Boyfriend has been honest about his past – should I end it?
October 17, 2014 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been with my boyfriend 6 months and our relationship is great. He’s a good guy, we treat each other well and communicate well, and we both see a future with each other in it. We’re both late 20s. However, I’m concerned about his self control issues, and the fact he has confessed some things to me about his past / his personality that raise red flags.

Recently, he told me that he doesn’t like making promises because he doesn’t know what will happen in the future. This included cheating – he didn’t feel he could promise that it wouldn’t happen. Also he cheated on his ex girlfriend of 6 years twice and therefore felt he had issues with fidelity. Red flag alert. He didn't seem to take these incidents lightly and said he struggled with immense guilt afterwards etc. The discussion continued and he later said that he was really happy with me, this was the most healthy relationship he’s had, and didn’t ever want to cheat on me but was still hesitant to promise that it wouldn’t happen. I read this as his intentions were good, but with his past issues in this area ‘who knows’ what might happen in the future. He has quite an addictive personality generally and I think he struggles with self control in a few aspects of his life, but so far I haven't seen anything to suggest that this has proved particularly destructive in his life so far.

I really don’t know where to go from here. I didn’t really react strongly at the time but I’ve been mulling it over and whilst I trust him now, I worry about him staying faithful later down the line – when the honeymoon phase wears off. I don’t want to break up with him because part of me thinks he was just trying to be honest about his past and that he has good intentions for us for the future – but maybe that’s not enough?
posted by pennywise_1 to Human Relations (70 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Won't promise because... I just can't even process that. DTMFA.
posted by The Michael The at 1:45 PM on October 17, 2014 [41 favorites]


Run, Forest, Run!
posted by myselfasme at 1:46 PM on October 17, 2014 [27 favorites]


This is a huge trust issue. He has good intentions to not cheat on you, but he feels like he might?!?!?!? Dump asap please.
posted by Kalmya at 1:47 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't just outright dump him, but I'd tell him that fidelity is something you take VERY seriously, and the fact that he can't swear he won't fuck someone else (which is not a thing that just accidentally happens) is giving you serious doubts about his commitment to you, and whether it would be a mistake to keep dating him. Then go from there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:48 PM on October 17, 2014 [27 favorites]


If you are ok with an open relationship, and are willing to talk about how to set that up in a way that makes both of you happy (and he can agree as well,) then go for it. Otherwise, this conversation is basically him giving himself permission to cheat on you, and if you get mad, he'll just say "Well, I was honest about it."

In general, it is wisest to believe people when they tell you who they are. If you're not ok with him cheating, then I'd end it now.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:49 PM on October 17, 2014 [114 favorites]


i think it will be hard for you to trust him in the future with this information. you can decide that infidelity is not a dealbreaker for you or establish a don't ask don't tell policy, but if long term monogamy is what you are looking for, then i don't think this is the right one for you.
posted by monologish at 1:52 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


"i am going to cheat on you."
posted by bruce at 1:55 PM on October 17, 2014 [49 favorites]


If you want a serious committed partnership with a mature adult, it doesn't sound like you'll find it with him.

That doesn't sound like "good intentions" at all. It sounds like a not very compassionate individual setting you up for a half-assed relationship.
posted by kmennie at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


I would break up with him, because if he ever does cheat on you, he gets to pull the "but I told you this was a possibility so you don't have the right to be angry with me" card, which is utter bullshit. If fidelity is important to you, don't date people whose stance on fidelity is that they can't promise to be faithful because reasons.
posted by palomar at 2:01 PM on October 17, 2014 [22 favorites]


An intention is not a commitment. If it is important to you that your partner commits to monogamy, then this is not the partner for you, no matter how lovely he is.

On the other hand, you can also decide that monogamy is not a thing you mutually require in your relationship. Or that infidelity is not a dealbreaker to you. Or whatever. In other words, you don't have to dump this guy because faithful is maybe not in his skillset.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:02 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Does your boyfriend struggle with anxiety, especially about being very precise with language? Is he reluctant to promise about other things, or to say things like "we will definitely go to Maine next June"? I could see a certain type of personality where he's getting hung up on the sort of "I don't want to cheat, I plan to work hard not to cheat, but A PROMISE IS A PROMISE and what if I lost my memory or had a total moral failure or something went horribly wrong? I cannot literally promise this."

I'd say that if he's someone who has trouble using "I promise" and "we will definitely" language but follows through on implicit commitments anyway, then this might not be too concerning.

If not, I would say that people who have cheated and avoid promising not to cheat because they "can't know the future" are bad news.
posted by Frowner at 2:02 PM on October 17, 2014 [42 favorites]


I don't believe in "once a cheater, always a cheater," and every relationship is different, etc., but it seems to me that in the best-case scenario, you should interpret that he's propping his foot in the door to leave it open just a bit. If he's thinking of nonmonogamy and if you're comfortable with that, now or ever, you should talk about that. If you are a) unflinchingly honest with yourselves and b) superstar communicators, I think nonmonogamy/polyamory/open-door relationships could work just fine.

Otherwise, if monogamy is what you want, I think you'll be perpetually on edge with this guy.
posted by magdalemon at 2:02 PM on October 17, 2014


his intentions were good, but with his past issues in this area ‘who knows’ what might happen in the future.

