Should I continue in this relationship?
October 16, 2018 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Sensecheck this scenario for me please? The guy I'm seeing claims to be separated but presents a united front with his wife to their respective highly religious families.

I'm a woman seeing a man who I met via a dating app three months ago after he moved to MyCity from FarAwayCity. I knew he was separated from his wife early on and I am okay with that element. I like him!

But a few nights ago, he revealed that they (both mid-thirties) are still pretending to their families that they are in a happy marriage. He says the reason for the split is she, however their respective very religious families 'couldn't handle the idea' of them splitting up, would question it and she isn't ready to come out to them. They are apparently open with their friends and rest of the world, seeing other people. He lives alone here. We go out in public. We do things. We stay over. He's met a couple of my friends. He says he has told wife about me and they are good friends now. Wife is coming to MyCity soon and he wants us to meet.

I feel sexuality and a relationship breakup can be dealt with individually — but I don't have a religious/conservative perspective on which to draw on, my family was super cool with my own semi-recent LTR breakup. I have asked him a lot of questions around, if not telling them when you move to a new city, when? Why can't you just say you grew apart?

I have been burrrrned before by someone pretending to be single so I wonder if that's clouding my thinking, which currently is run, don't walk to the nearest exit. My friends sort of imply I should give him a chance. There aren't any other red flags but I'm not sure whether I should appreciate the 'honesty' and roll with it or DTMFA. If everything is true, am I still okay to feel uncomfortable with it? Or give someone has otherwise been a lovely and by all accounts normal presence in my life the benefit of the doubt?
posted by teststrip to Human Relations (53 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ignore all of the other stuff for a moment.
Are you cool dating someone who is ok lying to his family about something as basic as if he is married or not?

I'm in this "nope, nope, this is weird" camp, but ymmv.
posted by phunniemee at 8:39 AM on October 16, 2018 [40 favorites]

Trust your instinct. RUN. If he deals with the family issues and can come back to you one day properly available to you, then you can decide whether you can trust him at that point.
posted by wellred at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

If everything is true, am I still okay to feel uncomfortable with it? Or give someone has otherwise been a lovely and by all accounts normal presence in my life the benefit of the doubt?

I say both. I do think it is a problem, and it would make me feel very uncomfortable, but I think I would also appreciate the honesty. My big question would be what is the end game for his marriage? Do they plan on divorcing? Do they plan on ever telling their families? If she won't tell her family, is he prepared to tell his? I think his reaction to this discussion and these questions will go a long way towards clarifying if this is indeed a red flag or just a temporary unpleasantness.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2018 [10 favorites]

I would at least ask if there is a timeline of when they will be breaking the news to their family. Like, an actual date or event that this would happen. And then I would assess the situation based on his answer.

If you're seeing yourself in a longer relationship with him, it would be reasonable to expect to be introduced and integrated into his family. That cannot begin until they know he is separated from his wife and they have time to process and move on from that news. Which, could take a while.

Because let's say he does tell them, you still won't be introduced to them for a while because he'll say it's too soon. And then when you are introduced, he has to lie about how long you guys have known each other. This will be more difficult, more complicated, and more deceitful the longer you have been together before he tells them.

You're already in the hole 3 months. Even if he broke the news today and he told them tomorrow he was seeing someone new, you'd already have to lie about the past 3 months. How does that make you feel?
posted by like_neon at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2018 [10 favorites]

Yeah, the question becomes how much you want to live that lie, in practical terms. Are you ok with him never showing off how great you are, pretending that you don't exist? Are you ok with potentially lying to someone who comes to visit? Some people are fine waiting (on preview: within reason) until "the time is right" to tell their families, but then at the same time say "if a family member comes to visit the house, I will not lie to them."

