#932: “My deceased Aunt was having an affair with a married dude. Should I tell his wife?”

Content Note: Violent death, mentioned in passing.


I have a moral quandary. My Aunt O was murdered a few weeks ago (my cousin had a psychotic break and killed her — it’s as awful as it sounds but that part doesn’t come in here) so our family has been going through her things. One of the people who contacted my Aunt L, who is next of kin, was this lawyer guy who professed to have been involved with my Aunt O for some years despite being married. He seemed to sort of fancy himself in the role of chief mourner? And sent my Aunt L a lot of very explicit poetry about my Aunt O (boundaries dude)? He’s drifted off again for now since the funeral has been delayed. Looking through my Aunt O’s computer, this man seems to have been telling us the truth about this relationship having occurred though with far less interest on my Aunt O’s side than he would wish to believe. Anyway.

The part I’m stuck on now is whether or not to contact his wife. I know most people would say, “it’s none of your business,” and I hear that but I also know that I would want to be told if my husband was sending unbalanced explicit emails to strangers and sleeping around. As a feminist especially, I’m really uncomfortable throwing this woman to the wolves.

He specifically asked my Aunt L to “be discreet” so I’m sure his wife doesn’t know. My Aunt L hates conflict and will never tell this man’s wife so I can’t put this on her. I looked the wife up online and she seems to be a normal, middle class woman in her 60s who works for a local college in some administrative capacity and has three grown children.

I am so very sorry for your family’s loss, how horrible!

If this guy wanted things to be discreet maybe he should have thought of that before he styled himself as the Ovid of Oversharing and sent poor Aunt L. all that poetry. My feeling is that you should not necessarily notify his wife but that you should delete his messages, not inform him about or invite him to the eventual funeral, and if he persists in contacting you, ask him directly to leave your family alone. His request for discretion gives you leverage: “Aunt O. never mentioned you, so we’ll try to respect her wishes for keeping this all quiet, but if you push yourself in when we’ve asked you to leave us alone, why should we?

I know the Wrongness of all this is eating at you, but either his wife knows who she married and they are dealing with it between them, or she’s blissfully ignorant and you’ll be throwing a brick through the window of her life in the name of …feminism? You’d want to know in her shoes, but in her shoes, how much credit would you give a random account from a stranger?

She’s not your problem. He is. If this guy stays away from you and yours from now on, I’d let Aunt O. take their affair (and the resulting literary output) to the grave with her.

156 thoughts on “#932: “My deceased Aunt was having an affair with a married dude. Should I tell his wife?”

  1. “or she’s blissfully ignorant and you’ll be throwing a brick through the window of her life”

    I mean, that’s the point, though: is it really bliss if she doesn’t have the whole picture? Is a “negative happiness” that exists only because someone is hiding something horrible from you really happiness? If she’s having sex with her husband, isn’t she only consenting because he’s withholding this information from her? If he’s having sex outside their relationship, is he using protection, or is he potentially exposing her to STIs?

    This isn’t “malicious revenge” tattling. This is giving a woman information she needs to make an informed decision about an important relationship in her life.

    If I’m having a picnic on a bridge, and you notice one of the supports looks rotten but decide not to warn me because you think I must be having such a great time, I’m not going to thank you if it snaps and the bridge collapses out from under me. Tell me about the rot you see, and then I can make an informed decision about whether or not I’m having enough fun (or maybe I already knew about that support, and despite how it looks to you, I know it’s actually quite sturdy).

    The mere fact that this guy is asking for discretion means he knows (or suspects) his wife would react badly to the knowledge. To me, that ABSOLUTELY means she needs to know, as I would want to know in her place.

    1. The thing is, though, that not everyone feels the same way you do. I would absolutely not, under any circumstances whatsoever, want to receive that information from a stranger, or honestly even from a friend who wasn’t directly involved in the cheating.

      1. I can’t imagine who you think should be qualified to dispense this information. If the other woman(or man) told you, that wouldn’t be acceptable because they weren’t a close friend ?

        Boy, I hope you are never in this situation to comprehend how the NOT knowing feels, when others around you knew and said nothing.

        1. I’m sorry, I guess my comment was half-baked. My point wasn’t really about who is or is not qualified to tell someone they’re being cheated on. My point was that we can’t possibly know what the cheatee in this case would prefer, so the fact that some commenters, if they were in her shoes, would want to be told does not mean the LW is obligated to tell or that it is objectively right to do so.

    2. The consent thing is incredibly important — I was enthusiastically consenting to sex with my ex, and we had an overall-happy non-monogamous relationship, UNTIL I found out that he had willfully exposed me to a disease which could have major, deadly consequences for me (I’m immune-compromised.)

      I did not consent to be exposed to this disease (in fact, I was very specific about what STI-test results his other partners needed to have, in order for them to be eligible partners), and I found out after the fact.

      I didn’t consent to sex with someone who had just had unprotected contact with someone who had an incurable STI. And if someone else had been aware of it and told me this was going on (I figured it out myself and asked him point-blank, and he admitted it with a bunch of excuses about how it wasn’t REALLY all that risky because Reasons), if I hadn’t had the tools to find out myself, I would REALLY have wanted to know.

      So, yeah — I don’t think that people should be prying busybodies who interfere, generally . . . but since this guy is behaving Out Of Bounds already, I think his wife deserves to at least have the information she needs in order to exercise informed consent about her relationship and sexual contact with this guy.

      Would definitely wait until after the funeral, though, and I’d consider telling Out Of Bounds Dude that the funeral is family-only, so he is less likely to show up and make a huge scene.

    3. I think we need to be careful not to go too far down the path with Schrödinger’s Cheating. A) Having an opinion about how and whether *you* would want to receive information if/when you were cheated on is not a guarantee that this man’s wife feels the same way. B) You also might be wrong about how you yourself would react.

      In general, I do believe in the basic premise of the Golden Rule, but unless you have somehow experienced this exact scenario (the relative of a murdered woman contacted you to tell you your husband was cheating), I do not think this is really a situation where you can imagine yourself in another person’s shoes. People’s relationships are complicated and especially with people you don’t know, well, you don’t know them. The only exception I would be inclined to make is if I thought the affair was endangering the wife in some ongoing way. Given that the affair is over, however tragic the reasons, this is definitively not the case.

      The LW’s impulse is an understandable one, but the Captain’s advice seems right on to me. This woman’s life is not your business. There is no guarantee she wants to know and/or would believe you. The potential for harm is far greater than the potential for good.

    4. I see what you’re saying, but this strikes me as a false analogy. Picnicing on a collapsing bridge is an immediate threat to life and limb. And yes, I acknowledge the risks of STIs, but for most people, most STIs are not life-threatening. There’s an analogy downthread to drunk driving, which is also false. It’s highly unlikely that this lady faces imminent physical harm. If the LW feels obligated to intervene in order to protect this lady’s emotional well-being, fine. But analogies that make it sound like she’s in immediate, serious, physical danger seem hyperbolic and unhelpful to me.

    5. I would want to know, myself, but LW isn’t under any obligation to be the bearer of bad news. LW is in mourning, and dealing with the added horror of a crime and having a family member be guilty of that crime while they also suffer from a mental breakdown. (S)he doesn’t have to take on the added stress of inserting hirself into another family drama. I can totally understand if LW lets this cup pass from their lips. Cheaters usually expose themselves, and this guy is incredibly unsubtle. If LW knew for a fact hir aunt had an STD or condition like HIV, I’d say that disclosure would be more important, because there’s a chance that the wife is in harm’s way, but we should also consider that this guy is being pushy and weird and maybe it’s best not to engage him any more.

    6. I agree with you MB, basically it comes down to the fact his wife is operating under assumptions that are incorrect. To carry on an affair the man has to lie to her every day. I wish someone, had told me, stranger or not. Cheating is abuse IMO, it shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

  2. I can almost guarantee that she knows already — at least on the level of “something is really wrong.” Accounts from random strangers, though — and even accounts from actual friends and/or people actively schtupping him — are of no use until she’s willing to admit it to herself. Denial is mightier than the pen or pixels.

    (Why, no, I don’t have any experience with this at all. Not the least little note stuck in my work pigeonhole telling me about my ex’s indiscretions. At all.)

    Someday, she might leave him, and then might welcome the information as validation that what she did was right. But I’m also sure there are people closer to her that can supply that validation.

        1. I’m assuming Positive Intent. We know this thing is multi-faceted, and the hardest thing is, there’s no one right answer.

          1. It is true that this is very hard and nuanced and there is no right answer to the larger question of whether to tell on a cheating spouse. The narrow question of whether we tell people what they needed as if we are experts on their experience, on the other hand, does have a right answer. It is ‘no, we do not.’

    1. I have no idea whether you should tell or not tell but I just wanted to say my experience with this was I really had no idea. For years. And dozens of extra-relationship partners. It wasn’t even the reason the relationship ended, a friend who had slept with the partner called months later while getting sober to tell me and apologize. I’m so grateful she did, though it took a while to get there. In addition to the health risks in my case, there was a tremendous amount of gaslighting and blaming myself for the relationship challenges that were extremely damaging and took a long time to unravel afterwards. I developed a hardwired view of myself in relationships to explain what didn’t feel right that was completely imaginary and I got to pick it apart once I understood the actual dynamic I’d been living in. But, there’s no way for the LW to know what the wife here could use/couldn’t use/already knows/suspects in her heart so I think in some ways the only route is a cost/benefit? And that math is going to come out differently for different people I think, based on how they would imagine things. Benefits: maybe it is freeing, maybe she gets new informed choices, maybe she gets to protect her health in ways she isn’t currently, More Things LW can fill in. Costs: maybe it’s destructive and not helpful at all, maybe it splashes back on the aunt’s memory in a public way nobody wanted, More things LW can fill in. I think I would say something, I understand why one might not say something, but given the info vacuum I think this is the way I would make the decision? I’m very sorry for your loss, LW.

      1. Yeah, it can be sort of… comforting? … to tell yourself “they probably know on some level anyway, so telling them would be redundant.” But it ain’t always so. People who deceive their spouses can be really quite good at hiding it.

        That doesn’t mean that it’s always right to tell, but it’s incorrect to say that telling is somehow unnecessary because the cheated-on partner probably ought to have figured it out themselves. It ain’t always so. I’m not even sure it’s usually so.

        1. It boggles my mind that people think that “the spouse/partner already knows”.

          First: it’s not always true, often they have no idea of the cheating. They trust their spouse, and they are deceived. Their trust is broken.

          Second: IMHO it sneakily shifts the blame, because “if they probably know” then obviously it’s all right! There is no problem for me here! I can go on with no guilty feelings.

          If we were to witness a colleague stealing office funds, we’ll think “oh, well our superior knows on some level anyway, so telling them would be redundant.”?

          1. Wow, so true about shifting the blame. I could never put my finger on what made me so uncomfortable about people insisting “don’t tell Person the Important Thing, because they probably already know” (for cheating and well as other situations), but that’s it. You wash your hands to ease your conscious, but in reality you become complicit and put the burden on the person being taken advantage of.