There's nothing like a promise to improve one's intentions.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


What he is doing right now is creating an out for himself when he fucks up in the future.

The can't make promises, no one knows the future stuff is just bullshit. He's telling you this to justify future shitty behavior. That way, when he inevitably cheats on you, or does something else that's shady, and you get all sad and hurt because you trusted him, he can be all "hey, baby, I told you I had problems" and make it your fault for believing in him instead of his fault for being a shitty douche.

Read between the lines, call him on it, and dump his sorry ass now.
posted by phunniemee at 2:08 PM on October 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


I don’t want to break up with him because part of me thinks he was just trying to be honest about his past and that he has good intentions for us for the future – but maybe that’s not enough?

I don't think you think that's enough. I think in general you should believe the things people tell you about themselves, and what he's told you is that he is not trustworthy. Maybe an ex-girlfriend or his cousin's beautiful roommate showed up and her car broke down and it was raining out and she spent the night at his place. He swears nothing happened. How do you feel, can you believe him? Does it bother you?
posted by bleep at 2:10 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Does your boyfriend struggle with anxiety, especially about being very precise with language? Is he reluctant to promise about other things, or to say things like "we will definitely go to Maine next June"? I could see a certain type of personality where he's getting hung up on the sort of "I don't want to cheat, I plan to work hard not to cheat, but A PROMISE IS A PROMISE and what if I lost my memory or had a total moral failure or something went horribly wrong? I cannot literally promise this."

I was thinking this, too. Maybe he's a weasel who just wants an excuse to cheat, but I've known people like this, who would be like "how can I say 'I'll definitely be at brunch' when I might get hit by a car on the way there???"
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:14 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


What he's telling you is that he doesn't want to cheat right now, but if, in the future, he does get tempted, he will prioritize his own impulses and pleasure over any implied or explicit commitment to being in a monogamous relationship with you.

IMO, this is straight BS. If a person doesn't feel enough of a sense of personal dignity to have his word mean something, than I wouldn't have interest in sticking around for the eventual disastrous fallout. Pay attention to what he's being honest about. He's being honest about telling you that he's not trustworthy.
posted by quince at 2:14 PM on October 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


If you really do have a healthy relationship, tell him that his honesty seems like a way for him to get out of taking responsibility for his actions. Self-control issues, in any area, would be a huge deal-breaker for me, but you have to decide where you fall on that line. If it's really the healthiest relationship you've ever had, you will be able to talk about this and come to a better agreement.

As someone said above, the only options are him committing to you, or you agreeing to an open relationship. If you don't feel like you can be honest with him about your real feelings in this matter, then walk away. A real healthy relationship involves him admitting this to you, and you being able to talk about how it makes you feel. There is no right answer or solution, but if you are censoring yourself or trying to change how you feel to accommodate him, then you very well might be walking into an emotional trap.
posted by ohisee at 2:15 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I had a young adulthood in which I was very bad. Recently I disclosed to my significant other the ways in which I was destructive/self-destructive and the steps I took in the intervening over a decade to not be destructive/self-destructive.

Boy am I glad that my boyfriend trusts me that I am different than in my roaring twenties.

So it strikes me as bizarro that somebody would a) recognize they have a problem b) recognize that problem could hurt you and then c) be all IDK, it may happen again, them's the breaks.

I mean yay for honesty but this is just some selfish shit.
posted by angrycat at 2:26 PM on October 17, 2014 [23 favorites]


It is awesome that this guy is super self-aware of his inability to keep it in his pants and that he's capable of being fully honest. I sure wish my liar-pants serial-cheater sociopath of an ex had been upfront that he was a selfish douche so I could have made a fully informed decision about wasting a second of my time in his personal space.

So yeah, you should probably totally dump his ass before he cheats. And by "before he cheats," I mean that it's quite likely he's already been dipping his wick elsewhere and this is an attempt to cover his ass before you find out. ("I told you I couldn't be trusted, your heartache is your own fault for trusting me!") An STD check is probably in order if you haven't been using protection.
posted by mibo at 2:26 PM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


What he's talking about has nothing to do with open relationships. It's absurd to even bring that into this conversation.

Yep. He's leaving the door open in the future to cheat on you.

RUN.
posted by jbenben at 2:27 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I like that he was honest with you about his past. That says a lot. I don't like that he says he "can't promise" he wont' cheat on you. That also says a lot.
posted by latkes at 2:28 PM on October 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


"I want to be able to sleep with other people" is not an easy thing to say in a culture that despises not traditional relationships more than cheating. Cheaters can cry and ask for god's forgiveness if they are male. But open relationships, ick. He may be trying to say "monogamy isn't for me, is that cool?" in a way that puts all the heavy work on you. Instead of discussing what he needs in a relationship, instead of exploring this with you he is asking you to either give him the go ahead or dump him. And poor him that you evil person didn't give him a chance.

It is a pretty gross way to ask for permission to sleep with other people but a way that society has set up. How would you feel with an open relationship? How would you feel if he did cheat? If you can live with both then see if it works. If momogamy is your thing and you don't want to explore it, dump him.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Has he shown any signs of anxiety or OCD?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:30 PM on October 17, 2014


As Captain Picard would say "Shields UP!"
If you're going to stay with this guy despite all the DTMF advice here, you need to be cautious and you need to be wary. Of course, walking on hypothetical cheating eggshells is no way to relax and love and be in a relationship.