The ex-wife knowing about you and visiting you is a good sign, but as others say, YMMV. Good luck.
posted by Melismata at 8:45 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not sure how I deleted this part, oops: He says the reason for the split [[was a few years ago she realised she is gay]]
posted by teststrip at 8:46 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

That detail is interesting but I would say irrelevant for your personal stake in the situation.
posted by like_neon at 8:48 AM on October 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

I also could not date someone this comfortable with lying. I do not believe “conservative family” is a very good reason. Logically this makes very little sense unless his wife is not aware they are in an open relationship (in other words, he’s a lying cheater) or he and his wife are super toxic people that enjoy using others. Conservative family probably expects them to have children, I honestly can’t noodle how any part of his story as presented to you makes sense.

Run away. His pants are on fire.
posted by jbenben at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

> He's met a couple of my friends.

Have you met any of his? Can anyone confirm his "my wife is totally cool with me seeing other people" story?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

Upon your update...

So, he’s going to stay married to her forever as a beard? How is that your burden to bear? Why is he putting you (or anyone he dates) in the position of doing so much emotional labor on behalf of him, his wife, and her conservative family??

Your friends are giving you very poor advice and seem unable to reason maturely. Unless you are very early 20’s and this is strictly a fling, run far far away from this train wreck situation. Nobody is taking adult responsibility for themselves and their choices. This is not how happy people in healthy relationships behave.
posted by jbenben at 8:56 AM on October 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

I don't necessarily have a problem with the initial delay that he and his present wife had, but the fact that his answer to his current conundrum (he has a wife, he met you) is to ask you to be okay with lying about your relationship rather than for him to take the logical next step (tell his wife that he met someone and that they have to tell their families, like, this weekend), is a problem. To unpack it a bit:

He says the reason for the split is she, however their respective very religious families
-'couldn't handle the idea' of them splitting up,

This isn't something families get to handle or not. They can handle it badly or well, but it's just a thing.

- would question it

Questioning it means what? So what?

- and she isn't ready to come out to them.

She doesn't have to.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:57 AM on October 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

I think one important question is how close to his family he is, because that affects how much of his life you might be crowded out of by this lie. If the situation is "one phone call a year," then that's an hour a year you have to disappear for. If it's "multiple visits a year, phone calls every other day," then that's a lot more often you have to disappear.

You might well decide you're not even up for disappearing for an hour a year, and that would be a totally reasonable decision. But you might also decide you could handle disappearing for an hour a year but not doing it three times a week — in which case, knowing which of those he expects you to do will make a difference.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:59 AM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

Wife is coming to MyCity soon and he wants us to meet.

How soon is soon? If it's in the next week or so, sure, why not? It'll make an interesting life story maybe.

If everything is true, am I still okay to feel uncomfortable with it?

Of course! You feel how you feel. I'm sorry, this story is dumb. Adult people can't level about their adult lives with their adult parents? No. On that basis alone, like, *record scratch*, "Cool story, bro, call me when your life's on the level."
posted by amanda at 9:01 AM on October 16, 2018 [10 favorites]

I'm going to amend my answer that her coming out was irrelevant.

It does become relevant if he says that they will not break the news to their families until she comes out. If that is the condition for telling the family, I would break up with him. There is no way that timeline can be controlled (nor should it) and the quality of your life and your relationship would be at the mercy of a third party whose timeline you could not at all interfere with nor predict.
posted by like_neon at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

(both mid-thirties)

Mid-thirties, mid-thirties. Hm.... what does one want to be doing around one's mid-thirties? Are you mid-thirties? Is this the kind of weird world you want to be involved in until your late-thirties? I think you should move on. Don't listen to your friends. Listen to yourself - what is it you're looking for right now in your life? Make that your guiding principle and if this guy isn't your 100% due to his squishy just have to move on.
posted by amanda at 9:06 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

Exclusively from a brainstorming/problem-solving angle, is there some way in which you could ask the pair of them to lie more—to elaborate the lying to the families in some way which will somehow reinforce a commitment to you—that would ease your mind?

I mean my initial reaction is also that you should pull the ripcord and get out of the situation, but if you want to pursue this while complying with the premises that have been presented to you...
posted by XMLicious at 9:07 AM on October 16, 2018

I think Rock Steady has a good point; it's important to understand what the exit strategy for their marriage is. But at just a few months out, I think it's reasonable that your friend may not have an answer to that question.

