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For once [ha!], I might actually be overreacting...
June 12, 2011 10:07 PM   Subscribe

I love my boyfriend and we've been talking about getting married. I'm a little wary of some things about his past and some things he's said, even though he's been nothing but wonderful to me. I'm reluctant to address them with him directly because I don't want him to feel like I'm judging his character. Are my concerns valid, or do I let this one go?

I'm a woman in my mid-twenties, my boyfriend is in his mid-thirties. We met three years ago and have been dating for two, and we plan on moving in together within the next year, once some work and lease logistics get sorted out.

My boyfriend is much more experienced than I am. He spent his twenties being a bit of a "player" and he's hooked up with a lot of women, whereas I have one major relationship and a few dates under my belt, none of which went anywhere. Despite this, we match up really well in terms of maturity, and we have fantastic chemistry together.

I found out recently that he has, in the past, slept with other women while dating someone, on multiple occasions. He says it never happened while he was in a "serious" relationship, and assures me that he considers our relationship to be serious, which I believe. He says he doesn't want to be with anyone else. He also acknowledges that being cheated on, for me, would be more devastating than it might otherwise be for someone else because I struggle with abandonment issues and low self esteem. (This is something I'm working through slowly in therapy.)

Additionally, there have been times in the past when I've caught him not being entirely truthful, either by omission or actually lying. The two situations that come to mind involve: 1. Something he was ashamed of and didn't want to admit to me, and 2. An anecdote told to me just as we started dating, in which he embellished some details for dramatic effect and "merged" people from his past. This latter only came to light because something he mentioned years later contradicted one of the details of the story. His explanation was that he knew our disparity in experience bothered me a little at the time and he didn't want to introduce more ex-girlfriends than the ones I already knew of into his anecdotes because he wanted to protect my feelings. He admitted #1 of his own volition after it came up in conversation a few times, and apologized.

Also, he has at one point gotten a kick out of assuming an online persona for a few months just to see who he could befriend, though it never went beyond an account on an interest-based social media site and a few resultant emails.

I tend to be frank in how I deal with people and I value the same in others, so these things give me pause. At the same time, he's a wonderful boyfriend, has provided me with nothing but love and support through some difficult times, he makes me laugh and we have delightful conversations together, and just thinking about him makes me giddy.

When I found out about #1 and #2 above, I sat him down and I told him that knowing the truth matters more to me than it does perhaps for him, and for many others. He apologized and promised to do better, and that was that. But now in light of knowing that he's cheated in the past, my previous concerns are returning.

I don't think he will cheat on me. I don't think he would ever do anything intentionally that would hurt me. I trust him. But since I don't have an entirely objective perspective on the relationship, I wanted to consult the Hive Mind on whether if this is something that I should be concerned about as we move on with the relationship, or if I should let it go. If the former, how do I bring it up in a tactful and non-hurtful way?
posted by Be cool, sodapop to Human Relations (52 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Could you bring it up in a way that's sort of teasing while letting him know you're alert to this issue? Turn it into a running joke?

Anyway, what's more important than how you bring it up is that you bring it up. This is too important to just forget about. If you forget about it now, it could come back to bite you later. Even bringing it up in a tactless way would be better than pretending it's not an issue. (We can sit here and give you our opinions of how important it is, but what matters is that it's important to you.)
posted by John Cohen at 10:22 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I struggle with abandonment issues and low self esteem. (This is something I'm working through slowly in therapy.)

However low your self-esteem might be, and however afraid you may be of being left by someone you love very much, you certainly deserve--as all human beings do--to be with a person whom you know you can trust. I think you should be very careful about blaming the distrust on yourself, here, when he has actually been untruthful/unfaithful before.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:29 PM on June 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


2. An anecdote told to me just as we started dating, in which he embellished some details for dramatic effect and "merged" people from his past. This latter only came to light because something he mentioned years later contradicted one of the details of the story.

I have to admit, I do this sort of thing pretty frequently, purely in order to make my anecdotes flow better. If, for example, I'm talking about my godparents' daughter's girlfriend, I'll probably just say "my aunt" because that's essentailly what our relationship is, and I don't want to bother explaining the backstory when all I actually want to do is tell a funny story.

(The cheating thing would give me pause, but it sounds like he's actually making a good-faith effort to come clean about it, which is good.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:31 PM on June 12, 2011 [19 favorites]


I am also a person who can be on the wary/overanalytical end of things. From your examples of him being non-truthful, I would say #1 wouldn't bother me in the long run UNLESS it directly affected you in some way - we all do little things that embarrass us that we'd rather gloss over even to our partner unless it comes out somehow. #2 also strikes me as a fairly normal thing someone might do at the beginning of a relationship. Unless there are examples that bother you more or if it's a recurring pattern, I wouldn't worry about these examples too much.

I would be more worried that he has a history of being unfaithful or at least sneaky. Would you trust him to be honest if you asked him whether the women he was dating at the time also knew/agreed that their relationship wasn't serious? How did you find out about these instances?

Worst-case scenario, I would be concerned about this combined with your issues of abandonment. I say this because it's easy to combine sneakiness/boundary skirting ("I kissed her while we were drunk, that's not really cheating!") with projecting onto others you know have esteem issues ("you're so jealous/irrational, it was just a kiss"). I cannot of course predict whether your boyfriend would or could do this in the future - but the combination of your concern about his previous infidelity and your own feelings of low self-esteem could be a bad mix. If you're already in therapy, I would suggest telling your therapist directly about the faithfulness issues and see if they can help you be healthily assertive about what does/doesn't count as 'cheating' in your relationship (if you feel like this is a conversation you need to have), and how to make sure you are not obsessing over your boyfriend's past or possible behaviors.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:33 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your boyfriend is human. The things you talk about in your question seem, to me, like normal things that normal, flawed humans do. I think it's a good thing that he's been open to talking about these issues with you in the past, and you should take that to mean he trusts and loves you.
posted by auto-correct at 10:39 PM on June 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Maybe he's as happy as you are in love and regards those behaviours as those of the past - does he feel remorse and want to be better? Or is he subconsciously warning you about his habits? The embellishing thing - well, I think we've all done that at some point.

He also acknowledges that being cheated on, for me, would be more devastating than it might otherwise be for someone else because I struggle with abandonment issues and low self esteem.

You're not especially prone to disappointment, anger and feelings of betrayal if you have these reactions to the idea, or fact, of a partner cheating on you. These things hurt people because they are deceitful, poor faith behaviours. By believing or pretending to believe that you are likely to get more upset than a 'normal' person sidesteps appropriate feelings of remorse. I think you can stick to your position that fidelity is very important to you without having to dread appearing unstable or controlling.

