my husband’s boss/our friend is sleeping with their married department head

A reader writes:

My husband works for a well-known and well-respected organization. The supervisor of one of his projects, “Jane,” is also a personal friend of ours since before she was promoted. We’re pretty close; we house-sit for each other, etc.

Jane broke up with her long-term boyfriend earlier this year because she fell for her boss, “Bob” (also my husband’s boss on another project, and one of the overall department supervisors) and they’ve been sleeping together in secret for several months. Only I and one of her other friends know. He is married with two kids, and is pretty obviously in it for the thrill with no intention of leaving his family. He comes across aggressively in my opinion, but my friend is in love with him. She is absolutely miserable with herself. She can’t make herself break it off so she’s looking for a new job several cities away. My husband has no idea, and thinks she broke up with her boyfriend due to stress that has been getting worse, and that’s why she must be leaving. He himself is worried now and gets depressed about work, because he feels like his workload will soon be as impossible as hers must be, and her example has been one of self-destructive, workaholic misery.

I don’t want to betray Jane’s trust, and since my husband works for Bob, I don’t want to jeopardize their relationship either by telling him what’s actually happening. But it’s getting hard to keep it a secret, and it almost seems like she isn’t trying. She doesn’t give anyone (of the 6-10 coworkers who know she’s looking) a reason for why she’s taking an offer elsewhere. Not even a fib like “the workload is just too much” or “I want a change of pace.” Most people think it’s because of the break-up. I have a feeling I will need to keep supporting her because her new job is still only an hour away … not that far from this married man.

What do I tell my husband? Is there anything I can do to intervene, when talking to her directly just results in sadness and destructive behavior? Can I reasonably confront the predatory boss (who has always been SO charming and truly loves my husband)? Can I put in an anonymous note to HR without him knowing it’s me? I’m at a loss, sad for her, and feel weird keeping a secret from my partner.

This is tricky because parts of this are affecting your husband; because he doesn’t know what you know, he’s drawing incorrect conclusions about what’s going on with Jane and starting to worry about his own job.

And Jane has put you in a difficult situation by asking you to keep a secret about your husband’s boss that your husband might care about quite a bit if he knew.

But it is absolutely not your place to get involved to the extent of talking to your husband’s boss or sending a note to his HR department. You don’t work there, and both of those would be oversteps. The fact that you’re considering those is, I suspect, a sign that you’ve gotten too close to the situation and aren’t thinking clearly about where your responsibility for fixing this begins and ends. (Can you imagine if a friend of yours who didn’t work for your company contacted people who worked there about your affair? Even if they had your best interests in mind? It would be wildly inappropriate.)

As far as intervening goes, you really only have standing to intervene on the part that’s affecting your husband. But you do very much have standing there.

At a minimum, you could say something to your husband like, “I know you’re concerned that Jane is under so much work stress that it’s driving her to think about leaving, and that that bodes badly for your own workload. Jane talked to me in confidence about what’s going on, and while I can’t share details, I do want you to know that she’s dealing with some personal stresses right now — it’s not about work at all, and it doesn’t sound like you need to worry that it means anything for your own workload.”

You could also talk to Jane about this aspect of it, saying something like, “I can’t tell you how to handle this, but I do want you to know that (husband) has assumed that the reason you broke up with (old boyfriend) and the reason you’re looking for a new job now is because of work stress — and he’s really concerned that his own workload will soon be as impossible as he assumes yours will be. He’s becoming depressed about work because of it. I don’t want to betray your trust and tell him what’s really going on, but you’re putting me in a position where I know information that would make him feel significantly better about his own workload, and preventing me from telling him. That’s not something I want in my marriage, and I’m asking you to find something to communicate with him to fix that.”

If Jane blows that off, it’s reasonable to tell her that you can’t stay silent with your own husband when you know information that would significantly change how he feels about something, and that you’re going to need to let him know what’s going on. It’s not that you can’t know things your husband doesn’t know or that you won’t keep friends’ secrets; it’s that in this particular case, her secret is actually affecting him, and as his spouse you can’t watch that happen, know more than he does, and say nothing. If he finds out at some point that you knew and said nothing, he’d rightly feel betrayed.

Frankly, you might even decide to go straight there rather than start with the “tell him something that will fix this” request of Jane. That’s up to you and your sense of what your intimacy with your husband requires, but you’re allowed to decide that you’re not willing to have this big of a secret from your husband, particularly when it involves his job and his boss.

It also would have been okay to say to Jane at the very start of the affair, “Hey, I can’t have this kind of secret from (husband) when it involves his job and his boss. If you want to talk to me about this, I need you to know that I won’t be comfortable keeping it from (husband).” And it’s not too late to say a version of that now.

But those are really the only pieces of this that are yours to handle: what you discuss with Jane, and how you and she handle it with your husband. The rest of it, as gross and problematic as it is, is not yours to fix.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 349 comments… read them below }

  1. Anthony Lawrene Gordon*

    It should always be assumed spouses share information. It isn’t healthy for a relationship to have these kind of secrets and Jane has no right to ask these secrets be kept from a spouse.

    1. Doug Judy*

      This. I always assume that if I confide in a friend, their spouse will also know. My life is also super boring so I’ve never had a scandalous secret. This secret isn’t just gossip, it is effecting his life and his job. He deserves to know.

      The affair part, meh. For all we know the boss has an open marriage (doesn’t sound like it but you never know), so I would stay the heck out of that with HR and that stuff.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 I ALWAYS assume the spouse (or fiance or boy/girlfriend…) knows whatever I tell the other one.

        The amount of sharing that happens really varies from couple-to-couple, but everyone has their own assumptions of how much they can share with their life-partner without getting permission from the person they’re talking about.

      2. Mary*

        An open marriage doesn’t mean that sleeping with your staff is OK! It’s not the LW’s place to tell HR about this, but any organisation which is relaxed about junior staff leaving because they are in dysfunctional relationships with senior staff is extremely Bad.

        1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

          Yes. Being nonmonogamous does not exempt you from basic ethical and professional considerations related to who you sleep with; quite the contrary.

          1. Not Rebee*

            This is literally the difference between people who are actually poly and those who end up in open relationships because they actually want to sleep around with none of the guilt. The amount of care and effort nonmonogamous people put into their relationships is astounding, and they very much do not work without that level of care. The “open relationship” model is completely lacking that same level of care, effort, and respect and that’s why it’s doomed to fail. Unfortunately, it’s the model that gets all the attention and so people wrongly correlate non-monogamy with “open relationships” (much like people wrongly equate 50 Shades of Gray with actual, proper BDSM). It’s a little bit dangerous for everyone.

            1. bonkerballs*

              This is totally derailing, so I’ll say this and leave it here.

              1) People in open relationships *are* actually poly – poly relationships are not one size fits all and look different depending on the people in them and what the people in them are looking for and while an open relationship may not be something you’d want to engage in, that doesn’t mean it’s doomed to fail for others
              2) People in poly relationships are no less likely to be assholes than those in monogamous relationships – if your relationship is important to you, you will time and effort into it, regardless of whether or not you’re in a monogamous or poly relationship

              Of course, this doesn’t sound like a poly relationship at all, just a married man cheating on his wife with his subordinate, so all this is a moot point.

            2. PsychDoc*

              I’m having a strong reaction to your post. This is not to say you are wrong or anything, just that I feel inclined to share another perspective. My wife and I are in an open relationship. . . So that we can sleep around without any guilt. We are sexually open and romantically monogamous. When I think of poly, I think sexually and romantically open (you and I could just be having a disagreement due to definitions and word choice), and that’s not what our relationship is, so it’s not how I identify. We have been open since we started dating almost 11 years ago. We talked it over, established rules and boundaries (franky, we don’t have very many of either) and continue to check in periodically to see if this is still what we both want. Now, it’s been a least a couple of years since either of us were with other people, and if either of us suddenly wanted monogamy, I don’t envision that being a problem, but I like to continue to say that we’re open because it’s a good chance to educate and be an example of one way non-monogamy can be done.

              We’re also into BDSM, so we’re used to having a *lot* of conversations, hehehe.

              1. JustMyOpinion*

                From the LW it doesn’t sound like the Boss and his wife have the same type of arrangement. Further, whatever the arrangement is between Boss and his wife, it is causing distress to Jane which in turn is causing distress the LW’s husband.

                I don’t judge other people’s lives (in general) unless their conduct affects me. In this case above, LW’s husband is being affected (effected?). So husband needs to be updated on the situation so he important information for his career choices, his friendships choices, and his mental well-being. While your relationship is open, it sounds like that perhaps work because you have an open and honest relationship with your partner. Here, LW needs to be open and honest with hers.

        2. Doug Judy*

          Absolutely not ok, but OP isn’t in a position to do anything about it, so she should stay out of that part of it was more my point.

          And the wrongness of it doesn’t stop it from happening. Just watching the news it seems like it happens pretty much everywhere, all the time. An exaggeration but it’s hardly shocking. I don’t think this is the place to discuss the huge issue of workplace sexual power dynamics because that is not what the OP was really asking about.

        3. Seriously?*

          Exactly. Even if he was single it would be a problem. It isn’t one that the OP can do anything about, but the boss is not behaving ethically.

        4. Les G*

          This. The oh-noes-it’s-infidelity angle here is so very not the main issue at hand, from a workplace ethics standpoint.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            It’s not, but it’s good info to have so those around can be prepared for the eventual big, big blowup.

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        I assume the same thing. If one partner knows, I always assume the other half knows too. That’s why I don’t tell certain friends certain things because I don’t fully trust their spouse. Sucks sometimes but that’s how it goes. I can’t even imagine keeping that kind of secret from my husband. For one thing I’m bad at keeping secrets from those who know me intimately, and for another if it directly affected him (as it does here) I think he’s entitled to know.

    2. Persimmons*

      Yup. Friends know this about me from the start of our relationship. If they want only me to know something, don’t tell me. If you do tell me, assume it’s fair game for my spouse.

      (Of course, that doesn’t mean I immediately run to him to narrate minutiae of other people’s lives. It just means that I will not withhold information in a situation like that of the LW.)

    3. Mike C.*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. If I had this information, the first person I’d speak with is my wife, no question.

        1. KellyAF*

          Right? I was definitely surprised reading through the letter when I realized her husband didn’t know, too.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Weeeeelllll, but it really wasn’t his business until it directly affected him. And yes, we could argue that the boss’ ethics *does* affect him, but it was in a very round-about way up until now. So I can see why LW kept it to herself in the beginning. But if I was LW I would have side-eyed Jane since I would find it selfish to be expected to *keep* the secret from Husband. But that’s also an assumption – perhaps Jane actually thinks Husband already knows?

            Either way, Alison’s advice (“If Jane blows that off, it’s reasonable to tell her that you can’t stay silent with your own husband “) is spot on.

      1. CastIrony*

        I would do this if I were in the OP’s shoes. Then again, I have a twin that I share everything except anything that HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) would bind me under.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, same. If it was just that a friend was sleeping with a boss, I might not immediately tell him (though I still wouldn’t lie or deliberately keep it from him, I just wouldn’t immediately share it), but since this info directly affects husband, I would immediately share it with husband.

        And I’d tell Jane immediately “I’m not keeping this from husband.” She can do what she wants with that info, but our marriage relies on us being open and not keeping secrets from each other. Communication is key to a happy relationship.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      Right? I tend to assume that anything I tell my friend might be shared with a spouse, unless they specify otherwise.

      I think it’s fair for someone to ask a friend to keep a piece of information from their partner, but only if it’s something that doesn’t impact the friend or their spouse – not something like this, where the OP feels the weight of the secret.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Agreed – if a friend confides something to me that they really don’t want *anyone* else knowing at all, and it’s something that has no bearing on my partner’s life, then I’ll keep it confidential from him. I don’t see that as a breach of our “duty of honesty” to each other, so to speak.

        But if it’s something that impacts him, then I’m sorry, I’m going to prioritize honesty in my primary life partnership over keeping a secret for someone else. Especially if it’s something this enormous and damaging.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah. Plus you have to look at the nature of the secret. If Jane is ok banging a married guy, she’s kinda lost the moral high ground when it comes to trust and keeping faith with people, hasn’t she? Don’t put your marital relationship second to a homewrecker.

          If your husband finds out you knew, apart from wondering why you let him be stressed, ignorant and miserable for so long, he’s gonna be seriously wondering just how pro-adultery you are. that’s not a good thing for your spouse to be wondering.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Can we try to not use words like “home wrecker?”

            Aside from the fact that it is gendered in a negative way, it implies that Jane is some evil temptress and the married boss is in no way responsible for cheating on his spouse.

            He made promises to his spouse. Jane did not.

            1. Mad Baggins*

              Yeah but word choice aside, I agree that Jane can’t really ask OP to keep this from her husband, since Jane’s decision to be involved with a married man does make her opinion less trustworthy when it comes to keeping secrets in relationships.

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Assistant Homewrecker? Just because her behavior is slightly less morally lacking than his doesn’t mean she gets a free pass for it.

      2. Ophelia*

        Exactly. I’ve had mutual friends confide things like very early pregnancies, or even frustrations in their own relationships, and since they don’t affect my husband at all, I’ve just kept them to myself. This is not that situation, and I think I would have talked to him about it before now.

