Happily Never After?
December 6, 2013 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I am a little worried that my current S.O.'s behavior is a sign that he is cheating on me.

My S.O. and I have been dating for a long time (we are living together, go on vacations together). i have brought up marriage many times and have openly stated that marriage is something I would like to consider, but my S.O. remains indifferent during all of these conversations. I am starting to feel as if my S.O. isn't really interested anymore or doesn't understand why I want to get married. Recently, one of my friends broke off her engagement due to her exfiance cheating on her. It was totally unexpected and she is a mess. I know I shouldn't, but this experience reminds me of my many LTR where my S.O.s have cheated on me. It makes me wonder if my current S.O. is cheating on me or will. They are one of those people that can just befriend exs or easily friends women online.

I am a little worried that my current S.O.'s behavior is a sign that he is cheating on me.

I am starting to doubt my own feelings for him. What should I do? What does his behavior mean?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total)
What does his behavior mean?

Unfortunately no one here can answer this for you; only he can.

What should I do?

You need to talk to him about your concerns. Communication is absolutely key to a healthy relationship. Explain what you're worried about and why, and ask for an honest answer from him. And then do some serious thinking about his answer, your feelings about the relationship, and what makes you happy.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:55 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You haven't really given us any specific behaviors to even base a guess on, other than disinterest in marriage - which, for some, apparently isn't a high priority. So, at the moment, I'd have to say it could be anything from "yes, he's cheating" to "no, you're projecting your friend's problems into your own relationship".

That said, doubts about the relationship - and mistrust - whether valid or not, are a sign things are going to go downhill. If valid, because of the SO's actions - and if not, because of your own.

It's one of those really sucky catch-22s... and it's a heck of a good way to get ourselves trapped into second-guessing everything.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm no longer willing to deal with a relationship where I have to wonder where I stand... I'd much rather be alone then go through that nonsense again.

Then again, it's entirely possible that line of thought could mess up a perfectly good relationship with a future, if I'd only give someone a bit of time to sort themselves out, when there's nothing wrong really going on...

But I've had enough drama in my life, and I'm done with it. I get to choose that for me, and others can either deal with my refusal to have drama, or go the heck away - and most days, I don't even care which it is.

But that's me. Your mileage may vary.
posted by stormyteal at 10:01 PM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm a bit confused. Do I have this right? -- Your SO is acting indifferent to your talk of marriage. Meanwhile, your friend's SO was cheating on her. So now you're wondering if your SO is cheating on you? Is there any other troubling behavior that leads you to suspect cheating?

If not, I'd say, don't let your friend's situation make you worry unnecessarily. Just because someone isn't ready to get engaged doesn't mean they are cheating on you.
posted by salvia at 10:02 PM on December 6, 2013 [20 favorites]

You should talk to him. We have no idea what his behavior means and you haven't told us what his behavior actually is beyond "isn't enthusiastic about getting married."
posted by Justinian at 10:03 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Because he isn't interested in being engaged (no pun) in the conversation when you start talking marriage, it probably means he isn't interested in marrying you. If he's never expressed interest in settling down, let alone with you, then you already have your answer. But I agree with schro, you won't know for sure until you sit down with him and discuss it.

You mentioned that you've been cheated on multiple times in previous long term relationships. If this is a pattern in your romantic life, then it sounds like it's time to examine the common denominator- you. What sort of men are you attracting? Are you unknowingly sending insecure and/or low self-esteem signals out into the world when you're available, and therefore attracting men who like easy prey and who don't take their relationships very seriously?

Without being close to the situation myself I can't give you any definitive answers, but it sounds to me like you may need to be the one who leaves, and start to work on yourself. Find your self-worth, demand better from the men you date, realize that marriage isn't the be all end all, etc.
posted by OneHermit at 10:05 PM on December 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

No one can tell you what his behavior means but him, especially since you haven't really come out and said what he's doing -- other than being indifferent to marriage -- that makes you suspicious.

Just a bit of advice though... stop saying that marriage is something you'd like to "consider" if that's what you really want and don't pretend to be okay with your SO making "women friends" online if it actually bothers you. You're not doing yourself any favors by being oblique.
posted by sm1tten at 10:36 PM on December 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Step back from the cheating suspicion for a moment and focus on his inability to communicate.

