Is too much truth a dangerous thing?
July 27, 2011 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Had a hunch about my SO's texting, followed it up and found I was right. Tried to make it right but I'm not sure if I have succeeded. Feeling like I might be crazy, insecure, a door mat, or all three. I know I'm not alone out there with this type of situation, wondering how others have handled things and what the outcomes were. Thanks in advance for taking a minute to read/answer (okay a of couple minutes, it's on the long side!)

So….a couple of months ago my boyfriend started acting oddly. He was texting more and became sort of protective of his phone and the texts were sometimes late at night or early in the morning. I didn’t want to become that jealous prying type of person so I just let it go at first. He had mentioned a girl that he works with a few times in passing as anyone mentions coworkers during the course of conversations at home and I did know that he went over to her place to help her with a car repair so she wouldn’t have to pay for a mechanic. In turn her brother gave him some old equipment he didn’t need. A trade of sorts. He does that kind of thing for people all the time so I thought nothing of it. Then a few more things happened that started to make my brain tell me ‘um, something is not quite right’.

He started talking about going to a few work events when previously he avoided them like the plague. So while we were visiting friends one day a couple weeks ago, I grabbed his phone to look at his texts because I just had to know if it was this girl from work that he was texting all the time, I couldn’t take the what-ifs going on in my head (when I did casually ask “hey who are you talking to?” he’d say “oh it’s just (fill in name of male friend here)”).

My hunch was correct. There were texts from this girl from that whole day although he had obviously deleted the previous days’ file. There was also a text from a male co-worker saying ‘hey I asked Chelsea if she likes you and she told me she’d totally go out with you if you were single’ and a reply from him saying ‘hey dude you are going to get me into trouble lol’. He grabbed his phone back right after that but I said “oh so she likes you hey, how nice for you”. He said “oh ya Derek was just fooling around, it’s no big deal”. I tried to have it be no big deal, I really did, but he became even more protective of his phone (obviously because I looked at his phone and saw the messages).

He started charging it in odd places in the house and sleeping with it. I got up early on a day he was going out of town and saw the phone had fallen next to the bed so with my heart pounding and feeling like a giant loser I again looked at the texts and found a message asking if he was still coming by on his way out of town. The logical thing my brain told me was that she was still wanting him to fix the other thing on her car that he didn’t have time for when he was there the first time, but the not so happy part of my brain said you giant a**hole why are you lying to me unless there is something you want to hide?!
I let it go for the day feeling hurt and dejected and very sorry that I read the phone but not wanting to have a serious conversation over text or phone about how I was feeling. By the time he got back 2 days later he could tell I was ticked and asked what was wrong. I thought, I’ll give him the chance to tell the truth and said, “I have a feeling that you might have been other places than at work while you were away, is that the case? “ He got angry and said he didn’t know what I was talking about, told me a story about stopping to scan some documents quickly and then hitting the road. That’s when I lost it because that was a lie right to my face!! I said,”I’m going to come clean here, I read your phone and I know you were at Chelsea’s house, what I want to know is why you are lying right to my face!” He looked shocked and said, “well, yes I was there, but it was just to fix her car for 15 maybe 20 minutes and I was back on the road”. I asked why he felt he needed to lie, if it was helping a friend out then there shouldn’t be anything to hide. He insisted that nothing had happened and but that he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want to have a fight about going to her house since I had reacted badly to the text messages a month or so before.

We had a long talk about being truthful and he mentioned he was worried I wouldn’t be able to trust him again and I said I’d try as hard as I could because I did believe that he was faithful but that he would have to tell me the truth from now on. Previously he has said that men and women don’t make good friends because usually one person ends up attracted to the other but he maintained that he is not attracted to her other than as a friend.
I felt really good about our talk, I thought we had cleaned the slate and were getting back on solid ground. Then last week he got a text just before 1 am and I looked over, could see on the phone that it was Chelsea, but when I said oh who is that texting so late he responded “oh it’s Derek”. I had a huge presentation at work the next morning so again I just let it go until there was a better time to talk.

When we talked the next day he insisted at first that he hadn’t been texting her at all lately because I had gotten so upset the last time. He again looked shocked/chagrined that I knew for a fact that what he just said to me was a big old line of BS, explaining that I saw the text from her come in seeing as I was SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM AND HAVE GOOD EYESIGHT (FYI the text was saying she would love to give him a massage).
I kind of lost my s**t at this point and said I was tired of thinking the worst, that he may think they are friends but she obviously has more on her mind and he is doing nothing to discourage that. I know it feels good to have someone be attracted to you, to feel like you are still a desirable person but there is a LINE. He asked what is it was going to take for me to believe there is nothing going on between them and I think I very clearly explained that I don’t think there is a physical relationship, however, I do think that in her mind things may be a bit beyond friendship and that what I NEED is the TRUTH! At all times!!

If I ask who is texting every so often (which we both ask each other occasionally just out of curiosity) just TELL ME THE TRUTH. He asked how that would have gone over on the 1am text and I said, in all honesty, not well, as I do not feel it is appropriate for a female co-worker to text you about a massage at 1am on a night off as you are in a committed relationship, but at least if you’d told me the truth when I asked we could have talked about my concerns then and trust wouldn’t have been an issue (again). I know you can’t control what someone sends to your phone but he could have shut it down with, um hey you know my girlfriend saw that text and it didn’t go over well or words to that effect.

So we had another great big talk where I explained why I feel she is interested in more than friendship and that I believe he should think about that and perhaps put some distance between them for awhile (which is fair for her too because if she’s hung up on him she could be missing other opportunities to meet people), but regardless of that, to be honest to me so that my brain doesn’t go into worst case scenario mode as I have lost enough sleep to this stress already. It took about four days for the texts to start again, he is still texting her/getting texts but I haven’t asked him who it is because I am trying to tell myself that I obviously can’t control this and I don’t want to be an obsessive insecure person as that isn’t really who I am.

