Fiance Met Up with Old Female Friend; Didn't Mention It. Now What?
December 16, 2013 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Me: mid-40's living with teenage kid, him: mid-50's moved in with us (after several year LDR) months ago. A few days ago, he got together with an old female friend and I found out accidentally.

Up until last night I would have said the relationship was strong. I love him, he loves me, we're planning our wedding. Great sex, great companionship, we finish each other's sentences, we're happy together. He's wonderful with my kid who loves him.

Communication wise, he's more of a plodder emotionally than I, so he can hold onto his feelings of worry, sadness or any basic "something's bugging me" concerns longer than I but he has always eventually told me what's ongoing and we've always been able to discuss things and come out better on the other side.

Last night, his cell phone buzzed and he asked me to grab it for him. I did and saw there was a text from a woman I didn't know saying it was great to see him a few days ago and she was looking forward to meeting me. (So no snooping on my part. Also critical to mention is that I've not ever had any inner feelings of ick or suspicion about him.)

So I ask what this is all about. He said she was an old coworker (from like 25 years ago...he lived here years ago and is now reconnecting with many old friends since he's moved back here...she was an old female acquaintance...I never knew of her) who recently connected with him via Facebook and they got together so he could give her a copy of the book he's written. (Sidenote: he recently published a book and has been getting it out to people).

Of course I was like, "Huh? And were you ever going to mention this?" I was obviously upset.

His response was only apologetic. He wanted to mention it several times but couldn't find a good time. He realized it was a mistake to not tell me right afterwards and didn't know when to tell me, then it snowballed, etc. My kid was around all IS a small house, he was afraid it would be a massive blowup and he didn't want to do that with my kid around, then we had a snowstorm and we couldn't get out so he could talk. There really wasn't any time this weekend to talk. I get that.

He tried to make clear this isn't the beginning of him sneaking around or seeing her or anything unseemly. He said it was a last minute, "Why not," type of thing and then he couldn't figure out how to mention it without it becoming a gigantic issue (in front of my kid and to me).

He was the one to say he recognized what a stupid thing it was to do (getting together with her without saying anything and then of course, not mentioning it). He understood why I was upset. He offered to go see someone to talk if I need to do that. He swears (God, I can't believe how cliched this all sounds) this was nothing but just being stupid and wrong.

In our brief, late-night conversation he was nothing but sorry, willing to do anything to make me feel better, and absolutely clear that he wants to get married and stay together and that this was a stupid one-off, not the beginning of his exit strategy. He was clear he'll never do anything like this again.

I could see from her text that clearly he HAD mentioned me; and that he wants us all to meet.

So what's the next step here? Is this a DTMFA now territory? Is this a bug and not a feature?

How does this get solved happily? This guy was the love of my my life and now I don't even know what I feel other than betrayed.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (71 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Your guy is in his fifties. You are in your forties, for god's sake. Him meeting an old friend without telling you is totally allowed. If he was going to cheat on you, he wouldn't tell his paramour about his live-in girlfriend.

He said it was a last minute, "Why not," type of thing and then he couldn't figure out how to mention it without it becoming a gigantic issue (in front of my kid and to me).

He didn't know how to tell you without it becoming a giant issue because he knows you well enough to know that you would make it a giant issue.
posted by Think_Long at 6:44 AM on December 16, 2013 [163 favorites]

If he were hiding something, he wouldn't have asked you to grab his cell phone.
posted by logicpunk at 6:46 AM on December 16, 2013 [44 favorites]

I'm... not entirely sure what the problem is here. He met an old friend who he was never romantically involved with. He gave her a copy of his new book. He mentioned you to her and gave you no particular reason to think he's not faithful, in this occasion or any other.

You've just made a HUGE deal out of him... meeting up with an old friend and not telling you. He's a grownup; he doesn't have to inform you of every single communication he has with someone. If this was an ex, it might be different, but it's not - just a person who happens to be female.

I could see from her text that clearly he HAD mentioned me; and that he wants us all to meet.

Okay, so what in the world is the big deal? He didn't know how to tell you about it without it becoming a giant issue and guess what, it looks like he was right.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:46 AM on December 16, 2013 [76 favorites]

So what's the next step here? Is this a DTMFA now territory? Is this a bug and not a feature?

On my planet, this sort of thing is a non-issue. That is, outside of the "something unusual happened" there is one warning sign ("huh, he didn't tell me") and a bunch of non warning signs

- not secretive about his phone
- apologetic and not defensive when you spoken
- he obviously mentioned you

So I'd just do a mid-course correction sort of thing, talk through your feelings about this incident sometime when your kid isn't around, give it a finite time limit so that it doesn't turn into some interminable processing exercise and both talk about what you'd do differently next time.

Just reading between the lines here, is it possible you have ... strong reactions to this sort of thing and the reason he didn't tell you may have been intentionally avoiding this sort of "OMG!" reaction on your part? Just curious since my SO had an ex who would lose her shit about random stuff and he's specifically avoidant in this way now and it's taken a lot of very understated reactions from me to help him feel that he can mention things-she-might-not-like without worrying I might flip (I am less of a flip-outer, but I can sometimes be like "Ugh why didn't you tell me that?" about things, though not this type of thing). Your immediate jumping to potential DTMFA is why I am asking, and just saying think on your own reactions a while too and ask yourself why you think you feel this way. Did you have a bad past relationship? Weird stuff with your folks? It's totally okay to feel what you feel, it's just useful if both of you can look at yourselves and be like "Huh, why did I do that?" and then move forward together.
posted by jessamyn at 6:46 AM on December 16, 2013 [41 favorites]

there was a text from a woman I didn't know saying it was great to see him a few days ago and she was looking forward to meeting me (emphasis mine)

This woman is obviously not trying to horn in on your relationship. Mentioning a SO as she did is a good way to communicate that a new friendship is strictly platonic.

Seriously. I hate to pile on, but this is how I acted about boys in like middle school.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:47 AM on December 16, 2013 [36 favorites]

he was afraid it would be a massive blowup

Why is it such a big deal for him to catch up with a female friend?

Should he have told you? Well, it would have been nice.

But the fact that he felt like he couldn't say anything without you flipping out is a huge red flag. Much bigger than him hanging out with a friend.

The two of you should go to couples counseling before getting married, so that both of you can work on communicating better and so that you can work on your jealousy issues.
posted by phunniemee at 6:48 AM on December 16, 2013 [19 favorites]

The fact that he told her about you and the text implied that she knew, and was looking forward to meeting you? It strikes me that he has apologized for his actions, but that you should likely do some apologizing at this point.
posted by jcworth at 6:48 AM on December 16, 2013 [16 favorites]

I am having a very hard time figuring out what the big deal is. I think both of you are over-reacting. I don't know what "got together" means, but it sounds like he met with an old co-worker and gave her a copy of his book.

