Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?
May 23, 2014 11:06 AM   Subscribe

This is one I haven't been able to find an analogue for here or anywhere else. I fell head over heels for a woman 18 months ago. We both were over the moon almost immediately, incessant texting and late night calls, saw each other whenever practical (we are both divorced parents), we made the relationship exclusive within a few weeks, and in general became deeply enmeshed in each others lives it what appeared to be the healthiest happiest relationship of both our lives. But something didn't feel quite right...long winded details inside....

The bottom line is that her job didn't seem like much of a job at all. She worked in the office of an investment banking firm, but did very little. She fretted about it constantly as her duties were slowly being removed from her, and her role continued to shrink. As the sole provider of three school age daughters and an ex completely out of the picture, she worried frantically about it. Her attempts to find another job were half-hearted (probably due to the fact that she was clearly overpaid where she was).

Her boss's boss told her not to worry and that her job was safe. But she didn't believe him. And so she slept with him. It turns that had previously had an affair with him which she neglected to tell me. She was about to divorce an unemployable alcoholic and unable to make ends meet. The boss takes her to lunch and offers her a 60% bump in pay. And then tells her he has feelings for her. (Just to complete the circle, he's married of course) She claims she felt beholden to him, and tried to love him, but soon realized she had become a horrible cliche. She ended it shortly before we met. He resented it, and hence the dwindling job. After six months of constant worry, and a few drinks too many at lunch with him, she went home with him. It happened twice. She said she went home and threw up in disgust and then realized she couldn't do it anymore. That she loved me too much and hated herself for her past. She ended anything but essential work related contact with him at that point (mostly thru email). Her job is currently hanging by a thread, and she is trying to find another.

How did I find this out? I looked at her phone. I had been cheated on before, and I couldn't get the feeling out of my head that something was up. I saw the texts surrounding the events, which by now are nine months old.

I confronted her, and she immediately confessed. She told me I was the love of her life, and she knew I would leave her if I found out and she was desperate to hold on to me. But being able to provide for her kids had to come first. She immediately sent him a letter telling him the relationship was wrong, she didn't love him, and she was ashamed of her behavior. She says she will agree to absolutely anything I request for a shot at continuing the relationship.

My head tells me to turn and run, but I love her. Despite this nightmare, I still do. I don't know what to do. Trying to make a decision is consuming me. Any advice?
posted by cellardoor to Human Relations (53 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dude, this is effed up. I really don't think this is a relationship that is healthy for you. She is/was sleeping with her boss, and then accepted a 60% pay increase afterwards? Sorry, but that skeezes me out so hard I hardly have words. This is not a woman with good judgement. And you say you are a divorced parent... This is not a life that I would want to entrench my kids in. Someone who makes such hugely poor decisions is not someone I'd want involved in raising my children. This is just such bad news...

It is all well and fine that she feels disgusted and bad, but that doesn't obligate you to give her another chance. You may feel you love her, but this IS a nightmare and I would end it here and now.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:10 AM on May 23, 2014 [18 favorites]

You can still love someone you are leaving. It happens a lot. It doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Your girlfriend seems far too insecure for her to be in any relationship with someone who wants something stable. She was insecure about her job, she was insecure about her relationship with you. She makes the worst things happen to herself, creating these self-fulfilling prophecies that only serve to make her more insecure about the next thing.

She needs to get her house in order and I don't see how you can help that.

Move on.
posted by inturnaround at 11:13 AM on May 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm sorry you're hurting, but I agree with PuppetMcSockerson.

And it happened twice? Nope.
posted by Specklet at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Also, what the eff was she doing going out to lunch (I presume just the two of them) with her boss that she already slept with? The fact that she went at all is bad if you ask me, but the fact that she also got drunk at the time as well....??? I'm sorry, but if you had an affair with someone, an affair that you alledgedly regret, why in the name of jesus would you then proceed to go out for drunken lunches alone with this person?

Give that a solid thought.

If she really valued you and your relationship she wouldn't have put herself in that position. Plain and simple.

And it strikes me as very suspect that she just so happened to sleep with her boss again during a time when she was feeling insecure with her job. It sounds like she is willing to sleep with people in order to gain job security. That is fucked up.

