If he's talking, he's lying.
December 3, 2009 4:17 PM   Subscribe

I've discovered recently that my boyfriend is a compulsive/pathological liar, and maybe even a sociopath. Please help me evaluate how much of a nutjob he truly is, devise a breakup that will get him out of my life soon and forever, and figure out my obligations, if any, to inform others of his real character.

My long distance boyfriend has claimed since the beginning of our relationship a year ago that he'd broken up with his previous GF, but was still living with her for financial reasons, supposedly. (He's now in serious debt after being laid off last year.) I got suspicious after a deadline for him to move out of there passed, but had no proof until a few days ago. My spider sense refused to stop tingling, and finally I snooped and found out the hard truth--not only is he still her boyfriend, but he's recently proposed marriage to her. Worse still, I also discovered that he's a serial, compulsive, cheater. In addition to his live-in, he's seeing me, cultivating a couple of ex-GFs from his past, and trawling personals and adultfriendfinder for various casual sexual encounters with both men and women. (If he's bisexual, he's definitely not out of the closet, btw.)

I also discovered he's faking a terminal illness to get out of a contractual obligation with a former business associate, who's now incredibly distraught over his imminent "death."

Normally I'm not a snooper in relationships, because of what it does to trust. Turns out in this case no trust should have existed from the beginning, because he's turned out to be a very convincing and prolific liar. I knew no other way to learn the truth without actually calling his supposed ex on the phone, but I'm ready to get called out here for my snooping.

So: I've read the writing on the wall, and am ready to DTMFA, and also to get tested for STDs, believe me. So no need to tell me to do either. My questions are:

1) How can I be done with him most neatly and efficiently? We live 400 miles apart, so that's helpful. I suspect if I confront him he'll deny everything and weave more lies trying to keep me. Part of me is also scared he will flip out in some unprecedented way--he has a nasty temper at times, though he's never been violent with me. I just want never to hear from him again. However he's recently been talking about finally moving out of her house and moving here to be with me--I think she has just run out of money, though, and he believes he can sponge off me when he's totally done with her.

2) Do I have any obligation to inform his (other) girlfriend of his activities? By all accounts she's a decent person, and I feel horrible for having been the unwitting other woman. She doesn't seem to question him at all, ever. He's been away from her for weeks at a time to visit me or to travel with me--I found out he once told her he was out working out in the sticks of the state they live in, and wasn't in touch with her because he was without cell service or internet. He's charming and lies effortlessly, so I know she must want to believe him, as I did. (When he actually is at home, he's scanning the web for daytime sexual adventures, while she works to support them both.)

If she throws him out, though, he'll be destitute and likely homeless. One reason I don't want him desperate is because I don't want him at my door with no place to live.

3) Any tips for getting over this shock? I'm in my late thirties, have been married and divorced, and have so far not lost my ideals, but this has really sent me reeling. The list of lies he told me (some to cover his posterior, many just for the hell of it, apparently) is endless. I waited to post until I was calmer and stopped shaking and feeling like vomiting every single hour, but it's still pretty horrible.

Thanks for reading this far. Throwaway email for anyone who'd like to contact me directly: scalesfellfromhereyes@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (72 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

1) How can I be done with him most neatly and efficiently? We live 400 miles apart, so that's helpful.

Yeah, very helpful. Send him an email, letting him know that you've unexpectedly fallen in love with someone else, and you just don't feel it's right to stay in touch with him in the forseeable future. You wish him all the best, etc. Then blacklist his email address, block him on Facebook, and forget about it.

2) Do I have any obligation to inform his (other) girlfriend of his activities?

No, and you can't do that and still cleanly cut him out of your life.
posted by bingo at 4:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

Send him an email, letting him know that you've unexpectedly fallen in love with someone else, and you just don't feel it's right to stay in touch with him in the forseeable future.

Oh man, I wouldn't make up a lie like this; who knows what kind of crazy flip-out this might trigger that an otherwise direct "I feel it's in my best interests to move on; goodbye" message might not. I mean, nothing's guaranteed -- and it's not really possible for anyone on the green to judge how crazy Anon's soon-to-be-ex is or how he might react -- but I think it's best to keep it simple without making up any story or excuse.

Though I do agree with the suggestion for blacklisting the email address, phone number, etc. once the message has been sent.
posted by scody at 4:31 PM on December 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

I'm confused-- if he recently proposed to his live-in GF, did she say no? Otherwise, how could he be considering moving out to live with you? If she said no, she probably has suspicions already.
posted by np312 at 4:32 PM on December 3, 2009

It's not this guy, by any chance? In any case, you have no obligation to inform the girlfriend, but it might be the morally decent thing to do. I'd sure want to know about this, if I were her.
posted by fish tick at 4:32 PM on December 3, 2009

This is one of those cases where an email breakup is not only acceptable but preferred. You want it in writing that you ended this and want him to stay away. Like bingo said, block him everywhere you can. But if you're afraid of him doing anything irrational, you may just want to filter his emails into a folder you can check now and then to make sure he hasn't gotten any ideas about visiting you.

I disagree, however, with the suggestion that you lie to him about why you're ending it. You're better than that. If this were me, I would tell him flatly that I know the truth and no longer want him in my life, that he is not to contact me in any form whatsoever. It's over. End of story.
posted by katillathehun at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hm. Considering the distance and everything, I assume you don't have shared financial accounts, shared groups of friends or shared lease/utility bills. That simplifies this process nicely, inasmuch as you can simply disappear without a word if you like. Also effective: a quick note that says "I've decided that this isn't working for me, and I'd rather end it quickly and completely than draw it out." Then ignore his emails/mails/phone calls and move on with your life.

However, if he knows where you live and you think he might be violent, give him a taste of his own medicine: let him know (in a quick note) that you've met another guy who lives in your neighborhood, you've fallen for him, and so you're ending this relationship now so that you can start a new one with this guy." Again, ignore his emails/mails/phone calls and move on with your life.

Oh, and don't forget to de-friend him or whatever the kids do these days.