As a side note this is only my third significant relationship and the only one since I lost my husband in my 20's. We are both in our 30's have no children together and have been living together for four years now.

So, my questions are:
For the people out there that have been through this: What did you (or your partner) do, how did it work out?

Am I doing the right thing by letting the texting go or am I just being a doormat?

How can I calm my negative thoughts about the situation that swirl around in my head every time his phone beeps?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (78 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think he's playing a game with you -- either cheating or thinking about it, and then making you feel like the one who is unreasonable. At best, he's proven that he will lie to you and that he will not alter his behavior even when it is making you miserable.

I wouldn't call you a doormat. I would say you are overly generous and trying very (too) hard to keep this relationship.
posted by Houstonian at 7:14 PM on July 27, 2011 [72 favorites]

I'm of the opinion here that where's there's smoke, there's fire. He may not have had sex with her or did anything physically inappropriate (though, he also very well might have, too), but he seems to be carrying on some sort of emotional attachment, so much so that to protect it, he felt he had to lie to you on multiple occasions.

You can't trust him. He's a liar. Move forward with this knowledge.
posted by inturnaround at 7:14 PM on July 27, 2011 [17 favorites]

I'm sorry, but if he's sitting right next to you and texting another woman who is offering him a massage, you need to find another boyfriend. I mean, he's doing that right in front of you. What do you think he's doing when you aren't around?
posted by MegoSteve at 7:16 PM on July 27, 2011 [81 favorites]

I'm frankly shocked you didn't DTMFA at the first message about her "liking" him. Your boyfriend sounds juvenille and he either has a romantic crush or at least the hots for this girl. I'd stand back and let them have one another; they deserve it. Good riddance. I'm amazed you've put up with this crap so long.
posted by Nixy at 7:17 PM on July 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry this is happening, but you need to stop checking his phone. It's hard to really see your perspective because you keep crossing a line by checking his phone. That's not a mature way to handle your fears or stress.

That said, now that you've had seen the phone and had these conversations, his evasiveness and excuses are worrying. You should tell him you're not happy with these excuses and not comfortable with the relationship he has with this woman, and that you haven't been happy with the clarity and honesty he's been displaying during the conversations about this. I'm not saying DTMFA, but neither of you is in a good place in this relationship right now.
posted by sweetkid at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

How can I calm my negative thoughts about the situation that swirl around in my head every time his phone beeps?

You don't. His secretive behavior thus far has indicated that he's actively deciding to keep something from you, even though you've actively asked for the (not so innocent) truth. I hate to say it, (but not really) DTMFA.
posted by Asherah at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

DMTFA already.

whether there is actually anything physical going on, what he is doing is unacceptable in a relationship. he should have set boundaries with this girl long ago but he hasn't. he obviously likes the attention at "best" or is really cheating at worst. and he obviously doesn't give a crap that it is upsetting to you bc if he had, he would have stopped communicating with her outside of work and only kept his relationship with her professional long ago.

dump him.
posted by violetk at 7:19 PM on July 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

You have two choices here: stay and accept, or go. You can't make him be good.

You've repeatedly made a point that you're not agreeable with this situation and yet he has not stopped it. He could. Even if it's the most innocent thing in the world (and he's just reeeealy dense), he could stop it. He hasn't. Why? Because there's a greater payoff in continuing than there is in stopping. Not to get all Dr. Phil, but he's getting something out of this. Maybe he's just getting his ego boosted, maybe he's getting his knob polished. Either way, it's better for him than not doing it.

The question you're asking is "how do I stay with this guy?" It's the wrong question, but you may not be ready for the real answer yet. Stay and accept, or go. There's people out there who won't act like that, though, and you should consider whether you'd rather be with one of them or with him.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:19 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was in a somewhat similar situation in which a partner had a very intimate friendship with another girl, and even though he wasn't physically cheating on me it made me feel like crap. We broke up and I'm much happier now.
posted by emd3737 at 7:19 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

If, after four years, you can't believe him when he says there's nothing going on, and he's not willing to do whatever it takes to make you feel good about his relationship with his coworker (including cutting it off), your relationship is always going to be miserable.

All I know about your relationship is what you've written here, but it sounds like you're staying with him just because, and he's holding on to you until something better comes along.
posted by ignignokt at 7:21 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is whack.

He started charging it in odd places in the house and sleeping with it.

This is what I do when I don't want my partner to inadvertently read my texts. The only reason I care whether or not he reads my texts is when I am sending explicitly sexual or otherwise private text messages back and forth with someone else I'm sleeping with, or planning to sleep with soon. I can only assume your boyfriend is or was doing something similar.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:22 PM on July 27, 2011 [28 favorites]

>>So you snuck behind his back to spy on him?

When someone you trust is lying to you, the regular rules are off the table. You have to establish a baseline of sanity, and establishing that it's them, not you, is a good way to do that.
posted by Ys at 7:24 PM on July 27, 2011 [56 favorites]

He's actively seeking something additional or 'better' and neither of those scenarios is ok with you.

Get out now, because it only gets worse from here.

And good on you for recognizing that you don't deserve to be treated this way. That's actually the hard part when you've been in a four year relationship that is starting to go bad.

Now, step two is leaving. You can do it, and you will find someone better.
posted by bilabial at 7:24 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

He's cheating on you. You, me, and all of metafilter knows it. Dump him, please.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:24 PM on July 27, 2011 [55 favorites]

Also, feel free to memail me. I just went through something eerily similar, though it wasn't cheating that I discovered.
posted by bilabial at 7:26 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every time this kind of question pops up here you get a lot of people being all "HOW DARE YOU violate his privacy, you are a bad person who should feel bad! His behavior is totally beside the point." - but I think you should tune that stuff out.

