my boyfriend likes to text other girls and I don't like that
January 23, 2015 11:50 PM   Subscribe

WALL OF TEXT INSIDE. My boyfriend is perfect and wonderful and amazing except we have some terrible trust and commitment issues. Cycle(s) of emotional cheating and suspicious forgiveness. I don't know if it's too late to fix or even how to proceed in that direction if it's not. Help.

I have been with my partner for over a year. I love being with him. He makes me happy, we are typically out doing awesome stuff together, we have an amazing sex life, and we have a lot of fun. That being said, we also have serious trust and commitment issues. We started talking while in relationships with other people and this is the time when I should have gotten on ask.metafilter and asked my question. Our talking quickly became more and more flirtatious and increasingly intimate, culminating in the loss of both of our prior relationships. I think in the beginning he kept seeing me primarily out of convenience but I was seriously.into.him. Regardless, we kept spending time together.

During the first couple of months we didn't have a good handle on our situation and weren't sure whether it was serious or not. Unbeknownst to me he had kept up a Tindr account on which he would match up with and flirt with girls. Fine, he came out eventually after feeling guilty me not wanting secrets. I got it, we hadn't really defined the terms of our relationship, but it still really hurt. I forgave him, we made up, and moved on, awesome and happy by all accounts.

Fast forward a month and I come to find out that he is now engaged in flirty dialogues with our mutual coworker. He is receiving mysterious muffins and notes in the middle of the night from another girl. Not to mention all the additional casual, "I'm bored and horny so I'm going to secretly text yet more different girls". Each conversation we have is accompanied by tears, apologies, promises to never do it again, etc...and we always make up. At this point I'm starting to feel like this is my fault. Obviously it's not, but I did (and really still do) feel like I'm not good enough, or attractive enough, or interesting enough. A lot of the time it felt like it didn't matter who I was, just that I was around. I think I often would shift the blame to the other girls, like it was their fault, not my boyfriend's.

This keeps happening. We've been together a year and there hasn't been a month in which there wasn't someone else. I know. But obviously I fucking don't because we're still together. And things have been seeming to get better! It's less and less of a problem! I'm not as worried because it's all we talk about and how to fix things! We're making future plans! I'm in love!

...and then it happens. He goes into full on world-ending panic attack mode. Obviously I'm worried and want to do anything to make him feel better. Turns out, more secrets. He buys me flowers, does all this wonderful stuff for me to come home to after work, and then goes home to cybersex on Omegle. I think that hurt more then any of the other times because it wasn't someone specific. Seriously, try to imagine how I felt when it hit me that it didn't matter who it was, just that it wasn't me. It really sucks, especially since you would never know any of this was going on based on our day-to-day interactions. I want to reiterate that this is someone I love and care for a great deal. I know he loves me and cares as well. I get that DTMFA but we want to try and work things out. I don't know if we can (hello readers!) but we want to try.

He is now going to therapy for relationship issues and attending a 12-step program to stop or curb masturbation and porn use. Personally that does not align with my views on sex/masturbation but he wants to stop so I'll support it. Meanwhile I'm in a constant state of anxiety and panic and confusion. I need perspective. I don't know if I can be in a relationship with him after being continually being betrayed so many times. I also don't know if I can't. Ask.mefi, I love this guy. I need you to give me some honest feedback. Please.

Also, he knows about this thread so any comments or help from him would be appreciated as well.


I need perspective on my relationship. He likes to text other girls and I don't like that.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (64 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This guy is not that into you.
posted by Sara C. at 11:55 PM on January 23, 2015 [46 favorites]

Nothing about this sounds like the foundation for a mature, long-term relationship. #understatement

You need to show him, and yourself, that it's not okay to be with someone who keeps lying to you. Show him the door. It'll suck, but seriously, stop letting this guy walk all over you.
posted by the_blizz at 12:07 AM on January 24, 2015 [43 favorites]

You're going to look back on this one day and be really happy it's over. How soon that happens (and how much pain happens between now and then) is up to you.
posted by yogalemon at 12:08 AM on January 24, 2015 [23 favorites]

I might get raked over the coals for posting a thought-terminating cliche, but once a cheater, always a cheater. I think you have to figure out whether you can live with that, and it sounds like maybe you can't.
posted by whitewall at 12:13 AM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

You know what you have to do. So just do it. Rip off the band-aid and break up.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:14 AM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't put up with even one instance of this. This is a classic yo-yo relationship. How much nice stuff does he do if you don't catch him flirting with other women? I bet not much. He does just enough to keep you around while still seeking other people. Seriously drop this guy like a year ago.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:14 AM on January 24, 2015 [14 favorites]

I don't know if I can be in a relationship with him after being continually being betrayed so many times. I also don't know if I can't [be in a relationship with him]

I'm 100% positive you could do either of these things. The first one sounds long-term miserable, and the second one sounds short-term painful.
posted by aubilenon at 12:18 AM on January 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

I am reading this mindfulness book that has been fifty/fifty with good stuff and nonsensical blah blah blah. And something I read today struck me and might mean something to you:

he never chooses you.

He gets caught, he chooses to try to "fix" things. He gets guilty, he chooses to try to "heal" himself.