If I were you, I'd look for a tone of insight, reflection etc on those incidents of infidelity rather than sidestepping with "it wasn't serious" - that is more concerning than making mistakes.

I get that he's great to you now, and his care of you when you've been in difficulty is a good thing to observe... but I've been persuaded by life to see that people tell you who they are quite clearly. I've had this same boyfriend who, like your man, told me exactly what he did to others, and I told myself the same things you are: "I don't think he will cheat on me. I don't think he would ever do anything intentionally that would hurt me." He did cheat on me and he intentionally hurt me. And like your man here, chemistry/giddiness, and the same willingness to dismiss his past cheating as small time and innocuous.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:41 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't believe I'm saying this, but you should lay down the law before you commit to anything else. Don't get me wrong -- he sounds like an honest guy, but you should draw your boundaries sooner rather than later in order to assert your personality. Let him know what the rules are, and what the consequences are (and that's totally up to you). Stick to that. Good luck, and I hope it works out for you.
posted by Gilbert at 10:41 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with Gilbert and came to basically say don't feel like your concerns are invalid. Maybe he is different with you, but a lot of partners who will accept someone that cheated on past partners believe "s/he is different with me". Engage in some serious conversation and lay down exactly where your boundaries are.

The things you mentioned, #1 may or may not be important, depending on what the item was he was ashamed of and how you felt about being lied to about it. As for #2, that would be something I would question very much. It's patronizing that he lied to you but then claims it was allegedly to "protect your feelings". That's a common enough lie with cheaters. Oh, I care about you and only did x,y, and z to protect you.

Dating an admitted cheater is not something I would ever do personally. Especially one who has cheated and then also lies to me about past lovers and what he did. And he set up an online profile to stroke his ego. That is what currently has Rep. Weiner in hot water.

You seem to be very willing to forgive, and love can blind a person to certain things, but creating an online profile to befriend or flirt with other women, lying about things, especially those involving other women, and also trying to pin the cause on you (trying to protect you, and probably feeding your sense of feeling abandonment issues and such are all serious red flags to me and signs of potential controlling behavior.

I don't think this is a case of if he will cheat, but when. I'd suggest a goo, long completely open talk and likely couples counseling if you really want to save this relationship and progress further.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:15 PM on June 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't address this in a teasing way at all. I would definitely not blow it off. He's shown some proclivities that should be considered red flags for potentially dishonest behaviour in the future and you'd be wise to remain perceptive and alert.

Sure, trust his word and accept his promises in good faith at this point, but don't accept elisions, omissions, or outright lies should they happen again. He's been told how important honesty is to you, so those would be evidence that his fear/urges are more compelling than being truthful.

Before moving in together or during the next serious discussion of marriage, making certain you both put forth important expectations would be a very good idea. Obviously, he should be encouraged to put his own requests forward, too, and have them taken seriously.

Don't ride this point too often, though. If he breaks your trust again, you should strongly consider ending things. If he doesn't feel he can meet your expectations after that discussion, ditto. Absent those conditions, accept his apologies and earnest assertions with an open heart.

If, for some reason, you feel you can't keep your heart open and allay your concerns (especially after addressing in therapy and having him commit to honesty), that might be a significant sign that this isn't the end-all, be-all you're (both) hoping it would be. That might be able to be worked out in couples therapy, or it might mean the need to separate. You deserve to be in a relationship built on honesty, and he deserves to be trusted as long as he's being trustworthy.
posted by batmonkey at 11:15 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the answers so far, everyone. I wanted to pop back and clarify a couple of things real quick:

1. We have very defined boundaries with regards to fidelity. When he was telling me about this and reassuring me that it wouldn't be the case with us, he took care to specify cheating "in all its definitions", including flirting, emotional affairs, etc. This wasn't prompted by anything I said.

2. He's been very patient and indulgent of my jealousies while I learn to get them under control, and even when he's frustrated with me he doesn't dismiss my feelings (e.g. "It was just [x], why are you so worked up").

3. I didn't mean to imply that he insinuated that I would be especially hurt by cheating because I was fragile, that came out wrong. It was more a passing thought of "cheating is a bad thing to do to someone you love, and you especially might take longer than average to recover".

4. I found out about this when he was telling me a story about an ex, saying that he wasn't good/right for her because he "played around" on her, and I followed up on that.

I'm relieved to hear that the consensus on the instances of prevarication I listed is that they're normal. I was inclined to ignore them, but I would've also hated to be that girl who misses red flags that were totally obvious to third party observers.

Thanks again, keep 'em coming!
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 11:17 PM on June 12, 2011


Just some thoughts ...

I'm a little wary of some things about his past and some things he's said ... I'm reluctant to address them with him directly because I don't want him to feel like I'm judging his character.


IMHO, it's crucial to get to a place where you feel like you can discuss anything openly and honestly with someone, before you get married to them. The fact that a part of you feels like you can't do this, in and of itself, is concerning to me. I don't know if that's your issue to work on, or if it's that he creates a dynamic that makes you feel this way.

I found out recently that he has, in the past, slept with other women while dating someone, on multiple occasions.

Huge, huge, huge bad sign to me,

He says it never happened while he was in a "serious" relationship


And this actually makes it *worse* because he's justifying it here. It's one thing to own up to it and be regretful -- or even to just proudly tout it -- but to justify it like this is so weaselly to me. Plus, he always has an out because at any point, he can determine, in his own mind, that he no longer considers a relationship to be serious, and then he can do whatever.

and assures me that he considers our relationship to be serious, which I believe.

At least right now. Other people will disagree, but I personally, would not have a good feeling about this.

Additionally, there have been times in the past when I've caught him not being entirely truthful, either by omission or actually lying.

And here it comes.

The two situations that come to mind involve: 1. Something he was ashamed of and didn't want to admit to me

His explanation was that he knew our disparity in experience bothered me a little at the time and he didn't want to introduce more ex-girlfriends than the ones I already knew of into his anecdotes because he wanted to protect my feelings.


Lying "to protect your feelings" is one of THE almost stereotypical things that people who lie will do. They're protecting *themselves* -- here, he was protecting himself from you maybe having doubts about the relationship -- and then spin it around on you like their lying was just pure altruism and you should almost be grateful to them for it. It's like a lie on top of a lie, it would almost be more respectable if they came out and admitted they were lying for their own benefit.

Also, he has at one point gotten a kick out of assuming an online persona for a few months just to see who he could befriend, though it never went beyond an account on an interest-based social media site and a few resultant emails.

Honestly, I find this a little sociopathic. Again, this is something other people see as not that big of a deal, but to me, it's like a willingess to use other people's trusting nature for lulz.