While on paper it's easy to say "everyone must be 100% honest all the time" the truth is families are tricky, emotions are tricky, and fear is a real thing in relationships, especially in conservative families, where a component of abandonment is a real possibility. Your friend is showing an admirable trait as a relationship partner in that he doesn't want to leave his wife hanging in such a way that she may end up divorced and ostracized from her family.

That doesn't invalidate your feelings though. It's okay for you to say "I really like you but this situation is uncomfortable/untenable for me. Let's stay in touch and please let me know when things are a little more settled in your life." I mean, yes, I think it's totally valid for you to demand more, but it seems like your friend has been quite honest upfront that he doesn't have more to give right now. That doesn't mean that he won't have more to give later. Imho it's not quite so much DTMFA, but rather it might be time to gently distance yourselves, with the idea that you may revisit the idea of a relationship at some point in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future.
posted by vignettist at 9:07 AM on October 16, 2018 [29 favorites]

Also: think about what will happen if you make a life with this guy and some emergency comes up — he's in the hospital, or you are, or his parents are, or one of you ends up unemployed and needs money, or some other sort of situation like that. Do you want to deal with his parents finding out about you in the middle of a crisis? Do you want to deal with him trying to maintain the lie in the middle of a crisis?

I'm in a relationship situation that isn't super palatable to my parents. And that's what got me to level with them, was the thought "Okay, as much as I don't want to deal with my parents meeting Person now, I want even less to deal with them meeting across my hospital bed when I've just survived a car crash. So I guess I'd better tell them now and get it over with."

Of course, if you're not thinking about making a life with him yet, maybe this matters less. And if the marriage just ended recently, maybe you're willing to give them some time to sort it out. But do you want to want to deal with a relationship where the best-case scenario, if everything goes amazingly well years down the road, has this footnote attached?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:09 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, I'm over-posting. Sorry! I just read your last question, OP, and I just wish I could give you a big hug. I do agree with vignettist that if you are interested in this guy you could let him know you appreciate the honesty and because of that the door is open but you need a more straightforward and stable relationship. If he wants you, he will do this and make his life right because he needs to do that anyway if he is to ever move on. I think this kind of wishy-washy weirdness is too complicated for your life. I'm sending you good vibes because this must be painful and strange and unsettling. May just not be the right match for you and that's okay because you are okay.
posted by amanda at 9:14 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of this depends on what you are looking for out of a relationship. If you're eventually looking for someone you want to settle down with and expecting to have a close relationship with family (like, do you want to have kids and have them know their grandparents?) then you're signing up for a potential lifetime of dysfunction where how and when you actually got together is a lie you're going to have to keep straight forever and potentially ask your own children to keep up for your sake one day.

If you couldn't give a damn about extended family relationships, and/or you're not looking for anything super-serious anyway, then you've got much less of an issue if you want to keep the relationship going. But it sounds like your instinct is to walk away and/or demand that he come clean with his family ASAP, and it's more your friends suggesting you wait and see? If that's what's going on, then forget it. Your instincts should be the more important thing here, and if your instinct is that you don't want to be anyone's secret, even a really nice guy's secret, then that is 100% legitimate.
posted by Stacey at 9:17 AM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

But a few nights ago, he revealed that they (both mid-thirties) are still pretending to their families that they are in a happy marriage.

If this was just about not telling her parents that she was gay until some (soon) future time when she was okay having that conversation, sure, maybe. I am in a long term relationship with a guy who was in a complicated relationship with his son's mom (she had a disability, he was supporting her, they still did some "family stuff" together) when we met. It was complicated at first. As his and my relationship deepened, it was clear that there was also some baggage there, not just the stated "she needs my help" and finally I was like "Look I do not want to have holidaytime with your ex, make a change" and to his credit, he did (slowly) and we've been very happy now that she's faded into the distance.