But he never chooses you. You aren't his choice. You are his conscience. And you absolutely deserve someone who chooses you, full-stop, no bullshit.
posted by Merinda at 12:21 AM on January 24, 2015 [145 favorites]

You've been with this loser for a year? Sheesh. You seriously need to boost your self-esteem. And staying in this so called relationship isn't helping matters. You've wasted a year. Don't waste any more of your precious time with this one.
posted by manderin at 12:26 AM on January 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

The only honest feedback I have is that you both need to stop this codependent nonsense. You should leave the relationship and start looking for a better partner and your partner needs to find someone he loves/cares for enough to not do this stuff.

That's it.
posted by MyMind at 12:40 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hey, are you dating my ex? Seriously, he wasn't worth it and yours isn't either. At some point the heartbreak won't be worth it any longer, and you'll either resign yourself to misery or end it in flaming piles of hell. Do it now or later, its going to end the same. Will you be more miserable later, or are you already pretty much miserable now...?

(but seriously, I totally dated this dude. It sucked so much in ways I didn't even realize until it ended and now I'm with the sweetest, most amazing guy. He doesn't buy me as many presents, but that's because his daily presence is a gift rather than a constant blowup-apology cycle)
posted by zinful at 12:52 AM on January 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

I'm trying to imagine what motives he could have that you would tolerate: he craves attention from other women? he esteems himself too highly and always sort of thought he might be able to "do better" than a relationship with you? his brief infatuation with you is over but being the one who breaks up doesn't fit his self-image? he would leave you but you're actually providing too much to him for him to be able to go? he's sort of trying out possibilities and coming back to you only because they failed?

I don't know, but I can't conceive of an answer that isn't 100% to do with him--nothing to do with you--and I suspect your low self-esteem is actually reinforced by all this when that's the opposite of what a good relationship should do. If he wants to change, terrific, but having some consequences to regret may actually help him and thereby help the next person he gets involved with. And I bet that in 20 years you'd prefer to look back on this as something you took charge of and resolved as a matter of asserting yourself rather than as a kernel of doubt at the core of your shared existence.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:54 AM on January 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

I dated this guy, too! He's a total liar!! Every time he is in an anxiety tailspin? Yep. Some weird lie or scam he's been perpetrating is about to get caught out. In fact, he's positively addicted to the high's and extreme anxiety of perpetrating lies, and then getting caught, or almost getting caught.

You are not his girlfriend. You are his audience, and occasionally, his self-flagellator that he uses to punish himself. When feeling sufficiently punished, the lure of his next high/lie will be too great and the pattern starts again.


You may love him, but he is incapable of loving you. You deserve better.
posted by jbenben at 12:57 AM on January 24, 2015 [56 favorites]

Meanwhile I'm in a constant state of anxiety and panic and confusion

This is a completely normal to being cheated on once a month.

In other words, DTMFA. It's literally the only healthy choice you can make for yourself at this point.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:19 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

if he'd break up with someone else for something new and exciting, he'd break up with you for someone new and exciting. Take what you've already had, and count it done.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:20 AM on January 24, 2015

Do not make future plans with this person who breaks your trust once a month--unless that's the future you envision for yourself.

You sound like you haven't known good love. Good love doesn't break your heart at sadly predictable intervals. This is not love. This is not what love feels like. This is not how someone who loves you behaves.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:27 AM on January 24, 2015 [25 favorites]

It sounds less like he is a cheater, per se, and more like he is a serial monogamist. He will be in a relationship with one woman while he continues looking around, and then he will leave her for someone else. Look at what happened with you. He was with someone else, flirted with you, that escalated, he dumped the other person to be with you, and now he is doing it all over again.

I'm sorry to say, I don't think he's in love with you. If he was in love with you, he wouldn't be flirting with other girls. What it sounds like to me is that, as a serial monogamist, he just always needs to be in a relationship, whether he is serious about it or not. Unfortunately, he doesn't sound serious about this one. But hey, even he was in love with you, it wouldn't matter because his behavior is still incredibly disrespectful and unacceptable.

You can stay with him if you want, but I think he will probably just end up cheating on you and/or leaving you for someone else. Sorry.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:28 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'll add; none of this requires him to be bad, or mean, or unkind.

He may be none of those things, but if his behaviour makes you sad, and he's not gonna change it, then you should be with someone who is not like that.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:37 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend is perfect and wonderful and amazing

No, based on your description, he's pretty fucking far from all of those things. I've known too many women who for whatever reason stay in just absolutely horrible relationships - which, from the outside, yours sounds like - because of some deathly fear of being single. As though the thought of being single is somehow worse than dealing with a guy who constantly flirts with other women, and (unless you're unbelievably naive) will ultimately end up fucking at least one of them too.

Move on. It's not your job to 'fix' him. You deserve to be with someone who has no interest in texting other women in a way that is 'more than friends' because he's just totally into you. If you have to be single for a while until you meet who that person is, then you be single. It's not world-shattering to not have a boyfriend for a while - you will survive.
posted by modernnomad at 2:06 AM on January 24, 2015 [40 favorites]

Flirt addict. I had a colleague like this. Run.
posted by Namlit at 2:34 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

There will be others in your future who will be wonderful and amazing and who you love being with *without* that "except" tacked on at the end. Wouldn't you love to say to yourself one day, "I love my boyfriend. He's awesome and sweet and treats me with respect." PERIOD.