As Captain Kirk would say "Get us the hell out of here, Mr. Sulu!"
I know and you know, deep down, this is his get out of jail free card should he decide to cheat on you later. "But I told you so!"

And NO.

Shake his hand, give him a hug, and send him on his way.
He needs to handle his business outside of a relationship, and keep the collateral damage to a minimum.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 2:33 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm sort of flabbergasted he wouldn't promise that he WOULDN'T cheat on you. I mean, even if he was thinking in his mind that he might, I can't believe he'd actually tell you. I.....guess it's better that he's honest, but that just gives you the chance to make a decision quicker. it doesn't make the situation any less messed up.

I would say that's the red flag has been raised, and the sirens are screaming about this one.

However, if you DO want to see definitively whether there's a chance or not, tell him that it's NOT acceptable to you for him to say he might cheat on you someday. He's got to commit to you or GTFO. If that seems to have some sort of effect that doesn't lead to a break up, THEN demand that he go to therapy EVERY week (on HIS dime) until he can figure out whether he does or does not intend to commit to you. If he doesn't agree to it, leave him.

If he does agree, go with him to the first session and say "This is exactly what he said, and he's agreed to see a therapist to figure his commitment issues out." The key here is that HE is going to figure HIS issues out. You're not going to couple's therapy; it's HIS problem, and YOU don't need to be pulled into sorting it out. He's got to pay for his sessions, go to them weekly, and look like he's making progress. His responsibility. He doesn't take it seriously, he's gone.

It's easy to say just DTMFA (and that may still be the best solution), however, what he's said sounds like something a fairly messed-up person would say, so he may some issues that needs some serious work. Again, why would he be so honest about something that's going to be so hurtful to you and cause you so much uncertainty and angst? Make him figure his shit out on his own as his proof that he wants to be with you. If he doesn't put in the effort, that will quickly tell you exactly how to act.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 2:44 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thank you for your responses.

Yes to the anxiety thing - he has problems saying he will "definitely" do x y or z in case it doesn't happen.

I don't think he's trying to get a "get out of jail free card" - I think he genuinely values honesty/does not want to cheat, but that he struggles with self control. This doesn't excuse his likely future behaviour. But I don't think he's trying to manipulate the situation now to make that future behaviour 'acceptable' - I think he's just being honest about his feelings and flaws. I respect him for that.

I would be willing to explore an open relationship, as it is something that I have (lightly) explored in the past. That's a conversation we haven't had yet and that I hadn't considered that he might be subtly implying he wants. I value fidelity but I also value honesty (perhaps moreso) and the fact that we can openly communicate about these sorts of things makes me want to at least try and figure out if there's a way it can work, rather than just dismissing it outright.
posted by pennywise_1 at 2:54 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


This included cheating – he didn’t feel he could promise that it wouldn’t happen.

Datapoint: This is the very reason I didn't marry my college boyfriend. It's now 15+ years later, and I stand by my decision.
posted by mochapickle at 3:02 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


It sounds a lot like some alcoholics in recovery.

Which is to say that I'd consider staying with him if (AND ONLY IF) he saw his cheating as part of a psychological issue, and was in active treatment for the underlying issues. And yes, relapse is always a danger. But he has never lied about his relapses, and he has always sought help after a relapse rather than just go "whoops"
posted by politikitty at 3:07 PM on October 17, 2014


I would be willing to explore an open relationship, as it is something that I have (lightly) explored in the past. That's a conversation we haven't had yet and that I hadn't considered that he might be subtly implying he wants. I value fidelity but I also value honesty (perhaps moreso)

It doesn't have to be an open relationship. There are many permutations. It can be "Look, if monogamy is something you don't think you can commit to right now, that isn't a dealbreaker. The non-negotiable is not monogamy but safety and honesty. So, I understand I do not control your behaviour but I would like us to agree that a) you will use a condom b) you will tell me after the fact c) if you fail to use a condom, you will disclose that."

My uncle and his partner have been together for 37 years now and I recently asked him if they had promised to be monogamous. He said "No, we agreed that was the ideal and we'd strive for it." It doesn't have to be a bigger deal than the needier of you two needs it to be.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:10 PM on October 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


To me, it doesn't sound like he's trying to give himself an out for cheating in the future. It sounds like he's overdoing the honesty thing. I'd bet a dollar he's either slightly ADHD and/or a software engineer.

That said - perhaps you should talk to him and define exactly what it is you mean by "promise" - something along the lines of "'promise' means you'll do the very best you can to never, ever cheat on me". This should allow him to make the promise and still be honest with you.

Finally: if the guy is great to you for 10 years, say, and then one new year's eve he gets too drunk and is unfaithful - is that really worth tossing the entire relationship?
posted by doctor tough love at 3:22 PM on October 17, 2014


Would you break up with him if he cheated on you?

Then break up with him now and save yourself the time.