So I think you need to figure out if your guy is on Team Us and, if so, the only way I can see this working is if ALL OF YOU (him, wife, you) have a plan that honors your relationship with him and that you plan an exit strategy even if it's long. Because honestly, lying to people isn't good, even if it's because you feel they are "irrational." It's privileging your desire to not feel uncomfortable over others'. I wouldn't want that in my life. And if it were me, personally? I'd be saying "OK but *I* am not going to lie about this, so FYI if it comes up and you are in the hospital I'm going to tell your parents who I am. Awkward, no?"

And there's some legal stuff that gets tied up with marriage which, over time, I'd want to be sorted. All his stuff goes to her if he dies? She's the one who can make medical decisions if something happens to him? The legal status of your kids if you had them? Her rights to his things? I guess I always think "OK this is fine if everyone's ok and honest all the time but as soon as one person in the equation is off the plan, who gets the negative outcome" and in this case that person is you. I could see rare occasions where it works, I can see many paths, many many paths where it doesn't.
posted by jessamyn at 9:18 AM on October 16, 2018 [13 favorites]

He is still entangled in his previous relationship. You're wasting your time.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

He is willing to lie to his family for his "ex". What makes you think he's not willing to lie to you for the same reason? Anyway that's what I would think in the same situation.
posted by wwax at 9:35 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

There's also the concern that when "conservative family" does find out, they will blame you (the person they didn't know until now) as a "homewrecker" who tore the couple apart, while totally disregarding any and all facts that are presented (especially if those facts are gender-identity/sexual-orientation related).
posted by CyberSlug Labs at 9:36 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

On rereading your question based on your update, this jumped out at me:

I have asked him a lot of questions around, if not telling them when you move to a new city, when? Why can't you just say you grew apart?

What were his answers to those questions? I also wonder if there isn't a compromise where he tells his family about the split, but continues to put up a false facade for her family? Perhaps that's a non-starter if they are both in the same small town or otherwise intertwined via social media or whatever, but it is something to think about.

I guess I am not hearing a lot about how he feels about this whole situation, and that will really color my advice. Does he think it is necessary evil to prevent familial destruction? A temporary solution? No biggie, just keep lying forever?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I won't weigh in on the vagaries of the truth of his relationship etc. I would only encourage you to trust your gut.
posted by purple_bird at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Total dissenting view: Stay in the relationship.

This is a guy who is faithful and supportive to his friends, even when the relationships go through extremely hard times. He's living in a different city from his ex and she has come out to him as lesbian: it's fairly likely that he's not still got the hots for her and is getting it on the side with her. He once promised to love and cherish her and he is keeping those vows. I think this guy is a way better bet than someone who is acrimonious with his ex.

It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that his ex, if she can't come out to her parents as an adult, comes from an abusive, dysfunctional family and that she needs to live a lie. She might require the subterfuge to prevent such a host of reactions that would amount to stalking and kidnap interventions.

I would absolutely wait until after I had met her and decided if her story and his story is genuine. The fact that he wants you to meet is an earnest that he is serious about the relationship. The fact that he told you about his weird situation is an earnest that he is serious about the relationship. There is a strong chance what you have on your hands is a faithful man who cares about the safety and emotional well being of the women in his life.

Or not. You might have a bad track record for picking them and have picked another deceiver. Or you might have been triggered from your previous experience with a non-manogamous guy pretending to be a monogamous guy.

You have a bird in the hand. Allow yourself to wait and see for a bit. If you have irrevocably unbonded, or if you can't stand the emotional explosion this causes then you are going to have to break up with him. But if he sees getting a divorce as a reasonable next step - I mean, that's a few legal papers, no announcement, how would her family ever know unless he or she tells them - and cohabiting with you, and putting you on his insurance, getting Christmas day pictures made to send to her family in their decorated "shared" living room at the end of November because he's going to spend Christmas with you, stuff like that is all slowly starting to happen, then yeah, that's all a sign he's not really pining for the lesbian.

I hope you would want him to do this kind of stuff for his sister if she were the one too vulnerable to come out to family, and for you, if you ever need this kind of support.