This wasn't a secret tryst with an old flame. He obviously mentioned you during their meeting. If he were hiding anything in the slightest, he wouldn't have had you handle his phone that just received a text message. I am a married man in his late 30s who occasionally has lunch with female coworkers - I don't then "confess" to my wife and fall over myself with apologies. That he volunteered to go to therapy over such a non-issue makes me think you might have him walking on eggshells.

He said that he didn't mention anything because he didn't want it to become a gigantic issue. He was right.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:48 AM on December 16, 2013 [20 favorites]

He was the one to say he recognized what a stupid thing it was to do (getting together with her without saying anything and then of course, not mentioning it). He understood why I was upset. He offered to go see someone to talk if I need to do that. ... I could see from her text that clearly he HAD mentioned me; and that he wants us all to meet.

I think you are overreacting. Should he have told you? Sure. But in no way is the DTMFA territory. Other than not telling you he has done nothing suspicious or reg flaggy. You said yourself that in the text (that presumably you weren't intended to read) it suggested that the THREE OF YOU should get together. This is not the actions of a cheater. I am guessing you got really REALLY upset over this if he was offering to go to talk to someone (which I read as a counselor or couples therapist) with you over it if you wanted to. If this was a trend where he was witholding things all the time and that he was seeing women "platonically" all the time behind your back, yeah, go see a couples therapist. This? Seeing a therapist over this seems like a huge overreaction. I actually think how upset you are over this and that you even asked if it was worth dumping him over it is a much bigger issue. Are you actually that happy in your relationship? Are you happy you moved in together? Is it going as smoothly as you say? Because when I finished reading your question I said to myself "Sounds like she is just looking for a way out."
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:48 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, to clarify: not mentioning this to you is so tiny a slip on his part. He seems upfront and honest in general. This is nowhere near DTMFA territory. They are clearly not interested in dating one another, so I don't see what the issue here might be.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:49 AM on December 16, 2013

I'm going to spin this another direction . . . are you upset that he actually met this woman or that he didn't tell you about a significant part of his day? Something different in his day happened and he didn't care to mention it to you?

My husband does this from time to time. "How was your day?" "Eh." And then days later I find out something significant happened and it makes me really really upset. I don't necessarily care about the event, but I do care that something unusual happened, something out of the ordinary and he didn't bother to think to tell me about it. I sometimes feel left out of his life because of this. I don't feel included.

So, there may be two issues that you're upset about - 1. him meeting a woman and not telling you and/or 2. withholding something that happened during his day that he didn't bother to tell you about - making you feel out of the loop, not included in his life.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:51 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is nothing.

A better response on your part would have been, "Oh? How nice that you reconnected. Maybe we should all get together for drinks after the holidays."

Why are you insecure?

I agree that some pre-marital counseling might be in order here. He did nothing wrong, would you expect him to mention a male former collegue that he exchanged an email with? Not everyone and everything is worthy of a mention.

It is concerning that you're thinking you need to dump him, and that he actively kept the incident from you for fear that you'd freak out (which to be fair, you did.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:53 AM on December 16, 2013 [27 favorites]

I might gently suggest that you think about what bothers you about this - really. He knew it was going to be a problem, which is saying something. That doesn't mean he's off the hook for not mentioning it, but it does indicate that maybe your reaction wasn't a surprise and that he didn't want to deal with said reaction.

One thing I do in similar situations - ones where my emotions are taking over - is I sit back and say to myself: "What are the facts?"

What are the facts?
- He mentioned you to her
- She wants to meet you
- He is reconnecting with a lot of people lately because of his book
- He was worried about your reaction
- He doesn't care if you see his phone

What I see here is a man who is trying to take care of a woman who is scared he will cheat.

I think, to put it kindly, that this is your deal to work out. I would talk to him about what would make you comfortable, but think first about what seems reasonable to you. Is it "he can't spend time alone with other women in public"? Or is it "he can't spend time alone with other women in private"? Or is it "I don't want him spending time with anyone if he doesn't tell me first"? Think about what kind of parameters would make you OK. Then think about how you would feel if those parameters were also placed on you. Revise if necessary.

Then talk with one another.

Also, when you say he was the love of your life, that gives me pause. Something else is going on here if your relationship is so fragile that something like this could make you question your love for him.

Sit and think for a bit about this. Try to be logical, rational, and non-emotional. When you're ready, talk with him.
posted by k8lin at 6:57 AM on December 16, 2013 [26 favorites]

You have trust issues. This is a red herring. He did nothing that merits even consideration of DTMFA.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:57 AM on December 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

jessamyn and I live on the same planet (which we apparently share with pretty much everyone else here). This might be a thing to have clearer communication/expectations about; this seems to be an issue of *yours* that you need to work out; this is not even remotely near DTMFA territory. This woman was not even an ex, let alone an ex from 25 years ago. What is it exactly that bugged you so much about this?
posted by rtha at 6:58 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

How does this get solved happily?

Happily for him? He takes a step back and reevaluates whether he wants to be in a relationship with someone to whom he has to justify every interaction he has with a woman the instant he turns away from that interaction.

Happily for you? Accept that he's not going to do that (because his doing that would be crazy), and that your jealousy issues are going to poison this relationship, and get whatever level of help you need to overcome them.
posted by Etrigan at 7:00 AM on December 16, 2013 [44 favorites]

If this askme had been written by him, I suspect that our responses to his tale of meeting with an old friend completely innocently, but being afraid to tell his SO, who then found out by accident and blew up about it, would cause a lot more of us to be headed down the DTMFA path than your asking it from your standpoint.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:01 AM on December 16, 2013 [18 favorites]

So what's the next step here? Is this a DTMFA now territory?

Well yes, but he should be breaking up with you.

Why do you think he needs to clear seeing friends with you beforehand? Why does he need to mention it after? Do you think he owes you a full accounting of every second? Do you want to be a partner or a warden?

He understood why I was upset.

No, he doesn't. He was trying to mollify you, because he's afraid. Since you freak out over absolutely nothing and are now considering breaking up with him (I cannot believe how "right" you think you are) he has reason. Does that sound good to you? Is that the kind of relationship you want?

Not that he needs any defending, because he is 0% in the wrong here, but did you notice how he was obviously talking to his friend about you?

