Boyfriend seeks to make amends but can I really trust him?
July 19, 2017 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Otherwise Amazing Boyfriend [OAB] is extremely passive and avoids conflict to the point of his own detriment. Unfortunately this passivity also leads him to lie to get out of trouble, lie to please others, lie to avoid conflict, etc. This has caused huge problems in our relationship. He's improved a lot since then, but I'm not so sure how to move forward.

Otherwise Amazing Boyfriend:

Sits with me at the doctor's office after his overnight shifts just to make sure I'm not alone.
Picks me up from work every time I ask.
Apologizes if he misses my call/text.
Tells me he loves me often.
Drove both ways of a road trip to hang out with my friends and family when I sprained my ankle.
Is dependable, listens to me, and has made huge improvements since our original blow-out drama--way better communication, 0 silent treatment, stronger boundaries with ex-wife.
Loves his family, great with kids, loves my family, great with my nephews and nieces, my family loves him, his family loves me.

The problem:

I keep catching him in things. He'll promise something, and then I'll find out later that he didn't keep his word, or maybe he did but only half-way. I'll find out that his ex wasn't completely blocked, for example, when a text comes in while we're together. Nothing too crazy in the texts (anymore--that's why she was blocked in the first place), nothing more than a hey how are you, I got a letter from x place saying y from when we were married, do you know about this etc. But it's the fact that I had to find out later on, on my own, due to my own vigilance that makes me feel like I can't trust him at all. I'll catch him in a lie about something that would probably have been simple or easy if he had just spoken to me about it, but now I have to worry because it was hidden. On one hand I feel like he over-promises things to try and please me and then lies to avoid conflict if it doesn't go exactly that way. He told me they'd have to meet up about the letter from x about y, for example, he lied to my face about what he did that day because, in his words, it was bad timing and he didn't want to ruin the by bringing that up. But on the other hand, I feel like he's just a liar, plain and simple, and I don't want to be with, much less eventually get married to someone I can't trust.

He's sworn he'll be honest with me from now on, and so far he's doing it, but I still feel like the other shoe is going to drop in a few months time when he lies about something else. And now I'm becoming a dishonest person too because I feel like the only way to know the truth is to be hyper-vigilant every time he handles his phone, or every time it rings. I've already gone through his texts once last year during the height of that whole "No boundaries with the ex wife" issue, and it was that event that directly led to there being stronger boundaries/blockage in the first place as well. Right now, boundaries seem to be in place, and there doesn't seem to be anything inappropriate going on at all beyond this dishonesty. But it's the dishonesty that makes the whole thing seems suspicious.

We've already agreed to work it out, and I've told him exactly how I feel already, so I don't want to rake him through the coals. He's responded by apologizing, expressing regret at his actions, listening to me, and sending a screen shot of the texts the next time she sent one (didn't ask for that, but I appreciated it anyway). I don't know if or how long this honesty will last. It could be a matter of time before we recover and we're setting out to have a great day and then WHAM--here's something else I didn't know.


I can also see things from his point of view, having been in a similar position before. My ex-situation and I were in a very co-dependent symbiotic friendlationship thing for a while when I met my Most Recent Ex [MRE]. Things were inappropriate for a while in transition, and eventually I had to exercise new boundaries with him in order to protect my relationship with the ex at the time. MRE was absolutely sure I was sleeping with him and demanded that I cut him off, but I knew that wasn't the case, and refused. Ex-Situation and I are actually best friends to this day, but we had to learn how to respect each other's relationships with other people. He's currently dating someone else, and so am I. MRE and I broke up for a host of other reasons unrelated to this, but even after cutting MRE off for a while, I resumed contact with him once he respected my boundaries. So I can understand the idea of being uncomfortable being forced to cut someone off, and how pushing the issue can backfire. I can also understand not telling the whole truth if I think it's just going to degenerate into a huge drama, a three hour talk, two days of space, and a bucket of tears.

Has anyone else gone through this? Do you tell lies to avoid conflict/drama, even though nothing's really happening? Were you with someone who did this? I think it's pretty obvious Otherwise Amazing Boyfriend loves me, and is in love with me. He's also a pretty amazing guy outside of all this. Is it just my own discomfort blocking us from moving forward? Is my reaction to his ex part of the reason why he lies, on top of his lies being the reason I react so badly to his ex? Like a vicious cycle? I'm starting to lose faith in the things he says though, and I've told him this. I can't trust him if he's just going to lie anyway. What's the point?
posted by Socolime to Human Relations (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Listen- you're always going to feel like you can't trust him and he's always going to feel like you don't trust him. I think the only way that this has a hope in hell of working is if you guys get into some serious counseling together AND separately to deal with this. Even then, I think this will end up being a learning experience for both of you and the next partner you find will be a better 'fit'. The thing with people who lie to get out of discomfort is that they tend to resist personal growth and change.

I have been married for 9 years now and a thing that I realized a few years ago is that my husband is an amalgam of all of my prior serious relationships. The things that I loved in all of my exes (A was gentle, B was so sarcastic and made me laugh, C was.....) my husband has all of it. It's like each relationship was showing me the things I needed (and the things I DIDN'T) one relationship at a time. Seriously, I look back and kind of laugh because the 'Universe' was schooling me the whole time.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:10 AM on July 19, 2017 [11 favorites]

Yes. When I was 23 I dated a fellow who was otherwise so much fun - so great to be with and made me feel like a million bucks... we had a blast together.

