when is a relationship worth salvaging
May 10, 2007 7:03 PM   Subscribe

CrappyRelationshipFilter: How do you know if a relationship is worth salvaging after your partner majorly fucks up? I need some perspective on this whole ugly, messy situation. (warning: very long! of course!)

My boyfriend of two years left to visit his family in Mexico last week. A couple days after he left, I was talking to my friend and she mentioned seeing him in Good Vibrations. Buying condoms. On the day his flight left. We certainly don't use condoms anymore, and I spent the next few days freaking out until he called me (phone use is limited in the tiny town he's at). I asked up straight up what the condoms were all about, and he didn't say anything for a bit, then made a few weird little sounds, then mumbled something about "just in case"... I freaked out and hung up the phone. He called me about 30 mins later, crying and telling me he loves me, he hasn't done anything, he's not gonna cheat on me, blah blah blah. Apparently, he was at some club and dancing with some chick who invited him back to her place, and then he oh-so-suddenly realized that he couldn't actually go through with it because he just looooves me so much. He's a really, really bad liar, so I'm pretty sure that's what actually happened, but I still call bullshit because, oddly enough, I've never needed to almost have sex with some stranger to know that I love him and don't want to hurt him. We talked for a few more minutes (mostly me agreeing that, yes, he's an idiot, yes, it was huge mistake, yes, I pretty much hate him right now), but I was at work and couldn't deal with it, so I hung up again.

He doesn't get back from Mexico until the 19th and I know I won't speak with him at least until then (probably even later), but I really have no idea what to do at this point... and it doesn't help that I'm ridiculously indecisive about everything, ever.

On the one hand, we've certainly defined what is and what is not allowed in this relationship, re: other people. He's the one who insisted we were completely monogomous (i've been know to rock the polyamorous relationship in the past), and I've had no problem adhering to that. I was feeling insecure before he left on his trip, and asked him if he was suuure nothing would happen. And he held me and promissed me that he wouldn't so much as kiss another woman, that he would never do anything to hurt me like that. (In retrospect, I'm about 90% sure the condoms in question were actually in his pocket as he was saying that, so I feel like the biggest idiot ever. ) He knew what he was doing (or planning to do...), and he knew how much it would hurt me, and I'm not sure I can ever really get over that. If one of my friends were in my situation, I would unequivocally tell them to dump the motherfucker already.

On the other hand, god knows in the two years we've been together, I've longingly thought about fucking someone else occasionally. I get that it's normal to sometimes be attracted to other people, to sometimes crave something more new, more exciting. The important thing is that I've never acted on those desires. So I feel like, as long as he didn't (and doesn't) actually fuck anyone else, the only thing he really did wrong was get caught. If one of my friends were in his situation, I would say that their actions were what mattered, and if they didn't go through with anything and actually came out with a deeper understanding about how they feel in their relationship, then they did nothing wrong.

So, "take him back and make it work" and "fuck the cheating bastard" are battling it out in my brain nonstop and I'm going crazy. Two years is a long time (for me) and I would hate to throw everything away because of his stupid mistake. He's the first guy I've ever met who made think maybe growing old with someone wouldn't be so bad after all. I love him like crazy, and I know he loves me, and this is just killing me. But then again, I'd hate to go through a divorce in 10 years when I catch him cheating on me with my best friend and kids and money and all sorts of ugly things get involved.

So I guess what it comes down to is: How do you know when a relationship is worth trying to save? Or when you should just cut your losses and move on? And if I do stay with him, how do I keep myself from become an angry, bitter, insecure, jealous shrew?
posted by rndm to Human Relations (68 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was cheated on once, and she implored me to give her a second chance. I decided that was out of the question because I simply no longer loved her after that.

You say you still love him, so I'd say that you're not ready to throw it all away.

As to what you do with your relationship after this, set some ground rules. If you don't mind a polyamorous realtionship tell him that you wouldn't mind opening the the relationship up, but if he cheats on you he forfeits his balls.
posted by lekvar at 7:17 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


No

Once the trust is broken, it will poison the rest of your lives.
posted by nataaniinez at 7:22 PM on May 10, 2007 [4 favorites]


I've longingly thought about fucking someone else occasionally. I get that it's normal to sometimes be attracted to other people, to sometimes crave something more new, more exciting. The important thing is that I've never acted on those desires.... the only thing he really did wrong was get caught.

Sounds like he got caught thinking about doing it, but didn't actually do it? That's definitely not a good place to start from, but it sounds like you had a near miss, and you probably have the experience and understanding to move on from this if you choose to.

The trick is that he may not have the experience with relationships that you have and may not be able to show the same maturity, get his act together, and fly right. When someone's really insistent about monogamy or afraid of cheating, it can indicate that they themselves feel some tension about it or have thoughts about it.

Punishing him and making him feel like shit are only going to go so far with this. If he's teetering on the brink of monogamy now, all you'll accomplish is guilting him into good behavior for a while until he tries again or leaves you.

