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Messy involvement with someone sort of in another relationship.
April 2, 2011 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I got involved with a friend who was in a relationship. He is confusing me and I am backing off. What now?

I was attracted to a friend I've known for almost a year, but considered him off-limits as he was in a long-term relationship. We began spending more time together and he asked me if I'd consider being more than friends with him if we had the opportunity. I said yes. I should mention that his girlfriend wasn't in the area during this time.

I had a lot of hesitations and cognitive dissonance about all of this, and initially wanted to wait until they were very, very broken up. At his initiation, we talked about this a lot. He repeatedly said he was interested in a serious relationship with me and led these conversations. I'm introverted and historically not too impulsive, but I also don't usually feel strongly about anyone. So this is doubly weird for me.

He said his current relationship was mostly a practical issue. He explained to me that he had been emotionally checked out his relationship for years, would leave her immediately and that his girlfriend would most likely not return from where she was.

We became a lot more than friends very quickly. Bad idea. I thought he had "officially" left her when it started based on things he said. I guess I let it keep happening because I am attracted to him, was confused about his relationship, felt like I had to jump at the opportunity, trusted his character from being a friend and saw a lot of similarities between us that helped me create excuses for the situation.

I now get that I probably helped hurt his girlfriend or was at best in a very grey area. I feel guilty about this as a separate issue, but that's not the main focus of this question. If you can, please try to focus your answers on what to do now.

Anyway, his girlfriend returned and things predictably deteriorated. A month later, he says they've broken up but hasn't been forthright about whether he is or isn't involved with her anymore.

He knows it makes me uncomfortable. He's volunteered a lot of conflicting (and honestly, extremely weird) details. He implies that she's stubborn and kind of crazy. I do know that they're still living together, even though both have other places to stay. Nothing he says regarding this makes practical sense to me, so I assume this has more to do with emotions than anything else.

I don't think that this person has bad intentions, although I don't know anymore. Opportunistic, yes, impulsive, yes, unrealistic, yes, and maybe too excited by the idea of me after being with the same person for so long.

We've continued to see each other sporadically until recently, mainly because he's been seemingly eager to maintain this pseudo-dating scenario. This made me feel terrible each time. I finally stopped it via an e-mail and explained that, while I like him a lot, it's hard to see someone while they're not fully out of another relationship. I asked him to contact me if he was still interested in seeing me when he was free.

He responded vaguely about when they would be separated but said he hoped that I would feel the same way when he was completely free.

In an ideal world, before all of this happened, I would have liked to simply date this person and see where it would go. I have no idea what to think now.

1. What is the appropriate contact level after sending an e-mail like that? Right now, I have set it at zero. Before that, we were communicating daily.

2. How long should I wait for him to sort things out, given that this is hurting me a lot? Am I asking for too much? Let's define "sorting things out" by not living together for the purposes of this question -- unless I should be thinking about this differently. That seems like a first step to me.

3. Should I just stop? I like this person, but there are a lot of big warning signs. Conflicting details about his involvement with his current/ex-girlfriend, extreme initial enthusiasm, being generally secretive and asking for a lot from me are among them. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has many positive qualities.

4. If I decide to wait it out and they do seem to unequivocally split up, how could we try to start over? Has entering a relationship with someone initially tangled up in another worked out for you, and if so, how? What happened in the short-term and in the long-term? Anecdotes of failed attempts are equally welcome.

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN
posted by functionequalsform at 4:34 PM on April 2, 2011 [43 favorites]


1. Correct -- you've said he can contact you when he's free. Do not get back into the middle of this.
2. Wait as long as you feel like it. He may not be intending to end it. If you've moved on before he's done what he needs to, that's his loss.
3. He's already shown that he's at least willing to bend the truth with you, and willing to lie to his current live-in girlfriend. I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole, but you can if you want to.
4. I've never had a situation like this end well in the long term.
posted by freshwater at 4:37 PM on April 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


When someone isn't being open and forthright about the state of their current relationship, which they are ostensibly maybe kind of potentially ending to be with you, that is your sign that you need to get the fuck out. I know this person has a lot of positive qualities that are attracting you to him; nevertheless, based on what you've written here, I would get out while the getting's good, and keep contact at or near zero.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:38 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Assuming everything finally ends with current girlfriend, you can expect that if you are new girlfriend, he will treat you the same way he treated her: by getting involved with someone else and lying constantly about his relationship status with them. Would this be ok with you? if not (and I assume that you would not), then you need to get out now and never go back.
posted by brainmouse at 4:40 PM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


No contact. Do not plan on getting reinvolved. DTMFA.