But I couldn't trust him about the *dumbest* things. He would lie about ANYTHING. And over time it is crazy-making, let me tell you. I'd never let myself get so weird over a guy, but his nebulousness made me feel like I was losing my mind.

It ended the obvious way: with me finding proof of him cheating. I was at his place, and saw a Valentine's Day card in his room. As I picked it up, the COWARD turned off the lights so I couldn't see who it was from. He was so scared of confrontation that he had to literally make himself unseen. It was pathetic, but also the fitting and expected ending.

You might have to consider that yes, he may love you in his own way and as much as he can--but the lying is a problem. It will always be a problem. You're never going to feel like you can rely or trust in him and that's a huge HUGE problem... it feels like a nagging pebble now, but it will grow. I see two ways it could end:

1. you live and grow with a liar, never knowing what is true or how much he cares, and knowing that he doesn't mind behaving in a cowardly way.

2. you live and grow with a liar, and he betrays you.

Are either of these options feasable for you, really?

It's possible he could learn and grow and change, but why would he? That's another question you might need to ask yourself.

Good luck. Others may have a different opionion, but I don't think people change that much. I'm sorry.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:17 AM on July 19, 2017 [16 favorites]

For some reason I didn't catch the fact that this man has been married and divorced before.

He's a chronic liar whom you can't trust to tell you the truth about the most basic things. His marriage and subsequent divorce apparently didn't teach him anything about healthy communication and his role in it. And you had to have this conversation multiple times and spend months trying to convince him not to be enmeshed with his ex? You're still wondering when you're going to find out that he went behind your back for the millionth time?

Girl, dump this tool. Sounds like he's just nice enough to keep you hanging while he does whatever he wants, and tells you what you want to hear. He's a grown man, he knows what he's doing. You shouldn't have to be the NSA in your own relationship just to enjoy some trust and transparency. Save your sanity and find someone who can be the person they say they are.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:29 AM on July 19, 2017 [10 favorites]

Is he lying about everything or only in regards to his ex-wife? Does he lie only when asked about things or does he lie voluntarily, so to speak? If he lies only about his ex and only when you ask, you could stop asking, if you were so inclined. The fact that this is an issue makes me think it's not just the lying, but the potential for cheating that is a problem for you.

To answer the last bit of your question, yes, I was with someone who lied all the time, but it turns out it wasn't about nothing. I suspect your guy isn't lying about nothing either - you just don't know what it is yet. As I said in another AskMe answer, we stayed together and things are better now, but they aren't as good as they could have been and they never will be.

Quite frankly, he doesn't seem all that amazing to me. You say he's dependable, but that's not exactly true. Lying is the opposite of being dependable. You're never going to be able to trust him completely. And only you can decide if this is okay.
posted by lyssabee at 5:40 AM on July 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

On one hand I feel like he over-promises things to try and please me and then lies to avoid conflict if it doesn't go exactly that way...

...I can also understand not telling the whole truth if [he thinks] it's just going to degenerate into a huge drama, a three hour talk, two days of space, and a bucket of tears

Is "huge drama" how you usually react with boyfriend every time he doesn't keep his promise or things don't turn out the way you expected? Or just when issues with his ex are involved?
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:50 AM on July 19, 2017 [20 favorites]

I don't want to be with, much less eventually get married to someone I can't trust.

Then don't be!

It doesn't matter if he apologizes for missing texts or calls (that's in the plus column?!). Or if he is a good dad or a fun uncle. What matters is that you can't trust him. And in order for him to be trustworthy, he has to be doing what you tell him to do.

Do you want a partner, or a child? Because it sounds like you're on your way to becoming his mother.
posted by headnsouth at 5:54 AM on July 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

I am a liar. I'm a really, really good liar. I can and have convinced anyone of anything. Lying is like a drug for me. I tell the lie, and then I get a rush planning all the things I will have to do in the future to maintain it -- the stories I'll have to tell, the adjustments I'll have to make to other stories. It doesn't matter if the lie is big or small. Lying gives me energy.

I also never, ever lie any more. I learned the hard way the damage that these lies, big and small, did to me and to others. People never really knew me when I lied -- they knew the me that I was projecting. At the time, this seemed fine, but I came to realize that there is value in being known for who I truly am, and for connecting to other people from that place of deep knowing. Because lying is so addictive for me, and I get such a rush from it, I am scrupulous to never ever lie -- like the alcoholic who can't have even one drink, I can't have even one lie.

You don't say how old you or your guy are, but since he's been married before, maybe he's a bit older. He might be able to stop lying or he might not -- but the thing to know is that while he is lying, you don't really know him. Do you want to be with someone you don't deeply know? Someone who can't truly connect with you because of the facades he is maintaining? Once you answer those questions, you'll see the way forward.
posted by OrangeDisk at 5:56 AM on July 19, 2017 [27 favorites]

But on the other hand, I feel like he's just a liar, plain and simple, and I don't want to be with, much less eventually get married to someone I can't trust.