How to solve this? Apologize sincerely. Be honest with him and yourself why this bothered you and work on those issues.
posted by spaltavian at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2013 [40 favorites]

I'm baffled at the "he sees what he did was stupid" thing. What was stupid?

It really does sound like he's scared of you. As said above, he seems to be walking on eggshells around you. I suggest that you may need to be the partner who is getting some therapy for your trust issues.
posted by gaspode at 7:05 AM on December 16, 2013 [23 favorites]

Maybe you could productively explore whether you think that men and women can be friends/have platonic relationships. It sounds as though your assumption is that if he has any contact with a [straight?] woman, it's in danger of tipping over into being an affair. Something that might help you think through this: are you constantly in danger of falling into affairs with the straight men of your acquaintance? (Probably not.) Why, therefore, assume that this woman is going to fall into an affair with your partner?

It is very standard advice-column advice, by the way, to signal "platonic only" by mentioning someone's partner and suggesting hanging out with them.

On another note: if someone I was seeing expected me to report immediately on all casual meet-ups with anyone of the appropriate gender, age-cohort and sexual orientation to have an affair with - and then treated it as a major infraction if I didn't - this would cause me to reconsider my relationship with them. I am surprised and a little concerned that you aren't getting any push-back on this, because it is a strange expectation and most people would view it as an overreaction. Why is your partner so apologetic over something so minor? Why does your partner assume that he needs to go to counseling [or that it would be legit for you to send him to counseling] about this? That would worry me a lot.

What are the power dynamics typically in your relationship? They seem shifted heavily in your direction, even if you're not aware of the fact.
posted by Frowner at 7:06 AM on December 16, 2013 [16 favorites]

In my relationship, it would be very, very unusual for my husband to meet up with anyone without telling me, either before or after, man or woman. That's just how our relationship is - we tell each other about our plans for the day, and then after, we tell each other about our day. So yes, if he met up with someone, didn't tell me, and then said, "Well, I didn't want to tell you because I knew you would get upset," I would probably be in the same head state as you. In my relationship, it would be reasonable to think that he was hiding something. Not that he is, just that it's a reasonable conclusion.

A lot of people here seem to be assuming that you are an unreasonably jealous person. Maybe that's true. But it seems equally likely from an outsiders perspective that he didn't tell you because he has something to hide. We don't know, because we're not there. ARE you an unreasonably jealous person? Or are you usually calm-headed and something about this is setting off your alarm bells?

Either way, he apologized, seems to understand what's upsetting you, and won't do it again. What more do you want? Are you looking for a reason to break up? You don't need one, you know.
posted by muddgirl at 7:07 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Him asking you to grab his phone and her mentioning meeting you is textbook behavior for people who have healthy, mature, platonic relationships. Hell, the part about meeting you is basically code for "this is platonic."

Could you be trying to sabotage this relationship before you get married?
posted by Room 641-A at 7:08 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I'm going to join the bandwagon here to say he didn't do anything wrong. I'm not going to argue that he should be dumping you, but I do think the problem here is with you and not him. Everything in your post makes this sound totally innocent. Perhaps you should consider counseling to see why this is such a big deal for you?

I think you should want to create a relationship environment where he's happy to be open and honest about this kind of thing. Instead, you're creating a situation where, in the future, he'll be forced to these things behind your back and lie about them. And he'll be doing it because you brought him to it, not because he wants to and not because there's anything inherently wrong with it.

Okay, lecture aside, here's some anecdotal stuff from my own life:
  • I recently got divorced. I now live with my new girlfriend. My ex-wife is dating somebody new. She and I get together for lunch or coffee about once a month. Neither my girlfriend nor her boyfriend care. They know nothing's going on. We sit and chat for a couple of hours, discussing her life and mine, and trying to maintain a friendship that's been developing for over twenty years. It seems like in your world, this is wrong.
  • Thirty years ago (!!!), when I was in high school, I was madly in love with a girl. We dated for a while. Then we went our separate ways. About five years ago, we re-connected. We've had coffee a few times a year ever since. One summer, we met every week to spend a few hours hiking through local parks. NOTHING EVER HAPPENED other than we chatted about our lives and our experience. Nothing ever WILL happen. Again, in your world this is probably a bad thing.
  • My girlfriend from college lives several states away. Now and then, she comes to town. When she does, we sometimes have coffee. That's it. Only coffee.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's nothing wrong with meeting and chatting with old friends or old flames.

On preview:

Him asking you to grab his phone and her mentioning meeting you is textbook behavior for people who have healthy, mature, platonic relationships. Hell, the part about meeting you is basically code for "this is platonic."

posted by jdroth at 7:12 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

it took me years to figure it out, but when a former boyfriend told me that he didn't tell me something minor because he just didn't want to have a fight about it - that was about me, and about how reacted to things (badly). it was not about him and the thing he did. from your description, you might want to consider if something similar is happening in your relationship.
posted by nadawi at 7:13 AM on December 16, 2013 [37 favorites]

I know I already commented, and I know people have piled on, but I just wanted to ask a question.

When he said that he offered to go talk to someone about this if you wanted, did he mean over this specific incident or did he mean "this" as the fact that you guys clearly have a problem in your relationship? It isn't totally clear. I know I said that going for counseling over this was overkill, but I meant that going to counseling over the fact that he didn't tell you about a lunch meet up is overkill. Getting counseling over your extreme reaction to this (making him apologize over and over, wondering about breaking up, referring to being in love with him in the past tense, feeling betrayed over an event that screams of truthfulness and fidelity on his part).. yeah, that is a good idea. Really.

I really wish you luck. I think you guys have some things you really need to work through before you continue with your wedding plans. This dynamic is not the kind of thing that makes for a solid foundation in a marriage.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:15 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I tend to the instantly-and-sometimes-irrationally jealous, and I still don't quite get what it is that you think he did wrong here. His behavior sounds completely fine to me, and if it's off at all, it sounds like it's only because he knows you have this hot button and was trying to spare you exactly the sort of upset you're feeling now.

All of that said, you feel how you feel, and it's good that you're expressing that and thinking through it and asking for advice about it! Please don't feel too piled on by the responses here.

I think how this gets solved happily is you thinking through it the way you are now, trying to figure out what specific aspect of this has you so upset and what you would have preferred, and to communicate that clearly to your partner. (Maybe that's "I wish next time you had told me before you met up", or "when she first contacted you on Facebook", or whatever piece of this is really the key for you.)