      3. Observer*

        I think it’s fair for someone to ask a friend to keep a piece of information from their partner, but only if it’s something that doesn’t impact the friend or their spouse

        Exactly this. I’ve heard things from my friends, and at work, that my husband has no idea about. But it’s really not his business and doesn’t affect him. Stuff that DOES affect him? You don’t have any right to ask that, nor to expect me to honor that request.

    5. Zillah*

      I strongly disagree. Some people do have that kind of relationship, and that’s their prerogative, but it’s not universal and the idea that it’s “unhealthy” to not share things people tell you in confidence with your partner is really problematic.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Anthony Lawrene Gordon said “these kinds of secrets” so I assume they mean something where it’s directly impacting the spouse (as it is here). That could certainly feel like a betrayal if the spouse were to later find out.

        I agree that it’s fine to keep ‘secrets’ from spouses. Certainly I have some sensitive details of my friend’s relationships that I think have no baring on my partner’s life and I keep those to myself.

          1. Anthony Lawrene Gordon*

            I meant you are probably wise to assume whatever you tell someone they will probably share with their spouse. Also Mystery Bookworm was right in that I was saying it is a betrayal to keep a secret from your spouse that directly and importantly impacts them

            1. Zillah*

              Right, and I don’t disagree with you in this particular situation – but your statement was much broader than that, and the broader sentiment is the one I took issue with.

              1. BF50*

                The point is not that everyone *should* share everything with their spouse, but more that if you are telling a secret to someone who is married, you should be cautious because there are couples who *do* share everything and you want to make sure you trust the spouse almost as much as you trust their friend.

                So basically, I think you need to move the emphasis from “should” to “assumed”.

                “It should always be *assumed* spouses share information”

                1. Zillah*

                  “Should” was not the word I took issue with – “always” was. I wasn’t putting any more emphasis on “should” than I was on “assumed.”

                2. JSPA*

                  The difference between “should always be assumed to share” and “should be assumed always to share” (=the split infinitive version, “should be assumed to always share.”)

                  It’s an important difference. If i walk home at 2 a.m. it behooves me to consider every guy who comes up behind me as a potential attacker. Not because every guy has a predilection to attack, but because absent insight into the workings of strangers’ minds, it’s appropriate to keep some space, be aware, and have a friend on the phone who’s briefed on location and situation (or 911 pre-dialed) when someone who could take me down is closing in. Despite knowing that the vast majority of the time, it’s not going to be needed. In the same way, one should always assume that partners may have a “no secrets / no big secrets / no material secrets / no intentional secrets” policy, because it’s not an unusual thing. If you assume the possibility, and the secret would have been kept… no harm. If you assume secrets will be kept, and they’re not, then bad outcomes. At minimum, ask– and disclose in general terms if there’s a risk of “streams colliding” that would make secrecy extra onerous.

      2. Zillah*

        I’m actually really surprised by the chorus of agreement here. Again, it’s people’s prerogative if they want to have that kind of relationship, but I’d never assume that a friend who told me something really sensitive in confidence was automatically okay with my sharing it with my partner.

        1. Katniss*

          Yeah, I always assume it’s not to be shared and if for some reason it’s something I’d LIKE to share with my spouse, I ask the person if that would be okay before they tell me anything.

        2. Phoenix*

          I think the point is more that it’s wise for your *friend* to assume that anything they tell you may also be told to your partner. It’s a really common social norm, so it’s wise to take it into account when dealing with other couples, even if you don’t subscribe to it yourself.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I think the social norm part of this is the key point – not that necessarily everyone actually *will* share things like that, but it’s generally held to be permissible to share things with a spouse that you’d never share with someone else. Communication within a marriage is held to different standards, culturally speaking, and it’s good to be aware of that.

            1. Sarah N*

              Exactly. Not everyone NEEDS to share info with their spouse, and both choices could be perfectly fine within the context of their relationship! But I would never ASK a friend to keep a confidence from their spouse, and I agree it would be better to assume the info will be shared. That’s especially the case in one like this where the spouse is directly impacted.

        3. Short Girl*

          I wouldn’t AUTOMATICALLY share everything with my husband, however, I don’t keep secrets from him. If there is something that affects my family and you don’t want my spouse to know, you shouldn’t tell me. It would be incredibly hurtful if my husband later found that I kept this from him, and since he is the one I’ve chosen to spend my life with, his consideration comes first – full stop. Don’t put me in an awkward situation, because my husband will come first every single time. If that makes me “not a good friend” so be it.

          1. Clever Alias*

            This! It’s affecting him negatively. My allegiance to my family comes first and foremost. Sorry, friend. I’d tell him.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            Yeah. The conversation about the consistency of your friends’ vaginal clots and her terrible poetry that she’s only let you read under the strictest confidence? Private. Shit that affects your spouse? You let him know.

        4. Not a Blossom*

          Completely agreed.

          If that’s the kind of relationship you want, fine, that’s up to you, but you absolutely owe it to your friends to let them know that BEFORE they confide anything in you. Don’t assume people know because it isn’t standard, and plenty of people have things that they would say to a friend but wouldn’t want the friend’s spouse to know.

        5. Red Reader*

          I think the idea isn’t that “if your friend tells you something you should automatically share it with your partner.” It’s more like, “if you tell your friend something, absent specific agreement of secrecy, you should probably work under the assumption that they will share it with their partner,” because a lot of folks don’t hesitate to discuss other people’s business with their own partners.

        6. Rat in the Sugar*

          Yeah, I totally understand that in OP’s situation the secret affects her husband, but in general I’m with you. I expect that normal conversations might get repeated to a spouse, but if I tell someone “Hey, keep this a secret” I expect them to keep it secret from everyone, spouse included.

          1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

            Thing is, though, I can see a lot of situations where you lead with that, tell the secret, and put the person in a position like LW is in, where they have committed to keeping a secret that directly affects their spouse. It’s then on you to pick wisely the people to whom you divulge.

            1. bonkerballs*

              Then you need to make that clear. If a friend comes to you and says “I want to share private information but I need you to keep it to yourself” you need to tell them you can’t do that so they can decide not to share with you.

              I do think this situation is different in that it directly affects OP’s husband, but if he wasn’t involved then there would be no need for OP to divulge her friend’s private information.

          2. Seriously?*

            True, but I think there still has to be an exception if the spouse is directly affected. Otherwise it is an impossible situation to be in.

          3. Humble Schoolmarm*

            It’s completely because I’ve spent too much of my career as a mandated reporter, but if someone starts off with “Hey, keep this secret.” before telling me what the secret is, they will get my automatic “I will keep it a secret if I can, but there are somethings that I have to share by law” and be confused.

        7. EddieSherbert*

          I don’t typically don’t share sensitive details from my friends’ lives with my SO… but in my experience, a lot of people do share everything, so it’s safer to assume.

        8. Thursday Next*

          I assume that if I tell a friend something, she’s going to tell her partner. She may not, but I’m prepared for the possibility when I’m doing the confiding.

          I don’t tell my husband everything that friends tell me; I have on occasion asked if it was something I should keep to myself, and abided by my friend’s wishes. But to expect a friend to keep a confidence that’s directly and negatively impacting her partner is not a reasonable expectation.

        9. Ann O. Nymous*

          But just from a practical, self-preservation standpoint, it’s a good rule of thumb if you confide in someone that has a spouse, and you don’t want their spouse to know, to assume/expect that the person may tell their spouse. You may not agree with it, but if you assume they won’t tell their spouse, you’re likely setting yourself up to be disappointed.

        10. Mike C.*

          This doesn’t feel “really sensitive” to me. A confession about being abused as a child or being assaulted (trying to avoid filters here), but this is just a run of the mill workplace affair that is directly affecting the spouse.

        11. Lollygagger*

          I agree that other people should not assume that anything I tell them is free for sharing with their partner (I think that’s a great default position for you Zillah) but I *do* think it’s a smart policy for me to assume that they share with their partners anything I yell them unless I state otherwise. If I assume they won’t share something sensitive and they do, well, yikes. But if I assume they will share, then I can determine what I want to share and, if necessary, ask them to not share with their spouse before telling, and they can decide whether they’re ever okay with keeping to themselves.

        12. Mary*

          My metric is very much, “I don’t ever need to know whether or not you tell your partner”.

          I assume that *if* they’ll tell their partner, then it’s on them to make sure their partner is discreet enough that I’ll never know. If it’s something where them telling their partner might get back to me, or might have an actual impact on my relationship with their partner, then I probably shouldn’t be telling them.

          1. Elle*

            Also, just don’t involve your friends in drama that affects their spouses or ask them to keep secrets their spouse would care about. If you’re that concerned about the spouse finding out, you probably don’t even need your friend’s advice because obviously whatever you’re doing is a Bad Idea.

          2. blueberrypie*

            yes. on the flip side, I know my partner is discreet enough that if I tell him something that was told to me in confidence, I know it’s not going to escape him at any point in the future that matters. This is even if it’s not relevant to him at all – sometimes friends tell me things so that I can support them, and I need my own support in supporting friends with tough issues.

          3. Lissa*

            Yeah, exactly! The only time this ever backfired is when my friend started dating a very gossipy person. My friend was good at keeping confidences, but did let things slip to her girlfriend, who told everyone! The thing is, my friend wasn’t dating her when I confided in her so it was extra frustrating because it was stuff I’d told her pre-relationship. If I know somebody’s dating an extreme gossip I will be cautious with what I tell them but I had no chance to be!

            Anyway, that’s old drama but yeah, I think most people will at least possibly let something out with a partner.

        13. Bagpuss*

          I don’t think it is appropriate to assume that you can share something a friend told you in confidence with your spouse, and I think that if you have the kind of relationship with your spouse where you would automatically do this, you should let you friend know before they confide in you.

          However, I do think that there are different situations:

          a) Your spouse doesn’t know the people concerned (or knows them only slightly) where you may be able to talk to your spouse and get their input about how to handle things, without them being affected by learning stuff about a mutual friend which the friend would not necessarily chose to share with them. I think in this kind of situation, provided that your spouse knows that the information is confidential, it’s inlijkely to cuase nay issues for anyone.

          b) You and spouse both know / are friendly with people involved. In this situation (which seems to be how the OP’s scenario began) I think that it is appropriate to tell the person upfront that you don’t kep secrets from your spouse so may talk to them.

          c) a situation where you have agreed to keep silent but the situation has changed, so that it now directly impacts on you/your spouse. In that situation which is seems is where OP is now) I think that the way to go is to tell the friend ‘Jane’ that because the situation is directly affecting you/your spouse you can’t stay silent and will be giving your spouse at least some of the information you have. I don’t think I would suggest she talks to him first, as I think this puts you in a position where she may try to make bargains,plus you may then not know whether , or what, she says to him. So I think I would go straight to telling her that I will be speaking to my Spouse, let her know that I will, in the first instance, simply be telling him that there are personal reasons behind her stress and planned move, which are not related to her workload, but that I may have to give him more information if I feel it is necessary for his wellbeing or for my relationship with him.

          I personally would probably let Jane know what I was going to say – for instance, to tell her that I was going to let Spouse know that her situation was not due to her work-load and that she had personal reasons for planning to leave, however, at this point, I would probably also be letting her know that while I would not be going out of my way to tell anyone what was happening, I would not lie about it either.

          I do think that keeping a secret which is harming the relationship is unhealthy. I don’t think it is unhealthy for a couple to have some things they don’t disclose to each other.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Actually, I realise that I had overlooked the fact that Jane is Spouse’s superviser and that Boss is their mutual boss. I think given those added details, I’d probably also tell my husband the fact that the two of them are having an affair, as that directly impacts his situation at work and he will know better than OP can how the organisation is likely to deal with it if/when it comes out, not to mention helping him to avoid putting his foot in it with either of them.

            Whether or not he feels he has to raise it with HR is up to him.

          2. Zillah*

            I do think that keeping a secret which is harming the relationship is unhealthy. I don’t think it is unhealthy for a couple to have some things they don’t disclose to each other.

            Totally agree with this distinction, and I think that that’s an excellent way to put it.

        14. Anna Canuck*

          It’s more about the assumptions you should make when telling someone, than what people should assume when telling you. If you want to have an affair AND you want to tell someone about it, think that sh** through before you blab.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yeah, that’s a lot to drop in someone’s lap and make it their problem just because you have an urge to blab. I’m really not happy with Jane for telling OP.

        15. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Well, US law assumes that spouses tell each other sensitive information (See Spousal Privilege- although like anything there are a lot of nuances). So I don’t think it’s that far out in left field to assume that spouses share information with each other by default.

          1. Zillah*

            I’m really confused about how a law protecting spouses from incriminating each other has anything to do with this situation at all.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              Not the situation in itself but the comment that I responded to saying that they were confused by the assumption that spouses tell each other things.

              1. Zillah*

                I think that that was my comment. I said:

                I’m actually really surprised by the chorus of agreement here. Again, it’s people’s prerogative if they want to have that kind of relationship, but I’d never assume that a friend who told me something really sensitive in confidence was automatically okay with my sharing it with my partner.

                I’m still confused about how a law protecting spouses from incriminating each other implies that the default is telling each other everything. Those are fundamentally different issues. Spouses are typically each other’s medical proxies, too – individuals still make their own medical decisions when at all possible regardless of their marital status.

                1. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Because once something is so understood and established that it’s part of the law, it’s generally assumed to be the default norm.

                2. Zillah*

                  I’m not going to touch that pretty radical interpretation of how society and the legal system work, but I am going to point out again that “you can’t be forced to put your spouse in jail” is not remotely the same thing as “the default is to tell your spouse everything.”