You deserve SO MUCH MORE, cellardoor. End it, and walk away without looking back. She is bad bad news.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:20 AM on May 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

It sounds like your girlfriend's living depends on being what in the olden days would have been called this guy's mistress. She's got an inside job based on the relationship. She can't really be with you unless she stops the relationship-- it might be OK with some people, but it's not OK with you-- and to stop it definitively means leaving the job. And she doesn't feel financially secure enough or capable enough of getting another job, or whatever. I'm sorry for both of you.
posted by BibiRose at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

You should go. She needs to get her shit together and you need to NOT be there while she's doing it.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

She cut off the affair the first time because she felt like a horrible cliche. She has since slept with him again, twice it sounds like - while being in an exclusive relationship. He has feelings for her.

She absolutely needs to find a new job - but once he's not in her professional life, what's to stop her from realizing that without the "cliche" and the messiness of mixing business with pleasure, she maybe does like him.

Bottom line - she obviously has boundary and impulse-control issues, and has proven that she is willing to cheat on you. Notice that she didn't confess her horrible mistake until you found it out on your own.

I say get out now.
posted by trivia genius at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Run. She is untrustworthy. My answer might be different if she had come to you with the truth instead of you catching her red-handed. (or on preview what @trivia genius just said).
posted by hush at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is no trust or respect here - not on her side and not on your side.

She sleeps with her boss & accepts an pay increase afterwards. Really?

You find out by checking her phone. Really?

I am not saying one is like the other, but I am seeing so many issues surrounding self-esteem, honest communication, boundaries, trust, and plain grown-up behaviour that I am at a loss as to why anybody is describing the other as "the love of my life".

I am rarely this blunt but both of you need to deal with your own issues before anything else.
posted by kariebookish at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

The part that leaps out at me here is the "her children had to come first" bit. That sounds like a setup for all kinds of future weird behaviour.

I say cut the cord now, before this woman brings further drama into your lives and, potentially, those of your own children.
posted by rpfields at 11:26 AM on May 23, 2014 [17 favorites]

By the way, the guy was engaging in sexual harassment, and still is. I really do feel for her and I think what she needs to do is quit and/or complain about him. Maybe you can encourage her to do so. But if she won't, then there is only so much you can accomplish.
posted by BibiRose at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

I dunno, I'm really feeling bad for your girlfriend in this situation. The extent to which she was panicked over her job and over having enough income to care for her three children seems beyond my grasp. It seems like these are the kinds of decisions that desperate, panicked people make. I want to say that I feel for her, and I get it.

But as much as I want to say need to look out for yourself. Moving on from infidelity isn't impossible, but there are bigger-picture issues here like her career ("getting a new job" is no easy thing, especially when that job must pay enough to cover four people) and whatever pathology has prompted her to "try to love" this sleazy boss while keeping secrets from you.

If your relationship is going to survive this, it will take a whole lot of counseling and a whole lot of sacrificial love. Neither of which exactly grow on trees.
posted by magdalemon at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2014 [32 favorites]

The part that leaps out at me here is the "her children had to come first" bit. That sounds like a setup for all kinds of future weird behaviour.

That on top of "She says she will agree to absolutely anything I request for a shot at continuing the relationship."... I mean, you're basically getting the same offer that her boss got. It's terribly sad, but she's clearly not someone that can be trusted to act in the best interests of this relationship.
posted by inturnaround at 11:37 AM on May 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

I'm with BibiRose and magdalemon, I do feel bad for this woman.

She was the sole provider for 3 children and on the brink of being unemployed? From what you say she was about to lose her job even before the first time she slept with this man. Maybe it's because I don't have children but I can't even imagine this. I don't think she necessarily has bad judgment. I think she was in a horrible situation.

And this was sexual harassment. This guy is obviously a predator. He needs to be fired anyway, at all costs. Perhaps if he were fired she can stay on at her job?

I'm not saying whether you should stay with this woman or not, I'm just saying I would see her in a more sympathetic light.
posted by Blitz at 11:44 AM on May 23, 2014 [21 favorites]

Your girlfriend needs to find a lawyer and start working on her case for this textbook sexual harassment. This is the kind of stuff that is so patently awful that when it comes up in the sexual harassment training videos people get all offended that someone lumps their "innocent" remarks about their secretary's cleavage into the same category.

You need to get away from her. At least until she has this drama in her life sorted, but probably forever.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

She says she will agree to absolutely anything I request for a shot at continuing the relationship

Speaking of shots, you should get checked for STD ASAP. Both actors in this saga pose a risk to you in that respect.