And then I suggest you go to a couple of therapy sessions - for yourself, to start with, and you can figure out from there with a counselor's advice whether you might need to expand that into couples therapy the way your fiance has suggested. None of what's happened here, your behavior or his, has to be a big deal at all in and of itself - but you don't want to set these patterns now for the rest of your life together , so maybe you could use a little help in setting better ones.
posted by Stacey at 7:16 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

So what's the next step here? Is this a DTMFA now territory?

Jesus H. Christ, no.

If anything suspicious were going on, he would not have asked you to check his phone, and she would not have said something about being excited to meet you. The situation is just as he described it.

Look, I know this is a hard question to answer, but...

he was afraid it would be a massive blowup

Take a good hard honest look at yourself, and ask: Does he have a point here? Do you tend to blow up about things? Can you think of anything that has happened in your relationship that might lead him to be cautious and controlled about the circumstances under which he tells you stuff? Anything at all?

I mean, if I ask you, "Would this have been a gigantic issue if he'd told you about it beforehand?" then of course you'd say no, because we all want to believe we're reasonable. So a more practical way of looking at it is, has anything like this come up before? Have you ever found yourself flying off the handle at things which turned out to be no big deal?

At the end of this paragraph, you say,

There really wasn't any time this weekend to talk. I get that.

When you say you get it, here's what it sounds like to me: You had an initial gut reaction and asked him what was up. He explained what happened and he explained why he didn't tell you initially. You are able to see his logic and it sounds like, on an intellectual level, you basically don't disagree with his reasoning. At this point, this is a resolved issue, but you're still asking the internet if you should break off an engagement over it.

So here is the answer to your question:

He offered to go see someone to talk if I need to do that.

Take him up on this. Get thee to couples counseling. Do not approach couples counseling with the idea that its goal is to teach him how wrong he was in this fight - the source of some of your relationship issues may be you. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:17 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

People who have jobs that involve networking and promotion (I would include "getting a book out there" in this category) are likely to meet up with lots of people all the time for innocent reasons. It's not always as clear-cut as "I have a formal meeting with this person to discuss business plan X", and a lot of valuable business comes by way of getting to know people in semi-social settings.

My husband and I both have careers like this and even though we do outline our days for one another, we don't tell each other everyone we meet. There are so many of these encounters that mentioning them all would be total overkill unless there were actually something interesting about our afternoon coffee meeting or the dinner we had with coworkers at the conference or whatever.

I agree with everyone else that's said his behavior is acceptable and normal, but just wanted to add that if his career goes well, your fiancé may be headed for a lot more platonic meet-ups. It would be good to get to where you can be okay with that.
posted by shattersock at 7:21 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

hate to not pile on here but the guy did fuck up. To his credit he copped to it, but part of being in a serious relationship is that you clear any and all potentially misconstrued encounters with your partner. If he considers that irrational maybe he's not mature enough to settle down yet - and on the other side - if you can't trust him to in a potentially misconstrued encounter - the same goes for you.
posted by any major dude at 7:25 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

What in the world??

This is you massively, massively overreacting and this is you seriously damaging your relationship. You really need to apologize to him and do some soul searching, here.
posted by lydhre at 7:42 AM on December 16, 2013 [15 favorites]

Meeting up with a random female acquaintance of mine for something light is the kind of thing I'd legitimately forget to mention because it's boring enough I wouldn't think it worth sharing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:44 AM on December 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

I think the main issue is that you don't trust him. And whether that comes from some behavior of his in the past or from something that is in your history is worth exploring, because the situation, from the way you wrote it out, doesn't seem to warrant the reaction you had.
posted by xingcat at 7:50 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Of course I was like, "Huh? And were you ever going to mention this?" I was obviously upset.

I don't know if you mean "obviously" in the sense that you were upset visibly, or upset understandably. In case it's the latter, as a data point I'll say if this happened to me it wouldn't bother me at all --- I think I'd feel mildly happy for him, that he reconnected with somebody he used to know. As evidenced from this thread, I think a lot of people would feel that way.

He was the one to say he recognized what a stupid thing it was to do (getting together with her without saying anything and then of course, not mentioning it).

I don't see it as stupid at all. I see it as totally normal and fine. As others have pointed out here, there are no signs he's hiding anything from you, and plenty of signs there's nothing to hide. He asked you to grab his phone, and she mentioned you in her message. And she's a former coworker from a million years ago, not the long-lost love of his life.

Everybody's relationship is different, and it looks like you've both agreed that in your relationship, what he did is not okay. But I agree with commenters here who are saying your relationship might be a little dysfunctional. It does sound like he's walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting you, and if I were you I'd do some self-reflection on why. Do you get angry easily? Do you overreact? Are you unusually anxious about being cheated on, maybe because of bad experiences that have nothing to do with him? I'd be asking myself these questions.

I also think it's a little weird that you describe him as emotionally a "plodder" -- that word has a patronizing edge to it and I'm not sure exactly what you mean by it. It makes me wonder if you are unusually emotionally volatile, you've both agreed you are the "normal" one, and he has compensated by muting himself emotionally in an attempt to avoid triggering you. But that's just a guess/question.
posted by Susan PG at 7:53 AM on December 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Of course I was like, "Huh? And were you ever going to mention this?" I was obviously upset.

This is seriously not obvious at all. For plenty of couples, forgetting to mention running into someone or having a last minute work-lunch with an old platonic acquaintance would not be a big deal. If my SO got a text like that, my response would be, "oh neat, so what's she into?" and then we would talk about a potential new person to hang out with.

There might be some cases where I'd be surprised nothing was mentioned - if someone were interviewed for a TV spot, or met the president, or went to the theatre with an ex - but a casual work-related meet-up is a normal part of life for most people, and depending how busy everyone's day is, it might or might not make it into the next conversation.
posted by mdn at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

I understand where you're coming from here. He wasn't going to cheat on you or anything, and the fact that he met a lady friend was probably not even that relevant. But you felt that you missed out on a part of his life, and did he not love you enough to mention something he had happy memories about?

Except your outward reaction (do I DTMFA?) is completely ridiculous. This is the man you love. You shouldn't want to put him in a position where he is set up for failure. Meaning, you should talk to him about your desire for him to share certain parts of his day, or whenever he meets up with someone/an opposite-sex friend/whatever you like. And mention that you recognise that maybe he didn't want to tell you because he was afraid of your overreaction (which you totally did! He was right! I mean, you even considered dumping him!). Then tell him what you'll do to control your reaction.

Because his reaction is so sad. Why is he apologising so hard, volunteering to go for counselling, just to appease you because he met an old friend to distribute a book to?! What are you doing to him?

You can't make him carry everything (apologising unilaterally, talking to someone) without you meeting him halfway. As much as he screwed up by keeping that stuff to himself for a while, you screwed up as well by completely overreacting. I mean completely. overreacting.

