I have recently overcome my shame to admit to the world that I have a problem. I am addicted to…..trashy reality TV. I am not proud of it. I am not glorifying my addiction. I have been struggling with this addiction for some time. It started off as a recreational indulgence as I can remember watching the original season of The Real World. I finally realized that I had a problem in 2006 when I became captivated with The Flavor of Love. I immediately tried to go cold turkey from this self-destructive addiction and did quite well for some time until the launching of a new poison by the name of…… Jersey Shore!……..(haha, I crack myself up) Like millions of other Americans I tune in on Thursday nights at 9 to watch the not so dignified group of Jersey, party-people do their thing. And while I had some reservations about watching the show this season because of the stereotypical impressions that the show promoted about Italian Americans last season, I couldn’t stop myself from tuning in this season as the cast moved to Miami! (Notice how the cast members have talked less and less about being Guidos or excessive tanning , or hairspray and hair gels. All things that were spoken of last season as what makes a true authentic Italian) They have certainly not disappointed. They have dropped all the talk about cultural authenticity and strictly stuck with being party animals. And of course…..the on again off again love affair of Ronnie and Samantha. Young, immature, selfish, uncommitted love at its finest.
These two are a train wreck to say the least but as I watched the show last night they touched on one of the more sensitive issues that many people face in relationships. Cheating. And not just the act of cheating or how to respond to cheating. Those are individual decisions that people make all the time. Nothing out of the ordinary about that. But the involvement of your friends in the dynamic of cheating and whether or not it is a friends obligation to tell you if they know your partner is cheating on you.
I think the first time that I ever heard anyone talk about this was when I was a freshman in college and my room-mate had a girlfriend who was in New Jersey while we were in college in VA. And one night while we were stuck in the dorm with no car and no rides we started talking about relationships. And I will never forget how shocked I was to hear him say, “if my girlfriend cheated on me at home I don’t think that I want to know“. Now the purity that was a by-product of my inexperience and youth, made me give him the What The F*&% are You Talking about look. I just couldn’t understand how he could even think about tolerating such a grave level of disrespect and hide behind his ignorance as a way to shield himself from the truth. But of course that was the prideful 18-year-old in me talking. And while I haven’t changed much, in the fact that I wouldALWAYS want to know if my girlfriend was cheating on me, I no longer am surprised or shocked to hear people who say that they do not want to know. Ignorance is happiness. It is blissful. It is maintaining a sense of normalcy that our lives need. Something to rely on. And to have to deal with that which you count on, being turned upside down is a stress that most people don’t want or need. So I can see where not knowing can be a good thing……….BUT……..A lot of times, the people around you cannot handle that. They cannot respect it. And they ultimately won’t stand for it.
Telling your friend that you saw his girlfriend grabbing some guys crotch in a dark night club is not a conversation that most guys really want to have. It brings shame, discomfort, anger and a very legitimate chance that you might face your friends rath as the bearer of bad news. People have this crazy, uncontrollable rush of emotions when they hear bad news and instead of being upset with the person who committed the crime against their trust, they take it out on the friend who thought that they were being devoted enough to tell you what is going on. And for this reason, people feel sort of hesitant to tell folks what they know. But just as bad as feeling the wrath of a friend scorned with the reality of bad news, is the friend who seems to be entirely dissatisfied with the actions that their victimized friends take in response to the bad news.
I have said it time and time again. You can’t shame your friends into breaking up with someone. You can share the truth with them and just support whatever decision they make. And I know that’s not an easy thing to do but it’s the right thing to do. Standing over a friend’s shoulder and making condescending comments and taking jabs at their partner is not the way to handle a friend with hurt feelings. This makes you an asshole! You cannot impart your sense of pride on someone else who has an entirely unique relationship with their partner. By being an antagonist all you are doing is throwing salt onto a festering wound. Tell them what you think they need to know and allow them to come to the decision that ultimately, only they will have to live with.
The Jersey Shore kids were all up in arms last night about a secret letter that was sent to Samantha that outlined all of the debauchery that her on again off again lover Ronnie had committed while in Miami. Of course the women who wrote the note felt that they were doing Samantha a favor, even after they joked and addressed the likelihood that she would probably not leave Ronnie anyway. So of course when Samantha finally read the letter she did what 10 million viewers all expected her to do. She read it…..blew a bunch of smoke about it…..and then found herself growing closer to Ronnie…. and questioning the very people who were trying to be her friends. And it certainly didn’t help matters that her friends were vocal about their disgust for her allowing herself to be played for a fool. So much so that during the climactic ending of the show the women came to blows. All the while her on again off again boyfriend stayed above the fray and above the criticism for the most part. And while this may, on the surface, play as some sort of man-woman manipulative, mind control sort of dilemma where the guy changes the issue from being about his infidelity to it being about what sort of friends would do this to you, it is not a gender thing so much. I have watched guys fight right on the spot for this very same sort of situation. It’s about people not being thoughtful when bad things happen to them. Following your heart is a great thing sometimes…..but just not during an emotional crisis!
Here’s a little advice……this is what I have done in similar situations. Maybe it can help you. I have only a handful of people who I would volunteer information to regarding the infidelity of their partner. And for the record, this is a conversation that I have had in detail with my closest friends who are in relationships so I know what they would want to hear from me. If I were to see my best-friend’s husband out with another woman, clearly being inappropriate, I would immediately confront him. Let him know that I have no code that will align him with me as a man over a 20 year friendship that I have maintained with his wife. And that I will give him 2 options. Either you tell her what you have done in the next 24 hours, or I will tell her in the next 48. That’s it. No negotiating, no bargaining. This puts it back on the perpetrator of the crime to own up and be honest about his/her mistake. And by doing this maybe it will allow them to repair the broken trust without having to hear the bad news from a friend and having their decision be overly affected by a sense of pride and shame. Because, believe me…..the last thing someone wants is to have a friend like “the Situation” standing over you telling you how you got played out while wearing that arrogant little smirk.