          2. I think there’s also an extent that it’s tempting for people who feel genuinely morally conflicted. As we’ve seen in this thread, there are people who very strongly feel that they would want to be told, and people who feel equally strongly that they definitely wouldn’t want to be told… and in addition to that, when it actually happens, people often report responding differently than they thought they would (they didn’t want to be told but were relieved when someone did tell them, or alternately they wanted to be told and then regretted it).

            Which of course is a really unpleasant situation if you’re aware of an affair and have to decide what to do about it, because there isn’t really a clear-cut consensus as to the kindest and most ethical path to take, and unless you’re close enough friends that you happen to know where they stand on the ‘tell’ or ‘don’t tell’ position, you have to guess, knowing that you are guessing and might guess wrong and hurt someone no matter what you do. It sucks. It doesn’t suck as badly as it does for the cheated-on person, of course, but it’s kind of awful knowing that you have to choose action or inaction and either one (or both) could be deeply hurtful to someone and you have no real way of guessing which would be the more hurtful. (Which is why this tends to turn into a fairly serious debate whenever it comes up!)

            The thing about ‘she probably knows anyway’ is that it is tempting in that it functions as a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s a way of saying “my action or inaction doesn’t matter because probably my information is redundant anyway, so I don’t have to guess which is the less-hurtful option.”

            Problem is, while comforting to believe, it just plain isn’t true.

        2. I’ve spent years in divorce courts. People usually don’t know.

          The “they must know” myth is a myth designed to comfort people.

    2. “I can almost guarantee that she knows already”

      Are you omniscient then? Because you are totally wrong on this.

      It’s a common, comforting misconception that cheated on spouses always know. I thought so too before I spent decades practicing law in a divorce court.

      This is a MYTH we all tell ourselves b/c we want to think we would know if we were being cheated on.

      Gaslighting is a thing. It’s abuse. So is the fact that modern technology and demanding jobs allow it to be easy and easily hidden.

      1. Thanks for that Caliexico, I think it goes deeper than that. People prefer to believe the spouse knew and that the spouse must have done something to cause it because they don’t want to think it could happen to them.

  3. Man, what kind of jerk feels obliged to make it all about them in the wake of such an unexpected and horrific family tragedy? I’m sorry for your loss, OP. I hope things go more smoothly from here & don’t have much else to add.

  4. She’s not a random stranger — she has evidence of an affair on the computer, sounds like. And you’re asking her to delete it why? The married guy is sniffing around IMO to avoid the very scenario the letter writer is suggesting — outing the affair. I agree she should go no contact with the creep. I also think she should drop a line to the wife. It’s the Golden Rule — you’d want to know. And the letter writer isn’t throwing the brick, the married creep did that with his cheating. Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s gaslighting and STDs. You can’t assume she knows. And if she does know? Fine. You’re telling her something she knows. No harm done.

    1. Glad you stopped by! I was just going to post a comment sending LW over to your blog! : )

    2. The problem is that there is some (unknown) percentage of people who really did *not* want to know. I’ve known a few people like that and so did whingedrinker. So how does one decide to apply the Golden Rule? According to one’s own preferences, even knowing that there are people whose preferences differ?

      1. Polls taken on Chumplady.com sporadically indicate that 99% of people wished they’d known or been warned.

    3. I mentioned your blog but no one seems to have noticed. Glad you dropped by. Normally, I agree completely with Captain Awkward but, in this case, telling the poor deceived wife is the decent thing to do. If she already knows and is spackling away, she’ll keep spackling. If she doesn’t, yet, it will hurt but, in the long one, she will be better off without “Ovid the Obvious.”

      1. The only facet that makes sense to me is what LW is going through a LOT right now. Heavy, horrible shit. This is just an extra wrench thrown in to make it even worse, but technically doesn’t directly have anything to do with LW. So worrying about whether to disclose it or not to the wife shouldn’t be a top concern for LW right now. Your Own Oxygen Mask first and all that. LW needs to grieve and heal and take care of their family and themselves.

        But I disagree that that means LW shouldn’t ever disclose the affair. As a Chumplady above said, the brick has already been thrown–by the husband. LW isn’t causing the problem if they inform the wife.

        To be honest, asshole cheater guy showing up as some rando to hijack this family’s tragedy, making himself out to be important, having the gall to disclose his irrelevant/derailing secret to ANY member of this grieving family, then insisting it be kept hush-hish? Fuck that guy.

    4. “Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s gaslighting and STDs.”

      So much this.

      The experience of ignorance can be most horrific. You feel something is off, but don’t know what, and then you’re gaslighted out of trusting yourself and into believing there is something wrong with you. That might be the most damaging part of being cheated on.

  5. Another reason for not telling: creeps like this are often very good at shifting the blame onto other people, and who more convenient to shift the blame than your aunt, who’s not there to defend herself. It could end with people remembering her as That Scarlet Woman without him getting any meaningful consequences at all.

    Condolences on your loss and on having to deal with this crap on top of everything.

    1. Yep. I remember a family incident where the husband turned up at the funeral of a relative who’d unknowingly had an ‘affair’ with someone this guy had refused to grant a divorce (the dead person had apparently had no idea his girlfriend was ever legally married). It was a mess, the police were called to break up the fight that broke out, and it wasn’t a pleasant way to remember the deceased even though he was apparently blameless.

      In this case I’d at least wait until the funeral and any legal issues are settled. The deceased was seemingly less enthusiastic about this guy but who knows what the issue could get turned into if this blows up. The bereaved family have enough on their plate.

  6. It is super heartbreaking to discover that your partner is cheating. Ask me how I know. Was it the multiple times that ex # 1 gave me chlamydia and twisted it around to make it seem as though I was the one with an incurable strain that I brought into the relationship (v.s. him carrying on condomless with the person who kept reinfecting him – who he never bothered to inform that she had chlamydia). Or long tern ex # 2 that had a whole bunch of secrets festering under the surface, and a pattern of abusive, isolating behaviour that kept me apart from anyone who might have spilled the beans ?

    Look, this dude who was pestering your aunt is obviously an indiscreet moron. His wife MIGHT know – or suspect something. Or his wife might be stuck in a cruddy relationship with this jerk that is slowing grinding her down to sand.

    Print out the email correspondence and mail it to his wife. You, LW, are only the conduit for this information. You can mail this anonymously. Maybe attach a note that suggests she needs her own lawyer, right now, and to check out Chump Lady’s site.

    I wish someone had told me. People told me stuff, AFTER the fact. It made me feel humiliated, like everyone knew except me. My life would not have been better if I had never known. If someone had told me, or left me a note with some explicit details (names, places, what they saw), I would have broken free of these jerks. His wife is in her 60’s and they have grown kids. She has plenty of life left. Life that she could live without this cheating jerk ! Life where her heart would not be stepped on. Being stuck in a relationship where someone is deeply disrespecting the relationship is excruciating. Imagine if his wife had the possibility to move on, and find a partner who DID love and respect her instead of this callous goon.

    1. I empathize with you so, so much, and am sorry for everything you went through. In my case, many of our mutual friends *did* know, but kept quiet about it. The relationship was already imploding due to my ex’s other indiscretions, but people literally walked in on them having sex with someone else at a party—a party I was *at*, no less. And the few I managed to stay friends with long enough to confront about it all said they “didn’t think it was their place” to intervene in our obviously otherwise happy relationship.

      It would have been painful, but I wish I’d known. It would have saved me years. My only immediate consolation after the fact was that I got to have the peace of mind that came with knowing I’d been right to end the relationship. Luckily, I was relatively young when all this happened—we weren’t married, there were no kids involved or finances to divide.

      I know what I would do, were I in LW’s shoes—I’d print out the evidence found, and mail it anonymously to his wife, along with a short apologetic note. You’d run the risk of the gross husband intercepting it, possibly, but it would, perhaps, be a weight off your shoulders.

      1. Your right to nest with Saint Clair. My Mom had all this blamed-for-the-STD stuff from her husband, sick from the infections plus his deception. When that evil male inherited a bunch of money, he took off with one of his diseased women, leaving three of his under- 12 children on food stamps and evicted from their home. Bonus-her own family shamed her for coming back to them.

        I would much rather she’d been told- and pointed to a lawyer. Evil Man would coerce any woman he could into having sex, and it hurt my mom that she was shunned. She never recovered her mental health and suicided. So, my feeling is, let the wife know, so she can prepare emotionally, legally and financially. But I wouldn’t include a note with the printouts.

        LW, I’m so sorry for your loss. I haven’t seen the website What’s Your Grief listed by the Army, but I have gotten comfort from it.

        1. >>one of his diseased women

          This is mega-stigmatising. Cheating on people is gross and wrong, but STDs aren’t a consequence or a punishment or a moral judgment.

        2. “diseased women”

          What the fuck year is this, 1840?

          You realize that if you have had sex, chances are quite excellent you have at least one strain of HPV, which is spread via skin-to-skin contact? You realize that people can have HSV-1(which, YES, you can spread to someone’s genitals if you have oral sex) or HSV-2 and not have any classically recognizable symptoms? You realize that 80% of the population has HSV-1 somewhere on their body by the time they are 50? You realize that there are people who have caught STI’s who are nice and good people (oftentimes from someone who doesn’t know they have it) and having an STI doesn’t mean you’re a bad person? You realize that in the STI panels that are offered, HSV and HPV are not included?

          What the fuck? You sound like one of those extreme right-wingers on Twitter.

          Cheating is a shitty thing to do. So is this retrograde and frankly dangerous bullshit you’re pushing with STI’s. Cut that shit out.

  7. LW, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    From a completely removed standpoint, i find something enormously satisfying about the thought of this guy’s life imploding around him.

    My concern, however, is for the safety of you and your grieving family. This guy demonstrates an alarming lack of boundaries and inhibition (lol “discretion”). I’m concerned that someone who would send explicit poetry to a grieving family might target one or all of you for retribution if he perceived that you were responsible for his life going off the rails (which, of course, you would not be, but given this fellow’s track record of distorting reality, putting the blame on others for his bad decisions seems within the realm of possibility.)

    I think you should do whatever you feel is right at the end of the day, but I did want to caution you, and also to say that if, for any reason, you decide not to inform his wife, you shouldn’t feel guilty. You did not seek out this situation, and you have yourself and a grieving family to care for. Deciding that those things come first is as much a moral and responsible decision as telling this guy’s wife what’s going on.

    Sending good thoughts your way.

    1. There is already a paper trail leading back to this guy. He contacted family members who never knew about him, with his bad boundaries, and his lopsided account of whatever went on.

      If he attempts to escalate this situation via threatening, abusive behaviour there is plenty of documentation that shines a spotlight directly back at him.

      This is a reasonable concern so someone in the family should download or print out this correspondence, including the icky poem and put it somewhere safe for awhile. Don’t tell him, or use this information as a threat. Just do it.