Everyone has a "price of admission," but you're obviously questioning it quite seriously to be asking about it on here. So follow your instincts. Leave him to be who he is, as he has shown it to you numerous times, unable to suppress it. So he buys you flowers and begs for forgiveness just so he can keep doing what he's doing.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 2:35 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Well look. Surely by now every time he's particularly nice and thoughtful, you must suspect it's because he's feeling guilty at having betrayed you again? I mean sounds like either his nice behaviour is to compensate for doing something gross or his gross behaviour is to make it up to himself for having had to be nice to you? Either way, it sounds like torture for you.

You're a bit too bound up in helping him really. You can't fix him. He's not your responsibility. Adults are in charge of their own behaviour. The only role you have in fixing him is for him to have something external to blame if (when) things go wrong. What you need is to protect yourself, so I hope posters maybe have some tips about that (counseling, friends, activities, boundaries is how it usually goes.)
posted by glasseyes at 3:11 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think if you continue your relationship with him you will have another 1, 2, 5, 10+ years of living with someone you can never fully trust. There will be a little (or big) piece of you that will be ALWAYS wondering, skeptical, unsure, questioning. It will impact your day to day life and you will never feel fully secure and comfortable with him. Or with yourself, while you're with him.

This is no way to spend your youth, and I think you deserve better!
posted by fourpotatoes at 3:16 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

You deserve so much better than this guy. Even if you're alone for a bit, you won't be around someone you can't trust on a basic level.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:27 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

OP: find someone who can a] give you everything you want and b] not give you things you don't want. Both of those things are essential. If someone cooks you a meal of all of your favourite foods and then repeatedly shits in your bed, after you've made it clear that that's a problem for you, is not a good person for you. He might love and care for you, but her doesn't love and care for you enough to not deliberately cause you pain. It's not like leaving the toilet seat up, where you can sigh and chunter under your breath about the fact you have to put the seat down to use the toilet. This is a massive problem, right in the middle of your relationship. I think you could probably benefit from some therapy too, where you can explore the concept of why you put up with being treated badly and have such a fear of being single. Coping with aloneness is a useful skill to have because chances are, you'll have to deal with being alone sooner or later. As someone pointed out upthread, this sounds a lot like he's going to leave you for someone else the way he left someone else for you. Get yourself ready for that to happen.

OP's boyfriend: find someone who is going to be OK with you behaving the way you want to. What you're asking for (someone who is OK with being treated like this) is a lot to ask for. Most people aren't going to be OK with their partner behaving the way you're behaving. However, there will be some individuals out there who will be OK with it. Go and find one of them and form a relationship with them, instead of taking advantage of your current beau. Your behaviour in this relationship is value negative. I get the impression, based on the fact that you keep trying to make things up, that you know that. The only question I have for you is, why do you keep treating people in ways that you know is going to hurt them?

Both of you: You have a square peg and a round hole. You could shave some bits off the peg to make it round, or cut some corners into the hole to make it accept the peg properly. You can even force the peg into the hole, but they're not going to match up perfectly and one or both of them are going to get their shape distorted. One or the other of you is going to have to change shape permanently for this to work. Or, you could just find the appropriately shaped hole or peg and slot yourselves together without any chafing.
posted by Solomon at 3:36 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, honey. I dated this guy, for four years. It doesn't get better, and it won't stay just online.

It doesn't matter why he does this. What matters is what it's doing to you and your self worth. Love isn't just a feeling; it's what you do and the actions you take to cherish and respect your partner. He doesn't love you.

I mean, maybe he'll change. But people only change when they want to, but why should he, when you're always going to forgive him?

You need to take a break. Let him sort his shit out on his own. If he does figure it out, he can find you and maybe you two can try again. In the meantime, learn to breathe without anxiety and constant attacks on your self-esteem. Remember who you are without the drama he brings into your life. See if you really want to go back to all that again.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:06 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

The only way this would work is of you were OK with nonmonogamy. He has been very clear with you on a behavior level that he will definitely seek out women online (and perhaps in person). You have no reason to believe anything different, so I think your choices are accept nonmonogamy or break up.
posted by feets at 4:13 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think, the best would be to break up with him. No one deserve to be ignored in a relationship.
posted by Adultpunter at 4:48 AM on January 24, 2015

Ditch his lousy ass. He's got issues that aren't going to magically go away, and you deserve to be with someone who treats you with love and respect. The drama and the makeup sex is fun and even a bit addictive, but a genuinely good relationship is way better.

A good rule of thumb is that often anything before the word "but" is a lie ("I don't mean to offend you, but ..."). In this case, you say he is perfect, but... Pay attention to what you are actually saying, not what you want to believe.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:55 AM on January 24, 2015

Love should make you feel good. Someone who loves you should care about making you feel good, not just saying what they think you want to hear until you shut up for awhile.

This guy just isn't that into you, or he's too immature to have an adult relationship. Drop him, there are other fish in the sea, and being alone is better than being with someone who treats you like this. You can do better.
posted by biscotti at 4:58 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I dated this guy too, for two and a half years. I stayed with him partially because I was scared my precarious benefits would be taken away and I'd become homeless without him, and partially because I thought it'd get better. When push came to shove, he landed me in it financially and was trying to wheedle more money out of me when we lost our deposit, and -of course- it didn't get better.