Friends don't do this to friends. They also don't behave the way he's behaved toward their significant others or toward the people they're interested in getting in a serious relationship with. He's being a manipulative bastard.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:46 PM on April 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Since the friendship/benefits line has vanished, your sanity would be most protected by not talking to this guy anymore ever. He is perfectly content to cheat on his girlfriend while stringing you along and lying to you about ever dating you exclusively. These are not good qualities to have in a boyfriend or a friend.
posted by wondermouse at 4:49 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guy's an asshole. This is such classic slime-bag behavior I'm a bit surprised you even need to ask this question, but if people didn't fall into this trap all the time, it wouldn't be a cliché. RUN as fast as you can.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:51 PM on April 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


What really bothers me about this kind of behavior (sucky as it is) in people isn't really even the cheating. Or even the lying about it, to either partner. It's the part where he's trying to placate Partner B by telling her these strangely mean things about how Partner A is a crazy bitch.

The rest of it, I don't know, life is complicated. I wouldn't say that he handled this well, but if he had rapidly told Partner A that he was leaving her and tried to be human about the whole thing... But the manipulative voiding of his primary partner's trust and privacy in that particular way is really shameful and awful to me. Plus, honestly, it makes it kind of seem like he thinks you're an idiot who will be fooled by "My wife doesn't understaaaaaaand me!!!!"

That's what would make me walk away.

This guy may be a good man - I don't know. But he's certainly not acting like one. Instead, he's acting like a child, who wants what he wants when he wants it and doesn't feel that he should have to consider anyone else's feelings in the pursuit of those goals. Is that someone you want to be in any kind of relationship with?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:53 PM on April 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


This guy never intended to split up with his girlfriend. You don't want to be with him, anyway: he's not respecting either you or her.

And if you do still have dreams of getting back together with him, repeat after me: People who cheat with you will cheat on you.
posted by runningwithscissors at 4:53 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also:

He implies that she's stubborn and kind of crazy. I do know that they're still living together, even though both have other places to stay. Nothing he says regarding this makes practical sense to me, so I assume this has more to do with emotions than anything else.

It has more to do with him being a scumbag than anything else.
posted by runningwithscissors at 4:54 PM on April 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


You should just stop.

He has treated you and his girlfriend poorly. He has had plenty of chances to salvage the situation. You should not give him any more of your energy or your time.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ew. You can do better. Do you really want to be with someone who treats their current partner this badly?

I know it hurts, but you are doing the right thing by moving on and getting him out of your life.
posted by Forktine at 4:57 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That guy is capable of using women to serve his needs. He may seem charming, lovely, and a real catch, but he's a jerk. He knows exactly how to work you, but you're getting used by him.

He may make you excite you and induce all kinds of good feelings, but so would meth, and we both know meth isn't good for you. That guy is meth. Don't do him again.
posted by anniecat at 5:02 PM on April 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


3. Should I just stop? I like this person, but there are a lot of big warning signs. Conflicting details about his involvement with his current/ex-girlfriend, extreme initial enthusiasm, being generally secretive and asking for a lot from me are among them. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has many positive qualities.

It is of course entirely your call. But if I were to find myself in your situation, then I would most certainly not be seeking to resume this thing. Whatever positive qualities he has, the fact remains that he screwed over his previous girlfriend in the most cowardly way. The willingness to do that is generally a pretty definitive character trait, and I would personally file it under "dealbreakers".

I think he's probably playing you.
posted by flabdablet at 5:05 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


HE IS NO FRIEND.

He's not leaving her, btw. He's been cheating. You are probably not the first, and I'm sorry. I've been you. PLEASE don't worry about their relationship, what she thinks, why she is still with him or what she may/may not know about you or anyone else. They are fucked up in ways you can not fathom. Don't try.