Because this dude is either cheating on you or about to cheat on you. When you confront him, he lies his way down to lower levels of suspicion and continues his uncool behaviors, while you feel bad about yourself for being "too suspicious" or whatever.

This isn't the behavior of a decent adult person in a relationship. Okay behavior here would include, in my book: not cheating, or asking for an open relationship, or leaving his current relationship. What he's actually doing is ridiculous and childish and manipulative, and you don't need to put up with it.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 7:26 PM on July 27, 2011 [22 favorites]

Red flags all over. I'm happy that you are not married to him.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:28 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, not to be a downer, but odds are good he will either leave you for her or cheat with her until she gets tired of him and then come crawling back. You can either leave him now on your terms or wait for things to implode on you.
posted by Nixy at 7:29 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Your boyfriend is being a douche. He is carrying on a text flirtation with someone, and whether it really is an affair or at risk of becoming an affair, a couple of things are clear:

1. He is repeatedly lying to you about this behaviour
2. He has a relationship with this woman that he is hiding
3. He is not protecting your relationship from potential threats

People who have nothing to hide do not hide. I strongly believe that people in partnerships should have privacy but that is not the same thing as subterfuge. There is literally not a single text message on my phone my partner can't read. Just yesterday I got a random text message from an ex; I handed the phone to my husband to ask "What does that mean?" When another ex hit my up via FB mail for a totally off-the-cuff weekend of sex, I laughed my ass off and showed the message to my partner.

In other words, while I cannot control the behaviour or actions of other people, my behaviour is above reproach. Your boyfriend, however, is colluding with this woman to perpetuate inappropriate behaviour.

Please be aware that a HUGE percentage of affairs start in the workplace. I frankly think that you have been more than reasonable in laying out your feelings and expectations not once but three times, only to find the lying has started over again.

Were it me I would treat this as an emotional affair and go hardline. I would very carefully read the FAQ for betrayed spouses (abbreviated BS, whereas WS is the "wandering spouse") at Surviving Infidelity. I would insist on no contact. I would insist on access to his phone, bills and emails to rebuild trust. If he was not willing to grant all of that, I'd end the relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:30 PM on July 27, 2011 [20 favorites]

D uplicitous
T exting
M eans
F ind
A another
posted by unSane at 7:31 PM on July 27, 2011 [37 favorites]

We only get one side of any story in AskMe. If things are as they seem, he's lying and you can't trust him. If things are as he says, he can't trust you and tell you about his completely innocent relationship. In either case, the relationship is broken.
posted by advicepig at 7:32 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

‘hey I asked Chelsea if she likes you and she told me she’d totally go out with you if you were single’ guys are in your thirties? This stuff still goes on?

I don't think you're being "obsessive and insecure," but behaving as anybody would when discovering these sorts of hijinx. I don't think he thinks he's in a committed relationship.

(Are there a lot of people out there in there thirties, partnered, who wouldn't find a series of unexplained odd-hour texts strange? Just how many topics do grown-ups text about in the middle of the night?)
posted by kmennie at 7:36 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Am I doing the right thing by letting the texting go or am I just being a doormat?

I think you're missing the bigger picture here. He's cheating on you.
posted by spaltavian at 7:41 PM on July 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

He is totally cheating on you. Even if it's not sexual, it will be soon. I know this kind of thing and it will not end in your favor. DTMFA!!
posted by Sweetmag at 7:47 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ask yourself- Am I an idiot? Do I often misread situations completely? If the answer to either of those questions is no then you should trust your judgement and go ahead and assume the worst. Remember- he made this mess, at this point the ball is in his court; either he fixes the situation to your satisfaction (and be honest with yourself about what will really, really make you OK with the chicancery, don't settle for less) or you kick him out. Right now he's guilty until proven innocent.

And I wouldn't feel even slightly bad for reading his texts. This isn't his private deal, you're involved too. Maybe he's dragging you into a 3-way situation with a crazy person or someone with HIV. You have an absolute right to do whatever you you want to protect yourself. If he was on the up and up he would show you the texts too.
posted by fshgrl at 7:49 PM on July 27, 2011

Why do you let him keep talking you out of your better judgement?

He's hiding his phone from you and you've repeatedly caught him lying about texting and spending time with another woman. Plus he has a male friend at work (Derek) willing to egg him on and cover for him. I don't see why you want to give him more wiggle room.


I'm so so sorry. Betrayal is the worst. Please dump this guy. You don't need more evidence and this will only get worse.
posted by jbenben at 7:51 PM on July 27, 2011 [14 favorites]

The only case I can think of in which he isn't already cheating (in the physical sense) is if she's playing some sort of game with him too. I once was in a long-term, ostensibly committed relationship. A mutual friend of my then girlfriend and I started paying me a lot of attention - we'd have D&M chats, get drunk together (without my girlfriend), even took a trip together (again, without my girlfriend) once. Nothing physical ever happened between us. But it was very much cheating. It obviously upset my girlfriend, and I'd argue that we're _just friends_ and _nothing's happening_ and why are you being weird?... but it was cheating. I knew how she felt, but I was having fun, enjoying the attention, and that was at the time more important.

In hindsight, this friend was having trouble with her boyfriend, and I imagine the reason she was encouraging me in this respect was as a consequence of that. I never made a move because neither of us were single - but honestly, if I was confident that such an advance would have been received well, I would've. If she had've made the first move physically, I most certainly would have happily gone along for the ride.

