Advice: Her Cheatin’ Heart

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have a friend named “Mary”. Mary and I have known each other for ten years now; we met as freshmen in college and have seen each other through a lot of things.

In my case, I have mostly seen her through breakups. And new hookups. And breakups again.

Mary is not one to be single for very long, and every time she starts a new relationship it’s with the most fabulous guy she’s ever met. Of course, she’s sure that this time around, she’s finally met The One, at long last. At least, that’s how it is for the first month, and then she starts having random hookups.

It’s never cheating. It’s just exploring. She says she’s getting this wild stuff out of her system before she settles down. Or sometimes, “something” just happens with a friend while they’re hanging out and she said she couldn’t help it. But it’s not cheating, ever, as far as she’s concerned. It makes me feel really bad for the men in her life when she tells me about her latest rando. And somehow, the boyfriends are seemingly oblivious, so I end up feeling even worse, because they’re being played.

Recently, Mary has gotten engaged, again, and she’s asked me to be her maid of honor. Again. As a person, I feel like I can be friends with her because she’s never done anything to me. Still. I do feel kind of like a dirty accomplice, and I’m a little put off at the thought of standing at her side on her wedding day, knowing what I know. She swears that once he’s put a ring on it she’ll be faithful to her future husband, but I don’t really think I believe her. What should I do? Should I tell her fiancé what’s going on? Do I cut and run out on a ten-year friendship? Or do I keep quiet and accept her at her word, that she’ll cut the cheating out when she’s finally a Mrs.?


I See It, But I Don’t Like It

Dear Don’t Like It,

BnP: Well. Wow. It’s hard to know where to start on this one. But we’re going to start with… Yeahhhhh…we don’t like it either.

P: There’s the cheating. There’s the lying. There’s the demanding you be an accessory. There’s the whole “I’m just a girl who can’t say no,” or is it “the devil made me do it.” And then there’s the what in tarnation kinda friend is this?

I might start with the lying and asking you to lie. Which she does, every time she introduces you to a new BF and then proceeds to cheat on him and tells you and expects you to “wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”

Why would you choose that option? How is she your friend? Granted, your letter’s all about her cheating, but I don’t see one way you’re anything more than an accessory, or maybe a walking dispenser of absolution. Check your resume to see if the title “Mother Confessor” has been slipped in on your job description. Once she involves you, you start lying to the boyfriend. Granted she was your friend first, but if you like them at all, you’re helping her hurt him. And them. You’re lying too. Is that what you want?

B: I can’t help but feel that she’s coming to you to be absolved. Like, if you nod and metaphorically pat her on the head and tell her it’s OK, then it’s…you know. OK. Is that what you want to say? Is that the message you want to send? I agree with Ann, even though you’ve not said a word what you’re doing is lying right alongside Mary. Inaction is an action, people.

P: Now, for the cheating thing. Actually, none of us are perfect. Too many of us have done things of which we’re ashamed, especially when we were younger. We don’t know what we want. We don’t know how to ask for what we want if we do know. And all too often, we don’t know how to be honest about our misdeeds. These are the lessons we spend our 20s learning. You do lots of silly things early in life that you don’t do later in life because you learn they’re not good for us and they’re not good for people we know and love.

Cheating is one of those things. She’s a serial cheater. I don’t know whether it is an addiction. But I do know she’s not going to stop doing it until she admits that she’s a cheater and gets help figuring out what she’s looking for and why she’s destroying other people’s lives. Because that’s what she’s doing. And ding, ding, ding… if “things just happen” can we trust that she made sure that her surprise partner wrapped that rascal, or is she risking passing some dread disease on to her so called beloved? She’s not just risking giving her partner a broken heart in that case.

B: What I hate about “it just happened” is…well, yes, she’s not admitting to her behavior, but more explicitly, she’s not owning her sexual autonomy. You don’t “whoops” into bed with someone, it’s not like she slips on a banana peel and falls naked onto her paramour du jour. Engaging in sexual activity with another person requires a decision-making process, and unless she’s being forced into bed (which is another, far more dire letter) then she is an integral part of that process. She CAN keep her clothes on and prioritize her relationship with her fiancé. She CHOOSES to cheat on him.

P: I don’t care about her promiscuity. I care that she seems to have the need to do it within what she would call monogamy. Have (safe) sex all you want. But don’t rope some poor suspecting other into your life. People get to say whether they want to be in a threesome. And you are agreeing to hang out and be the voyeur. How’s that feel? Don’t you have better things to do? Do you have a partner? What does she or he think about your tacit approval of your friend’s cheating. It would make me nervous.