      This is not the only “indiscretion” in this guy’s life. I say this with 100% confidence. What kind of ethics does this lawyer have ? I sure hope he doesn’t specialize in Family Law.

      1. Please don’t disregard the LW’s and their family’s right to put themselves first. Grieving a relative can absolutely take precedence over Preserving Justice And Feminism, if they feel that’s the right choice for them.
        Also, a paper trail is good for pointing the blame to The Creep after the fact, but it doesn’t actually prevent him from hurting LW and their family. They get to choose if they want to undertake the risk and the effort of notifying the wife.

        1. I agree – the safety and well-being of the LW and the LW’s family should come first. And if this guy is a lawyer, he could cause a lot of trouble.

        2. I didn’t get the impression that Saint Clair was disregarding the LW and family’s right to put themselves first? Quite the opposite actually – making sure there’s a paper trail is all about putting themselves first and ensuring that the Creep has less chance of hurting them later, if his inappropriate/intrusive behaviour escalates for some reason. That consideration is independent of the decision about whether to tell The Wife or not.

        3. I agree with B.

          For most wrongdoers, knowing there is a paper trail that points directly at them is a deterrent.

          For a small number of wrongdoers, knowing there is a paper trail that points directly at them triggers them into violence of the deadly sort.

          It should be up to the LW and family to decide whether to run that risk, particularly since they are the ones who have actually had some personal interaction with Lawyer Dude and so have more information to predict which way he would jump.

          1. Yes, that’s what I was trying to say, thank you 🙂
            helva2260: I got the impression that Saint Clair was prioritizing the well being of the wife over that of the LW and her family, and that’s why I answered like that, but I may have been wrong.

  8. One of the few advantages of getting old is seeing a lot of situations play out.

    Some spouses know their spouse is cheating, some don’t know, some would want to know, some don’t want to know.

    One of my personal principles is that I try not to blow anyone’s life up if I am not going to be there to help them put the pieces back together. I understand that other people hold different principles and it’s not my place to decree or judge someone who holds a differing view.

    1. That’s great in theory but harder in practice. What if your neighbour, who you were never friendly with, was driving drunk with his school age kids and their friends ? Calling the police or CPS to report this could potentially “blow his life up”. But not reporting this could lead to harm and death for kids, who had no say in consenting to riding with a drunk driver or not (how is a young kid supposed to judge sobriety ?).

      Personally, I would feel more eaten up by holding onto the knowledge of married cheating dude than by what might happen by transmitting this information to the person who is affected by it. It’s not your job to be the caregiver for the fallout from other’s bad actions. I do think there is a responsibility to be kind or ethical if you are ever in the uncomfortable position of having to tell/report/whatever. Just say it – with no judgement, or humming or hawing or sugar coating.

      I sure wish someone wrote me a note or took me aside or sent me an email under a pseudonym. That no one did left me feeling humiliated, paranoid and disrespected by the people I thought were peers and friends.

      1. but not reporting this could lead to harm and death for kids

        Not to mention other road users and pedestrians. As my best friend’s sister was just killed in a hit-and-run while crossing the street (and I’ve personally been hit by cars a half dozen times, seriously harming me twice, while riding my bicycle and following all traffic laws), this is a particularly pressing issue to me. I don’t exactly think we have an obligation to police other people’s behavior, but for seriously harmful behaviors, doing so is very much a social good.

      2. I am Buddhist, so “least harm” is practically a part of my DNA.

        I *try* not to blow up anyone’s life unless I will be there to help pick up the pieces but in life, there are often complicating factors. So I follow the precepts of Buddhism and try to make the decisions that will result in the least amount of harm.

        In your hypothetical, it is a neighbour and children at imminent risk of harm. So of course I call the police. While calling CPS might be an option, I don’t think they have the power to pull over a drunk driver in the moment, so calling CPS would be a much less effective option. The police, at least in my part of the US, they are completely familiar with CPS, how to contact them ad when to contact them.

        But I don’t have to leave it there. I can make an attempt to mend the relationship with my neighbour and offer whatever help he is willing to accept. I can start by being honest with him and telling him what I did. Not to get forgiveness (he may choose never to forgive me) but so that he isn’t left feeling like there are anonymous hostile eyes on him.

        I know people who wish they had known their spouse was cheating; when my (now ex) husband cheated on me, I never needed anyone else to tell me, I could always tell which made him very angry with me.

        I know people who wish just as passionately that they had never been told.

    2. Telling them is NOT “blowing their life up”. The person doing that is the cheater.

      You are just telling them they are sitting on dynamite.

  9. I am so sorry to hear about your Aunt O. – the circumstances sound awful and traumatic.

    I personally don’t think it’s ethical to just throw a Truth-bomb at a stranger like that, and then walk away. What makes you think that you would be the best person to impart that kind of information anyway? You don’t know how she would react.

    The dude’s relationship will fail on its own merits, when his wife inevitably finds out what an ass he is (she probably knows already if his idea of “discreet” is to gate-crash people’s funerals).

    Block the guy and never think on him again. If he tries to harass your family, send the emails to the police, and let them be the ones to explain to his wife why he’s trying to hi-jack another woman’s eulogy. Don’t be responsible for someone else’s heartache.

    1. I’m not trying to encourage the LW one way or another, since I’m honestly not sure what would be best. But I will say that no matter what she decides, she is not responsible for someone else’s heartache. That was the cheating husband, when he decided to cheat. This would just be letting his wife know the truth — he’s a cheater. That’s totally on him.

    2. “The dude’s relationship will fail on its own merits, when his wife inevitably finds out what an ass he is (she probably knows already if his idea of “discreet” is to gate-crash people’s funerals).”

      You must be young or have not seen enough life-long gaslighters to know this is NOT the case in many, many marriages.

      I am an “old”. I’ve seen plenty of cases where the wife spends her life not knowing, but has mysterious health issues she can’t pin down b/c DH has given her some virus (not necessarily STD).

  10. In your position, I would tell the wife. She has a right to know, you don’t owe this guy anything, and it’s bothering you to keep this information under your hat. If you end up telling her, that isn’t wrong.

  11. I would not delete the evidence, and am inclined to preserving it with an eye to deciding what exactly to do *after* the funeral.

    Failing any funeral-crashing and related outbursts from him, I lean in favor of a note with minimal detail. Sparse enough detail that if the wife is seriously committed to overlooking or ignoring the misdeeds of Mr. Ovid of Oversharing, J.D., that she plausibly could continue to — but with suitable contact information that she could choose to write back and request more information if she is perhaps building a divorce case.

    I would take the precaution of setting up a dedicated, and anonymous, email account.

  12. I get the case for telling the wife. It is a strong case. But the question that nags me: Is this what the Aunt would have wanted to happen?

    She obviously had love or some kind of affection for this idiot and did not break up his marriage when she was alive (obviously). This affair is over now.

    Some of this concern for the wife feels like a veiled excuse to unleash righteous anger on this idiot lawyer. Vengeance almost never adds to the overall good.

    I really don’t know.

    I’d lean towards revealing the info anonymously, but I’m not convinced this will be a net positive long-run for the wife.

  13. My read: Creepy Lawyer’s wife doesn’t know (or he thinks she doesn’t know), and not ethical not-knowing, either, in the sense of a DADT open relationship. I agree with others who think he’s sniffing around becasue he’s worried that his cheating will be outed.

    What to do about it is a much trickier question. On the one hand, I don’t think that enabling what I view as shitty behavior is a good move. My instinct is to advise in favor of sending Creepy Lawyer’s wife everything you have on the affair*, becasue his wife very much deserves the opportunity to make decisions about how to conduct her life and relationships based on accurate and as-complete-as-possible information.

    On the other hand, I think the concerns about retaliation are valid. This guy is bad with boundaries AND he’s a lawyer who is unethical in at least some parts of his life, so also perhaps his practice of law; I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that he would sue the whistle-blower (hopefully frivolously, but he could still use the legal system to heap abuse – and expense – on LW and/or zir family members for a while, and depending on the jurisdiction, slander can sometimes be true and still actionable as slander). This circus is not yours, LW, so neither are its associated monkeys, and I wouldn’t fault you for blocking this guy out of your life and moving on (I would second the suggestion to retain copies of the evidence you have, not as leverage but as validation in case the affair does come out and you need evidence that it’s not a malicious fabrication, whether you or a family member actually out the guy or someone/something else does). You might want to consult with a lawyer – perhaps part of Aunt O’s estate could help offset any expense for doing so, if money is tight. Not knowing her preference, I’d err on the side of telling the wife an unpleasant truth she might not want to know rather than concealing information she might want to know, so my concern is not so much about that as it is about limiting risk to you and your family, especially when you’re already dealing with an awful situation that is likely taking up a lot of time and energy (that Creepy Lawyer thought it was a good idea to dump this on your family when you’re already dealing with a crisis is another red flag).

    *I know that some might have a concern about the privacy of Aunt O. In my view, she’s dead, so this can’t impact her, and I think what people are mostly doing when they want privacy for a dead person is the buy-in of others to suppress information about their relative/friend/whatever that they themselves would rather not know or that they would rather others not know, either to protect a reputation that somehow also applies to them or to try to remember a mythologized, idealized version of their relative/friend/whatever, stripped of serious faults. I’m also not a big fan of people adopting comforting fictions, becasue I think they do too much to help people cope with social systems that are, from my viewpoint, abhorrent (and would be from theirs if they weren’t engaging in willful self-delusion) instead of working to change them. So, whatever the motivation, I don’t think the ‘privacy’ of a dead person is ever something that needs to be considered, becasue I don’t think it exists and I also don’t think any of the other things that people euphemistically use the phrase to describe are reasonable expectations.

    1. “I’m also not a big fan of people adopting comforting fictions, becasue I think they do too much to help people cope with social systems that are, from my viewpoint, abhorrent (and would be from theirs if they weren’t engaging in willful self-delusion) instead of working to change them.”

      Is this really an oppportunity to change social systems? Is setting the record straight on this deceased lady’s reputation a key part of eliminating false consciousness? Is knowing the truth always a good thing?

      Trying to make this case a societal issue seems… not at all practical.

    2. I was going to mention the suing too. I recently learned some states have “alienation of affection” laws that let someone sue any person who could be blamed for breaking up a marriage. That could be Aunt O’s estate, or could be whoever tattled, could be brought by the guy or his wife, and could be financially ruinous.

      1. I would respectfully suggest that poor LW is stressed enough already, and not-well-supported legal speculations are unhelpful. If anyone actually is a lawyer with knowledge in the relevant area, their input could be valuable, but the rest of us positing potential disasters is only going to add more anguish without adding any useful insight. (For the record, I’m not a lawyer, but the child of one and spouse of another.) Some points:

        1. The guy doesn’t seem to have threatened any legal action; LW just mentioned his profession in passing.

        2. We don’t know what the law is in LW’s area.

        3. Being a lawyer doesn’t make you some kind of magical harassment wizard who can do things beyond mere mortal ken. Depending on where LW is, his ability to attack them could be very limited.

