Boyfriend won't answer calls in front of me
June 17, 2012 7:06 PM   Subscribe

I've been with my boyfriend in an exclusive relationship for 2 months, including dating time. Since early in the dating phase, I have noticed unusual behaviors from him. It has bothered me enough and I have made a plan to discuss with him. When he is out with me, he wouldn't answer his phone. Of course, he answers calls from his mom, sisters, friends...but there is a certain call he wouldn't answer. Without looking to see who's calling, he said "it's not important." But then (more than 1 hour later) he would check the voicemail/text and replied by text. My gut tells me it's from a girl and they could be going out together. Lately, his phone is always on vibrate. I see him only once a week due to distance and because I'm busy.

I plan to confront him, tell him that I think he's seeing someone and ask him to show me the message conversations. If he refuses to show, I will walk away from this heartache. If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts. My question is: Is this a reasonable doubt? Am I blowing things out of proportion? Should I confront him right now or wait until he intentionally misses the call and texts the person back to confront him, so that I have solid evidence right there?
posted by fish123 to Human Relations (62 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming you both have agreed to be in an exclusive relationship? Because two months isn't really enough time to be poking around in every piece of his personal life unless he's committed to being monogamous (or even just exclusively dating) you.

Yes, it's obnoxious, but instantly jumping to the conclusion that he's cheating on you and already planning on confronting him (and leaving him) speaks more to your level of trust than anything he's doing. I avoid work calls, collection agency calls, and sometimes time-consuming friends' calls when I'm out with certain people, and I keep my phone on vibrate all the time. It doesn't mean I'm cheating on whoever I'm dating.
posted by xingcat at 7:10 PM on June 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

How do you know these calls are all from the same person? What if sometimes he has calls from people he just doesn't want to talk to immediately? When I am out with people I rarely take calls, but sometimes I will take calls from some people and not from others, depending on who the person is, my expectation of what they're calling about, how bored I am, when I last talked to them, any myriad number of factors.

Do you have any other indication he's cheating on you? Any other reason to suspect his behavior? If this is the only thing and you start demanding to see his message conversations, it is very likely you will not have a boyfriend any longer--and not because you're the one walking away.
posted by schroedinger at 7:11 PM on June 17, 2012

well- your doubts sound reasonable. however, if he's innocent, he may still have a problem showing you the texts, and may be upset that you asked and act like you're a paranoid crazy person- and if he's guilty, he may still act like you're a paranoid crazy person. so i wouldn't ask to see the texts, although you could tell him why you have your suspicions, including the texts, and he may volunteer to show them to you on his own. also 'innocent and loves me'- love is a lot to expect after two months.

summary: it sounds fishy. tell him about your concerns in detail (voting for not asking to see texts) and see what he has to say. proceed accordingly.
posted by saraindc at 7:13 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless there are other reasons for suspicion you haven't specified here, yes, I think you're overreacting and jumping to conclusions. Why is it your gut feeling that he's seeing someone? There could be a hundred other explanations. I would try to figure out why it is that you don't feel you can trust him - if the reasons for that are based on something inside yourself rather than the reality of the situation.
posted by something something at 7:15 PM on June 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Does he sometimes not answer YOUR calls and then answer by text an hour or so later? If this were a cheating situation (which it does not sound like to me) then he'd be doing that on both ends of the line, so to speak, right?
posted by Andrhia at 7:15 PM on June 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don’t answer my phone when I’m with people. I suspect if you confront him and demand to see texts you won’t have to worry about this relationship anymore.
posted by bongo_x at 7:17 PM on June 17, 2012 [25 favorites]

I'm thinking you're jumping to conclusions- two months is still getting to know someone and all of their idiosyncracies. It seems like he perhaps doesn't feel the need to be constantly tethered to his cell phone and gets back to whomever is trying to reach him during a more convenient part of your time together. I can't speak for you, but I would be a little peeved if I only saw my SO once a week and he frequently interrupted our conversations (or fun fool around time) to answer the phone.

Obviously this is bothering you and needs to be addressed- I wouldn't demand to have access to his phone, but I would bring up his phone habits and just ask what determines a call that is immediately answer-worthy- is it based on who's calling, or what he is doing at the time? Trust is a big part of any relationship, especially a long distance one. I'd encourage you to build whatever conversation you have about this around the concept of trusting him and trying to know him better rather than immediately accusing him of wrongdoing.
posted by shes_ajar at 7:20 PM on June 17, 2012

I plan to confront him, tell him that I think he's seeing someone and ask him to show me the message conversations. If he refuses to show, I will walk away from this heartache.