B: Yup, I also don’t care about whether or not she’s promiscuous, in that there are all sorts of sexual agreements that couples make that work for them, and they can certainly include other people in their beds. But the key word here is that it’s an agreement, mutually reached by both partners. Everyone has to be on board for an open relationship to work. Her fiancé is anything but. Mary can tell you all of her details, all she wants, and it doesn’t change the fact that she’s not telling the one person she should.

Which isn’t you.

P: We probably haven’t seemed really supportive yet, have we?

I think you need to decide what you think friendship is and what you want it to be. And then you get to be that friend. Being her friend may mean not being in relationship with her — because she’s not a good friend. I don’t want to hear the “she’s a good person.” She’s hurting people. Again and again and again. As the Wedding Priestess, I made my couples state their intentions to love one another for the rest of their lives and then I made their community sign up to love and support the couple and their intentions. I once did a series of three couples’ weddings. By the time Couple Number Three was getting married, Couple Number One was getting unmarried. Couples Two and Three came to me and said, “we went to talk to Couple Number One and asked them what they were doing. We reminded them what they had promised. We pointed out that it made mockery of the promises we had made to them and the promises we were all making to one another.” I was so proud of them. It took great courage. Nothing changed, but they were good friends. And the husband leaned on their love as the wife went on to the new life she’d already created.

But their actions were honest friendship in accordance with what they believed about loving coupledom and loving friendship. What kind of friend do you want to be? And what kind of friend do you think you deserve?

B: I think you need to spend some time deciding who you are. You wrote a letter asking us what steps you should take in managing your relationship with Mary, who exhibits behavior you no longer think is justifiable or can condone. And—I can’t believe how often I have to remind people about this—the only behavior you can ultimately control is your own. So who do you want to be? How do you want your behavior to be perceived? Your reactions help tell your story, and in your letter, in your own words, you say this situation makes you feel like a “dirty accomplice”, you’re “put off” by the idea of being in her wedding, and you “don’t really think you believe” she can be faithful after her wedding day.

Side note: “don’t really think you believe” is a wishy-washy way of calling her a liar. Can we please just say the words?

P: And she wants you to be her Maid of Honor? Um… whose Honor? How can you have honor if you’re not being truthful with the bride or the groom? Marriage isn’t just about having a great wedding. Marriage actually matters. What if she does this once she starts having babies? And let’s be clear, why would we think she wouldn’t keep cheating? Because, trust me, babies add stress to a marriage. And what does she do when there’s stress? Mess around. That’ll be great for the kids. Wanna be the aunt who tells the five-year-old that Mommy found someone better to do? Want to testify at that custody trial? Who better than you?

B: Should you tell her fiancé about her activities? No, I don’t think so. He’s in an unenviable position but it’s not your job to manage their relationship. Or, essentially, tattle on her. But good friends find the courage to have difficult conversations when they’re necessary. Good friends make room to care about the legitimate well-being of a friend. They don’t take the option to look the other way when they know their friend is making serious, potentially dangerous, mistakes. Can this lead to a friend-breakup? Maybe. Mary hasn’t been a good friend to you, as Ann has pointed out already, but you’re not being a good friend to her by holding your nose when her behavior stinks. And you’re not beholden to the acceptance of behavior that at one point you were kind of OK with, but now don’t think is quite so cute or funny. People grow, and change. It’s what we do. She might not like hearing what you have to say, but really…too bad. So again, I ask you: who do you want to be? The dirty accomplice? Or the good friend? It’s up to you.

Hey, Old Pal. Looking a little rough around the edges, there.

Hey, Old Pal. Looking a little rough around the edges, there.

The Old Pal

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Campari
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 full with ice. Add whiskey, dry vermouth, and Campari. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds, and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use as garnish.

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Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: Facebook-Unfriended in Real Life


Dear Bartender and Priestess:

I am a stay-at-home mom, who works from home too, and have generally considered myself friendly and able to maintain good friendships. I have a large group of mutual friends and we occasionally get together for celebrations or girls’ nights. But I have a pretty strong political streak, and I think that and Facebook are impacting my social life.