If you want to save this relationship, get the truth out into the open. Talk to him about his fuck up. Did some woman freak him at a club and send his hormones all wild? Is he feeling confined or unsatisfied sexually? Would he want to explore a more open relationship? You say you've done it. Could you handle it with him? Could he handle it? Or is he afraid you'd have a lot more sex with other men than he would with other women?

I doubt that this is all a good platform for building an open relationship on at this point but it might make for a good way to enter into the conversation. Convince him that monogamy is his choice to make. And that lying is not acceptable under any arrangement. If he can learn those two things, which have nothing to do with how much he loves you, you might have a shot. If you don't think his brain and his dick can get together on the same page about it, if he doesn't have that level of emotional maturity, then leave him.

Is there a big difference in your experience level?
posted by scarabic at 7:23 PM on May 10, 2007


I say, there's a big difference between wanting to sleep with other people, which everyone does, and actually going through with it, which he almost did and possibly has done in the past. I say ditch him. Second chances depend on how badly you blew your first chance, and in a situation like this I don't think he's earned the benefit of the doubt.

Besides, you'll never be able to get it out of your head.... this was the moment the relationship changed for the worse.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:23 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


What your boyfriend did or did not do doesn't matter as much as what he planned to do. He's in a two year relationship, and he bought condoms to go on vacation without you?

Premeditation is the key word. I say dump his ass.
posted by cosmic osmo at 7:24 PM on May 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


I meant to point out that buying condoms is different from actually cheating on you. I know I don't want to cheat on my partner, but that doesn't mean I don't sometimes fantasize about it. Perhaps he was fantasizing about it and confused the line of where reality begins. Maybe it made him feel turned on or excited to have the condoms, but wouldn't have gone through with it. It's hard to say. What I mean is that perhaps having condoms was an extension of some fantasy for him, and perhaps they were evidence of clear intent. Only you and he can figure that out.
posted by scarabic at 7:26 PM on May 10, 2007


I'm so sorry. This just fucking sucks so much.

I think your openness to polyamory is a moot point here, because that's not the issue; the issue is that he lied to you. He lied to your face. He told you he would never, ever cheat on you when mere hours before he was procuring the means to do just that. You say you believe his account of almost-cheating because he's a bad liar, but he did lie to you, and he may have before and he'd probably do it again.

He bought the condoms "just in case?" Just in case what? Just in case he stumbles into an ancient Aztec graveyard and is possessed by a malevolent spirit who forces him to get drunk and seek out a strange girl to go home with?

No - this is betrayal in the first degree. You deserve someone whom you can trust. This is not to say he's not a good person in other ways, but you know, you can justify anything when you scrutinize it enough, and sometimes you owe it to yourself not to let sentimentality override the potential for ultimate happiness. I think you're better off without someone who would do this to you.
posted by granted at 7:33 PM on May 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


The answer to your question is that the relationship is worth salvaging if you want it to be. Your question is phrased as if there is some answer outside of yourself. There isn't.

You have been told/taught/indoctrinated that if your boyfriend rubs a particular part of himself on particular things/people that IT'S OVER and there's NO SAVING IT and THE TRUST IS BROKEN FOREVER and on and on and on.

Sure that's true for some people. Is it true for you? YOU decide. Take a step back and evaluate it rationally. Put aside for a second the teachings about NO SAVING IT and all. What's your life like together? Pretty good? Take good care of each other? You say he's a bad liar - does that mean he's an honest guy most of the time?

As you clearly know, everyone has some urge to get it on with others. Is that evil? YOU decide.

(sounds like he didn't even do anything).
posted by putril at 7:41 PM on May 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


To add some more purely anecdotal data here, I know a couple who went through almost this exact scenario. Boyfriend tried to hook up with a girl while at a hacker con. Girlfriend found out and came and stayed on my couch for a month. Boyfriend said almost exactly the same things yours said. After a month they started the relationship over from scratch, whith certain ground rules firmly established. Fast forward five years and they're happily married.

As several people above have mentioned it is a horrible betrayal, and you're already being far more forgiving than I would probably be were I in your shoes. But it can work.
posted by lekvar at 7:43 PM on May 10, 2007


cosmic osmo has it right on the money. He was thinking and planning to do it before he even left on holidays. That's must more than just being tempted, he had every intention of going through with it until that very last second. Not only that, he lied straight to your face and you believed him then, yet you believe him now when he says he's done nothing. Maybe he's a better liar than you think.

This is, of course, your choice. If you feel like you can get past this, that this is a one-off thing, that the relationship is worth salvaging, then sure, go ahead. But, do you really think you can get over such a huge breach of trust?
posted by liquorice at 7:43 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I had been in a relationship with the same person all the way through college, from a couple of months into college to a few months after graduation.

After graduation, she insists on going, sans me, on a trip to the beach with her former neighbor, promises to call me, never does, blah, blah.

The night she gets home, phone is off hook all night.