As for the business partner/other woman, if you have their contact info you might try contacting them, but given that he's lied to them so successfully so far, I doubt you'll make any progress -- he'll just start spinning lies about you to cover his ass, as per usual.

Heck, recently someone we've never heard of recently contacted my wife, telling her that she needs to stop spreading her lies and leave his family alone. Never one to leave something like that alone, she did some digging around and (long story short) it turns out an old college friend of hers had a husband who was cheating on her, the mistress contacted her to tell her what was going on in email, the husband was spying on her emails and managed to convince his wife that the email came from my wife ("some random old friend of yours on the internet obviously playing some kind of sick joke"). As much as it might frustrate you, attempting to warn them might not go so well, and might drag you into drama you don't really need at this point -- and he's probably spying on her mails and such, so not sure how you'd get around that.

Finally, your shock: people lie. I know it hurts and surprises you right now, but that's what some people do. You're darn right he'll lie over and over and over, to either keep you in the relationship or to convince you he's the one leaving over your "delusions" or somesuch. You really need to cut it clean and walk away, and let time handle your recovery. At least you found out! Feel free to MeMail me if you need to blow off steam about this, if you don't feel like you have an outlet and you need someone to validate your sanity.
posted by davejay at 4:35 PM on December 3, 2009

If my boyfriend was having multiple affairs (esp. of the adultfriendfinder sort) with both men and women I would want to know.
If he is that much of a sociopath his actions are putting both you and her in danger of god knows what diseases.
Please tell her.

So what if he shows up at your door, that is his problem. Call the police if he doesn't go away.
Restraining order if he doesn't stop.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2009 [11 favorites]

Oh, and one more thing - I think it might actually be a good idea to inform the other girlfriends out of concern for their safety, as long as you're considering it. This guy sounds like a con artist, a crazy man or both.
posted by katillathehun at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2009

If I was involved with someone like that without knowing about it, I'd want to know. I'd want someone to tell me - the thought of continuing to waste my time with an asshat like that is pretty sickening. Ignore his casual encounters, but if this other girl still considers it a serious thing between them, I think she deserves to hear the truth. You don't have any obligations to do this, but if someone could have confirmed your suspicions earlier I think you would have been grateful.

As for ditching this amazing piece of work, send him an email once detailing that you're no longer interested in dating him due to him cheating, and then break it off. No secondary email explanations, no answering phone calls, no letting him in if god forbid he shows up at your door. Clean and simple.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 4:40 PM on December 3, 2009

i recommend that you don't approach him about his lying at all. kind of the 'it's not you, it's me' issue. explain to him that you feel uncomfortable in your current role, and that you want to be on your own without any connections with him. kind of like you're having a midlife crisis, like. so if he says 'what can i do to help?' tell him 'nothing--i want to work this oout myself.' you could even hint that there is someone else you're interested in, and you're just 'unsure.' but you want to work it out on your own.

then kind of cut him off. don't answer emails right away. let calls go to a message. if he shows up (and he most likely will) don't let him in your home. make a big show about being pissed, and tell him you want to be alone. don't be afraid of getting the cops involved, either.

my strategy might sound pretty bad, but it removes the biggest source of argument on his side. if you attack him, he will begin to defend himself, which becomes messy. making it exclusively about you means he can't argue about his behavior. he's going to be always prepared to argue out of his lies--but won't be prepared to argue you out of yours.

don't tell the exes and whatnot. it will most likely make your situation even more complex.

for your last point--give yourself credit for realizing how bad the situation was, and working to get out of it.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 4:43 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't exactly blacklist his emails, phone number, etc. If he starts going crazy, you want to know about it before he drives 400 miles and starts banging on your door.

But, like lester's sp said, don't respond. Just stay aware.

Good luck. You deserve better.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:46 PM on December 3, 2009

Be prepared for some crazy manipulative shit when you break up. Just sayin'. Claimed but unprovable suicide attempts, etc. Notice he's already faking his death to someone else? Do not respond, do not engage. I'm drawing on my own nasty experience and my own mistakes so I dunno, this could be bad advice.

I think I did this guy 10 or 12 years ago. He really gets around. That's intended as humor; there are just so many more of these guys than I ever would have imagined before I met one.
posted by dilettante at 4:46 PM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

I have no advice on the breaking up issue, but I agree with everyone who has said you should tell the girlfriend. If I were her, I would want to know that I was wasting my time on a sociopath who may or may not be giving me various STDs.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:53 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I wouldn't make up a lie like this; who knows what kind of crazy flip-out this might trigger that an otherwise direct "I feel it's in my best interests to move on; goodbye" message might not.

My point is to come up with an arbitrary reason that has nothing to do with him. You could say you're a joining the army, or relocating due to your job, or going to help a sick friend in the Andes. The idea is to give him something that he can tell himself: "Huh. That was weird, but I guess she suddenly ____." No matter what it is, it's always going to be easier for him to let go of than "I'm sick of your ___," to which he is always going to have an answer.

But either way, the way to go is to block lines of communication so he can't give an answer, even if he wants to.

On preview: lester's sock puppet has the same general idea.

I really strongly urge against contacting anyone else in his life. There is no way to do that without getting yourself in deeper. Who knows what he'll say to them about you when he finds out, and then you might have multiple crazy people mad at you instead of just one.
posted by bingo at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely tell the 'other woman'. Imagine if you were in her shoes; you could potentially be engaged to someone without knowing he had what sounds like half a dozen women on the side.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 4:58 PM on December 3, 2009

I think you should wait until you get your STD results back before you make your decision to tell the (other) girlfriend. If you are clean (fingers crossed, knock on wood) then you may be better off staying out of it. Above posters have given some good reasons. If however something comes up on your results, then I think it is time to let her know. She may want to remain blissfully unaware, but when it is a matter of physical health she really needs to know. If you do decide to tell her, I recommend doing it some official way. Maybe a certified letter that she has to sign for, that way El Creepo can't intercept it. Also, if you add some kind of contact info for yourself there won't be any confusion. Even if it is just your throwaway email.