I hope that he starts to talk to her family about how he is confounded by the fact that they haven't conceived yet, so they are going to see a fertility clinic. Paving the way for him to act totally selfishly and leave her, yet refuse to divorce her so she can remarry a nice Christian guy who doesn't mind the fact that she is infertile. You can even become the trollop who is living with and having kids with that mean guy who is still married to her.... Of course, this means if you are only going out with him because you want an enormous white wedding you can write that off, and so you are right to want to cut and run.

You've only been going out with him for three months. So you could easily find other things that make you incompatible - attitudes to spending, for example - for me this one is not a deal breaker. I'd give it another six months and dial back my own emotional intensity. Watch and see. Does he tell lies in other parts of his life? Does he spend hours on the phone with her? Does he spend time on you? Does he do his share of the housework? Does he coming running to you as the first person he wants to tell delightful news, or share that new show he found? Look at stuff like that, not your emotions.

I think probably you will break up with him - if your reaction to this is to want to run, then I think you are not deeply bonded and will not be able to deal with his not being totally available. But give it a chance because there is a small possibility that you have found a guy who will totally totally have your back for the rest of his life.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2018 [21 favorites]

Wow. A lot of people here not from conservative religious families, I reckon.

Conservative religious families demand a degree of information about, and control over, their adult children which they are not entitled to. You are 100% allowed to lie to such people, because they are not entitled to the information they demand, nor to take the actions they will undoubtedly take if they get the truth. I'm normally quite scrupulous and very skeptical, but I don't think lying to such people--especially to ease his wife's coming out! It is entirely possible that she will be disowned at that point!--reflects on his character at all.

That said, it does leave you in a very awkward situation. I agree with the people above who say that there needs to be some definite plan for this to progress if you two continue seeing each other. Because this could drag on indefinitely, and then where are you?

(P.S. You are totally allowed to feel uncomfortable about the situation, regardless.)
posted by praemunire at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2018 [28 favorites]

Full Disclosure: I'm currently separated and working on finalizaing the divorce from my (ex)husband.

I don't think this is a good scene. I would be very uncomfortable with it. Even if his gay wife is totally fine with it, any sort of long term relationship with this guy is almost definitely going to come with major drama and stress. I mean, how far is he going to have to go to keep up this facade for his wife? Is he going to be spending holidays with her and her family? Vacations? And what happens when she finally does come out to her family? What if it goes poorly and she is pressured into giving her marriage "another shot"? What then? Plus, as others said, he is lying to loved ones about some pretty major/fundamental things, which to me is a big deal.

You can like the guy, but it still may not be right relationship. I would step away.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:15 AM on October 16, 2018

Give it a little bit of time. Many of the answers here are completely disregarding the specific circumstances of this case and how different they are from the typical "I'm dating a guy who hasn't really separated from his wife yet tho he says he loves me" garbage scenario.

Understand that him staying in this charade to the families is *to protect her*, the person he was married to and still owes good behavior to; not to facilitate his getting laid on the side. It's quite different. You can still feel very uncomfortable with it -- anyone would!! -- but it's not the same thing. It doesn't speak poorly to his character. I think it speaks very well to it, if the story is true.

Meet the ex. Talk to her. All of you work together on a timeline. Now, if you see that there isn't a realistic timeline, then you'll have to abandon ship. But talk to her, see what's really going on, and see if maybe these are all decent people in a hard and weird situation that is entirely solvable, just needs gentle handling.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:16 AM on October 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

If everything is true, am I still okay to feel uncomfortable with it?
YES! Even if he is not a bad guy, you can still decide that this arrangement doesn't work for you.
Even if you meet the wife (and it is a good sign that is happening), you can decide that you want to dating someone who is in a position to make long term commitment to you and this guy is not currently and may never be in a place to do that. Especially if you are interested in having children with a partner who is willing and able to legally commit to marriage, it sounds like he and his wife are not reliably on that timetable.

On the hand, if things with the wife are as described and if you are OK being a long-term relationship without marriage and being kept secret from his family, then sticking around to see if he is worth it makes a sense. For some people that would work - love, sex and companionship would be enough but for others it wouldn't. You get to decide for yourself.
posted by metahawk at 10:29 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

(1) I would ask him to get her on the phone with you now. Video chat, preferably. But first I would ask a lot of specific questions and write down the answers. If she’s happy to chat with you and their answers match up, great — he’s telling the truth. That leads you to the next issue:

(2) What’s the end game? What do you want? Can he give it to you within a reasonable amount of time? Are you prepared to have a bunch of people you don’t know competing with you over the terms and progression of your relationship?