        Let’s not catastrophize. Caution, sure, but I think this an area where non-lawyer speculations may shed more heat than light.

      2. That is stupendously wrong advice, on all accounts. Please leave lawyering to actual lawyers. Google “Fantasia Barreno” if you need an example of how alienation of affections works.

        A Lawyer

  14. I have some personal experience with the situation like this, so here’s my two cents:

    I was the other woman and didn’t know it. The dude I was seeing was really clever and sneaky, telling all of his girlfriends that he was poly and giving us information about each other but not about his wife. She, meanwhile, had been making major financial decisions predicated on the idea that he was going to be around next however many decades. When she finally found out, she was devastated, but it enabled her to make important decisions about shoring up our own financial resources and moving on with her life. I do not for one moment regret having given her the information that I gave her (although I was not the person responsible for giving her the initial tip off).

    I’m frankly really surprised and disappointed at the comments here that are being dismissive or even rude to the LW; taking feminism seriously means making some hard decisions and taking real action. I think the LW’s safety concerns for this guy’s wife are completely valid.

    LW, I personally about that you tell this guy’s wife what happened. However I also agree that it’s wise to keep him away from all funeral arrangements and prevent him from getting enmeshed any further with anyone in your family. If it’s possible for you to do this, I would recommend sending the information to this guy’s wife, possibly with documentation attached, after all of your own family stuff has been taken care of. I’m so sorry that all this happened to you.

  15. If you want to tell her, tell her. A random stranger told me – and it saved me from continuing on into decades of following my mother in laws fate. The fate of being with the town sexist horndog and thought of as blissfully ignorant or a fool. I was neither. I was gaslighted. Remember that movie? In horrible pain over never being good enough to resolve the invisible problem he insisted was mine.

    Before it happened I would not have believed that I would credit a complete stranger over my husband. And I told the stranger so. But – truth clicks. It clicked with me and suddenly everything was plain. I can’t describe the freedom.

    You’re under no obligation. He’s the wrongdoer. But there’s nothing wrong with your wish if you want to do it.

    Send the evidence. Dates, times and the full horror in his own words of his inappropriacy to your grieving aunt. Tell her you are sorry to give her this information, but you hope it’s of use. Maybe it isn’t and maybe she doesn’t care. But even a blind eyer can do with knowing her husband is a buffoon who sends explicit material to grieving women. He’s a missing stair and she will either leave him or manage him into being more discreet.

    You can, but it isn’t your job. You’re not a bad feminist if you don’t want to. However, If you want to, you can. There’s no law against one adult telling another the truth.

  16. This man sounds a bit in love with himself. He just had to come forward and identify himself as your aunt’s former lover (Pay attention to meeee!), then he insists on “discretion” because of course his wife will be devastated. It’s quite possible that his wife does know, rolls her eyes, and has decided he isn’t worth the drama and expense of a divorce. Or, maybe she doesn’t know but wouldn’t be nearly as surprised and devastated as he imagines. Whichever it is, he probably isn’t worth expending any more head space on.

  17. If it were me I wouldn’t, and here’s why: because your family is in shock, and grieving, and neither you nor any of the rest of your aunt’s family need this right now. Let’s look at what the hornet’s nest you’ll be kicking over looks like:

    1. The man whose misdeeds you will be revealing is a lawyer
    2. He has little to no sense of appropriate boundaries
    3. He considers his feels to be the most important feels of all feels

    Should his wife know that her husband has cheated on her in the past (and probably will again)? Probably yes. Is it your particular duty to do this at a risk to your peace during a difficult time? No. Be gentle to yourself and to each other.

    1. I so agree with this. After a suicide in my extended family, there was some ancillary drama about a relationship, and it was just so unnecessary and destructive – the family was not equipped to deal with it during that period of pain and grief.

      LW’s family has had a terrible, terrible, terrible thing happen. They are in the early stages of grief and processing what has happened. Some drama llama of a lawyer threatening to sue because LW disclosed his infidelity will not be of assistance during the grieving and healing process.

      1. Sigh. I didn’t mean to go anon, it was a hangover from a previous post. Sorry all!

      2. Yes but narcissist lawyer dude outed himself when he contacted the family as self appointed chief mourner and loathsome erotic poet pleading for discretion. The emails were discovered AFTER his intrusion.

        It would be very hard for this ridiculous man to locate the source of anonymously sent prints of emails. I expect there have been numerous family members attending to this estate as well as police, and possibly social workers, etc.. How would he know who mailed the emails ? Maybe the person who purchased the late aunt’s computer at a thrift store discovered them, and knew the lawyer’s wife or one of their kids. Any lawyer is going to have a trail of some former clients with unhappy endings to their legal situation, with a bone to pick. There are other possibilities for who could encounter this information.

        No one is going to know about the late aunt’s relationship with this guy except for the family members who were unwittingly forced to deal with it – by lawyer dude himself. The late aunt may have entered a dating situation with lawyer dude thinking he was separated or single. Maybe he was an unfortunate online dating experiment or booty call. This is not some well publicized tabloid type outing of Mr. Cheating Married Man, except for what HE personally exposed to LW and her family.

        There is also no emergency in contacting the wife.

        While she may shred the documents and ignore them, these emails might also be extremely useful for her case if she chooses to divorce Mr. Cheating Lawyer Poet.

        1. As an appreciator of poetry, I object to calling this piece of shit a poet. It’s the principle of the thing.

          1. Lol, I feel you, but poets are often unbelievably shitty people. I’m looking at you, George Byron.

        2. The point is not whether or not this man would discover who ‘outed’ him, or what his prospects of success in court would be. The point is that it’s a time of exceptional stress for LW’s family and there’s no obligation on the LW to increase the difficulty on their family right now.

          Anonymously mailing the correspondence might not be something the LW feels is ethical or even helpful to the man’s wife.

          1. THIS. Also, he doesn’t have to know who sent the emails. He may start hassling the family anyway, assuming someone did it. Or his wife might start doing some sleuthing and contacting family members, who may not want to be contacted. This isn’t a matter of “OK, I’ll tell her and that will be the end of it.” This could have blowback to family members who have not consented to deal with husband or wife (or maybe even grown kids). They might not contact anyone in the family. Then again, they might. And if I started getting contacted by someone angry over something a dead relative I was in mourning for did, I’d flip my shit at the person who opened that particular door.

          2. It’s not quite as either/or as these scenarios suggest though. Contacting the wife while everyone is stressed and actively mourning? Definitely not worth the potential added drama. Putting everything aside and coming back in three or six months or a year to decide then? Entirely feasible.

          3. Agreeing with flynnthecat1. This doesn’t sound like the right time to make this decision, or to take action if you decide to contact his wife. On the other hand, 3-4 months down the road (or more) then you can certainly revisit everything and make a decision then. At that point it won’t be such a huge issue because you won’t be dealing with the immediate grief and stress that comes around trauma and all of the decisions one has to make when a family member dies. You can decide and know that it will be less devastating for other family members if there are consequences. And you may well have more data points with which to decide; for example, if he keeps contacting your family and making a big deal out of things then that might cause you to take one course of action that you might not choose if he leaves you alone. You could always choose to print everything up, save data files, and then set a reminder on your calendar to deal with it at X point down the road when you think you’ll be more able to work through what you believe to be the best decision. (And at X point you could always kick the can down the road a bit further if you’re still not ready to deal with it.) And depending on how things are going in your family, you may be able to make a decision with other key family members that are most likely to be affected so you’re not setting them up for an unwelcome surprise.

    2. Actually, the fact that he’s a lawyer will make it LESS likely he will retaliate.

      His firm likely requires good PR and he may or may not be professionally sanctioned – depends on the state and how he met the aunt.

      Lawyers are NOT cops. Were it a cop, I’d have different advice.

  18. Just another data point… I was married to a serial cheater and sex addict. People I loved and trusted tried to tell me he was bad news, for years. Told me specific things he did that were really over the line. I never wanted to listen or believe them. They told me, kindly and gently, and I just blocked it all out. I didn’t want to know. So I didn’t. I did eventually get a divorce from him, but all the well meaning concern and truth from friends and family didn’t make a dent in me. YMMV.

  19. I’m going to agree with the Captain, with some caveats.

    This guy sounds like a narcissistic, boundary violating douchecanoe. He’s also a lawyer. I would not tell him about the funeral arrangements and not take his calls except one to inform him to never contact your family again. If and if he does, get a TRO. I imagine it would be a sticky wicket for him in explaining that to his wife. I’m willing I to bet that his issues extend far past infidelity. y assumptions that his wife knows n

    I disagree with any assertions that his wife knows on some level. People don’t always know, because when you’re married you do tend to think better of your spouse. You do tend to trust your spouse. Maybe she has zero clue; that could be quite likely. However, you and your family are coping with a terrible loss and trauma. You lost your aunt. I assume there may be legal ramifications for your cousin. Your family is still doing some triage and dealing with fallout from this, and trying to mourn your Aunt O. You’ve got a lot on your plate emotionally right now.

    I’ve seen commenters say how humiliating it was that friends and family knew their partners were cheating on them; I agree that is humiliating and I’d have a hard time forgiving a friend or relative who didn’t let me in on that. However, this woman is a stranger to you. You are no one to her. And you are dealing with enough shit at the moment.

    Because I’m an evil asshole, I might take the email trail, save it to the cloud or to a flash drive, and keep it in a safe place until this was over and I could decide what to do. But here’s another factor to consider: Do you want this guy to continue to contact your family? What about his wife? Or their kids? They may not do it, in fact it’s likely they won’t do it. But there’s a chance one of them could contact you, your Aunt L, or someone else in your family. You’re all going through your own crap, and your family members may not want to deal with a stanger contacting them about your Aunt O with Capital Q Questions.

    1. Lawyer dude may have a powerful incentive to suddenly recognise a boundary if he is told never to contact the family again. In some US states, a lawyer who has a restraining order against them is subject to sanctions from the state bar. In other states, the existence of a restraining order won’t do it but violating a retraining order will do it.

      If this is true in lawyer dude’s state, this will be a powerful disincentive because sanctions from the state bar have the potential to reach out and smack him right in the wallet in various ways (at the very least, he’d be out legal fees unless he’s stupid enough to represent himself). I’m guessing that ordinary decency doesn’t restrain him but a threat to his income might be something he respects.

      1. “I’m guessing that ordinary decency doesn’t restrain him but a threat to his income might be something he respects.” QFT
        From my experiences in dealing with this particular strain of jerkwad, that’s a very insightful assessment.

          1. I’m afraid that the simpler explanation is that there’s far too many of these people in the world 😦 I hope that you haven’t had the displeasure of meeting one of mine!
            And you’re very welcome ^^

    2. I am also an evil asshole and would be tempted to send a formal invitation to the funeral addressed to the guy and his wife, along with a note, asking him to give the eulogy, since “he knew my Aunt O so intimately”. Have fun explaining that to your wife, Mr Narcissistic Lawyer! Of course, there’s always a chance that he’ll see it first and never tell her about it.