I'm one of the people who would want to know if my boyfriend was this crazy, but that's just me.

I don't know what to tell you about breaking it off with the guy. I think an email that tells him it's over and that you don't want to ever hear from him again will just make him want to find out why. You can't go the other route and tell him why because you know he'll just lie some more. It would be nice if you could just tell him that your old boyfriend got out of prison for manslaughter and that you've decided to take him back, but that just makes things too complicated.

Good luck.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:05 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

if you really really really want to tell his other victims, do it anonymously. heck, email me the info and i'll tell 'em. if they hear it from you, he'll hear it from them--and then you'll be the 'woman scorned.'
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

My point is to come up with an arbitrary reason that has nothing to do with him. You could say you're a joining the army, or relocating due to your job, or going to help a sick friend in the Andes.

But a lie about getting dumped for someone else can very well be perceived as being extremely personal. It is not unreasonable to think that "I'm in love with someone else" could trigger harrassment or even violence from someone like this, in a way that's less likely with the "I'm joining the army" or "I'm off to the Andes" lies. Even if the guy's not really an actual sociopath -- and who knows; the terms gets thrown around an awful lot (a fault of my own, sometimes) and he may very well just be a pathological liar and a jerk, though not actually clinically antisocial -- jealousy and a perceived sense of betrayal by a significant other can escalate a situation dangerously.

In any case, I don't think Anon needs to make up any excuse. I'm not sure if I'd call him out on his lying, etc. -- though it would be satisfying to do so, I imagine -- but at the very least she has every right to simply say "it's over and I'm moving on, so goodbye."
posted by scody at 5:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Do make sure you change your locks, if he might have a key.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:11 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm thinking strongly that perhaps you might use this as an opportunity to take a vacation. Deliver the news, then on the same day leave and go on vacation... no indication that you've departed, absolutely no contact from that point on, and so forth. This basically quarantines you from any insanity that goes along with him getting the news and gives you a chance to shift gears. By the time you get back in a couple of weeks, you'll find out about any hijinks that occurred while you were gone, and any tempers will have settled down. Hopefully by that time he will have figured out what to do with his life.

And of course you may want to have someone keep an eye on your house while you're gone; maybe the cops will agree to check on your place the next day, just in case. The house will survive without you; your peace of mind and safety are far more important.
posted by crapmatic at 5:13 PM on December 3, 2009

Be careful. If he's crazy enough to the the X and Y you've listed we have no idea what Z might be. Saying you're into someone else might lead to intense feelings that trigger dangerous activity. Is there any way you can just quietly back away from him?
posted by debbie_ann at 5:16 PM on December 3, 2009

I am so sorry about this experience for you. There are not a lot of psychopaths in the population, but they are very hard to spot and they do a lot of damage. What happened here is pure bad luck, not any indication of any problem with your judgment or good sense. Here's a little more info if you find it helpful: Dr. Hare has also written some very interesting books.

I will tell you from experience that the only effective way to deal with psychopaths is to make what you want them to do worth their while -- i.e., a behavioral approach works, a cognitive one fails. For psychopaths, the only person really in existence is themselves: no one else is real to them, and the rules don't apply except, again, to protect the psychopath himself. So don't bother to reproach him or tell him what he did was wrong. Just explain in a concrete way how much better off he'll be if he never, ever has contact with you again. Also, make it very hard to ever have contact again, in every available way, including blacklisting.

I hope you do tell the other woman about this guy. I'd be crystal clear that you will never have anything more to do with him, and very factual.

Take care and know that this awful guy is the exception, big time.
posted by bearwife at 5:19 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Lots of good advice here, especially about not lying and not entering into discussions with him, but let me add -

Change your locks. Change your passwords. Change everything that might let him impersonate you or falsely claim that he is authorised to act on your behalf. Change your bank account.

Does this sound paranoid? A friend of mine started dating someone like this. His story had a lot of inconsistencies and we persuaded her to start asking questions. It turns out that he had shown her a forged passport, apparently just to prevent her Googling his name. He would have forged a bank authorisation form in an instant.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:20 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Tell the exes.

They might not believe you. Just leave an open door, if they want to talk to you later, they can.

But I found that the one thing my sociopath ex responded to was a fear of being caught. Once I became a loose end with the ability to expose him, rather than a potentially willing victim, he ceased to try and win me back.
posted by politikitty at 5:22 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd turn the tale (tail?) on him, and tell him that you have been lying to him and you are really married. You have "recently reconciled with your husband" and "he knows everything", hence you can make an exit safely, I think without further drama. Do not interfere with his other fantasy lives, just get out completely. I dated one just like him and he nearly lost me my job when I broke it off with him. I remained very patronizing and polite but firm and he finally backed off. YOU need to do everything to keep yourself safe from this predator. Memail me if you want to talk more. Best of luck to you!
posted by ~Sushma~ at 5:22 PM on December 3, 2009

This is shitty. I'm sorry it happened to you.

The vacation idea is spot on. Change your locks, have a large guy friend house sit for you (know any gay, rugby-playing couples? Maybe one that owns a big dog?), take a couple of weeks to unwind and go scuba diving in Barbados.

I wouldn't lie to the guy, but do be ready for a Medusa Head of lies and manipulations from him when you drop this bomb. Call him up, tell him what you know, be ready for him to explain it all away, don't buy it, tell him that it's over as calmly as you can, hang up, go to the airport. You owe him nothing.

You don't owe this guy's other girl a heads-up either, but it would be the compassionate thing to do. Just don't expect her to believe you.
posted by Pecinpah at 5:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

As much as it might seem like the right thing to do to tell his "fiancee" about his shenanigans, I have a feeling that she already has at least 5 warning lights blinking in her face all day and has found a way to ignore them. Making her look at those lights can backfire on you in a big way, so I'd let her come to her own conclusions. If it were me, I would completely lie to this guy - tell him that your job is ending (hence no more $$) and that you are very likely moving farther away and that you want to start anew in your new town. You can drag this out for a very long time, if necessary, but the "I'm losing my job" ought to calm his jets a bit. Heck, if you can throw a vow of celibacy in there, do so - you'll be surprised at how easily he moves on.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:42 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Send flowers to the house of the guy and his live-in fiance. Include a nice note that says, "Heard about your impending nuptials! Congratulations!" And then blacklist the loser from your email, Facebook, cell phone, etc.