FWIW, this is something I feel guilty about to this day. It's entirely possible that your boyfriend is a complete idiot who doesn't fully grasp the damage he's doing to his relationship. However, it's not something that can be explained to him - in general people do not stop doing this kind of thing until there are real consequences. DTMFA.
posted by chmmr at 7:53 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

he was worried I wouldn’t be able to trust him again

Meaning: he was worried you were going to figure out the truth and that he'd start to be held accountable for his actions.

No matter what his mouth says, his actions are showing you exactly who he is and how he actually feels about you. I know this is painful, but it's never going to get less painful with this guy... only worse.
posted by scody at 7:58 PM on July 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

Start making a plan to get out. Now.

Is the lease in your name? Are the household bills like electricity, water, in your name? Do you share a bank account? Sit down and make a list of all the stuff you need to take care of.

Get that stuff done in the next week. Then (or sooner if nothing's in your name) start looking for an apartment, or make a plan to move in with family or friends. And then move.

Stop caring so much about him and start caring about YOU.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:59 PM on July 27, 2011 [12 favorites]

Get tested, too.
posted by Nixy at 8:02 PM on July 27, 2011 [18 favorites]

You have two choices here: stay and accept, or go. You can't make him be good.

God, I wish someone had told my 18-year-old self this.

I thought if I was better, or prettier, or nicer, or if I showed him how much it hurt me, or if he could just get that next promotion, or if the coworker could just resolve her problems with her current boyfriend or find a boyfriend and leave mine alone, or if I read every text so that I would know when it was REALLY cheating and not just ambiguous and uncomfortable, or if I knew what kind of girl he was looking for on dating sites so that I could be more like her, then he would just stop talking to other girls and be good to me. For five years I tried to change that pattern, and for five years it didn't work. (It's still not working - mutual friends tell me his latest relationship busted up for the same reasons, and our relationship ended years and years ago.) What I really needed to do was tell him I wouldn't stand for it and walk out the door as soon as I saw a pattern. I think my making a stand like that might even have shaken him out of it entirely and taught him one of the costs of a worthwhile girlfriend: you don't get to textflirt with your coworkers. Instead, I snuck around and checked his phone and picked convenient times to have fights and explained and explained and explained to him how much he was hurting me. And through it all he lied to my face, even when confronted.

OP, it's true, you have two choices. Stay and accept his screwing around (which includes NOT putting yourself through the ringer by checking his phone) or walk out the door. Please save yourself the grief, save your self-esteem, and walk.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:03 PM on July 27, 2011 [23 favorites]

This is true: I obviously can’t control this

True. You can't control your boyfriend: you can't force him not to flirt with other women, you can't force him not to lie to you, you can't force him to respect you, and you can't force him to be a good partner to you.

But this--and I don’t want to be an obsessive insecure person as that isn’t really who I am.--is more complicated.

You can insist on only staying in relationships with people who are honest, respectful, and caring. That is not insecurity: it is strength. Having a healthy sense of trust in your partner does not mean forcing yourself to ignore his dishonesty. Having a healthy sense of security in your relationship does not mean forcing yourself to ignore your feelings of hurt and sadness when he betrays you.

If you leave this relationship, you have a chance to meet someone worthy of your trust, someone with whom you can feel secure. If you stay in this relationship, you will be with someone who has repeatedly demonstrated that you cannot trust him, and with whom you feel insecure.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:07 PM on July 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I know it sucks because you really want to believe him. It makes you want to doubt yourself because there's no way he could continue to lie about it when confronted with such blatant proof. If he were cheating, he should have admitted it by now, right? There's got to be a reason he's denying it. Maybe he's telling the truth?

I have a friend who continued to confront her husband about his cheating, and he continued to lie. He lied when he had her over at their home when the wife wasn't there, even though the other woman left her clothes in the bedroom and her makeup in the bathroom. He even continued to lie when she kicked him out and he moved in with the other woman, claiming they were just friends and she was helping him now that his own wife was treating him so poorly.

So, I recommend you stop trying to get him to tell the truth because that kind of closure is very unlikely. Don't let him bully you into feeling bad about accusing him of lying. Don't let him frame himself as the victim. Don't start apologizing and agreeing to start on fresh terms - he's the one who needs to make amends, not you, and he hasn't shown the slightest willingness.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 8:07 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Hi. I used to be really bad at relationships, and I've done a sad amount of cheating.

He is cheating on you.

You noticed it, you're not crazy, you already know all the tells he's giving you.

When you're cheating, it's easy to let yourself be consumed with the person you're cheating with. You want to talk about them, because it's exciting. You want to talk to them all the time (or text) because they excite you. You get really defensive when anyone questions you about it because you know what you're doing isn't within the bounds of the relationship you're in.

I am sure from the description you give that he is cheating on you, but imagine the case where he's not: He knows you are sensitive about the texting, he knows you are sensitive about the girl, and you've explained how you feel, and he not responding in a caring or concerned way - he's getting defensive...this is not constructive.

In every relationship I was in, I didn't cheat because of something about the person I was with. I didn't find them less attractive, I didn't stop liking them, what happened was I'd stopped communicating because I didn't feel secure in the relationship....and then here was this new person that was so easy to talk to and so fun, and at first it was just casual, and then it was just flirting, and then it was just that kiss one time, and then it was me edging closer and closer to an arbitrary line I'd drawn between what was cheating and what was not......all those relationships ended...although one did last for 4 years, and through a few bouts with cheating.

That relationship lasted because the person was - in the end - a substitute for the communication I wanted with my partner, and I was committed to re-establishing that contact. The only reason we ended things later was because he was interested in marriage and settling down and I was interested in a master's degree and living abroad.