There's your answer.

I don't think you are wrong to be considering extenuating circumstances-- he's a people pleaser, it sounds like, and he may have grown up with people who lie and act defensive. And your reaction may be perpetuating the cycle, but don't buy into the idea that it's your fault-- you're entitled to your reactions. You might be able to temper your reactions but you're not going to stop reacting. Putting the focus on that is his way of controlling the situation. Is he by any chance somewhat controlling overall? The one guy I dated in which there was a cycle where lies would be discovered, and arguments ensued, turned out to be terribly controlling. Even the degree to which this guy goes out of his way for you is a little weird to me, like maybe he is trying to put you in his debt.
posted by BibiRose at 6:06 AM on July 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

You've talked about him lying to avoid conflict, but he wouldn't have to do that if he just told the truth to start with. "Oh hey ex, I need to avoid talking to you because it upsets the woman I want to be with and I told her I would." See? Simple. What he's doing is just whatever he feels like and then lying when he gets caught in the hopes that you'll drop the subject or forgive him quickly and he can go back to doing whatever he wants to do. An apology is so much easier than saying what you're gong to do and getting permission, isn't it? So he's learned that he can do that as much as he wants and you'll get upset but you'll keep forgiving him and the cycle will repeat.

And it's going to continue to repeat until you DTMFA. Seriously, this guy may have many fine qualities, but you don't even know about half of them because he can't be bothered to stop lying to you. Go find someone who doesn't act like a child. This guy has more stuff going on than you've found out about and he doesn't care that he's lying to you and hurting your feelings. He cares that he gets to keep doing what he wants and that you stick around and let him.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:07 AM on July 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: ? Do you tell lies to avoid conflict/drama, even though nothing's really happening? Were you with someone who did this?

I was someone like this until about 25, and to be honest, getting over it was probably the last step towards progressing from a fuckboy to an actual adult in a relationship.

Putting on your adult pants and saying to your partner "sorry, I think it's reasonable to see my ex over a semi-important letter" is what adults who respect each other do. They engage in dialogue, explore root causes of why it's okay for you to communicate your exes but not him, and either find a compromise or they break up. Adults in relationships don't rely on their partner catching them to trigger hard conversations. He has put the entire emotional labor of maintaining the trust in the relationship on your shoulders.

You used a lot of words up front - passive, pleasing, conflict-avoidant - that again and again come up in AskMe about men in relationships. These are gendered cop outs - if your boyfriend is lying to get what he wants from his partner, he is straight-up selfish. Think about it - lie or no lie, your boyfriend's risk is a fight. It's the same. For you - his lie means insecurity, self-doubt, and inability to trust in addition to the fight. His lie takes bad things from you so he can avoid bad things himself. That's selfish.
posted by notorious medium at 6:13 AM on July 19, 2017 [26 favorites]

I 100% believe you that your partner is lying.

I am unclear, because you have not reported on it, what if any your role in this is. Everything you mention seems to be about his ex-wife, with whom he has children. He cannot block her completely. He has legitimate need to meet up with her. Therefore, I have to question if you are being reasonable, and if "huge drama, a three hour talk, two days of space, and a bucket of tears" is a response he's trying to avoid in the face of unreasonable demands.

His behaviour is poor. I do not dispute that. I am asking you to clarify your behaviour, though.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:18 AM on July 19, 2017 [29 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, huge drama tends to result from issues with the ex. It ends up turning into a huge blowout because finding things out after the fact, after everything we've already been through just feels like a slap in the face. It usually takes a few days to calm down. Other things are comparatively smooth.

He also doesn't lie about anything else, only things about the ex. Infidelity is a concern to me, because the main reason I'm so against her being around is that as soon as she knew we were official, she started contacting him more and more, and being inappropriate. To his credit, he turned down her requests for sex, but he didn't stop her saying other inappropriate things, either. He never said anything so crazy as "oh baby I miss you so much" or anything like that, but while he was telling me how crazy and problematic she was, he was telling her he couldn't go to x or y event because "my girlfriend hates you." There came an enormous confrontation over this, at which point he owned up to it and boundaries were put in place. So he stopped short of crossing the line, but he didn't "cut her off if she said anything like that," like he said he would.

I stayed at that point because despite this, he really did turn her down, and he really did block her number in front of me, and there really were improvements. There were parts of the story he didn't tell, but the main bits were backed up by the text messages. There really wasn't any further activity for months, until contact resumed on social media. Another big talk ensued and we agreed to be ok with that, as long as it didn't get out of control. He was honest with me at that point. The next issue was that he unblocked her phone after losing access to his social media (and yes we do live in a tech savvy world but he's not the guy to climb every mountain and google search every stream for solutions; he really is extremely passive about certain things, although not so passive about unblocking her, so...).

The issue here was that I had to find out by glancing over and seeing that she had sent him a new text. I freaked out, we had a big fight over it because I felt like we were going through the same drama all over again, and it made me feel like our whole reconciliation etc was a lie.

He was honest about having to meet up with her about some legal issue from when they were married (showed me the emails, and the texts), but then lied to my face about it when it actually happened. Said he was out with friends. I found out because he handed me his phone to look at something in our text messages and I saw it.