RUN.
posted by jbenben at 5:05 PM on April 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


Would you want him to treat you like he treated his girlfriend? If the answer is no, then lose this loser.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:08 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You had it right when you told him to be in touch when he was free. When his live-in partner finds out what's going on, she may dump him and then he'll look you up but I wouldn't hold my breath... and wouldn't take him back if he did.

Let it go and find someone who has respect for you, himself, and his relationships.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:10 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


We've continued to see each other sporadically until recently, mainly because he's been seemingly eager to maintain this pseudo-dating scenario.

He is grooming you into becoming his casual sex partner.

This made me feel terrible each time. I finally stopped it via an e-mail and explained that, while I like him a lot, it's hard to see someone while they're not fully out of another relationship. I asked him to contact me if he was still interested in seeing me when he was free.

Don't see him again. Seriously. He's going to do whatever he can and say whatever he can that will let him use you.

Look, you want him to be a great guy. He is not. Not just because he cheated on his girlfriend, but because he's treating you like shit. You deserve so much better and at the very, very least, you can not ever let some guy treat you like shit.
posted by anniecat at 5:12 PM on April 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


From my perspective, as someone who spent two years of her life with this man*, I really have only one things to say: FLEE!

Long story short: we got together, he did actually end things with her, there was a brief period of awesome, but then everything descended into a drawn-out cluster of pain and cheating and heartache and lies and total manipulation.

Of course, in the final months of our relationship, when he and I were discussing moving in together, he had another girl on the side, to whom he was saying things like, "our relationship was a practical issue" and that there was "little real involvement" on his part...

Once again: flee, flee, flee!


* Not this guy, obvs, but someone exactly like him. Same difference.
posted by vivid postcard at 5:18 PM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


And I should point out one of the big lessons I learned from the final death rattle of our relationship was: as he was going over his past (in an attempt to justify his actions, I think) he pointed out that he had never, not once ended a relationship cleanly before starting a new one. There was always a period of overlap characterized by cheating, lying, and a metric ton of vacillation.

I would be very hesitant now to date a guy like the one you are describing, who doesn't have the common courtesy the break up with one person before getting involved with another.

And by very hesitant, I mean, never again.
posted by vivid postcard at 5:25 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you want to date a manipulative, lying cheater?

No? Then drop him like a bad habit. No explanations are required. Now that you've seen his MO, you'd be wise to simply never contact him again.
posted by 26.2 at 5:47 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


He said his current relationship was mostly a practical issue. He explained to me that he had been emotionally checked out his relationship for years, would leave her immediately and that his girlfriend would most likely not return from where she was.

These are classic cheater weasel words. See also, "We're only living together for the mortgage" and "I'm only staying for the kids". I suspect he never intended to break up with his girlfriend, and wanted you for some fun on the side until she returned. Since they're still living together (again, for reasons he has weasel words for), you can see just how much his statements are worth. It's also incredibly likely that they're still having sex.

You deserve better, and I think you know that. It's why you asked the question. Follow your heart and leave this guy in the dust.
posted by Georgina at 6:15 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's volunteered a lot of conflicting (and honestly, extremely weird) details ... Nothing he says regarding this makes practical sense to me

Every last time that I or anyone I know has been involved with someone who does this, it has turned out that they were up to no good. One thing I have come to believe is that if something is the truth, it sounds like the truth. If something sounds like a convoluted maze that doesn't add up, it's probably a lie. Is it *definitely* a lie? We don't know. But it's probably a lie. In my opinion.

I agree with everyone else that he will probably continue to be sketchy the entire time you're involved with him. But if you decide to become involved with him again anyway, it's probably best to wait until the things he tells you ring true.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:20 PM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's really hard to see this kind of thing clearly through the haze of chemicals. Lots of us have been in situations like this, and it doesn't reflect on you as a person that you got pulled in.

But yeah. Run like your ass is on fire.
posted by NoraReed at 6:31 PM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


You have strong feelings for this guy and they're clouding your judgment. They're clouding your judgment so severely that you're literally asking if it's ok to expect him to not be living with his girlfriend before you begin seeing him, or if that's asking too much.

I believe you when you say he has "many positive qualities." I bet he's cute and funny and interesting. And I bet you feel pretty amazing chemistry with him. And I bet that when you were still just friends, before any of this happened, you really valued the friendship and hoped someday it would grow to be more. However, those things--the good qualities, the chemistry, the friendship--don't mean you should be in a relationship with him, now or ever (or even have any further contact).