(Also, FWIW if someone told me this, my mind would go wild assuming that basically anytime he wasn't in my sight, he was probably cheating on me. In all honesty, if I were dating a chronic cheater who was "working on" this personality flaw, I'd rather not know.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:22 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


"He’s a good guy, we treat each other well and communicate well, and we both see a future with each other in it. However, I’m concerned about his self control issues, and the fact he has confessed some things to me about his past / his personality that raise red flags."

I would change that last line to something like "Bonus - he's self-aware, values honesty in relationships and is willing to talk about difficult topics."

A lot of folks make promises for the future with the very best of intentions that they later find they can't keep. He's acknowledging a reality and telling you he doesn't want this to happen with you. Being able to talk with you about anything is an excellent way to help ensure this. I hope you respond in kind.

I worry about him staying faithful later down the line – when the honeymoon phase wears off.

My extra 2 cents on this - don't make long-term commitments until after the honeymoon phase wears off.

Good luck to you both.
posted by she's not there at 3:26 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Your guy's honesty is uncomfortable, but refreshing.

"I'll never cheat on you" isn't a promise that anyone not on their deathbed can realistically make. Circumstances change. People change. In the vast majority of marriages ended by infidelity, the partners super duper promised to stay faithful forever and always. Of course, if they had the usual vows, they also promised to stay together forever. Whoops!

An honest pledge to value fidelity and to intend and try like hell to be faithful is the only realistic promise a person can make.
posted by jingzuo at 3:28 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also, on your reply:

If someone is not mature enough to ask you upfront if you want an open relationship, they are not mature enough to be in an open relationship. This is really not a subject you can just sorta drop hints about.

Don't bend over backwards to excuse this dude. I know you like him and want to be with him, but he is showing you right now what kind of person he is.
posted by Sara C. at 3:29 PM on October 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


In addition to possibly the anxiety thing mentioned upthread, I'd wonder if your boyfriend puts high value on "Logic" -- and maybe not so high of a value on understanding subtle subtext. For people who value being "logical" above most other things, they will say things like this because they find them to be logical; you CAN'T know the future, you CAN'T be 100% sure of what will happen, or what circumstances might be, etc. In my experience with this sort of person, if he values what he considers to be logical at a high enough level, he will not see how you are being logical in worrying that he may cheat, paradoxically. In his mind, you should logically feel the same way, and maybe you just aren't saying it, but there is NO OTHER possible right way to think in his mind.

Whether or not that particular personality trait is one you can personally get used to, I can't say. But personally, I would not assume (if he is otherwise like this) that this means he *plans* on cheating, or *wants* to cheat, or *will* cheat, or that he wants an open relationship.
posted by freezer cake at 3:31 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd bet a dollar he's either slightly ADHD and/or a software engineer.

Yes close he is a computer programmer.

In addition to possibly the anxiety thing mentioned upthread, I'd wonder if your boyfriend puts high value on "Logic"


Yes very much so.

If someone is not mature enough to ask you upfront if you want an open relationship, they are not mature enough to be in an open relationship. This is really not a subject you can just sorta drop hints about.


I'd argue that he may not realise he wants an open relationship (or a scenario whereby fidelity is strived for but not 100% guaranteed). I may be ok with that but have never really considered it before as it is not my 'norm' by default.
posted by pennywise_1 at 3:36 PM on October 17, 2014


He later said that he was really happy with me, this was the most healthy relationship he’s had, and didn’t ever want to cheat on me but was still hesitant to promise that it wouldn’t happen.

I spent four years in a relationship with a person like this, and the story never changed.

For the sake of your mental health, I urge you to find someone who can commit to you by actually committing to you.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:42 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'd argue that he may not realise he wants an open relationship

Yeah this is exactly what I mean.

Trying to facilitate someone's needs before they know they have them, in this way, is really not healthy.

I mean, sure, mull over how important fidelity really is to you, by all means. But please put your own needs on at least an equal footing with his vague unstated wants.
posted by Sara C. at 3:49 PM on October 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


"I don't think he's trying to get a "get out of jail free card" - I think he genuinely values honesty/does not want to cheat, but that he struggles with self control. This doesn't excuse his likely future behaviour. But I don't think he's trying to manipulate the situation now to make that future behaviour 'acceptable' - I think he's just being honest about his feelings and flaws. I respect him for that. "

Emphasis mine.

Bluntly, you are missing the point because you are thinking the way you think, you're not putting yourself in the shoes of someone who has poor impulse control.


"Never trust a Junkie," as Nancy Spungen famously warned others about her own lying and bad behavior. Your guy's bad habits/character traits are stating outright what he's going to end up doing.

People who cheat are not good candidates for polyamory. Wanna know why?

Cheating is about the thrill of lying and sneaking around, it's not about having multiple partners. Polyamory is about honesty while having multiple partners. See the difference?

When people have learned from their mistakes, they use language that reflects the difficult self-work they've accomplished. The conversation you reported here does not reflect that your guy has learned from his past actions.

What he said:

"Now that we've been dating for 6 months and you're invested in me, here's something you would have dumped me for after the first date if you had known the truth. Now that you know, I'm hoping you'll stick around until I can lie to you.

It is shameful, but I really get off on lying. I probably secretly enjoy feelings of shame, too, or at least get a certain addictive thrill from the emotion. I don't want to admit or internalize any of this myself, because then I would have to deal with it and grow up.