So much of this could have been cleared up with a simple conversation beforehand. Him hiding everything just makes me feel like I have to be some kind of detective or I'll just never know what's happening, ever.
posted by Socolime at 6:30 AM on July 19, 2017

None of the other good traits about him matter if he is a compulsive liar and you can't trust him to believe if he actually picked up the milk, forgot the milk, drank the milk, fed it to his kids or threw it out on the lawn because who knows what he's going to say about it?

I dealt with a friend of mine dating a compulsive liar once upon a time (reader, she married him, I shudder to think how that's going) and jeebus christ, it's a pain in the ass and not worth it. Do you want to be in a relationship where you can't believe him about anything, including whether or not he loves you? Can anyone stomach this? (my ex-friend, I guess, but I think she was in denial and also this was the only guy who wanted to marry her)

I think this is a breakupable offense. Unless he's willing to do a lot of therapy and work on this to freaking stop, eventually you and everyone else he dates, if they have any sanity, is going to leave him for it.

"Do you tell lies to avoid conflict/drama, even though nothing's really happening?"

Why would you do this? You're just lying for recreational fun? That's not even "lying to get out of trouble/avoid confrontation," that's compulsive lying, that's lying like you're breathing just because you like to lie regardless of anything. Bad sign.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:35 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: He does not have children with her.
posted by Socolime at 6:35 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

You mention your own vigilance as a factor in this, and that you've gone through his phone before... and from your followup it sounds like the majority of the drama ensues because you drew an unreasonably hard line in the past (asking someone with kids to block their ex is unreasonable, going through their phone to trip them up is unreasonable, throwing tantrums is unreasonable) and he's trying to avoid more unreasonableness by keeping that part of his life away from you.

So... he's not doing great things by lying but from here it sounds like that's what he feels he has to do in order to manage his life in the face of your surveillance and anger. Yikes. I think y'all need counseling.

EDIT: no kids, got it. Demanding blocking is still unreasonable given the scenario with her that you describe.
posted by palomar at 6:36 AM on July 19, 2017 [11 favorites]

The question is, when called on his behavior and the need to change, in such a way that all of his excuses are taken away and it is plain that he is at fault - will he really do it. I encourage you to read this book. It will probably give you the answers you seek, one way or the other.

It's not you. Trust your gut.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:38 AM on July 19, 2017

Best answer: Oh honey, you don't deserve to *have* to be a detective, litigator, private investigator, mother, or torturer in a relationship. It's draining and intimacy killing! It will hollow your goodwill out and fill you up with suspicion. Why do this to yourself?

There are guys out there that aren't this cowardly. Dump this loser. He's making YOU feel like the bad guy! Making YOU feel like you're a jerk for "raking him over the coals" but this is HIS doing, not Yours. Bile and Syntax has it exactly right. Please don't punish yourself by sticking with this selfish man, he will turn you into something you don't want to be... and it has already started.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:40 AM on July 19, 2017 [15 favorites]

Best answer: You guys are definitely in a bad pattern and the same scenario of BadThingLie-BlowUp-Admission&Forgiveness isn't working. You kind of only get to play that one once and then you have to go deeper. You have assumed that a blow up necessitates a real and lasting change but clearly the guy has an issue and you do, too, because you have accidentally taken on or been pushed into a nagging, enforcer role. If you guys want to have a chance, you need to step waaay back and have an honest conversation about your feelings and motivations around this. He needs to think about, deeply, his feelings on his ex and what he is afraid of right now in drawing a boundary and committing to you. (I mean, he was married once and divorced, maybe some part of him is trying to sabotage your relationship because he's afraid to commit and get burned again.)

If all this seems impossible, if you don't feel that you or he have the tools to unpack this and become better people (for yourselves and as a couple) then I'd urge you to consider a couple sessions of counseling. You can also read some books to give you tools to communicate. But, from this day on, pledge to yourself that you are not the nagging enforcer and actively resist that role. You must just to protect your own sanity and be a whole person.
posted by amanda at 6:46 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I repeat, no kids. But I do wonder if drawing such a hard line in the first place is what caused most of this. Maybe he's just stuck between pleasing me/meeting my demands, and living life the way he wants to. I don't disagree that I needed to put my foot down about certain things but he never felt comfortable cutting her off completely because he does view her as a friend. Not everyone can cut people off like that. Whatever the reason, I don't want to be the person who says "you're not allowed to have this person as a friend." But I also didn't feel like I had a choice at the time. I'' loosening up a bit on that front, and I'' trying not to let my reactions get the better of me from now on. It isn't my fault, not in the least, but I have to recognize that especially for him, it's not always easy telling me the truth when it tends to turn out happy relationship into a war zone.
posted by Socolime at 6:47 AM on July 19, 2017

Best answer: No, "what caused most of this" was, quite simply, his choice to lie rather than tell you the truth. Sure, you've blown up and there's been drama when he's caught in yet another lie, but let's face it: there wouldn't have been that drama if he didn't choose to lie.