Just talk to him and you both set up your expectations of each other in this relationship. This is a good thing. The issue of mutual expectations is a very healthy issue to discuss in a relationship.
posted by rozaine at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2013 [14 favorites]

I am super insecure and even to me this sounds totally benign.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:04 AM on December 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

So I am going to side with the OP on this - yes, nothing he did was wrong with meeting up with an old colleague, giving out copies of his book, yada yada yada. But not telling you because he was afraid of your reaction is a terrible plan. Even a brief text of "out to lunch with old colleague, so glad to be back in the area" could have saved everyone some heart ache.

If you read all of the other "i am going out with a friend of my desired sex, but am worried about my partner's reaction, should I tell my partner" questions on askme - EVERYONE will pile on saying you should absolutely tell your partner, as not doing so is just shady and weird and question motives for not mentioning it, which will eventual snowball into a much bigger deal than it may be. Omitting details about who you are seeing to "protect" a partner is weird and IMHO condescending.

You get to feel a weird that he didn't mention meeting up with someone to you. You are entitled to your feelings. I think he handled it appropriately by being apologetic and re-confirming his commitment to you, BUT the fact that he was afraid it would be a blow up is kind of telling. (Whether it says something about you and your security in the relationship, or his past relationships, or his intentions is up to you to decide).
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:10 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

nthing the chorus: meeting old friends is a normal part of life, not something to hide or seek permission for or whatever.
posted by ead at 8:29 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

In case you are feeling that people are reacting this way because they are younger than you are etc., I am in between your age and your fiance's age, and I think you are overreacting. As everyone has pointed out, he wouldn't be asking you to check his phone for him if he were hiding something.

You need to figure out why this triggered such a reaction. Is this a holdover from a past relationship? Are you very insecure in your current relationship? Just reading your question and with no other data about your current relationship, you sound like you don't trust him at all. Would you have had this same reaction if he met a male colleague? Is it that he didn't tell you about his meeting with a friend, or because it was a female friend? This is all work for you to do, maybe with a therapist.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:37 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

As Jessamyn said, "is it possible you have ... strong reactions to this sort of thing...?"

You come across like someone who's been cheated on, and they did quite a number on you. (Unless you're really just *drama*, but that's not what I get when I read between the lines.) From your description, he knows that you're likely to overreact because someone put you through the wringer. Thus his weirdness.

If that's the case, reel yourself in, have a good MELLOW convo with him about it, specifically WHY it triggered the reaction in you it did... and move forward knowing that it's pretty decent odds you've got one of the few good ones out there. It'd be a shame to let your insecurities screw it up after all this.

And I speak from a place of experience. I have to strangle my that-reminds-me-of-EX! nerves on a thankfully less frequent basis these days, and I thank God I've got a guy that's been both true and willing to put up with me very-slowly-adjusting to the concept that it's possible for a guy to be.
posted by stormyteal at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sounds like it was the 'keeping it from you' part that's bugging you. Now you feel like he's a liar and a manipulator. He's apologized for hurting you but since he didn't really do anything wrong (except in your world view) he's likely to harbour some resentment over this. If you want to continue this relationship, give him time to work through these feelings on his own. You need to work through this too, because during your next arguement, you'd be wise to not angrily bring up the fact that he's ever hidden this resentment from you.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:46 AM on December 16, 2013

His over the top falling on his sword apology sounds not like an appropriate reaction to the situation but a learned response on his part as to how to handle you specifically. Unfortunately, while he was telling you what you needed to hear in the moment to feel safe, he was also reinforcing your belief that he did something really wrong. And he didn't.

Therapy sounds like an excellent idea, but not for the reasons you might think it does.
posted by cecic at 8:46 AM on December 16, 2013 [24 favorites]

This could also just be the kind of fight that happens when some adults are cooped up inside together for too long. Maybe make it a priority to take a day to yourself, and for him to take a day for himself, before making any long-term decisions on anything?
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you value quality partners, you're going to need to learn that trust isn't something your partner needs to earn; trust needs to be a consciously assumed default position.

This might mean that you end up trusting an untrustworthy partner. That's definitely a risk. But it's a risk worth accepting and taking, because if your conscious, deliberate, eyes wide open risk-accepting trust is betrayed you will DTMFA and grieve for a while and then be single for a while and then find somebody better. And after some (typically fairly small) number of rounds of this horrible game, you'll meet somebody genuinely trustworthy and live happily ever after.

However, there's a much worse risk attached to not choosing to trust. If you require your partner to act in ways that never trigger suspicion, and they are in fact completely trustworthy, then you're actually being really cruel to somebody who loves you, and you're doing that for no good reason. There is no way to avoid raising suspicion in person for whom suspicion is a fundamental posture, so you're eventually going to feel betrayed anyway even though your loving and trustworthy partner has done nothing wrong, and you'll end up tossing what could have been a relationship of lifelong love and support on the scrapheap for no good reason and walking away fully convinced that you've been betrayed again.

And this horrible game has no end. Refusing to extend trust is a totally reliable recipe for a shitty life consisting of an endless series of unnecessarily destroyed relationships.

People are not all alike, and trying to predict what your present partner will do on the basis of what previous partners have done is a really poor idea. Don't do that. It's a mug's game.
posted by flabdablet at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2013 [30 favorites]

I think the next step here is to get yourself into therapy, to figure out why you're feeling so betrayed and ready to pull the plug on marrying the love of your life because he met a friend for lunch. From what you said about your SO not wanting to bring this up while your kid was in the house because he was afraid of things turning into a massive blowup, and from your description of the aftermath of reading the text message, it sounds like you may have issues with overreacting.

I mean, from out here, it looks like this: Your SO, who has recently moved back to your area and has been meeting up with all kinds of people to help move copies of his new book, reconnected with an old coworker and had a spur of the moment lunch with them. It's clear that he talked about you during this lunch. In the days afterward, he did nothing that seemed suspicious, nothing that gave you inner feelings of ick, and in fact he asked you to please check his phone when a message came in. You read a completely platonic message from this old friend where she expressed an interest in meeting you. And now you're so hurt and betrayed (by what?!) that you're seriously considering dumping this guy? From out here, to be blunt, it's seeming a bit like he might be dodging a bullet if you go through with the dumping.
posted by palomar at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2013 [15 favorites]

Oh yeah: if you refuse to extend trust and your partner is not trustworthy, then you're still gonna dump them and that's still gonna hurt. Refusal to extend trust cannot prevent the pain of betrayal. It has no upside. Don't do it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:13 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am going the opposite route of most people and not assume you are a jealous basket-case that is attempting to control your boyfriend's interactions out of lack of trust or insecurity.