I think the key was, with me, that we got away from fighting and yelling about it, that we talked calmly about it, that we agreed to put it in the past and not bring it up in subsequent fights, and that I committed to fixing what was up with me, and to stopping.

caveat: I no longer participate in monogamous relationships. In the end...they aren't for me, but I don't think this is the case with everyone.
posted by nile_red at 8:10 PM on July 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Insecurity" is when the person you're with has been completely open and honest and kind, but you're still sure he's hiding something or is about to leave you. Insecurity is not having difficulty trusting someone has seriously and repeatedly broken your trust. That's like standing on the edge of a cliff and calling your fear of falling off a "phobia." That's not an irrational fear, it's a completely valid one.

He's cheating on you. The cheating is not your fault, and your reaction to it is completely reasonable. You don't need to be secure enough to trust him, you need to be secure enough to hand him his ass.

And he's thinking he got off with a slap on the wrist and can get away with it. He only wants your trust back so he can sneak behind your back in peace. If he genuinely valued your trust, he would put in the hard work to show he's worthy of it.

I'm sorry this is happening, Anon. Four years is a long time to build a relationship, and I can imagine your reluctance to end it. However, he's the one throwing it away; all you have to do is cut the cord.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:13 PM on July 27, 2011 [17 favorites]

You're practicing completely safe sex, right? RIGHT?! Because you will decide to dump this cheating sack, eventually, and the last thing you'll want then is a permanent reminder of him. Hugs and best of luck to you.
posted by cyndigo at 8:25 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

He is 100% cheating on you emotionally. Oh, and almost certainly physically, too.

You already know this, but are scared to admit it and are asking if there's innocent explanations for his behavior.

There isn't.
posted by Windigo at 8:27 PM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Let's say he's not cheating.

Do you feel happy and secure in your relationship? Is this what you want?


By the way, he's cheating.
posted by freshwater at 8:30 PM on July 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

On reflection, see also: gaslighting.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:31 PM on July 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have been in a situation twice where the guy I was dating seemed to have another woman interested in him, and would talk to her when I wasn't around. Both times I said how much it was upsetting me. Guy A defended his behavior, continued the communication, continued hiding things from me. Guy B, once he saw how hurt I was, apologized to me and cut off contact with her.

guy A turned out to have been cheating, lying and generally being a huge asshole the whole time, and caused me so much pain, I can't even say. Guy B, though we are not still together, was a kind and thoughtful boyfriend, and is still one of my best friends.

that's all I have to say.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:36 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Dump him. I can't believe he's in his 30s and pulling this; I'm in my 20s and I wouldn't think of it. As others have said, he's cheating on you, and he obviously doesn't respect you. Yes, 4 years is a long time, but this guy isn't worth any more of yours.
posted by smorange at 8:40 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

If my mind was in your head, none of this would be dealbreaker material except for the part where he tells me flat-out lies and that, by itself, would be his ticket out of my life.
posted by flabdablet at 8:48 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call your best friend. Have her read your entire mefi post to you as she was the one this was happening to, and she was coming to you for advice. Would you tell your best friend that they are paranoid and jealous? And, at the very least, would you seriously tell your best friend to stay with a guy who charges the phone next to him in bed simply so his girlfriend can't see his texts to another woman? I seriously doubt you would, so if your best friend doesn't deserve this douchebag, why do you?
posted by haplesschild at 8:50 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

This guy is texting another chick, then lying about it, and then gaslightling you when you have a problem with that?
I am certain you can do better than this. Get yourself a *real* boyfriend. This does not sound fixable; this sounds broke.
posted by Gilbert at 9:06 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's emotional infidelity, if not (yet) sexual. Your negative thoughts are accurate and insightful, and you should listen to your own inner voice. He cannot, right now, be trusted. Maybe the relationship is salvageable, maybe not.

Reading somebody's mail is bad for the relationship. There's gotta be a better way.
posted by theora55 at 9:09 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

How can I calm my negative thoughts about the situation that swirl around in my head every time his phone beeps?

Don't calm your thoughts.....listen to them.

Lie #1: He got angry and said he didn’t know what I was talking about, told me a story about stopping to scan some documents quickly and then hitting the road. That’s when I lost it because that was a lie right to my face!!

Lie #2: I looked over, could see on the phone that it was Chelsea, but when I said oh who is that texting so late he responded “oh it’s Derek”.

Lie#3: When we talked the next day he insisted at first that he hadn’t been texting her at all lately because I had gotten so upset the last time.

He's never going to stop lying and turn into someone you can trust. You're having negative thoughts for a reason. Trust your instincts and what you know to be true.
posted by iconomy at 9:12 PM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sorry to restate the obvious but DTMFA.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 9:24 PM on July 27, 2011

You don't trust him. He doesn't trust you. The details do not matter -- without trust, you can't have a relationship, so end it and move on. To avoid ugliness, make it clear that the problem isn't what he may or may not be doing, any more than it's your snooping; the problem is the lack of trust on both sides, and earned or not, it's there, and that's enough to end the relationship.
posted by davejay at 9:34 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I dated two of these guys.

One was making out with another girl during the day, then coming home to me at night. They slept together before we broke up.

The other was long distance. He moved back in with his ex and stopped calling/emailing/responding for several months. He didn't tell me any of that and continued to lead me on because I was more emotionally supportive than she was.

Bottom line: DTMFA. Before there is more damage to you. I'm so sorry you're going through this. Memail me anytime if you want.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:44 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

He's treating you like you're a moron! And you're not nailing him for it, instead you're worried about being perceived as needy or insecure or snooping or whatever. You're not a moron!

The first text you read and you say 'oh, she likes you!' not 'who the fuck is this person? Make it stop. I mean it.' His text back to Derek should not be 'ooh I'm gonna get into trouble' but 'knock it off.' Instead he framed his argument around blaming you and fobbing you off. He treated you like you were stupid. [I've been there, heard this. Bought into the argument as framed by my partner - not the argument framed by me, which was dismissed as insecure bleating.]

