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The End of the Affair: Do I Tell My Boss Her Boyfriend Is Cheating?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,
I’ve found myself in a strange situation and I have no idea what to do.
First, some background: I have a (summer) job. As a result, I have a boss. Let’s call her Emily. Emily was once married, but got divorced when she discovered that her husband was sleeping with her best friend.
Emily is now over that whole thing, mostly, and in a relationship with Ed. Ed is awesome, always fun to be around, can always say the right thing, and so on.
Then there is Sarah. Emily gives lessons in a sport, and Sarah is one of her clients. A client that is only 17. She doesn’t often act like 17, though. She’s fairly responsible and extremely attractive but has never really been interested in boys. However, she does tend to carry a torch for older men.
And when I was attempting to get Sarah’s phone to STOP MAKING NOISE ALREADY, I discovered text messages from Ed on her phone. Text messages discussing their relationship, and how he doesn’t think it is just about the sex, though he really does love the sex. And it was great to see her last night, but he wishes he could have kissed her. And he loves the way she looks when she wakes up in his arms in the morning. In short, Sarah and Ed are having an affair.
Do I tell Emily? Do I attempt to talk to Sarah and/or Ed? Do I do nothing and pretend that this never, ever happened? Do I talk to the assistant boss? (Realize that since we all work 6-7 days a week, and long hours each day, we all know each other pretty well. And we’re all pretty much good friends, or else we’d want to kill each other more often.)
Since my only “evidence” exists on a phone that is not mine, I feel that I have no ground to stand on if I attempt to bring this to the light. I’ve known Emily since I was little, and love and respect her like crazy. She doesn’t carry grudges, she doesn’t take her anger out on you, she just deals with life the best she can.
I did realize that you can look at your text messages and see when you have sent/received messages, and I also just found out that Emily is the adult on Sarah’s online account for her cell phone…. So Emily could easily go in and see that Ed and Sarah are sending each other a lot of text messages at strange times. Times that he was probably supposed to be in a meeting or at work.
To make things even MORE confusing, Ed is also divorced, and has three kids from that marriage. One is old enough to be out on her own, but the other two are only in middle school and Ed just won a custody battle for his son, who asked to move and live with his dad and Emily.
I have no idea who started the affair. Sarah is one of those people who tends to go along with what people want from her, cause she wants to make everyone happy. Of course, she also tends to fall for older men. But… in fall-outs between Emily and her clients in the past, Sarah has always expressed great respect for Emily and I’m sorry, but you canNOT respect someone AND sleep with their man.
Advise me, wise Amy. I’ve got to deal with all these people for the rest of the summer. (And Sarah is often the person who works for me on my days off.)
Didn’t want to know, didn’t mean to know

Hey, has everyone here seen Ratatouille? You know that one scene in the walk-in freezer where Linguini takes Remy the Rat out of his shirt and just starts screaming random sounds at the sight of all the little rat scratches and bites all over his torso? That’s what my brain sounds like when it reads this email. Blearrrah! Gaaahhrfy! Yayayaiiii!
I…I think you need to speak up here, dude. Two reasons why it’s the right thing to do:
1) You’ve known Emily since you were little. To not say something would be a betrayal on your part, and it sounds she’s had enough betrayal to go around ALREADY, thank you very much.
2) Sarah is underage. Yes, she’s mature and responsible and it’s consensual and all, but still. At worst, depending on your state laws, Ed is committing a felony. At best, he’s still a divorced dad of three sleeping with a teenager.
This, for me, sends the situation far beyond the “usual” coworker affair. She’s. A. Teen. Ager. You mention all the “respect” she has for Emily and how close they are and blah blah blah. She’s 17 years old. She’s being dumb. (Seriously? Emily could access her text messages if she wanted to? Uh. Not exactly an expert at this stuff yet.) She’s being used by some guy who is promising her the moon while planning to move in with his of-legal-age girlfriend, making it all exciting and terribly grown-up and YARRRGHH. (Little rat teeth everywhere!)
In a way, Sarah needs protecting against this creep as well — a wake-up call that maaaaaybe her penchant for older-man-affairs is a life plan she should rethink a little bit. And Emily…well…how much respect could YOU claim to have for her if you let her move in with someone who is already cheating on her? (AND dragging his children into this mess of a situation, good LORD, what a ratty tool.) Personally, “open to sleeping with teenagers younger than his own children” is kind of a relationship deal-breaker for me.
As for the ever-present question of “what if she doesn’t believe me?” Well. That’s always the con you weigh in these to-get-involved-or-not sort of situations. It sounds like Emily is a pretty reasonable and trusting sort of person, and if she can in fact check the phone records online, I think you’re covered. It’s completely your call if you want to say something to Ed or Sarah first, although that’s certainly giving them a heads up to destroy evidence and come up with cover stories. And really…do they deserve a courtesy heads up? Eh. I wouldn’t bring anyone else into this, especially from work, since that might only extend the humiliation for Emily when she finds out.
I’d likely just plan an evening with Emily — take her out for drinks or have her over for dinner, where you can really talk and express your regret and turmoil over having to get involved in this mess. Don’t dance around the subject or suggest clever ways she could discover the affair on her own. Just be honest. “Emily, Sarah and Ed are having an affair. I was trying to silence Sarah’s cell phone and found X Y and Z. It’s killing me to say this, but there’s just no universe in which I could live with myself for staying quiet and letting him continue to betray you like that.”
This is not going to make for a pleasant summer working environment, I can promise you that. Especially if (when?) it gets back to Ed and Sarah that you blew the whistle. You might want to maaaaybe submit some applications elsewhere, just to have some options if things get unbearable. But…well. Doing the right thing isn’t easy, and personally I’d prefer to get another job than live with my guilty conscience all summer if I chickened out and stayed mum. (Then again, I have a flair for the Dostoyevsky Dramatics sometimes.)