For example, I personally would be chuffed as hell to find someone who didn’t want me to be involved with their family and I have no burning desire to marry again, but I’d chafe at having to split holidays/vacations. So if Christmas has to be with the fake family, that would not be for me. You have your own thoughts on this stuff, of course.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

> I hope that he starts to talk to her family about how he is confounded by the fact that they haven't conceived yet, so they are going to see a fertility clinic. Paving the way for him to act totally selfishly and leave her, yet refuse to divorce her so she can remarry a nice Christian guy who doesn't mind the fact that she is infertile. You can even become the trollop who is living with and having kids with that mean guy who is still married to her....

That seems really complicated and unnecessary. The OP shouldn't have to lie to protect the feelings of her boyfriend's ex-wife's parents.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:29 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

What do they do during the holidays? Do they visit their families as a couple? Do their families know he is living in your city? And why is she visiting? Is it to see him or another reason?

The fact that it's been a few years means that he might be, emotionally, in a good place, but even if he tells his family soon, it's going to feel new to them. That might delay any involvement you have in meeting his family, which can be an important step for relationship intimacy.

Do you think there's any chance he's still in love and hoping for reconciliation? Is he at all ambivalent about the end of this marriage?
posted by bluedaisy at 11:44 AM on October 16, 2018

I don't get strong DTMFA vibes from the situation if what he's telling you is true (and it may not be). I'd want to know what their timeline for telling their families the truth.

Huge difference between 'we're working up the nerve/support system/etc. to tell them in the next six months' vs. 'they can never know'.

In one light, he's doing a kindness to his wife through a difficult situation but there has to be an end date in mind.
posted by Twicketface at 12:07 PM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

But a few nights ago, he revealed that they (both mid-thirties) are still pretending to their families that they are in a happy marriage. He says the reason for the split is she, however their respective very religious families 'couldn't handle the idea' of them splitting up, would question it and she isn't ready to come out to them

this is all very nice but a huge smokescreen & distraction from the glaring question of why he's only separated and not divorced. if I were you, I wouldn't care how long he lied to his family because if they are religious homophobes I wouldn't want to meet them anyway. this way, you have rock-solid protection against having to be nice to awful in-laws. a plus! but if they're going to lie to the families anyway, staying married for real makes no sense. this is the part you should be questioning because it doesn't track with the explanation at all.

if he thinks you shouldn't mind dating a married man as long as the marriage isn't real, you can beg to differ.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:17 PM on October 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

The fact that he wants you to meet her and that she's also enthusiastic about the same makes a huge difference for me. It also could help clear up the level of religiosity you're/they're dealing with. Is it a situation where there will be dramatic sadness, disappointment, and anger, but will eventually settle into a new reality that everyone tolerates? Or, is it a case where danger and violence are a real possibility and where being shunned by parents, siblings, extended family, and community are also in the mix? For example, creating webs of lies in order to preserve relationships with vulnerable non-adult siblings or cousins so that they have a safe relative is legitimate. This is especially important when it comes to LGBTQI connections within hyper-religious families.

If it's just a matter of both sets of parents being very disappointed and having certain expectations shattered, I think that a long-term fake-out is not really something that can be rationalized. If it's a more dramatic case that could be dangerous or cause real harm to them and others, I'd pause and think deeply about what a solution could look like. Regardless, for me, if the connection with this man is truly special and singular, I'd stick with it for a bit longer so I could understand the actual lay of the land. But, that's me. It's perfectly fine for you to opt out if you can't find a way to be comfortable with this. It doesn't reflect poorly on you to say, "no thanks" to this.
posted by quince at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

As a datapoint, my step-grandfather never told his parents he married my grandmother. I was maybe 10-12 at the time, and never knew about it until his mom passed a few years ago (20 years later).