Everyone is doing what they can to get on in this world. That being said, there are a jillion wonderful women in the world who are not carrying 4000 pounds of baggage with them. Go find one.
posted by jcworth at 11:53 AM on May 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm a divorced mom of three, no dad in the picture. I can relate to her feelings of financial fright to some extent but (ugh, I hate saying this), in a million years I wouldn't sleep with my boss several times to ensure my job.

Why? Because that's skeevy as hell.

But truly, it demonstrates a very short-sighted and unethical way to problem solve.

Choosing to sleep with her boss not once, not twice, but three times indicates a serious inability to problem solve in a healthy way.

You could have a talk with her but I'm not sure if it would do any good. She appears to lack appropriate judgment skills and to that effect she'll probably agree with anything you say, but in the future she'll probably continue to handle problems poorly.

I mean, she lies to you because she's afraid you're going to leave her, right? I think that's a feature, not a bug. And in the future, your kids will be part of this.

I would go if I were you. I'm not saying it will be easy, but it seems like the right thing to do, for you and your kids.

And get an STD test.
posted by kinetic at 11:57 AM on May 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

Yikes! I really feel for your girlfriend. She is doing the only thing she knows how to do to keep herself and her kids fed. But it isn't what healthy people do to take care of themselves and their families. She should contact a lawyer and a therapist.

Someone up thread said you can leave someone you love. I had to do this and it was awful. I cried everyday for well over a year. It was the best thing for me in the long run but terribly painful.

Think of what's best for you and your child first.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:59 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend has deep, scary problems that you can't fix. She has terrible judgement, and she doesn't trust you with her problems or her confidence.

What if she had come to you and said, "My job is in jeopardy and my boss is pressuring me to sleep with him or he'll fire me." Well, there's a lot to untangle there, but I doubt very seriously your advice would have been, "Sleep with him, get a raise, and it'll be fine." I mean, WHO doesn't know this?

Yes, it's scary being the sole support for your family, but notice, she hasn't set the world on fire to get out of that situation. Her comfort and the money mean more to her than her self-respect. Okay. Now you know.

There are tons of single moms out there who scrape by financially, who sacrifice and do the best they can for their kids. They don't try to sleep their way out of their problems. I mean, would it be any different if she prostituted herself three times for rent?

I think that you should end it. "Sylvia, while I understand that you believe that you had no options, this is just not acceptable and it shows a lack of judgement that I require in a partner. I wish you nothing but the best I truly hope that you get the help that you need so that you can make better choices in the future."

Sweetie, I think that you got thrown a real curve ball here. This is so far out of the norm that I had to read it twice to believe that I read it right the first time.

Take care of yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2014 [20 favorites]

I think that you should end it. "Sylvia, while I understand that you believe that you had no options, this is just not acceptable and it shows a lack of judgement that I require in a partner. I wish you nothing but the best I truly hope that you get the help that you need so that you can make better choices in the future."

Ruthless Bunny speaks the truth.

I so feel for the both of you. I've been a super fucked up bad life choice making individual and I have hurt good people I loved. However, that does not mean I think you should stay with this person. Until she gets help and gets help for a while, she will be a mess.

This will be really hard because you will want to help her.

Do yourself a favor and block her number for calls AND texts after you break up with her. Otherwise you will be receiving late night pleas for help and another chance from someone you care about and it will be hard to say no and cause unneeded misery.

On an iPhone with the new ios it's very easy. Otherwise, most carriers will do this for free.
posted by sio42 at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok. I'm a single mom of four and I receive no child support.
It is the most terrifying thing that I have to accept and live with on a daily basis.
However, judging this woman based on her decision to keep her job is not what anyone should be focusing on here.

Bottom line:
She cheated on you and lied to you.

When faced with stress and difficulty and obstacles, she did not turn to you as a partner...

She turned against you.

If I were you, I'd end it.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was also surprised that she didn't tell you about her financial problems.

She was desperate and she must have no confidence or believe she has no other marketable skills because she basically resorted to the world's oldest profession.

You will be in a world of difficulty to a) sort this out as a couple b) be in a relationship with someone who feels this way about herself and thinks and acts this way.

Also scumbag boss is a total predator and took advantage of her. Throw some disgust his way as well.

I understand that you love her and it's hard to walk away.

Ask yourself if your love for this person is stronger than her problems.

Ask yourself if she looks like she's really going to get her act together or remain a justifying victim forever.