My question is:

1. Have you come to EXPECT your boyfriend to tell you about his day to day interactions, whether they are with male or female friends, spontaneous or planned, old flames or otherwise? Not because you have DEMANDED that he tell you as a rule, but because that is what has happened ALWAYS in your relationship naturally? Other people have mentioned this is a routine in their relationships as well, and it has been a routine I have had in past relationships. No one feels CONTROLLED necessarily, but it is just a standard of some relationships to talk about what went on during the day or what not.

If it has been the case that he always shared this information with you, then it might be reasonable for you to wonder why that wasn't the case THIS TIME. There is a theory for this in relationship research: Expectancy Violation Theory. In this case, if your boyfriend has always shared info about his day and who he spent it with with you in the past, then you expect him to CONTINUE to do the same. When he does not, your expectations have been violated. Now, whether you consider this good or bad is up to SEVERAL FACTORS, and include your history with this fellow, the current state of the relationship, your own relationship experiences prior, other aspects of his behavior, etc. You obviously found this to be BAD and we can't get into your head and know WHY that is. Are you jealous? Insecure? Untrusting? Has he cheated in the past in much the same way and this is bringing up old wounds? Who knows. The dynamics of your relationship and your mind can't be known, but it is something to consider.

2. Of course this goes both ways. You've mentioned that he EXPECTS that you would get upset for his not telling you, meaning:

A. You've become upset when he's not shared details of the day in the past, which is violating your relationship rules, which can be upsetting but not entirely...relationship ending upsetting for most. The sudden change in predictable self-disclosure may lead you to wonder what is UP and start snooping though.
B. You've become upset when he has met with other women (platonic or otherwise) without your knowledge, which could mean you're insecure, jealous, or you have VALID REASON to not trust him specifically (also not known here).
C. He is projecting. There is something about this woman specifically (perhaps unrequited feelings on his end) and this meeting that he knew, whether or not he actually engaged in any wrong-doing, would be upsetting to you if you found out. This is only important to note if he has CONSISTENTLY TOLD TO YOU ABOUT ALL OTHER MEETINGS WITH FEMALE FRIENDS IN THE PAST, just not THIS one, which naturally raises a red flag. Not one that I would assume would lead to a break-up inducing emotional reaction but a red flag nevertheless. Again, most people would react by seeking out more information, like snooping, before they consider breaking-up.

Honestly it could be any of these things or more complex scenarios. Or you could be emotionally high strung and in need of therapy. NO ONE KNOWS. But the fact that you feel "betrayed" and want to end the relationship is a very STRONG reaction to a scenario that lacks a LOT of details, and that makes me very curious.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:29 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

People have opposite-sex friends.

It is seriously not a big deal.

I am female. I have tons of male friends. I have no idea if they tell their partners in advance when we hang out, and nor do I care. Nothing would evereverever happen, anyway, so there's nothing at all to tell.

From what you've said it sounds like this was a perfectly appropriate "getting together with an old friend" type situation. There's nothing to distrust.

And he has already apologized and said it was "a stupid thing to do" (which, it wasn't), and you've talked about how it made you feel and what he'll do going forward.

What more do you want? What are you actually looking to get out of this?
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

You are overreacting. He's 50 years old and not allowed to have female friends? He has to tell you everything he does all the time? He apologized, and obviously he knows you are a bit crazy/controlling about these things, but he's still with you. What more can you ask for?

Personally, I think you need to lighten up a bit and apologize to him for overreacting.
posted by echo0720 at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not to pile on but this would be a total non-issue in my relationship. We are allowed to hang out with whoever we want without any prior clearance and I don't think I could be with someone who thought otherwise. I don't think he has done anything wrong.
posted by queens86 at 9:59 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

A 50-something person is bound to have lots of friends from the past. Unless you live in a cave, they're going to run into these people from time to time, or even decide to get together for lunch or whatever. It's perfectly normal and should pose no threat to you at all. As others have pointed out, the fact that he asked you to get his phone and he obviously discussed you with his friend -- getting you all together, no less -- indicates that at least he doesn't consider her any threat to your relationship. I don't think he did anything wrong; he doesn't seem to have done anything I wouldn't have.

But I have to agree with those who said that your reaction is a thread. I'm in my late 40s, and though my lovely wife is wonderfully comfortable with people from my past, and vice versa, I'd chafe if I thought I needed special permission just to have a quick after work drink with a former co worker, or felt that a random encounter would lead to a dramatic scene. Please consider why you feel threatened, and why he feels threatened by what he feels your response will be.
posted by Gelatin at 10:02 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

The crux is that, on some level, you don't trust him and if you want to work on this, you have to figure out what is causing it (the majority says it's you, but in a partnership it's a two way street) and how to get to a functional level of trust. You need to articulate to yourself why your immediate presumption was that he had less than stellar intentions. When there's a healthy amount of trust, it takes much more to erode it than this which is why it's important to build and sustain it. The way I see it, it's not the incident but the person that's the 'potential for cheating' variable.
posted by kinoeye at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

How does this get solved happily?

I for one am not going to join the massive dogpile here blaming you for your feelings and reactions. My guess is that since you two have only been living together for a few months, you are still working out a bunch of etiquette issues in your particular relationship. You are very much allowed to negotiate these things.

For example, it's fine to state that your expectation is that your husband won't be furtive about his socializing. "How was your day, honey? Anything new?" and he keeps his lip zipped about an interesting feature of it? Eh, kinda lame to me.

Of course he's allowed to have friends of whatever gender he likes, but the two of you get to negotiate mutual comfort levels for how that socializing will occur. You can ask him to do certain things to make you more comfortable and secure, within reason. As your partner, he WANTS you to feel safe and loved and respected; you're not asking him to hand you his balls in a velvet pouch. It's fine to say, hey, this may just be me being a little vulnerable, but if you can make an extra effort to keep me up-to-date on your socializing, it will make a HUGE difference.

You guys are still getting your feet under you, living-together-wise. Try to remain calm and solutions-focused. You can work this one out.

Agreed also that there may be some cabin-fever going on. Get out, alone, clear your head, regroup with your guy. You'll be fine.
posted by nacho fries at 10:22 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Is this a DTMFA now territory?

Definitely not. He should have told you, but it's all OK. Just sit down and be clear with him that things like this are things you definitely want to know about from him, not any other way, and preferably in advance. He shows basically 0 signs of cheating here, so forgiveness may be warranted.
posted by Miko at 10:35 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take a deep breath.