So... I don't know. I'd say bring it up, but I personally don't think that adults who habitually lie really ever change, so I don't know how much good it'd do anyway.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:18 PM on June 12, 2011 [24 favorites]


Whatever concerns you is where you personal boundaries are. There is no - this is the right thing to be concerned about, this is the wrong thing to be concerned about. If it concerns you now, it will concern you again in the future.
posted by mleigh at 12:23 AM on June 13, 2011


There has to be chemistry or you wouldn't have gone this far in the relationship but the one indispensable thing, the thing that will get you through the rough patches which will come when you make a commitment and live with someone, is character. If you are having questions now about his honesty and fidelity it is in your best interest to go really slowly with this man. It truly is a good rule of thumb to consider that if a man will cheat on one woman, he will cheat on you. If he has set up dishonest situations in order to use his sexual attractiveness to stroke his ego, he will rationalize doing it again down the road.

I believe that some couples survive infidelity because they have reasons to love and respect one another very highly in areas other than sexual fidelity and, as a consequence, dalliances are not ruinous to the marriage. If you are feeling that kind of respect and admiration for this man and he for you, perhaps you can make a go of it. I wouldn't, however, believe that he can promise with any certainty that he won't cheat on you. I wouldn't move in together at least until you have talked through every single lie he has told you by commission and omission. Then wait until you have experience navigating a serious disagreement with him to see if you have the communication skills together to navigate that.
posted by Anitanola at 1:10 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Frankly, from what you have described, I could not trust him. I can say that easily, because I have no emotional investment in whether to trust him, or the consequences of being right or wrong.

I think you are on the cusp of coming to this view. What you do about it is another thing, and I will only remind you of the old saying 'trust your gut" ...
posted by GeeEmm at 3:09 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


People sometimes do bad things when they're in relationships they're not happy with. Or they do bad things in relationships that they're perfectly happy with, because they're jerks. I don't think you can necessarily predict his future behaviour with you from his past behaviour with other people. He's in a different place in his life with somebody else now. We've all done bad things. It sounds like he regrets his actions and knows what he did was wrong.

You could be in a relationship with somebody who has never lied to a partner before and they could hurt you. There's only so much you can protect yourself from that - so as long as he treats you well and with respect, is honest with you, and is a good partner to you then you don't have to worry. Try taking your relationship at face value.

Although, if he's not making you happy you are allowed to break up with him for whatever reason you want. You don't need an excuse.
posted by teraspawn at 3:31 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some issues I see here that are making it hard for you to trust him:

1. Situational morality: he thinks that it's okay to treat people poorly in certain situations. The mature and honest thing to do in casual relationships is simply to not promise monogamy, and make it clear that you're open to dating other people. He didn't want to do that because he didn't want these women to have all the information they needed to make a decision about sleeping with him.

Does the fact that he was dating them casually make them less deserving of respect and fair treatment? I don't think that it does. What situations will you two find yourselves in where he decides that you're less deserving of respect and fair treatment? This kind of situation morality is risky for you because in a long-term relationship, things are always changing. Does he think it's okay to cheat if you haven't had sex for a while? If you're fighting? If you put on weight? If he's out of town?


2. Justifying bad behavior: everybody fucks things up in relationships. Even in successful long-term relationships. We all do selfish things, make bad decisions, let our partners down. It's a lot easier to trust someone who will openly admit that they did something wrong, that it hurt you, and that it was not justified.

"Yeah, I guess I fudged that anecdote, that was dumb of me, sorry." would be much more indicative of actual regret than "I lied to spare your feelings" which conveniently makes a fuck-up into him simply being so awesome and considerate that he practically HAD to lie.


3, Deceiving people purely for fun. I think it's obvious why this would make him difficult to trust.


4. Waiting until you're more invested before telling you the truth: some of this is normal (we all have things we don't share with near strangers), but some of this is not and it's also enormously unfair to you. He took away your ability to make an informed decision about dating him by failing to tell you about his cheating for two (!) years. Now you're more invested and less likely to break things off over it.

This is another long-term lie of omission, and the fact that you've been making decisions for years based on insufficient knowledge will make it hard for you to trust him in the future. What else isn't he telling you?
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:52 AM on June 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


He sounds like a really smooth guy who prides himself on manipulating people and/or managing their emotions, whether they're justified or not. This is why you're jealous and suspicious. I'm not saying to dump him, I am saying that you have good reason to be suspicious and I wouldn't discount your gut feeling that something is off.

I say this after reading this, which is not by itself a red flag, but it definitely makes me worry:

1. We have very defined boundaries with regards to fidelity. When he was telling me about this and reassuring me that it wouldn't be the case with us, he took care to specify cheating "in all its definitions", including flirting, emotional affairs, etc. This wasn't prompted by anything I said.

This is totally something I would have said to convince someone of how much I wasn't going to cheat, whether or not I was planning to cheat. It is not about reality or about being honest, it is about "what can I say to get this person to trust me so I can do what I want to do without them getting in the way?"

I learned a lot of this kind of thing from an ex who reminds me of your guy. He never cheated, he just repeatedly lied (big and small) in order to manipulate me into doing things that I might not otherwise do. It was unpleasant. Being in a relationship with someone who is generally honest, admits when he fucks up even if it makes him look bad, and is empathetic and kind to EVERYONE is enormously comforting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:06 AM on June 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


Hmmmm. Anybody might gloss over something embarrassing from their past. Anybody might change names or details of past anecdotes for artistic purposes. Buuuttt... These are also lying-styles that are totally consistent with being a cheater. If these were coming from someone without a history of cheating, they wouldn't raise the red flags for me that they do.

And as you have framed it, yours is the first relationship he's had in which he has not been a cheater, because your relationship is "serious" and he only cheats in "non-serious" relationships.

Maybe he's turning over a new leaf, so I'm not going to jump to the conclusion that he will cheat on you, but I do think it's always going to be a hazard and it's by no means irrational to be aware of that. You are also never going to be able to be completely sure that he's telling the whole truth, or doing what he's doing for the reasons that he says.

But it's when you talk about him creating a fake online identity, that the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That is a clear sign of "duping delight", of getting enjoyment from fooling people and playing puppetmaster. People who engage in that kind of thing usually rationalize that nobody gets hurt as long as no tangible crime has been committed, like fraud or IRL adultery. But the emotional consequences can be extremely serious. Like Ashley801, I find it hard to dismiss this as benign even if it really did stop at the point where your BF says it did. I also think that calling it "sociopathic" is spot on. The last person who displayed "duping delight" towards me is someone who, I'm fairly certain, was the whole sociopathic nine yards, up to and including at least one incident of torturing an animal for the lulz.