The next day, she confesses, and it is over. And it sucked. And I thought I would never, ever, ever, be able to smile, laugh, eat, or live again. And I promise you, night time is going to SUCK for you for the next several weeks. You will imagine him doing it and it will make you feel like absolute hell.

Then you find out that some of your good friends are actually some of the most awesome people in the world.

Then you start having days that are half-good.

Then three-quarters good.

Then you can listen to "With or Without You" again without losing it.

Then you meet someone, and you don't feel guilty for the fact that he gives you butterflies.

In my story, she is now married to that guy, and I am married to an old friend, who is the greatest woman in the world, and we have the most beautiful little girl on earth.

I told you all that so I can tell you this: my suggestion is that you take the long view here, and imagine life with someone who does not treat you this way. Going through my breakup helped me to see that the relationship was actually pretty awful, so the breakup, as bad as it was, actually turned out to be a blessing.

I wish you all the best in whatever you decide.
posted by 4ster at 7:45 PM on May 10, 2007 [9 favorites]


i think buying condoms is a pretty good indication that he's started to drift away.

it might be a good idea to see if the infidelity is the symptom of some other dissatisfaction. i truly believe some guys can't control themselves (a la bill clinton). that doesn't mean you have to put up with it, of course, but that's not the kind of guy you can change. however, if the infidelity is a symptom of a relationship breakdown--declining sex life, maybe feeling taken for granted or henpecked, etc--then it might be salvageable. in which case, couples counseling is the way to go.

only you can decide if he's worth sticking around for. you might just want to see how you feel after a couple of weeks apart, after the immediate anger has diffused.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:46 PM on May 10, 2007


He called me about 30 mins later

So, he had to think about calling you back? Interesting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 PM on May 10, 2007


Yeah; this isn't a case where he randomly met some girl while on vacation, felt a strong mutual attraction, but then chose to remain faithful. That could be seen as a good thing.

He bought the condoms before he left. That's a guy who wants to get his freak on. He figured you'd never find out since he would be in Mexico.

The only reason he didn't cheat is that you busted him.
posted by Justinian at 7:50 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


You point out that if your friend had acted the way your boyfriend you would consider them having done nothing wrong. Trying to find some system of ethical rules with perfect fairness for everyone is going to drive you nuts. It just might contribute to indecision as well. You can't just abstract every ethical decision all out and make sense of it all the time. Sometimes you can, and it's certainly worth attempting. Since an answer didn't come up immediately that felt right, this isn't a good place to keep trying.

Be partial on this one. Pay attention to what you want. It may change. Don't be in a hurry to make up your mind even though it would be more comfortable to do so.
posted by BigSky at 8:01 PM on May 10, 2007


This wasn't a moment of passion. This was something he anticipated could happen days before a chance even arose. Knowing this, I'd say it's pretty hard to guarantee this won't pull something like this again.
posted by piratebowling at 8:17 PM on May 10, 2007


The only reason he didn't cheat is that you busted him.

I wouldn't be so sure about the fact that he didn't cheat. He was planning on cheating on her, he didn't give her a straight answer on her first call, and he spent 30 minutes thinking up a good story before calling her back.

I'll bet you anything that he had sex. The "bad lie" was that he was lying about having had sex. He might have even gone on vacation alone for the sole purpose of hooking up with someone.

OP, if I were you I'd go to Good Vibrations yourself and get a pile of those condoms. If you take them back, use them with him. You don't know what he's been doing or with whom, and you don't even know if he bothered to use the damn things.
posted by watsondog at 8:23 PM on May 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


You see exactly what you have here. I know you do, because you say "If one of my friends were in my situation, I would unequivocally tell them to dump the motherfucker already."

That's because he's deceived you. He made a plan, probably weeks in advance, to cheat on you, despite his insistence that your relationship be monogamous. When he had an opportunity to confess his deception, with the condoms in his pocket, instead he lied to you straight to your face.

Why do you think he's a really bad liar? If it hadn't been for your friend, he'd have deceived you completely. I say he's a good liar.

Take that good liar back, if you want to be lied to and cheated on in the future. I see one positive here: he's a cheating bastard who cares enough about you to protect you from the gonorrhea and syphilis carried by the Mexican whores he chooses to have intercourse with. That's a modest point in his favor. The oral herpes, I'm afraid you're just going to have to deal with.

I took a girl back who'd cheated on me, once. But it was never a good relationship again. The lying and cheating had poisoned it. If I had a friend in your situation, I'd unequivocally tell her to dump the motherfucker already.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:30 PM on May 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


I would hate to throw everything away because of his stupid mistake

You didn't throw anything away. HE did.

And I have to disagree with ikkyu2 that he cared enough about you to protect you. I think he cared about himself to protect himself. Both from disease but also from that "oh noez" moment in House when House informs the girlfriend that she has an STD because her boyfriend has been cheating on her.