"Please look at me and acknowledge what I am saying: Marriage is something I want in my future. Is this something YOU might want in your future?" Get an answer and take it from there in the direction of discussion around whether or not you see one another as the person you might marry.

Tell him this is important to you to talk about. If he gives you anything but his full care and attention during this discussion, it's time to move on to a real man who can talk like a grown up. Discuss your values, your dealbreakers, children, religion, money, where you want to be in 20 years.

If you get that far, then consider how committed you need him to be. If you want a commitment to marriage in the "someday future," nail that down a bit with some concrete benchmarks. Decide together. Maybe you decide that by next year or in two years (pick a month) you want to be sure you are on the same path to marriage. Ok then, when that time comes, if you haven't already committed, you have the Come to Jesus talk. Then, if one of you just isn't feeling it, be honest and end it and allow yourselves to move on and find what you need in this crazy world.

Communicate with and respect one another and be okay with it if you aren't on the same page.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:36 PM on December 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

This isn't an indicator of cheating. This is an indicator of someone who doesn't want to have an uncomfortable conversation. Symptoms of cheating are more likely things like giving you vague or very short answers about his whereabouts, or every once in a while showing super nervous reactions when receiving a text message.

You have a right to get emotionally honest answers, and you have a right to a partner who doesn't evade you. I think you should push the issue. You may not like the answer you get, but it's better than not knowing.

Men who befriend their exes and have online friendships are not automatically cheaters. I'm great friends with several of my exes. I'm was never a cheater.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 10:37 PM on December 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

I don't know about cheating, but you should definitely ask your SO if he ever wants to marry you or what.

After umpteen years together, living together, traveling together, etc. it is certainly an appropriate question to ask.
posted by Sara C. at 10:49 PM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm friends with my exes online. Definitely not going to cheat with any of them.

I broke up with them. There was a good reason for that. If I wanted to be with them, why would I be in a committed relationship with someone else right now? It just doesn't compute.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:15 PM on December 6, 2013

Why would you want to marry someone you suspect is cheating?
posted by kinoeye at 11:20 PM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Listen, before you go all apeshit comparing yourself to your friend's situation, you don't even know what's going on with your friend, or what's in store for her. Maybe she'll meet the man of her dreams and live happily ever after. Maybe this is the best thing that ever happened to her, she just doesn't know it yet.

I personally don't think a conversation's in order until you figure out what it is that you want and figuring out whether or not your boyfriend's behavior feels ok to you. "Being friends with exes" or with "lots of women" could be a sign he's not looking for a deep commitment. In such a situation, I would pay attention to his observable actions and how this impacts your feelings.

Regardless, you can't force his hand; worst case scenario is you do, and you end up marrying a cheater. Figure out what your feelings are, present those to him, and then see if he wants to work it out. If he doesn't, there's your answer. Don't keep score on him. That will cause things to go south quickly, as well as change your own feelings about him. If he's cheating on you, fuck'im. That reflects poorly on him, not you.
posted by phaedon at 11:22 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Absent of any other incriminating behavior, I think you may be jumping to conclusions on the cheating bit. It sounds as though you have this thing that has become important to you (long term commitment in the form of marriage) that your partner is not similarly interested in. This could be for any of a thousand reasons, especially if things are otherwise comfortable in the relationship.

I believe the best thing to do would be to let them know that their seeming ambivalence to getting married makes you feel insecure, and one of the things you fear is infidelity. That way, you've gotten your feelings out in the open (which they may not be, based on your description), and you've given your partner an opportunity to put your fears of cheating to rest.

The worst that can happen is your partner fails to put your fears to rest, and that's not necessarily a bad thing - you'd much rather get this hammered out before you're married or engaged.
posted by Mooski at 5:49 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are allowed to break up with him if he's not interested in marriage--whether he's cheating or not.
posted by zanni at 6:33 AM on December 7, 2013 [8 favorites]

You are settling for cohabitation when you would obviously prefer marriage.