And yes, he is doing exactly that: choosing to lie. No lies = no drama because of lies, so this is very much on him.
posted by easily confused at 6:54 AM on July 19, 2017 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to put words in your mouth and feel free to reject them if they don't feel right but maybe this will help you think through what your exact boundary is and how this "white lie" behavior is really hurting you:
I'm afraid that this connection with your ex means that you are one foot out the door. I feel like you are maybe not ready to move on and I am fully committed here but I can't hold up both parts of the relationship and so I'm afraid I will just lose you so easily. When you tell me these "white lies" or half-truths they are more painful and confusing than a really big lie because it tells me that you can't trust me with the little things and I feel disrespected, that you're trying to manage my emotions. I also resent being positioned as the "bad guy" in your life: by telling your ex that I hate you, you have created a dynamic that really doesn't exist. If I ever gave that impression in the past, I'd like to correct that now: my relationship is with you not her and I never want to hear that sort of bull again because it's not true. And I say that for myself as well as for you – my relationship with you has nothing to do with her and your relationship with her needs to be honest and respectful of your relationship with me.
White lies are insidious and can destroy a relationship just like big lies can. Something about them are really eroding though in a way that also makes you feel like you're losing your mind. I dealt with something similar early in my relationship and we had to get deep to get through it. It was a learned behavior based on family upbringing (like so much of our character) and once we were able to bring it and the root of it out into the light, things got so much better.
posted by amanda at 6:59 AM on July 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, so, when you tell a partner you want them to be honest with you, honesty is so important to you, you really value honesty.... and then they're honest and you blow up about what they're telling you? That definitely sets up a situation where that partner is going to hide things to avoid more drama. I know. I've been on both sides of it.

Couples therapy to learn how to break that pattern if you want to stay in this.
posted by palomar at 7:00 AM on July 19, 2017 [34 favorites]

Yeah, so, when you tell a partner you want them to be honest with you, honesty is so important to you, you really value honesty.... and then they're honest and you blow up about what they're telling you? That definitely sets up a situation where that partner is going to hide things to avoid more drama. I know. I've been on both sides of it.

This! Lying is bad. I agree but I also understand why someone might chose to lie about something they deem small in order to avoid conflict that has lasted for days in the past. It doesn't really matter where things went wrong in the first place because now you're in a cycle where he doesn't want to upset you so he hides things and that very act of hiding things upsets you. You should sit down with a couples therapist to find a way to break the cycle and start fresh. That's going to mean work on your part and not dwelling on things that happened before and it's going to mean work on his part to address conflict in a healthier way.
posted by GilvearSt at 7:07 AM on July 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

At the very least he sounds like he's not right for you.

You sound a little overbearing, demanding, and more than a little controlling, so you may want to look into that. But that's not the issue - you want something out of this relationship that he is not providing. You want it so much that you outright said "I don't want to be with such a person".

What are you waiting for? I suspect you are waiting for him to capitulate, but will that actually bring you satisfaction? Just end it for both of your sakes.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:17 AM on July 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You sound a little overbearing, demanding, and more than a little controlling, so you may want to look into that.

I just want to jump in and say that despite a few commenters above, you don't seem that way to me. You seem like someone who has been PUSHED into enacting this (shitty sick-feeling) role by a chronically lying, cowardly dude.

You know when guys talk about their "crazy" ex? Same myth applies. But I don't believe this kind of paranoia is borne in a vaccume, and I think you sound insightful, thoughtful and self-critical enough that you know he's making you think, feel and behave in a way that doesn't feel right or true to you.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:27 AM on July 19, 2017 [18 favorites]

Trust is one of the most fundamental things in a relationship. Do you think this trust can carry you through the rockier parts of the relationship? I read a study that said women are more likely to stay with men after they cheat because they think they can change them. Men are less likely because they know they can't. Or maybe women stay because they think they're causing the problem, that they're the problem.

Personally, I was cheated on in my first relationship so I know it's really important to me. So as soon as I realize I can't trust someone in a relationship, I mentally move on.

This varies from person to person. People who find security in their careers or have a strong support network (family, friends, pets) don't need as much trust in their romantic relationships.
posted by thesockpuppet at 7:35 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think much of someone who would cut off an ex who's a friend at the request of someone else. it was obviously bad for him to lie about having done it, but also bad for him to agree in the first place. I can sort of imagine feeling outraged that he told her he couldn't talk to her because you hate her, but if your request was the reason, I don't see it working to make him lie and pretend to her it was his own idea. though maybe that's the reason it's outrageous, that he gives her the truth more readily than he gives it to you. he sounds like someone whose first instinct is to say 'yes' to you and then figure out privately what he actually wants to do, and then do that.

he probably doesn't recognize this, but he is not thinking of you as a rational person -- you don't automatically agree to all requests from a girlfriend unless you don't distinguish between an automatic yes-dear and actual agreement with her (you). as much as it seems like it would be nice to have someone whose reflex is to want to please you all the time, it is alienating to relate to a pleaser on an intimate basis because ultimately, if it's bad as it sounds with him, you could be anybody asking anything and he'd say Yes regardless. it's impersonal. You want a Yes to mean something, you want him to keep meaning it even when you leave the room and there are other people around to please.

plus it's not "to his credit" that he didn't sleep with her, of course he didn't. I mean, if you love and want to be with him, it has to feel like an "of course" to you and not an occasion for pleasure and gratitude.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:40 AM on July 19, 2017 [13 favorites]

What if your friend said to you

"I'm dating a great* guy but he's not over his ex and I live in fear that he's going to cheat with her, and he stays in communication with her despite knowing that, and lies about it, to the point that I don't think I can ever trust him."