When I remember how frantic I was then, how I was always looking over my shoulder, watching him, waiting for the next thing, how we couldn't even leave the house once without him eyeballing/coming onto people in front of me, I can't believe it. He really wasn't worth the attention I gave him, was a pretty crappy human being all round, and had soooo many problem attitudes re women that I suffered for personally that took me a long time to flush out of my own head afterwards.

Bin him NOW. He doesn't respect you and he doesn't care about your feelings. You deserve someone who'll do both. The sooner you get rid of this guy, the sooner you'll find that person.
posted by everydayanewday at 5:02 AM on January 24, 2015

Your framing of this is all wrong. My boyfriend is perfect and wonderful and amazing except we have some terrible trust and commitment issues.

First off, your boyfriend is not perfect. Nobody is. You don't have any trust issues. You appear to be a perfectly trusting person who's with someone who is having relationships with other people, and that works for him.

I was with a guy who did the same thing. In his head it made sense and he knew he loved me. He texted other women and sometimes met them and it didn't bother him. He was 100% able to successfully compartmentalize all of this in his head. He had no intention of leaving me; he just liked having these other people in his life. He knew it bothered me but he knew he loved me and I may have been angry, but I had no reason to be.

Like you, I had to decide if I was okay with that. I wasn't, and even if he was carrying on these other flirtations with every intention of staying with me forever (which was how he expressed it), I had to think really long and hard about it and I recognized that I didn't care what it said about me, I didn't like it.

What I mean is, I had to be okay with the decision that he even if he was the best guy in the world, I had every right to pull the plug because I FELT LIKE IT. I was allowed to break up with him for any reason (or even no reason) if I wanted, and that didn't make me a bad or thoughtless person. I gave myself permission to stop overthinking about his love and his actions and my feelings and my anxiety and ALL THE SWIRLING 24/7 ARGH FEELINGS and just end it. Once I was okay with that, it was a lot easier to break up with him.

Yeah, of course you should break up with him.
posted by kinetic at 5:07 AM on January 24, 2015 [23 favorites]

Why are you wasting your time? There are SO many awesome guys out there of all ages, each of whom could make you waaaay happier than your current boyfriend. In Spanish they say, you should't ask the elm to give you pears. He's an elm - and you want some juicy pears, go get 'em!
posted by ipsative at 5:26 AM on January 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

You are the primary relationship of a polygamist. Sit with it for a minute. Are you okay with it? if this shit was out in the open, and you knew about it, would it be better for you?

If you feel that you can be in a polyamourous relationship, where you're free to flirt and text and screw other people, but you each come home to each other, then I say change your perception of what your relationship ought to look like.

His anxiety isn't about being with other women, it's about being discovered in a lie, or in cheating on you. I don't doubt that he loves you, in the way that he understands love. That's why that part of your relationship feels authentic to you.

If you're a monogamous person, you need to leave because this man will not change for you. He may want to, he may wish he could, he may try and fail to change, but just like a gay person, if this is his orientation, it's not ever going to be right for him.

And if you're a monogamous person, being with a polygamist will never be right for you.

So think very carefully about who you are at your core. If you decide that this is a core incompatibility, then say to him:

Ralph, I love you so much, and I wish that you were a monogamist, as I am, but it's clear to me that you're not. I know you love me and that if you could, you would change for me. But I can't ask you to be inauthentic, and I need to be in a monogamous relationship. I'm really sad, but I don't feel that I can continue in a relationship that isn't right for me.

I think your boyfriend need to be in therapy to understand his orientation and to develop a framework from which he can form lasting relationships that fit him. But continuing to be with people who AREN'T on board with his behavior is just wrong and dishonest. But he didn't ask, you did.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:36 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend is perfect and wonderful and amazing except we have some terrible trust and commitment issues. Cycle(s) of emotional cheating and suspicious forgiveness.

I do not think you understand what "perfect" and "wonderful" and "amazing" mean.

Look them up in the dictionary, dump this motherfucker and find someone who understands their meaning and treats you as such.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 5:59 AM on January 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

The only way this would work is of you were OK with nonmonogamy

This isn't even true. One, sneaky serial flirting behavior can be obnoxious and anxiety-provoking even in a consensually non-monogamous relationship. I've seen it happen, it's shitty, and I would not put up with it myself. Two, there's no evidence that this guy will be able to be honest about his serial flirting, which is a hard thing to do.

That leaves zero ways this will work, OP.
posted by clavicle at 6:35 AM on January 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

Flip it around. The only reason why you have trust issues is because he's not trustworthy. With someone who is trustworthy, trust issues never come up. With someone who's a good partner, issues like this don't come up. They just don't. A good partner will be respectful of you and your needs. He's not a good partner.

You might think it will be difficult, but I predict you will feel powerful and proud of yourself when you walk away from this mess.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 6:43 AM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

I agree that this sounds codependent. His extra-relationship behavior isn't something that's getting in the way of the relationship; it IS the relationship, and it has been from the beginning. He may be one of those people who cannot be with only one person. That may be exactly what draws you to him. I would dump him because he sounds incredibly silly but also figure out what it is about this setup that exerts such a pull over you.
posted by BibiRose at 6:44 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Your boyfriend is a sex addict. Over time, you will find that the good parts of the relationship will not outweigh the bad. You will look back at all the time you wasted and grieve.