Now that I've dumped this information in your lap, it's your responsibility to grapple with and make decisions about, not mine."

He's just made you responsible for any future bad choices or pain he might cause you. Why do you want that in your life?

If you want an open relationship, date folks who are into polyamory. Don't date cheaters. These two things are not the same. Not even close.
posted by jbenben at 3:57 PM on October 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


Upon your update....

The person I knew with the most anxiety ever, also turned out to be the biggest liar I ever met, even though it took me 12 years to figure this out. I took pity on them in their anxiety.

The person I knew who was the biggest manipulator ever always fell back on the excuse of having ADHD. That relationship only took me 3 years to wise up about.

Don't make excuses for other people's baggage as you start dating. You're selling yourself short. You deserve a solid and stable partner. The outside world brings enough trouble, you don't need to share your trust, time, heart or body with someone waving red flags before the relationship has barely started.
posted by jbenben at 4:06 PM on October 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


Here's the thing. It would be great if he said he had cheated and now knows how destructive and stupid that was and he's grown and learned and he never wants to bring that pain to someone ever again.

But that's not what he said. He said he did it, he felt badly about it, but he can't promise he won't do it again. He's telling you that he hasn't actually learned from the experience.

When people tell you who they are, believe them. You have already said you know he has self-control issues, he's already told you he may cheat on you.

And...I think he struggles with self control in a few aspects of his life, but so far I haven't seen anything to suggest that this has proved particularly destructive in his life so far.

Why would you stick around until he does?
posted by kinetic at 4:11 PM on October 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


So he wants to be monogamous, but he feels he has fidelity issues and he's worried he may cheat in the future. Is he open to working on his fidelity issues? Would he be willing to, for example, see a counsellor about his concerns that he'll cheat on you?

Just remember your boundaries, and that it's not your job to fix his fidelity issues. This is something he should be working on with a third party, not his partner.

Since he's a logically-minded computer programmer, it might take a bit of searching to find him a professional who he doesn't perceive as being too woo – but such therapists do exist. Maybe look for someone who specializes in working with highly-intelligent, logic-driven people. He might also respond well to the notion of cognitive behavioural therapy, since it's based on identifying a problem and addressing it head on (as opposed to something like ongoing talk therapy).
posted by Banknote of the year at 4:46 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Part of the dating phase is that you are getting to know the other person, before you decide to move forward with a long term commitment.

That is, if you do want a long term commitment. Do you?

What do you want? Do you want to get married and have kids? Do you want a partner who will be there for you through pregnancy and babies and all that that entails? Or are you just dating around and seeing what's what for now?

Dating is like trying each other on for size. Not shoes, exactly, but you don't want to marry that pinchy-toed hot red number that causes you pain every time you go out. Nor do you want that schlubby old felted slipper that sits in the back of your closet until the heat goes out and your freezing so you wear it to keep warm that day. You want something stylish! And yet, comfortable, like a good leather shoe that fits your foot every day from now until eternity. The Born of men, as it were.

Unfortunately, there's no way to return men if they don't work out. You either have to keep them or give them to the charity shop. Do you think he's a keeper? Will he keep you comfortable for years and years? I mean emotionally, not physically. Does he pinch your toes a bit? Because that might not be a good fit, yanno? I'd give him a few more months and then see if he's worn in a bit, and then revisit the question. You never know, he might just do, or he might migrate to the back of your closet and then it's out with the old leggings and linens.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:57 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you don't care if he cheats, okay, fine -- although then this whole question is unnecessary.

The addiction issues fit. He has poor impulse control, and he knows it. He's being all philosophical about this shit.

Here's the problem: he believes he has poor impulse control. And because he doesn't believe he can control his actions, he can't and won't.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:08 PM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I spent nearly 8 years in the "most healthy relationship I'd ever had" and it was still a relationship that really had to end. He was awesome, I loved him. There was never any cheating, but it still needed to end, I won't bore you with the details.

That relationship remains the healthiest one I've had. But it was still not the right one for me to commit to with marriage vows.

I'll make an analogy. All your life people have been feeding you rotten meat. One day someone gives you a plate of slightly less rotten meat. The meat is still rotten. You will still get a stomach ache.

I say this because this guy has some stuff to work out. You don't have to be the canvas for him figuring out if monogamy is or is not his cup of tea. People in successful open relationships communicate clearly and often, even (especially!) their uncertainty and nervousness. This guy is not being direct.

Honesty, clearness, trust, and directness are the baseline bare minimums for healthy relationships. While I appreciate that he is being honest in saying he might cheat on you, he is not (yet) doing any work to set parameters for what he'll do when the temptation strikes. Because as others have said, a person doesn't accidentally put a penis (or whatever) into (or wherever) another person.

This man is telling you who he is and what you can expect from him. Believe him when he tells you that having firm boundaries is not something he is going to respect. He will not promise to draw firm lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Please, believe him.
posted by bilabial at 5:11 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, no, you deserve better than putting up with this crap.

He is straight out telling you he's going to cheat, that when it comes down to it he's going to actively choose to hurt you and then blame it on his poor impulse control. This isn't a "I might get hit by a car on my way to brunch so I can't promise" situation. When's the last time you walked out your door and fell into somebody's pants? Cheating is an action, something that takes active planning, getting hit by a car is a thing that happens TO you. Don't let him equate the two.