I know it sucks and it's such a hard decision because you have invested so much in this relationship. To many outsiders, like us, it's going to be a black and white issue. But I see his actions as clearly showing that he has no respect for you. Sure, he cares for you and is comfortable with you, but underneath all that, he doesn't respect you.
posted by spec80 at 8:44 PM on May 10, 2007


yeah, I'm with cosmo osmo & liquorice. Being tempted is one thing, but scheming to get some on the side is another. He was making specific plans to "be prepared" for sex when you were not a worry. If you want to have an open relationship, that's one thing, but the first and fundamental rule there is honesty. He just sounds like a jerk, from what little info you provide.

You say you're in love, though, so you should probably talk to him. But from the outsider's POV it does not sound good.
posted by mdn at 8:54 PM on May 10, 2007


Two years is a long time (for me) and I would hate to throw everything away.

I recommend very strongly that while you're trying to figure out what to do, you try your level best not to let the length of your relationship be a deciding factor. It is a bad bad bad reason to stay together.
posted by solotoro at 9:03 PM on May 10, 2007


On point:

3. Infidelity

Throw in the Towel:

* If partner has no compassion for your pain.
* If partner justifies the betrayal or minimizes the significance of the infidelity.
* If partner continues to lie and deceive you.

Pick Up the Pieces

* If partner shows remorse and empathy for your devastation.
* If partner takes responsibility for understanding their vulnerabilities.
* If partner is willing to discuss the betrayals openly and honestly.
* If the unfaithful behavior has stopped.

See also:

http://www.smartmarriages.com/glass.html

Did he not know they have condoms in Mexico? Or are they harder to get?

On monogamy: I'm guessing he's more anxious that you're the one who stays faithful.

Thinking about fucking someone else != premeditive action.

Also, not making a choice IS making a choice.
posted by lysdexic at 9:06 PM on May 10, 2007 [4 favorites]


Sigh. It's so depressing how negative most of these answers are, but I guess that's what I was expecting, and probably what I need to hear. I've broken up with guys over so much less than this, and yet, I find myself clinging to this relationship now like my life will just end if I let him go, even though he sucks ass. God, when did I turn into that girl?

I keep trying to convince myself that there's a big difference between planning to cheat on someone and actually cheating, but no matter how I look at it, buying condoms is on the wrong side of that line.

a few clarifications:
The only reason he didn't cheat is that you busted him.
If he's telling the truth (and can we please just pretend that he is?), he realized he couldn't cheat on me or whatever a few days before I talked to him about this.

So, he had to think about calling you back? Interesting.
i think this is because he was out shopping with a bunch of his cousins and didn't want to be crying in front of them. his family doesn't so much approve of men showing emotion.
posted by rndm at 9:08 PM on May 10, 2007


I'm seconding putril here. Just because he wanted to see if the grass really was greener somewhere else(which explains the planning part) may or may not mean he's the worst person to ever live. It could just mean that he's human, and this goes double if he's young, and if this is his first relationship, or the longest he's ever been in a relationship.

If things were good, and you both still want to be together, then do it. Many people say that the slightest infidelity means it's over permanently with no recourse, but that doesn't mean you have to be that way. Don't end a good thing just because your friends are telling you you should.

Make your own decision, and maybe consider that this experience has taught you both something about compassion, no matter which way you go.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 9:11 PM on May 10, 2007


About a year into my relationship, my boyfriend came clean to me about lies he had told me about his past. They were some pretty elaborate lies too, relating to his previous girlfriends. I was pretty shattered and devastated as I was under the impression that we were in a healthy and honest relationship. I was pissed off too, not just at him but at myself for trusting in him so completely. He ended up telling me the truth because he’d spent many a sleepless night torn over his lies but I was the one who had to ask him for the complete truth. He was willing to do absolutely anything to regain my trust and make this relationship work. Even though at that point we’d only been together for a short time, I knew what we had was special and important to me. I was still torn over the decision. I tried to place myself outside the relationship, to see what I would do if I wasn’t involved. That’s impossible; our feelings are always going to come into play. Even though I thought I wasn’t “one of those girls” (whatever that is), I still took him back. It was based on a few things:
- He had never hurt me in any way prior to this.
- For this fault there were one hundred qualities he had that made him a good man.
- I truly believed he was sorry for his wrong-doing
- I had, in my way, pushed him into making those lies
To some people, those reasons may not be good enough but I decided it didn’t matter what some people would do. I just didn’t want to give up on him; the thought of not having him in my life just didn’t seem worth it. I know it might feel like you’re betraying yourself to even contemplate such a thing, but it’s not. No one but the two of you can really know what’s going on in your relationship. Let him come home, let him try and explain himself and if you want, see if you can work through this and ultimately turn out a stronger and more united couple.

My boyfriend has made it up to me every day since and I have no regrets for making that decision. I’ve reached a place where I can love and trust him again entirely. If you think this relationship is worth it, then at least give it the chance to heal.
posted by liquorice at 9:41 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


liquorice: "About a year into my relationship, my boyfriend came clean to me about lies he had told me about his past. They were some pretty elaborate lies too, relating to his previous girlfriends. [...]
My boyfriend has made it up to me every day since and I have no regrets for making that decision. I’ve reached a place where I can love and trust him again entirely.
"

I don't get this. Why did he have to make up to you for things that were between him and another person before you even got involved?