Sorry to have to say it, but I think you do need to be suspicious. I really wish I could advise you to give him a chance to prove himself, and I guess you can still do that, but I don't think you can just sit back and trust him.
posted by tel3path at 4:54 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Creating a fake online persona for the sole purpose of fucking with people, and getting enjoyment out of it, and then bragging about it? That creeps me out and gives me a bad feeling about him. My gut reaction, sadly, is "psychopath," although I obviously don't have enough information to make that call.

Is he smooth? Charming? Dead inside? Good at manipulating people? Things to think about.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:29 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have cheated on a long-term boyfriend in the past, because I was young and thought it was easier than breaking up with him. People often behave like idiots in their younger years because they don't know how to make the best decisions, and hopefully, they learn from them and do what they want in a way that isn't hurtful to others.

However>

"Also, he has at one point gotten a kick out of assuming an online persona for a few months just to see who he could befriend, though it never went beyond an account on an interest-based social media site and a few resultant emails."

This would make me uncomfortable. It's weird and frankly a bit immature. I know a couple of people who do this sort of thing, and both of them are people I don't engage with much further than 'look at what Creepy Person is up to now' because I'm not sure I could trust them with more than superficial friendship. I certainly wouldn't be dating them. Admittedly I'm not a troll and don't really understand the delights of trolling and it may be harmless fun, but it's not really a grown-up's hobby, now, is it?
posted by mippy at 5:37 AM on June 13, 2011


In the absence of other details, let me go ahead and say that it is NOT cheating to sleep with someone while you're dating someone else, unless you've been up front about being exclusive. An no one should assume that once they start dating someone, exclusivity is automatically implied. He claims that during these incidents he wasn't in a "serious" relationship -- one has to wonder whether the girl in question would have considered it serious, but he's the one you're in a relationship with, so it's natural to give him the benefit of the doubt.

No one is going to hold up to your standard of perfect honesty and accountability from the first date onward. I think you have psyched yourself out a little because of the imbalance in your experience, and the psychological issues that you've already mentioned. Nothing you've described about him strikes me as a red flag. Also:

Turn it into a running joke?

It's amazing how fast this kind of humor grows so strained and pointed that in the end you may has well just left the joke part out of it altogether, because what you really mean shines right through. So, you might as well just say what you mean in the first place.
posted by hermitosis at 6:46 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am probably at outlier as a datapoint because I am in a pretty negative situation right now, but thought I'd throw in here so you have a range of people's opinions to go on.

You have basically described my dude before we got married. I do think we all have to learn our own lessons, and you will do whatever you’re going to do and it won’t be based on this askmefi question, but I’m still going to say that I think both your gut and your head are trying to tell you something very damned important, here. This “something” is that your dude is a liar and able to “cheat”.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 7:03 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm relieved to hear that the consensus on the instances of prevarication I listed is that they're normal. I was inclined to ignore them, but I would've also hated to be that girl who misses red flags that were totally obvious to third party observers.

I wouldn't say that's the consensus. I think the embellishment-of-anecdote example seems normal to me, but there are other examples here that are not so normal, most notably setting up an online account in order to deceive people into stroking his ego for him -- and even sending emails from the made-up persona! That seems completely foreign to me, as a mostly honest person who tells the occasional embellished anecdote. Plus it's an activity that would, even without your other information, point to his being someone who cheats, because it indicates that he is willing to deceive people in order to have the flattering confirmation that multiple people are sexually attracted to him.
posted by palliser at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


He also acknowledges that being cheated on, for me, would be more devastating than it might otherwise be for someone else

Whoa!!! This, to me, seems like a huge red flag of a manipulator, if I had ever seen one!
posted by TinWhistle at 7:37 AM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't get the "he's a manipulative psychopath" comments, at least no from the evidence you've given.

You say you trust him but it doesn't sound to me like you do. You've been with the guy for over two years - at some point you either go all in and accept who you believe he is now, or you accept that you can't get over what he has told you about his past behavior. If you're going to marry him, you need to make some peace with this - you don't get an unlimited pass for judging him because of what he did before you were together. So you need to talk to him or take the leap of faith.

Is something else going on here> Is there more evidence, more signs that are leading you to feel this way? I'm not saying ignore your instincts or feelings, I'm just saying that just what you've said wouldn't give me enough to agree with you.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:47 AM on June 13, 2011


Truth is...plenty of people have cheated in a relationship and then moved on to another relationship gotten married and never, will never cheat on their spouse. Bottom line...there are no guarantees. And it doesn't matter if your partner has a past of cheating or has never cheated in their lives. While I think a past of cheating can increase the chances of it happening in the future, it really doesn't mean it's gonna happen again. And for a lot of guys, their 20's are a time of free living, experimentation, and yes lots of women. Does it make it right? No. Does it mean you have to accept it? No. But when a man gets into his 30's, his outlook on life as well as the way he lives his life, can definitely do a 180 without looking back. All this being said, I'd say...if you love this guy, if he seems to love you, if the relationship seems to be going well, and both of you are happy being together....then stick with it. Know that things happen and that you can't control them no matter what. If he cheats then you have to have the strength to end the relationship. I do think that once someone cheats in a relationship, the relationship is done...or at least done in terms of what it was before someone cheated. But let his current behavior dictate your relationship with him. Not the past. And while I think it's fine to discuss his past and talk to him about your feelings when it comes to cheating, too much talk about this and too much insecurity on your part could make him feel pressured, or even controlled. Guys don't wanna be controlled. The more freedom you give him, the less likely he'll be to cheat. Cheating is often the result of something that hasn't been fulfilled in a relationship. Examples are not getting sex, not getting emotional support, not get mental stimulation, etc. People cheat to get things they aren't getting in their current relationship. Focus on the relationship and meeting each others needs, not preventing or worrying about him cheating. Know that you'll leave if he cheats, and that's all you need to know. Hope this helps.
posted by ljs30 at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2011


I don't consider it appropriate to delve into the past of people I'm dating. Obviously if your partner wants to tell you something intimate about their past you really need to be open-minded and non judgemental unless it seriously creeps you out. If it seriously creeps you out then end the relationship but for simple transgressions it is very harsh and even a little twisted to transpose those into your relationship. I think that is the reason why I prefer not to know because I may pass a subconscious judgement.

