'I had no idea my partner was a serial cheater. But my friends knew.'

Kara* had been married for around 20 years before she found out about the affair. 

A friend of one of her husband's family members told her. She said she'd been cheated on too and refused to sit back and stay quiet. 

It was the last thing Kara expected. But despite the crushing hurt, with seven children together, Kara forgave him. 

"I think I was numb, then so hurt. It took me about three days before I could look at him. Stupidly, I allowed myself to be convinced that our relationship was worth saving."

Credit: Hulu

But it wasn’t easy, and five months later, Kara’s husband left her for his mistress. 

"The impact it had on me was soul crushing. I had been so manipulated and conditioned, forgiving felt like my only option. Looking back, I should have kicked his ass to the kerb and not looked back."

What Kara didn't know is that this wasn't her husband's first affair. But it wasn't until after he'd left, leaving Kara devastated and broken, that the real truth came out. 

“From what I know now, there was no 'before the affair'. It seems he was a serial cheater for the entire 20 years, with multiple women.”

Had she known, things may have been different for Kara, she may have made different decisions. Turns out though, many people did know. 


"I found out there were several people who knew, because more than one person told me they had seen him 'flaunting' another woman around town," says Kara. 

"I felt so betrayed, not just by him, but by so many others. I won't ever talk to them again, some of them were like family (supposedly), but they still kept his secrets. The lady who had the balls to tell me passed away not long after, but I am grateful to her.”

Kara believes those who knew about the affairs were in some ways, complicit. And I agree. 

It’s an age-old debate — should you tell someone you care about that their partner is having an affair? And if so, how much hard evidence do you need? A sneaky Tinder profile can be screen shot, but spotting the guilty party in a public pash can be more difficult to prove.  

I’ve had this conversation many times myself, and I stand firm in my belief that if you know the partner of a close friend or family member is cheating, you owe it to them to say something. Of course, you also owe them your support, regardless of what they choose to do with that information. Personally, I would struggle to forgive someone who knew about an affair, but didn’t tell me. 

I do understand why people hesitate though. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, as they say, and there is a risk in inserting yourself into other people's private lives. There’s also a risk of losing that friend or family member, if they don’t believe you. 

I feel it’s a risk worth taking for someone you care about. I say that, because that's what I would want. But some people don't want to know, and herein lies the problem — you never really know how someone is going to react, so it all comes down to what you feel is right, and wrong. 


When I was in my twenties, I was on a group work trip and a colleague, who I barely knew, apparently cheated on his wife multiple times with sex workers. His wife and children met him at the airport when we returned, and seeing them greet him made my stomach churn. I’d never met this woman, and I’d only heard about the cheating secondhand, but to this day, there's a part of me that regrets not finding some way of letting her know. 

“I've had clients who realised they were the last one to know, and the humiliation adds to the betrayal,” shares relationship counsellor Susan De Campo. “But upon reflection, they understand why their friends didn't say anything.”

So, if your friend or family member's partner is having an affair that you know about, and you don't say anything, are you complicit? De Camo says it’s complicated. 

“It depends on what you say to yourself about what you know,” she explains. 

“If, for example, you say, ‘this is not my business, nothing to do with me’, then you'll feel ok about not saying anything. But if you say to yourself, ‘as a loyal friend, it is my duty to tell her’, then not doing so would make you complicit.”

I posed the question on a Facebook group, and here’s what other women had to say. 

“If my friends didn’t tell me, they aren’t my friends.” - Vicky

“That’s a complex one. Depending on the situation and my relationship to the cheater, I would encourage the cheater to own up themselves, but this could also result in them setting up a situation to discredit me and then deny it.” - Alicia


“I would be devastated if someone close to me didn’t let me know my partner was cheating. Not only would I never trust that partner again, but I’d never trust the person who knew either.” - AJ

“I told a friend her partner was chatting (with solid evidence, all his friends and lots of their mutuals knew) and she kept him and binned me. They stayed together a long time after that and eventually split after having kids… due to him cheating.” - Vinnie

“I went out with a serial cheater years ago, his whole family knew and many of our friends knew. I had to leave that whole part of my life behind. I don’t think they were complicit (though), more they didn’t know what to do or say.” - Laura.

"If you knew and didn't tell me, yes, I would consider you complicit and would be furious." - June

De Campo says many people choose not to tell for reasons such as 'minding their own business' and 'not really knowing what’s going on behind closed doors'. Some assume that the person already knows. 

“There's no easy or nice way to tell someone their partner is cheating," she says. 

But, just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. 

*Name has been changed.

Feature Image: Getty.

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