Because I am home all the time, I tend to hang out on Facebook and of course, everyone in my friends list sees everything I post, and I do post a lot of political things. Anyone I knew who might not have been familiar with my political views knows about them now. I lost some peripheral friends over some things I posted, but that didn’t bother me very much. I mean, you’re not “friends” with everyone you’re friends with on Facebook, right?

Now, it seems like even my close friends are cutting me out of their lives. This morning, a friend wrote a post to another friend, talking about how much fun they all had celebrating her birthday out on the town. I was never even invited. I feel like this is related to my political posting. Sometimes, I try to not post as much but I can’t stop myself from talking about these things. I don’t want my friends to only be the friends who share my political views, but I think that’s what starting to happen. Part of me wants to quit Facebook, but I don’t get to get out much and it gives me some human interaction. Help!

Facebookin’ Mama

Dear Mama,

B: There are two things we don’t discuss in my bar. Or polite company. Or any company, unless you’re determined to upset at least one person in the room. One of those topics is religion. The other is politics. The problem with making statements about things like politics, is that it excites strong feelings in people. You have them yourself, when you say things like, “I can’t help posting about things I care about.”

I have issues with “I can’t help”. I’ll get to that in a minute. 

P: Your question is a tangle with a bunch of threads to pull. Some of them are fairly straightforward. Terri has some great things to say here, so let’s start with some practical suggestions.

B: So, you can’t help posting things because they generate a strong enough passion in you that you need to declare it to the world. Consequently, your friends can’t help reacting with their own passion at what you post. There are a few things I want to make perfectly clear here.

  • No one can tell you that you have to stop posting anything to your Facebook page (unless, of course, you’re posting things that are illegal). Your first amendment rights protect you in that regard. You can declare your political affiliations to your heart’s content.
  • That is where your first amendment rights end. You can say what you want, but you cannot dictate your friends’ reactions to your statements. They are free to agree, or not, or think you’re over-the-top, or choose not to associate with you, based on what you say.
  • BECAUSE (and I think this is what trips people up), WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING ON FACEBOOK, YOU’RE ACTUALLY SAYING IT. There’s absolutely no reason why a friend should read a post of yours and think, “Huh, this post from Jane showed up in my newsfeed and it’s like the hundred others she posts, and it’s diametrically opposed to everything I believe in and that’s all she ever posts, but I’m sure she doesn’t mean all of it, or that I won’t take the constant barrage on my deeply help belief system personally.” You may be a deep thinking, multi-faceted, lovely young woman with a lot of love and loyalty to offer a friend, but you’re changing the public perception of you to relentless wonk who only ever talks politics. Do you want to be friends with that person? I don’t want to be friends with that person. Sometimes, friends just want to share cat videos.
  • And finally…you CAN help what you post. Because you can choose to not post things. You can put a filter on your posts. You can self-edit. If you’re talking to someone, do you feel compelled to say everything you think, even if you know it would be totally disagreeable? My bet is, you know well enough to use a filter in real life. If you want to maintain friendships, you need to start doing the same thing on Facebook. You can’t say something and then not expect to be held responsible for saying it. In fact, because you’re online and not in person, you can take the time to consider what you’re posting. Sometimes, in conversation, gaffes tumble out of one’s mouth before you can stop yourself. But you can consider, carefully, in your own time, if something you’re considering posting is a good idea, or not.

P: If you’re really involved with politics, make a separate Facebook page or group for your political posts and start growing some like-minded friends and people you can talk with about things that seem to matter to you. The world needs people who are informed and willing to do things to make a difference. If you’re looking to make a difference, a page might be your best choice. If you’re looking to vent, make a group. And when you’re tired of it, you can dissolve it.

Are you building something constructive with your platform? Are you offering people something to hold on to — a place they can begin to come together? There are certain people whom I follow who do good research and provide me with provocative and interesting posts to read that make my life richer. It’s good to be one of those people. Boredom is a great tool for going deeper into things that matter.

Why are you posting? What do you want to get out of this? Are you looking to become more informed and involved with politics? Do you want to start looking at local politics and see how you can help move things along? Because there are lots of things that stay at home moms can do to help campaigns both political and service. Working with other people can give you new and fun friends who are interested in what you’re interested in. And you’ll be doing something worthwhile. Oh, indeed, being a good citizen is very worthwhile! And not every friend needs to be all things to you, as you’ve said… but are you practicing that?