The subtle message there is, "Yes, I know, and I'm taking the high road by not making your life miserable. Don't push it."
posted by browse at 5:53 PM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

Do I have any obligation to inform his (other) girlfriend of his activities?

No. And if you do, you will not be able to get him out of your life easily. Leaving him is one thing; but if you start to threaten his entire life and identity, you don't know how he'll react.
posted by spaltavian at 6:29 PM on December 3, 2009

Tell him you're completely broke, ask him if you can borrow $2,000. Keep asking him. Then tell him your phone got cut off for non-payment, so he has to talk to you via email only. Then tell him you might get kicked out of your apartment in the next few days for not paying rent. Then break up with him. He'll probably be more than happy to leave you alone.

And do all the smart security things other people have mentioned here.
posted by kathrineg at 6:41 PM on December 3, 2009 [12 favorites]

Unless you enjoy drama, just stop responding to his calls/texts/emails. Big whoop.
posted by trevyn at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Please, please tell any other people he may be involved with. If you have proof (i.e. emails to you or others or messages he's posted on boards) make sure they see these as they likely will not believe you otherwise.

I do not think you should make up a story about why you're breaking up with him. I think you should tell him you're breaking up with him because you found out he's lying and cheating, but if you're not comfortable with that, simply refuse to give him a reason.
posted by Violet Hour at 6:54 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just a quick note about (3) - getting over the shock. Once you have met one of these types and gotten over it, it will immunize you against encountering others if you keep your eyes open. It is very shocking to realize that some people you know really are pure evil and are capable of any crime, if they think they will get away with it.

On the bright side, be glad this was a short relationship and he's a fair distance away. My sister married one of these creeps - and with ample warning from others about what she was getting into. Her life has been ruined several times over by her husband, but she actively prefers his lies to anyone else's truth. So don't be surprised if his fiancee likes living in fantasy land.
posted by benzenedream at 7:09 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Part of me is also scared he will flip out in some unprecedented way--he has a nasty temper at times, though he's never been violent with me. I just want never to hear from him again

Read The Gift of Fear. Contact him and let him know you are moving on and you don't want to know anything about him. Tell him explicitly no to contact you anymore, not even by phone, email or social networks, and if he contacts you, you'll go to the police. Don't give him any reasons, be curt, firm and businesslike.

Block him and his ex in all your social networks and change your privacy levels to the highest. Change your locks and let your neighbors, landlord, coworkers, friends and family that you had to end the relationship and he's not allowed in your home/workplace and he's not entitled to know anything about you anymore. This is not drama, it's protecting yourself.

Hopefully he won't contact you again and try instead to find an easier mark. It's highly possible that the other girl won't believe you if you tell her. Your spidey sense was tingling for months, why isn't hers too?

I think there are situations that justify snooping and yours is one of them. I'm sorry you had to go through this. Good luck and keep us posted!
posted by clearlydemon at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

Based on your description alone, it sounds like he's, literally, a 'sociopath,' and possibly a 'sex addict.' Thus, if you confront him, there are any number of unforeseen ways he could retaliate, and if you tell his other girlfriends, likewise, the least of which would be making up lies about you. Echoing others, I would say: 1) Don't confront him. 2) Lie only as much as you need to to extricate yourself from the situation. Don't say anything that could make him more interested in you and continuing the relationship, for whatever reason. Maybe run by your 'break-up' message with a few close confidantes before sending it. 3) Keep the same phone, email, etc, for a while to monitor his response, then once he begins to fade away, or if he becomes too belligerent, blacklist him and change all your contact info. After making it clear that you want to end the relationship, under no circumstances respond to any of his solicitations. 4) Changing your locks and any other security precautions may be a good idea-- especially if he doesn't seem to respond well and go away. 5) The vacation plan seems like a good idea, but probably not necessary. 6) His other girlfriends would definitely benefit from you telling them about him-- which may be necessary if, hopefully not, knock on wood, an STD is involved-- but seems precarious, since it would contradict your fabricated reason for breaking up with him. To do it, you would basically have to tell him the real reasons. I don't know if I've so much added to the discussion as summarized most of its most reasonable suggestions. Hopefully, though, this is of some help. Good luck
posted by cotesdurhone at 7:16 PM on December 3, 2009

Great advice here other than for the suggestions to make up a bunch of grandiose stories.

I'd just add if, for any reason, you are truly scared and are in the position to move, then move to a new place. I'd just drop him totally through the email method. You don't have to be a liar yourself to do it. Some of what you say sounds familiar to me too. Bet you had a weird feeling about him from the very beginning. I know I did when I was seeing someone like him. That feeling really bugged me too. I kept trying to pinpoint what it was and thought it might be that he had many girls that he made all believe they were the only one. It's also that socio/psychopathic side to them that makes you feel like something's "just not right" and it's not either. Always trust your gut.

You sound like a smart girl that's got it together. As far as getting over the shock, I'd think a big part of you would feel such a great relief for getting all of this out in the open that it should very much alleviate the hurt part of yourself. BS has a way of destroying any good feelings left.

Contact the other girls if it's an easy thing to do and something you really feel like doing. I find it hard to believe that the one he lives with is totally in the dark. I bet she knows. Pretty scary what couples pull of together sometimes. Who knows? Maybe he goes and lives with other women and brings home money from them to her. You never know.

I know one of the biggest red flags that went off for me was when you wrote he was in great financial difficulty. That's not a good character trait. The whole death thing he's pulling with the former business associate. That makes him sound like a creep too.

You shouldn't be called out for snooping--and no one has--because you absolutely did the right thing.