I think this is setting up the conversation to go poorly right from the start. Perhaps you should first try to press the issue without getting mad- "Jeff, I am deathly curious- you always seem to get calls you're willing to ignore at first and then respond by text to later. What is that all about? Who are you talking to?" And then be silent and listen. If he can't or won't produce a story that makes sense, you can say that makes you feel uneasy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:20 PM on June 17, 2012 [14 favorites]

It sounds to me like he is being polite, and trying to show you that you are important to him.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:21 PM on June 17, 2012 [14 favorites]

I think that two months sounds way too early to be phrasing this as a Major Confrontation. A concern, sure, and not necessarily too soon to be exclusive, but... you haven't invested that much in this. He doesn't owe you that much yet.

This isn't the time for a Come To Jesus Meeting, this is a time for a discussion to make sure you're on the same page about where your relationship is headed. It's not abnormal or anything to feel really intensely in the beginning, but it's also not abnormal to take a little more time to get comfortable with someone you've only gone out with about eight times, if it's once a week for two months. That's... not very long to get to know somebody, and even if you feel really intensely about this, this is not the time to demand access to his text messagse as proof of his affections.

At the same time, this is also still a point where it's totally reasonable to just walk away because things Feel Wrong after you talk to him. You don't need to have ironclad proof of wrongdoing for this to just not be working out in a way that makes you feel good about it. You don't owe him that much, either.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:21 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

if my partner of two months (who i've only had about 8 dates with) questioned my fidelity and demanded to see my phone to prove it, i would walk away from the relationship. i vote for just saying "hey, sometimes when we're out together it seems like you're eager to stay in contact with someone, but not eager to do it openly. this makes me uncomfortable and i was wondering if we could talk about it."

be prepared for the answers though - it could easily be an ex that he's friends with and hasn't figured out how to explain that to you. i think automatically jumping to the conclusion that he's stepping out on you is premature.
posted by nadawi at 7:22 PM on June 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

His decision not to look at his phone when he's with you could as easily be a sign of his genuine interest in you -- that is, a sign that he finds your company important enough (because you see each other so infrequently?) that he's willing to put all other business on hold so he can focus on you.

However, your gut is telling you not to trust this guy. That's a problem for the relationship, whether or not he's cheating. You've got no choice, then, but to talk to him about it. That said, you can talk to him without violating the first rule of healthy relationships: "Assume the best of your partner."

This requires you to focus not on your FEARS about him (which are accusatory and based, largely, on very slim evidence) but on your own feelings. You say to him, "It makes me feel a little strange that you don't pick up your calls when we're together. That's a little odd, I know, but for some reason it gives me an uneasy feeling. Can I ask why you don't answer your phone?"

See how he answers. He may be genuinely confused that you've found his actions concerning. But if he likes you, he won't get upset with you for feeling this way. If he's a dishonest, shady sort, he very well might get upset. And that will be a solid clue, to replace all these baseless suspicions you've got going on right now. If he gets upset, ask why he's getting upset. If he simply says, "Oh, I wanted to focus on you -- why does it creep you out?", then it'll be on you to explain that you're feeling a little insecure and you'd like to see him more often. Because I think that's what your suspicions really come down to: a sense of uncertainty based on the fact that you're not seeing this guy as often as you'd like to.
posted by artemisia at 7:24 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You haven't earned the kind of full access that you feel entitled to. He has a whole life, a whole network of people that you're not involved in yet. And trust me, you won't get there by demanding to be let in...
posted by hermitosis at 7:26 PM on June 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts.

This is not a reasonable expectation. I think you're setting yourself up for a big blowup.
posted by Justinian at 7:32 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you were my girlfriend of two months, I'd dump you in a heartbeat for demanding to read my text messages. It would be a Serious Big Deal in my relationship of 2+ years.

Do you have other reasons to be suspicious?
posted by downing street memo at 7:35 PM on June 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Texting other people when you're on a date, when the person you're on a date with is just sitting there twiddling their thumbs, is super rude. So, I don't agree that politeness is obviously the reason he doesn't answer the calls and texts back later.

I am a huge believer in trusting your instincts about this sort of thing. Sure, there are people who are just crazily paranoid for absolutely nothing at all. I think for every one person like that, there are probably 50 who knew something was really up but were shamed into ignoring their instincts and made to feel like only a bad person not enlightened enough for a relationship would have those suspicions.

I think you'll also find that for every guy who tells you that you are being a drama queen by having your suspicions -- those are the same guys who rant about how their female friends always wind up being cheated on and dumped by the guys they date, women are just shallow for dating guys like that, and why don't women date nice guys like him instead.

I think that you should absolutely listen to yourself. I think if you have an instinct that something weird is going on, you should follow up on that. Absolutely ask. If his response or reaction doesn't add up, it is okay to not believe it.

Trust is important in relationships. But forcing yourself to trust someone who is acting shady just because you're in a relationship with them, is backwards. The idea is if someone inspires trust in you then it's a good idea to stay with them. And if they don't, then it's a good idea to question whether or not you want to stay in the relationship and what (if anything) you would need in order to trust that person.
posted by cairdeas at 7:38 PM on June 17, 2012 [14 favorites]

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts.