OP: You have to make the call on this one. Just make sure you spend a lot of time with the people who care for you the most over the next couple of weeks. Build up your armour.
posted by loiseau at 10:01 PM on May 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bascially, he told me stuff about his past that wasn't true and hid other things. So he was making up for lying to me not about the stuff itself. Is that a bit clearer? Sorry, I was kind of hazy when I was explaining the situation.
posted by liquorice at 10:12 PM on May 10, 2007


Without trust, what kind of a relationship will you have? There are literally thousands of people out there in your city alone that you're compatible with, and it's possible for you to meet someone from that subset of the population who is more trustworthy than this guy.

Live's too short to hang on to a relationship when your partner breaks your trust; if you have no kids, and you're not married, walk away.

Also, thank your friend profusely for tattling -- better you learn what he's like now instead of later (when you're married with kids.)
posted by davejay at 10:58 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


OH, and on the "except for this he's a good man" bit -- well, would you rather have someone who does lots of stupid little things but delivers the goods on the big stuff (trust, integrity, honor, support, sex, respect) or someone who does all the little stuff right but blows the big ones?
posted by davejay at 11:00 PM on May 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm by no means suggesting that you should get back with him, only saying that it's you that ultimately have to make the choice and live with that choice. We're just a bunch of folk on the internets.
posted by liquorice at 11:08 PM on May 10, 2007


Honestly, I think this incident has revealed to you that your boyfriend is an asshole. It's not even cheating that bugs me so much as the premeditation and the lying (and I really do think he DID already sleep with someone by now as well). Why would you want to be with someone who thinks that stuff is okay?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:13 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


If he's telling the truth (and can we please just pretend that he is?)

What? No, we cannot just pretend.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:37 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


rndm, don't do what you're about to do here. There's going to be a pile-on; you knew that when you posted it.

Don't defend the guy. You can think of defending him, if you're dumb enough. But don't post your defenses here, or you'll get piled on too. Then this thread will be a trainwreck, and it will attract all the little flies and other insects that like to buzz around trainwrecks, and pretty soon everything will start to stink.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:39 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I meant to point out that buying condoms is different from actually cheating on you. I know I don't want to cheat on my partner, but that doesn't mean I don't sometimes fantasize about it. Perhaps he was fantasizing about it and confused the line of where reality begins. Maybe it made him feel turned on or excited to have the condoms, but wouldn't have gone through with it. It's hard to say.

No, no, oh my god no. Who does this? He even said, "Just in case." Even if he didn't have sex he admitted to buying condoms before going to Mexico which shows clear intent (not to mention the "just in case" part). Two years isn't really a long time. Now move all his belongings out of your home before he gets back and find someone who respects you.
posted by koshka at 12:23 AM on May 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


If he's telling the truth (and can we please just pretend that he is?)

OP, go back and read your story and tell us exactly why we should even consider that he is?

You've been in the relationship a fair amount of time. Those are hard to break off and when the shit hits the fan, there is a good bit of freak-out time. That's where you are now. It's been a while since you had any thoughts other than "We'll be together forever" and now when you try to think "DTMFA" it hurts.

This is normal.

However, after he gets back from Mexico for a week or two, look at how your relationship has changed, how you see him and think of him.

Then come back and read all of this advice again. It will seem a lot less painful and much more common sense.
posted by Ookseer at 2:14 AM on May 11, 2007


All the did-he-didn't-he stuff is beside the point. Imo the nub is at the end:
"Two years is a long time (for me) and I would hate to throw everything away because of his stupid mistake. He's the first guy I've ever met who made think maybe growing old with someone wouldn't be so bad after all. I love him like crazy, and I know he loves me, and this is just killing me."
First, two years is only a long time to you, but in the scheme of human relationships it is fairly trivial. Now, if you really want to "grow old" with him and you also "love him like crazy" then you are probably going to have to deal with stuff like this on several occasions over the decades, as well as dealing with your own confessed urges to fuck other people. I guess your boyfriend has them too - so far, so normal. And it's quite likely going to be the same with anyone else you hitch your wagon to: people are like that, they want to fuck other people (that's the big secret our parents didn't tell us). So get to the truth of course but also try and get some perspective.
posted by londongeezer at 2:44 AM on May 11, 2007


So, he had to think about calling you back? Interesting.
i think this is because he was out shopping with a bunch of his cousins and didn't want to be crying in front of them. his family doesn't so much approve of men showing emotion.


Oh good, he put himself before you, even after he had hurt you and you had hung up, crying.

Quit making excuses for him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:01 AM on May 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


"He's the one who insisted we were completely monogomous (i've been know to rock the polyamorous relationship in the past), and I've had no problem adhering to that. I was feeling insecure before he left on his trip, and asked him if he was suuure nothing would happen. And he held me and promissed me that he wouldn't so much as kiss another woman, that he would never do anything to hurt me like that."