Hopefully that helps you make your decision.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:19 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

In response to your tongue-in-cheek title question "should I stay or should I go now?" I say that right now, you should stay.
How long ago did you find out about this thing that happened 9 months ago and 2 years ago? If you've only been wrestling with the question for a couple of weeks, I think you should give it some more time.

I think she showed terrible judgement. I agree that she can't be trusted, because she has a history of poor decisions and lack of total honesty. However, she first dug herself into that hole when she was in a time of stress (no job security, getting divorced, etc). Yes, there are tons of single moms who deal with the stress of being a sole income provider without doing anything crazy, and tons of people who don't try to gain financial security by sleeping with their boss. That's great, if everyone who was faced with this situation happened to have a boss who's skeevy enough to notice the exact right time to offer a 60% raise in return for an affair, those statistics might change radically. Yes, she has treated you terribly by cheating and lying, but she has also been treated terribly by this other guy, and is now trying to put it right.

She's offered to "do anything"... think about what she could do that would give you confidence in the relationship. Is there anything, or have you passed that point? There are resources out there for salvaging a relationship post-cheating, and that would be worth looking into. But, if laying out some rules about honesty and behavior and communications isn't enough, don't tell her it is.

Talk with her about what she wishes she'd done, how she wishes she'd handled this. Giving in to sexual harassment to get a raise is weak, but not the same kind of dishonest as cheating on you. Cheating on you because she couldn't figure out how to tell her boss no is weak, but not the same kind of emotional impact as the classic "affair". Think hard about what part of her behavior bothers you most, and have a long conversation about which part of her behavior bothers her the most. If those are the same actions, for the same reasons, then maybe you're in agreement and don't need to break up; but if she mostly regrets the fact that boss is married and you're mostly angry about the fact that she lied to you, then you're not really on the same page, and it's probably time to leave.
posted by aimedwander at 12:24 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, I think all the answers advising you to cut her off are horrible. Abandoning someone is much worse than infidelity. If she's really the love of your life, as you say, then of course you try to work it out. Go to couples counselling if you need to.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:24 PM on May 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

I agree with Violet Hour. Your girlfriend made bad decisions but that doesn't necessarily make her a horrible person. There are obviously things about her that you think are fantastic. If she's 90% fantastic and 10% faulty, she's probably a lot better than a lot of people. Since you love her so much, I think you should not rush to dump her but instead should consider working together to improve both of yourselves and see if you get to a point where you forgive her and feel that you can totally trust, admire, and respect her, and her the same of you.
posted by Dansaman at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dude, I'm sorry your girlfriend cheated on you, but she has much bigger fish to fry right now than your feelings getting hurt.

What's happening with her at work is sexual harassment. And it's also potentially a power game she can't claw her way out of, because HR will believe this guy over her, and because she has kids to provide for.

If I were you I would be standing by her and trying to figure out how to feed all the kids and keep a roof over everyone's head while she extricates herself from this terrible situation. Not ditching her because you're jealous of something that is like basically the worst thing ever. She's not into this guy and cheating on you because she thinks you're a chump, or whatever the traditional "affair" script is. She's being coerced into sleeping with someone because she's worried about losing her job.

Seeing this as an "affair" and leaving her is like doing the same if she were raped. Because that's basically what this is.
posted by Sara C. at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2014 [33 favorites]

Really surprised at the pile on in this thread, and glad to see the last few commenters pointing out that this is not an "affair" in the traditional sense. There is nothing in your narrative that indicates that she ever felt any desire for the boss, or that she was anything other than the victim of her circumstances and his sexual harassment. Sure, it might have been better if she had told you what was happening on her own, but it sounds like she was in pretty desperate circumstances, and it also would have been better if you had asked her what was going on instead of reading her text messages.

That doesn't answer the question of whether or not you should stay with her, which is really a question about how you feel and not a question about whether or not she has done something wrong. Do you still want to be with her? Can you (both) regain a sense of trust and while maintaining your love and passion for each other? Is your life better with her in it? These are the relevant questions, not "why did she drink at lunch?" (which seriously guys is part of the boss's coercion and probably not a thing she felt like she had a choice about-- depending on how many drinks she had it's possible that she couldn't even legally consent to the sex).
posted by dizziest at 12:50 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Wow, what a situation. I don't know what happened in this case. But I used to represent clients in sexual harassment -- and I can tell you that it is absolutely true that a woman might feel she has no option but to sleep with her boss in order to keep her job. Even if it is not actual rape, or technically doesn't look like what you would think sexual harassment looks like in the movies (crude, obvious). There are some incredibly sleazy men out there who take advantage of their power. If you've never been in a situation like this, it's hard to understand, but I promise you that it happens. The fact that he is retaliating against her for breaking it off suggests that he is one of them.
posted by yarly at 1:02 PM on May 23, 2014 [13 favorites]

As a single mother who thanks the universe every day that my kid's father, whatever else his failings, is a responsible employed person who pays support and spends time (albeit imperfectly) with his kids - I think the pile on of judgment here is flat sick. As is the snark about her "doing this for her kids" being some sort of slick evil feminine-manupulation ploy.