... And he'd be entirely in the right to drop you in a cold second whoever's on the other end of those texts, because emotional blackmail and prying into somebody's communications after two months of barely knowing each other is a Sure Sign Of The Crazy.

Not taking calls from non-family members in front of somebody you just started dating is common courtesy, not a red flag. Your reaction, though, boy howdy.
posted by mhoye at 7:47 PM on June 17, 2012 [44 favorites]

Why don't you just say, "who was on the phone?" -- conversationally -- next time it happens?

Also: Without looking to see who's calling, he said "it's not important. If he's not looking to see who's calling, how could he possibly know it's The Other Woman and not, like, his brother or something? To me, that makes me think that he's just focusing on you.

Frankly, I have done this and the reason I didn't pick up the phone, but DID respond via text was because the call was from work. No way am I taking a work call on a date, but I do need to let work know that I'm on top of whatever. I mean, it really COULD be anyone -- just ask him!

That being said, if someone I'd been dating two months demanded to be shown my texts, what I would be showing him is the door. You do not have the kind of evidence that requires this level of confrontation, and going in guns blazin' is going to backfire on you.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:52 PM on June 17, 2012 [12 favorites]

demanding to see someone's personal communications 8 dates in is a red flag of controlling behavior. questioning things that make you uncomfortable or breaking it off because your instincts are pinging is totally ok and i am always in support of it. displaying red flag behavior yourself is less awesome.
posted by nadawi at 7:53 PM on June 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Can you tell by the ringtone that it's only one number he's not answering? Is he avoiding telling you who it was, but says who the other calls are from? I'd ask him about it and see what he says, like ThePinkSuperhero suggests.
posted by sninctown at 8:03 PM on June 17, 2012

I think it is telling that you have marked the answer that agrees with your assumptions as "best" when most of the other answers are questioning your reasoning and proposed behavior.

You are in an extremely new relationship. Even in my two-year relationship, I would not demand to read text conversations my boyfriend is having because that is rude and a violation of his privacy. If he were to refuse, it doesn't mean he's guilty, it means he values himself and his own agency. If someone were to make the same demand of me I would also refuse, regardless of the content of the messages. Insisting on controlling your boyfriend's private life this early in the relationship is indicative that maybe your expectations of how much of his life should be yours to command are a bit high.
posted by schroedinger at 8:08 PM on June 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

Hey everyone,

Thanks for the answers. But, honestly, I have legitimate reasons for having such doubts. I'm not a drama queen and I did not intend to make it a confrontation. It's just a word that I used. I'm not even angry or upset at all. If he's seeing someone while with me, it's just something that's not in line with my philosophy and I'll just walk away. No blame or no accusation. No drama, absolutely not. I'm just very straightforward and honest with my feelings.

I did try to ask him once who was it in a conversational manner at the time he was texting. He didn't answer, just said "it's not important, though."

He acted defensive of his privacy the last time I saw him, when I was looking at his phone while he was navigating it.

I'm only looking at behavior patterns here. I know I'm a little worried. But I have been in relationships where it was easier. The trust flowed right in, without me having to question anything or finding anything suspicious. I have also had experience where I brushed off my instincts, only to find out later that I was right.
posted by fish123 at 8:13 PM on June 17, 2012

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts.

Look. You've gone on eight dates. Neither of you can plausibly be in any sort of thoughtful, meaningful, adult version of love yet, because you barely know each other. This is not a criticism, but an observation.

Maybe you have legitimate reasons not to trust him, but deciding that this whole thing is some test of True Love is not at all realistic or healthy.
posted by scody at 8:39 PM on June 17, 2012 [16 favorites]

I'm a big believer in trusting your instincts. If something tells you something isn't right, then in my experience, something isn't right.

It's just... something is missing from your story. A lot is missing, actually. How often has this happened? I don't understand you to have described a pattern (although one could certainly be occurring), so no alarm bells are ringing for me. Have you guys said you're exclusive? How do you know he is screening the call, if he doesn't even look to see who it is? How do you know it isn't a call from his mom?

If you're going to confront him, I would start by voicing your observations/concerns and asking for an explanation. You might find that you feel better after that. If not, then I guess you could ask to see texts, although at that point, even if you don't find evidence of guilt in the texts, will you be able to trust him? It may be that you can't, and that's okay.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:40 PM on June 17, 2012

He acted defensive of his privacy the last time I saw him, when I was looking at his phone while he was navigating it.

I should very well hope so. Snooping at someone's phone is really rude. I wouldn't be surprised if he's more uncomfortable with your lack of boundaries than anything nefarious he's doing.
posted by xingcat at 8:42 PM on June 17, 2012 [14 favorites]

You're both being weird; let it go and start dating somebody else. Seriously. This isn't worth it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:48 PM on June 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm not a drama queen and I did not intend to make it a confrontation. It's just a word that I used.

