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Caught in the Middle

Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

The best student comment on "Caught in the Middle" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be recieved by midnight, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
 
Ben and Tyler have been best friends since day one of college. Now seniors, they’re still inseparable, despite many ups and downs over the years.

 Lately, though, Ben’s been noticing that something’s a bit off with Tyler. He’s been spending a lot of time with this girl Lucy, and less time with his actual girlfriend, Kendra. Ben asked if something was going on between them, but Tyler insisted that he and Lucy just have a lot of classes together and work together on homework, sometimes late at night. Ben knows how much Tyler loves Kendra, and trusts that his friend is telling him the truth. Later, though, Kendra confides in him that she thinks Tyler is cheating on her. He waves away her concern, telling her that Tyler loves her and wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.
  
However, this shady behavior continues for a few weeks, and Ben is starting to have doubts about his friend’s honesty. These doubts are unfortunately confirmed when, at a party, he sees Tyler flirting with Lucy. Kendra is spending the evening in the library, so Ben realizes that Tyler is taking this opportunity to have a little fling. He watches from across the room as Tyler leads Lucy to his bedroom, shutting the door.
  
Ben feels a strange mixture of emotions: confusion, betrayal, anger, and still an irrational sense of protectiveness over Tyler’s integrity. “Tyler’s just drunk,” he tells himself. “Everybody makes a mistake every once in a while.” Still, he feels hurt that Tyler lied about being attracted to Lucy, and angry that he would cheat on Kendra. Even though Tyler is his best friend, he still considers Kendra a close friend, too.
  
What should Ben do? Should he go home and pretend he didn’t see anything? Should he bang on the door and tell Tyler to knock it off? Should he tell Kendra what he saw, so that she doesn’t get hurt? If he does that, where does that leave his friendship with Tyler?
 
 