- what would you say?

* The list of 'great' here reads like common human decency to me.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:44 AM on July 19, 2017 [10 favorites]

Is absolutely the only thing he is lying to you about his ex?

It's possible that his relationship with his ex tips him over into being out of control. There are people like this, where people who interact with them end up looking like they are crazy or cruel or dishonest - or becoming crazy or cruel or dishonest, because there is no other way to be when they are interacting with that individual.

There is an outside chance that your OAB's ex, who hates you, is an amazing manipulator who is reluctant to stop manipulating him and is setting him up to panic him into lying to you in order to make you distrust him. It's possible that she already got him well trained to lie to her by putting him into a situation where it was either lie or face an enormous scene, with a payoff of later getting to be play the role of the Wounded Victim.

It's also possible that your OAB has poor verbal control and blurts out whatever immediately makes him feel less anxiety, in which case he probably could use some help in learning how not to tell lies - which involves learning how to 'fess up as soon as possible, and the people around him learning to give good consequences for telling the truth instead of bad ones.

In any case, if you decide against DTMFA, your course of action is to make a pact with your OAB that you go full disclosure, no recriminations, and you take the emotional and supportive stance that his ex is the cancer that he is struggling with, rather than a personal threat to you, that your role in this is to support him in his fight to get over it. You already know that he is trying to recover - she's his ex, not his current. You suspect he may not recover, and that would be a tragedy. And if he doesn't recover then you will have no future with him. But in the meantime while there is still a fight in him, he is trying to separate from her and trying to survive without too much pain and you both are on the same side and would love it if he could get free.

If he were fighting cancer, you might ask him to keep you apprised of all his appointments and such and tell him cheering and supportive things. Similarly, you could take the role of asking to see all her texts and take the role of saying cheering and supportive things. If you are insecure seeing a text like, "You broke my heart when you told me she was pretty. But at least you never told her she was the prettiest girl you ever went out with." that's giving her power by making the assumption that there is a relationship going on. And if you turn around and ask your boyfriend "Did you really tell her that? Is she prettier than I am?" etc. you're adding to the drama. That's not a cheering and supportive thing. It's going to make him want to hide the fact that she texted him.

Whereas if you look at it as a note from someone that he doesn't want to get - think of how you would feel if you got a similar note like that from the most annoying un-coolest boy you went to school with back in grade seven that you wouldn't have wanted to go out with back them and certainly don't want to go out with now when he's added a delusional relationship with you to his drawbacks - you might be able to think of something supportive to say that would mean he wouldn't feel he had to hide the communication from you.

That's the big thing. When he looks at a text like "You broke my heart when you told me she was pretty. But at least you never told her she was the prettiest girl you ever went out with." what is he feeling? 1. Hmmm.... I bet I could back into her pants? 2. Maybe if I give her some mercy sex she's leave me alone for a week? 3. Oh God, when will she ever give up? 4. Huh? Did I ever call her pretty? 5. Oh God, why did I ever tell her Socolime was pretty?! 6. Socoline is gonna kill me if she sees this message! 7. Loves you too babby! 8. I probably have time for another level of Red Dead Redemption after dinner tonight. 9. Aigh... she's upset! 10. AIGH! Please don't make another suicide threat! Oh God no NO NO. 11. What does she want NOW? 12. Aw no, I'm shit. I hurt her feelings. I'm such a shit.

So you need to know what he is feeling and find out why he is lying in order to address it. Because he could be lying to you in order to get more time to play Red Dead Redemption, or he could be lying to you because he can't deal with another suicidal girlfriend, or he could be lying to you because he can't remember. Or he could be lying because he is a manipulator and it makes it easier to get what he wants, such as two girlfriends at the same time. And there is a huge difference in what is a deal breaker and what isn't.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:15 AM on July 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

You have to decide if lying is a dealbreaker for you. It is for me. I have been lied to, about stupid things, and then about things that were so far over the line it doesn't bear description. At this point, for me, whatever you're lying about, I 100% do not care. There is no way that telling me is as bad as lying to me, because when you lie to me, I will be leaving, full stop.

You have to decide if that is your boundary or if you are willing to work on this. Only you know if he feels overall not-trustworthy. Honestly this much drama management with ex's would be a deal breaker for me, also.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:18 AM on July 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just to clarify, huge drama tends to result from issues with the ex. It ends up turning into a huge blowout because finding things out after the fact, after everything we've already been through just feels like a slap in the face. He also doesn't lie about anything else, only things about the ex.

I hope you can see the connection here. You are an adult and have 100% control over how you respond to what he does. You are responsible for your own actions. You can feel things without, you know, screaming them or shouting them.

while he was telling me how crazy and problematic she was, he was telling her he couldn't go to x or y event because "my girlfriend hates you."

...and there speaks a manchild who is also not taking responsibility for his actions.