If, however, you’re turning off lots of people, I wonder a bit about the way you’re posting. Are you reflexively posting/reposting? Or are you building a foundation for your views? I’m always curious what people are interested in, but I have to say I have no time for the those “you people are stupid” posts so many seem to favor. I’m so over inflammatory posts. Yawn. Or Hide. Or Unfriend. People do that on FB and they do it in real time, which you’re sadly discovering. If this is you, is this who you want to be? Because you’re saying that people you care about are moving away.

The WHAT ARE YOU THINKING gesture transcends all questions.

The WHAT ARE YOU THINKING gesture transcends all questions.

B: What I’m really concerned with in all of this, though, is that you seem to be starving for adult human interaction. I know how it is. It’s so easy, when you work from home, to fall into dysfunction. It’s no problem to stay in your pajamas and not shower and live inside your computer screen. When I started working from home, the first thing I did was join a gym. I figured at least that would force me to shower, and I would see other people besides my beloved. Who is very nice, but not the only person I ever want to see.

Is there something that’s stopping you from getting out there and joining…something? A book club, a gym, an adult enrichment class? Since you claim to be passionate about politics, why don’t you volunteer one night a week with a local political organization? If you connect with an organization you believe in you can satisfy a passion while having an adult conversation—two birds, the same stone.

P People’s leaving or distancing means you’re doing something that’s putting people off. That’s hard to hear. When it’s one person you can kinda go, wow, what’s wrong with them? But when it’s a bunch of people, it may not be them — especially since it seems they’re getting together and having fun without you. And if it’s not them… (draw icky conclusions here.). My shrink used say, “No one needs to love you when you walk into a room throwing up.” Facebook is such a room. Is this what you’re doing.

It sounds as if you might want to call together one or two of your most trusted friends, and say, “huh. I saw that everyone got together and realized I wasn’t invited.” The temptation will be to be accusatory… but what you’re looking for is information so you can make things different/better for you. So you want to say, my friendships are important to me, and I seem to be pushing people away, I trust you guys to tell me the truth, what can I do differently?

And then be prepared for the owie stuff, but try to keep listening. These are friendships you value, so your friends will have good things to say. It’ll be awkward, they won’t always do it right, so you may have to say, ok, all I can feel is hurt, can you find another way to say that to me so I can hear you?

And then sit with the info for a while and figure out what you want to do about it. You may want to talk to a therapist, or you may just want to stop and think about how to invite people more deeply into your life (instead of pushing them away with inflammatory posts).

B: Now, as a friend, I want you to be aware of this: most people? Don’t want to have to defend their beliefs. They don’t want to have a political debate. And they particularly don’t want to have a debate on Facebook. You’re not going to engineer any political epiphanies (OH MY GOD! Now that you’ve posted that meme I see the world differently!) by laying down post after post of contrived political meme-ery. It’s irritating, and a really easy way to turn people against you. I know you don’t want to live in an echo chamber of people who only ever share your political view. But here’s the thing: most people? Do.

Most of my friends know where I stand in relation to them on the political spectrum. I don’t need to engage them over our differences. I have friends who hold very different opinions than I do, and of those friends I know which select few I can debate. Privately. In my home, and not on Facebook. And yes, it’s satisfying when it happens. It sharpens the teeth, stokes the passion in the belly, forces one to think, possibly alter our own perceptions. But you won’t have that kind of relationship with everyone. You need to honor the relationships you have and let them exist as they are. As a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom, the dysfunction of isolation is never far away. We can forget what it’s like to have to interact with other people. Get back out into the world in some way, and connect with people. We form communities for a reason. When you satisfy a passion in real life, you won’t have to rely on your virtual life so much.

P: Good luck with this. I think you have a real opportunity to make a difference both in your life with your friendships and a deepening sense of yourself as a citizen on FB and in the real world. If in fact you want to. And hooray for you for looking at it. This uncomfortable journey may be a great springboard for a life full of more!


This sounds like one heck of a cocktail..! ;)

This sounds like one heck of a cocktail..! 😉

Political Partini 

2 parts pear flavored vodka
1/4 parts Amaretto liqueur
1/4 parts simple syrup
1/2 part lemon juice
Pear slice for garnish

Pour into cocktail shaker, strain into cocktail glass and garnish.

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos, and thanks to George for modeling.

Thanks to The Lewisburg Hotel for the generous use of their location.

If you want to find out more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

Have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and add appropriate punctuation. All correspondence will be kept confidential (unless you’re doing something illegal).

Thank you for reading! Now, go tell all your friends about us.


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