DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, "Karen," who was once married to "Zack." They divorced and went their separate ways, but nine years later they are back together. I am almost certain they have not remarried, although Karen uses his last name and refers to him as her husband.
Abby, Zack is a compulsive womanizer, always on the lookout for a sexual encounter. Karen doesn't talk about it and pretends that everything is great with her and her "marriage." We all pretend along with her, although picking up strange women for sex is dangerous in many ways.
I live on the coast, and a few weeks ago I drove south to a resort city to spend the weekend with a friend. As we sat in a restaurant, I noticed Zack leaving. (I don't believe he saw me.) I mentioned to my friend and an acquaintance of hers who was sitting with us that I knew the man who was walking out. The acquaintance laughed and said most of the women in the area knew him. It seems he owns a condo there and has attracted some attention because of his behavior. I said I knew about his womanizing. She replied, "Yes, but are you aware that he picks up men as well?" I was stunned.
The person who gave me the information seemed sure of what she was saying, and gave me enough details to convince me that Zack is picking up men for sex as casually as he does women. I am afraid he is exposing Karen to HIV, and I'm almost positive that she doesn't know about his attraction to men.
Should I go to Karen and tell her about this? I'm afraid of losing her friendship if I say anything, but if I don't and something terrible happens, I don't think I could forgive myself. Please advise. -- BITING MY TONGUE IN N. CAROLINA
DEAR BITING: Although I do not endorse repeating gossip, a case such as the one you have described is an exception. Your friend should be told immediately about your visit to the nearby city, that you saw the man she calls her husband there, and what you were told. She should also be advised to see her doctor and be tested for every sexually transmitted disease there is a test for -- if she hasn't done so already.
Please make clear that although you were worried about losing her friendship if you came to her about this, you were more worried about her welfare. What happens after that is her decision, and your conscience will be clear.