The person who mentioned up thread how she is a single mother and would never ever do this has also mentioned in other threads that she's a school principle. Have you ever actually been poor? In danger of being homeless? If I wasn't getting child support right now, I would absolutely be homeless, because full-time daycare for two toddlers costs more than my entire salary at any of the jobs that have offered me a position. I am probably the most morally judgmental person in the world when it comes to integrity and cheating (ask my exes, or anyone who knows me). I would rather be homeless myself than feel like I was selling myself to a relationship (and oh, hey, I have been, for that very reason actually!) but frankly? If my legitimate choices were (a) sleep with my boss, or (b) have my kids be homeless? I'd be fucking the damn boss faster than you can say "celtalitha is a whoring whore." So, I dunno, I'm not saying the OP should be ok with this situation or that he should stay with her. But I'm kind of curious how much HE has done, or offered to do to help with her situation. Not to say that it's his responsibility - it's not - but if I had a boyfriend, and my boyfriend was like "oh I'm sorry that sucks (but thank goodness it's your problem not mine)" and I had another person who was offering actual substantial help, and then the boyfriend came back with the "disloyalty" argument, I would probably be asking where his damn loyalty was when I needed him.

Just a thought...
posted by celtalitha at 1:05 PM on May 23, 2014 [33 favorites]

I've been in a situation where I didn't know how I was going to survive. I also didn't have a car so sleeping in a car wouldn't have been an option for me. I can't imagine what insanity I would go through if I had to do this while worrying about 3 kids too.

In a way it's a little unfair for you to leave her right now because you already made her email her boss about ending their 'arrangement' in order for her to salvage what she has with you. She wasn't enjoying being with him. In her mind being with him was something she had to do in order to save her kids (true or not this is the way she viewed it) and she has completely thrown away her family's life line because you were that important to her. And now that she's gone ahead and done this for you at your request you want to dump her? So now what? She will end up without you AND potentially without a job and livelihood for her kids. That is just going to throw her right back into panic mode and the bad judgements will abound. I'm not saying you owe her to stay, but now that you've asked her to call this off and she's potentially risked everything to make you happy and be with you I think you should reconsider leaving her at this time. Give it a couple more weeks for you guys to talk and allow her to calm down from the panic of potentially being unable to provide for her kids. Both of you are too emotionally charged right now to make a decision.
posted by olivetree at 1:13 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

A poster above raises a very good point:

OP, were you aware of our girlfriends dire financial situation and make any offers of help? Were there any plans underway to merge households and incomes?

Mentioning your country of residence would give people a much better idea of the situation she is facing. In some countries there are many steps between being outright homeless and sleeping with the boss... but in others, not so much.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 1:20 PM on May 23, 2014

Yeah, you know what? I change my mind. Being sexually harassed in this icky quid pro quo manner is a far cry from infidelity. If you want to stick by her, I suggest you do. It won't be easy and might still end up in a break up, but if you feel you are able, then stay. She needs to feel safe now and, if you can offer her that for now and want to do so, do it.

Don't demand anything of her. Don't do anything that takes away her ability to make decisions for herself. She's already been put in the position of feeling trapped. Don't you do that to her as well.

And stop snooping on her damn phone.
posted by inturnaround at 1:21 PM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Were you planning a future with her before this happened? I find it odd that she didn't trust you enough to come to you and tell you what was happening. If I was planning a life with someone, I would want that person to come to me and tell me this type of thing was happening, so we could work it out together. I wouldn't say what she did was "cheating" exactly given the duress she was under, but her actions show that she doesn't trust you. She doesn't trust you to help with her problems or financially support her. Perhaps you never promised these things. What would hurt me most in this situation from your perspective would be that lack of trust she showed for me.