I also think that any healthy relationship shouldn't be honest about every little issue. You say the truth matters but you obviously don't want his opinion about whether he thinks you may have put on a little weight. The same should go for all of your little insecurities. If you bring them all in to the open at every opportunity it will start to creep out any self-respecting gent. I respect that my fiancee is entitled to her private thoughts. We are all subject to our personal universe of which none other can really share. Don't try to obsess over controlling your partner's personal id and enjoy your own.
posted by JJ86 at 8:14 AM on June 13, 2011


He also acknowledges that being cheated on, for me, would be more devastating than it might otherwise be for someone else because I struggle with abandonment issues and low self esteem.

3. I didn't mean to imply that he insinuated that I would be especially hurt by cheating because I was fragile, that came out wrong. It was more a passing thought of "cheating is a bad thing to do to someone you love, and you especially might take longer than average to recover".


No, I think that came out exactly right. In your follow up comment, you tried to clarify your original statement, but you end up saying the same thing: "you especially might take longer than average to recover" and "would be more devastating than it might otherwise be for someone else" boils down to the insinuation that "you are fragile." The statement on cheating should have just ended at "cheating is a bad thing to do to someone you love" fullstop. I think you have to ask yourself if you're just seeing the things you want to see. And what's "average" to recover from cheating?

I think the two situations you outlined you don't have to worry too much about, but it depends. If it was something that he was ashamed about, then yes, I can understand wanting to not talk about that. Has he been able to talk about why he was ashamed? The anecdote - sure people embellish stories here and there, but the "protect your feelings" part is a bit of a red flag.

The online persona thing is bizarre. I mean, why would one do that? It doesn't matter that there were just a few emails coming out of that, he decided to be someone else (lie, trick, deceive) to see how people would respond to that lie. Ever hear of Janna St. James? Now she is a VERY extreme example, but you get the idea. Was his online persona thing a long time ago, or recent? If a long time ago, then maybe it was just a one-time thing when he was young and stupid. If more recent, that would give me pause.

It's impossible to know if he WILL cheat on you. You've been with him for two years, and it sounds like he's treated you really well, despite his player past, the two anecdotes and fake online persona. No one's perfect. Keep working on your abandonment issues and raise your self-esteem. I wouldn't get married until I'd had those dealt with, but that's just me.
posted by foxjacket at 8:36 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


3. I didn't mean to imply that he insinuated that I would be especially hurt by cheating because I was fragile, that came out wrong. It was more a passing thought of "cheating is a bad thing to do to someone you love, and you especially might take longer than average to recover".

Given that he seems to enjoy deception (seriously, the fake profile is NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOR) I would be especially wary with this guy's propensity to cheat.

Questions I would want to know if I were involved with a past cheater: does he understand why he cheated -- his patterns, his predilictions? Does he really understand why cheating is hurtful? Is he truly committed to giving monogamy a shot, even if it will be challenging? Is he honest about the challenges of monogamy, and does he have a plan for dealing with him? Does he truly understand (and joyfully accept) the the tradeoff of a stable relationship with you in exchange for the loss of sexual freedom? In short, does he have a mature and clear-eyed view of fidelity, or is he just giving you a line? Only you will be able to discern this, by talking to him at length about it.
posted by yarly at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2011


I wouldn't dig too deep into thinking the "online persona" thing is an example of a "NOT MORMAL" personality. Some people watch Punk'd or Crank Yankers for laughs, some people join an amateur ComedySportz troupe, some join an online group like Something Awful or 4chan for lulz. Sure, the online sites can go off the deep end but there is much more harmless comedy that happens there then harmful. Calling it "NOT NORMAL" is a narrow-minded opinion. A person's sense of humor may be difficult to explain to someone who doesn't have a healthy sense of humor.
posted by JJ86 at 9:01 AM on June 13, 2011


One other quick thing, since that seems to be the focus for a lot of people:

The point of his online persona was to secretly promote a project he's been involved in for a long time that (he felt, wrongly) couldn't any traction any other way.

It wasn't so much trolling as a failed bit of astroturfing, though he abandoned the account after two months.
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2011


The point of his online persona was to secretly promote a project he's been involved in for a long time that (he felt, wrongly) couldn't any traction any other way.

This is still an indication that he engages in deception when it suits him.

Also, I'm curious why you changed your description of this so much? You initially described it as "he has at one point gotten a kick out of assuming an online persona for a few months just to see who he could befriend, though it never went beyond an account on an interest-based social media site and a few resultant emails." That's a lot different from failed astro-turfing. It seems like you're now trying to make excuses for him, which is something to think about.

I wouldn't dig too deep into thinking the "online persona" thing is an example of a "NOT NORMAL" personality.

It's the combination of the online deception and the somewhat casual/non-reflective approach to fidelity that's the issue.

I'm reluctant to address them with him directly because I don't want him to feel like I'm judging his character.

While I appreciate that you want to maintain perspective and not be hurtful, I think you need to face up to the fact that you are, indeed, judging his character. That's not a bad thing -- if you're considering marrying him, then you should be comfortable with his character. "Character" is what lets you predict how he will act in the future when faced with life's difficulties. People have really, really different characters -- it's important to know what you're dealing with.
posted by yarly at 9:51 AM on June 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


We only have the information you're giving us. If the fake online persona was harmless, and all the past behaviour is in the past, and all the instances of deception you have are within normal range, what can we really tell you? We can tell you it sounds sinister and be overreacting, or we can tell you it sounds innocuous and you're overreacting, but then why have you come to us with questions about it if it's innocuous?

All I can make of this is that you may not be able to be comfortable with someone whose past includes substantial amounts of cheating, which is perfectly reasonable from my point of view. I don't know how much assurance anyone can give you about his future behaviour. It's a leap of faith.
posted by tel3path at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno, OP. You felt this question was important enough to ask strangers, but you're now defending him against what people see in the question you posted. Maybe there were failings in how you presented the information in your question, or maybe you don't want to see some interpretations of the red flags you gave. The extra details of the circumstances may be what is interfering with your judgment.

Like plenty of other people say - listen to your gut. Chances are, if you have problems trusting him there are good reasons. Don't marry him if you don't trust him.