A promise isn't a wish, a promise is a verb - a forthright commitment to do the right thing. He's saying "well, I wish I won't cheat again in the future, but I'm not actually going to take the necessary steps to make sure that it doesn't happen." Do not allow this to slide.
posted by zug at 5:34 PM on October 17, 2014 [19 favorites]


later on when he cheats & if/when you catch him, he's going to mention this conversation and be all like, "hey i warned you..."
posted by zdravo at 5:45 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't have the link handy, but somewhere on the Internet I read a blog post about marriage, and one of the points the blogger made was: "Adultery is not an event. It is a process." I know y'all aren't married, but I think this wisdom applies to any (non-open) LTR. Cheating doesn't just happen. There's flirting and eye contact and cocktails and meaningful sexy looks and... You see where I'm going with this. An impulse is a short-lived thing- maybe 15 minutes or so. Think about craving a 'forbidden' food. You eat it or you don't, but if you ignore the impulse you will probably not ruin your diet. There's no way impulsive sex can occur unless there's a lot of up front planning- planning to see someone alone, planning to get the person to a location where sex can happen, bringing condoms, etc. You can decide whether you want to continue the relationship with this guy, but for sure don't buy the line that cheating just happened or was a bad impulse, because it doesn't work that way.
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:46 PM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Please don't be with someone who is not willing to promise they won't cheat on you :-( Part of having "moved past it" is having the skills to not let it happen in the future. And understanding how hurtful that would be for you. And being willing to make a real sort of commitment to not letting that happen. The fact is that he is an active agent every step of the way and if he cheats on you it will be because he chose to and not because it "just happened." You are being quite selective with the responses you are favoriting here. Please consider the chorus telling you to run.

If you want to be in an open relationship, that's a good healthy thing (as far as I know) if it's something that you've decided you want FOR YOU. And if it's something that meets YOUR NEEDS. What it sounds like is that you are willing to waffle and make adjustments in getting your needs met as far as monogamy and it's kind of sad. If you want an open relationship, find an open relationship. Right now it sounds like, "Maybe it could be an open relationship to accommodate his issues." Please spare yourself the future hurt here. You can be proud of yourself for doing something strong by being direct with what you actually want (I'm guessing not to be cheated on? Monogamy?) and walking if necessary because you are worth it.
posted by mermily at 6:22 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree with others who have said that this is basically him giving you important info about himself and letting himself off the hook for future bad behavior. I doubt he's consciously aware of this.
posted by alphanerd at 6:29 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Now that we've been dating for 6 months and you're invested in me, here's something you would have dumped me for after the first date if you had known the truth. Now that you know, I'm hoping you'll stick around until I can lie to you.

Bingo.

OP, you say that you are encouraged by the fact that you two can talk so openly about these types of things. I would underline what jbenben wrote, above, and suggest that it is verrrry interesting that Mr. Poor Impulse Control was apparently able to control his Honesty Impulse for six long months before dropping this piece of information in your lap. Assuming you had a spoken agreement to be exclusive at some point during that six months, I'm wondering why it didn't come out then.

I would also like to question the validity of citing poor impulse control, as if it is some mysterious demonic possession that comes over him in a random moment and he finds himself pulled by forces beyond his control until he is balls-deep in some random chick. In the same way he can resist jerking off under his desk at work when he gets a random boner, or punching his asshole boss in the face, he can absolutely manage his impulse to cheat. He can choose to have integrity, and to be the type of person who can make a promise to a fellow human, and honor any compromises that involves in order to treat his partner with the love, respect, and care she deserves. Instead, he is choosing to say he would rather have the option to be an asshole (to cheat) than exercise his human agency to do the right thing. And in doing so, he is willing to degrade himself, to lessen the value of his word, and his worth as a partner.

Had he couched this "big reveal" in the context of wanting an open relationship, that would be one thing; but that's not what happened. So, this isn't about non-monogamy being bad, or a bad fit for you (since you say you are open to the idea). It's about whether you should be in ANY sort of relationship with someone who doesn't trust himself to do right by himself -- to honor his word.

He's not someone I would ride into battle with; would you? What happens when life sideswipes you, and you really truly need him to be there for you?
posted by nacho fries at 6:46 PM on October 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'd argue that he may not realise he wants an open relationship (or a scenario whereby fidelity is strived for but not 100% guaranteed). I may be ok with that but have never really considered it before as it is not my 'norm' by default.

This is a really, really shitty starting place for that sort of thing. That kind of thing needs to start from trust and grow organically, not start from a place of "i have no self control and want to be able to have no self control and be let off from any consequences scot free"

You're building a house on a pile of mushy mud, and rewarding a shitty coy approach to feelings and like... being an adult if you accept that here. He's basically saying "i don't want to have to account for how i effect your feelings" and if your response was "well then lets take those feelings off the table" that is shitty and putting yourself in a little box.

That's not what an open relationship is supposed to be at all. It's supposed to be that you're his rock, not just some default thing that's inherently there to come back to when he gets bored with other people.