                  I’m going to leave it there.

                3. nonegiven*

                  It’s not just that you can’t be forced to put your spouse in jail, it’s that it is codified that telling your spouse something doesn’t negate your presumption of privacy.

        16. Sandman*

          I agree. I have a friend who routinely tells her husband things we talk about and… we don’t talk about those things anymore. I am (was?) extremely close to her, not to him; if he’s going to know about everything we discuss then I can’t trust her with certain confidences anymore.

          1. Anna*

            I think the glaring difference here is that the thing that is being kept from OP’s husband is directly impacting him. If you told your friend something that directly impacted your friend’s husband and then expected her to keep tight lipped about it, you’re in the wrong, not your friend.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I agree. In this situation, I think it’s different because Jane’s affair does affect the OP’s husband, but there are many things my friends tell me that my partner knows nothing about. I don’t think that’s unhealthy at all.

      4. Nita*

        Yeah. That’s a tough one. Normally I wouldn’t keep secrets from my husband, but it’s not a blanket rule. A couple of times, I had to choose not to tell him something because sharing the secret would hurt another person, and have absolutely no benefit to anyone. And I don’t share TMI stuff (hard to define, but you know it when you see it!)

        That’s not really OP’s case though. The secret she’s keeping is directly affecting her husband, and maybe the next time the friend confides in her, she should say “I’m sorry, but I cannot keep this from my husband any more. He needs to know, because…”

      5. Les G*

        This. It’s such an individual thing. I tend to tell my wife pretty much everything…and she in turn tells me only what she absolutely must. Forgive me for buzzfeed-ing out, but it’s all about love languages (*sips pumpkin spice latte*)

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, my mom processes things out loud, my dad… doesn’t. We all know a hell of a lot about her nutty workspace as a result. But you shouldn’t assume that this means my mom wouldn’t keep a secret… (at least from people outside of the family) or that my dad won’t tell her everything that’s going on when it’s actually relevant.

          1. KellyAF*

            Yup. I’m an extrovert — I think by talking, and that means talking with my husband. He’s a vault, though.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        The “unhealthy” part jumped out at me too, and startled me as well (not in a good way). To be fair, the commenter said that it’s unhealthy to keep “these kind of” secrets from a partner, but did not specify what “these kind” are. If they meant “the kind of secrets where the information directly affects, either the partner, or the whole family/unit”, then, not gonna lie, I would share those with a partner too. I have in fact done that once, when I was married. My parents, who lived a few blocks away and saw us every day, told me that Dad had been diagnosed with cancer, and not to tell anyone including my husband. I told my husband and said not to tell my parents. My reasoning for that having been that this information affected both me and him, and it would not have been fair to keep him in the dark. I also agree with Alison that Jane had put OP in an unfairly tough situation when she shared with her a secret that is directly affecting OP’s husband. I would’ve honestly preferred not to know if I were OP.

        Generally speaking though, very few people can keep a secret, and I just assume that anything I tell anyone, whether they are married or not, is likely to get out. Especially with this new (to me) information that most married couples consider it natural to tell their spouse. I would not be comfortable with this, unless the spouse is also my close friend whom I can trust. Who on earth knows whom the spouse might tell my secret to. I’d rather keep the whole thing to myself, or tell, I don’t know, a therapist or something.

    6. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Yup. I’ve made it clear to my friends that anything they tell me they’re telling my husband. If they don’t want him to know they can’t tell me in the first place.

    7. What's with today, today?*

      Yes. If you tell me something, know that I am going to tell my husband and vice-versa. If I was your husband I’d be furious to found out you kept something like that secret, especially when it affects him!

    8. Thor*

      I agree, HOWEVER, if I was the husband here I would not want my boss and coworker were having an affair. While I get that he’s getting the wrong impression and it’s causing him stress, in this very specific instant, telling him might make his life difficult in different ways.

      1. Seriously?*

        If the husband thought everything was fine then I would agree that telling him would probably only cause problems. However, he already knows something is wrong. He is stressed and guessing incorrectly about the cause meaning he cannot appropriately address the problem. In this case, telling him will be better because then at least he will know what the problem is and can make an informed decision about how to handle it.

        1. Amber T*

          Agreed. This isn’t “ooh let me tell you juicy gossip about your boss and our friend that will make everything awkward for you!” He’s legit suffering because their actions, and now OP was put into an extra weird situation because she knows the source of her husband’s stress isn’t true. I wouldn’t particularly want to know if my boss and a colleague/friend were having an affair, but if it made the stress of “oh my god what is my job becoming???” go away… it’s the lesser of two evils I think.

    9. RP*

      Word. The OP’s relationship with their husband absolutely trumps every other consideration. The next most important is their relationship with their friend and a long way last, limping in like a horse that’s pulled up, is any consideration towards an employer.

    10. Artemesia*

      No kidding. My loyalty will always be to my husband first and to let him be adversely affected at work while keeping this ‘secret’ is a serious betrayal of her husband. A personal issue like, say Jane got an abortion, I would keep from anyone including my husband — but Jane is sleeping with your boss which is gumming up your work life — no way.

    11. Dankar*

      Yeah. There might be information I don’t share with my partner, but only because it’s not relevant or interesting to him. If he ever asked about it, I wouldn’t be keeping anything a secret.

      And in a case like this, which is directly impacting him, I would never have even suggested that I would keep the secret. You’re well within your rights, OP, to just tell your husband the truth. Let Jane know that you’re not willing to let him stress over this.

      Really, everyone should just assume that spouses share all of this sort of information with one another. It’s a common enough MO for married couples that you’d probably be right 9/10 times.

      1. JustMyOpinion*

        This exactly! I don’t go and repeat every conversation with my friends to my spouse, but I also wouldn’t hide anything from my spouse. I especially wouldn’t allow my spouse to draw incorrect conclusion etc. based on information I knew to be wrong.

        A friend should assume that if you tell me something, I tell my spouse. My spouse understands (as I feel the majority does) that this isn’t public information and isn’t to be shared beyond ourselves. If a friend wants me to keep something from my spouse, that information needs to come before the sharing of the information. That way I can make a choice and not just be held to a promise I didn’t make after the fact.

    12. JustMyOpinion*

      This is just what I was coming here to say. My relationship with my spouse far trumps any friendship that I might have–we don’t keep secrets from each other (my to my kids chagrin). I especially could not and would not keep a secret from my spouse which is causing detriment to them. OP needs to tell her husband what is going on. The rest is not her place, but given my own beliefs, I would cool a friendship with a friend who is willingly engaging in this kind of behavior (which to me is unethical and immoral).

    13. KellyAF*

      Yup. My husband knows every single juicy secret about my friends, and I assume the same of my friends’ husbands. He’s the person I’m closest to in the whole world — I can’t not talk to him about stuff!

    14. batman*

      Honestly, I find it frustrating that people tell their spouses about their friends’ shit. Sometimes I want a friend to know something, but not their SO, because I don’t know them well or whatever. I don’t think that being married or in a serious relationship gives you carte blanche to spill your friends’ secrets (I’m not talking about this case, I’m talking about stuff that doesn’t affect the spouse at all.) It harms friendships. It’s frustrating that people don’t take friendships as seriously as they take romantic partnerships.

      1. JustMyOpinion*

        You can always preface “secrets” with please don’t tell your spouse about this before you spill a secret–that gives the friend the choice. But quite honestly I take friendships very seriously (some which I have had that long predate my marriage). That being said, my relationship with my spouse is going to trump that. My spouse is my life partner–we share incomes, share kids, and our futures are tied together. While I love my friends and I’m extremely close to a select few, if that friendship were to end it would not have nearly the impact that losing my spouse would have.

      2. JustMyOpinion*

        The issue is that your loyalty is not to your friend but to your spouse. I have friends who have been like family that I have known prior to my marriage. When push comes to shove, my spouse is going to win out. This is because we have finances together, kids together, and our future is together. Losing my spouse will have a much more significant impact on my life in many more ways than losing even my closest friend.

        That being said, I don’t run home from a night out with the girls to have a dish session with my husband. Honestly, he couldn’t care less about what “secrets” my friends have. And those he knows are between us, he’s not running off to gossip to everyone. But something that he directly asks about? or something that directly impacts him? You betcha, I’m going to tell him.

        If you’re a good friend, you’ll give me that choice prior to dishing a secret to me, not make me choose loyalties after the fact.

      3. Lehigh*

        Well, I can understand feeling that way, but I think the best way to deal with that is probably to ask your friends about their willingness to keep a secret before you tell it. Some people don’t want to be in on secrets, even if they are single or not thinking of sharing with a romantic partner.

        For me, if a friend *asks* if I’ll keep something from my husband, I am always honest. “No, I can’t promise that, but I don’t tell him everything and I will use my discretion. You can decide if you want to trust my judgment or not.”

        If a friend tags on a “…but don’t tell anyone” after the cat’s out of the bag, I feel that this is A) manipulative and B) non-binding.

    15. Diamond*

      I would tell my husband right away, especially if not knowing that information was causing him anxiety. I would have no qualms about telling him. It helps that he is like a black hole with secrets, nothing will ever get out!

    16. Kay*

      I do not agree with this blanket rule and have been very angry when i have told my friend something in confidence, they have told their partner and their partner has told all our friends. However in THIS case i think that if the information being shared is going to affect the partner she needs to be upfront and tell both Jane and her husband that she will not be keeping this secret any longer. But i think that if youre telling your partner everything you need to tell your friends that so they know youre not keeping confidence.

      1. beckysuz*

        Ok see but in your case I’d say your friend’s husband is a turd. My husband understands that if I tell him something about a friend it’s between us and not to be repeated. I don’t tell him everything, but I would trust him to not spread it around if I did.

    17. Ellie*

      I totally agree, your spouse is supposed to be the person closest to you in the whole world – it is just not right to keep something this big from them.

      I’m guessing the friend might not appreciate that though, considering she doesn’t have a spouse to compare to… but I would still tell. Your husband might see it as a betrayal if something kicks off at work and he wasn’t forwarned about it.

      Honestly I wouldn’t even run it by your friend first, I’d just quietly inform your husband about what he needs to know, and discuss the best way forward together. Your friend is kidding herself anyway if she is only moving an hour away, that’s only going to make it easier to hide the affair, not end it.

    18. Susana*

      Um, on behalf of single people everywhere …

      My secrets aren’t your secrets for you to share with your spouse. This is a bit different, since it seems to be affecting his own work life and personal angst. But if the test of a relationship is having to be as close with a friend’s spouse as you are with friend, then single people could not be friends with married people. Respect your spouse, of course But respect your friend as well.

      1. JustMyOpinion*

        Or….you could consider that your married friends relationship with their spouse is going to trump your relationship with them. Perhaps before divulging secrets, you allow your friend to make the choice of whether they can keep it from their spouse or not. This is how you respect your married friends.

        This may not be the type of relationship you want with a friend. That is absolutely fine. But since my loyalty is to my spouse, if you want me to constantly keep things from them, we are likely going to be better acquaintances then friends.

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’m going to disagree slightly with Alison’s advice and say that you need to tell your husband the truth. If my spouse kept something that significant from me, it would cause serious issues in our relationship.

    You can give Jane an opportunity to do it herself, if you want, say “I can’t continue keeping this from Husband. If you want to explain things to him, I can give you until this weekend, but either way I’m telling him.”

    1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

      Concur. It would be best for this to come from Jane, and it would be a difficult conversation to have but she needs to have it. And yeah, then he’ll know, and he’ll know it’s Aggro Lover Boy, and that’s all kind of a bummer for Jane, but sometimes it’s messy when you cheat.

      Jesus, what is it that makes adults having affairs mentally revert to high school-ass game playing?

    2. Czhorat*

      Agreed. I couldn’t imagine keeping something like this secret from my wife.

      I think bit reasonable for the OP to expect her husband to be discreet and pretend that he doesn’t know.

    3. Recently Diagnosed*

      Yeah, no, I would tell my husband this directly and post-haste. It’s not fair AT ALL of Jane to expect anything different.

    4. Ann O. Nymous*

      Totally agree — in 99% of circumstances I would never, ever promise someone that I would not tell something to my husband. It’s unfair of Jane to ask in the first place, especially because it involves your husband. Tell him — your marriage comes first.

    5. Lynca*

      Yeah I can’t see keeping something this magnitude from my spouse when it’s affecting him so acutely. My priority is to my husband’s well being- not Jane’s.

    6. Tardigrade*

      I think I have to agree here. If the situation didn’t involve the husband then, yes friend, your secret would be safe. But keeping this secret is not > husband’s mental well being.

    7. EddieSherbert*

      I agree.

      If it didn’t affect him and you weren’t already having conversations about Jane with him, I would say don’t tell him and let her business be *her* business… but just the fact that you and him ARE talking about this and he assumes you’re just as “in the dark” as he is feels yucky.

      Which isn’t your fault! It’s definitely Jane’s fault. But I don’t think you owe her anything at this point. She should have known better than to involve you when your husband is stuck in the middle of her drama.

    8. Don*

      I’m not sure I agree that she’s keeping anything that significant from him. It’s significant to Jane and she wants it kept secret, however bad an idea the situation and everything around it might be. The only reason it’s significant to husband is because of unsubstantiated things causing him to worry. Jane seems to have simply kept all these things a secret; if she was trying to spin this in a way that caused these circumstances I might feel differently, but what she’s done is keep her personal motives and actions to herself in the workplace.