I dated a guy who seemed shifty in small ways. Exaggerated story here, overblown accomplishment there. It bothered me but I ignored it. Thought it was just his personality. As it turns out, after we broke up I found out that he had a weird dalliance while he and I were in a long distance phase. He wasn't truthful to the 'other woman' either - he ditched her to stay with me, and when we broke up he tried to get back with her and she wouldn't have anything to do with him. I always thought she was smarter than myself for seeing his true colors and staying away. I now think if one finds lies in a harmless story a fellow tells, it probably wouldn't take much for him to tell much larger fibs if he thinks he can get away with it. Truthful people don't look for ways to twist stories to "protect" someone. It smacks of someone who has trouble communicating honestly, and that's no good in a marriage.
posted by griselda at 9:59 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


This sounds like the main plot of the movie "Chasing Amy." I'm not trying to chalk your relationship up to a Ben Affleck flick, but idea is the same...I've been in a relationship before where the experience level of my partner made me feel both intimidated and embarrassed, which lead me to feel insecure about the relationship no matter how reassuring my partner was at the time. It sounds like your boyfriend is very clear in communicating expectations and standards, and you are not actually worried about him cheating. To me, that makes it seem like the problem isn't his past per se, but how you deal with his past. I would focus on that issue before moving forward in the relationship, or it will drain you emotionally. In my case, my inability to take my partner's reassurance as true was one of the reasons that lead to our demise.
posted by msk1985 at 10:14 AM on June 13, 2011


I agree with Hermitosis: it isn't cheating to sleep with someone while you're dating someone else unless you've discussed exclusivity. In my experience this conversation normally happens before or just after sex enters into the relationship.

Turn it into a running joke?

Bad advice. Try not to play games. Say what you mean.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:21 AM on June 13, 2011


Additionally, there have been times in the past when I've caught him not being entirely truthful [...] he wanted to protect my feelings. [..]

Also, he has at one point gotten a kick out of assuming an online persona for a few months just to see who he could befriend, though it never went beyond an account on an interest-based social media site and a few resultant emails.


Huge, huge red flag here. So if he lies to you to protect your feelings, how do you know that this anecdote is exactly as he has presented it? It's creepy enough as it is, and astroturfing makes it more, not less creepy.
posted by winna at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cheating is actually not the primary thing I'd be concerned about if I were with this guy. I mean, it's obviously one of the major things, but there's also - would he keep me in the dark if he got into a lot of debt? Would he keep me in the dark if he lost his job? Would he get involved with questionable people or activities and "protect my feelings" about them? If he was stressed or unhappy in our relationship, would he react by honestly working it out with me, or by making new "friends" to spend a lot of time talking with, who were strictly platonic, of course.

Look, to make it TL;DR, this guy appears to lie in 3 main situations:

1. When the truth will make him look bad.
2. When the truth might mean he loses something he wants
3. When he stands to gain something he wants from telling a lie -whether that's the "only way" he can get it, or whether it's just the easiest way, or whatever.

If you can't imagine not being with this guy, or you feel like his dishonesty isn't of a degree that justifies breaking up --- I would suggest you take at least a year before becoming engaged, and observe him in those 3 situations. If he's consistently honest in those situations, that's a good sign. If he's consistently dishonest, even to a "small" degree, I think it doesn't bode well.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's a lot of grey area in this question (and in most relationships) which is why you are getting a range of responses based on people's personal experience.

Here's my personal experience:

I can engage in amazing twists of logic to justify why apparent red flags "aren't that bad." My rhetorical abilities can convince friends and family. The real goal is to convince myself, and - particularly to convince my gut feeling - when it is screaming "run far and fast!!" against the wishes of my rational mind.

Every time I have used my rational powers of rationalization to convince myself and others that something that appears to be a big red flag is actually a green flag in disguise... I have regretted it. Red flags are a gift, and it's a good thing to pay careful attention to them.

For relationships specifically, I found that once I honestly prioritized character and personality above all else I was attracting men who were much better for me.
posted by rainydayfilms at 10:52 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why would he describe it as cheating or "playing " her if they weren't in a situation where monogamy was expected? Playing someone = deception. Cheating = deception. Maybe that's not what happened but it's the best information we have.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


it isn't cheating to sleep with someone while you're dating someone else unless you've discussed exclusivity.

Personally, I disagree, but how do you know that he and the woman he was dating at the time didn't do just that? How do you know they didn't have a conversation about exclusivity and he just didn't take the relationship "serious"ly?

The OP only has his side of the story, and this guy has proven dishonest before.

But it looks like the OP's marked best answers are the ones telling her what she'd like to believe, rather than all the obvious red flags about.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:33 AM on June 13, 2011


But it looks like the OP's marked best answers are the ones telling her what she'd like to believe, rather than all the obvious red flags about.

I've been on AskMe for a long time, and my choice to ask about this particular situation comes with a fairly detailed understanding of how AskMe tends to operate. I wanted other people's opinions on the situation not because I would then take those opinions at face value, but because it would help me work through my own thoughts and aid in my own analysis. Food for thought, as it were, but not my thoughts.

No question, regardless of how well written it is, can capture the realities of a relationship. I only have my boyfriend's side of the story, but all of you only have my side of that. I understand that people who are in situations like this have a tendency to rationalize and believe what they want to believe. But recognize, also, that it's possible for you to have a skewed understanding of what that situation actually is. There are a lot of comments here that are projecting into the situation - which is fine, you only have what I've described to go on - but at a certain point I don't know if it's worth anything to keep clarifying when it'll come across as defensive, regardless.

I've talked to my boyfriend about this, and we've addressed a lot of the issues that have been raised here. I feel much more at ease for having had the conversation, and I was careful to watch for and call him out on any hint of rationalization that I saw. Maybe it's ungrateful of me, but I don't want to rehash that entire conversation for AskMe, because after all, a relationship is private. AskMe has been tremendously helpful to me in the past, and it has proven itself helpful here, too. But I would appreciate if you didn't assume that I'm being willfully obtuse.

Again, thank you to everyone who answered.
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 11:50 AM on June 13, 2011


I'm reluctant to address them with him directly because I don't want him to feel like I'm judging his character.

I can't imagine any subject that I couldn't address with my SO. Or even my close friends.

I can't imagine a subject that anyone I know -- or even any complete stranger -- might be concerned to address with me, for fear of my reaction.

Get past this before getting married.

I tend to be frank in how I deal with people and I value the same in others...

Your post doesn't just imply that this is not the case; it states it straight out.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:16 PM on June 13, 2011


Unless you can be sure he understands why he needed to cheat in the first place and that he's done the personal work to resolve a very damaging, self-destructive, and mindfucking "urge", continue to listen to your cautious instincts. I do agree that how he treats you and how he treats others now is probably more important than his past behavior.

But this: He also acknowledges that being cheated on, for me, would be more devastating than it might otherwise be for someone else because I struggle with abandonment issues and low self esteem. (This is something I'm working through slowly in therapy.)

It's sort of bullshit. There's no magical rule for who is hurt "more" by being cheated on. It doesn't matter who has abandonment issues vs who doesn't, or who has low self-esteem issues vs who doesn't. Every living person, emotionally "complete" or not, is devastated by cheating.