Same with the 1am offer of a massage - the adult in a good relationship says 'Do NOT text me personal stuff. I'm in a relationship, I've made that very clear to you. Karen has read this text, and we both want this shit to stop.' These are signs of person taking a stand, and as Darling Bri says above, he should have been able to discuss the growing crush and problem solve it with you. Instead he lies to your face. You needed to get out of bed, get a bag, throw his stuff into it and show him the door. He had a month to sort this shit out and he didn't.

Cheaters are doing stuff that's really painful on a number of levels, but the chief hurt for me is that cheaters treat their significant others like they are stupid. They gaslight them, escalate insecurity and fuck them up. It's not just the sex or the intimacy they are sharing with the other person, it's the disgusting way they treat their partner's claim for truth and honesty.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:36 PM on July 27, 2011 [19 favorites]

The gory details of his involvement with this girl don't ultimately matter. You don't trust him, he doesn't respect you and neither one of you are happy. If that's not enough to end the relationship, I don't know what is.

For your own sanity, move on.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:17 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Everybody else has said it much better than I could, but I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus: You deserve to be treated with respect. Don't think you have to bend over backwards for some guy who won't even accord you that.

Also, Derek is no friend of yours for encouraging this.
posted by Georgina at 12:27 AM on July 28, 2011

Just seconding what everyone else has said. BlahLaLa has got it right: go about the pragmatics of getting out, at the very least for your own peace of mind. Then, once your way out is prepared, and if you want to make sure your decision to get out is the right one, ask your boyfriend to introduce you to Chelsea-woman, and to tell her, with you there, to quit texting. They see each other a lot at work, I assume - why the need to coninue communication outside the 8 hours they spend together? If they are such great friends, why have you not met her?

But frankly, anyone texting at 1 am offering a massage who isn't an insomniac professional masseuse - bags need to be packed. I hope you have the lease on the flat, and can put his bags outside the door.
posted by miorita at 1:43 AM on July 28, 2011

You know what? Maybe you're wondering whether he's cheating or not because he isn't cheating.

Maybe he's only messing with your mind. DarlingBri's comment about gaslighting is spot on.

Maybe the gaslighting isn't part of it. Maybe it's all of it.

So, would you rather stay with a) a cheater; b) a gaslighter; c) a AND b; d)TMFA?

Either way, he is taking advantage of your four-year history and your investment in him and your desire to be a reasonable person and not a shrew, and he is turning all these good things against you. If you're wrong you'll feel paranoid, and if you're right you'll feel gullible. And I think all those comments on "I can't believe you don't see through this" are, while clearly intended to strengthen your conviction, are just as likely to be inadvertently helping him to make you feel like something is wrong with your mind.

Nothing is wrong with your mind. You're completely reasonable to be suspicious, completely reasonable to think you had probable cause to snoop, and it's completely understandable that you'd be unsure of your own judgment considering you're the one experiencing this and you're the one who has so much at stake.
posted by tel3path at 2:00 AM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Worthwhile adult relationships do not involve this much anguish or deceit.
posted by foursentences at 2:18 AM on July 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

I bet at this point you'll be reminding yourself of all the great things about your boyfriend - how funny, kind, interesting, whatever he is, and hoping that they are enough to make him a worthwhile boyfriend.

Just remember that all these wonderful qualities mean nothing if he can't show you some basic respect. If he was respectful of your relationship, he would be honest. This one essential quality in a partner trumps everything else.
posted by guessthis at 3:12 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm trying to find an original source for this quote, but I think it encapsulates how I feel whenever I see threads like this where people say they're worried about being needy or having low self-esteem:

"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes."
posted by generichuman at 3:35 AM on July 28, 2011 [39 favorites]

After reading and thinking a bit, I remembered that I've been on the other side of this.

I started dating this guy who'd had a sort of on again off again relationship with a girl who was really not good for him. At first things were great...then a month in, things started to get weird. He decided we were moving too fast, he stopped wanting sex, he started texting a lot. I snuck looks at his phone, I knew something was up, and it was making me crazy. Finally one morning I dug through his chat logs and found that he'd been talking to his ex about dumping me and getting back with her, but only if she was "really" in love with him, because he thought our relationship had potential.

I confronted him, he hedged, and I told him to sort his business out, and that we weren't going forward until he'd figured out which relationship he wanted to be in.

It bothered me, it nagged at me, it drove me nuts. There was more there, and I wanted to dig it out, have it all in detail and confront him and have him tell me the truth....but that didn't happen. Instead, I got over it, we moved on, and had a great relationship for about a year. Then he went to war and I moved and we were supposed to get back around the same time, but instead he got home early, and cheated on me at a party. All of my friends were there. I got a bunch of texts/emails/ims just as I was going to work over here, while they were still partying over there.

So I guess what I have for you is two different stories of people who - even with good intentions, and talking it out, and moving past it and getting over the cheating - did not make the relationship work. One is me, and one is my last serious boyfriend (not the same guy as my last comment).

Aside from that: ignore the folks in the thread who are all OMGing about your ages and how "mature" this behavior is. This sort of folly is not the province of the young, and we don't even need to name drop politicians to see it playing out among the not-so-young.
posted by nile_red at 5:11 AM on July 28, 2011

Not everybody has encountered behaviour like this before in their lives, and it can be very hard to believe it's really happening when you're new to it.