I have a feeling that things have been going weird for you two for a while now, and that this is just the latest, most concrete evidence thereof.

If he was the one who wanted to be monogamous and you were fine with polyamory, he could have just told you he'd changed his mind and you could have worked something out.

If you were getting the feeling he wanted some action elsewhere, you could have taken the initiative and packed him some condoms for his trip, pointing out that this would be a perfect opportunity. (This is what I do when my beloved leaves town. He gets really cranky: 'Get those things away from me! I'm not going to need them! Besides, they have condoms where I'm going!' I just want him to have them though, because people do things when they're travelling that they don't do at home, not just sexually.)

Instead, you were feeling insecure and wanted reassurance that he wasn't going to cheat on you. That tells me that something had changed since you got together. You used to be confident that your relationship could survive a third party. You no longer have that confidence, and you were feeling like that third party was an imminent threat even before he left.

So no, I don't buy "everything is perfect except for this one pesky detail, do I dump perfection over something that probably never happened." It sounds to me as though things might have been perfect at the beginning but they haven't been for a while now. If you break up over this, it will just be the last straw, the deciding event.
posted by kika at 4:23 AM on May 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think the only question which matters here is: can you live with the fear of him possibly cheating on you in the future? Because that fear will likely always be there.

If you can't handle the thought of having that hanging over your relationship, you need to leave him.
posted by wayward vagabond at 4:30 AM on May 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


I would suggest two ways to think a bit about the two years you have invested:

1) What do they mean to your boyfriend? How does being with you for two years accord with not simply thinking lustily about someone else, but actually buying the condoms?

2) How long is two years in comparison to the time you expect to spend with the person you grow old with, and what would it be like if you had to revisit this in 15 years?

The disturbing thing about a lie like the one your boyfriend perpetrated when he bought the condoms is that it calls into question all of the other things which he's told you that you previously thought were the truth.
posted by OmieWise at 4:37 AM on May 11, 2007


I'm just... having trouble trying to exress my advice. If only there was some handy acronym we'd created specially for such occasions...

dtmfa
posted by tylermoody at 4:49 AM on May 11, 2007


Who wants to settle down with someone who a) gets caught cheating; or b) gets caught almost cheating; and c) is such a horrible liar. On these grounds alone he is not good enough for you.
posted by ewkpates at 5:08 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'm normally all for the DTMFA pile-on, but you obviously have a lot of yourself invested in this relationship and that's something that can't be discounted.

So, how about this:

Take the time until he gets back to think about stuff (or not think about stuff, as you see fit), limit your contact with him and try to cool off. Then, when he does get back, give your relationship a trial run: see if this possible infidelity has tainted your relationship irreversibly. (See lysdexic's comment for pointers there.) If it has, tell him it's not working and it's over. If not, then work on getting back to normal.

You will have to go into this prepared to be honest with yourself about whether your relationship has fundamentally changed and to leave if it has. That's what the cooling-off time is for. But I'll point out that even Dan Savage -- Mr. DTMFA himself -- is known for agreeing that relationships can overcome infidelity, and that one-time indescretions can (and often should) be forgiven. Is your relationship worth saving after this? That's for you to figure out.

To paraphrase putril, you have everything you need to find your answer -- you just need to be honest with yourself and give yourself a little time to find it.

This must be very hard for you; whichever way you decide (and do pop back in to update in a few weeks if you remember) I wish you the best.
posted by AV at 5:42 AM on May 11, 2007


(On non-preview: kika raises a good point. Definitely consider that.)
posted by AV at 5:48 AM on May 11, 2007


One suggestion: stop thinking about your past with this person. Good or bad, the past is dead & gone; you cannot let yourself be shackled by it.

Instead, think about the future. Think about what future you want to have, and then make the first step toward that future.
posted by aramaic at 6:28 AM on May 11, 2007


He's a really, really bad liar, so I'm pretty sure that's what actually happened...

...that he would never do anything to hurt me like that. (In retrospect, I'm about 90% sure the condoms in question were actually in his pocket as he was saying that, so I feel like the biggest idiot ever.

Sounds like he can lie convincingly when he wants too - beware. Behavior like this is VERY rarely a one-time thing.
posted by lubujackson at 7:20 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I find that someone being a really bad liar increases my trust. It makes it much easier to know what's really going on and much less likely that I'll be significantly deceived over the long-term. Most big lies involve many little lies along the way.
posted by underwater at 8:04 AM on May 11, 2007


I think you don't need to make a choice right now. Let him come back home, talk about it, and see what happens in the next 24 hours to 24 weeks (maybe not that long)-- I think it will become pretty clear to you pretty soon whether or not this is something you can get past, and more importantly, whether it is something you WANT to get past.

I don't know how old you are but 2 years is really not that long a time. My vote would be dump, but I think you should wait until that is more obviously the correct choice to you. (It will make things easier and you'll have fewer doubts afterward).
posted by bluenausea at 8:07 AM on May 11, 2007


If he's telling the truth (and can we please just pretend that he is?)