Understand this: if you were cheated on, you wouldn't be broken; you'd be a normal person reacting to a devastating violation of trust. It doesn't matter what your past issues are; you'd still be hurt by it. The fact that you are here, a functioning, rational adult engaging on Mefi, suggests that you are a functioning, rational adult in your real life too. You would be wounded, yes, but you wouldn't be fundamentally broken. sodapop, give yourself enough credit to believe that even you would eventually heal and move on.

You have no reason to believe that you are especially so fragile that you can only ever be in relationships with a no-cheating guarantee. This "guarantee" is an allusion to the ugliness of real life: unless there is an implied threat of violence, I'm pretty sure no one ever has this guarantee. Even for people who live harmoniously in cheating-free relationships their entire lives, their day-to-day love is an act of trust in their partner every time.

Anyhow, I know I wouldn't be satisfied with someone who saw me as "so broken" after all the sh*t I've survived. I don't know what your sh*t is, but I'm willing to bet you've pulled through A LOT in your life already. At least acknowledge your incredible power to be here today, in spite of your sh*t. YMMV, but it's worth knowing your partner acknowledges it too. Good luck with it, sodapop.
posted by human ecologist at 2:18 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found out recently that he has, in the past, slept with other women while dating someone, on multiple occasions. He says it never happened while he was in a "serious" relationship, and assures me that he considers our relationship to be serious, which I believe.

I think some clarification on this point is in order. Initially, I agreed with hermitosis, since "serious" and "exclusive" are close to being interchangable for a lot of people, and there's nothing inherently wrong with having multiple irons in the fire. Reasonable people will disagree about how up front the parties involved have to be with one another in the absence of an exclusivity discussion. But I hesitate to call this cheating.

H O W E V E R . . . "he considers our relationship to be serious" is a little iffy for me. My concern is that his conception of "serious" is how he feels about things, not something based on mutual agreement, based on the way you phrased this. If you were saying, "he says our relationship is serious because we agree it's serious and exclusive, and that wasn't the case in these other situations," that would be a different story, and to me would be enough to write this off as something you're maybe intimidated by because it's so different from your historical approach to dating.

The disparity in experience thing seems to be an issue for you, and avoiding it is a double-edged sword: you don't have to confront things you may be queasy about, but you may also remain ignorant of details which would make you less anxious about him, like whether his playing the field was done on the up-and-up.
posted by alphanerd at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


While I think it's a good idea to think critically about people you're in long-term relationships with, ultimately you should trust them more than you trust us; that's something no one has said yet. Lots of people tell you to trust yourself, and of course that's true, but no one (for some reason) has told you to trust him. I would say, you cannot escape getting hurt in any relationship. Sooner or later, with any long-term relationship, the other person will probably do something you have a hard time getting over. You'll have a crisis of some sort eventually. It will hurt. It will be hard. But... whether or not you get through it, think about this: how do you make the time you do spend with him worth it? How do you make the time that you have something that will give you strength to get through difficulties once they arise, from whatever direction?

A lot of people find it easy to criticize others' partners. I've always found that, though it's well-meaning, it's not really helpful, at least to me. I always got to tell myself 'but they don't know him' that way. 'But they don't know how we really feel'. The more pressure outside forces/individuals put on our union, the more stubborn I generally felt. What do others know? Lots of things, but they don't know how you feel, or how he feels. And even if they're right, because of this they're wrong, I think. So says I, who used to be in love.

Love is always going to be dangerous, this leap into the unknown. It can never be 100% proof against betrayal, but that's why love takes courage. We're always going to be risking the most sensitive, weak, needy parts of ourselves, putting them out there to be stomped on. And there's no such thing as someone who's too good, too honest, too 'pure' or loving to stomp on them. That's what people won't tell you. They think if their partner is 100% honest, somehow that makes it so they can't hurt them as badly. Well, I've had a 100% honest partner and I've had a partner who's made a career of lying to me about how much he loved me in order to hurt himself, so let me tell you: both of them hurt me pretty badly. The honest guy hurt me less, sure. But in a way, it was worse, because I never expected it. I trusted him utterly. But honesty can mean he'll honestly tell you when he doesn't think it'll work out and why, or honesty could mean he won't pretend to keep trying when it's not worth it to him anymore, or it could mean he just doesn't have enough imagination to see how you feel.

I'll go out on a limb and say trust is more important than honesty, and I value honesty very highly. If both of you truly trust one another (and you say you trust him), then you can breathe-breathe-breathe through the pain. Love isn't just about weakness: it's also about strength; you only think you're weak. If you love someone truly, there's suddenly hidden depths of strengths you never knew you had. I guess it's just that honesty is important in some ways more than others-- honesty about how you feel, what you're holding back emotionally, what your problems are, etc. Honesty about online personas? What does that even have to do with anything? Two entirely different types of honesty. Sure, someone who's knee-jerk painfully honest would never create a 'sockpuppet'/persona for any reason, but it used to be that 90% of the internet was full of personas (back in the early/mid 90s). It's also a red herring to say that cheating is about 'honesty'; cheating is about a whole cluster of factors, among which honesty lies as an exit strategy, where most people forfeit to accomplish. Cheating itself depends on other needs-- needs for sex, distraction, coping with pain, attention-- whatever. People may say it's the lying that hurts, but it's a bit disingenuous.

Maybe I just feel the need to justify myself, since I do lie mildly for convenience or effect on occasion, but am fundamentally emotionally honest with people I trust (with the alternative of not saying difficult things). It's not about 'honest person' vs 'dishonest', especially not when dividing the world up into worthwhile vs not-worthwhile individuals. What's really important is knowing he's honest about his feelings, and he seems to be. Rather than being honest about some random thing he does online, it's more important he be honest about his own doubts, needs, wants, so that he'd never feel the need to 'cheat' to get something he can get more easily through discussion. Creating a level of trust where you can say anything, and that's easier than withholding-- that's what's important, I think.
posted by reenka at 2:57 PM on June 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


If you love someone truly, there's suddenly hidden depths of strengths you never knew you had.

reenka, that's beautiful.
posted by Clotilde at 6:19 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whatever you ultimately decide about marriage, I would make it clear that he should not lie to protect your feelings; in practice, what it means is that there can be problems that won't come out until things get so bad they're really bad and he can't avoid telling you the truth, and then you're blind-sided by something that you could have helped contain way earlier but may now be past any repair.

This applies to anything from basic relationship stuff -- "This thing about you has been really annoying me and now it's so unbearable I'm only telling you because I'm breaking up with you" -- to bigger stuff -- "I've been dipping into our savings account to pay my gambling debts and I didn't tell you because I was going to replace the money and I didn't want you to have to worry about it."