Being in a relationship with a cheater and/or gaslighter is not a quasi-inevitable developmental milestone, like getting your first bra. It's perfectly possible to live far into your thirties without ever having experienced this kind of mindfuck.
posted by tel3path at 5:39 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Those of us who have been through this know, he is cheating on you. Listen to me, he is cheating. It will not get better. He will continue to lie to your face against all logic in the hope that you decide to calm and trusting. Be calm, but be calm as you walk yourself out that fucking door.
posted by stormygrey at 6:16 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry this has happened to you. And it's possible he's not cheating, he's just harbouring a weird friendship with this lady.

But here's the thing: he cares more about that relationship than yours. Period. Are you OK with that? With knowing that you are less important to him than his coworker? It doesn't sound like you are.

Tell him why you're leaving: "I love you, but you aren't treating me with respect. I am worth more than this. I am leaving. I have found another apartment." Then leave. Don't listen to him beg -- he's a liar.

Good luck.
posted by AmandaA at 6:46 AM on July 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

So we had another great big talk where I explained why I feel she is interested in more than friendship

Just the fact that you had to offer an explanation as to why you think she's interested in him makes my head explode.
posted by amarynth at 6:49 AM on July 28, 2011

I can't help but disagree with the people who say you shouldn't have checked his phone. Your instincts say he was lying and he was. Good instincts.

If he is also lying about having a physical relationship with this woman (I mean, having sex with her), then this isn't just about his faithfulness or lack thereof. This is also a health and safety issue. You have to consider the whole "when you have sex with a person you are having sex with everyone they have had sex with" idea in this context. One of the reasons that honesty in such circumstances is so important is because everyone should have the right to manage their risks based on actual information rather than a pack of lies.

I also have to say that having caught him in one lie and having given him another chance, I would have DTMFA at the second lie.

If you are determined to try to salvage this relationship, then I think you need to sit him down and give him the "it's her or me" speech and be totally ready and prepared for his answer to be "her."

But before you do that, consider a relationship in which one party is untrustworthy and decide how much value that actually has for you.
posted by driley at 6:50 AM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don’t want to be an obsessive insecure person as that isn’t really who I am.

I myself was once, in one relationship, highly suspicious and mistrustful all the time, despite never having been that way before then. This is because there was a damn good reason for my suspicions. And you know there are for yours, too.

I'm sorry.
posted by Because at 6:53 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you choose not to DTMFA soon, be prepared for escalating nonsense and/or being dumped yourself.

My most recent ex pulled a stunt like this earlier this year - talked about a girl he just met, started becoming withdrawn/secretive, asked me how I felt about open relationships out of the blue...

I'm sorry this happened. Best of luck.
posted by noxetlux at 6:56 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you think it's the rule to be always "nice". But sometimes "nice" doesn't do the trick. In your next relationship (which I hope will be a healthy one), you need to set boundaries. If he receives a text saying some girl likes him, he should tell you, and he should tell his "friend" to drop it. If he receives a message offering a massage, he needs to completely cut it off with that girl. Ideally, your next SO will think of this all by himself, but if he doesn't you need to demand this respect from them, or move on.

I'm not saying it's your fault for letting it happen. It's just that,as my mom always said, most people learn how far they can go with you by seeing how far you let them go. In other words, people tend to respect you only if you respect yourself. And speaking up when you are uncomfortable (you don't have to shout or swear, just communicate) is part of respecting yourself. Be firm.
posted by Tarumba at 7:03 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

People have given some great advice in this thread.

Look...I know, you've been together for at least four years. You've invested a lot of your emotional and financial resources into this guy and your life together. But that time and love and money doesn't mean that you should put up with such terrible treatment now. That's "sunk cost fallacy" thinking.

You've given him every opportunity to make things right. Don't waste any more of your life or your love on this person.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:10 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I used to put up with a LOT of bullshit, and also thought if I could just explain to him how he was hurting me, and make him fully understand, then the bullshit would stop.

It doesn't stop, babe. Ever.

Either he is the type to understand and change (or even better, the type who gets why that's just not ok in the first place) or he's not. This guy is one of the "nots".

Take the good qualities that you love about this person, and fragment them into characteristics that you must have in a relationship. Take the truly BOGUS things he's doing to you now (and I can guarantee that this is just the tip of the iceberg) and fragment them in to characteristics you absolutely DO NOT WANT. Lying being the absolute top of DO NOT WANT.

When you finally, FINALLY have had enough, you will get rid of this sorry excuse for a boyfriend. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, he will tell that one last lie, and you will have had ENOUGH.

You know what's going on, you just need to pull the trigger. Dump him with extreme prejudice.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:16 AM on July 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

He's obviously cheating on you and lying to your face and being really, really dumb about covering his tracks.

Your negative feelings are entirely appropriate.
posted by ook at 7:50 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Been there, done that . . . and can tell you that a decade later it's happened again and again. Leave now, before your finances are sucked up with his, before there are 3 kids to think about.
posted by MeiraV at 8:07 AM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, if you let him get away with this then he will not respect you and your future will be full of similar events and misery. At best and if you really like him then maybe ditching him will make him wake up and after a few years he might be a reasonable person to date again.
posted by meepmeow at 8:28 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

my thoughts as I read this:

Hmm, I usually have my phone with me at all times, and I get random texts late at night (mostly Twitter replies)
Hmm, both my husband and I have frequently mentioned opposite-sex coworkers when nothing was going on
Hmm, my husband is a really nice guy and would totally work on someone's car or drive them home or whatnot
Hmm, my husband started going to more work events because he wanted to be more social and increase his career network
Hmm, I can see a coworker being a dick and making inappropriate jokes to my husband about coworkers
Hmm, wait, your guy lied about where he was? No, that has never happened with us, that's pretty shitty, but maybe salvageable if he was contrite enough.

the text was saying she would love to give him a massage

WTF!!!!!!!!!! Run, fast, and give her a piece of your mind while you're at it.
posted by desjardins at 9:05 AM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is very familiar to me. He likely is not cheating yet, but he his checked out of the relationship with you and is just scared to make a change. He's giving himself an easy exit plan and letting him do so will mean that you're forced to accept and react to all kinds of changes when *he* makes up his mind on *his* schedule, as I had to with my ex. Don't let this happen to you.