If you're giving him an ultimatum that he has to show you his texts or you're leaving him, that is pretty much the definition of a confrontation.

He acted defensive of his privacy the last time I saw him, when I was looking at his phone while he was navigating it.

Because you were looking at his phone while he was using it. I can't abide someone watching over my shoulder while I'm reading, whether it be in a book, on a computer screen, or on a phone. I think that's not very unusual.
posted by Justinian at 8:49 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

His decision not to look at his phone when he's with you could as easily be a sign of his genuine interest in you -- that is, a sign that he finds your company important enough (because you see each other so infrequently?) that he's willing to put all other business on hold so he can focus on you.

I do exactly what he does when I'm out with people I am genuinely interested in. I always check my phone when it rings to see who it is because I'm legal guardian of a teenager so I have to make sure she's not in trouble. However, if I don't pick it up and don't want to derail the conversation then I'll totally deflect it and say that it's not important. I usually follow up with the person who called via text with a quick "can I call you back around X?" just in case it was important.

If I had a partner (regardless of how long we've been together) harassing me about this and demanding to see my texts, hell yes I'd get defensive. I like my privacy. I sometimes discuss sensitive things with my friends (not necessarily my secrets but their secrets) and I don't want anyone to see that, especially if they're being aggressive about it.

There are ways to go about this constructively. You could ask him why he does what he does (without being aggressive or judgemental) and then actually listen to what he says. If you've already made up your mind about his guilt, there is no point in talking to him about it; just break up with him.
posted by buteo at 8:49 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

there is this gigantic gulf of options between asking nonchalantly then not pressing further and demanding to see his phone then perusing his text messages. you should maybe explore some of that middle ground unless you're looking for a "reason" to leave. you don't actually need a reason and you can just break it off. he's probably acting defensive because you seem to be displaying poor early dating boundaries. keeping some things private as you learn about a new partner isn't being dishonest.

now, if you have a higher than normal need for disclosure of everything, be up front about that, but frame it as something you need instead of something he's doing wrong. i told my now husband that i absolutely couldn't abide hiding of porn or masturbation. i don't need to control it or approve it or even know ahead of time, but the secrecy around it is something that really bugs me. since that's a weird thing about me, i approached it as such and he was more than willing to accommodate me. previous partners have been less willing to give me that. that's ok. not everyone is made for each other and neither person needs to be wrong or to be the victim to end things.
posted by nadawi at 9:16 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also: Without looking to see who's calling, he said "it's not important. If he's not looking to see who's calling, how could he possibly know it's The Other Woman and not, like, his brother or something? To me, that makes me think that he's just focusing on you.

I agree with what Countess Sandwich said. Look, it's obvious you're very worked up about this, and feelings make people behave irrationally. The cure for that is to unwind and deconstruct the situation is an analytical way.

1) Is your boyfriend a psychic? How does he know who's calling without looking? The only plausible way that would make sense would be if he arranged for the hypothetical "other woman" to call him at that time.

2) Is your boyfriend stupid? Assuming that there is another woman, why would it make sense for him to have her call him while he is out on a date with you? This makes very little sense in terms of motive.

Of course, all this analysis is predicated on the assumption that your description is accurate and he didn't look at the phone at all. If those facts aren't accurate, then obviously that would change the analysis slightly.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:29 PM on June 17, 2012

You should just break up with him. I have no idea whether he's doing anything wrong or not. But either he's seeing someone else, in which case you're going to break up with him, or he's not, in which case he's going to break up with you for demanding to see his texts after 8 dates.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:33 PM on June 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

I have done this and the reason I didn't pick up the phone, but DID respond via text was because the call was from work.

Same here.

- No one gets to look at my texts, phone, or email and I'm 100% faithful and straight as an arrow. First, I just don't like it. Second, work info is really not your business. In fact, it's confidential.

- Two months is no time at all for any expectations. Month four, with the last two exclusive? Maybe.

- If you don't trust him, break up for that reason. Don't make it about the phone calls.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:42 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe he was dating around when he got involved with you and some of those people are still calling him, and he feels funny about picking up in front of you. To me, this would be an understandable dilemma. After two months' worth of dating, I don't feel as if you can expect someone to have cut everyone else off, even to talk to.

I just think you have to decide if you're on the same page about exclusivity. If he says you are, and you still don't believe him for whatever reason, it's time to get out.
posted by BibiRose at 9:50 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts.