It's possible to feel pulled toward someone even if you know, intellectually, that it's a bad idea to act on your feelings: and you know it's a bad idea to act on your feelings for this guy. This guy is a siren, you're Odysseus. You're not weird or broken to be tempted by him, but you'll be so much better off if you cut him off and pursue other, healthier relationships with men who are completely honest about their relationship status, and who don't jerk you around by saying how much they want you and then forgetting to break up with their current ("but I've been emotionally checked out for months!") girlfriend. That you have feelings for him is not a sign that this is meant to be.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:32 PM on April 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Get tested for STIs and assume that he's lying about everything. It's extremely cruel of him to lie about his relationship--can you imagine if he told his girlfriend that you were crazy? That he didn't really care about you? Devastating.

You can't trust this guy as a romantic or sexual partner.

No contact is a great idea.

You should definitely not date him until he is living by himself, although I don't suggest dating him at all (unless you want to be the "crazy" girlfriend whom he's cheating on later).

Sorry--this is a really shitty betrayal of your trust and you seem like a nice person who deserves a lot better.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:47 PM on April 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Based on the fact that he's saying a lot but doing nothing says volumes. Words are just words, it's his actions (and lack thereof) that counts.

You deserve more than this.
posted by tar0tgr1 at 8:30 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You must be young because this m.o. - the man who claims that his relationship is a shell of a technicality that'll be cleared up "soon" - is a total cliche. Watch (from a safe distance) - dollars to doughnuts he'll wind up marrying her, and if he moves on to another woman instead, he'll do the same thing to her. Don't be that woman.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:47 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


My rule of thumb is to never date someone who describes an ex as "crazy" (or any other non-specific nasty term).

It sounds to me like you know intellectually that you should stop having contact with him and let things go. I know it's difficult to listen to your intellect when emotions get in the way. If you continue "no contact," I think your emotions will catch up to your intellect.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:39 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


"My wife doesn't understand me like you do! I'll leave her any day now!" has got to be the oldest lie in the cheating guy arsenal.
posted by rodgerd at 11:00 PM on April 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Years ago I was in a not-dissimilar situation. The guy concerned did break up with his girlfriend, but he made a lot of overtures towards me before doing so. He also never told her he was going out with someone new, and had a previous girlfriend from two years prior who had no idea about the ex before me (who he'd been with for most of the two years). The less recent ex used to call him at two in the morning to walk her home and was far too dependent on him.

IMO he behaved like this because he loved to have them very dependent on him and it stroked his ego to believe neither could ever live without him. I've seen this in other men before. It comes partly from good intentions but I would avoid it like the plague if you don't want to end up dangling from his hook uncertainly sooner or later.

FWIW our relationship crashed and burned pretty quickly and he was back with his ex almost immediately and is now married to her.
posted by *becca* at 2:43 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"they're still living together" - well, then. He's not available and hasn't been for the entire time you've known him. The End.

Funny about your trusting him because you were friends for a year. In my case, the guy got his friend to ask me, "you're not going to fall out with Bastard, are you, because you've been friends for nearly a year?" Either we know the same guy, or they all go for the same kind of long con: salting the mine with a year of good behaviour, then moving in for the sleaze attack knowing you'll have too much trust built up to immediately see his shtick for what it is.

It really is an especially nasty kind of betrayal. I didn't let Bastard have his way, and I continued to take his friendship at face value and give him the benefit of the doubt about his covertures (neologism for ya) until he... dumped me for another woman?!? who would put out and wouldn't expect him to leave his partner first? Oh, so it wasn't my imagination, then. Guess he didn't value my friendship as much as he said.

Well, at least I didn't have to doubt my own sanity any more. But aside from what everyone else has said, I'm still appalled that he would violate my mind like that. The worst violation of trust was that he had been a major source of help to me through a traumatizing experience, then proceeded to add to it with his own conduct, as a sort of punchline. And all this damage over a "mere" friendship, "mere" feelings.