Let him sort out his addiction on his own, with a group and a sponsor. If he is in recovery for a year minimum, and you're still interested, maybe you can try again. But I bet by that time you will have found someone else more healthy for you.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:01 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Meanwhile I'm in a constant state of anxiety and panic and confusion. I need perspective. I don't know if I can be in a relationship with him after being continually being betrayed so many times. I also don't know if I can't.

You've already gotten the right advice: cut this off. Don't learn this pattern, don't become accustomed to being betrayed. Don't get comfortable with betrayals that are a little nicer than the last time. Love yourself more than that.

Look, love is a verb. It isn't a feeling, it isn't a magical world you step into when you find the right person. It's actions. Unselfish actions with no agenda. It's making coffee for my partner, not so he will forgive me for something else but just because.

Disrespect and contempt are also actions. Betrayal is an action. Lying is an action. None of these are compatible with love. There is no fancy surprise at home that will make up for the heart hurt he's inflicting on you.

Maybe he does want to change. But this is a big change, more than a year of constant patterning to unlearn. Something he is compelled to do constantly. Big changes need environmental changes. When you first stop drinking, you pour the booze down the drain. All of it. You stop going to bars. Even for birthday parties.

What I'm saying is that even if you don't break up forever, you need a break now. You need to learn what it's like not to be in panic mode. You need a safe space. Your body needs a break from that constant adrenaline. (Notice you're feeling unwell? Notice your body is complaining? How is your sleep? It is trying to tell you something. Listen. Your body is with you always. Respect it.)

He also needs a break. From all of it. If he's going to ever ever ever treat you with honesty, respect, fidelity, then that's a new pattern and you can't start fresh without a bit of distance first. Otherwise the old pattern is too close and too easy.

Take a break. Reassess in 6 months. It will hurt, yes. It's still worth doing.
posted by heatherann at 7:10 AM on January 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

So, according to your last line you posted this question in order to get advice from him too.

What answer from him would satisfy you?

If it's "this is the way I am take it or leave it" then you can take it or leave it. What do you think will happen if you decide to take it?

If it's "it's all in your head ILU babe" then you can believe him or not. What do you think will happen if you decide to believe him?

If it's "I repent and will be devoted only to you from now on" you can believe that or not. What do you think will happen if you decide to believe that?

You see the situation clearly enough IMO. So, whose opinions are you going to give most weight to, having asked your boyfriend this question on a public forum? Ours? His?

posted by tel3path at 7:48 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you ever seen "Into the Woods?" (Sondheim musical, fractured fairy tales, was just a movie with Meryl Streep and stuff.) In Act 1, Cinderella meets and marries her perfect and wonderful and amazing Prince Charming. In Act 2, she finds him cheating on her by pursuing Snow White. Turns out he's excited by chasing beautiful women, not any one specific beautiful woman. "If you love me," she asks him, "why did you stray?" He responds with one of the great lines of all time: "I was raised to be charming, not sincere."

I dated this guy. You're likely dating this guy. Other people in the thread have dated this guy. Sondheim probably dated this guy. The thing I had to realize was, all of the fun and passion and love and adventures and amazing sex was the charming gloss on a basically insincere relationship. Sure, there was a kind of love there. But where there's dishonesty, there's no respect, and what kind of a person treats someone he loves with lies and disrespect? Repeatedly?

Someone who's charming, not sincere. You can't build a future on charming. Charming needs an audience and a different princess every month. Run. And keep your shoes on.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 8:02 AM on January 24, 2015 [10 favorites]

Even in the best best case - if he works on this and never ever cheats on you again - you will almost certainly still be left in a constant state of anxiety and won't ever be able to truly trust him. That sounds like an awful way to spend the rest of your life.

I know a year sounds like a long time but it really isn't. You'll recover and find someone you trust and who truly loves you. You deserve so so so much better.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 8:32 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm going to re-write this sentence so you see some of the problems in your way of framing things right now. See which re-writes feel true to you:

I love being with him. He makes me happy, we are typically out doing awesome stuff together, we have an amazing sex life, and we have a lot of fun. That being said, we also have serious trust and commitment issues.

"I love being with a liar who continually cheats on me and flirts with other women."

"I do not love being with a liar who continually cheats on me and flirts with other women."

"I do not love being with my boyfriend."

"My boyfriend does not make me happy."

"I'm choosing, everyday, to stay in a relationship where I feel really anxious and panicky."

"I currently value great sex and 'doing fun stuff' over trust and honesty."

"I prefer being with a liar and a cheat over being alone."

I think you're having trouble admitting to yourself how shitty this relationship is and how much you are NOT HAPPY with this guy. As someone else said upthread, you really don't know what certain words mean.. words like "happy", for example.

My advice for you: Figure out why you think happiness means being in a relationship with someone who causes you so much pain and anxiety. Understand that there's something fundamentally unhealthy and not-sane about this.