This is ridiculous. I'm not comfortable with my husband, who I am ridiculously, passionately in love with, and for whom I am "innocent" in the way you describe, reading my text messages. I am allowed to have a personal life where he does not know every detail. And this is my husband. And you think he loves you after 2 months? That's like... crazy fast. If that level of sharing is important to you, then, you know, fine, but if he disagrees that doesn't mean he's doing anything wrong, and presenting it as an ultimatum like this instead of just the way you do things is unbelievably controlling.
posted by brainmouse at 9:54 PM on June 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

You sound like you would prefer to be with a very open and sharing person and he just isn't one. Some people really like their privacy and need to have it respected and for you to just trust them. Neither is wrong, just different. Personally I prefer open and sharing because I had some bad experiences with the opposite where I was totally trusting and got burned by it. Privacy does make it easier to hide cheating, especially if they answer all questions with "What? Don't you trust me?" and then you're screwed and you feel bad. I don't think its a matter of who is wrong and who is right, just one of compatibility.
posted by meepmeow at 10:22 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't really speak to why this is bothering you so much, but, as you can see from the many responses above, this isn't "unusual behavior" for a lot of people. I almost never answer my phone when I'm with people, but I do occasionally glance at it after the fact to make sure it's not critical. Also, more often than not, it's on silent or vibrate. Since you only see him once a week, I think it is nice he is not letting random phone calls intrude into your time together (a quick text back to certain calls at opportune moments doesn't seem like an intrusion just normal friend/work maintenance). His response that, "it's not important," isn't suspicious in and of itself. It could easily be interpreted that he'd rather not waste the limited time you have talking about some inconsequential call. Push this if you must, but it really does sound like you are overreacting, especially considering the time you've been together. Also, keep in mind while he might comply with your request, it is even more likely that he'll bounce because it seems like such an overreaction. I'm wondering if you've been burnt before so you are more sensitive to potential signs of dishonesty, which might be something to discuss with him. If that's the case, you need to own it though & acknowledge that he has probably done nothing wrong.
posted by katemcd at 10:33 PM on June 17, 2012

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the text

Two months in? What does love have to do with this? And for that matter what does innocence? If you phrased a demand/question/statement to me like that and we were married for 2 years, I would likely tell you "no". But, even if he shows you, you have created a rift of no trust that will be hard to overcome.

I think your best course of action is to have a discussion on exclusivity if you have no had one already.
posted by AugustWest at 10:35 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you guys just aren't compatible. Given what you've said about him and his actions so far there is nothing wrong with what he has done. And there's nothing wrong with being curious about his actions.

But please for the love of god don't confront him. That's going to get you categorized forever as "crazytown". Instead lay it out as "You know I'm really currious about your texts. It drives me crazy when you send a text in front of me and I don't know what's going on." If you're feeling like really taking a risk say "I feel like were' in a place in the reationship where we can trust each other." Then you unlock your phone, open up the texting app and slide your phone across the table to him. "Here, you can look through all of my texts and see what I've been up to." Then you ask him to do the same.

He'll probably say "Hell no!" and he would be entirely in his right to do so. Two measly months? That isn't enough time for most relationships to rummage freely through mobile phone. Heck, there are people I've loved my whole life and trust to the end of time, but I would hesitate to show them many of my text messages. I have some friends who are downright embarrassing. I love 'em but they're idiots, and it would require several hours to explain why they texted that particular thing and why I responded the way I did and why I hang out with lovable idiots like that, and why they're more lovable than idiots. And I value our time together too much to waste it on that. In fact that's why I don't answer my phone when we're out.

So go ahead and ask if you must (and it looks like you must. *sigh*) but don't confront him about cheating because I really don't think he is. You guys just got into this and the chances for miscommunication are astronomical. If you want this relationship to continue, communicate, don't confront.
posted by Ookseer at 10:39 PM on June 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you just need to confirm if he is on the same page as you in terms of exclusivity within the relationship. Forget the whole phone/texting thing when you discuss that. If he can confirm that with you and its all positive then I would put your mind to rest about how he chooses to use his phone, (assuming you want to remain in the relationship).
posted by Under the Sea at 10:49 PM on June 17, 2012

Girl, upon your update, it seems pretty clear he's shady.

Go ahead and confront him in the politest way possible (so many great scripts above) and dump him if his explanation doesn't ring true in your gut - you are likely right on this.

That is all.
posted by jbenben at 11:15 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're really worried, instead of asking about the phone and texting why don't you ask the question you want to ask, which is if he's seeing someone else? It's direct and to the point.

Fwiw, I don't think his behaviour sounds fishy at all, but instead sound like the normal behaviour of a polite person; that's still the case with the update, especially as you haven't been dating that long. However, I'm not there, so he may well be making the guilty eyes of doom. And it looks like you require a lot of openness about things other people might consider private especially at this stage in the relationship. That's fine! You want what you want and you're clearly entitled to that. But if you're that worried about his phone and his keeping that private after 8 dates, you're probably going to be worried about another instance of something similar and similar reaction on his part later on, so this sounds like not a good match for you.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:59 AM on June 18, 2012

fish123 said: "If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts."