I think you should take him up on his offer to go with him to see someone and talk, because while I think your seriously overreacting, I think there might be something going on here that you're wondering if you should DTMFA over this.

Your fiance was afraid to tell you about it because he was afraid of a massive blow-up, which really isn't a good sign. Why? Has something like this happened in the past?

Basically, everything this comment says:
His over the top falling on his sword apology sounds not like an appropriate reaction to the situation but a learned response on his part as to how to handle you specifically. Unfortunately, while he was telling you what you needed to hear in the moment to feel safe, he was also reinforcing your belief that he did something really wrong. And he didn't.

Therapy sounds like an excellent idea, but not for the reasons you might think it does.

posted by inertia at 10:38 AM on December 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

I have in the past struggled with intense jealousy and insecurity, to the extent that I destroyed a relationship that was very precious to me. This is the type of question I would have asked ten years ago when I was still very much struggling with those problems.

Take this from someone who has been exactly where you are: Your jealousy and insecurity issues are destroying your relationship. Your problems are making you a controlling and emotionally manipulative person. Things do not have to be this way but you are the one who will have to change.
posted by pecanpies at 12:07 PM on December 16, 2013 [11 favorites]

Looking at the biographical detail here, I see that you're mid-40s with a teenage kid, and have been in a several years long LDR - only now are you two living together, and are you two going to get married.

I would suspect some of this is over insecurity over how long it took you to get to this point. For you, maybe meeting someone is a pretty big deal, because that's how you two got together. Or maybe you are still a little nervous and unsettled that this will all go wrong, because you've pinned the hopes of your last several years on it.

I'm trying to be compassionate, but this is all about you. Figure out how and work with it.
posted by corb at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2013

Agreeing with others; to me, the red flag here is that he didn't think he could bring up meeting an old female friend without making sure the kids were outside the blast radius. Whether fairly or not, if he thought you were going to make a mountain out of a molehill, I don't blame him for not mentioning it.

I wouldn't be the least bit shy about mentioning this to my wife. However I have had relationships where I have met female friends for nothing more than coffee and didn't feel like I could tell my SO. You'll note I'm no longer with them. And things like this are 100% part of the reason I married the person I did and not those previous SOs. Love isn't enough for a happy marriage/LTR. You also need respect.

Before you marry this guy, do the both of you a favour and put some energy into examining why A) you're catastrophizing such a small hiccup, and B) why he felt like he couldn't just tell you.
posted by dry white toast at 12:47 PM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

In my most significant relationship, my SO was very jealous at times. I found that this shaped the way I talked with her about my interactions with other people. It was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know?

Also, in his head it was probably mostly a non-issue. I went out to lunch with a coworker once and it came up a few weeks later when we saw an ad for the place we'd gone. My ex flipped that I didn't mentioned it; I literally had forgotten and not even thought twice about it. As a result of that relationship it's going to be a challenge for me in the future to tackle this kind of thing. Maybe this is learned behavior from a previous relationship of his?

Regardless, I don't think he's up to no good.
posted by anad487 at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2013

Meh, this would be weird in my relationship because we talk about our day-to-day lives and a lie of omission alone would be odd. It's not oh-my-god-is-he-cheating (it sounds like not, and sounds like the ladyfriend was making it clear things were platonic anyway), but a "WTF, dude, why lie to me about this?" kind of thing. Acting shady is shady, and failing to mention something like this would be shady in some relationships.

I'd just let him know to tell you up front about this kind of thing, not because you're a jealous harpy or anything but because little white lies can chip away at one's footing in a relationship.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:04 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Most of my friends are female, and it would never occur to me, or my partner, that something like this could be a relationship-breaking issue.

I can't help but wonder OP, in addition to issues of jealousy that have been touched on here, what your default conflict resolution model in relationships is like? I am not saying you're this kind of person, but I have known people who can be quite insecure, and if there's a conflict in their relationships, they have a tendency to "go nuclear" as it's the only way to 'win' the fight, as their SOs are so terrified at the prospect of breaking up, or screaming, or more broken dishes/whatever, that they immediately back down, every time.

If this strikes a chord with you, I really recommend working on it, as this kind of relationships makes the other party feel that their emotions and wishes are not valid in the relationship, because they're not as upset, and will lead to a build up of resentment over time. It also encourages your partner to "go nuclear" as it's they only way they feel their needs will be heard.
posted by smoke at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Answer the OPs question please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2013

saying it was great to see him a few days ago and she was looking forward to meeting me

He. Talked. You. Up. To. Her. How is this a problem?
posted by paultopia at 3:09 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

"This guy was the love of my my life and now I don't even know what I feel other than betrayed."

This reaction just seems very, very extreme given the situation.

It really just boils down to trust - which seems to be lacking from your end. You need to explore why.

Mature, balanced adults who value their partners are perfectly capable of having platonic personal and professional relationships with persons of any gender/orientation/flavor.
Mature, balanced adults trust and don't go making mountains out of molehills.

The way you reacted to this will eventually cause him to be scared to interact normally with any woman who's not his Mother or sister. And it will begin to fester..

You two do need counseling. Your issues have a real possibility of causing this to end. His agreement for counseling indicates he is committed to trying to find a way through this irrational behavior of yours.

On a personal note: if I were him I would be seriously rethinking a future with you. If my partner can't trust that I'm capable of being around a theoretically potential conquest with out it leading to "something" or meaning "something" then we have an enormous problem.
posted by cat_link at 3:24 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

How does this get solved happily?

Please define the "this", here. I'm not sure if the "this" is that you don't trust your fiance and now feel betrayed, that your fiance withheld information from you that you consider pertinent, that you feel your fiance overstepped a boundary...?

Point being, I think first you have to figure out what needs to get solved, before you can ask how to solve it. Therapy, either couples or individual, can help with that. Even just taking some time away from the situation can, too.
posted by sm1tten at 6:58 PM on December 16, 2013

Just curious since my SO had an ex who would lose her shit about random stuff and he's specifically avoidant in this way now and it's taken a lot of very understated reactions from me to help him feel that he can mention things-she-might-not-like without worrying I might flip

For the first few months/year of our relationship, my husband would tell me specifically any time he did anything social with a woman, ever. It was honestly a bit weird the extent he would go to detail any female encounters he had, and I would more than once ask him "Ok, so why are you telling me about this?" Well, reason was his previous girlfriend would lose her mind anytime he was alone in a room with a woman and it became ingrained in him that it was a good survival mechanism to be as upfront as possible.