      This is a cruddy place to be stuck, between theses two people the letter writer cares about, but I don’t think husband’s personal issues with work and worry are a blank check to be told things that were agreed to be kept in confidence. Telling Jane that this causes the LW a difficult situation is perfectly reasonable but that’s different than a duty to husband.

      I think the sensible thing is to tell husband that Jane has talked about this with LW in more detail and it’s all a matter of relationship stresses. People break up with significant others for lots of reasons, it’s not necessary to read husband in on everything when Jane is at least managing a bad situation (of her own doing) in a not-awful way by keeping her mouth shut. If LW doesn’t want to keep things from her husband – a very reasonable position – she should say so to Jane now and ask her to keep future issues to herself.

      1. Seriously?*

        I think that would be true if Jane and the husband were equally important to the OP. But generally your spouse is more important to you than a friend and you owe them more. Also, since they are already discussing Jane’s situation, keeping quite becomes a lie of omission because she is implying that she doesn’t know any more than he does. I think she should try to keep the details to a minimum, but she does need to tell him something.

        1. Don*

          Sure, and I am sure she regrets getting into this circumstance. But in this circumstance she can say “look, I promised to keep Jane’s confidence so I won’t talk about what’s really going on with her personal life but she’s been clear to me that this work departure is all about her personal life and relationships and has nothing to do with workload.” That addresses what is supposedly her husband’s issue without spilling the beans on Jane’s ill-advised workplace romance.

          If we were talking about future theoreticals I’d say she should probably be more cautious about letting friends think she will keep things from her husband no matter what. But just based on this circumstance, and how it will actually harm her husband? I think it’s ethical and right to respect her promise to her friend. That doesn’t have to mean anything about their comparative importance. I would not expect my wife to gossip to me about something that even a casual acquaintance shared with her, and her behaving ethically is part of why I respect my wife.

        2. Susana*

          It doesn;t matter that spouse is “more important.” She’s not choosing which one the aliens should abduct for experiments. She was told a secret, and she should not take lightly the privacy of her friend. If you were having some personal issue – bad menstrual cramps, impotence, legal troubles, marital troubles – wold you think it’s OK for your friend to share all the details with his/her spouse just because spouse is “more important?”
          I agree there are mitigating circumstances here, but there is a way to reassure husband without betraying her friend.
          Also, I’m catching more than a whiff of judgment here about the affair. And while I understand why people (including me) find it distasteful, it does not mean Jane is a harlot whose life must be upended by everything fro telling husband to (!!!!) calling HR at a company where you don’t even work.

          1. JustMyOpinion*

            I almost completely disagree with your post. LW was told a secret which impacts her husband. She was told the secret and then told not to tell her husband afterwards.

            At this point, more so then just reassurance, she should tell her husband. As I and others have said not only is the “secret” impacting his mental well-being, it could cause him future harm. The company that you keep can affect your reputation.

            I cannot imagine hiding something of this magnitude from my husband. Nor when it comes out (and it will) and it will come out that LW knew already, the husband is going to be extremely hurt that the privacy of a friend trumped his relationship with his wife.

            And I absolutely judge people who are so self-involved that they are the type of friend Jane is being to LW.

            This isn’t an all or nothing. Just because someone is married doesn’t mean that they are dishing on every conversation that they ever had with a friend (trust me my husband does not care about your menstrual cramps). But if he asks or if he is directly impacted, yep going to tell him.

      2. Susie Q*

        Completely disagree. When this situation explodes at work (it almost does 100% of the time), OP’s husband is going to be dragged into this mess. He deserves to know. Both the boss and the friend have made their own beds and they have to deal with the fallout.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Chiming in as another married person–it’s not fair for Jane to ask OP to keep this from her husband when it is affecting him. (Even if Jane wants to believe this affects only her and Boss and no one else–that’s not how it’s playing out in practice.) Keeping quiet about your friend’s issue involving people your husband doesn’t know, maybe okay to ask in rare circumstances. But if your spouse is wading through all this weird work freakiness and you know why and they don’t–yeah, it is not going to land well when they finally find out you had info about what was really happening and didn’t tell them.

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think we actually disagree. That’s what this part of my answer was talking about:

      Frankly, you might even decide to go straight there rather than start with the “tell him something that will fix this” request of Jane. That’s up to you and your sense of what your intimacy with your husband requires, but you’re allowed to decide that you’re not willing to have this big of a secret from your husband, particularly when it involves his job and his boss

      It also would have been okay to say to Jane at the very start of the affair, “Hey, I can’t have this kind of secret from (husband) when it involves his job and his boss. If you want to talk to me about this, I need you to know that I won’t be comfortable keeping it from (husband).” And it’s not too late to say a version of that now.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I suppose the part where I disagree is that I think this needs to be OP’s first action and that wasn’t the sense I got from your response.

    11. Heynonniemouse*


      If I was getting worried and depressed over something at work, and I found out that my SO had known all along that my stress was completely unnecessary but they didn’t tell me because they were keeping secrets about someone’s extramarital affair, I would be pissed.

      Sucks for Jane, but she really should have thought about that before she made the choice to sleep with a married man and then tell other people about it.

    12. Personally*

      This really depends on the relationship. I’ve queried friends in the past, and there are definitely different levels of information sharing people have in their (all healthy!) relationships. If OP has the sort of relationship where she would share this and her husband would be upset, that’s definitely important for her to act on. But lots of people don’t have these relationships, and instead think it’s more appropriate not to share their friends business. There is not a right or wrong to it.

  3. Person from the Resume*

    Great answer! Given this isn’t the LW’s workplace her only points to intervene are with her friend and with her husband.

  4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

    OP made vows to her husband, not to Jane. OP should tell Jane to make it good with her husband, or OP could go ahead and share what is going on. Secret keeping and betrayal in a marriage isn’t good, and Jane is at the heart of that.

    It hurts to think about, but if Jane cannot make sense of her relationship with husband’s boss, OP may want to reevaluate the friendship and what she gets from it. Laying down fire for Jane may not be worth it in the long run compared to keeping a happy marriage.

    1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

      Anybody willing to put you in this kind of situation with your spouse is someone you need to reevaluate a close relationship, just prima facie.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I would also be reevaluating my relationship with Jane after this :/

        (also, what? A name change?! :) )

        1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*


          It was either that or “Liet Kinda” and that just seemed like too obscure a reference/pun, even for a beardy ecologist who likes deserts.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think you picked the right party, though, as this seems like the kind of commentariat that’s read Dune :)

            (But the name change is also fun. Every time I see it, I think of the theme song.)

          2. Myrin*

            Didn’t you use to have a username with “Liet” in it before you changed it to Snark? Or maybe that wasn’t you, but I definitely remember someone with a “Liet” name commenting in the past.
            (And I’ll fully admit to my non-native prowess here because I have literally no idea what the pun is in that name. Enlighten me?)
            (Or we can move this to the weekend thread; IDK how many comments this post will get but I don’t want to get unnecessarily off-topic.)

            1. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)*

              Yes, “Liet” was me! Dunno why I stopped using it.

              Liet-Kinda is intended as a reference to the character Liet-Kynes in the novel Dune, who is a beardy, nerdy desert ecologist (like me!) who is also a revolutionary guerilla leader and expert knife fighter (not at all like me), so the joke is I’m Liet….Kinda.

      2. Susana*

        And anybody who thinks he or she can share my personal details with a spouse is going to get re-evaluated as my friend.
        I am single (meaning not married, though I do have a life partner). And I absolutely do not share my friends’ personal struggles with them, unless I know it’s OK with them.

        1. JustMyOpinion*

          That’s fair. I too would be reevaluating a friendship where I was expected to place the friendship loyalty above the spouse. That is what works for us. Not having secrets means we don’t have trust issues, we don’t have worries, we don’t have concerns over friendships with others.

          However, it’s okay if you don’t want a friend like that. Just be upfront about it so your friend can make that choice and not have to hid things from her spouse after the fact. To be honest though, if you are hanging out with married people, I’m going to break it to you that their spouse likely knows much of what you have told them. They are simply discreet enough never to mention it.

    2. OMG Anon*

      What marriage vows preclude you from keeping a friend’s secrets from your spouse? Not married so I’m actually asking.

      1. Recently Diagnosed*

        There’s a generally accepted idea that when you marry someone, your relationship with your spouse is now number one, and when it comes to something that means allowing your spouse to suffer or keeping a secret for a friend, spouse gets first pick. Maybe that mileage varies within marriages, but in mine, that’s where the pieces land.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I think there’s also something about the idea that when you’re married, your spouse is your #1 confidant and support person, so if you need advice about how to deal with something, or you’re stressed about something, that’s the person you’d talk to about it, even if the subject is one you wouldn’t normally share with anyone.

      2. Anonym*

        It’s also not a friend’s secret; it’s a friend’s secret that’s actively hurting the spouse. Big difference.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This. If Jane didn’t work with husband, that would be different. This is having a negative impact on OP’s husband.

        2. Zillah*

          Yeah, I disagree with what some people are saying about sharing information with a spouse being automatic, but I do think that the fact that this information is hurting the spouse is hugely relevant here, and that the OP needs to tell their husband.

          1. Chinookwind*

            Yes. If my husband is being harmed and I have the ability to lessen that harm, then my job as a spouse is to lessen the harm. If you can’t trust your spouse to have your back, then who can you trust?

            Speaking as someone who has her spouse not have her back just once, the answer is quite easily no one. The sense of betrayal that they could have helped and chose not to is a hard one to get over.

        3. Parenthetically*

          Yep. There are confidences I don’t share with my husband and confidences I do. A friend’s behavior is negatively affecting my husband and I have the power to mitigate that by telling him what’s going on? That definitely falls into the latter category.

      3. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

        Depends on context. If I was being expected to keep a messy secret by a friend, and that knowledge affected my spouse and her mental health directly, then there would be no secret. There are plenty of things I know in confidence that my spouse doesn’t know because she doesn’t need or want to know, but if it intersects with her interests, I prioritize that.

      4. DaffyDuck*

        It is generally understood that a married person’s first loyalty is to her spouse and their children, even above that of their birth family (Genesis 2:24 is often interpreted this way for Christians).
        If the secret didn’t impact her spouse then it wouldn’t be an issue, but as this is a major problem for him she needs to let him know. Plus, work affairs are never as “secret” as the players think, most employees (and many managers) don’t say anything to their bosses because of power dynamics or just don’t want to be pulled into such an emotional mess.

        1. Susana*

          Disagree that it’s “generally accepted” – at least not, that it’s generally accepted that if you tell something to a married person, you have to assume spouse hears it as well. I got very, very upset with a female friend who did not understand why I was upset she had told her husband all about a date I had had, and told her about. It was nothing salacious – but I told my friend in confidence because we (and not her husband and I) were close. We’re still friends but she seems baffled I don’t tell her stuff anymore.

          BUT – you are spot on in saying most, if not all, of the office knows about the affair. Everyone knows.

      5. Not a Mere Device*

        I have occasionally had a friend ask me not to tell my spouse something; the answer then is generally “if it doesn’t affect him, okay.” Examples of things I’d be okay not sharing: a friend’s cancer diagnosis, that they’re trying to decide whether to take a great new job in another city, or problems in my friend’s personal life that don’t affect my spouse. That last clause matters: this affects the OP’s husband because of the specifics of why the friend broke up with her boyfriend and is considering a move; in general, my friends’ personal lives aren’t my secrets, so it’s not up to me to decide whether to share them.

        That said, the sensible person says “can I tell you something and ask you not to share it with your spouse?” rather than telling you something and then saying “you can’t tell your spouse that,” because that’s not a fair position to put someone in, and they might well decide that their loyalty is to their spouse. Or they might agree to keep your secret, but also say that it was unfair to put you in that position, and end the friendship.

        1. Chinookwind*

          For those who are shocked by default idea that spouses share secrets, the following bears repeating:

          “That said, the sensible person says “can I tell you something and ask you not to share it with your spouse?” rather than telling you something and then saying “you can’t tell your spouse that,” because that’s not a fair position to put someone in.”

          Give me the option to not know the information rather than make me choose between a friend and a spouse, especially since said friend will probably be hurt by my choice.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I’m not sure, I can see a lot of people saying yes if they were asked up front and then having to go back on their word once Jane spilled the beans. I would prefer something like “I need to share something personal that’s going on at work. Can I ask you not to share it with Spouse?” That way it’s an informed decision for the op, but Jane still has privacy.

        3. Susana*

          That’s sensible. The cancer diagnosis is a good example. Yes, you might want to share your own pain with spouse over it – but pain and privacy of the person with cancer comes first.

      6. Observer*

        The idea that you put your marriage relationship ahead of all others. Keeping secrets about stuff that affects only Jane is one thing. But when it affects the spouse, that relationship wins over the friend relationship.

        Jane had no business telling the OP and expecting her to keep it quiet. Especially since her behavior is legitimately causing comment and reasonable doubts in the husband.

      7. Ralph Wiggum*

        Our vows included always being “open and honest” with each other.

        That would definitely apply in this case.

    3. DaffyDuck*

      Yes, Jane already blew up her own relationship. I’m holding boss for blowing up his (eventually, when his wife finds out about this or another affair – ’cause this type of person never limits themselves to just one) although Jane is helping him.
      Jane will blow up your marriage also, keeping secrets that impact your spouse is a huge betrayal. By not telling your husband you are are choosing Jane over him, unless you want to share an apartment with Jane in the future tell the hubs.