To be done with him in a neat and efficient way is to come up with one thing that is true and you know won't set him off. I didn't want to draw a whole break-up scenario out with my similar guy, so I didn't bring up any of my suspicions over all the internet personals and other women stuff or about a million other red flags. I kept it simple and said, "We just have too different of tastes from one another."

The most important thing is to do it and that's that. Go on with your life. Do not be in contact with him ever again. For instance, I got a "Happy Thanksgiving" email from my similar guy and I did not respond. Once I'm done with something, that's it. I suggest you do the same.

Good luck.
posted by VC Drake at 7:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm partial to the George Costanza approach for this particular situation. Start talking obsessively about adopting special needs kids. Ask if it's okay for the adoption agency to do a background check..
posted by tfmm at 7:31 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do make it clear to him why you're breaking up with him, and either hint or flat out say that it can be easy or it can be hard--if he harasses you about breaking up, you'll blow his cover. If he leaves you alone, you won't.

Personally, if the STD test results show something bad, I would find a way to tell the other women. They deserve to know.

And yes, change your locks and all your passwords AND security questions.

Best of luck to you.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:51 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine went through something similar. In her case, I'm not sure about the guy having multiple partners but he did have a wife (apparently they lived together part of the time?), was in financial ruin-basically living extravagantly on credit cards, lied constantly about what he did professionally, she never met his friends or family, when it was time for them to move in together (him moving to her neck of the woods), he backed out with a lame excuse. Her spidey senses tingled and she DTMFA. After that, he pretty much stalked her for a year.

What he did:

-Drove 200 miles to see her with an engagement ring. When she tried to leave, he physically held on to her and wouldn't let go.

-He knew places she hung out so he would drive up and stay at those places hoping to run into her. Sometimes all night. He never did run into her but would call and leave a message or email her about it.

-Emailed and called her incessantly. At times it seemed he understood what had happened and at others, he seemed to still think they were together. At first, my friend just thought he was having a hard time getting over the break-up. But, then she realized he was delusional.

-Incrementally told her half truths about why he behaved the way he did, including finally telling her he was married for "convenience".

-Sent her packages of gifts for her.

-And finally, since he had the key, tried to enter her apartment while she was home. When he could not get in, he went to her therapists office looking for her(what a nutjob!) The therapist gave him a session!

What she did:
-Changed her number and started using a different email address so she would only get emails from him in one account so that she could monitor the crazy. BTW-he somehow found her new number and she just got rid of the phone altogether.

-Threw all packages from him in the garbage without opening them.

-Changed her locks.(thank goodness she did that a week before he tried to come into her apartment. He did get in the building though)

-Got a restraining order against him.

-And, eventually moved.

I don't say any of this to scare you but I think you might be only seeing the tip of the iceberg with this guy. Considering the nature of this situation, it seems to me you can do one of two things in terms of your breakup plans: either just stop communicating with him entirely with no warning but this might produce extreme behavior on his part or send an email.Tell him off and tell him never to contact you again or there will be repercussions (ie. restraining order) With the email, you will get to tell him what you think and how you feel which I think will be helpful to you in the long run. Then, monitor any crazy behavior afterward. If he has keys or anything like that, change your locks. Heck, even change your passwords to stuff and definitely de-friend him from any social networking site you may be a part of. If you have friends in common (either on or off-line, be sure to inform them of what's happening) Just be prepared, armed and proactive because you don't know how this will all wash out. It may not be as quick and neat as you would like. Also, make sure to tell a or a few close friends what's going on and how you plan on handling things.

I'm so sorry you're experiencing this and I wish you good luck in being able to move past this.
posted by Hydrofiend at 8:07 PM on December 3, 2009

Do not tell a lie to get out of a relationship with a pathological liar. I like the suggestion above by Browse about the flowers to the house congratulating the couple and then, in the evening of the day he would get the flowers, a quick email telling him simply, "I must end our relationship. I want no further contact in any form. It will be easier that way. Good luck."

Tell your family and friends to be aware that nut job may be in the woodwork up to no good. If you live in a small enough town, tell the local police your story. Let them be aware that if they get a call from you about an ex-boyfriend bothering you, they should take it seriously and timely. Often, restraining orders are put in place so that when the psycho does come a calling, the police will respond immediately. A true psycho will not be stopped by a restraining order.

Under no circumstances should you have any further contact with him. Do not respond to his emails. Or calls. I would strongly consider changing my phone number.

As for telling the others, it will help them, but it will be either no help or a hindrance to your goal of getting rid of this guy quickly and cleanly. If you think your safety is in any way compromised, then do not tell them. Yet.

I also think you should consider the day of the week when you tell him. I would consider doing it on a Friday or Saturday knowing that his live-in will be around so it will be harder for him to do anything. Monday through Thursday, he has all day to do whatever it is he is going to do. The weekend also makes your schedule less predictable. During the week you go to work. If you can, vary the time and route to work. Travel with someone whenever you can. Try never to be alone in public until you are convinced he is not a threat.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:31 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

The fact that you live far away is a huge bonus. As soon as you break up, no matter how you do it, block his email address, defriend him on Facebook if applicable, and change your phone number. If you're really worried, move (obviously a lot easier if you're renting).

I think you have 3 options:

1. Drop him cold turkey. Just stop returning his calls and emails and never talk to him ever again. Sounds totally weird and passive-aggresive but I've had friends who've broken up this way with long-distance boyfriends.

2. Tell him that you're not interested in continuing the relationship and that you are ending all contact so you can move on. It's honest, and face-saving for him, but the downside is that he may see it as some sort of challenge and fight to keep you.

3. Tell him that you're sorry but you've become interested in (or dating) someone else and are therefore ending things and ceasing all contact. Yes, it's deceptive and a lot of people above have argued against this method, but in my experience, it's the most drama-free way to break up. If you just break up with him by saying "it's not working out" he will probaby be all "But whyyyyy????" and keep on pestering you or trying to make it work. And he may suspect that you've met someone else anyways- men like this guy tend to think that they're the cat's meow, and no one would just break up with them "for no reason" but they can rationalize the fact that you're breaking up with them because you met someone else. I used to always believe that honestly was the best policy, but I've had two break-ups in which the ex hounded me for months until I lied and told them I was seeing someone else just to get them off my back- I think it just adds a note of finality or explanation or something.