      In reality, I think the LW telling him to stop contacting the LW and his/her wider family (and definitely not letting him get anywhere near the funeral) is the way to go. I like your suggestion of a temporary restraining order if he doesn’t respect the initial request. I also agree with other commenters who have said that the LW should wait until after the estate is completely settled—as in, all the stuff that needs to be given away or sold has been given away or sold, and all the money and property has been distributed among the survivors. This can take awhile (months and even years), so that gives the LW plenty of time to mull over whether or not to tell the wife, while minimizing the potential fall-out for LW’s family.

      My instinct would be not to go to Narcissist Lawyer’s wife with the information unprompted. However, if the wife ever gets in touch, then I would be prepared to tell her what I knew and show her the evidence.

  20. The question I’d ask here is: what do you think is going to happen if you tell his wife?

    I mean, I can see four possible options here. Either she knows, and she does care – in which case, she’s already doing something about it, and you’ll see no outward difference in the situation. Alternatively, she knows, and she doesn’t care – in which case, she’s not going to do anything, and you’ll see no outward difference in the situation. The third option is she doesn’t know and would care, in which case she’s going to be horribly hurt and deeply upset (and the question I’d ask there is “what has this woman done to you that you chose to hurt her so?”), and most likely, angry at you for telling her. Finally, she doesn’t know and wouldn’t care, in which case you’re not going to see any change at all either.

    Sounds like a waste of effort, to me – three chances out of four where you’re not going to see any result, and the fourth one is most likely result in an outpouring of vituperation against yourself.

    I’d guess another question you need to be asking is “what kind of outcome do you want to see as a result of this disclosure?”

    So my advice would be not to disclose – especially if Oversharing Ovid there goes away and stays away. If he keeps making a nuisance of himself, then yeah, disclose the information. But I’d suggest disclosing it to his local bar association rather than to his wife, because the behaviour he’s indulging himself in is unprofessional in the extreme, and you presumably want him to stop doing the unprofessional stuff.

    1. I think the option that she doesn’t know and would care is way off – at least from someone who has been in this boat. Personally when it happened to me I wasn’t angry with the woman who told me (who also had no idea he was seeing me, and was equally upset and hurt when she found out and told me) I was however furious with my ex and the knowledge that the year of emotional abuse at being told ‘I was crazy’ for ever feeling suspicious was in fact him being an asshole.

      Obviously not everyone is going to take that road, but I generally feel that the person someone cheats with isn’t really to blame. It’s the person you love that is violating your love and trust that you should be angry with.

    2. So: three chances out of four that there’s no negative consequence, and one chance out of four that someone gets information that they care very much about having?

      That seems like it’s worth taking the time to make the contact, personally. I understand that LW may not be up for sharing right now, but this based-on-the-outcome math appears to be on the side of “if you can, do,” rather than “no, don’t bother”.

  21. Since the aunt is deceased, enclose a photocopy of her obituary with a pile of print outs with a note like “I found this correspondence in my late family member’s(or say friend’s or neighbor’s) computer and wondered if you were aware of your husband’s involvement with this late person ?”

    The person the husband was cheating with is gone. None of her family members were even aware of this dude until he barged in, all exhibitionist-like, to center himself in what is obviously a terrible, extremely traumatic situation. I can’t imagine what discussion his wife or children could want with the late aunt’s family members. There is nothing anyone could tell them except that her husband contacted them, bad boundaries, discretion pleas and there were some emails they found on their family member’s computer. Period.

    Like I said before, this is not an emergency. Being in the middle of extreme family trauma is not a good time to make serious decisions, or to try to extend energy outwards.

    Documentation, particularly emails with dates and timestamps can be exceedingly important for things like divorce. You don’t know this woman – but you know ABOUT this woman. Her husband revealed himself to be a major creep within his first interaction with your family. You don’t owe this woman anything but…? When my abusive ex instigated a bunch of legal stuff against me I would have been overjoyed if someone had sent me a pile of documents that helped my defence.

    Stick these files somewhere out of the way, and when/if you are ready send them off. Or burn them or shred them or whatever you see fit to do.

  22. My sincerest condolences for your tragic circumstances.

    I am also sorry creepy lawyer has surfaced. Perhaps it would be appropriate/possible to ask the police to pay him a visit at his home to request he make no further contact with your family. In Australia the police can be quite supportive in these matters & especially so due to the circumstances surrounding your aunt’s death.

    It’s imperative you focus on your own wellbeing & not make any unnecessary decisions. If you aren’t sure what to do, it’s okay to wait until it becomes clear in your mind. Keep the evidence/paper trail, if you want, it will all still be there when you have the emotional strength to revisit this, if you choose.

    Things do eventually get better, but it takes daily effort & a focus on the positive. I wish you & your family well.

  23. I can see how cheating is a feminist issue, or more specifically an issue of consent. If monogamy is your condition for having sex with someone, not telling you something that would prevent you from consenting if you knew, for sure that is an issue of consent. Everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, to define what the conditions and risks they are willing to undertake.

    CA’s advice is sage, it is probably not something you want to get involved in, now of all times, even if it would feel really good to yell at someone and/or feel like there is any kind of justice in the world, but yeah, if it gets to that place, let him push it there as CA said, often crappy people are really good at destroying their own lives all on their own. But I wanted to say, the feminist thing, it’s not wrong, your heart is in the right place.

    1. If monogamy is your condition for having sex with someone, not telling you something that would prevent you from consenting if you knew, for sure that is an issue of consent. Everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, to define what the conditions and risks they are willing to undertake.

      Honestly, this isn’t even a monogamy issue — this comes up in polyamory, too. I’m very serious about informed consent and my own right to bodily autonomy — and I can’t make an informed decision if my partner is cheating on me and exposing me to who-knows-what.

      This is slightly orthogonal to the original discussion, but it’s important to note that (a) many poly people feel strongly about informed consent, and (b) one of the ways that it’s possible to cheat in a poly relationship is to violate sexual-health agreements, or to have secret partners that your existing partner/s aren’t aware of.

      I think that the Lewd Lawyer’s wife deserves to know, but I also think that it’s not something the family needs to deal with until after they’ve had the funeral and dealt with some of their grief over this sudden and tragic loss.

      It’s not an *obligation* for the family members to inform the wife, but I personally would want to know, and I’d inform someone else if I’d found out under these circumstances (i.e., this isn’t a rumor or an issue of divulging a secret, this is the affair partner *directly contacting the family with inappropriate material.*)

    2. If monogamy is your condition for having sex with someone, not telling you something that would prevent you from consenting if you knew, for sure that is an issue of consent. Everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, to define what the conditions and risks they are willing to undertake.

      Honestly, this isn’t even a monogamy issue — this comes up in polyamory, too. I’m very serious about informed consent and my own right to bodily autonomy — and I can’t make an informed decision if my partner is cheating on me and exposing me to who-knows-what.

      This is slightly orthogonal to the original discussion, but it’s important to note that (a) many poly people feel strongly about informed consent, and (b) one of the ways that it’s possible to cheat in a poly relationship is to violate sexual-health agreements, or to have secret partners that your existing partner/s aren’t aware of.

      I think that the Lewd Lawyer’s wife deserves to know, but I also think that it’s not something the family needs to deal with until after they’ve had the funeral and dealt with some of their grief over this sudden and tragic loss.

      It’s not an *obligation* for the family members to inform the wife, but I personally would want to know, and I’d inform someone else if I’d found out under these circumstances (i.e., this isn’t a rumor or an issue of divulging a secret, this is the affair partner *directly contacting the family with inappropriate material.*)

  24. Oh Captain, on this we disagree. Be the change you want to see in the world – and that includes no more secret affairs. A culture that doesnt keep damaging secrets is one that limits the damage that this man can do and all future men who want to lie and cheat. I want a world where I can be sure no one will keep my cheating partners secrets for him.

    1. Feminism is about respecting others’ worldviews too; some women (see this thread) don’t want to know their partners are cheating. Do unto others and all that is my motto.

  25. I am a lawyer, and here’s what I’d do.

    (1) Leave the lawyer’s wife alone. You can’t know what she knows, or whether she would want to know. It’s not even guaranteed that she’d get a letter without the lawyer intercepting it beforehand. But trying to contact her (or succeeding) just gets you drawn into the whirlwind of this guy’s misbehavior, drama, and danger. Worst-case scenario, maybe informing her even leads to violence in their home. Stay out of her life, and keep your family focused on your family.

    (2) Keep all the documents and communications from the lawyer, make backup copies, and save electronic copies to the cloud.

    (3) Contact the lawyer one more time only, to tell him to never contact you or anyone in the family again, and that if he does, or if he comes to the funeral, you will call the police. He’s a lawyer; he really, really doesn’t want to get arrested. (If you have a lawyer assisting with administering the state, have them make the call or write the letter.) Keep funeral arrangement details out of the newspaper. Discuss your security options with the funeral home, which may include hiring a rent-a-cop to keep him out. Identify someone to bring a camera and post them at the door during the funeral.

    (4) Whether he contacts you again or not, and whether he comes to the funeral or not, file a complaint with the lawyer’s state disciplinary board: write up a narrative of what’s happened and send it and copies of all the documents. Then ask for a case number or tracking number, and ask how to stay notified of his case. And, of course, any time he sends you more communication or calls you or whatever, inform the disciplinary board.

    This guy has put you and your family in a terrible position, and I hope he goes away soon.

    1. This is really excellent advice. Additionally, LW, what occurred to me as someone who works in the legal industry (but is not a lawyer), is that hiring an attorney you trust to deal with this man may have the following benefits:

      1) It will put him on notice that he is dealing with a professional and a peer, and not grieving lay people who, I am certain, he feels he can manipulate. This alone may induce him to behave better.

      2) It reminds him that his career could be very publicly at stake if he continues (where I live, bar complaints are public record. YMMV.)

      3) At least in the state where I live, attorneys tend to know each other, at least by reputation. And good attorneys know who the bad apples are, and are aware of factors in play that you would not be. (Also, many good, ethical attorneys hate bad actors like this, and would want to curtail his harassment of your family.)

      I would encourage you, if possible, to at least consult with an attorney about this. You’ll come away with a much better sense of what the risks and possibilities are.

    2. All of this — regardless of whatever else you decide to do, this is wonderful advice. Laying down enough of a paper trail to keep this guy from showing up at the funeral or further harassing your family is *crucial.*

    3. Excellent points, Glomarization, Esq.

      A tangential thought that occurs to me: your 3rd point is something to follow even if Ovid of Oversharing were unknown. In many places, the funeral of a homicide victim can draw the looky-loos. Some (most?) are discreet enough to not disrupt the funeral, etc, but there’s a higher chance of some complete stranger causing a disruption than at the funeral of someone whose death didn’t draw any public attention.

      In my area, funeral homes usually keep a list of security precautions for such circumstances and can be a good resource for families.