    4. GreenDoor*

      Totally agree. Friends come and go…..but you marry with the expectation that your partner will be with you for life. So to me, there’s no question. My loyalty is to my spouse, not a friend.

      Especially because this is affecting the spouse’s job…which will affect his income. Anything that stresses his ability to earn an income will surely put stress on just about every function of their household. Why on earth would you let your spouse continue to be under that kind of stress and worry….for a friend? I’d be seriously pissed if my husband did this to me!

      1. Les G*

        Congratulations, here’s a ginormous novelty check because you have won the internet *nopetopuses right on out before you notice the amount is just “one high five”*

  5. Amber Rose*

    And now, on Days of Our Lives…

    No offense meant, LW. But that is quite the melodrama you’re caught up in. If you can convince your friend to seek a therapist, she would probably benefit from it. It’s also fair to tell her that you are not the person to talk to about this situation. You don’t have to support your friend by being the sounding board for all her misery. You can support her by taking her out for movie nights or bringing ice cream or checking in to make sure she’s eating properly. There are lots of ways you can be supportive without exhausting yourself listening to the unused script from a soap opera on repeat.

  6. DaffyDuck*

    Tell your husband Jane broke up with her boyfriend and is moving because she is having an affair with a married man. You don’t need to tell your husband that it is his boss unless you want.
    Why you place your friend’s very not-so-secret affair (she may think other people don’t know but I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts other women in the office do) over your husband’s mental health? If he didn’t care I wouldn’t bother, but if he is worried enough that it is impacting his health your first loyalty is to your husband.

    1. Morning Glory*

      That would protect the married male boss (who is arguably much the guilty party here due to being her superior and married) while throwing Jane under the bus. Why add that extra detail instead of sticking to the script that Alison recommended?

      1. Nita*

        Good point. If OP wants to keep the details out of the story so they don’t affect her husband’s relationship with the boss (and Jane?), it’s better to just keep the whole explanation really, really vague. She could say that she knows Jane’s breakup and move have nothing to do with her workload, and that Jane is leaving town because she’s having some serious personal problems but has asked OP not to talk about the specifics.

    2. Holly*

      But the fact that it’s also his boss is extremely relevant – what if the boss is making determinations that seem to favor or disfavor Jane that impact the husband?

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Since Jane is leaving, surely that won’t be an issue for long? OP mentioned that Jane is moving an hour away, so she already has an area and presumably a new job? lined up.

  7. WellRed*

    Tell your husband. Jane sounds like a hot mess who will be moving away anyhow. Also, as comes up time and again here, it is NEVER appropriate to contact your spouse’s boss or HR department or coworker. (for anything other than he got hit by the proverbial bus).

  8. Just Me*

    Op is setting up her husband for a very awkward situation when this finally blows up. I think it’s cruel to not tell her husband.

  9. Juli G.*

    I truly understand Allison’s advice to stay out of company business but… man, the company needs to know. A boss is sleeping with his employee and it’s become so stressful, a solid employee is leaving the company, allowing the boss to carry on with the next subordinate that catches his eye. Ugh.

    1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

      The company needs to know, but not from her. Maybe from him, once he knows. It is, literally and figuratively, not his business.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree with this. The company needs to know, but it’s really not ok for OP to be the messenger. The best OP can do is encourage Jane to disclose the relationship in her exit interview or otherwise make it evident to HR that this is a problem.

        The boss seems super slimy (possibly predatory?), but I am also frustrated with Jane for not being able to pull the cord on this “relationship.”

        1. Les G*

          The boss is the boss. I’m comfortable laying a whole lotta blame at his feet, personally. Even if the OP is frustrated with Jane, it sure seems like she’s the victim here and needs a sympathetic friend.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The boss is definitely more blameworthy, but I think the “victim” language allows Jane to deny her own agency in this situation. The boss should never have done what he’s doing—it’s an abuse of power and is absolutely gross. But Jane also needs to find her spine and stop letting her life revolve around this toxic relationship.

            Regardless of those factors, OP cannot fix this—only Jane can. But OP can do her best to mitigate the harm that’s happening to her husband.

            1. Observer*

              Especially since she pulled the OP into this. Asking her to keep this from spouse was just not a fair thing to do.

            2. Susana*

              I don’t know that it was an abuse of power – it doesn’t sound like he coerced her. Understandably people are more sympathetic to the person in love and hurting that the man cheating on his spouse.
              But this is just a bad choice – she’s not a victim, even if she’s the more sympathetic player in this.

        2. Is my name*

          She is trying to leave the situation. It really isn’t your (or anyone else’s) job to tell her what to feel or what to do. Everyone makes mistakes. The “other’ woman could be a victim. J ust because you haven’t cheated doesn’t mean you haven’t hurt someone as immensely.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Agreed… which I suppose means it’ll probably be OP’s husband reporting it and getting all tangled up in their mess.

      Not going to lie, I’d be torn over that! My SO would 100% go report it and do the right thing, while I’d be worried his Boss would retaliate against him or make his work life suck or push him out…

      But at the end of the day, I’d still tell him :/

  10. Lady Jay*

    Hard disagree on this one.

    I get professional discretion & all, and the importance of confidentiality . . . but yeah, tell your husband. He deserves your loyalty and assistance more than Jane does. She doesn’t have a right to ask you to withhold information that is making his life miserable.

    1. Observer*

      Who are you disagreeing with here? Alison said that OP needs to tell her husband. Just that she can’t also call HR.

  11. Muriel Heslop*

    Another piece you are responsible for OP: how well you maintain a boundary with Jane. You mention “needing to be there for her” after she changes jobs and moving an hour away. Is this necessary? Is this healthy and what’s best for you, your sanity and your marriage? Jane has asked you keep an enormous secret from your spouse to protect her own mistakes (no judgment- but it seems the current situation isn’t working out for her) and wants you to keep doing so. That’s not a good friend. I would encourage to assess being less involved with Jane and more involved with your husband. Stay out of the work part, encourage your husband to see how things go after Jane leaves, and then tell him the truth after she’s gone if you must keep her secret. Personally, I advocate telling him the truth today and apologize for keeping your word to Jane. Going forward: don’t agree to secrets that people ask you to keep from your spouse.

    Good luck! You’ve obviously tried to please everyone and meant well. Hope this turns out okay for you!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agree with this (and agree with telling husband sooner than later). It’s also important to remember that Jane is not a victim to her own life—she’s a protagonist of her own story, just as OP is the protagonist of OP’s life story. In addition to making not great decisions, she’s also asking OP to join her conspiracy of bad decisions by sucking her into the drama. It sounds genuinely painful for Jane, and I’m sorry she’s going through all of this. But the demands she’s imposing on OP are really not sustainable, fair, or acceptable.

      If Jane requires support after moving away, she really needs to see a counselor or other professional. OP cannot sacrifice her relationship with her husband to protect Jane’s mistakes and secrets.

      This sounds so difficult, and I feel so much sympathy for OP. It’s a huge and thorny mess of feelings, and I appreciate OP’s good heart and desire to make this all work out.

    2. Snickerdoodle*

      Yeah, I don’t think Jane is being a good friend; a good friend doesn’t ask someone to jump through hoops at the expense of others’ wellbeing. Even if the husband’s wellbeing weren’t a factor at all, it’s still asking too much to keep a big secret and be emotional support throughout.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed. Jane is not being a very good friend right now and you don’t have to tie yourself in knots to accommodate her, especially if that dumps a burden on your husband. He deserves to know. This affects his state of mind and his choices. Let him sort out the work situation for himself because that’s his look out, not yours.

      I don’t generally tell my husband sensitive things friends have shared in confidence, but all that goes out the window if he’s directly involved in whatever it is or it creates an emotional burden for either me or him.

    4. Anonymouse LW*

      LW here. The reason I’ve kept this is less about loyalty for Jane and more about peace of mind for my husband. I know he doesn’t easily respect people in open relationships even, so finding out about this affair involving his boss (the married man) who has been his mentor and advocate (hiring him when he had very little experience and personally training him) would be devastating. In all other respects the man has been an incredibly positive force in my husband’s life, so to see all that ruined because of this (that my husband wouldn’t even have found out about) is so sad to think of.

      So I like Alison’s solution, to make it Jane’s burden to correct his fear of overwork and potentially tell him herself so that he can make a judgement based on truly how she sees the man (versus how I see him, which will color everything even blacker). I’m going to try that, but if it doesn’t work out I know it isn’t my secret to keep from my life partner. I’ll be sure to send an update.

      1. JustMyOpinion*

        I get what you are saying and I’m excited about the update. But, and this is just me, think about it this way just for a second. If you went around your workplace/community etc. telling everyone what a great guy Mr. Smith is, but everyone else knew that Mr. Smith steals candy from babies on a daily basis, but refused to tell you–how would that make you feel?

        Your husband has a good relationship with boss. It sounds like boss is high-up in the hierarchy. It sounds like your husband and boss are closely aligned (as of right now). If this comes out (which it will), what impact will that have your husband? What impact will it have meaning how will others in the company feel about him considering his allegiance and closeness to the boss?

        He should know, much more then what is occurring with his mental status right now, it’s his future that could be impacted based on his bosses behavior.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I agree. Once there were some rumours flying about two people at my organization who I thought very highly of. I was very fervent in my insistence that the rumours couldn’t possibly be true because these were such upstanding folks. Turns out the rumours were 100% true and I’m (nonsensically) more upset about my naive defence than I am about the relationship (which was five kinds of inappropriate).

      2. Anonymouse LW*

        Thanks especially to everyone in this comment thread- I feel as though you understand the dynamics and empathize. There definitely are friendship boundaries to consider, and I appreciate that perspective. “Protagonist of her own story” is my favorite new saying!

      3. Ellie*

        You know your husband best of course, some people I’m sure would really rather not be told. If it was me though I’d want the truth, because his boss sounds like a hypocrite. Also, this may not be the only time he’s done this – is your intention to keep this information from him forever? At least if you tell him, you can time it for a friday night so he has a few quiet days to process it.

      4. cactus lady*

        Just some food for thought – as positive an influence as this man has been in your husband’s career, your husband also deserves to know what kind of a person he is in this respect. Yes, it could be devastating for him to learn, but it would also allow him to maybe seek out other mentors/allies if he chooses. It would be a shame if all this came out and it harmed your husband’s reputation by association. The truth might hurt at first, but it could also empower your husband to make better-informed choices.

  12. Anna*

    Yeah, I can’t agree with keeping Jane’s secret from the OP’s husband. OP may owe it to Jane to give her a chance to say something, but other than that, the relationship with husband must come before any secret of Jane’s.

  13. AdminX2*

    Speaking as a former cheater, they gave up their entitlement to secrets. The advice here is excellent and do not sacrifice your husbands emotional healthy to protect her bad judgement.

  14. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

    A few things OP said kind of pinged on my radar.

    “Is there anything I can do to intervene, when talking to her directly just results in sadness and destructive behavior?”

    Talk to her anyway. “Jane, this is causing Husband a lot of stress and confusion because he thinks you’re leaving due to workload stress, and he’s convinced it’s all about to land on him. It wasn’t fair or reasonable to ask me to keep your secrets, so you can tell him by next Tuesday, or I will.” Sometimes sadness is the reasonable result of a conversation, and sometimes destructive behavior isn’t your problem to manage.

    ” Can I reasonably confront the predatory boss (who has always been SO charming and truly loves my husband)?”

    What would you confront him over? He hasn’t done anything to affect you or your husband.

    “Can I put in an anonymous note to HR without him knowing it’s me?”

    No, no, no. I suspect the juvenile irrationality being exhibited by everyone else in this situation is creating a reality distortion field, but a nonemployee spouse has no business contacting HR for any reason. Don’t try to avoid a hard, necessary conversation by substituting an easy, deeply inappropriate and weird anonymous one.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah. I’m sorry, OP. I understand that you want to be a good friend to Jane, but your #1 priority needs to be your husband. Jane has made some poor life choices and she’s going to need to live with the fallout from them.

      1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

        And Jane is not exactly being a good friend to her. This is not a request a good friend makes.

        1. General Ginger*

          It really is not. A friend who thinks it’s ok to put me in this situation with my s/o would be on their first strike with me, essentially.

        2. Parenthetically*

          I think it can be a request a panicking, hurting good friend makes when she realizes how far in over her head she is, but regardless, the advice to OP remains the same: be frank with Jane, and tell your husband.

    2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Also, OP, if you tell your husband, HE can decide whether or not he needs to inform anyone at work. As a co-worker and direct report to the boss he’d have more standing. It still might not be a good idea, but it’s a substantially better one than an anonymous note.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes. OP really needs to drop the idea of confronting the Boss or sending an anonymous note. They’re huge oversteps. Disclose to husband, and let him decide how to proceed, as it’s his workplace.

    4. Les G*

      I agree that the OP should shut her trap on this one, buuuuuut I kinda want to push back on the idea that Boss hasn’t done anything to impact the OP’s husband. This dirtbag is preying on his subordinate and that is *absolutely* the sort of thing that affects the whole office, even those who aren’t personally party to the affair.