And i mean really, i'm trying my hardest not to be an asshole here, but i really wish that hadn't even been brought up as an option. This guy is telling you that he isn't ready to be in an adult relationship. Open relationships are like, advanced adult relationships, not adult relationships that have less rules and are easy to deal with if you can't control yourself.

Which isn't what it sounds like he wants(or you really want, you should be enthusiastic about it, not "i guess i'd be ok"). He just wants to be able to cheat without being punished or having you angry.

and didn’t ever want to cheat on me but was still hesitant to promise that it wouldn’t happen.

This is such a shit answer. Take this at face value. He has some kind of commitment-phobe issues going on here that aren't your problem to solve, and this mealy mouthed stuff is crap.

Please, please don't get conned into an open relationship you don't even really want with this man-child who doesn't want to have to commit to anything.

I could write several other paragraphs about how this type of non-commitment and "oh, i warned you so it's not my fault! teehee!" shit bleeds in to other areas of life, but i think you've more than gotten the idea here.

To revisit one part of your most recent post:
I'd argue that he may not realise he wants an open relationship (or a scenario whereby fidelity is strived for but not 100% guaranteed).

And i'd argue that he doesn't, in the sense that he wants to be absolved of a certain amount or nearly all responsibility with relation to who he sleeps with, but would be weird and uncomfortable if you were with anyone else.

I realize i might be projecting here, but i've been in an open relationship for years and i regularly talk to several friends who have been or are. We've all talked about this a lot, and thought about it a lot. This guy is just radiating the type of energy weird controlling dudes who approach this sort of thing in bad faith do.

Be happy he didn't lie to your face about wanting one and get weird, but it isn't what he wants at all. He just doesn't want to have any responsibility to you or to commit and then "regret it" when someone else comes along he wants to have a moment with.
posted by emptythought at 6:46 PM on October 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


Everyone's said it, but: you want a monogamous relationship, and he is not only refusing to commit to not fucking other people, he is saying if (when) he does, it will be behind your back.
Do I even have to say DTMFfromamovingtrainAlready?
posted by catatethebird at 8:54 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


These two scenarios aren't perfectly analogous, but I want to dive a little bit more into the comparison between this and other "addict" behaviors, especially since you mention his issues with "self control" and his "addictive personality."

Here's my perspective: I'm an alcoholic who has been sober for several years now. I am 100% committed to staying sober for the rest of my life. When it comes to the train wreck that inevitably followed any substance use on my part, I've been there, done that, and never want to do it again. However, I've spent enough time around other alcoholics and addicts to know that despite the best of intentions and ironclad commitments, people still fall off the wagon. Some people get back on and others don't.

With that in mind, I would never feel completely comfortable saying to someone, "I know for a fact I will never touch another drop of alcohol for the rest of my life." But what I can say definitively is, "I never want to drink again, and I am committed to doing anything and everything in my power to stop that from happening."

In light of this experience, I think it wouldn't necessarily be fair to expect someone in your boyfriend's position to say, "I will never cheat on you," because I'm guessing he's made that promise before, and then he broke it. However, if I were in your shoes, I would want some variant on, "I've screwed up and cheated before, but I never want to put you through that, so I want to do what it takes to make sure that doesn't happen." Maybe some people don't see a difference there, but to me, there's a distinction between intentions (committed to not cheating) and fortune telling (I'll never cheat). Of course, these words are only really worth something if he shows some self awareness as far as what led him to cheat in the past and how he can make sure that doesn't happen again.

If you decide that you don't need total monogamy, then that's something you two need to sort out.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:56 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


"hesitant to promise that it wouldn’t happen"

Some choice weasel-words right there. When he cheats, it'll just be "something that happened". Who knows how? Like the weather! Certainly no personal agency involved.
posted by ead at 9:22 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


(Also Nthing people saying "this is absolutely nothing like how I would advise thinking about open relationships; that is a total red herring")
posted by ead at 9:26 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know people who have been pressured into open relationships in situations like this. It has gone horribly for them. Be very very cautious going down that road on these terms. It's totally cool for that to be something you want to explore, but really question whether this is someone you can be totally open and honest with. This sounds potentially very manipulative.

I totally understand the logic impulse and not wanting to promise to something when you don't know the future. I think he seems like someone who doesn't have bad intentions, but someone is fundamentally selfish in the way in which he's dealing with his issues.

I think you need to evaluate how good you are at boundaries, and ensure that he's not crossing yours. If you try an open relationship, would he be willing to close it if you hate it? Are you comfortable being totally honest with him, or do you feel like you need to go along with this in order to keep him happy? Not all compromises are good ones.
posted by ohisee at 9:35 PM on October 17, 2014


This is pretty cut and dried. He just told you he's going to cheat on you. The only question is when.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:45 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Been there. Done that. Run.