    4. I’d like to raise a caveat – not necessarily because I’m sure I’m right, but because I think it’s worth considering.

      Letting him know you’ll complain if he causes trouble may be reasonable.

      Complaing without a warning? Well, there are two possible situations that might or might not be true:

      1. He doesn’t actually mean to cause trouble. He genuinely cared about Aunt O, in his two-timing tactless way, and is acting extra inappropriate under the pressure of grief. He’s a bad husband, but not the worst person ever to walk. If handled at arm’s length, he’ll vanish from your lives without being pushed. I notice, for instance, that LW says he’s drifted off for now. He seems willing to go away.

      2. Going ‘engage and enrage’ could make an enemy where there wasn’t one before. Right now he has a lot to lose. If you go straight to filing a complaint, you’ll have caused him serious harm with no warning. It’s a massive escalation, and even a reasonable person might be angry about it.

      I understand that it’s a very upsetting situation, but you can escalate a cautious strategy much easier than you can de-escalate an aggressive one. I think the family needs a joint, agreed-upon strategy, and I’d at least consider the watch-and-wait before throwing any grenades.

      1. It is out of line for a lawyer to send explicit poetry about his outside-of-marriage relationship with a deceased woman to the relatives of the deceased. (Out of line for anyone, but I’m speaking only to the lawyery part of it.) It touches all kinds of problems like sexual harassment, boundary violation, and using his respected status as a lawyer to try to intimidate the LW and family into silence and into allowing him to crash the funeral. Sending the poetry tells me that he is not in a place where he is making the best professional decisions, and that his clients may not be getting competent counsel. It doesn’t rise to the level of LW calling the police right now, unless they feel immediately threatened by this guy. But this conduct is definitely something that I think LW can and should report to the professional disciplinary board.

        Maybe he’s just grief-stricken, or maybe he’s disturbed. Whichever the case, I think we’ve discussed several times on CA that we don’t like to try to get into the heads of bad actors and try to explain away what they’re doing. Let’s just look at his conduct, not at what may be in his head. He’s sent this awful poetry, he’s asked for discretion while at the same time seeming to want to attend the funeral openly, and it’s all made LW super uncomfortable. Grief-stricken or disturbed, he’s being a jerk. If he didn’t want the consequences, he shouldn’t have sent explicit poetry to the family of the deceased.

        1. “using his respected status as a lawyer to try to intimidate the LW and family into silence”

          That’s the problem, though: the actual letter doesn’t say any such thing. It just descibes him as ‘some lawyer guy.’ That admits of several possible interpretations:

          1. He is indeed using his profession as an implicit threat.

          2. He mentioned it as part of introducing himself, but not as a threat. Being a lawyer isn’t the Secret Service; you are allowed to tell people what you do for a living.

          3. He didn’t even mention it at all, and LW worked it out while going through Aunt O’s correspondence.

          ‘Some lawyer guy’ needn’t mean ‘some guy who’s threatening me with his status.’ It could equally mean ‘Some total stranger, about whom I know nothing except some very general stuff like his profession.’ I think we should at least entertain the idea that the evidence he’s threatening them is insufficient. He may be, but that’s a speculation, not a proven fact.

          If he’s in a headspace that may be bad for his clients … well look, enough people here have pointed out that LW shouldn’t be pressured to save the guy’s wife if they’re too overwhelmed right now. Pressuring them to save his clients is way more than they should have loaded on them!

          And if he actually is a threat, then LW’s first step should surely be to consult with the family. Tangling with a vindictive person will reap consequences for all of them, and those shouldn’t be chanced without their consent. As others have pointed out, it wasn’t even LW who he contacted, so it shouldn’t be their unilateral decision.

          Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s being inappropriate and creepy. I just think that people are over-interpretimg ‘some lawyer guy’, and that if he actually is a threat, safety first. As Gavin de Becker’s desk sign reads, ‘Do not come here for justice.’ The family is in a horrible situation right now, and should at least all agree before anyone escalates things.

        2. Oh, and one more point. You also say:

          ‘Whichever the case, I think we’ve discussed several times on CA that we don’t like to try to get into the heads of bad actors and try to explain away what they’re doing.’

          To which … Yes, up to a point, but I’m not talking about explaining his actions away. I’m talking about a situation where someone is trying to decide what to do next, and having at least a reasonable guess at what’s in his head will help them anticipate how he might react, which will help them pick the safest strategy. Refusing to consider that is just reckless.

          This guy is an unknown quantity; if angry, he might do nothing or he might launch an expensive lawsuit. Trying to get at least some measure of him is a safety feature in this case. The family has enough to deal with without jumping into a conflict without at least asking themselves how he’s likely to behave.

          1. “or he might launch an expensive lawsuit.”

            He has absolutely no grounds of doing so. In fact, it’s more likely that making this public would cost him a lot.

          2. I’m inclined to agree, actually – it seems like an unlikely outcome. He could become a hassle if he’s angry, though, considering that he’s been pushy already.

    5. I’m a lawyer as well. Decades of divorce experience.

      I don’t agree with point 1. I think it depends entirely upon facts not in evidence. You are wildly speculating about whether it would be good or bad. It’s far more likely that wife does not know and would leave than there would be sudden, new violence.

      What she needs to do is have the lawyer managing the probate estate send the cheater a letter documenting the interaction to date and telling him to cease all contact or he will be reported to the state bar and any other relevant authorities.

  26. Twenty Years. Twenty years, at least three women I can *name*, one suicide, more abuse than you can even imagine, and an ex who left me after I lost a baby and had an accident that left me in a wheelchair, with preteen kids, emptied the bank accounts and flew away with his long-term mistress, later revealing their secret child that was born BEFORE our marriage, and 40 k in secret debt, AND stalking me for 7 years so far.
    Fucking tell the wife. I will never get back the confidence I had before this man worked me over. Nobody would believe the stories I have–now–the chronic infections, the STI risks, literally being abandoned while septic and dying and him refusing to call an ambulance, leaving me alone in a house unable to walk and lying to my support system so that nobody came to see me and find out how bad it was.
    You know what would have stopped it? If anyone had told me he was lying. Anyone.
    You don’t know what he’s doing to hide his words. But I can assure you that if you don’t expose him you are supporting him and his lies. Remaining neutral is not actually a choice–by choosing to do nothing you prioritize the liar.

    1. I am so sorry that this happened to you. Your story is heartbreaking. All my best wishes to you and your children in recovering from everything this man did to you.

  27. Some of the comments on this thread have really hit a nerve for me (nobody’s fault though). I surely can’t be the only one here whose family has been shattered by a sudden and untimely death?? Because seriously, it is such a big thing, it is like the effect of a devastating earthquake on a home. Foundations that were solid can collapse under the kind of stress no family should have to be subjected to, small faults can become gaping rifts in the family structure. LW’s decision to tell or not tell isn’t taken in a vacuum, it’s taken in the context of a family grieving the sudden death of a family member at the hands of another family member. The course of action that is right for the LW will factor that context in.

    Here is what I think:

    – We could debate the rights and wrongs of telling this man’s wife about the affair until the cows come home, but there’s another question that needs to be answered first: is the LW actually the one who should make the call about whether to tell or not tell? The recipient of contact/sex poetry from this douchecanoe is not the LW but rather Aunt L, so I would think that LW shouldn’t share the information without first obtaining Aunt L’s consent to do so. Otherwise, Aunt L might feel (legitimately) betrayed or angered by the LW’s unilateral decision to contact the man’s wife, or she might be abused by the aforementioned douchecanoe. Presumably, Aunt L does not need any additional stress during this difficult time.

    – The discussion here seems mostly split along a dichotomy of tell/don’t tell. I think there’s another question to ask: why does LW need to deal with this now? Aunt O has only recently died at the hand of another family member. Her funeral hasn’t happened yet. There might be a criminal trial or psychiatric institutionalisation ahead for the cousin who killed her. If there was ever a time for a family to be in tremendous pain, now would be it: so much to take in, so much to grieve, so much healing work ahead and maybe more hurt to come. I do think it would be wise to avoid anything that could add to the difficulty that is on the family, at least for the next few months.

    LW doesn’t tell us about their relationship with Aunt O or the cousin was like, so I don’t want to assume or project, but they could be in a pretty vulnerable place right now. I’ve done some things I thought were right after the deaths of loved ones, and only months later was I in a position to see that my judgement was clouded by grief and pain. We don’t know what mental state the LW is in, but seriously: if it is a good decision to tell the man’s wife, it will still be a good decision in a few weeks or months, so why not wait a while until the dust has settled and LW has had time to come to process the recent events in their family. You don’t need to delete anything, just let things sit while the family focuses on grieving Aunt O and working out how to relate to the cousin going forward. That will put LW in a better position to see things clearly and to deal with any fallout in the event they do out the douchecanoe.

    1. This. I’m honestly amazed at some of the folks here who are discounting the trauma and pain LW and her family are going through and focusing on telling or not telling. An anonymous letter that identifies her Aunt O will still enable the wife and/or grown children to find the surviving family members. Even if LW is okay with being contacted (and I don’t know if that’s the case), other family members may not be.

      Sheesh. They have enough on their plates.

      1. Yeah, for me too. Maybe it’s because the family circumstances are only mentioned briefly at the introduction of the letter, so people are treating them as not a big factor? But they are, they really are.

        I agree, I think that given that the douchecanoe brought the situation to light by contacting Aunt L directly, there is a real risk that any ‘outing’ by the LW (even an anonymous one) will result in the douchecanoe abusing or harassing Aunt L and maybe the other family members as well. Or, as you say, the wife or children might contact Aunt L or the rest of the family, which may totally not be something they can handle or want at this difficult time.

    2. In my mind, the thing that was pushing “decide now!” was that Ovid was likely going to show up at the funeral.

      1. Yeah, so I see those as separate issues. It’s possible to deal with his possible presence at the funeral (I like Glomarization’s advice upthread on practical strategies for doing so) and then decide later what to do with his correspondence and contact with Aunt L.

    3. Thank you, I was about to make this comment myself. My uncle died suddenly without anyone else being involved, and there was still communication with the police alongside funeral plans, plans for dealing with what property remained, dealing with local government, dealing with the newspapers who published pictures of the scene before we knew for certain he was dead, official legal identification, notifying his friends and a lot of relatives in a widely spread family … it’s hugely complex and incredibly difficult to deal with when you’re trying to grieve as well. Had someone arrived sending their poetry and claiming an affair, I would have been hard pressed to care at all, let alone add someone else I don’t know to my notification list. That might make me a harsh or selfish person but I really feel LW or anyone else involved is not under any obligation to prioritise this over all the other stuff happening.

      1. I’m really sorry for your loss, and for what you had to go through at a time when your family was trying to grieve the loss of your uncle. It sadly seems all too common that after a death the people who are grieving the hardest find themselves grappling with an administrative nightmare as well.