Lastly- if you do decide to tell his live-in girlfriend, let it be through an anonymous letter or phone call. You do not want any ties whatsoever to this man.
posted by emd3737 at 9:13 PM on December 3, 2009

Then tell him you might get kicked out of your apartment in the next few days for not paying rent.

Huh? If you sound this desperate, and you claim to have no phone, wouldn't you be risking that he'd quickly travel to your apartment to try to help you in person? Of course, normally you wouldn't visit someone 400 miles away without making a mutual plan, but he'd have the perfect excuse: "I thought you were in dire need of assistance, and I wasn't able to get through to you..."

I think Johnny Gunn has the best answer.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:15 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you're probably right. My plan hinges on his complete unwillingness to assist someone unless he can get something out of it (i.e. a place to live, possible financial support when his current runs out of cash), his possibly financial inability to fly, come to her rescue, whatever, and his need to find someone else to leech off of. But it is a somewhat fantastic (in the sense of being fantasy) suggestion. Sorry!
posted by kathrineg at 9:26 PM on December 3, 2009

But you need to consider that he might have a certain type of macho psychology wherein "rescuing" his woman could be exciting to him. If you read the chapter on prostitution in the book Superfreakonomics, you'll see descriptions of how johns will shower prostitutes with expensive gifts, on top of paying the actual price. Those men obviously aren't trying to cultivate relationships with the women; the very act of showering women with gifts is arousing to them. You're right that he might lack the financial ability -- or, maybe he's financially reckless and wouldn't think twice about dropping the money if he feels like you're actually begging him to do so.

Basically, you want to minimize the probability that what you do will aggravate him or prompt him to get further involved with your life. The scenario I've described probably wouldn't happen, but it might, and that's reason enough to resist the temptation to get back at him by creating your own web of lies.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:03 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's easy to label people psychopaths. Compulsive liar and serial adulterer seem to fit. True psychopaths are without any kind of controls or empathy. You would probably already have seen evidence of potential violence if it were in the works.
Nevertheless, take steps to protect yourself by making a quick, clean break. Telling lies only creates more confusion and possibly prolongs things. I would avoid any reference to his behavior, lies or anything else you've discovered. Things aren't working out between you, you've decided to move on, have a good life, goodbye. Then do all the suggested blacklistings with an eye to monitoring communications for evidence of some kind of freakout. Silence and lack of responsiveness is a great strategy. If he persists in any way, one warning, then a restraining order short and sweet.
When manipulative people try to draw you into their web, remember, this is about you, not about him and his needs. Your health, your safety, your well being. He may well try to play on your sympathies. Block that right away. Don't allow the communication to get started.
If after six months you feel you are safely out of the way, then think about anonymously letting the other woman know. Unless you feel secure enough for taking on any heavy weather that might come down if you do.
posted by diode at 10:21 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

He does sound like a sociopath, so he could be dangerous: http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

You have a choice. You can tell everyone you know what's happened, and go to the police to try and get an order of protection. Or, you can slowly break it off with him through a series of lies. Tell him you've lost your job and are spending time with family, then that you're moving, etc.

I do think you have an obligation to let others in his life know. However, you also have an obligation to ensure your own safety. Drop this guy and then let the word out anonymously. Be careful, sociopaths will violently turn on those that expose them.
posted by xammerboy at 10:49 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen anyone address this, so:

I'm a bit worried by how much you felt you had to justify your "snooping" to us. And worried that either you think you don't have the RIGHT to *any* information about people you date, or that the amount of information you *do* feel entitled to is not high enough to protect you. (Not only physically, although there is that, and not even just from people like this guy, but from ordinary players, liars, scammers).

Every couple has the right to set the privacy boundaries in their relationship. We don't get to force the amt of privacy we want/don't want in a relationship on to the other person, but we DO get to walk away if a satisfactory agreement isn't reached.

Personally, for example, I wouldn't feel comfortable in a relationship where I couldn't check out the pictures or whatever that my boyfriend had in his phone, whenever. Or where he couldn't check out mine.

It's not about trust or suspicion, it's just about preferring that level of openness.

I'm not saying everyone has to prefer the privacy boundaries (or lack thereof) that I prefer. I'm just saying, if you felt as if you didn't even have the right to talk to the woman your own boyfriend was living with for a year, it might be helpful to make an adjustment to that stuff the next time.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Absolutely tell the others. It's not about deserving to know; it's about needing to know. Do it anonymously -- MeMail me if you want me to take care of one of them (someone else above offered the same thing). Depending on where you live, we can make sure the letters have postmarks from somewhere distant from you. And the sociopath will look at the postmark, believe me.
posted by tzikeh at 2:06 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Count me in with the 'tell a big mild lie' crowd. You're re-evaluating your life and don't want to be in a relationship right now. Whatever. Just get out of there as cleanly as possible. Don't say anything that he will want to respond to or tell more lies to get out of, don't hurt his ego, don't show your anger. All of these things are going to provoke drama and crazy pants. You want to be dull, dull, dull and not at all personal about it.

Wait a few months and anonymously tell the girlfriend.

Get some support for yourself; this sounds really awful and like one of those things that can permanently shake up your worldview. The world isn't made of creatures like this but they're out there and every once in a while, there they are.

Maybe there's something you can get out of this that you can learn from without becoming cynical and suspicious. I think if you decide that you are going to do that early on, you have a better chance of coming through this older and wiser without being older and bitter.

Good luck and I'm really sorry.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:08 AM on December 4, 2009

I dated a pathological liar once. Upon breaking up with him, I was so tempted to call him out on all of his BS. I even wrote him a pages-long email and saved it in my Drafts folder - I never sent it, though. Now I'm glad that I didn't. Liars like this also love drama; even worse, they have no shame. Even if you produce clear evidence of all of his lies to him, he'll twist things around and insist that you are wrong. He'll walk away acting like you're the psycho, not him.