And if you don't run, for $Deity's sake always use condoms.
posted by romakimmy at 10:01 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


YMMV, but my ex gave me pretty much the same line. The relationship ended because he cheated on me.
posted by stubbehtail at 11:14 PM on October 17, 2014


I know you are deep in infatuation right now, so your mind is going to bend over backwards to excuse those little negative things that pop up. We all do it in the beginning of relationships. But I think a main thing to remember is he didn't say he can't promise not to sleep with someone else, he can't promise not to CHEAT. I don't think it's been emphasized enough that cheating is a CHOICE. He could promise if he finds himself in those circumstances he will tell you, he will break up with you, etc. Even if he is being super literal, if he can't promise not to cheat should some certain unavoidable circumstances pop up, he is being disingenuous.
posted by catatethebird at 11:29 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


My husband is like your boyfriend. He is a logical thinker and does not want to make statements about commitments in the future, because, as he says,"I don't know what the future will be". I am less logical, and I don't mind making promises about the future. I don't know your boyfriend, but I do know that for some people (like my husband) a 0,001 % on outcome A, and 99,999% chance on outcome B, can already be a reason to not commit to outcome B.
My advice in this situation is to judge him on his actions, and be very firm about your own boundaries. I think it is a good sign that he is open. If you can communicate about the reasons why he can not promise it, the outcome is much more valuable and can give you much more insights to whether this discussion is about communication styles, or whether he truly does not want to commit.
posted by eau79 at 12:32 AM on October 18, 2014


What happens if you make a vague reference towards the possibility that you might cheat on him in the future? Does he accept that sanguinely? I'm guessing no. Ponder the open relationship if you'd like, but I'd try to determine ASAP whether the suggestion that you might actually act on it would completely freak him out. I fear you are on the verge of giving him license to walk all over you. If you must proceed (and I'm guessing you will, based on your selections for best answer, it seems you are desperate to give him the benefit of the doubt) then do so with the utmost caution. And think frequently of what you would advise your dearest friend or sister if they were in the same situation.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:34 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


There have been times that I have willfully ignored red flags in relationships because I really liked the person I was dating. None of these relationships ended well. Listen to your gut here and don't date someone you can't trust.
posted by emd3737 at 2:59 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


In other words, "I am not going to promise not to cheat on you because I don't want to brake any promises. When I hook up with someone else, you cannot complain or act hurt because you have been warned and I broke no promises".
Either open relationship or RUN.
posted by Neekee at 9:21 AM on October 18, 2014


For an open relationship to work, there has to be complete honesty - the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It does not involve cheating in any way, shape or form. I really like the way that empty thought put it - non-monogamy is an advanced adult relationship.

If someone were non-monogamous and didn't really realize it, I'd expect to see a series of shorter relationships or someone who is hesitant to be exclusive with a partner. I wouldn't expect to see cheating.

"Issues with fidelity" DOES NOT EQUAL non-monogamy.

Cheating (twice on the same woman??), poor impulse control, lack of ownership of his choices ("it just happens" is complete BS) - none of these things say he is ready for an honest, healthy relationship, open or monogamous.

I understand your feelings. I was married and my spouse wanted to have an open relationship. To his credit, he didn't cheat but rather clumsily communicated it to me. I tried to make it work because I didn't want to throw away so many years of marriage. As I suspected, I am monogamous and it didn't work out (and that was only one of the reasons).

If you really feel like you want to continue with this person, I'd say he needs to provide more information:

What was going on prior to cheating on his 6 year girlfriend?
Why did he decide to cheat?
Was alcohol/drugs involved?
When did he tell her?
Did he tell her or did she find out some other way - and was he only honest when he was found out?
What was he not getting from the relationship with his girlfriend that he was looking for with the other person?
And most importantly, what steps is he taking to be honest with you, to be fair to you, to respect you, and to make sure he does not cheat on you in the future?

Be honest about what you want/need. Be fair to yourself. Good luck.
posted by Beti at 9:28 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


The honesty and willingness to talk about difficult subject matter together is, I agree, a great thing. BUT it's a first step that's meant to open doors, because it's hard work but it means continued work, together, to use what you learn from those difficult conversations to make your life together better. So it's not enough for him to be like "I'm being honest with you and that's hard, go me, give me a cookie, that's it for today". Knowing what you now know together, he then has to be willing to figure out a plan with you--an actionable, concrete one whose progress and effect can be measured--to make it possible for you both to be happy together in the future. People have thrown out some suggestions already--negotiating an open relationship to whatever degree you're both on board with, with the understanding it's something you keep checking on and whose terms can be redefined if emotions change, taking preemptive measures to maintain fidelity and focusing on each other, etc. Or you being just as honest if/when you realize this won't work for you and calling it quits as amicably as possible (I once had a boyfriend who was wonderfully honest about wanting to sleep with someone else, and we broke up, and I still respect and admire him to this day for how that all went down). But to say "well, I did the hard work of being honest...that's enough, now I get a free pass for when I fuck up later" is not ok.
posted by ifjuly at 10:06 AM on October 18, 2014


And...I think he struggles with self control in a few aspects of his life, but so far I haven't seen anything to suggest that this has proved particularly destructive in his life so far.

I would say that destroying a six year old relationship with someone he presumably loved and hurting that person is something that could be seen as "destructive in his life" as well as his partner's life (and possibly other people‘s lives, depending on who he cheated with).
posted by Orb at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2014 [13 favorites]


People tell you who they are, and life is better if you listen. This guy has told you he will probably cheat on you, and it sounds like for him, "cheating" is not just about having sex with someone else, but also going behind his partner's back and covering up, lying, etc.. DTMFA.
posted by rpfields at 11:34 AM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


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