        I don’t think it makes you harsh or selfish at all. It makes you a person who knows what the limits of their energy are, and where their priorities lie. Or, if it does make you selfish, I’m right there with you 🙂

    4. I’ve never been in a situation even vaguely comparable to what the LW’s family is going through, but I’ve definitely made all of my most regrettable decisions while under a lot of stress and feeling extreme lack of control over what’s going on in my life–I desperately wanted to take SOME kind of action to resolve a situation that felt like it ought to have a clean resolution and catharsis, just because the other shit going on didn’t. Most of the time what I wanted to do wasn’t a great choice, and if I’d been thinking more clearly I would have, say, NOT grabbed a live electrical wire bare-handed because I was so determined to change a light bulb. (Not my finest moment, though I escaped unscathed.)

      The situation between this man and his wife isn’t going anywhere. Taking the time and necessary steps for LW and their family to have their oxygen masks on first before making any decisions isn’t going to do any harm that hasn’t already been done, either way.

      1. Yes! I was about to write the same thing: put your own oxygen mask on first. Then help the family members with theirs. Breathe. Deal with the most important things first, and put aside any big decisions about this new information for a while. A decision does not have to be made right now, in the middle of dealing with the aftermath of very terrible events.

      2. Yes. One risk here is summarized by “Oh my god we have to do something! This is something.” The mere fact that an action is possible doesn’t even make it relevant, let alone a good idea.

    5. Elektra, I’m so sorry for your loss. I had noticed the same thing. This topic is bringing out a lot of anger and resentment from people who have been cheated on, which is understandable, but I’ve been uncomfortable with the way some commenters have personalized the issue, speaking from a place of personal anger at being cheated on rather than looking at the LW’s actual situation. It seems like many commenters want to champion the injured wife, but she’s not the one who wrote the letter.

      LW, Elektra is right. The cheating is not the most important issue here. The most important issue is the dealing with the unbelievable trauma you and your family are going through. I am so, so sorry for your loss. If you are not already doing so, I hope you will seek professional help. It honestly occurs to me to wonder whether you are–completely understandably–using this situation with the lawyer to distract yourself from the devastation of this loss. Again, that would be a completely normal, understandable coping mechanism, but you might consider whether it’s helping you deal with the real problem or whether it’s preventing you from dealing with it. You are in an incredibly vulnerable spot right now, and I know from experience that distractions are often welcome. This distraction, however, could cause long-term problems for you and your family. I would strongly advise you to lay this aside for now. This lawyer will still be a horrible person in six months, and you, your Aunt L, and everyone else might have clearer heads. Please take care of yourself, LW. I wish you well.

    6. I think Elektra, that you’ve hit what I was trying to articulate as well.

      Lawyer man has tried to throw bombs into a family situation that is already raw, fragile and grieving. Ban him from the funeral – make it lawyer v. lawyer, so the LW is not dealing with this directly, and then, hit the pause button on how to deal with this area of your aunt’s personal business until at least post-burial, and possibly post-whatever will happen with cousin.

      You (LW) have plenty of evidence if you want to attempt bust this cheating [beeeeeeeeeeeeeep]. You have good, ethical arguments for doing so. But often, someone being cheated on reacts by shooting the messenger, even if they do later come to believe the evidence. And I think if you want to take that course of action, you (and Aunt L) need to be in a headspace where you can handle trying to do the right thing and getting excoriated for it.

      I’ve had an experience trying to warn someone about a terrible partner (registered child abuser). This was a considered conversation between close, caring friends, with the actual information as indisputable public record, and I was in a happy, healthy place in my life. It hurt hideously, I went spiraling into at least one panic attack I remember, and the friendship came close to ending because she did not want to hear me say that her partner was no good. So, while I am personally in camp “wife needs to know,” I don’t think you need to navigate these deeply treacherous and fraught interactions quite yet.

  28. If you do tell, keep your aunt’s name out of it (I wouldn’t feel good passing on her private correspondence! I know I wouldn’t want my intimate correspondence spread around after my death) and make it clear to the wife that you’re a stranger who came upon this info after her husband’s affair partner’s death, so she doesn’t go through the paranoia of wondering which friend, neighbor or coworker tipped her off.

    But as someone who has experienced an unexpected, devastating loss, I agree with those who say: focus on your own family right now.

    This problem might loom large in part because it *isn’t* directly this horrific tragedy in your family, only adjacent to it. It might be that your brain needs another thing to focus on right now.

    But try not to make it this. In the midst of shock and grief is a terrible time to make decisions that can’t be unmade.

  29. Can I just say that between the “Ovid of Oversharing” and the Civ 5 reference on the other letter the Good Captain is absolutely SLAYING me this morning?

  30. LW, if your aunt had passed away under any other circumstances I would say go ahead and out this attention-seeking clown. But because of the way your aunt died I think you should consider what’s best for your family right now. Will letting more people know about Mr Delicious Attention make it easier or harder for all of you?

    Listen to the commenters advising you to keep everything and wait before making any decisions. If nothing else, you can always threaten Mr Pay Attention to Me with disclosure if he tries to insert himself into the funeral. Wait until afterwards and after any legal stuff before you make up your mind.

  31. First of all, I’m sorry for your loss.

    Secondly, I kind of get the feeling that this lawyer is fond of over sharing, boundary trampling and exaggerating if it feeds his ego and appetite for drama, no matter what the truth of the situation is, or was.

    I don’t think what he says about your aunt’s relationship with him can be relied on at all.

    If only because he clearly thinks he’s the centre of the universe. Expecting to be the chief mourner/able to dictate what family can/should with the deceaseds effects do when you’re married to someone else? When all you’ve had is a secretive affair?

    i also think that flat out telling his wife he was having an affair would feed his desire for drama/chaos and give him a chance to spin webs of bullshittery around his wife – and your family. Do not give him an opening.

    I think Glomerization, Esq, has it right when they say to avoid being drawn into his whirlwind of chaos.
    Tell him to back off, file a complaint, and keep all the documentation.

  32. Read the archives at Chump Nation/Chump Lady. Lose a cheater, gain a life. Ask them. They know.

  33. LW: there is so much excellent, well-thought-out advice here, and so much of it is contradictory. Reasonable, ethical people disagree.
    Take care of yourself first, then Aunt L and other family; the creep’s wife is a victim in this circumstance too, but she is not in your inner circle of responsibility, and you really can’t know whether she would be grateful for being told, or horrified. So, make the decision that is best for you and yours, whatever that turns out to be. My deepest sympathies on this tragic loss.

  34. This. Glomerization, Esq, has argued their points successfully to convince me my response didn’t encompass all the points. But a backup of those files on the computer is definitely called for, before it’s given away or stored.

  35. It occurs to me that if you want him to stop bothering you, you could say, ‘Leave us alone or we’ll tell your wife.’

    The whole thing is weird, though. He’s jumping up and down for attention while demanding discretion – which he could have assured perfectly easily by just not telling you about the affair. That suggests … a not entirely reasonable agenda, let’s say. Which makes him hard to predict from the point of view of a reasonable person like the poor family he’s decided to bother.

    I don’t know what I’d do, but I would say that it’s a decision that can wait till after the funeral. And don’t have him there, because he’s a dick and the last thing you need is a funeral coping with his presence.

    Your aunt didn’t leave any instructions regarding him and didn’t tell anyone in the family about him, so it’s perfectly reasonable to say, ‘We’re sorry, but the funeral is gling to be a family event, and as she chose to keep her relationship with you separate from the family, we feel it would be inappropriate for you to attend.’

    And if he kicks off after that? Actually I wouldn’t tell his wife. I’d go straight to the police. If you describe the plain facts to them he can’t sue you for defamation, and they won’t do anything illegal that he could sue you for either – they can advise you about your legal position.

    When you’ve given your aunt a good send-off and got through the stress of organising it all, then you can think about it in peace. And how he reacts to your dis-invitation may give you some more information about him as well.

    My deepest condolences for your loss and all the horrible circumstances that go with it.

    1. Keep in mind that while Oversharing Ovid is clearly a difficult person, he is also in mourning right now, and might be making poor decisions – sending his poetry, etc. – due to his own overabundance of emotions. Letting the whole question of his cheating lie for awhile might also give him a chance to calm down, at which point dealing with him and his issues should become much easier. Maybe it’s just a difference in focus, but tamping down on the drama right now makes things easier for everyone, and that means far less drama down the road.

      “DramaLama – I hate that band!”

  36. LW, I’m so sorry for your loss and the circumstances related to it. I hope that you have a strong, capable Team You to take care of you and relieve some of the pressure and pain you and your family must be feeling right now. My best wishes for you all ❤

    There's lots of useful information in this thread, but I want to give particular shout-outs to Glomarization, Esq. practical suggestions and Leonine's 11:47 AM comment. As for what I think about this, I just know that this dude gives me serious heebie jeebies. I don't know if it's the manner in which he contacted your Aunt L, the way in which he asks for discretion at the same time he exposes your Aunt O's intimate life (but he actually gave you information that would allow you to contact his wife when he could have used a fake name? What in hell is his endgame?), or what, but my gut is screaming for him to go away and never come back. That's why I'm leaning on totally disengaging from this issue and its asshole drama king.

    He made unwelcome contact with your family at a time of incredible vulnerability and pain, and disclosed information in the hopes to shift the ground under your feet even more. He inserted himself in a situation that's not about him at all. He took a problem that is his (cheating on his wife) and made it your problem to deal with. He threatened to impose on/harass your family during the funeral. That seems like narcissistic manipulation bordering on stalking to me, so why not deal with it with "Do not ever contact any of us again" + radio silence? I fear that every piece of attention you give him is only going to triple the amount of unwanted contact you and your family receive.

    I hope he goes away and never bothers you again, and that you don't have to invest an ounce of your mental and emotional bandwidth on him during this difficult time.

  37. A perspective I haven’t seen yet is that this isn’t *just* about jerk lawyer. Announcing the affair to his wife could have effects on Aunt O’s reputation as well. Many people think more negatively of a woman who knowingly enters a sexual relationship with a married man than they do of the man himself. The fact that this is completely unfair doesn’t make it any less true. It is entirely possible that you could contact this man’s wife with the information you have and she would completely blame your aunt for the situation. And even if she didn’t, others would.

    You knew your aunt better than any of us did, obviously. Would this be how she would want to be remembered? Would she care that other people thought less of her because of her choice of romantic/sexual partners? Will her other surviving relatives care? Is outing jerk lawyer to his wife worth her reputation?

    I’m not asking these questions because I’m trying to enforce some Victorian-era moral code. But to some people, reputation matters. It matters a lot. You are not the only one who is currently grieving your aunt. It seems like it would at least be worth A) checking in with your aunts other survivors about whether they would be comfortable with this action and B) thinking about what your aunt herself would have wanted you to do. Sometimes the most important thing about having principles is knowing when acting on them would cause more harm than good.

  38. I think you need to put Wife on the back-burner. Your aunt is dead. Your cousin is seriously ill, your family is a mess right now. Do you have the emotional energy to tell someone this? Can you really deal with all of the ways it might fall out, and that might even be your aunt’s things being used in a divorce case?