I just meant that, for the purposes of the question, I want to assume he was telling the truth. If he did in fact sleep with someone else, then my decision's a pretty easy one to make. When I say he's a bad liar, I mean that when asked directly about X, it's really easy to tell when he's making something up. He can lie by 'forgetting' to tell me something, or he can lie about what he will do in the future (I won't cheat on you, I will stop smoking), but if he had wanted to lie to me about the condoms, he would have said some crazy thing about buying them for his... cousin...in Mexico... who is scared to buy condoms... and the little store in town is out... and they're illegal in Mexico... and... and. So I think when I eventually talk to him in person and ask him if had sex with someone, I'll know the real answer. And if the answer is 'yes', then I don't need any help figuring out what to do.

Thanks for all the awesome responses, though! There's a lot to think about here. I think it would be best if, like a lot of you suggested, I just give myself some time, come back to this thread in a few weeks, and see how I feel then.
posted by rndm at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2007


Everybody gotta know what they do, but the issue is this - if you are with someone, then what you are looking for is someone that will cover your back when the guys start shooting. It's someone you know will cover for you no matter what.

Living a mans fantasy does not exclude from that. He thought about getting wild in mexica, like ALL MEN do. EVERYONE thinks this. And when thinking it, a careful person will also buy condoms. Now thinking about it does not mean he will actually do it. HUGE difference.

Question is, if people break into your home, will this guy protect you? Could you be the bonnie to his clyde? If yes, then stay. If you don't trust him, go.
posted by markovich at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2007


Trial separation, 30 days minimum. It will be tough, but I think this is the only way for both of you to get to the point where you can make a rational, examined decision about how to proceed.
posted by lilboo at 8:48 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Living a mans fantasy does not exclude from that. He thought about getting wild in mexica, like ALL MEN do. EVERYONE thinks this. And when thinking it, a careful person will also buy condoms.

This is completely wrong. I'm a man, I know a lot of men, we talk about sex a lot, very few of the guys I know would think about getting crazy in Mexico, and if they did, buying condoms would not be part of the fantasy. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, obviously it does, but it isn't some universal and should not be considered as such.

As to the shooting stuff...are you living in a Clash song, or Deadwood?
posted by OmieWise at 8:54 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


*very few of the guys I know [who are in monogamous relationships]*
posted by OmieWise at 8:55 AM on May 11, 2007


You talk about all of the ways this guy can lie to you, as if his transparency makes it somehow acceptable.

Why do you want to be with a bad liar? Good or bad, he's clearly got a pattern. And it's not endearing.

To the curb!
posted by frosty_hut at 9:26 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The odds are pretty strong that he's already cheated on you, and probably more than once. Dump his ass.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:34 AM on May 11, 2007


Look at the bright side, at least he made a feeble attempt to be responsible and he didn't (or won't) bring back any nasty little surprises for you. :-)

Hey, it could be worse!
posted by drstein at 9:56 AM on May 11, 2007


Living a mans fantasy does not exclude from that. He thought about getting wild in mexica, like ALL MEN do. EVERYONE thinks this. And when thinking it, a careful person will also buy condoms. Now thinking about it does not mean he will actually do it. HUGE difference.

Not all men live this peculiar vision of maleness.

Personally, I would kick him to the curb if he went so far as to consider cheating in such a premeditated manner, even if the cheating never happened. And the planning is almost worse than the doing. I think I could forgive a one-time drunken slip up, precisely because it was unexpected and impulsive. But planning ahead to cheat? That's just gross.

Believe me, sweetie, there are plenty of men who are good, kind, and will not cheat on you, much less PLAN to cheat on you.
posted by footnote at 10:08 AM on May 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Consider all the advice above, and decide for yourself if you can tolerate the potential or real cheating by taking the simple
Dear Abby test: "Are you better off with him, or without him?"
posted by Lynsey at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2007


Don't listen to these tongue-clucking curmudegons! They are only redirecting their own bitter resentments toward the opposite sex!

You say you love him - if that is true then you have to forgive him. If it isn't true, then you should have dumped him a long time ago.

You're feeling conflicted because the moral majority (50 of the 58 comments above) dictates that you DTMFA at the first instance of a major fuck-up. You know that that is what you're supposed to do in these situations. On the other hand, you love him. And god-dammit thats worth something!

To set the record straight, dumping someone at the first sign of trouble is not the action of a strong person, the way everyone seems to think it is. It's actually the exact opposite. Don't feel like you're a fool for wanting to continue this relationship. And don't end it out of fear of looking like one.

Just remember - everyone is inclined to fuck up royally. It's built in to our systems. If he hadn't fucked up royally here, he would have later. Or maybe you would have. People become bitter and insecure when they forget (or refuse to admit) these things.

You sound like a cool chick. Don't let these assholes make you into something otherwise. If you love the poor bastard, like you say you do, forgive him. And don't make up any rules to punish him and give yourself a false sense of security. If he loves you, like he says he does, he won't do this again.
posted by tjvis at 10:17 AM on May 11, 2007


You say you love him - if that is true then you have to forgive him.