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy terms, what you're doing right there is "shoulding". You're trying to apply your rule to someone else, and that's generally a bad idea. As you can see from this thread, it's not a universal human rule. Different people have different levels of what they find acceptable. For example, the only person who gets to see the messages on my phone is me. If I'm in a relationship, that doesn't mean that I'm cheating. It just means that the rule that nobody gets to see my phone except me comes before someone else's rule that they get to see what is on my phone because they think that I'm cheating on them.

You're also jumping to conclusions. You have exactly zero evidence right now that he's cheating on you with another girl. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's not happening, but it doesn't mean that it is, either. Or maybe you have some evidence? You say that you have legitimate reasons for these doubts, but don't tell us what they are. Telling us might lead to you getting better answers. As far as I can see, all you have is your gut telling you that he's seeing someone else, but listening to your gut isn't evidence.

Do you even know that it's the same person each time?

If you're not happy in the relationship, it's 100% OK to say that to him. If you can't meet in the middle of what you both find acceptable, or the good outweighs the bad, then it's time to separate. However, I think you need to accept that someone behaving differently to how you would like doesn't automatically mean that they're doing something nefarious. It might not be acceptable to you, but that doesn't make it wrong.
posted by Solomon at 3:02 AM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts.

Look, I get maybe three texts a month (one of which is a renewal notice from my cell provider) and even I'd be really skeeved out if my new girlfriend wanted this.
posted by Evilspork at 3:38 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

So here's the problem. What you're describing can be either of two situations.

1) He doesn't want to talk about whoever's calling with you. He thinks you'll overreact. This doesn't mean there's cheating going on. One of my ex boyfriends suddenly started not taking my calls and texting me instead and calling me back later. We weren't fooling around, but he'd gotten a new, really jealous girlfriend, and didn't want to deal with a fight over him taking my calls while out with her.

2) Whoever is texting him is someone he doesn't want to talk to, but doesn't want to talk about not wanting to talk to. When I was having rough spots with family, I would do this, or hard times at work.

It doesn't mean he's cheating - but i suspect you won't listen to this, judging by whay you've marked best answer. Just like you may not be listening to reasonable explanations from him.
posted by corb at 4:01 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think everybody is right about the situations they're imagining in their own heads, I'm just not sure what the actual situation is.

If he has certain people he knows are important (mother sister etc) on a specific 'family ringtone' and everybody else on another, and that's how he knows that he doesn't need to take these calls, and when he gets back to them later by text, it's in an unobtrusive way that doesn't interfere with your date, then there's a good chance he thinks he's being polite. (Even if his evasiveness is sketchy).

If he has a special ringtone he uses for women he dates and that's how he knows not to answer, that's a whole different situation.

If your intuition is pinging though, it's worth addressing. Not in a confrontational way, but when both of you have time and space to talk about it, and when you know that if he says something that doesn't fit with how you want to see your relationship progressing, you'll have the headspace to just walk away instead of getting further drawn in to confrontations, arguments, and drama.

(I wonder whether you have a way of finding out what ringtone he's assigned to you?)
posted by Salamandrous at 5:24 AM on June 18, 2012

His texting while he's out on a date with you is rude. I think his talking to friends and family is rude, too, though I wouldn't necessarily mind that for practical reasons.

Your looking at his phone to see what he's doing is also rude.

Your interpretation when he refuses to take a call is that it's not from friends or family, so who's left? You also imply that he does not need to look at his phone to know that the call is not from friends/family but someone in neither category, and that you're unable to distinguish by (say) ringtone because the phone is always on vibrate, but he is nonetheless able to recognize who is calling without any clues from hearing or looking at the phone.

Here comes a controversial opinion-to-be: I agree that this is a curious pattern. In particular, the texting in your presence tells me that it's not about him being polite and focussed on you - it's about him interacting with someone you're not supposed to know about, in front of you, about matters you aren't supposed to know about.

Is it suspicious? Hell if I know. The reason why it's rude, though, is precisely because it excludes people who are present in favour of people who aren't present, and in a dating context, it piques your curiosity. I'M DOING SOMETHING SECRET, BUTT OUT - charming.

So I think it's a manners issue. I think he should stay off the phone and you should stop trying to look at it - which will be easier if he's not on it.

This is not me telling you to tell him to get off the phone because it's rude, though. That would be rude. Only you can decide if this is enough to break up over.
posted by tel3path at 5:25 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think approaching him with a suspicion that he's seeing someone and a request to see his texts is the way to go. If he's not doing anything shady, he'll likely be offended and tell you he's not comfortable with that at all; if he is doing something shady, he'll likely act offended and saying he's not comfortable with that at all. Odds of getting either an "Of course I'm not seeing somebody else but I don't mind at all that you'd jump to that conclusion, please look through my phone to put your mind at rest!" or a "Yep, you caught me, I'm seeing someone else, please look through my phone to get all the details!" are pretty slim.