In my case, I told the person that I was simply in no shape to be in a relationship, which happened to be trust for many reasons - including my utter disgust at the warped garbage that continually spewed from his mouth. He put up a "fight" for a bit, but his huge ego wouldn't allow him to harass me. Incidentally, I was vaguely worried that he would flip out, too. Again, his pride wouldn't let him do that. He sent me a few emails over the following nine months or so, and I didn't respond to a single one. Today, I have no clue what he's up to/who his current victim is, and I'm glad.

Tell this guy that you're done without pointing fingers. Don't bother calling him out, it's not worth it. Walk away and ignore any further attempts on his part to communicate with you. Hopefully, he'll get the point quickly enough. Good luck!
posted by meggie78 at 3:43 AM on December 4, 2009 [7 favorites]

2) Do I have any obligation to inform his (other) girlfriend of his activities? By all accounts she's a decent person, and I feel horrible for having been the unwitting other woman.

No, and don't. Your heart is in the right place, but she wouldn't listen to you - he would come up with some convincing lie to explain it, you'd look bad, and nothing would change. It would only ADD drama to the situation. She has to find out the same way you did - cold, hard experience. Since he is such a good "performer" he would immediately find a way to cover up whatever you say, and as you mention, she's more inclined to believe him than you.

Good luck, and you're doing the right thing moving on from this guy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:40 AM on December 4, 2009

Make a clean break. No explanations. Tell him it's over, and that's it. Tell him not to contact you ever again.

Get a restraining order. I seriously, really, mean it about the restraining order. It's easy.

You'll file. They'll give you a court date, and you'll have X days to have him served papers notifying him.. He'll be given a chance in court to defend himself, and if he doesn't show up, it's a slam dunk win for you.

If he violates the restraining order, in any way shape or form, he will be immediately hauled off to jail. But you'll have to call, and they'll have to catch him. The stories you hear about "the cops did nothing" are bullshit.
posted by Xoebe at 5:51 AM on December 4, 2009

Tell your family and friends to be aware that nut job may be in the woodwork up to no good.

This. If he can't get to you (especially long distance), he may start contacting your friends and family, if he's a "hell hath no fury" mentally ill type.
posted by availablelight at 6:01 AM on December 4, 2009

Just say that you know he proposed marriage to her and break up with him. If he shows up, call the cops and get a restraining order.

This is all about your strength of will to cut him out of your life. Examine situations with him that cause problems with willpower and focus on being prepared to say no in those situations.

Don't tell anyone else, your obligation is to yourself and involving others only ratchets up the possibility of drama.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:25 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think the way to handle the breakup is to get him to break up with you.

Telling him you've lost your job, joined the Army, or that you are moving is too easy to check out. I like the idea of asking to borrow money that kathrineg mentioned above. Or come up with something messy like being diagnosed with a chronic but not fatal illness. As long as you are not superstitious re inviting fate and he is not a rescuer type.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:32 AM on December 4, 2009

Can you send her an anonymous email from a throwaway account? I feel so sorry for her.

Tell him you got married to an ex-con who was recently paroled after being in jail for a long time after killing his ex-wife's ex-boyfriend. Tell him he's a wrestler and gun enthusiast, and extremely jealous.
posted by anniecat at 7:08 AM on December 4, 2009


Seriously, do not tell lies to a pathological liar. Don't. They'll figure it out, and they'll twist it.

Tell some version of the truth, and then cut ties. Nth-ing the suggestion of The Gift of Fear.

NO LIES. They will only make things worse.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:39 AM on December 4, 2009 [10 favorites]

Please let us know how this turns out for you. We are thinking of you.
posted by bearwife at 9:02 AM on December 4, 2009

Unless you enjoy drama, just stop responding to his calls/texts/emails. Big whoop.

This is a very good option. So is anything very brief but clear; the next time he calls, you might just say, "It's over between us; good-bye." and then turn off the phone until you can get the number changed, kill list his e-mail address, etc. My own very brief relationship with a lying charmer like this showed me that it's really easy to get sucked back in, and in general there's no advantage in a big break-up chat even with a moderately sane person. The only cure for what ails you right now is to get away from him and make it stick.

My own sociopath and I broke up when his other girlfriend and I found out about each other, and we confronted him together--trying to come up with a story that would fix things with both of us while we both stood there almost made him fly into pieces. I almost felt sorry for him. But he got the message very clearly and didn't try to make contact with me again.

Don't tell a story. Just be firm and clear.
posted by not that girl at 10:05 AM on December 4, 2009

I'm amazed at the number of people who think it's a good idea for the OP to lie to this guy. These could backfire in any number of awful ways.
posted by canine epigram at 10:16 AM on December 4, 2009

If you do decide to tell the other women, I would highly recommend moving first. And maybe even switching jobs. Psychopaths do not take kindly to others exposing their lies. I've seen it happen. You really have no idea what you might be unleashing by making his world coming crashing down.
posted by whoaali at 10:24 AM on December 4, 2009

Or come up with something messy like being diagnosed with a chronic but not fatal illness.

Tell him you got married to an ex-con who was recently paroled after being in jail for a long time after killing his ex-wife's ex-boyfriend. Tell him he's a wrestler and gun enthusiast, and extremely jealous.

What Sidhedevil said.

Who do you think is a better liar, you or him? Why would you want to get into a fibbing contest?

Honest, direct, blunt, public communication is kryptonite to these people. Shame, secrecy, and one-on-one communication is what they feed on.

Sociopaths are not merely creepy selfish dudes. They think in a very different way, e.g. "Chronic illness -- awesome, I'm going to try my hardest to get into her will before she dies!" Playing psychological games with them is like trying to out-think a mad dog.
posted by benzenedream at 10:33 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Honest, direct, blunt, public communication is kryptonite to these people

Honest, direct, blunt, public communication is a challenge to these people. Per Hydrofiend at 11:07.