Sadly, tjvis, sometimes you can love someone and forgive them for their fuck ups, but still need to leave them.
posted by footnote at 10:21 AM on May 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


And please refrain from hooking up with him when he gets back, until he gets thoroughly tested. As ikkyu2 mentioned, you don't know what scary bugs he may have picked up, and he's not going to be honest about his, uh, risk factors.
posted by jtron at 10:45 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just remember - everyone is inclined to fuck up royally

Sorry, but no. Saying that probably makes you feel better about yourself, but it isn't true.

There is a difference between going on vacation to have sex without your partner knowing, and forgetting to take out the trash. One is the mere error of a moment, and the other is a choice made with malice aforethought.

He may not have cheated before, he may not have ever actually ended up cheating on her, but he wanted to. This isn't an idle fantasy like me getting it on with Mata Hari. He fully intended to have sex with someone else, while on vacation, while in a relationship with the OP.

...which means that, ultimately, his personal pleasure is more important than their relationship. More important than her health, potentially. If they'd been in an open relationship, fine. But they weren't. He didn't discuss it, he just decided to go for it.

Because it was going to feel good.

Because, in the end, he made the decision that his chance to have sex with someone else was more important than the possibility of betraying her trust.

Whether this means their relationship ends is up to the OP. Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't. It depends on where she wants to go with her life, and the risks she is willing to take or not take.

But don't fool yourself (or your partners) into thinking that everyone would be so willing to have a nice fuck with whomever happens by, regardless of what that means to the people in their lives.
posted by aramaic at 10:57 AM on May 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


You say you love him - if that is true then you have to forgive him.

no, because love's gotta go both ways. Forgiveness is part of an equation, but walking the walk is part of the equation too. If one person is always forgiving the other for their fuck ups, then it's not really love. Love isn't just something you say or project externally. It's got to be something you live, and your actions have to reflect it.

this case is not even about mistake / forgiveness. This case is about willful scheme / forgiveness. That's a different level of forgiveness. You're not accepting that some impulsive aspect of your SO's psyche took over in the moment, and did something which was soon regretted by the stable part of his character. You're accepting that the stable part of his character intentionally chose to prepare to do something.

Telling someone you love them and would never kiss another woman and simultaneously preparing to cheat on them once you're over the horizon is severely and possibly incurably hypocritical. To "forgive" that is to ignore what is communicated by claiming that you love each other. You really can't just forgive it. If you are going to get through it and start over, you need to really work out what is wrong and redefine what you mean to each other. Simple forgiveness here is basically admitting you never really loved each other, and it doesn't matter because it's all just for show anyway. If you actually want something real, there is work to do.
posted by mdn at 11:07 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


DTMFA. This sentiment is seconded by a non-mefi-account-holding friend.
posted by kdar at 11:56 AM on May 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Like kika, I found it a bit odd that you felt you needed reassurance from him before he left on his trip that he wouldn't sleep with anyone else, which would seem to indicate that something has been up with y'all for a while and that you're not really just talking about one fuck up, but a pattern of not trusting him? If that's the case, if you've been worried about this sort of thing for a while, then it sounds more like he just confirmed your gut feeling about how the relationship was going. I'd probably find that a bigger problem than the almost-cheating.
posted by occhiblu at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think it would be best if, like a lot of you suggested, I just give myself some time, come back to this thread in a few weeks, and see how I feel then.

I hope that you let us know how it falls out. I think you don't need to rush to make a decision; even if I do think the premeditative action and your needing reassurance from him before he left are big honking red flags.
posted by canine epigram at 1:22 PM on May 11, 2007


I know this is off point, but one thing to also think about is whether or not you need a boyfreind. There's a lot in this thread about "you'll find someone better" or "look for someone who X".

Trouble is, you'll always find what you're looking for, and if you never stop looking, will you ever be satisfied?

The better question to ask is "what do I need to be happy in my life?"
posted by lysdexic at 5:39 AM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think it's interesting how everyone's interpreting the "just in case" as a statement of intent to cheat. In my case, it reminded me of what people say about those who aren't planning to have sex: that they should carry condoms 'just in case'. And it's what (some) mothers say to their daughters about getting on the pill: maybe your ideals will hold out, or maybe you'll give in to temptation as so many people do. So take the pills, carry the condoms and get the HPV vaccine "just in case".

If I were going somewhere where I know I'd be tempted to do something foolish, I'd do everything I could to minimize the possible consequences. The difference is that for me that would include possibly not going. But it took me years to learn to avoid temptation, and I'm still working on it - it's something he'll have to learn as well, whether you stick with him or not.

Regarless of whether he planned to cheat, he was certainly aware of the possibility. That's incriminating, because knowing that he might cheat on you should have led him to change his behavior; but it could be hopeful as well, because it shows at least some ability to identify risky situations. You won't know if he really wants to change things until he gets back, if then. But if he does, there's hope for success.
posted by Lady Li at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


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