My advice for him: Break up with her. Deal with your issues .. and if you "really love her", let her move on and date someone who actually knows what words like "love", "commitment" and "honesty" mean.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:34 AM on January 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

Oh my god leave this guy. Watching Netflix home alone is magnitudes better than this cycle of disrespect and infidelity.
posted by sideofwry at 8:56 AM on January 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

I would tentatively posit that you are not so much in love with the man as you are in love with the drama. The way you describe the situation makes it sound like the most beneficial parts of the relationship for both of you are connected to the cycle of infidelity, not independent of it. He cheats, you both dissolve into anxious messes, the truth comes out, tears and angst ensue-- as a result, you are showered with love and affection, and in turn you bestow upon him absolution for any and all bad behavior.

I think you need to spend some time evaluating why this cycle is appealing to you. Do you have trouble believing that you deserve better? Are the highs of the cycle (being begged for forgiveness, flowers and kind acts) enough to make up for being constantly cheated on and lied to? Is there some part of you that finds it gratifying to be the wronged party? After all, you earn both the moral high ground (and the ability to divert attention away from your own behavior since he'll always be the bigger offender) and ultimately the most power in the relationship, since you are the one who gets the final say about whether you forgive him and thus will continue in the relationship.
posted by fox problems at 8:58 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Our talking quickly became more and more flirtatious and increasingly intimate, culminating in the loss of both of our prior relationships.

So basically he's doing to you exactly what you both did to the people you were dating beforehand.

I think that could be a large part of why you're not breaking up with him--you'd have to admit to yourself that you did something wrong, too. That's understandable; most of us avoid admitting wrongdoing!

Doesn't matter though. This guy isn't right for you and you are not right for him and that's not going to change. It's over. Whichever one of you reads this first, dump the other.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Get into therapy to figure out why you think he is wonderful, perfect and amazing. 'Cause unless you're living in Bizarro World, this isn't what wonderful, perfect and amazing are.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:32 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

He makes me happy, we are typically out doing awesome stuff together, we have an amazing sex life, and we have a lot of fun.

You can replace that with a couple of great friends, a couple of really great dildos, and a dog.

You cannot replace trust and commitment so easily. This would be a perfectly fine buddyship but it is unredeemable garbage for a long-term life-enmeshing commitment. Can him and then work on understanding the difference *before* you start dating again.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:11 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't need the wall of text, all I needed to see were these two details:
- "My boyfriend is perfect and wonderful and amazing"
- "Cycle(s) of emotional cheating and suspicious forgiveness"

Those are mutually exclusive. It is not possible for the them to both be true at the same time.

He is not "perfect and wonderful and amazing".
He is playing you for a fool. And you're letting him.

It's past time to walk, and you know it. Your own words say so.

Pull up your big girl panties and do it.
posted by stormyteal at 10:43 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Like many others here, I also dated a version of your boyfriend -- circa 1997. He was a charismatic, constant attention-seeking extrovert who flirted with everything that walked, was highly emotional and seemed oh so very sensitive and feministy; was prone to these wacky displays of kitschy, poetic-ish (barf) romance that were calculated to woo me back after he hooked up with yet another one of my false friends (again!), and was ALL about the DRAMZ. I cringe thinking back on what a sucker I was. Four years of my precious 20s wasted on his broke ass.

He's married and has an infant son now, but is still putting it out there. Right after his kid was born he emailed me and said I was the love of his life. Delete! Wonder how many other women he sent that same exact email to? I feel sorry for his wife. But I digress. Learn from my experience pretty please, OP? Get out now.
posted by hush at 11:00 AM on January 24, 2015 [15 favorites]

I'd bet the farm that after he sees these responses he'll cry and say he'll change and he really does want you and not the other women.

posted by Specklet at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2015 [14 favorites]

I dated this guy in college. Broke my heart on a regular basis. Dump him. You'll be sad for a while, then you will be free to find someone who wants YOU.
posted by heathrowga at 11:30 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

My first relationship was strikingly similar to yours. He was extroverted, flirty, waifish, artistic, charming and needy -- I was hooked. However, there was also an odd ambivalence there too that I didn't want to acknowledge at the time but that made me uneasy from the start. I suspected he wasn't really interested in the serious life plans or long term, monogamous relationship we had discussed and that I had been upfront about from the start. I didn't voice these concerns enough; I should have. Perhaps in an effort to prove his seriousness (or because he was being kicked out of his college dorm), he pushed our moving in together very early. That's when his constant online flirting/cybering poisoned the relationship. Prior to that I had no idea the extent to which he engaged in it. He reasoned away my protests to this behavior with chastising that it should be fine -- it wasn't with 'real' people, after all -- and he was physically with me, wasn't that enough? It wasn't and I knew it. But when I would finally find the courage to stand up for myself (and possibly end the relationship) -- he would have some emotional meltdown or panic attack that would pull me back in.

I spent nearly 5 years of my life stuck in a constant, defeating state of anxiety, desperately trying to please him and yet always feeling miserable because nothing I did seemed to have any difference -- the flirting/cybering persisted and seemed to escalate. I questioned my feelings and values constantly yet was too terrified to leave. I spiraled into depression. The relationship ended when he packed up a suitcase and moved to another state on a whim. I was left with the remaining apartment lease, bills, etc. Even then, against my better judgement, we tried a LTR. But I was never comfortable with the arrangement. Ultimately, I discovered he'd been physically cheating (with mutual friends) for a while. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I really wasn't. He ended our relationship via text. On new years day. We had known each other for almost 10 years at that point. We attempted to stay friends but it was simply too one-sided for me to indulge -- he wanted 'benefits'. I wanted to stop feeling used, so I did the fade and haven't had contact with him in years.