    I feel for this mystery woman. I *was* that mystery woman. But I do not think you can’t handle the emotional weight of telling her this thing, and the consequences could be long-lasting and miserable.

    You’re a feminist, not a saint. It sucks he’s a shitheel but you have a genuine tragedy to come to grips with and being a Feminist doesn’t make you the world’s Therapist. Put this away. Handle your shit. Maybe revisit it in a few months or years if it bothers you.

    And tell creepy dude not to contact your family anymore, or you will tell his wife and he can eat it.

    Take care of yourself, and once you do that, do whatever let’s you sleep at night.

  39. An issue I think is important: how would the rest of your family feel if you blew the whistle? Would they be upset at you disclosing Aunt O’s personal life? If the lawyer guy caused trouble, who would it fall on most heavily?

    Honestly, I think this ought to be a family decision. There’s been a dreadful event that must be leaving you all feeling shattered and conflicted; if you do something now that other family members aren’t happy about, it could become hugely divisive at a time when everyone’s emotions are raw and volatile.

    I know it’s commonly said here that family culture shouldn’t override individual rights, but this isn’t really an individual issue. Aunt O was everybody’s relation and her ex is everybody’s problem.

    I know your conscience is bothering you, but in a case like this – well, I don’t say this to sound harsh, but your own conscience about this situation doesn’t really outrank anybody else’s. Even in this thread, many people of good conscience have had opposite opinions. If you make a solo decision, it will have collective repercussions, and that isn’t fair. I think that in the end, the people who should be discussing it with you are the people who will have to live with the outcome.

    Talk to your family and come to a joint decision. And if you can’t … well, if everybody isn’t happy about incurring the potential consequences of outing this guy, then in the end, it might just not be your right to decide otherwise.

    I don’t say this to blame you. Right now you’re in an awful place: something terrible happened that you couldn’t prevent. I think it’s possible you’re a very moral person who, in this crisis, is being plagued by a sense of loose-flapping responsibility: you couldn’t save Aunt O, but shouldn’t you save everyone else that you can?

    And in this case … well, it’s not that simple, and you wouldn’t be acting in isolation. Take the weight of the world off your shoulders for a bit; you’re just one person, and things are bad right now, and it’s too much for you to cope with alone.

  40. Dear LW,

    My condolences to you and your family. May the pain diminish and may you all keep good memories of Aunt O.

    I think Glamorization Esq’s advice is brilliant. You see, as well as addressing how to get rid of Lewd Lawyer physically, the advice will get him out of your family’s thoughts.

  41. I, too, think Glamorization Esq’s advice is great. Just in case this creep decides to escalate, you want a complaint and a paper trail in place in order to protect your family. My deepest condolences to you and your family in this trying and sad time.

  42. I don’t think you should do it, LW – at least right now. I think you’re grieving and dealing with this unimaginably complex pain, where your cousin did a terrible thing while in the throes of a terrible disease and sorting all that out is an immensely Herculean task. And here comes this man, who adds another layer of complexity by giving you complicated information about your aunt and her relationship choices.
    And this man, you suspect, is doing something clearly, simply wrong. It’s not complicated; there are no confusing feelings. Cheating is wrong. He is doing something wrong and you have the power to punish him and in some little corner, all will be simple and good and right with the world.
    But, LW, you are not Superman and he is not Lex Luther. He is, instead, human and complicated and his marriage is human and complicated and his wife is also human and complicated. There is no Good Feminist Work here, there is only humanity and our messy, complicated lives. This will not bring you resolution or satisfaction or relief from your emotions. At best, it will harm one person who is grieving. At worst, it will harm an innocent bystander and embroil your family in another hailstorm of emotions and complications and hurt.
    So take 6 months or a year and when time has done its work, re-examine the question with clearer eyes. Do not tell her because you are angry – at him, at the world, at your family; do not tell her to publish him or to regain control or to strike a blow for feminism. If you tell her, tell her because you believe it is the kindest thing you can do for her, and be prepared for it to become messy and complicated and hard, too.

  43. Re-reading the letter, I noticed something I missed before, LW: you say Aunt L won’t want to get involved because she ‘hates conflict.’

    Realistically, telling the wife will cause conflict for her. He asked her to be discreet, she showed the messages to you, who is not on his side. She had every right to do so, of course, but if he was the kind of man who thought that way, he wouldn’t have sent all those poems in the first place. At the very least, he seems likely to turn on her for refusing to honour his ‘discretion’ request.

    In other words, Aunt L will be in the firing line, and you imply she wouldn’t want that. Is it really ok to do that to her?

  44. LW, I am so sorry for your loss and for the issue you are dealing with now. I believe your instincts to follow your own ethics is correct. It may be you should wait a bit until you are in a better place to deal with telling the abusers wife. Despite my own experience with be cheated on and experiencing an escalation of abuse when I asked for a divorce; I’ve never been able to articulate my views of infidelity as well as this person, so, I leave his essay here: http://www.spectacle.org/0500/lies.html

    I love CA but I disagree with the advice here, there is no other form of emotional abuse that gets such a pass in our society. I do not understand how our culture is still stuck in this particular area. I spent years of my life with someone who did not value me beyond his own security, who drained me and hurt me, sometimes in ways I wasn’t even really aware of because I was operating under an assumption that was built on lies. Tell.

  45. EVERYone has the right to live an honest life, and not be deceived. The wife should be told, with as much evidence as can be mustered. What the wife chooses to do with that evidence, short- or long-term is her business. But she deserves to have the information as she is likely making decisions about the trajectory of her life based on the perception her lawyer-husband is completely devoted to her.

    And, yes, I do have first-hand knowledge of betrayal. Had just one person told me about my (now) ex-husband’s affair, I’d have saved 8 years of gaslighting & sporadic emotional abuse. ALWAYS TELL, even if you have to do it anonymously.

  46. Oof. So there’s a couple of issues to think about. Do you tell the wife or not?

    If you tell the wife about the affair, this may turn into a nuclear option with numerous ramifications. You don’t know the wife; is she aware of the affair? Will she be furious and turn on her husband and/or “the other woman” and publicly denounce him and/or her in some way? Will she be devastated and suffer from severe depression? Will she want to divorce him, but be unable to due to financial issues (or divorce him and become financially insolvent?) Will she be happy that you’ve confirmed something she’s suspected for years and finally take meaningful action to separate herself from him? Will the three adult children side with Mom, or be split on whether this is true or not (if the guy is a good liar, he could be manipulating the adult children as well). Yikes.

    Look at it this way – this guy just walked into your life with information about your Aunt that has hurt you. And he’s done it just because of his *feelings* without thinking or caring about what it might do to you/family. He probably justified this to himself (“she was the love of my life, I can’t let her go without saying goodbye/whatever”).

    You’re thinking about doing something similar to his wife. Without knowing anything about her, you’re considering throwing this big emotional *feelings bomb* to her. The result might be good or great! It might be horrific. If you decide to do that, you need to be prepared to handle the consequences of what will happen as a result. If the result is bad, that’s an awful lot of karma for you to deal with.

    You have a lot more urgent things to be concerned about right now. This is one thing that can be put aside for the time being. And keep this in mind as well – if you decide to tell the wife, you can’t “un-tell” her. Right now there’s a lot of emotional issues going on in your life. Wait till you’ve gotten through the funeral and resolution about what will happen with your cousin……that’s an awful lot of emotions to process. Make a decision as to whether you say something to the wife later. You can always make the decision to tell her about it at a later date – but you can’t undo it once it’s been said and done.

  47. LW, what a horrible situation to be in, particularly since this man has decided to drop this information in your lap whether you want it or not (and at an emotionally fragile time for you and your family too). I am sure he is grieving for your Aunt, but the way he went about this was with no thought as to how it might affect you and your family – he has put you in a very difficult and unfair position with no consideration as to the knock on effects all round.

    Deciding what to do with this information is also difficult. Sometimes it is good to know if a partner has been unfaithful to you – my first serious boyfriend was sleeping with my then-best friend behind my back. Her flatmate, who I had become friends with, was so appalled at the way they were behaving that he rang me up one day and told me the whole sorry saga. They both denied it. I lost my boyfriend and my best friend because of this, but I am still very glad her flatmate told me when he did and, as a result, I got out of that relationship before it really imploded.

    However, I can understand how someone in a very long term relationship/marriage might rather not know (or rather not have their suspicions confirmed) for any number of reasons – still loving their partner, having children with them, age (“I’m too old to find someone else” – not true, but many people believe this), not wanting to lose financial/social security and status, the simple fact that their lives have been entangled for so long etc. etc.

    Without knowing more about his wife, it is not easy to see whether telling her (or not) would be the best course of action for her, as well as you and your respective families. And that’s kinda important. This bombshell has the potential to have a wider impact on two families – yours and hers – and put you in an even more difficult position.

    It does kinda feel like you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t – but whatever you end up deciding to do, I wish you the best of luck. In your shoes, I think I would wait until the immediate aftermath of your Aunt’s funeral has passed before you even think about making a decision; you are mourning your Aunt too, and it’s important that you allow yourself to do that. Take good care of yourself and remember that you matter too. x

  48. My brain is conjuring up Don Pardo: “This has been another rousing episode of Philosophical Conundrums! Would YOU steal that medicine? Would YOU throw that track switch? Think long and hard, one day it might not be hypothetical! Thank you and good night!”

    I think LW should get through the funeral and grieving first. If LW has the spoons and time to deal with preserving an evidence trail, great. If not, I think LW can backburner this issue indefinitely.

    My first, and perhaps not best, reaction was to think that if the indiscreet asshat persists in inserting himself into private family grief and mourning, maybe go ahead and deploy the proof-of-cheating bomb if it will get him to back off and leave the family alone. In other words, as a defensive, rather than offensive, strategy. Because there is little chance, depending on the size and gossipy-ness of their community, that this weird public behavior won’t get out anyway. At least it will put it into some context and keep his family from thinking he’s suffering some sort of mental breakdown, intruding on the grieving family members at what they will assume is a total stranger’s funeral. My boss is a lawyer and does occasionally attend some funerals because he specializes in estate law, has done so for decades, and many of his long-time clients are now quite elderly and dying off. However, it is rare and generally reserved for those long-term clients who were also friends. Otherwise he sends a nice donation by mail to whatever charity or cause is mentioned in the deceased’s obituary. He does not contact the family directly in any way or intrude on their grief in any way; they will get notified that he made a donation in the deceased’s name later, when they can deal with that. It is not normal to barge into the middle of a family’s grieving process, and this asshat’s lawyer status doesn’t explain this behavior.

    If this is a problem that distracts LW in a good way from some emotional pain, by all means, puzzle it out and worry the problem about a bit. If it isn’t, then set it aside, at least for now. Whatever you decide, you will have a lot more evidence and fact to base your decision upon than any of us, LW, and I, for one, trust you to make the right decision when the time comes to make it. That time doesn’t have to be right now.

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