. Wouldn’t you want to know if it was your husband making your friend feel uncomfortable? It’s never an easy conversation to have, but it’s important.

  • Also, when you say you did nothing to warrant his attention, you need to understand that the way that sexual predators work is that they consider you not saying anything mutual consent. By not reacting outstandingly negatively, he may have read that as you liking it. Which is not your fault of course, but a man who is hitting on another man’s wife in front of that man and his wife clearly does not think in a conventional way.

  • I know some people reading my comments will think that I am being dramatic calling him a sexual predator, but I guess I can’t find a better word for it. And the truth is testing boundaries to see how much he can get away with is how it starts, the more he can get away with, the more advantage he’ll take. So I suggest not letting him get away with anything.

  • Jennifer: Telling the hubby is the right way to go. Now he can be on the lookout for signs as well.
    Meg: Yes, I think you’re being dramatic for calling him a sexual predator. That term should be saved for those that take advantage of helpless victims. Using it in this context, I think, takes some of the sting away from it when its used for rapists and child molestors. Those people are sexual predators. This guy is “just” hitting on a hot friend. Its not appropriate, its not ok, it should be shamed and rejected, but it doesn’t rise to the level of “sexual predator.” Lets save the extreme language for extreme situations.

  • I don’t know why, but I was definitely expecting this story to end with Jack and Jill asking for a little group action with you and your husband.

    I don’t see anything wrong with telling your husband, and I know I would have done the same if I were in your position (and if I had a husband). I think I’d also wonder if I was going crazy, and if I had just misinterpreted the events during the night or if maybe he was just crazy and didn’t think anything of it. Now that your husband knows, he can be more perceptive too. He can see if he notices anything weird, and he can also help to get you out of an uncomfortable situation should it happen again.

    • I kinda thought that maybe they were swingers too! Especially since he was so bold in coming on to her in such a close space. I don’t know any swingers so I’m not educated in swinger protocol while soliciting swinger action.

  • Meg, what you’re advocating is the moral equivalent of sending a dude to jail for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread (that’s a Les Mis reference for you there, Jenn).

    Do I condone what this guy did? Absolutely not. Did he behave inappropriately? Absolutely.

    At the same time, take a look at how many ridiculous assumptions and accusations you levy. “When the husband cheats”? “Sexual predator”?

    You’ve gotta be kidding me, Meg.

    Just because someone is standing at the top of a steep hill doesn’t give you permission to roll out the 200-foot slip-and-slide and heave him over the edge, then go WHEEEEEEEEE as he tumbles all the way to the bottom.

    He may have behaved inappropriately, but by no means is he guilty of all that you accuse him of. Not even close.

    So… what Andy said. Yeah, you’re being way overdramatic here.

    • I don’t think he’s a predator because he wants to cheat on his wife but he was pushing himself on her. That attitude is consistent with sexual predators (the date rape type of guys). What he did (unwanted advances) would land him in trouble as a sexual harasser if they were in the workplace. He was basically sexually harassing her.

    • Thanks, Traci. Those are much better semantics. Harasser and predator are very different things.

  • I think you totally did the right thing. You weren’t the one who did anything wrong so you have nothing to hide. I love what you wrote. “At least now, I feel like my husband and I can stand together as a united front, should we ever need to confront Jack.” That’s the way marriage should be a united front against anything. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Jack and Jill have that united front. Time will tell. :-/

  • It’s always easier when you tell the hubby. Because then you get a second set of eyes, ears, and fists if need be.

    I know that whenever I tell my hubby some skeevie guy has been putting the subtle moves on, he doesn’t blame me, he blames skeevie dude. Though, he has said I should sometimes play the “I’m married” card sooner (though, I think some of these dudes need to open their friggin eyes and look at my wedding ring).

  • Christina Hennigan

    Wow, Jen! Glad you are OK. I don’t know if the men in Italy are more forward or your charms are becoming more irresistible (maybe a combo of both). 🙂 First the barber, now a friend… I think the only safe move is to come back to San Diego. 🙂 Hope you are doing well. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

  • You definitely did the right thing. It always comes as a shock to me when men we know think they can take advantage of us and we will be quiet about it (and we are quiet about it most of the times). I am sure next time your husband will be more aware of what is going on and try to be around.

  • I think you did the right thing. I’ve actually been in this situation a few times, and in the past I haven’t told my significant other. And then when it gets worse, I feel stupid about not telling him and then I have to explain for myself why I didn’t. I ended up feeling guilty for my inaction.

  • The wine definitely got the better of his inhibitions, a good thing to remember about “Jack”. Your instincts were right, though. You want a teammate on your side when the other side isn’t playing fair.

    What is your obligation to Jill?

  • I think predator fits. Keep in mind that just because there are grizzly bears out there doesn’t mean that housecats aren’t predators too. Jack’s behavior might be more on the puking-up-a-cricket-on-the-rug end of the scale than mauling campers, but it’s still predatory behavior.

    Now, as for what to do about it, I’d have gone in a different direction. The author talks about either telling her husband or telling Jill, but doesn’t bring up the idea of confronting the one whose behavior was inappropriate in the first place. Were it me, that’s what I’d do.

    My first inclination would be public humiliation. That is, when he began the leg stroking on the couch, I’d have said (in a semi-joking tone), “Hey, your wife’s leg is on the other side, chum.” Do it as if it were a burn, and he’ll get the clue, but don’t make a scene about it. Approach it as if you were making fun of a friend.

    Or I might confront him in private. The kitchen at your place would be a perfect opportunity for that, because it allows you to hold an 8″ Wusthof while sweetly telling him that if he ever pulls something like that again, you’ll neuter him.

  • I think you did the right thing to tell your husband. Personally, I wouldn’t tell your friend, but I would – on the next available situation when you were alone with Jack – simply tell him that he made you uncomfortable before and ask him politely and in an non-accusing manner (because you want to remain friends with the family) ask him to treat you more formally.

    I was really interested by the “sexual predator” discussion because what he did was certainly predatory and sexual, but the word “sexual predator” does carry a lot of very extreme connotations. His actions were truly heinous by cornering you and forcing you into something you didn’t want – simply because one would be disinclined to call him out on it at the time, but, perhaps, it doesn’t quite warrant a condemnation on the equivalent level of a rapist or child molester.

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