 **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

Comments Comments

Tony said on Feb 4, 2013
Ben should talk to Tyler about it the next day. Telling him to knock it off and trying to interrupt the act of cheating itself is a futile act; the fact that Tyler was INTERESTED in cheating on Kendra is the issue here. It's unethical for Tyler to be cheating on his girlfriend, but it's also not cool of Ben to go straight to Kendra. She needs to know about the situation, but Ben should talk to Tyler first, and tell him that he needs to tell Kendra what's been going on. Tyler should be the one to talk to Kendra so that Ben does not get in the middle of their relationship issues unnecessarily. That being said, if Tyler is unwilling to talk to Kendra, it's Ben's moral imperative to tell Kendra about it so that she is not being deceived. Regardless of how their friendship is affected by him deciding to do so. Because if Tyler is really uncomfortable with Ben correcting him when he makes mistakes, their friendship isn't particularly healthy. - Like - 3 people like this.
Patrick said on Feb 6, 2013
What stands out about this case to me is that it requires Ben, or others in similar a situation, to develop a personal conception of friendship. My perspective on friendship, credit Aristotle for just about all of it, is that a true friend is essentially "another self," in that the well-being of that person is of (perhaps near) equal importance to your own. Take for example a friend asking for your help moving into a new apartment on a weekend you have a big paper due; if the benefit your friend gets from you helping him out is greater than the cost of pulling an all-nighter to get the paper done, under this framework you should help him out. Based on this level of commitment, and given that the moral dilemmas that you encounter will largely be determined by the character and integrity of your friends, it follows that one should set a considerably high standard for those they call friends. (There is also a self-interested concern here said best by Jim Rohn: "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with"). This is contrasted with friendships based on utility or convenience, which are founded upon nothing more than the benefit that each person gets from the other; in result, if the benefit were to no longer exist, neither would the friendship. With that said, if confronted with the situation Ben finds himself in, I would confront Tyler and tell him to step up and end the relationship with Kendra (or perhaps come clean and try to make things work, but in my opinion his actions demonstrate he doesn't value the relationship). As a friend, I find it prudent to give Tyler the opportunity to come clean and handle the situation on his own terms. From that point, I would not volunteer the information to Kendra; although given that Tyler had an opportunity to set things right, I would not feel obligated to lie for him and would tell the truth if asked. At the same time, there is a potential health risk to Kendra in the form of STDs which may be enough to warrant telling Kendra immediately; regardless, the level of risk depends on the situation and I find it difficult to "draw a line in the sand" given the amount of information available. A bit of a curve ball here is the level of friendship that "Ben" has with Kendra. If Ben had comparable relationships with both, I would still give Tyler the opportunity to come clean, but would let him know that if he didn't do so in the next week I'd have to go to Kendra directly. Despite this, in this scenario it seems that Kendra is more of a "context friend," in that it is facilitated by and dependent on the context of Tyler and Ben's friendship; in consequence, I would defer to the original response. In closing, and referring back to the "standards" one should have for true friends, Ben should re-evaluate his friendship with Tyler, perhaps taking into account how he handles the situation. We all make mistakes, but based on Tyler's behavior demonstrated here he's not someone I'd call a friend. - Like - 6 people like this.
Kfuelling said on Feb 8, 2013
Honesty is everything and Ben was trying to be a good friend by asking Tyler what he was doing in the first place. The fact that Tyler played it off as a ?study-budy,? yet took the relationship to another level without telling Kendra, was definitely a warning sign. I am not sure if Ben was ?nice enough? to Tyler to let it go that far, or not being a great friend. If Ben does see Kendra as a friend as well, it is up to him to make things right or at least put them in perspective for all parties in question. I don?t know if Ben should bang on the door at that moment, but he certainly needs to sit Tyler down after Lucy has left or the next morning. This fling should not go on much longer. I also don?t believe Ben should be the first person to spill the news to Kendra. At this point, he needs to confront Tyler again. He needs to emphasize the pain Tyler has put Kendra through and that she does not deserve someone like Tyler if he will continue to act in that manner. If Tyler does not bring up the situation and apologize for his actions to Kendra, then Ben should intervene. Sure, we could recommend that Tyler make the first move to speak with Kendra, but if he is slyly carrying on this side relationship, it is unlikely he will confess and apologize. The apology is of course based upon the fact if he thinks he is doing something wrong. Ben needs to evaluate his position in this strange triangle of events. Does he see himself as a good friend to Tyler? Does Tyler appreciate his friendship? If both stand true, then Tyler would appreciate the reality check provided by Ben, maybe not in the moment, but he would understand that Ben has Tyler?s best interests at heart. - Like - 2 people like this.
Max said on Feb 11, 2013
I would imagine that its Ben's duty to tell Kendra. I would, however, think its very important he confirms his suspicions and does not "jump the gun." Once he did confirm his friend was in fact cheating on Kendra, I think he is duty bound as her friend to tell her. Its not a matter of loyalty, but what is right and wrong. Besides, if his friend has already denied this affair then its highly likely he will not tell Kendra even if his friend did tell him to. I think the golden rule is pretty effective in this situation. I would want to be told, and thus as his friend--despite his loyalty-- should tell Kendra. - Like
Samantha said on Feb 11, 2013
I think this almost hints at Kant's idea of universal maxim's if everyone was not duty bound to tell the truth, then we could never trust one another. You also have to take into account Kendra's future trust in people. The longer her boyfriend is allowed to cheat on her and the more people who know about it and don't tell her, the more destructive it is to her trust basis. Can you imagine if everyone in your life kept a secret from you? It would take a significant amount of time to rebuild the trust once you know multiple people have been lying to you. - Like
Samantha said on Feb 11, 2013
I think this almost hints at Kant's idea of universal maxim's if everyone was not duty bound to tell the truth, then we could never trust one another. You also have to take into account Kendra's future trust in people. The longer her boyfriend is allowed to cheat on her and the more people who know about it and don't tell her, the more destructive it is to her trust basis. Can you imagine if everyone in your life kept a secret from you? It would take a significant amount of time to rebuild the trust once you know multiple people have been lying to you. - Like
The Big Q said on Feb 25, 2013
Congratulations to Patrick, winner of this Big Q Contest! Thank you to all who submitted thoughtful responses, and please keep commenting on our bi-weekly contests for another chance to win! - Like
SueSue said on Dec 6, 2013
Ben should send Kendra an anonymous letter in the mail (stamped, through the USPS)--without the return address of course. The letter should simply state "Your boyfriend, Tyler, is cheating on you." Have a stranger handwrite it, including envelope address, or print it out from a computer (then erase the text). It's not a cowardly way to do it, it's a way to inform Kendra what you know is true, what she needs to know and it's doesn't put Ben in awkward situation of being bearer of bad news, which sometimes doesn't go well at all and makes everything worse. - Like
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Tags: cheating, friendship, infidelity, love