One of the biggest reasons their relationship didn't work out is that over the course of years, that kind of lack of trust becomes poisonous. He couldn't stand that she constantly worried that he was going to cheat on her, it was exhausting. If she didn't trust him after two years, was she ever going to trust him?

They had other problems as well, but this was a big one. If this is the only problem between you and your fiancé, chances are that you can work on it and be much happier. If you don't, it may get to the point where things don't work out because the tension and buildup of each one of these stressful incidents just gets to be cumulatively too much to handle.
posted by sonika at 7:40 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't think monogamy comes naturally to a lot of people who think it comes naturally to them. I'm pretty understanding that cheating happens, and so think people need to prepare for it by being careful. I'm just saying, I understand were you're coming from OP but you're in the minority and it might be hard to find a partner who shares the same value system about being careful with male/female hetero friendships. I think perfectly nice people who don't PLAN to cheat wind up cheating and it's the fact I've seen this rather common scenario that makes me less worried about people plotting to cheat on purpose and more worried about dinner out that leads to warm fuzzy feelings and a denial of those feelings and a pretending the friendship is platonic when it's not.

I get hit on a lot though and my perception of relationships is that sexuality is often involved even when people say it's not.

On my end having been hit on by people who I know's partners think they are trustworthy makes me even less likely to think you can really determine who will mess up and cheat based on how good a partner or person they are. People mess up.

Since your way is against the norm you're getting a lot of "you need therapy!" and maybe you do, but conforming to the group isn't always the goal of therapy, you might go to therapy and realize you just view relationships differently and want to find a partner who shares that view. I do think the fact he kept it from you means either that he is scared of you, or that he did in fact think she was attractive and found it awkward how to bring it up given he did in fact think it was awkward.

People have different boundaries on flirting and friendship and you want to be on the same page. This is a sign of a major problem that he kept it a secret from you KNOWING it would upset you, because it means he's afraid to talk to you up front when he disagrees with you about something. He should have just told you he doesn't think it's a big deal if that's how he feels and the fact he couldn't have that conversation means it might be a deal breaker for you and/or you're not very easy to talk to about things like this, and maybe aren't willing to consider breaking up when you find out you have different values (instead of fighting and yelling and being angry over a compatibility issue that doesn't need to involve being hurtful to anyone).
posted by xarnop at 6:10 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

On my end having been hit on by people who I know's partners think they are trustworthy makes me even less likely to think you can really determine who will mess up and cheat based on how good a partner or person they are.

There's a subtle but vital perspective shift needed here. Whether or not you "think your partner is trustworthy" is actually beside the point, which is that you need to choose to trust them for the sake of your own mental wellbeing.

In other words, don't trust your partner because you've made some (indeed quite possibly unreliable) character-based assessment of trustworthiness: instead offer unconditional trust, hope for the best, and deal with betrayal only if it happens.

Running an ongoing trustworthiness evaluation actually gets in the way of making the attitude of trust a positive choice, and the sad fact is that you can't turn an in-fact untrustworthy partner trustworthy with any amount of "being careful". All "being careful" can do is erect barriers to intimacy - barriers that are actually highly likely to bring the relationship undone.

If this were a business relationship then of course you'd do your due diligence before extending trust. But intimacy is not a business relationship, and the rules that work for one are unhelpful for the other.

People with trust issues often miss this point, and spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince themselves that their partners are trustworthy despite what appears to them to be an endless parade of red flags. So if you have trouble trusting your partner, just skip the part where you only extend trust to the trustworthy, and go straight to the part where you tell your inner Iago to fuck off because he is not helping.

Intimacy is risky to your soul. That's exactly why it's as incomparably lovely as it is, when it works.
posted by flabdablet at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

I disagree. Just find someone with the same value system as you and who shares your level of boundaries in regards to the preferred gender. Monogamy isn't a monolithic concept, it's made up of honesty, responsibility, trustworthiness, you get my point. Different people have different levels of these qualities, and if it's important to you, you spent the beginning part of a relationship gauging where the other person falls on this spectrum. It doesn't have to be antagonistic, this sussing out or the calibrating of the measures. Two schools of thought: trust is earned, trust is given by default.
Just because feelings and pheromones are 'arbitrary' doesn't mean that shared values are as well. One can have standards when it comes to this, and although instinct isn't omniscient, it's much better than extending trust indiscriminately if you're wary of infidelity.
My best friend is incredibly 'liberal' when it comes to cheating and though he has a long term girlfriend, has come on to me several times. I'm currently in a relationship but should I find myself single I might take him up on the offer, and yes it does reflect badly on me as someone with strict views on monogamy but I believe it's up to each person to do their due diligence when it comes to choosing a partner and I'm not going to compensate for one's negligence. There are people who would never cheat in a relationship, just as there are people who would never cheat on their tax payments.
posted by kinoeye at 1:36 PM on December 17, 2013

there was a text from a woman I didn't know saying it was great to see him a few days ago and she was looking forward to meeting me

In grad school, my wife asked her advisor how to have lunch or coffee with a male colleague without it being weird. Her advisor said, "When we get together, I always start by asking how his wife is doing and he'll ask me about my husband and then everything's fine."

So that "looking forward to meeting your wife" jumped out to me as code for, "just want to confirm I'm not hitting on you here."
posted by straight at 10:03 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

How to deal with this? Dial back the jealousy and suspicion, and give him the benefit of the doubt. I have been your guy -- I'm averse to confrontation, so I will imagine that announcing I'm going to meet an old female friend will lead to confrontation, and I have considered not mentioning it, despite my having absolutely no devious intentions. I did, on a couple of occasions where I wanted to meet an old female friend that my wife didn't know for lunch, consider not telling her just to avoid any possible anger or suspicion from her, even though it would have been misplaced.

In the end, I examined my intentions, found them to be entirely reasonable, sucked up the courage and said "Honey, tomorrow, I'm going to go have lunch with [friend] if you don't mind," which is what he should have done, but I'm just saying I think I understand his mindset. Now that she has said "Nice! Have a good time!" a few times, I've stopped worrying that there might be misplaced jealousy, and I no longer consider lying by omission because I'm not afraid of her reaction.

He has had a long life before you met, and this is one of the pitfalls of later-in-life new relationships. It takes time to learn & understand all the life experiences your partner has had, and to accept that he has known many hundreds of people that you have not met and don't know about, yet. Try to be as accepting as you can that he can't change his past relationships and friendships, and approach those things with as much trust as you can muster. If it's a two way street, and you're both working on this thing, he will hopefully reward your trust and openness with greater honesty and better communication.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:35 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

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