I would lean more towards the "go" side in this situation because of the lack of trust.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:21 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the thoughtful replies. I expected the bulk of them to advise leaving. What is truly amazing is I had two years prior come out of a twenty year marriage in which my wife cheated on me and lied about it. I feel like I have a target on my back. As to the question of how much I knew of her financial situation, not a ton. But I have thought about this and I am certain I would have stuck around and helped her out financially until she got another job. I know it in my heart.

I want to add something. She had been in a twenty year marriage with an alcoholic so bad it killed him. Her family was not close and she felt she had no where to turn. She told me she felt completely desperate and alone. As for the boss, obviously I hate him. He is a slimy cretin. What makes it even worse is that she had since learned he has done this to other women. I don't have the words for someone like that.

The icing on the cake of this horror story? I was six weeks away from asking her to marry me. It was that nagging doubt that led me to look before I did.
posted by cellardoor at 1:43 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

wow i had written out a whole long thoughtful reply and then got to this and nuked everything

What makes it even worse is that she had since learned he has done this to other women. I don't have the words for someone like that.


1. help her out while that's going on
2. collect settlement for sexual harassment
3. boogie down
4. find a new job
5. cry out the pain of how completely fucked this has all been together.

This question is basically "my girlfriend got mauled by a loose dog outside her work, animal control never caught it. a few weeks later the same dog attacked her again. she seems to have made no effort to go out the back exit or anything and didn't tell me, now what?". The problem here is not your partner. She's built her life around having a reliable job that pays this amount, and everything else she looks at seems like a nonstarter. He has her cornered. UGH.

Google "rape by coercion", this exact kind of boss thing is brought up. this guy is a fucking predator.
posted by emptythought at 1:49 PM on May 23, 2014 [16 favorites]

Upon update:
Ok, but would you have stuck around if as you say, she is grossly overpaid and any other job she took would require you helping her out indefinitely.
I find it really strange that after 18 months together and an upcoming proposal, that you knew very little of her financial situation.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 1:53 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am so sorry for both of you. And emptythought has it. Help her lawyer up and the two of you get into relationship counseling, and her into individual counseling, stat.

I think the biggest problem here is not that her boss coerced her into sleeping with him to ensure her continued employment-- I also would not call this cheating, but coerced rape-- it's that due to whatever trauma she is carrying, she did not feel like she could come to you and ask for help, or even confide in you, about her financial distress and her horrifying situation at work. You two obviously cannot get married while she's this desperately incapable of communicating with you, but if you two honestly feel you are the loves of each other's lives, I think you two can still give a shot at working through this. Counseling for your relationship, counseling about your feeling betrayed after your unfaithful ex, MAJOR counseling about her needing to hide things like this from you. If it turns out you can't do it, you can't, but I think it's worth a try.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:54 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Okay, and also, her boss had been slowly taking work duties away from her so that she would feel more desperate and pressured to sleep with him when he approached her again? Holy shit.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:17 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

No. No. No.

No, you don't owe the person who violated your trust a continuing relationship because you pity her for being the victim of an alleged crime, and you feel awful for her kids.

I completely disagree with folks here trying to insinuate that you're some sort of monster for wanting to get the hell away from an obvious train wreck. You have your own children to think about - and their need for a stable, loving home environment and a happy parent comes first.
posted by hush at 2:19 PM on May 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Is your girlfriend an actual threat to your well being or to that of your children? If not, you don't need to decide anything right this minute.

Your girlfriend might benefit from going to Al-Anon, which is a 12-step program for the friends and families of alcoholics. Those of us who grew up in alcoholic homes and/or partnered with alcoholics often become codependent, hyper-focused victim-martyr types. We become so focused on keeping the alcoholic (or predatory boss) happy as an unhealthy coping mechanism that we never learn or simply forget how to set and hold appropriate, sane limits.

Also, I've nearly finished this really great book called Scarcity, Why Having So Little Means So Much. It helps explain why people who have a scarcity mentality (whether in money, time, or other areas) make decisions that seem obviously stupid to outsiders but make perfect sense to the deprived person.