      1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

        I can see where you’re coming from on that, and he’s a dirtbag, but Husband is collateral damage at best there – and in any case, it’s on him to act, not OP.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      I too am puzzled over the direction the OP’s mind seems to be heading here. Why is the OP seemingly going out of their way to avoid telling their husband? It may be misplaced loyalty to Jane, but why is the OP trying to bend over backwards to accommodate Jane’s behavior and Jane’s (perceived) needs? I think the OP needs to take a big step back and think about why they’ve made this so complicated and difficult when it’s not. Jane is an adult, she can sort out her own mess.

      Talk to your husband and have done with it.

  15. LadyPhoenix*

    This is why I hate secrets—you get trusted with super confidential information, which puts the onus on you about whether the secret teller gets in trouble or not.

    Take yesterday, where the secret teller is super sick with lupus and told OP not to tell anyone. That is a LOT of pressure to put on a coworker.

    Then that case awhile back where the supervisor was sleeping with coworker’s husband and was trying to get coworker fired and essentially sabotauging coworker’s job… but OP was forced to keep it secret.

    I feel like secrets are like those guilt trip damn if you do, damn if you don’t things.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      Oh man, ain’t that the truth? This is why I dislike secrets on principle. I’m all for discretion and taking people’s feelings into account, but secrets just make life harder than it needs to be. In a way, confiding a secret in someone else and then making them swear not to tell a soul is abdicating responsibility for your own thing. Especially things like this that have ramifications for several other people. It’s too much to ask.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I agree! And I think there’s a difference between being discreet and being secretive, somehow? Discretion is using wisdom and consideration for the lives and feelings of others in what we choose to share and when, vs. secretiveness which conceals information regardless of what effect that concealment might have on the lives and feelings of others, I think.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          Yes! I wouldn’t share with my husband if, say, Jane got diarrhea while we were out shopping and asked me to bring her some fresh pants and please don’t tell anyone omg. Telling my husband would only embarrass Jane further and give him the opportunity to laugh at her while having zero impact on his life. Or if Jane confided in me about relationship issues but my husband didn’t know her partner very well and none of it impacted him at all, I’d probably keep it to myself. That’s discretion. Secrets are a whole different ballgame. When things leave “please don’t tell anyone because this information is sensitive to me and I feel too vulnerable to have it bandied about” and go toward “please don’t tell anyone because my poor behavior is impacting others and I don’t want them to know about it and hate me”, it’s not about protecting someone’s feelings so much as covering their ass for them. That I object to.

          1. JustMyOpinion*

            This exactly! My husband doesn’t know all my friends’ secrets. Quite frankly he wouldn’t care to hear them. However, if he asked about a particular issue directly or if it was likely to cause an impact to him, I’m going to tell him. I would expect my friends to do the same (hell they might even mention the diarrhea at the mall). My husband is discreet. What I tell him stays between us. We’re a team, I’m not going to keep secrets from him.

            On the reverse note, I would absolutely keep secrets told to me by my husband even if they were directly impacting a friend. I’d probably talk to him about it first, but my allegiance ultimately lies with him.

    2. No Secrets Please*

      Yes! The irony is that the secret-teller expects the person they’re telling to do what they themselves did not do — not tell anyone else!

  16. Res Admin*

    1. Never keep something like that from your spouse. It is one thing to not volunteer info that they wouldn’t care about anyway. It is entirely another to hold info back under the circumstances described. Basically, you are making this woman’s drama more important than your marriage–is that really what you intended?

    2. Being a “good” friend or a “supportive” friend does NOT mean allowing yourself to be pulled into that kind of drama. In fact, doing so is a great way to kill a friendship. It really is ok to say that you are not comfortable knowing all those details.

  17. Utoh!*

    I actually don’t see anywhere in the OP’s letter that Jane has specifically asked that OP not tell anyone about the affair, and especially not her husband who is also a friend of Jane’s! I think OP has free reign to tell her husband exactly what is going on and hence why Jane broke up w/her bf and is now so stressed out from the illicit affair she’s looking to change jobs. Please don’t keep supporting a situation that is just so wrong on many levels and has already proven to have a ripple effect (on your spouse!).

  18. Camellia*

    Your husband needs to know this, and he needs to know it is his boss. This enters into all kinds of things like loyalty and ethics, and your husband needs to know this information so he can correctly respond to his boss in the future. Often if someone can overlook ethics in one situation they may do it in others. Also, what if you tell your husband about the affair but NOT about the boss, and then your husband says something about it to the boss, maybe like why she is leaving, and then the boss may think husband knows EVERYTHING and may treat husband differently without husband knowing why.

    Husband needs to know everything so he can correctly navigate things at work and with his boss.

  19. Anon From Here*

    I’d tell my husband and then make fun of him for not having figured out what’s going on right in front of him.

      1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

        But seriously: there’s a certain type of dude who this will surprise, but you know half the office has sussed it out. Body language alone tells secrets your mouth won’t tell.

        1. Jadelyn*

          To wit: all the people we’ve heard from who thought they were being subtle about the fact they work with their spouse, only to have people think they’re having an affair with that person. Humans behave differently with people they’re intimate with, always will, and even if you can’t name the exact thing that makes you suspect, your subconscious picks up on it and you know *something* is going on.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      If I had not told my husband long ago, this is what I’d probably do too. And yeah I’d probably laugh because c’mon dude, really?

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, be like “oh she’s taking a big load alright, but I’m pretty sure you won’t be asked to take her place – ifyaknowwhatImean. ;).

      …the load is from your bosses penis.”

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Seriously, how is she managing to keep this secret in light of the many hilarious jokes that could be made?

          Husband: “Man, looks like Jane’s really getting slammed.”
          Her: “… could be?”
          Husband: “That position must be incredibly tough!”
          Her: “There could definitely be some… [snerk] challenging positions…”
          Husband: “What will happen when she leaves?”
          Her: “Ya know, I just don’t think the boss is gonna be [snicker] really riding you the same way.”
          Husband: “Well, someone’s going to have to step in and… what, why are you laughing? Stop rolling on the floor and explain to me why you’re laughing!”

          1. JustMyOpinion*

            This is exactly the relationship I have with my husband…and very likely the way it would all come out.

  20. EEK! The Manager*

    I agree that OP needs to tell her husband. If he finds out the truth about what’s going on from someone other than his wife, then finds out his wife knew about it and was withholding the information . . . Well, he’s bound to feel some sort of betrayal, and there will be some degree of consequence to OP’s marriage. Not worth it.

  21. Rae*

    When this blows up, and it will blow up, this could (will) cause irrevocable damage to your relationship with your husband. He is having mental anguish that you are in a position to alleviate. In addition, it is up to him to manage relationships while at work. If he has a problem with working with either of them after this mess, it is not yours to handle. You should tell him and let him decide if HR should be involved.

    1. Marlowe*

      Yes, this. Your husband needs help right now, OP, if this is affecting him so much. Even if you don’t reveal the whole truth, at least tell him part of it.

    2. President Porpoise*

      Further, this could potentially mess up your husband’s reputation at work. People may assume that he knew about Jane and boss’s inappropriate relationship. Given the fact that Jane is, frankly, in a situation where she has very little power in the relationship and the fact that her lover is also her boss, this may come down in a very negative way with a lot of ramifications to Jane, Boss, and others who may have known (depending on how it comes out, the company’s internal policy, and whether there’s any sort of #metoo problems that may arise). I would tell your husband, and then ask him what the company’s policies are on boss/subordinate relationships and go from there. An anonymous tip to HR from him may be warranted – though Jane may not thank you for any of this.

  22. Don*

    I’m really surprised by the number of people here who think there’s some sort of obligation to disclose these private things in the workplace. I don’t approve of cheating and I don’t think this relationship would be a great idea even if there wasn’t this duplicity and infidelity going on, but so far the only actual harm discussed is something LW’s husband has cooked up in his own mind.

    “My husband has no idea, and thinks she broke up with her boyfriend due to stress that has been getting worse, and that’s why she must be leaving. He himself is worried now and gets depressed about work, because he feels like his workload will soon be as impossible as hers must be, and her example has been one of self-destructive, workaholic misery.”

    That’s lousy, but the idea that Jane has caused this by not discussing in detail her reasons for leaving a job seem pretty unsupported to me. It’s a job, and she’s free to leave. She doesn’t owe anyone – boss or coworker – a reason other than that she wants to. All of LW’s conflicts here are purely about her situation where she’s promised confidentiality to a friend but that knowledge would relieve – maybe – husband’s stress. The fact that this is playing out in the workplace is irrelevant to this marital conflict.

    The suggestions that the company absolutely needs to know also strikes me as kind of lousy, the rest of this drama aside. Jane is leaving, making this problem go away, and other than husband’s personal stresses there’s no mention above of problems this is causing in the office. It’s not entirely clear whether Bob is in fact Jane’s supervisor, as both are identified as having oversight on husband’s tasks at different times. They could be on equal footing. If they’re not then it certainly seems lousy to potentially cause Jane employment difficulty when she’s trying to leave. If Bob is for sure abusing his authority and not going anywhere then that might justify involving management but it seems like basic ethics would demand at least letting Jane extricate herself on her own terms first.

    1. LCL*

      I’m with you. I don’t quite understand all of the posters who are normally fiercely independent who say they would tell their spouse all of their friend’s secrets. I have a great relationship with my partner, but would never reveal something in confidence under the circumstances described. I think what is making people recommend disclosure is that it is affecting husband. That can be handled by doing as Alison suggests.

    2. Scout Finch*

      The problem is NOT going away. The boss will just move on to the next subordinate in line.

      Boss has shown his true colors. Jane is not blameless, but Husband has to deal with the Boss’s lack of ethics after Jane is gone.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It sounds like Jane is clearly telegraphing her misery, though, and that’s what OP’s husband is picking up on. It’s true that husband has concocted reasons for why Jane is leaving and that those reasons are stressing him out. But the emphasis on disclosure is because of people’s expectations of their spouses. Jane’s behavior is triggering OP’s husband’s descent into depressive speculation, and OP has a responsibility to intervene in that downward spiral.

      With respect to the boss, OP says explicitly that the guy is Jane’s boss. That makes this an abuse of power, which makes it predatory, and simply isn’t ok in the workplace. The onus is not on the less powerful person in the bad relationship to extricate themselves—not on the less powerful person (in this case, Jane). That doesn’t mean OP needs to inform the employer, but disclosing to her husband will help husband determine if he should report the issue. Someone at the company needs to know that a superior is engaging in a relationship with a subordinate that’s resulting in the loss of a talented and capable employee, especially because it will likely happen again.

    4. Yorick*

      IMO, the husband is really twisting himself into knots here based on his own speculations. If I didn’t know Jane’s deal, I’d probably tell Husband: “We don’t know everything that happens in Jane’s life. She may seem different at work because of she’s dealing with something personal. Since you’re not aware of any work problems, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about her job (or your job). If you’re concerned about what Jane leaving means for your workload, you could talk to Boss about what you can expect moving forward.”

      And if I did know but really felt like I should keep Jane’s secret from him, I guess I’d say something pretty similar.

    5. Parenthetically*

      I totally agree that the husband has written a needlessly complex narrative to explain Jane’s erratic behavior. The deal is, though, that OP has the power to dispel the entire narrative with the truth, which can have a lot more power than just telling the husband it’s all in his head. And I don’t think OP has any obligation to keep Jane’s secrets, particularly not when Bob is getting blowback from Jane’s foolishness, and REALLY not when this whole thing is going to hit the fan eventually and Bob would be justified in being pretty peeved that OP knew all along and didn’t tell him what to expect. It’s not worth the collateral damage to Bob and OP’s relationship to continue to keep secrets for Jane.

    6. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

      This is my thought as well. I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about keeping Jane’s confidence from husband, but his reaction seems a little dramatic over something that hasn’t even happened yet. He’s stressed out about the potential of work getting stressful to the point that OP wants to call HR because Jane won’t tell him why she’s getting a new job? Right, sure thing. Someone is doing some mental gymnastics here, to the point where I’m wondering if husband knows exactly what is going on and it is causing actual issues in the office, but he doesn’t want to disparage Jane to her friend, the OP.

    7. Personally*

      I agree with a lot of this, though I think OP should try and calm her husband down – which she doesn’t need to even discuss the affair to do. I’m not sure why everyone thinks she has to disclose the affair because it’s affecting her husband – all she has to do is tell him he’s got nothing to worry about!

      If OP doesn’t have the sort of relationship with her husband where she normally shares friends secrets, she’s not obligated to tell her husband what’s going on. If OP does have a more sharing relationship with her husband, that’s another issue all together.

      1. JustMyOpinion*

        Wow. I cannot imagine how hurt and upset I would be if my spouse could alleviate my downward spiral by just telling me the truth of what is going on. Your spouse is your best friend/life partner. Their mental health is at risk here. You tell your spouse what is going on.

        Putting friends before your spouse is going to lead your relationship down a bad path.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Not to mention I wouldn’t be able to help but think “so in the case of My Well Being vs. Adultery, you sided with Adultery. Apparently lying to spouses to help a cheater is just something you and your friends do. Huh. Well, duly noted for the next time your friends swear you were totally at their house that night.”

          1. Chinookwind*

            And to add to Traffic_Spiral, as someone who could easily spiral like OP’s husband, the next step would be to wonder what else they are keeping from me and what else am I not seeing right in front of me.

            OP, get in front of this and help relieve your husband’s worries with AAM’s advice.

        2. Personally*

          But that’s my point – she SHOULD alleviate his stress. She just doesn’t even have to talk to her husband about the affair to do this. She could simply tell him that Jane’s got other things going on in her life that are making her stressed, so he doesn’t need to worry about work.