Something worth pointing out is that my ex no longer considers himself monogamous. Looking back on our relationship the signs were pretty clear and a lot of the misery was a result of his trying to push me (in very wrong ways) into a relationship type (poly) that I didn't want, wasn't knowledgeable about and wasn't really prepared to handle (on an emotional level).

My advice to you is: Just ...end it. I can't emphasize that strongly enough. The yo-yo'ing anxiety, lack of trust and insecurity just aren't worth it. You know what you want in your relationship and the fact that you're not getting it is just causing you constant misery. You shouldn't have to compromise on this and waiting around for him to change won't be helpful -- he won't change and he's told you this. You should believe people when they tell you who they are. I'd suggest taking a breather from relationships to reassess what you want and to rebuild the love for yourself that I know this relationship is chipping away at. You deserve better.

My advice to him is would be: cutting out porn and masturbation won't be the solution -- it will simply make those things even more appealing because then they're forbidden -- even more of an incentive. Instead maybe spend some time really thinking about what you want in a relationship. Monogamy? Poly? Be honest with yourself and connect with like-minded people who will be happy -- not combative -- with how you conduct yourself within relationships.
posted by stubbehtail at 12:48 PM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

My boyfriend is perfect and wonderful and amazing except we have some terrible trust and commitment issues.

I read past this expecting to find that you were both flirting and generally being inappropriate with other parties. He's the only one doing this?

Drop his sorry ass and live a fantastically better life without him.

Dude, if you are still reading this, you have a lot of serious work to do on yourself, and NOT WHEN YOU ARE DATING.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:52 PM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm another one of the "oh god I dated this guy too" it was horrible, and I wish I had had the sense to get out earlier. He's lying to you on a regular basis, and the likelihood that he's also cheating on you too is super high. Even if her is getting help to sort out his own issues, it's going to be years before he is in any shape to actually be decent to someone he is in a relationship with, and those years are going to be so painful for you. There are lots of kind and decent men out there who will love you and not lie to you, please go find one of them. you totally have my sympathy here
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:17 PM on January 24, 2015

oh and one other thing to think about - the similar guy that I dated, I found out later that in order to flirt and cheat on me with other girls, he would tell them what a horrible person I was. He made them believe that I was this awful harpy of a girlfriend who was leeching off of him, and the he was trying to get out of the relationship. All lies. So any girls that he is flirting with that know he has a girlfriend, think about what he's telling them about you. It can't be good.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:10 PM on January 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

Ugh. Been there. You're trying not to, but you're lying to yourself. You titled your post and ended your post with "he likes to text other girls and I don't like it...". That's not what your post is about. Your post is about wanting to be chosen and never being chosen by a particular other person.

Can you imagine trusting him to never engage in that behavior again? I mean really, like when you're not looking, can you picture it? Nope, neither can I.

What advice would you give to yourself if you were your friend.

Be your own friend. Demand honesty. Say goodbye. DTMFA
posted by sb3 at 6:14 PM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

How old are you both? This sounds like young drama llama love and neither of you love yourselves enough to be strong together.

Move on. You'll never be able to trust him completely after all this.

And to add to the mess he is in therapy for masturbation/porn therapy? Do you know this for a fact? Even if it is!

You are not in love. You are in love with the idea of being in love. There are so many red flags in your description of your "relationship" that I have to assume that you are really young and inexperienced? This guy sounds toxic. Sorry.
posted by futz at 8:46 PM on January 24, 2015

Fast forward a month and I come to find out that he is now engaged in flirty dialogues with our mutual coworker. He is receiving mysterious muffins and notes in the middle of the night from another girl. Not to mention all the additional casual, "I'm bored and horny so I'm going to secretly text yet more different girls". Each conversation we have is accompanied by tears, apologies, promises to never do it again, etc...and we always make up. At this point I'm starting to feel like this is my fault.
This is the classic abusive relationship pattern. He hurts you, you accept responsibility even though you are the victim, he praises you if you give him another chance, and he keeps getting what he wants while you suffer. Please don't play into this game. Just walk away. Find someone who does not torment you this way.
posted by deathpanels at 7:01 AM on January 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

He's not ready to be in a committed, monogamous relationship right now. Maybe if he was, you would be the person, but he's not in that place right now. If this isn't acceptable, cut him loose and make space in your life for the right person.
posted by gt2 at 8:10 AM on January 25, 2015

The way you're framing this, OP, makes me think that you know that this relationship is Not Going To Work, and that you're looking for something to cling to that'll resurrect it and turn it into something that it honestly? sounds like it never was. You can have great sex and adventures and all that shit with any number of people who'll go the extra mile and make you feel like you actually deserve it, not like you're prying it out of them.

At this point I'd wager that he wants the sex and the lovin' and all the trappings of a comfortable relationship without having to really commit to any of it, and that's some goddamned bullshit (the worst kind).

That said, I think you know what you have to do now, and I hope you know that you have every right to do it.

So congratulations, OP. That's bacon you're smelling. It's delicious.
posted by sacramental excrementum at 10:43 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been this guy. I was utterly committed to not being too monogamous when I was in my 20s. I was an incurable flirt. I bounced from one relationship to the next. It took my realizing that I really did want a long term relationship and that no, the way I was being wasn't getting it -- and a lot of soul searching -- for me to change.