When people "lie to protect your feelings" it's not like genuine concern isn't an aspect of it; most people who say this really don't like seeing you upset, and the thought of how unpleasant it would be causes them so much stress they'd rather not deal with it. But it ultimately means "I try to ignore difficult problems instead of confront them," and they make themselves feel better about this by falling back on the idea that they were doing right by someone else, instead of wrong. This guy seems to exhibit this behavior in a lot of the examples you give, and it gives me slight additional pause that he still hasn't hammered this out by mid-30s as opposed to, say, mid-20s.

The good news is people can learn to be better at talking about problems and bringing them up before they're unsolvable. I would not agree to marry this guy until/unless you feel comfortable knowing he will tell you the truth, even when it's not easy. You've only been dating two years, and there's no rush to get married. I knew two years into my relationship with my husband that I could trust him to be honest with me and we still didn't get married until five years in. To take it a bit further, if it were me, I would just take marriage off the table altogether for a while, as opposed to trying to postpone it until some undecided date; that gives the impression that there will be some magical indicator of when he's proven his ability to handle difficult problems, but there usually isn't anything like that and sometimes you get lucky and have a year where nothing difficult comes up. My husband and I had been with each other through a handful of big transitions before we got married -- college, graduating college, his graduate school; moving to several cities in different states; my working and paying for everything, both of us working and paying for things, his working and paying for everything; my dad dying; his brother going crazy; my recurrent health problems and depression, etc. When we got married we didn't have any doubts whatsoever; we handled unexpected problems great and had no real qualms about each other, on top of all the good stuff.

The problems will (hopefully) never be the same in the future, but our approach to handling problems works. We can tell each other things even if we don't think it will be pleasant for the other person to hear because we trust that the other person knows that we love them, and we are able to express those things so as to work around the things we're each sensitive to. You don't learn how to do that by mentally freaking out when you think, "But what am I supposed to say?" You learn how to do that by actually thinking about what to say and how to say it, and then saying it and taking note of what went poorly and how you might avoid that in the future. He can't expect to marry you if he isn't yet entirely comfortable being honest with you; you deserve better than that.

It's really easy to find stuff you like about a person, but relationships aren't tested until bad things happen. How people handle problems is one of the biggest deciding factors for whether those problems seem manageable or way worse than they actually are. If you're having these doubts about his honesty right now, it's not the end of the world; you don't have to marry him or break up with him. You should just wait longer and see where life takes you, and maybe in another year or two you'll have been through enough together to feel confident nothing is going to waltz in and tear it all down.
posted by Nattie at 5:31 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reenka, that was very beautifully written, but muddled in its reasoning. The point here is that she doesn't know if she should trust him. Honesty is one indication of trustworthiness (although of course, people can be honest about not being trustworthy.) Enjoying engaging in deception (fake social network account, multiple affairs) is a big sign of lack of trustworthiness.
posted by yarly at 6:46 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If fidelity is really important to you, I'd suggest dating (and marrying) someone without a history of cheating.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, what screamingnotlaughing said may at first seem too unnuanced, too black and white – but as I read your question and all the responses, what I kept thinking is that in any relationship, what matters the most to each individual is what matters the most.

For some people fidelity and honesty may be very important, but not, ultimately, what matters the most to them. For one person being able to maintain a level of personal freedom may be the priority, while another may need a consistent and stable emotional atmosphere over anything else, and another may want a partner who provides a feeling of protection, etc., etc.

We all have a laundry list of traits and characteristics that make us happiest. For me, fidelity and kindness are huge. Honesty is big. But minor fudging/fibbing doesn't matter as much if #1 is in place. Another person may be willing to cope with a certain level of unkindness if their #1 covered.

Of course, other items on the list may be important enough that even if #1 is solidly there, it's not enough. For me, I couldn't be happy with a dull and humorless person no matter how kind and faithful. That doesn't mean I should ever choose brains and sparkle over kindness and faithfulness, it just means that I need a combo pack. Smart and funny isn't number one, because my partner can veg on the couch all day, or not entertain me at all for extended periods, and it matters not a jot – I have more than enough to keep myself busy and entertained pretty much 24/7... but when we chat, hang out or pursue any activity together, it's fun! He's my favorite person. :)

But if I witnessed my husband engaging in any act of unkindness, even one, I would be seriously shaken up. I never have, not in 20 years, and though this surely sounds like exaggeration, it isn't. (For the record, he's much kinder than I am; he's my role model).

When I knew, like a bolt of lightning through the heart, like a current of electricity that shook me to the soles of my feet, that I was in forevermore-in-love with him? After I saw him do something to help out a complete stranger in a humiliating position, so naturally, so instinctively and in such a low-key, attention-deflecting way... well, I pretty much literally swooned. Seriously lightheaded. I thought, this is the person I want to be like. And of course, I was insanely attracted in every way, anyway, so that kind of all worked out very happily.

I've had the experience of allowing my #1 to not be my guide because many other personal traits and characteristics were so attractive, and it didn't work out well at all. Not at all. So, basically, I'm pretty sympathetic to the idea of:

If fidelity is really important to you, I'd suggest dating (and marrying) someone without a history of cheating.
posted by taz at 1:02 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh my god disaster bells......

Why are you in a rush for a marriage? You need to slow down & smell the roses!!!!!

Ok, I'm saying this because I did what you are thinking of. I got married in my mid twenties to someone ten years older. We moved in within a year of meeting each other, madly in love, amazing chemistry. Engaged a year later, married a year later again, separated two years after our wedding and divorce is coming up now about one year after separation. Why did this happen? He wanted to continue his lifestyle as a player even though during engagement it was all about 'settling down', I was too young at the time he proposed to think his tendencies resurfacing a very real likelihood, I was depressed throughout our marriage as it went from bad to worse, no one senior in my life had the heart to burst our love bubble when we got engaged and have a real honest chat, all of this has lead to one very painful demoralizing year of my life dealing with our separation and my loss of dreams. BUT, I am NOT saying this will happen to you, only that.......

Why would you want to marry someone you met only three years ago who you feel reluctant to ask them anything at all in the world??? who you also feel may be untruthful to you over smallish details? You also feel like he will get upset if he thinks your judging his character? You are so not ready to get married to this guy!!!!! Why are you thinking about marriage in fact?

I'd say, give it time, give it a good shot, be in love & do all of that together. Hell even get engaged if you want to but have a long engagement and DON'T GET MARRIED YET. If you're not sure about him, I promise you the very likely pain of separation you may go through is NOT WORTH THE JOY ON THE WEDDING DAY.

You have all the time in the world to enjoy NOT being married!! If you want to have a party then organise a party. Being married is not going to change the quality of your time and relationship together.
posted by Under the Sea at 6:53 AM on August 16, 2011


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