    8. chi type*

      I mean, yeah, the husband is being kinda ridiculous making Jane’s job search about himself but what are you going to do? Sit there and smirk knowingly at your stressed spouse just so this cliched-ass affair everyone else has probably already sussed out stays secret?

  23. Erin*

    I think it’s going to be very tough to keep this from your husband. “I can’t share the details” would not fly with mine if we were talking about his job, I don’t know about you guys and your spouses, ha.

    I’d go straight to Jane first and give her a head’s up that she needs to communicate with your husband about what’s going on or you’re going to.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

    1. MsCende*

      Yeah, my husband came up with substantially the same answer Alison did, and then realized that it wouldn’t fly with either of us. Not because we want to gossip, but because neither of us are comfortable working from a position of incomplete information and we’d both want to steer through the mess carefully (and with compassion).

      We both have stuff we haven’t bothered to tell the other, because there’s no impact or interest. However, we both make it clear to anyone who’s likely to tell us anything that we come as a joined brain, there’s not necessarily separate knowledge.

      OP, by withholding the info, you’re not only allowing him to spiral, but you’re also preventing him from navigating the problem in a competent fashion. You sound like someone who cares about all the people she’s around, and it’s hard to care less when someone is hurting, but you’re going to have to downgrade Jane just a little in the compassion queue to clear the way for your husband to get a bit more. He needs it.

  24. YoungTen*

    Tell your husband and find a new friend! Really, friends who have drama like that in their lives always end up causing drama for those around them. In case she hasn’t noticed, its causing drama now. People have a right to live their lives as they please but those of us who hate drama have a right to carefully choose our friends. This “Jane” isnt LW’s sister who’d she’d have to deal with because of family ties. Get a new friend! Would she be ok if hubby chose to keep a cheating friend around and protect his secrets?

    1. Slartibartfast*

      My sister has this level of drama, always. It’s still not my monkeys or my circus. I let our mom vent to me from time to time, but it’s in one ear and out the other for my own sanity. Family ties don’t have to strangle you.

      1. YoungTen*

        Agreed! I just meant that It would be more understandable to have to deal with someone like this if they were related to the LW since its usually not possible to cut off a family member even if you are distant. And a spouse will understand why from time to time why this person is still around. But a “friend”? If I where the spouse, I’d wonder why my spouse sees such value in a friend who has such poor judgement and character qualities.

  25. YoungTen*

    Yeah, “I cant go into the details” will sound better from Jane than from the wife. He’ll most likely to take her words at face value and leave it at that.

  26. 99 lead balloons*

    Frankly, Jane shouldn’t have said anything to you about her affair considering the work dynamics all caught up in this – no matter how close of friends you have been up til now. Jane isn’t being a good friend to you by confiding in you about all this nonsense so I think you don’t need to worry about being a “bad friend” by talking to your husband. I don’t think she’s entitled to confidentiality (re: telling your hubs) here. Some people have suggested giving her a chance to come clean to your husband first w/the understanding that if she doesn’t, you will – you know her best. However, you have no grounds to confront the boss or go to their HR. Nope, nope, nope.

    Sadly, y’all may need to let this friendship go. Your husband’s work stress and potentially your relationship w/him has become collateral damage in her affair, and if it comes out at work it’ll only get worse and you’ll have to explain why you knew and didn’t tell him before. While I don’t think that would cause irrevocable damage to your marriage, it will hurt his ability to trust you. Friends don’t get to do that and expect the nature of the relationship to stay the same. It sucks – I’m sorry. Good luck, OP!

  27. Anna Canuck*

    I value my relationship with my husband over my relationship with my friend that makes bad choices and drags me into it when she wants validation. I’d tell my husband everything in a hot second.

  28. LadyPhoenix*

    I would tell Jane, “Your drama is affecting my husband because he is assuming that you are going through lots of work pressure. Please set that that is not the case. You don’t have to tell him about the affair, but please make it clear that he should be ok.”

    If she refuses, tell him. F*ck this friend by dropping this bombshell of ansecret on you.

  29. Tableau Wizard*

    So let’s say that she tells the husband (with or without Jane’s blessing), and now he has this information about his coworker and his boss. Is there anything he should/could do to alert the company about the situation?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d leave that to his judgment. Is it affecting other people, and would the company care if they knew that? He’s much better positioned to answer those questions.

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    She can’t make herself break it off so she’s looking for a new job … an hour away.

    I read this as Jane deciding that the fraternization is the real problem and if she isn’t working for him, then they can be together, he’ll leave his wife for her, etc. So as a friend to Jane, I’d advise pushing back on this notion that removing the bonk-your-reports aspect is going to fix things. Maybe included in the conversation where you tell her you won’t keep this secret from your husband any more.

    (I feel sorry for Jane, who seems to be flinging lighter fluid around her life.)

    1. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)*

      SPOILER ALERT: he will not leave his wife for her. That’s the entire point, for garbage dudes.

    2. LadyPhoenix*

      The optimist in me is hoping that she is trying to distance herself from the boss so that she can break up with him.

      Garbage men like the boss need to be dumped in… well… the garbage. Eff the lot of them and their lying, scheming ways.

      1. JustMyOpinion*

        While I am in total agreement with you….Jane is a fully grown adult, she knows the boss is married. She has culpability as well.

      2. mark132*

        Meh, it’s just a matter of perspective, you could use the old term and refer to Jane as a homewrecker and hate on her too. If he’s garbage I don’t see how Jane is much better. If I were the OP, this situation would make me question my friendship with Jane, just too much drama.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          Jane didn’t make any commitments to Boss’s wife.

          That said: I wouldn’t normally consider Boss garbage (fidelity is complicated, people are complicated, it’s none of anyone else’s damn business), except…Boss. He’s her supervisor, it’s 2018, this sort of thing has been Not Okay for years. It wouldn’t matter if he were single.

          *That* said, a person old enough to be in the workforce and shtupping someone taken, in 2018, has no business expecting that person to leave their partner for them, regardless of circumstances, or to be faithful in the new relationship if they do. OP can drop all the truth bombs they want, but if Jane doesn’t know that by now, it’s because she’s chosen not to. (Jane: L2P, N00b.)

          1. mark132*

            I think Jane is marginally less awful in this situation, and yes she isn’t in a commitment with the boss’s wife, but it also hasn’t been “OK” forever to have relationships with married people even if you are single, so for me this doesn’t give Jane a pass.

            I do agree being the boss he should be held to a higher standard to not engage in relationships with team members.

            Honestly both of these people actions in this situation are rather awful.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Eh, I always get really frustrated with people citing “the heart wants,” like Cupid actually does lurk under the copier firing darts into the shins of unlucky people who are then just forced to fall in love with the next person they see.

              Jane seems to be making herself utterly miserable, and there were basic sensible self-care standards like “don’t sleep with your boss” and “don’t sleep with married people” that she could have heeded way before reaching in love, but he won’t leave his wife, and miserable and it’s leaking out all over her job.

              1. Isabel Kunkle*

                Totally agreed with that. Jane made her bed, and while I don’t necessarily think she’s awful, I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for her. Boss should still have known better, in this day and age–like, consent aside, this right here is one of about fifty reasons you don’t sleep with employees–but I agree with you: there are many basic steps she could’ve taken for her mental well-being, and she didn’t, and while Boss cheating isn’t on her, her being unhappy about the relationship/job/whatnot really is.

          2. Katherine*

            Is it just me or is it that people who claim that fidelity is complicated, are actually unfaithful themselves?

            I think if someone has ever cheated on a partner and comments on a post about infidelity, they should give a mandatory disclaimer about their history. Personally, I wouldn’t take a former or current cheater’s word seriously

            1. Isabel Kunkle*

              No, but mostly because I’ve been forthright–bitchy, really–enough to say that I wasn’t going to do monogamy going in/any more, when I realized that it wasn’t working for me. And I was lucky enough to be in situations (including growing up in a place and a time where there’s more acceptance of open nonmonogamy as a relationship style) where I *could* say that, and walk or deal with my partner walking as a result, without financial issues or logistics or whatever being a huge thing.

              In my experience*, people in my generation who choose to sneak around instead of having the hard “Hey, I’m not into monogamy/you as much as I thought I’d be, where do we go from here?” conversation with a partner will likely be conflict-avoidant in other ways (unless the thrill of cheating is what they like, which is a whole different issue), and while they’ve always proven trustworthy about non-emotional issues, I wouldn’t take their word about relationships or feelings, or count on them to do the right thing where the alternative means unpleasantness. (But I still prefer them to people who get judgmental about other people’s sex lives.) And I give people from other times and places, who grew up with monogamy as an “anything else makes you a bad person” default, more slack.

              Is that enough of a disclaimer, or would you like a list of references?

              * Which is mostly having friends on both sides of that divide.

              1. Katherine*

                I think based on the information we have about the affair we can safely conclude that the married guy is not in an open marriage and that his non monogamy is not consensual which is extremely hurtful and humiliating for the victim (his wife). He’s also obviously using OP’s friend for sex while she’s in love with him which is again extremely hurtful and humiliating for her. So the dude is having his fun at the expense of 2 women, which is incredibly selfish. You could do ethical non monogamy but it’s very hard and all parties must fully consent to it which is just not the case here. If you’re doing non monogamy without the enthusiastic consent of everyone involved you’re being a terrible person and hurting others for your own gratification.

                You can compare it with people who are into BDSM. When practiced consensually and safely it’s ethical. Take away even the enthusiastic part of enthusiastic consent and it becomes pretty bad. Take away consent and it’s a horrible thing.

              2. Traffic_Spiral*

                It’s not being “judgmental of other’s sex lives” to say you shouldn’t lie to your spouse and take a big ol’ dump on your marital vows. That’s like saying it’s “judgmental” to condemn a rapist because hey, it’s his sex life.

        2. Observer*

          Homewrecker is a really unfair term. I disagree with the people who think that having an affair with a married person is ok. But the reality is that he’s definitely the person with the most guilt. For one thing, he is the one actually reneging on his commitment. For another he’s in the position of power here. So, let’s not sling blame at one person and leave the most guilty party as the poor victim.

  31. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I’m wondering why the husband is jumping the work stress conclusion. Unless that’s the story that Jane is tossing out as a smoke screen.
    Aside from that bit of curiousity, I guess my advice to the OP is as follows:
    A. Tell your husband the real story. The last thing you want him to do is to start making career decisions based on inaccurate assumptions. Advise him to keep mum about the situation and pretend he doesn’t know.

    B. Tell Jane, that she seems to be in a mess and that she needs to figure out what she wants to do, but from here on out you don’t want anything to do with it.

    C. Until it blows up spectacularly stick your finger in your ears and refuse to hear any more on the subject from anyone.

    D. Send an update when all of this does blow up spectacularly so that we all get the story of what happened.

    1. LCL*

      The Janes (and Johns, this is not a gender thing) have a way of involving everyone around them in their drama. Because that’s what they do.

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    I would tell your husband since it’s obviously affecting him, but one thing I don’t understand is why your husband thinks it would be mormal for Jane to break up with her long time bf and relocate cities because of work stress.

    That’s not typical behavior (I think?), and probablly not really relevant but just had me wondering…

    1. Yorick*

      Yeah, I was pretty curious why he jumped to this conclusion too. If someone were moving to a new city after a breakup, wouldn’t you assume they want a new start somewhere else because of the breakup?

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is a really good point. Maybe he senses some kind of awkwardness/tension around the office because of the affair but is lacking the context for it?

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        That’s probably it… OR he does know/suspect about the affair but is also keeping it a secret from his wife!

  33. Indie*

    This kind of an affair can be described as an addiction and your friend will feel very powerless and deaf to other problems. It will start to affect her life in every area. Her lover is an old hand at this and will make sure the affair is perfect and more intoxicating than real relationships. Her only way out is intervention from loved ones, the affair blowing up or death by a thousand cuts (which could take years). You could encourage her to come clean to Team Her, family and friends and have someone she trusts tell his wife. She will never be able to just break it off herself. Moving won’t have any effect.

  34. Jerry Vandesic*

    One part of Alison’s advice is incredibly wrong, suggesting the LW speak to friend: “… and he’s really concerned that his own workload will soon be as impossible as he assumes yours will be. He’s becoming depressed about work because of it.”

    NO. Absolutely not. Do not tell your trainwreck of a friend anything about your husband’s business or personal life. It is not your information to share. And speculating about his mental health and talking about this with the friend is just so wrong.

    1. Heynonniemouse*


      LW is tying herself in knots keeping Jane’s secrets, but I wouldn’t put any money on Jane being equally discreet in not sharing info about LW’s husband’s mental heath with the boss. Her judgment is clearly pretty poor.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      This is wise. I’d skip over the entire “telling Jane anything” part and just go right to telling the husband. And if you absolutely *must* tell Jane something, a short simple “I can no longer keep this secret for you and I’ll telling my husband” is as far as you should go. If Jane can’t understand that, well, that’s Jane’s problem.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Great point. The relationship the LW needs to put first is the one with her husband, not the friend.

    3. JustMyOpinion*

      This is dead-on and I’m so glad somebody spoke up. In the same position, I wouldn’t tell Jane that my husband knows about it. In my relationship, my husband would be discreet enough to act as if he doesn’t know.

    4. Zillah*

      I agree with this. I’d probably not tell her at all before talking to my husband, though I’d make it clear to him that she’d made me promise not to tell.