What does this have tp do with you? Well my advice is OFF WITH HIS HEAD, or since that's illegal, OFF WITH HIS CONTACT DETAILS. Have NOTHING to do with him. What would you do with a deadly infection? Quarantine. What would you do with a toxic substance? Isolation.
posted by tel3path at 3:35 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


My guy was in a relationship he described as "casual" when I met him. When we started dating I assumed he wouldn't be seeing her anymore, but he was reluctant to break up with her because he didn't want to hurt her. He said she would "probably" be moving out of state in a few months, and would I be willing to wait for him until then?

I told him no. I said I really liked him and would love to date him, but until he broke things off with her we could only be friends. I told him that if I were still free after she moved away and they broke up I'd be happy to go out with him again, but in the meantime I was going to date other people. He broke up with her the next day.

He was willing to do the hard thing in order to treat both her and I with respect. To me it was a sign of decent character, and he has proven that to be true over the course of our relationship. And for my part, I was willing to do the hard thing... letting him go... rather than compromising my self-respect by letting him string me along. I feel good about that.

I understand that sometimes a relationship isn't working out, but the person stays in it for awhile anyway because it's comfortable, or because they don't want to hurt someone, or whatever. But when you meet a person who makes you realize you're not happy in your current relationship and you want out, then you need to shit pretty quickly or get off the pot. Dragging things out with your current partner while stringing someone else along is a dick move.

I'd be wary of this guy. He's either still emotionally entangled with her, or too cowardly to break things off, or playing both of you, or some kind of drama king. None of these things bodes well for you having a happy healthy relationship with him.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:26 AM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


My bullshit detector is going off just reading this. I can't imagine what it's like actually talking to the guy. I'm with functionequalsform.
posted by easy_being_green at 11:44 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry to harp on, but a couple of things were nagging at my mind:

"He explained to me that he had been emotionally checked out his relationship for years" - YEARS

"he says they've broken up but hasn't been forthright about whether he is or isn't involved with her anymore" - he says P but hasn't been forthright about not-P? Look, P OR NOT-P is a logical axiom. There's no such thing as P AND NOT-P. You've clearly picked up that he doesn't make sense, but can you see that you yourself are expressing the same kind of illogic under his influence?

"saw a lot of similarities between us that helped me create excuses for the situation" - has it occurred to you that he has been imitating you? The guy I knew used to watch a woman for several months and then start imitating her. When he started openly pursuing that other woman (after watching her for months), he started imitating her and became a different person right before my eyes. Also, he continued slagging off his gf, but he changed the focus and started critiquing an aspect of his gf's appearance that the new woman frequently boasted about regarding her own appearance.

Does this ring a bell with you?
posted by tel3path at 2:07 AM on April 4, 2011


I am his live in girlfriend. Actually I'm his fiancée, I have a ring on it. I'm not crazy, other than being really worn out from his own crazy behaviour over the years. I also haven't been out of town, I've been here the whole time and you have both hurt me quite terribly. Please go away and let us sort the rest of our relationship out in peace. Afterward you can have him, and as far as I'm concerned you'll deserve him. He's actually quite a disaster in almost every aspect of life.
posted by zarah at 3:58 AM on April 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Other people have done a good job expressing the various red flags his behavior raises, so I just wanted to chime in with this: really, you should never wait around for someone to sort their shit out. It's just a bad idea, because you're making a sort of commitment to them, since you're waiting and putting your own needs on hold, that they didn't have to do anything for. It feels like you're giving an ultimatum, because you're saying "I won't be with you until you do xyz." But since you're also saying that you won't be with anyone else, you're telling this person that you're willing to stay on the hook of your own volition. Don't do this. If the question is "how long should I wait for this person to figure things out?" the answer is always, "not one second longer."
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:12 AM on April 4, 2011


Reading this makes me really angry.

I was that long term girlfriend once (wife actually though ex now).

Your radar is seriously broken and she deserves better than a stranger like you interfering with her long term relationship with her wanker partner.

Thereby he is a liar and cheat and both her and you deserve better.

It sounds like he got what he wanted from you, was never really your friend, and now he's probably looking for someone else to do that too while his girlfriend deals with the pain and loving someone long term who doesn't deserve it. He wants to keep you on a string so he can make a booty call when its convenient for him.

Go find yourself someone nice, honest, available and leave this one dead and buried.
posted by Under the Sea at 6:29 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


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