It is really difficult for someone who has lived with an alcoholic to trust other people. Also, it is shameful to be poor. So I'm not surprised she didn't tell you how hard her life was financially. You hadn't known each other very long. If you really love her, stick around for awhile and see what develops. And if she's hopeless? You can still break up.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:58 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry but no. She felt desperate and alone despite having a committed partner. She didn't trust you enough to share her terrible financial situation. She didn't trust you enough to share the skeezy offer her boss made. She accepted a pay raise, DESPITE knowing the situation was wrong. She didn't trust you enough to share what was happening at work (with job duty reduction). She then -willingly- put herself in a compromising situation that led to her sleeping with the boss twice - justified transgressions according to her because it was to keep her job. Finally, she didn't actually offer ANY of this information to you--you only know because you suspected. So... what would've stopped her from continuing this arrangement indefinitely? Her half-hearted job seeking is pretty telling.

And it sounds to me like things weren't so cut/dry in the original affair either. Could it be that married boss did what every married man tends to do to their mistress and promised to leave the wife for her - but didn't (as they never do)? That would certainly explain why she "tried to love him" and certainly would've made it an affair worth ending over being 'cliche'.

But I digress... I sympathize that she was in a tight situation and likely felt, at first, she had no choice. But that doesn't excuse the -continued- affair or her lack of communication with her committed partner. And her statement about "being able to provide for her kids comes first" is pretty chilling to me after using it to justify her affair. When push comes to shove, what else will she try to justify with this statement?

Look... you have your own children to worry about. I, personally, would be incapable of trusting someone like this. Yes, she has had some tough times in her life and boss is skeezy but she still needs to accept responsibility for her actions - she's a grown woman here - and the point remains that she knowingly slept with another man (twice!) instead of telling you what was going on. She doesn't trust you and I can't see how you could possibly trust her after this. You need to look out for you and your children and she needs to do the same. I'd suggest a counselor/therapist because it sounds like she hasn't really dealt with the abuse/trust issues from her past and it's affecting her judgement in dealing with men.

I wish you both luck.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:59 PM on May 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

A woman who has been in a 20+ yr marriage with an alcoholic finally tries to leave and is preyed upon by a powerful man who offers to solve her immediate problems if she sleeps with him? Even if you were going to marry her, were you planning to support her and her family? People passing judgment on this don't seem to understand the level of hopeless desperation involved. I have no idea what suing for coercive rape/harassment would do to help her or really punish him, but it would surely make it harder for her to find work, not that it sounds like she could find work that would pay nearly enough in the first place, and how could she afford it? She wouldn't be in this situation in the first place if she had any resources or breathing room.

Yes, Al-Anon and anything possible if the threat of suit will keep her job so she has resources, but she needs to leave that job.

If you loved her, I assumed you liked her, at least enough so you wouldn't completely abandon her when she really has nothing. The "affair" has been stripped of anything but an uneven transactional nature now, so unless he's into that, which means he is getting off on her distress--

--even if you don't want to marry her anymore, it may help you to help her get to meetings or do something to ameliorate this situation, sorting out more of what you mean to each other now that she can be truly honest with you. There are probably many dark corners to her life she hasn't shared. You have no obligation to stay, but to you really want to run away from someone you were close to long enough to want to marry? Helping her may help you get closure if nothing else. Her situation wasn't about you; maybe you two can really get to know each other now even if you don't stay together romantically.
posted by provoliminal at 4:17 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

My mom once told me:

"You know what you find about someone when they lie to you? THAT THEY ARE A LIAR."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:17 PM on May 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think, OP, that if you don't 'turn and run', you need to at least take a break from this woman and get a little distance.

What you've relayed here is the version of events she gave you after you found evidence of cheating. At the very least, give yourself enough time to look at what that story looks like with a healthy pinch of salt added.
posted by Catch at 4:23 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I want to add my perspective. I was sexually abused from a very young age. Even as a married adult with over a decade of therapy I do get the perspective in my head that my body is a tool and it's not mine. It takes an extreme amount of effort for sex to be personal and intimate. While I haven't gottem myself into a situation like this I easily could because sex has very work-like connotations and using it for gain would make sense especially if I had children who needed my help. The moral implications don't really ring to me at all.

That being said your girlfriend made some decisions and they have impacted you. What you do about that is 100 percent your choice

Her ability to communicate and trust for support isn't all that healthy. She married an alcoholic for 20 years. That messes with a person. She has carried that over into this relationship.

What that means is if you continue this relationship she has got to work on communication and trust. You also have to decide if you can work with her through her missteps. Something else will happen. It may have nothing to do with an affair but trust and communication effect everything.
And progress is slow going sometimes.

I think it can be done. I think you could continue the relationship. I think couples therapy would be good. And individual therapy as well.