Published June 27, 2008. Last updated June 27, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Sunshine

    June 27, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Yes, tell. I would want to know if I were Emily. Sorry you’re in such a tough spot. Making a mental note to always leave everyone else’s cell phones alone and just turn up my ipod.

  • Missie

    June 27, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I agree with Amy. You.Have.To.Say.Something.
    The fact that Sarah is a teenager adds a layer of Ewwwww to this situation, but even if she were 22 or 32 or 42…knowing a “friend” is treating another friend like that and not saying something is, in my opinion, just like helping Ed and Sarah pay for the hotel room.
    Put yourself in Emily’s shoes..figure out how you would want to be told..because I am guessing from your letter that if this were you, you would TOTALLY want to be told.
    I do not envy you having to do this, because there is a good possibility that you are going to lose someone’s friendship over this. Courage, young padwan, courage!

  • qwyneth

    June 27, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Yaaaargahwah! I am never touching another person’s cell phone after this. I am so glad I’m not in your shoes.
    My instinct in this sort of situation is usually to stay the hell out of it, but the fact that Sarah is not-of-legal-age and you’ve known Emily most of your life puts it over the line for me. I would tell. (Also, if Emily found out some other way she’s almost certainly cry to you, and gah, that would be awkward.) You should really take Amalah’s advice about finding another place to work for the summer though. It’s sad, but plenty of people take their anger out on the person who told them about the betrayal, at least at first. “Shoot the messenger” and all.
    Incidentally, Emily should probably think about getting into therapy to figure out why she gets involved with skeezy men. One guy’s bad luck, two is a habit.

  • glittergirley

    June 27, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I was in a similar situation .. I had set up my two best friends in college and they ended up having a serious relationship for four years. Then one went out of the country to teach and ended up cheating on the other. However, they were BOTH my best friends throughout college so what was I to do? It was realy awkward, but then one day all of us were hanging out and a third friend asked the victim friend a hypothetical question: “if your sig. other was cheating on you, would you want to know.” The victim friend said no. So.. I never told him. Am I happy about my choice? Not sure.. still fighting ethical dilemma about it but then their relationship eventually deteriorated on its own so .. i guess in the end I was just glad that I respected my victim friend’s wishes and stayed out of it but… eww i felt gross.

  • Procrastamom

    June 28, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Sorry, no time to leave a comment. I’m busy tying up my sixteen and a half year-old daughter and locking her in the basement, while my own brain explodes at the EW factor of this whole situation. Gah!

  • Dawn

    June 28, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I agree that telling Emily is the right thing to do. I don’t know if I’d be personally ballsy enough to outright say it, but I might say some something like, “Emily, I accidentally saw some of Sarah’s text messages from Ed and they looked a little…inappropriate. Just thought you might want to know.” Poor dear.

  • jsdcreative

    June 29, 2008 at 5:00 am

    Maybe instead of saying it outright, it’s best to just say something along the lines of:
    “Emily, did you know you can check text messages for all your cell phone online accounts? I think you need to do some checking.”
    And then let her know how to do it.
    That way you’re not the total whistle-blower. You’re just giving some very relevant information which empowers her to discover things for herself, and act accordingly. It might take her a day or two for her to pluck up the courage, but at least she’s dealing with it prvately and without the addaed humilation.

  • menderz

    June 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

    I was cheated on. Many of my friends knew, yet none wanted to get involved and tell me. I really wish one of them had.

  • anon

    June 30, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    I was sleeping with a 35-year-old man when I was 17.
    I ended up outgrowing him in a couple of months. Sarah will outgrow Ed in about another 5 minutes.
    Ed is clearly stupid so it is all going to come out sooner or later.
    My advice is to stay out of other people’s messy personal lives whenever you can. Everyone is going to be hurt enough without having any help.

  • AL

    June 30, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Please keep us posted on how this turns out. What a mess to be involved in!

  • Jessica

    July 1, 2008 at 8:53 am

    If so then….
    EWWWWW>>>> YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING, Emily first, Sarah second, and maybe Sarah’s mom. I don’t care how responsible, mature, etc. you think she acts. SHE IS A CHILD. And clearly she is not responible or mature enough to know that she should not be sleeping with anyone who is apparently old enough to be her father, given the fact that he already has one child living on his/her own. What if she or Emily gets an STD? Or gets pregnant and then my god theres yet another innocent child caught in this disaster. And what about this sleezeball’s children? Are any of them girls? If so, then 1) How safe are they from him? 2)What about their friends? and 3) What kind of role model is that for a preteen girl?
    There is alot of ick factor in this mess. I am so sorry for you!

  • Norma

    July 2, 2008 at 1:05 am

    I was thinking the same as Jessica, what IF, MAYBE, it’s another ED, man would that be embarassing! Otherwise, it’s just plain gross!

  • Anonymous

    July 2, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Interesting that this question was also asked of Sars over at Not sure what I make of that. At first I thought this was probably a case of mistaken identity — either the writer got her bosses phone, in which case the messages are innocent, or Sarah has a boyfriend named Ed. But now I am wondering if it was a prank letter. I mean, how would you “accidentally” see multiple text messages?