Realistically, no one can predict how this person will react.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:52 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I dated a guy like this. We broke up almost two years ago. He's still going bonkers (until earlier this month when the law came down hard on him, and even then, I'm still being very careful).

If he sends you anything, email, letters or gifts, you don't have to open them but don't throw them away. The police will fall all over themselves to help you if you have evidence of continued contact past when you said 'no more'. They can help get you off tax records, for instance, if you move. They can prioritise your phone number if you ever have to call them in an emergency. Document everything, write down missed calls, etc.

TELL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS EVERYTHING. I was so ashamed of how bad he had treated me and that he was still harassing me that I hid the truth from friends and family. They could have helped me and I didn't let them in and had a lot of 'splainin' to do when things took a turn for the worse.

If you do decide to tell the other woman, be prepared not to be believed. If you contact her, it's a one-off deal. After that it's her lookout.

Good luck and memail me if you want to chat.
posted by Cuppatea at 11:47 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Realistically, no one can predict how this person will react.

which is exactly why you should NOT LIE TO HIM

anyone presenting an elaborate lie as a solution should describe any situation in which this worked in real life (no Kate Hudson movies do not count as real life)

break it off with a long email rather than a short one. Say everything you want to say, and ask for a month of space with no contact from him to "process" before he's allowed to contact you. After a month tell him you never want to hear from him again. If he contacts you before that, say the same thing.

Do not tell his gf, it's neither your duty nor in your best interests.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:56 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yikes! Well my anecdotal experience is that even when you catch liars out on their extreme lies, it doesn't really make a difference. Seriously, one friend caught out her boyfriend for cheating and as it played out, even their break-up discussions/processing was nothing but lies on his end. The fact that he lied all the way through the break-up/settling of accounts even after she confronted it was like salt in the wound. The STD part is tricky, but honestly you'd be stirring a hornet's nest telling his girlfriend/fiance - best just to get yourself tested and then move on with removing him from your existence.

Good luck. It's not as extreme, but I have one ex who seems to have a different version of reality for whichever person he's dealing with. After I got over the initial shock (and he still doesn't know some of the things I figured out about him), my attitude towards him has mostly been pity. Because considering how this behavior has screwed up our friendship, I can imagine how many other parts of his life he's also screwed up by behaving this way.
posted by green_flash at 12:27 PM on December 4, 2009

Liars like this also love drama; even worse, they have no shame. Even if you produce clear evidence of all of his lies to him, he'll twist things around and insist that you are wrong. He'll walk away acting like you're the psycho, not him.

This is so important to keep in mind. There is no satisfaction you can get from someone like this. They will never admit that they're wrong and you're right; they will never express shame or remorse; they will never apologize; they will never accept responsibility -- none of that is in their nature.

You will run yourself ragged and put yourself in line for further hurt, anger, humiliation, and all-around craziness if you operate from the expectation that there is anything you can say or do to generate any response like this from your soon-to-be-ex. All satisfaction (or "closure," such as it is -- though it's a term I hate) in this situation is to be gained from yourself alone: by cutting ties cleanly and completely, protecting yourself fully, and moving ahead confidently with the support of friends and family.
posted by scody at 12:43 PM on December 4, 2009 [8 favorites]

Mod note: comments removed - this is sort of going far afield team
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:31 PM on December 4, 2009

As someone who was lied to a bunch by someone I dated, I feel qualified to respond to #3.

1. For awhile I had trouble with feeling stupid. I kept telling myself that Oh! I should have known! I should have seen this! How could I have gone so long without noticing what was right in front of me?

But look: It's not your fault. It's not. Really! Being in a relationship with someone who lied to you doesn't mean you were stupid, it doesn't mean you were gullible, it doesn't mean you were blind. It doesn't mean anything about you as a person. You didn't do anything wrong. Keep repeating that to yourself for as long as necessary.

2. See a therapist. Again, you didn't do anything wrong, but this is a pretty big blow, so you'll need some help to get through it. Talk to your friends and family about it, too, of course, but the therapist is important.

3. Along with not feeling stupid comes not feeling embarrassed. Don't pull away from your friends and family because of this. They love you, and they will understand. It's really important to keep whatever social habits you had before. You're entitled to wallow for awhile, but don't do it to the exclusion of everything else. Having other people around will help you feel better faster, even if it's hard at first.

4. Don't be ashamed of being cautious with the next person you date, however long from now you decide to date again. I'm now dating a wonderful guy who is very understanding about my trust issues. When we started getting serious, I told him, Look, I have some trust issues from a past relationship, so bear with me. Whenever I felt weird or skeptical about something he said or did, I would ask him about it right away so as not to let it fester in my head. He was very patient about explaining to me things he might not have had to explain to any other girl. I didn't have to ask him about very many things, and now that we've been together for awhile, I trust him completely.

But my current relationship is going well due in part to #2. Really, talk to a therapist.

4a. But also don't be ashamed of trusting your gut. If you happen to find that you can't seem to trust someone you're dating no matter how hard you try, it's okay to walk away.

5. This doesn't seem like it'll be too hard for you, but really, cut off all contact. If you're social-networky like me, don't follow him on Twitter, don't look at his Flickr photos or his Facebook status or read his website or anything of that sort. If he sends you any emails, do not read them. As far as you're concerned, he used to exist, but he doesn't anymore.

I hope this helps. When my situation occurred, I didn't think I'd ever trust anyone again. And it is hard sometimes, even a year and a half later. But it can be done! Good luck.
posted by bluishorange at 7:04 PM on December 4, 2009 [7 favorites]

Oh, and the vacation idea is spot on. Change your locks first, and have someone check on your place every now and then while you're gone, but getting out of town for awhile could be really helpful.
posted by bluishorange at 7:07 PM on December 4, 2009

Wow! bluishorange that was so awesome to read. I'm still "recovering" from my similar experience and that was really, really cool to read what you wrote.

And Sidhedevil, so true.
posted by VC Drake at 9:08 PM on December 11, 2009

So-- what happened? Did everything work out?
posted by cotesdurhone at 9:29 PM on February 11, 2010

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