Group Chat is In The Know’s weekly advice column, where our editors respond to your questions about dating, friendships, family, social media and beyond. Have a question for the chat? Submit it here anonymously and we’ll do our best to reply.
Hi, Group Chat,
My brother is 37 years old and has been with his current girlfriend for over 5 years. He also travels a lot for work. Recently, he finally started talking about an engagement. However, last year on a family vacation, I caught a glimpse of him on a dating app and, just last week, I was able to confirm he is still active on the same app.
I want to tell his girlfriend about his emotional (and/or potential) physical cheating, but I know if I do, she will leave him. I’m so torn about what to do. Should I tell my potential future sister-in-law my brother is, at the very least, emotionally cheating?
Sincerely, Conflicted Brother
Alex Lasker, who cannot understand why anyone would volunteer to be on a dating app after finding a mate, says — I’d like you to imagine this very delicate situation as if it were a game of Jenga. Pulling any wooden block from the tower (i.e., telling either your brother or his girlfriend about the alleged cheating) can cause it to implode. However, certain moves are riskier than others, both in Jenga and in this terrible conundrum you’ve landed in.
Confronting your brother about the notifications you saw on his phone is like grabbing a block from the top of the tower — low-risk. Sure, he might be angry, he might throw a fit, but at the end of the day, he’s family and he’ll forgive you. Confronting his girlfriend, on the other hand, is like yanking a block from the tower’s foundation — as risky as it gets. Because in the latter scenario, if the relationship collapses, it’s suddenly your fault (it’s not, but it is).
Go to your brother first and be blunt. “Hey, I saw some dating app notifications on your phone, what were those about?” — that’s all you need to say. Give him a chance to explain himself, too. One time, my boyfriend thought he saw Bumble notifications on my phone when they were really just from Swarm (a location check-in app that no one uses except for me, I’m fairly certain). I’m not saying your brother is necessarily innocent here, but you might as well listen to what he has to say. If his answer seems shady or you learn he actually is sneaking around — then it’s time to tell his girlfriend, Jenga tower be damned.
Katie Mather, who would literally call her boyfriend’s mom to tell her she raised a monster if she found dating apps on his phone this late in the game, says — I’ve thought it over and there’s no “good answer” as to why your 37-year-old brother could still be on a dating app while simultaneously planning to propose to someone else. I’m also dying to know what he put in his bio.
You’ve got firsthand confirmation of this nonsense, so I say the first step is confronting your brother and giving him an ultimatum: either he tells the girlfriend or you will. The ideal outcome is that she already knows about it and is fine with it (in which case, I have several follow-up questions for her). Another (realistic) outcome is your brother gets really mad and tells you it’s not your place to get involved. Uh, it totally is, this girl deserves to know her future fiancé is still on Bumble before she joins bank accounts with him.
Dylan Tuba, who thought “I Love You Man” was a documentary about his life, says — You’re right to be suspicious of your big brother, but before sounding the cheating siren, have you considered he might be on those apps looking for something more … innocent?
Take Bumble. It’s one of the top-ten dating apps, but it also has a feature that’s dedicated to finding new platonic friends. (There’s also one made for networking– finally! LinkedIn but sadder!) Could your brother just be looking for buddies or a new job?
Riding this train of optimism, let’s crank it up to Judd Apatow level bromance: An engagement is afoot, but something’s missing… What if your brother is looking for his best man on Bumble? Someone needs to plan that bachelor party! With you being all up in his business, I’d be actively weighing my options as well! Go ahead and ask him what’s up. Best case scenario: you won’t have to be the one who books the party bus.
Dillon Thompson, who has three brothers with a combined history of around 800 girlfriends, says — It always hurts to get cheated on, but time can make things a lot worse. The longer it takes for your brother’s behavior to come out — and if he’s already been doing this for a year — the harder it’s going to be when your potential S.I.L. finally finds out.
My advice? Go to him first. Tell him you know about the cheating and make the case that he’s better off coming clean now than several months (and a possible wedding) down the line. If he values your opinion, he should at least hear you out. And if he denies it or refuses to tell his girlfriend, then you’re right back at square one — but at least now everything is in the open between you. There may be a tougher decision to make down the line, but confronting him is a start.
Jamé Jackson, who has no siblings and is thankful for this exact reason, says – Wow, this would make a really good episode of “Maury” (if reality TV was your vibe and we were out of quarantine). Although your brother is definitely giving off weird vibes, I’d say don’t jump the gun just yet. Perhaps he’s on these dating apps just to see if he’s still “got it,” and even though that’s no excuse for his behavior since this is a longterm relationship, we should include an open dialogue.
I’d definitely go to him first and ask what’s up. Create non-hostile, open communication and assure him that although you’re his brother, you’re also going to hold him accountable for a union that could (hopefully) last a lifetime.
Kelsey Weekman, whose favorite movie is the seminal anti-cheating classic “John Tucker Must Die,” says — I wish I could take an air-horn to the ear of every semi-to-full cheater in this world, but alas, that would take forever and I have a job here. Something to consider is that cheating is, though disgusting and wrong, not the end of the world or even necessarily the end of a relationship.
Not to defend your brother here because he’s clearly in the wrong, but he might be feeling a bit pressured with the possibility of an engagement on the horizon and could be (incorrectly) letting go of some of that anxiety by looking around. It’s not GOOD or RIGHT, but it does make sense.
My advice is to gather the evidence you have and confront him with it, letting him know he’s a big sleaze ball for doing this and he’s lucky that of all people, you were the first to find out. This relationship is not going to last if he doesn’t come clean to his girlfriend about his curiosity. I can almost guarantee that the shame will make him snap out of it — shame is a pretty aggressive motivator. As for the girlfriend, I hope she teams up with the other girls he’s been talking to and takes him down — but ultimately the choice to dump him or not is ultimately up to her.
TL;DR — The consensus is clear, here. Confront your brother, and do it ASAP! If he’s mulling an engagement, there’s simply no time to waste. But while it’s definitely advisable that you approach him first and hear his side of the issue, consider that his poor girlfriend might be preparing to take the last name of a man who is still on Tinder. If your brother’s story doesn’t check out, you can either tell his girlfriend outright or live with your silence forever (please, pick the first option).
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