You've shared no evidence here that your S.O. is being unfaithful to you. Nevertheless, him cheating is a very real fear for you. (I'll assume, based on your particular usage of he, she, and 'women online' that you are a woman and he's a man and this is a hetero relationship - but please tell me if I've got that wrong.)

So I can't help but connect your impermanent relationship status to these feelings. Cohabitating without a future plan is, understandably, making you feel insecure about at least one of the three things women tend to value and that a committed marriage generally (but not always, of course) brings:

1) stability,
2) economic security, and
3) fidelity.

What no one ever talks about is that women and men tend to have significantly different expectations of cohabitation — men are, on average, significantly less committed. Generalizing a bit obviously, but let's be honest: exactly no one here would be terribly surprised if it's the man in your relationship who does not want to talk about marriage, and it's the woman who does -- because that's such a common narrative in our culture.

Most of us have seen examples of this. We know a young woman — or two or three — who’s lived with a guy, hoping for “together forever,” while he takes his time deciding whether to commit. Three years later, he announces that he’s “not ready” for marriage. He walks away with few regrets, but she’s left, at age 32, with the feeling of a ticking biological clock (which may or may not be true BTW, YMMV) and the task of finding a new forever partner if that's what she still wants. The dream can change, thankfully.

OP, I think your cheating concern is a red herring, and you and your S.O. are overdue for a state of the union address, followed by a BATNA a la @OneHermit's last paragraph.
posted by hush at 6:36 AM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

You want to get married, to him, and have told him this. He doesn't seem interested in being married. If he's *not* cheating, are you just going to stay with him while he continues to not want to be married? If he *is* cheating, you would probably break up with him, yes?

You don't need "permission" in the form of him cheating in order to break up. If you really want a thing (marriage) that requires his input, and he doesn't want that, you can break up with him whether he's cheating or not.
posted by rtha at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can also propose to him, you know, perhaps with a deadline. Then you'll know.
posted by carmicha at 8:11 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your friend's situation is a red herring. Here's the important part of your question:
I am starting to doubt my own feelings for him.
If marriage is a dealbreaker for you, and you ask him to discuss it and he continues to be ambivalent about it or is evasive, you owe it to yourself to find yourself someone else who wants to marry you.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:25 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

i have brought up marriage many times and have openly stated that marriage is something I would like to consider

Yikes look at that language. YOU must be clear on what you want: marriage is important to me and I want it. Period. No "oh yeah it's something I'd like to consider." Stop being wishy-washy about what you want.

Then with this clarity, talk to your partner. Listen to what he says and take it for real. If he says he's not interested, this is your answer. Then you decide if the status quo is ok or if you want more.

As for him cheating, you haven't given any evidence other than your friend's experience has instigated your "being cheated on" anxiety.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Precious little info here generally, but what you describe of him seems just indifferent. But your description seems really indifferent, too. I know not everybody's that schmoopy, but it sounds more like you just want to get married, period, than that you are madly in love with this man and want to spend the rest of your life with him and will be heartbroken if you lose him, etc. I'm not going to tell you to just dump him or whatever, but you might want to spend a bit of time thinking about that. You're allowed to look for something more in your life than just settling for what you've already got.
posted by Sequence at 1:13 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The cheating doesn't matter as much as your dissatisfaction with him.

You might love him but he's being a real drag. He likely won't marry you. Just get yourself out of this relationship and start fresh.
posted by discopolo at 5:09 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I logged into my long-dormant account just to comment on this.

What I wanted to mention was that in my current relationship (I'm 26F, he is 32M), we're basically experiencing the same thing but the other way around -- I am the one who is resistant to marriage, and he is the one who wonders why this is, plus has been cheated on in the past and seems a bit paranoid about it with me.

Funny thing is, for all his concerns, I would never ever cheat on him, never have, never will. He seems to be projecting his issues from past relationships onto this one, leading to the paranoia. That, and, he can't understand me as someone who's not totally gung ho on marriage (for many reasons, but I really don't think it diminishes my love for him to not want marriage.... but yeah, anyway, it seems to also contribute to this issue, where neither of us really understands the other's perspective).

So, of course I know nothing about your SO, but just wanted to share my own experience with kinda sorta being in that position, for what it's worth.
posted by Foggy Notion at 4:52 AM on December 10, 2013

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