It honestly doesn't sound like the two of you have the communication tools to make this relationship work. Either go to therapy and get some together, or forget this relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:18 AM on July 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

Mod note: One comment deleted. Socolime, AskMetafilter isn't a place for back-and-forth discussion or elaboration/processing/etc from the OP --you've already made a number of followups in here, and at this point, best to just read the answers and focus on the ones that are most useful for you.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:30 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What he's saying by telling you one thing and doing another is that he thinks he knows better than you. Yikes. And lying about something to try to prevent someone getting mad at them is what teenagers do because they haven't yet figured out that that's not how grown-ups communicate. It does not sound to me like your guy really understands the gravity of what he's done here, or he wouldn't have done it so casually to begin with.

Personally, I lack the patience at this point in my life to deal with a partner who doesn't value me, my time, and my autonomy enough to say what they mean and mean what they say. This would be a breakup offense for me.

But I don't know this dude, and you do, and you seem to be leaning heavy on the "but I don't WANT to DTMFA" side of things. I would say if he really seems contrite and (more importantly, IMHO) if he REALLY seems to grok why what he did here was so anathema to a respectful adult partnership and is committed to ensuring it never happens again, go ahead and give him another shot if that's what you really want.

However, if, as you say, the trouble is that you straight up do not trust him and do not know if that will come back again, I would not give him another shot without picking a calendar date or something where if you're not feeling better about the trust violation by that time, pull the plug. Because that's something no amount of OAB traits can make up for.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:51 AM on July 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: while he was telling me how crazy and problematic she was, he was telling her he couldn't go to x or y event because "my girlfriend hates you."

That is classic triangulation, and pretty reflective of him not being on "Team You and Him" (or even "Team Him and Ex") You can armchair psychoanalyse him all day but I don't think he is worth the effort. He certainly doesn't think you are worth the effort. This relationship is crazy-making where you are trying to figure out how much lying is too much.

Relationships are supposed to make *both* of you better than you were before - an enhancement. You won't like who you are becoming in reaction to the dynamic he has created.
posted by saucysault at 8:54 AM on July 19, 2017 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Let me amend my prior advice: if this is about you not being okay with that he's friends with his ex, or whoever else, that's something you need to address. It's okay to be friends with your ex. It's not okay to tell another adult who to be friends with. It's also not okay to lie to your partner.

At this point, I have no idea if what you've got is salvageable, or if the damage is done. You may also have really divergent views of what's okay in a relationship - I'm friends with a bunch of my exes, and two years ago I had to break up with a woman who couldn't deal with that and who would have a tantrum any time I got a text from someone she'd decided she didn't like, despite my clear communication about it.

The key here is that if your partner is dealing with it by lying to you, that's not actually a way to solve the problem and it puts you in a position where you're scrambling for control and you don't know what else he's lying about.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:02 AM on July 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I think you need to physically or mentally move out of the small town you're talking about in both this and your last post, or think about finding new social circles. All this drama over who is texting what to who, who is the real crazy one, who is spreading rumors about their ex being a slut, whatever-- this is all the kind of behavior you get when people have never emotionally left high school and have too much time on their hands, and have nothing better to do than start drama with each other to add meaning to the day. Texting your ex to hit them up for sex is childish, scummy behavior. Tolerating that kind of behavior and letting your current partner know is also childish and speaks to low social and character standards. He might not be cheating, but he isn't someone who is mature enough to rise above that kind of sordid kind of social interaction. Instead, he's generating more drama by getting you riled up about his ex's inappropriate behavior without having the strength of character to shut it down and move past it. He can say that exes who proposition you when you're in another relationship are being inappropriate, but doesn't have the spine to make adult choices to not have that kind of garbage drama in his life. Your demanding that he cut his ex off was controlling, yes, and your reactions are probably contributing to the vicious cycle of his lying, yes, but I think the core of this is that he doesn't have the same standards of what he will and won't allow in his life as you do.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:20 AM on July 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I don't disagree that I needed to put my foot down about certain things but he never felt comfortable cutting her off completely because he does view her as a friend. Not everyone can cut people off like that.

An adult will turn to you and say, "I'm sorry. I can't do that. I'm not comfortable with cutting this person off and I feel like we can handle being acquaintances without falling into anything more serious. I'll police my communications but I need you to trust me not to step over the boundaries we've established - I will ask you if I feel they need clarifying."

An adult does not say, "okay, sure, I'll cut her off" and then sneak around behind your back. He needs a real come-to-Jesus talk - you both need to establish that this can and will be discussed and even though it's a pain in the ass getting over the extinction burst, eventually you'll have fewer fights because you'll have understandable boundaries and ways to discuss it without three hour legendary conflict.
posted by Nyx at 9:30 AM on July 19, 2017 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, no. Your feelings on this are 100% valid. Women engage in this of shitty behavior with men who won't date them or once dated them but still want their attention for self-validation or just want to create drama with you because they know he's a coward with poor boundaries or just want to fuck shit up. I've had this happen before where I'll start dating a fellow and some ex or woman that didn't want to date him but continues to want his attention/care-taker support come out of the wood work to try to rope him back in with promises of sex and/or start passive aggressive shit with me. What's upsetting to you is that this happened, he let it happen, and to you it basically ruined him and your ability to trust him. Particularly since he can't seem to cut her off completely and didn't think to do so until you "nagged" him about it, therefore making you confused about why that isn't the case.