I do think you should listen to your instincts if they're telling you something's not right here, though. Clearly they're picking up on something as suspicious-looking behaviour, and while that doesn't mean your boyfriend is up to something unsavoury, it also doesn't mean you should disregard all your internal warning signals until you can pin down exactly what it is they're picking up on and get other people to agree it's objectively warning-signal-worthy. That's not really how instincts work.

I'd go with something like ThePinkSuperhero's suggestion above, and see how that goes. If you're still feeling iffy about his answer, or if he keeps brushing it off as "oh, it's not important", you can decide where you want to take it from there. But you don't need objective proof that he's seeing someone else in order to decide this isn't working for you; if you're feeling uncomfortable about this, then you're feeling uncomfortable about this, and that's enough to make decisions on all by itself.
posted by Catseye at 5:38 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

He acted defensive of his privacy the last time I saw him, when I was looking at his phone while he was navigating it.

I get defensive when my husband looks over my shoulder while I'm on my laptop simply because he doesn't need to know exactly how much time I spend reading Celebrity Baby Blog. Srsly.

I also have never looked at his texts or emails or demanded (or even asked nicely) to see his phone and we've been together for nearly five years. If I ever felt like I needed to the bigger problem would be that I didn't trust him, which wouldn't be cured by seeing his texts anyway.

It sounds like you don't trust this guy and the better move would be to move on and find someone who doesn't make you feel on edge rather than try to force a situation that's making you uncomfortable - because truly, nothing good will come of you asking to see his texts. Either you'll find your suspicions were correct or he'll feel like your expectations of him aren't in line with where he felt you were at in the relationship.

If your hunches have been right in the past, go with that and simply move on.
posted by sonika at 6:18 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is he a sports fan? I know many people who have text alerts set up for various teams/players. He might not want to get into his fantasy baseball obsession with you this early in the relationship.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:00 AM on June 18, 2012

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts.

I wouldn't count on him loving you quite yet. This is a two-month old relationship where you see him once a week? Unless this is an old friend that you have transitioned into dating, you don't actually even really know each other yet.

It seems to me like you're overreacting and assuming that your behavior patterns are the default behavior patterns for other people. You might be comfortable with other people reading your text messages after having dated them for a couple of months, but you shouldn't assume that your comfort is also your boyfriend's comfort.

Importantly, though, there's certainly no reason you should stay in a relationship where you do not trust your partner. If it's important that you see the conversations, you should ask him to show them to you. However, I think you should be prepared for it not going well at all, up to and likely including the end of the relationship.
posted by ndfine at 7:25 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Either he's exclusive with you, and things are ducky, or he's not, and in your world, that's the end of it.

I think you're absolutely silly for saying "If he loves me, he'll show me." First of all, love? After 2 months? That's not love, that's infatuation.

And show you? No way, not ever. Asking to be shown is just psycho.

You don't get to know all of private stuff after being together 2 months. It's not fair.

What if every time it happened, he said, "Oh, it's my Mom, I'll deal with her later," or "That's my buddy Eddie, he's being an ass." Would that make you feel better? Why?

Examine why you're unsettled by this. It's perfectly normal for people who aren't cheaters. Is there something else about him that gives you that impression?

I'm a big one for following your gut. This may be just one of many things that don't ring right about your boyfriend. And if your gut says bail, then bail. But if it's just this one thing, then no. You're over-reacting.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Regardless of your respect for his privacy, what about the privacy of the people he texts with? One person above pointed out that their work texts are formally confidential. Personally, I assume that my texts to friends are not going to be shared with their lovers, partners, friends or dogs without good reason.

I'm having a hard time understanding exactly what he's doing and why it's bothering you, largely because I'm personally so conservative about phone usage that most people's choices strike me as rude and slightly checked out. One thing I'm pretty convinced of, though, is that people have such wildly different expectations of cell-phone usage that it's a mistake to draw conclusions about what someone is doing and how they feel based on what you think is a universal standard of cell phone use, because there isn't one.
posted by endless_forms at 8:27 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't even let my grandmother, or my best friend of over a decade, look at my phone without my explicit permission. If I were on a date with someone and I received a call or text and they reacted like this, trying to sneak looks at my phone as I'm using it, I would be extremely turned off. If, after two months of dating, they DEMANDED to know who else I talk to, and pinned the strength of my affection for them on my willingness to submit to an interrogation, they would be out of my life immediately. Hell, after two YEARS of dating, if they pulled that, we'd be on extremely rocky ground and would probably break up.
posted by palomar at 9:05 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

His texting while he's out on a date with you is rude. I think his talking to friends and family is rude, too, though I wouldn't necessarily mind that for practical reasons.