      That goes a little counter to what I said above, but for me, Jane created a really inappropriate situation here in which an expectation of privacy wasn’t reasonable. I believe in keeping a friend’s secrets, but if (for example) my brother’s girlfriend told me she was cheating on him, there isn’t any universe in which I wouldn’t tell my brother, and his hypothetical girlfriend should know that. Telling me first isn’t a determining factor in whether I keep your secret.

      Two of the husband’s supervisors are having an affair, and the affair is impacting his work in ways that were very foreseeable. It’s not reasonable to expect his spouse to keep that to themselves.

    5. Lehigh*

      Hadn’t thought of that, but that’s a great point.

      LW, your husband deserves your discretion. Jane does not.

  35. AnotherKate*

    I agree with not getting involved with the actual workplace, but I don’t agree that OP needs to tiptoe around keeping Jane’s confidence. She doesn’t owe Jane anything at her own husband’s expense. If it were me, I’d tell my husband what was going on with strict instructions that he can’t let on that he knows or tell anyone I told him, but that I thought he needed to know since he was drawing the wrong conclusions.

    I can usually keep a secret, but I draw the line when I’m protecting someone’s confidence who is being unethical at my own family’s expense. (That said, I’d be ok with losing Jane’s friendship if she found out I told my husband).

    1. BethRA*

      She doesn’t owe Jane anything at her husband’s expense, I agree, but she does have a friendship with Jane that she wants to preserve (or at least try to). That might make it worth TRYING to get Jane to clear things up on her own.

      1. AnotherKate*

        I suppose. I have limited bandwidth for cheating, even among my friends, and it sounds like Jane is not in a place to be a good friend to anyone, so for me, I’d seriously consider stepping back from her until she can get it together. Maybe that’s not the most loyal thing, but when your bad behavior shows no signs of improving after I’ve been understanding AND you’re starting to mess with my spouse? It’s time for a time out. Of course OP’s feelings might be different, but that’s how I’d see it.

  36. Dr. Pepper*

    If this were me, my husband would have been the FIRST to know. If I had initially decided to keep Jane’s confidence to myself, that would gone out the window the second he stated his fears about why Jane is seeking a new job. And if Jane got mad that I told him? Well she can go boil her head because my response would probably have been an incredulous, “um, duh!” It would definitely not occur to me to try and interfere at his workplace or talk to anyone but him about the situation. It’s his job, he can sort it out. Jane can sort out her own problems too, if she wants to. Jane does not need to OP to sort them out for her, as the OP appears to be trying to do.

  37. all the candycorn*

    Normally, I would say to keep Jane’s secret as a good friend. But Jane’s secret is jeopardizing your husband’s job, and your shared livelihood! Your finances and possibly health insurance are at risk here, because of bad decisions Jane has made. If someone has to suffer, it should be her, not you.

    If your husband does leave his job and take one that’s derailing- a pay cut, a step down, not as good of a company- and he finds out that you knew all this “insider” information about the operations of his job, that will be a much, much bigger betrayal than betraying Jane’s confidence in you to protect your household.

    I am all for being a good friend, for not default-sharing everything with one’s spouse if you sense it is not meant to be shared. But Jane has put your finances in jeopardy, so it’s time to go scorched-earth against her.

    1. anonforthis*

      I don’t see how this is jeopardizing her husband’s job – there doesn’t actually seem to be that much that’s concrete here, other than her husband is worried that he may eventually have a heavier workload? People quit jobs for all kinds of reasons all the time. The LW also never said that her husband was considering leaving.

  38. CM*

    At first I thought, “This is an easy one, just say you know Jane has personal stuff going on and it’s not work stress that’s affecting her.” (Which is also Alison’s initial suggestion.) But on further thought, this is highly relevant information for the husband. I would definitely want to know if my boss was sleeping with a coworker and it was having an impact on my work experience, and I would be mad if my spouse knew and didn’t say anything or just vaguely said it was something personal. I wouldn’t tell Jane to tell the husband, I would just say to Jane, This is having an effect on Husband, and I don’t want to betray your confidence but I need to tell him. And then tell him.

  39. Vicki*

    Go to the married man. Tell him, clearly and unemotionally, that hs affair is making things difficult for a lot of people. If he doesn’t stop, you’ll tell his wife.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      Why on earth would you do this? Are you a soap opera character? A writer of melodrama? I wasn’t sure there was a way to make this situation more dramatic and overly complicated, but here it is.

      OP, absolutely do not do this for any reason. Talk to your husband and let everyone else sort their shit out on their own.

    2. Tabitha*

      This is awful advice! The LW has no reason to go to her husband’s boss and threaten his personal life.

  40. anonforthis*

    I had to read this like four times to figure out what was going on.

    LW, you are wayyyyyyy too enmeshed here. That you’re considering going to the HR department of a place or confronting a boss where you don’t even work is really extreme. Navigating this at work is your husband’s responsibility.

    Why does Jane even need to give her coworkers a reason why she’s leaving? Wanting to leave a job is reason enough to leave a job. You can tell her you can’t keep this a secret from your husband, but your husband’s feelings about maybe potentially have to work as hard as Jane seems to (?) are his to manage.

    Honestly, this letter seems to be twisting itself into a semantic knot to justify intervening. It seems weird to me that your husband is this worried about a coworker leaving. People quit and move jobs all the time.

    1. Yorick*

      I agree with the advice not to go to HR (especially since there could be blowback for the husband), but I don’t think OP’s idea of going to HR is extreme. If you know about an abuse of power happening, should you keep quiet and let it continue just because it’s at another company? What about the women that are suffering or will suffer in the future because of the boss’s actions? I guess I wouldn’t consider it unless Jane’s story made the boss seem really predatory.

      1. anonforthis*

        I definitely get what you’re saying – but the boss and Jane are having an affair. Yes, it’s gross and awful and the power imbalance makes it unethical, but the LW hasn’t said anything about Jane being retaliated against or harassed because of this affair, or that she’s being pressured to continue it. Jane is the one that “can’t bring herself” to break off the affair.

        I don’t disbelieve that the boss is predatory (anyone having a relationship with an underling is, IMHO), but Jane has not asked the LW for help.

        I think the LW should tell Jane she can’t keep the secret, tell her husband, and let her husband handle his work relationships.

        I still think the overinvestment in why Jane is leaving and what she’s telling people is weird.

  41. JustMyOpinion*

    OP I would consider closely cooling the friendship with your friend. She knows her behavior is not right, refuses to listen to you, and continues on. I would find it hard to continue a close relationship with someone when I was aware of conduct they were choosing to engage in that was so abhorrent.

  42. Ann Non*

    Maybe I missed it and someone else already noted this, but another reason to tell the husband immediately is that since Cheating Boss is also his boss, Husband might eventually be in a situation where he discusses Jane with Cheating Boss (expressing sadness that she has found another job; worrying about her workload; whatever) and it would be So Awkward for him to later find out that Cheating Boss was having an affair with Jane! And his spouse knew!

  43. J.B.*

    When a boss who should have known better was sleeping around, I was so glad to be one of the people who heard the rumors rather than being officially told about it. That way I didn’t own the problem.

  44. Kelly*

    I honestly don’t understand how a co-workers affair affects OPs spouse in his professional life. If you don’t want to support Jane in her behavior, great, stop being a ‘safe’ person for her to confide in.

    1. Dankar*

      Well, I mean, the co-worker is having an affair with her husband’s boss! It’s very likely both of them will be gone if HR finds out, and that really will impact his professional life.

      1. Kelly*

        I guess so. But that’s so much speculation. If Jane is leaving, that should (and I say SHOULD) end the issue, right?

        And what if the Boss decided to leave regardless of the Jane Issue. I know the stress for the Husband would be there, I don’t think the reason anyone leaves should be in play.

    2. anonforthis*

      I feel like the LW is way reaching to find a way to insert herself in her husband’s work relationships. Jane’s affair, gross and weird as it is, is hers to navigate.

    3. Yeah I'm Commenting!!*

      I agree. I don’t understand this at all. Let coworker move on. Tell husband or don’t. Either way he needs to remain calm and professional and continue to do his job and you need to stay out of his office drama.

  45. Michaela Westen*

    “her example has been one of self-destructive, workaholic misery…I have a feeling I will need to keep supporting her because her new job is still only an hour away…sadness and destructive behavior”
    OP, after Jane begins her new job you could consider distancing yourself from her. If she has a pattern of destructive behavior, this is not good to be close to. The people I’ve known who were like this didn’t change, and usually didn’t recognize what they were doing. It’s good to help when you can, but you can’t let Jane’s mess impact your life.

  46. Lamb*

    I’m finding LW’s husband’s reaction to what he knows of the situation a little… out of wack. Jane dumps her boyfriend = work stress?? Jane decides to move several cities away = work stress?? I could see breaking up because she wanted to move (if he didn’t), or moving because of the breakup, but concluding “Jane is changing EVERYTHING about her life because her workload is too heavy” does not make sense if LW’s husband was fine before this.
    LW, was your husband already feeling pushed to the edge? Had he been working long hours that were supposed to be temporary/a one-off and Jane’s “workaholic” behavior has convinced him that that is the way it is at this company? Does he have a history of anxiety or depression that the stress of this job (and Jane’s life??) could be bringing back to the fore?
    Given the extremity of the husband’s reaction, I don’t think just telling him about Jane will fix everything. It sounds like he will still need to address his depression and anxiety regardless.

    As for telling him about the affair, would he be able to treat the sleezy boss in a professional manner once he knew? Because if the husband wants to stay at the job (permanently or just until he gets something else) he probably needs to not call one of his supervisors an adulterous man-slut, so use your knowledge of him to make your decision LW.

    As far as Jane and her secrets, I feel like if you are one of the people above who refuses to keep anything confidential from your spouse, you need to let friends know that as soon as they try to confide in you. It is disingenuous to let someone believe you are trustworthy when you have no intention of keeping their information from your SO, aka a person they probably know but didn’t choose to confide in. LW, it seems like you actually don’t use your friends’ private goings on as pillow talk normally, so you ought to give Jane a heads up that you are going to tell your husband that she’s leaving the job for personal rather than professional reasons. Given that your husband has to maintain professional relations with the company and all the negative backlash that falls on the Janes in these situations (see even this comment thread where people call her a home wrecker when his home is in tact and say you should dump her as a friend for the sin of having drama in her life and not keeping it a secret from you), I don’t think you should tell him about the affair (“personal issues” is the phrase I like). Knowing her problems aren’t based on workload could help him, but being aware of the affair and having to act normal at work around the involved parties? That’s just more pressure.

  47. WoeIsWow*

    Tell your husband, tell the wife. This advice is BS. Cheaters are destroying lives in secret.

    This is not a true friend. Neither of them have integrity or morals. And you are being loyal to someone like that? Our reputations are also based on the company we keep. So ask yourself how your reputation will be affected once this blows up?

  48. Susana*

    Oh, this is awkward. But LW can say to hr husband (who knows she is friends with Jane) that look, she’s got some things going on in her personal life right now that are stressing her out, and she’s hoping new job will help. Don’t tantalize with an I-knw-something-you-don’t-know line. If he presses, say, well, it’s personal, and it’s not my place to share – but it’s NOT about workload stress.

    Oh, and boss might be a jerk, but he’s not by definition a “predator” just because he’s male and married. These are two adults who went into this relationship willingly. I get that it’s harder to see your friend hurting when he’s devil-may-care, but it was her decision to get involved with him.

    1. JustMyOpinion*

      Actually, it is her place to share. Her relationship with her husband should come first. It is not just about the stress he has at work. There is more to it then that. He is clearly friends with this man and his career is aligned with him. This affair will get out. The husband will know that LW knew about the affair. His allegiance to his boss could impact significantly his career when it does. He still has time to distance himself from any ties he has to Jane as well as distance himself from the boss. That way when it hits, he’s not collateral fall-out.

      I feel no sympathy for Jane who knowingly put LW in this position. Basically Jane is saying if I hurriedly blurt out a secret to you, you are forever bound to never tell a sole regardless of the ramifications. Simply, not the case. LW isn’t bound to Jane, but she is sure bound to her husband.

  49. Koala dreams*

    It’s very interesting to read the different interpretations in the comments. I’m going to put my 2 cents, and if it doesn’t fit the actual situation, please disregard.

    It seems to me that your main problem is taking on a lot of worry on behalf of the people in your life. You are absolutely entitled to draw your own boundaries when it comes to how much support you can give to people, and it’s generally a good idea to draw this boundary somewhere closer than “infinitively much”. As for your friend, you could simply say that you can’t really give her relationship advice, but you are happy to be there for other things. That could be talk about everything not realationship related, help moving, movie evenings or whatever you feel comfortable with. Be clear what you can and can’t do, and hopefully your friendship will bloom.

    As for you husband, you probably need to be more supportive, but you could set a limit how much time you want to spend on work stress. You could also encourage your husband to find a therapist or other friends and talk to them, instead of off-loading ALL the stress on you. Life is full of stress, and there will always be stressful things happening, but it helps nobody that you take on your husband’s stress so you both are unhappy.

    On that last note, I’m also a bit worried since it seems to me that if your husband is worried about his job merely because a friend and collegue is unhappy and searching for another job, there is a big risk that this situation will keep happening over and over again. People change jobs for so many reasons, and there is so many stressfull events in someone’s life. Are your husband expecting his future collegues to never ever be unhappy or change jobs? Because that’s not gonna happen.

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