You need to makes plans to move out (including a seperation agreement for division of commonly owned property if applicable) and think about making your life the most fulfilling and secure without him. You probably don't want to date right away but start imagining yourself on dates and thinking of yourself as a single person. Because, I'm sorry to say, you essentially are. Get your shit together, dump him and move on in the responsible way that he evidently isn't capable of doing himself.
posted by Kurichina at 9:30 AM on July 28, 2011

Let's say that you are insecure and that you do have low self-esteem. Because I can tell that that is the narrative that you are going to use to convince yourself that you’re wrong and he’s right.

If you are in a relationship with someone whom you purport to love and respect and care about, then you love them, insecurity and low self-esteem included. So your boyfriend should be acting in consideration of your alleged insecurities and low self-esteem. “Gee, my totally meaningless texting and completely insignificant relationship are bothering my girlfriend. Probably because she is insecure and has low self-esteem. Since I love her and care about her, my solution is going to be to put the breaks on these innocent shenanigans with my coworker.” Your alleged insecurity and low self-esteem wouldn’t be “your problem.” They should be collectively-your problem, because he is choosing to be with you. He should want to modify his actions in order to accommodate your feelings. But let’s continue to take his side. Let’s say that, in his ignorance, he thought the best way accommodate your feelings would be to lie. Well, you told him that the lies only make it worse, that they hurt you and made it harder to trust him, or, in his words, even more insecure. So the only conclusion would have been that he should stop lying, and stop the behavior that he had to lie about. But what actually happened, what he actually did, doesn’t really make sense in the context of a relationship between two loving, respectful adults.

Your relationship has been over for a while.
posted by thebazilist at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

You have EVERY RIGHT to follow up with your instincts and you don't need to tame them. This is not just his life he is fucking around with, it's yours.

You have EVERY RIGHT to be mad at him when he gets texts from other women (ESPECIALLY AT 1AM ABOUT A MASSAGE!!!!!!!!!! HOLY FUCK! - that is where I would have drawn the line or at least given him a solid ultimatum to call off ALL contact with her.)

You have EVERY RIGHT to leave, with confidence, without "proof", just because he isn't making you happy... and you should. Please don't let him convince you that you're being crazy, you're not.
posted by LZel at 11:47 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You want to be a hygienic person. Great! You clean yourself on an appropriate schedule, adjusted according to circumstance and health issues, and use hygiene products which conform to your standards and increase your happiness with your hygiene.

You want to be a literate person. Great! You figure out what kinds of books you like to read, and you purchase or borrow them. Maybe you buy an e-reader, or start building your own library. You discipline yourself to sit down and read a book, which you know will be rewarding, instead of turning on the TV to watch “whatever”.

You want to be a trusting person. Great! You learn to discriminate between trustworthy and untrustworthy people, and you surround yourself with trustworthy people, and then you trust them.

Wait, back up, that last one was hard. The first two examples are things you can do on your own. They both take place in a greater social context (What does hygienic mean? What does literate mean?) but both can be undertaken without changing your social context. The last one is hard, partly because it requires discrimination, and partly because you can’t be trusting in a vacuum. “Being a trusting person” is partly a factor of who you are trying to trust. Your boyfriend is lying to you. He keeps lying to you. He claims that it’s your fault that he keeps lying to you. He has, if you pay close attention, claimed that the reason he lied to you is that you reacted so badly to being lied to that one time, he figured he should do it again. This is nuts. You seem to have started to internalize this nutso logic, that he would start being trustworthy if you’d start being trusting.

You want to be a trusting person, which is a worthy goal. The problem is not that you aren’t trusting; the problem is that your boyfriend is untrustworthy.
posted by endless_forms at 12:24 PM on July 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

Been there, done that, kept asking/begging for/demanding the truth. Kept being lied to in my face. Kept trusting, kept being let down. Over two years later it was still happening. IMO, this doesn't ever go away for good, but keeps popping back up, if not with this woman than with someone else.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:14 PM on July 28, 2011

This happened to me. Actually both my ex-husband and myself did this to each other (I am not proud of this). Its a very painful way to end a relationship that is only hanging on by a thin thread.

I would take a bit of time out for you, give yourself a few days off work, do something nice for yourself, ask yourself why it got to this and where you want it to go, talk to a confidant, meditate.

If you want to work it out with him, If you really love this guy and you both had plans together, then sit down with him, ask him if your relationship is worth saving to him. I'd give the ultimatum here but keep it very cool so you can talk rationally about your plans for your life and his for his. If he has the heart to open up with you & be honest, whether its a commitment or not, I'd suggest both go to see a counselor together assuming that you BOTH "MAYBE" want to save the relationship. If it doesn't work then you gave it a shot. Even a maybe is enough to work. He'll need to motivate himself that your the one and drop contact with the girl, that may be hard at work?

If he fobs you off again, have an exit plan worked out with the support & love of your close friends & family so you can execute this step quickly. After my experiences, if this happened to me now I wouldn't even give the guy a chance to talk about it. I would just pack up and leave. It takes alot of strength to do that but the strength comes from a place that is protecting you and making sure you have the best life you can.

Above all remember that even though she is a disrespectful undignified bitch, its actually him thats causing you the pain and partaking in this. Deal directly with him on your and his business only, don't let her think she is significant.
posted by Under the Sea at 7:21 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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