But you keep forgiving this guy, so he has zero motivation to change. He knows exactly what it takes to keep the cycle going -- some pleading, some begging of forgiveness, a bunch of flowers and some makeup sex. It's all part of your relationship. It defines your relationship. It will not change, and at least for now, neither will he. DTMFA.

I'd also like to point out that even if you decide that you're okay with sharing your fella -- open, in other words, to some kind of consensual polyamory -- this particular dude shows none of the respect for boundaries or honest communications it'd take to make it work. Even in a consensually polyamorous relationship, one can cheat, and I'd bet good money he would. Who needs that? Lose him.
posted by Gelatin at 12:00 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've avoided answering this question for a few days because, like many of the people above, I lived a nominally similar situation and, even many years later, it hits so close to home it's still painful to think about. With that in mind, I think I'll have to think about it some more before I give you more targeted advice--perhaps I'll email your account--but I did want to point you to an article to consider, "Do You Love an Avoidant?"

This was the first article I read when I started researching the love addict/avoidant cycle, and I wonder if you will find it as compelling as I did. It was a little eerie, as if an anthropologist had been taking notes during my first relationship. Here's a quote:
"The cycle goes something like this: The love avoidant meets a woman he senses is emotionally fragile or needy. He has been programmed since childhood to take care of needy people, so he begins the relationship by charming and wooing the love addict. He implies to her that he will take care of her needs better than anyone else. The love addict believes she has met her Prince Charming and throws herself into the relationship, often forsaking other important life goals, friendships and personal values. The love avoidant begins to feel stifled from taking on the emotional demands of the love addict and tries to relieve his discomfort by creating some kind of space in the relationship. This distancing causes the love addict extreme emotional pain and she reacts by either clinging even more desperately to him, or by creating some kind of self-distracting chaos through destructive behaviors of her own. Typically, the relationship doesn’t end here. The love avoidant usually feels guilt and remorse for his behavior, or he can’t stand feeling alone. If he has not entered another relationship, he will typically re-engage the love addict through charming behavior, fantasy promises, etc. If the love addict has not entered another relationship, she will re-enter the relationship and the cycle begins anew."
I don't know if this applies to you, but consider reading the whole article and finding out more if it seems familiar.

Can I just say something that I did not truly believe or understand at the time I was in this relationship, but only began to much later? Love, to me, is no longer enough. Love as a feeling is great--I have someone I love now--it feels awesome, and I believe it is one of the ways in which we save the world, and yes it is and was unique and wonderful and all of that. Yes, this former relationship-person felt like the only person who would ever, could ever, understand me and all of the dreams and secret goals I had in life. But these days I'd rather have someone who treats me well; who actually makes trying to give me not just whatever he wants to give me but what I would want for myself, a priority; over all of the star-crossed dramatic us-against-the-world-ness, the I-would-love-you-if-you-were-more-Whatever-ness, even the no-one-will-ever-love-me-because-I'm-awful-let-your-heart-bleed-with-how-much-I'm-"punishing"-myself-ness I had then or could have in the future.

I didn't know this in my first relationship, but it is possible to be with someone who is awesome and amazing and ohmygodsosmart and whom you're crazy about AND have them be kind, unselfish, monogamous, super into you, not tell you you're clingy for wanting to see them because they want to see you too (and they don't have any other people they're dating!), think you're amazing, think you're gorgeous, don't need you to change a hair on your body. Who will take down his dating profile without you even asking, just because he feels that way about you, not even thinking to mention it, who won't even feel the need to look at those websites or chat with others, to have any guilty secrets. I thought it was worth it to go through all of those horrible, horrible feelings before because LOVE, it's supposed to conquer everything. But it turns out there are people who will love you without needing to be guilted into it. Who will go out of their way to treat you in a way that makes you feel valued, to surprise you with how good he can be to you, how good you can be together. I used to feel like, well, he definitely deserved love and I was oh-so-ready to give it, despite everything, maybe even because of everything (look how devoted I am! I am my own ideal of constancy!); but I forgot, I guess, that I deserved love too.

I don't question that you love him. I am certain you do. matter how nice the flowers and the making up and the promises are, it's just...not kind to treat you that way, when he knows how it hurts you. I used to do the "it's the other girls' fault(s)!" thing too, as much as I knew it was even more my ex's fault, simply because it was easier to hate someone I did not already desperately love. But I hated that I was becoming the kind of person who hated anyone. Who was automatically suspicious (because there were so many good reasons to be), who was jealous, who doubted herself, who thought she was ugly, who thought she was broken and permanently messed up... That was the beginning of the end. I remember lying in bed with the realization that he could tell me that the sun was out, and I'd still go to the window to check, that's how broken my trust was; and also that I didn't like this person I was becoming. Do you like the person you are when you are with him?

Look, as much as I find it easy to project myself into your situation, it's not the same situation. I definitely see that. I'm just giving you my own story, and take from it what you find helpful.

It took me awhile to learn how love that did not involve passionate desperation felt. But I think I've learned; and I hope you can too. You deserve to be happy.
posted by spelunkingplato at 8:01 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

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