You can't stop that. It's an actual phenomenon for people who are addicted to being needed and to drama. I agree with the posters that say he is probably using lying to control you both so he can continue to have that sweet sweet stream of drama and attention. You got roped into this sick system that centers entirely around him. In the end he's getting all the attention he'll ever need from both of you and is keeping you both sick and coming back.

Anyone who wanted to be with you and cares about your feelings wouldn't need to hide or lie about people who cause you distress. They would have empathy and realize they needed to prevent anything from harming the relationship on their own. He didn't. You continue to try to not only make him stop lying but to care for the relationship and you. You now have a toxic relationship and you're going crazy because of his inability to provide you that. Because to you he cares more about this "friendship" with his ex who intentionally stirred shit with you than he does you.

I don't know what to tell you. It's awful when we fall in love with people who aren't there for us.

I also agree re: scummy behavior from people who don't have anything better to do, which sounds like what this is.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:36 AM on July 19, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: This sounds absolutely exhausting and I don't know how you have time for anything else. Please, for your sake, try to invest in YOU right now. Take a painting class, meditate, start a container garden, get super into coffee brewing techniques... literally anything that builds you up and focuses your attention elsewhere (not on him or on the relationship) would be good for you right now. This drama will not end and it is going to suck the life out of you if you let it.

Also, the amazing things you list are really not that amazing. They're basic, standard things in healthy relationships. When "he goes to the doctor with me" and "he says he loves me" are labeled as "amazing," there's is a problem. I know because I have frequently elevated my partners in ways that were not appropriate when they just were doing basic, normal (for lack of a better term) stuff.

Take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 9:38 AM on July 19, 2017 [18 favorites]

He's otherwise amazing. Do you really need an accounting of every one of his 24 hours and everyone he speaks to? Let him run his own life if he's decent to you.

Everyone has baggage and as we get older we have to cut each other slack to deal with it.
posted by zadcat at 9:44 AM on July 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My ex was a lovely guy by every definition. But he would lie to get out of trouble, to make himself sound smarter, to ease social interaction. He didn't care if he got caught and looked foolish - he would just dig in deeper to the lie. He would lie for no reason at all - not usually about big things, but about little things - constantly. It got to the point where I was always fact-checking him. I begged him to stop, but he didn't see anything wrong with it. Over time he completely eroded his credibility with me, which led to me losing respect for him. It was like a cavity that got worse and worse and caused a deathly infection.

If your BF can't stop or won't stop - I recommend you look elsewhere. It is a symptom of a deeper problem. In my ex's case: the inability to face his own shortcomings and the strength to be honest with himself and others.
posted by egeanin at 10:24 AM on July 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh honey, you don't deserve to *have* to be a detective, litigator, private investigator, mother, or torturer in a relationship. It's draining and intimacy killing! It will hollow your goodwill out and fill you up with suspicion. Why do this to yourself?

QFT. I was briefly in a situation where I was "pushed into a nagging, enforcer role". It was systematically bringing out the worst in me and turning me into someone I didn't want to be until I GTFO. No amount of enforcing is ever going to compensate for their lack of honesty, courage, and inner strength. It will just keep feeding into the sick system that they are using to keep from actually doing the hard work on themselves to fix those issues. I hate saying DTMFA, but if someone is bringing out the worst in you, cut them loose. Relationships that are genuinely loving and worthwhile to be in bring out the best in both people, full stop.
posted by jazzbaby at 10:43 AM on July 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh boy, this reminds me of an asshole I was dating. He was *scratch that* he is a pathological liar. He lied about any and everything. Get out before that situation with his wife turns out to be something much more complex than he is letting on. Trust me, your being on edge about everything he does, that anxiety when his phone goes off, it will drive you nuts. I damn near lost my mind in that relationshit. Get out! Your trust has already been eroded, your sanity is much more precious than 'mothering' this jerk.
posted by Whatifyoufly at 10:55 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

1. He's a lair.

2. You don't want to be with a lair.

The only one of these you have control over is #2. You can choose to be with a lair. That's it.
posted by French Fry at 12:26 PM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Couple of comments deleted. Folks, don't argue with other commenters. If your comment is naming OP in third person, chances are you're arguing with another commenter. Please direct answers to the OP, and trust that OP can discern useful advice from non-useful advice. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:02 PM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

he was telling her he couldn't go to x or y event because "my girlfriend hates you."

Um, you know those old cartoons and TV shows where the wife is portrayed as the nagging dragon/monster who ruins all the fun for the poor hero and prevents him from being the "nice guy" he truly wants to be? Well, that is the role this guy is setting you up for if you stay with him.

You deserve better.
posted by rpfields at 3:15 PM on July 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

He lies and you don't trust him. Your boyfriend isn't going to change, so this is how your relationship will be, forever. If you are ok to spend a lifetime living like this, then by all means, continue. But there no magical way of getting him to change or you to believe it so if you're not happy with it, you know what you have to do.
posted by Jubey at 2:05 AM on July 20, 2017

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