Whatever you do its okay. I do hope that you give her a chance.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:14 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

What has happened to this woman and what has happened to your relationship are two different things. Yes, everyone who said she's a victim of sexual harassment/assault are correct (based on the facts given and taking broad legal strokes, as this is location-specific). BUT this means jack when it comes to your relationship. It's not the act (especially if the act was coerced), it's the LIE. If she were attacked and sexually assaulted on the street by some stranger, wouldn't you want her to come to you? What would it mean to you if she didn't? The fact that she had some perceived agency here is not important. Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault or be conned by a sexual predator. That is not her fault. What is her fault is not being straight with you. If you want to stick it out with this woman, the two of you need some serious counselling. How can you build a life together if she thinks she must essentially agree to sexual slavery rather than ask you to assist her financially?

This woman has been dealt a shitty hand, but pity is not a reason to stay in a relationship.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:00 PM on May 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

It sounds to me like you're not really dithering about this, but rather ready to leave. And most posters seem to think you can't get out fast enough. I certainly join the chorus of GoGoGo.

Because here's a woman showing very bad judgement about men, who meets the "love of her life" and what does he do? Talk to her about their past experiences, and how they can work to not replicate mistakes? No. HE CHECKS HER PHONE. Because his ex-wife done him wrong.

Just because someone's hurt you in the past doesn't make you special enough to ignore issues of respect and privacy and boundaries. "The love of your life" means trusting, not checking up. Asking, because it's a hot button issue for you, sure. Checking her phone? Please, she's got enough problems as it is. Find someone else. I've been a single mom and scared out of my mind about the financial responsibility of supporting them, and I made some bad mistakes. But when I did find someone, who wasn't perfect but made it clear he accepted me as I was, mistakes and all -- it made all the difference. Please give her a chance to meet that person for her.
posted by kestralwing at 11:34 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm with kestralwing. From what I understand, love is not about auditioning people and then violating their privacy to make sure you're getting a good deal.
posted by macinchik at 12:38 AM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

We both were over the moon almost immediately, incessant texting and late night calls, saw each other whenever practical (we are both divorced parents), we made the relationship exclusive within a few weeks, and in general became deeply enmeshed in each others lives it what appeared to be the healthiest happiest relationship of both our lives.

It's probably not as hard as you think to find someone you can do all that stuff with again. And someone who won't cheat on you.
posted by empath at 1:03 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to temper my single-mother answer. Ok, in a million years I wouldn't do this, but I understand why someone else would.

If you really love her, if you were THATCLOSE to marriage, then you owe it to the relationship to talk to her and consider counseling.

Because what I'm seeing upon reflection is baggage and trust issues on your part and communication issues between the two of you. She's not telling you things and you two should try to figure out why that is. Are you a caring and supportive partner? Does she have problems being honest for whatever reason(s)?

I don't know, but maybe if you really love her you two can sort this out and get to a better place.

She didn't tell you about the extent of her financial problems. I get why she wouldn't as I'm sure she's aware she did what she felt she had to do and I'm sure she recognized that what her superior did was shaming and awful (and I can't speak to this but upon reflection, probably illegal). I get why she didn't tell you; she probably hoped the whole shitshow was over.

If I'm reading your timeframe right, all of this happened while you were dating.

So your girlfriend was going through some seriously awful stuff at work and trying to hold things together, and she wasn't able to tell you.

That's a problem.

She had sexual encounters outside your relationship several times.

That's a problem (sexual safety, trust).

And you snooped.

That's a problem.

Where you go from here is up to you. The more I think about it, I feel really awful for your girlfriend and that she didn't turn to you. I feel bad that you didn't trust her and snooped through her messages.

There's a lot of mistrust and fear and miscommunication between you two. But if you really love her, I'm not sure this is unfixable. I wish you both well.
posted by kinetic at 7:11 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

what her superior did was shaming; that came out wrong. I meant that it's possible she felt shame about it.
posted by kinetic at 8:15 AM on May 24, 2014

The best answer to this I can provide is that if this were me, I would run for the hills.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

What makes it even worse is that she had since learned he has done this to other women. I don't have the words for someone like that.

Yes, there are words for that! It's called "serial sexual harasser." The more I hear about this the more I feel sure that this is what happened. It's not rape, but it's pretty much the closest thing you can get to rape without it being rape. None of this is to say that you should marry this woman or there are not real problems. But just on a human level, take a few breaths and think about what your obligations are and what kind of person you want to be here.
posted by yarly at 1:01 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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