Like so many other things here, this is something that could just be a phone-culture difference.

I work (and socialize) with a lot of people who do the same sort of communication-intensive and time-sensitive work. We are always on our phones. I mean always. If I'm with people who aren't part of this culture, I try to be unobtrusive and keep my phone in my hand, so that I can feel the vibration, casually flip it over, glance at it, see the situation, and turn it back over. If it needs a response, I will try not to make it obvious that I'm texting, but I definitely will. If for some reason I'm in a situation where that's obvious, I keep it in my purse and check it every ten-fifteen minutes. I've even excused myself and gone to the bathroom with my phone in my hand so I could respond to something particularly intensive.

Thing is, all of this was..really not important for whoever I was with to know. They don't need to know that a news story just broke and I need to sign off on a response right now, or that something just came back. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with my relationship - especially not at 2 months old.

I'm trying to reassure you here, but I think it's quite possible that you should just break up. Do not pass Confrontationland, do not collect a set of excuses and increasingly loud arguments, just break up. If you are insistent that this kind of behavior is suspicious and you need him to prove himself to you, and he is jumpy about you even looking over his shoulder, you are never going to agree on this. It only gets worse from here.
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Give the poor guy a break and just DTMFA1
posted by txmon at 9:57 AM on June 18, 2012

My first thought reading that wasn't " It's another girl." it was "This is about drugs." So there's that.

And aside from envy one going on about privacy, I think it's totally legitimate to be curious about these mysterious phone calls, and to voice it to him, carefully. You have the right idea, ask him for an explanation, don't snoop.
posted by catatethebird at 10:29 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not dating you, but I don't think your reaction is reasonable at all - it's presumptive/reactionary without evidence to support it. Even if you had something solid to be suspicious of, the way that you are choosing to deal with this would probably turn off a guy who had nothing to hide. Unless he caves to your demands, he is in a no-win situation. And to be honest, even if he did, I have a thought that this wouldn't be resolved on your end.

But I don't think you should ignore your feelings either; it sounds like you are already convinced that he needs to prove something and it's been my (anecdotal) experience that this usually backfires, one way or the other.
posted by sm1tten at 10:31 AM on June 18, 2012

If he's innocent and loves me, he should have no problem showing me the texts.

I want to go back to this because I feel like it's very important -- this is the same kind of attitude I see in police officers who don't agree with a citizen's right to privacy. You're making a lot of assumptions about your boyfriend based on very circumstantial evidence, and using those assumptions to mount an involuntary search and seizure of any "hard" evidence you could use to convict him.

To draw a correlary, this would be like if you were a police officer and you pulled me over for having a broken tail light, noticed that I seemed nervous (possibly because armed police officers scare the everloving shit out of me), and used that as grounds to tear apart my car to look for the drugs you are certain must be there. After all, if I'm innocent, I should have no problem submitting to your will, right?
posted by palomar at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

"So. We've been dating for two months, and I'm thinking it might be time to make it exclusive. If you have any other relationships, you'll have to end them. How much time do you need to cut them off...or would you rather not be exclusive?"

See what he says in response, and if he says "I don't have any other relationships", say "Then who is that person whose calls you won't take when I'm around?"

Mind you, he may have a legitimate and valid response, but he might not. Find out!
posted by davejay at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

See what he says in response, and if he says "I don't have any other relationships", say "Then who is that person whose calls you won't take when I'm around?"

Mind you, he may have a legitimate and valid response, but he might not. Find out!

Problem is, even if the answer's legitimate, this framing unnecessarily puts him on the defensive... which is not really a recipe for establishing trust and openness.
posted by scody at 4:38 PM on June 18, 2012

If I were happily dating someone for two months and then they gave me a "show me your texts or else" ultimatum, my first response would be "ok, bye." If I had been saying them for two years, that would be preceded by "please tell me you're not serious right now." If I'd been dating them for ten, there'd be a "no, really, I really need you to not be serious about this right now" somewhere in there.

A discussion about exclusivity is quite reasonable at this juncture. Saying to him, "look, it kind of bugs me that there are certain calls or texts you don't take around me, so I just need some reassurance that those don't have anything to do with me or us" is also quite acceptable. Communicate with him and give him a chance to talk with you.

I'm emphatically not telling you not to trust your instincts. You should absolutely do so. What I'm telling you is that there's a way to trust your instincts that doesn't start with burning down the village. If you think this relationship has merit, then a more measured, though no less direct, approach is far more likely to yield satisfactory fruit.
posted by Errant at 12:29 AM on June 19, 2012

Sorry, I missed the "exclusive" part of your opening line. Ignore that part of my advice, please, since you've already discussed it. I stand by the rest.
posted by Errant at 12:31 AM on June 19, 2012

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