Apparently they were very conservative, and he felt certain they'd never accept the fact that he was marrying a divorcee 15 years his senior with adult children.

It hasn't really affected their relationship, mostly because he didn't have a close relationship with his parents. He would visit for a random weekend every few years, and spend vacations and holidays with our side of the family.

So wait and see what he's asking from you before deciding this is a deal breaker. Maybe this is evidence that he can't handle conflict. But the fact that he's protecting his wife from his family's judgement speaks to the likelihood that he will manage his family dysfunction to keep it off your shoulders.
posted by politikitty at 2:04 PM on October 16, 2018

If they are comfortable lying to their families about being separated, why don't they just get the divorce, and lie about that?

I think it's very likely you're either being manipulated intentionally, or reaping the harvest of someone else's denial and avoidance. You deserve better, either way.
posted by helpthebear at 2:54 PM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

helpthebear has it.

If it's OK to lie to her conservative family, mightn't he also think it's OK to lie to you?

Or is it common sense that you're better than that, and not someone it's OK to lie to? You couldn't be tarred with that kind of brush to the next person he wants to convince of something, could you?

Why or why not?

(I say "he" because you haven't met her, right?)
posted by tel3path at 3:25 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

> The fact that he wants you to meet her and that she's also enthusiastic about the same makes a huge difference for me

Do we know that she's enthusiastic about it? The boyfriend says he wants it to happen, but has the OP been in touch with the wife?

If he's set up a group text for the three of them and they're figuring out what coffee shop is closest to her hotel when she's in town on Thursday, great! But if he's a nogoodnik, it could be a vague "Oh, I've told her all about you, she can't wait to meet you."
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:31 PM on October 16, 2018

y'know, even if he's being truthful, what you've got here is a guy who's in an open marriage and waited three months to tell you.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:34 PM on October 16, 2018 [11 favorites]

Wow. A lot of people here not from conservative religious families, I reckon.

This. Even if he was unattached and told his family about you (which, at 3 months, is unlikely imo) he would have to spin a few major lies to maintain the peace. I don't know for certain but I'll assume you don't fully resemble the kind of woman his ex-wife pretends to be to her relations. It might be that your appearance lies outside what they consider the bounds of propriety, or you worship in manner they feel blasphemous, or (god forbid) you have a real personality and a well developed sense of individual identity – he would have to lie about all of this for the duration of your relationship. For families like what you describe there is no way to live the kind of lifestyles and gender relations that Mefites feel acceptable without a fair bit of truth stretching and detail omission. The alternative is to cut off relations entirely but that's not always a viable option for everyone. Although you might gain some insight into the kind of person he is by asking why he has made the choices he has.

Also with considering: if FarAwayCity is in a polity where homosexuality is a criminal offense or often met with violence, this might be the only arrangement where he and (especially) the ex can avoid potentially risking her physical safety, especially if she still lives there.

OR.....he might be a putrid wankstain and this is all nonsense as others have suggested. I personally would at least meet the ex and find out as much as I could, keeping one hand on the eject lever if things seemed sketchy.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 4:46 PM on October 16, 2018

Wow. A lot of people here not from conservative religious families, I reckon.

Yeah this again. My family is conservative and religious and I am a whole ass adult that has to lie to my parents about certain things or else face being cut off or some other extreme reactions. It’s not great. I have another close friend who is Mormon and she basically lives a double life to her family just to survive their encroaching toxicity. I lie to my parents about my partner living with me and I also will never tell them I am queer. However, they do know my partner exists, so that’s different. I’m just saying, when you grow up in an extreme family, you learn that lying about certain things keeps the peace even when people tell you honesty is the best policy and are ok with cutting off their family.

But like other commenters, I don’t see why he can’t divorce his ex when his family won’t know the difference. It is PERFECTLY valid to not want to be in this anymore or feel very weird about it. If I didn’t come from that family dynamic, I’d feel so strange about it all. I told my partner that I would completely understand if they didn’t want to continue our relationship because I was lying to my family about them living with me. They are fine with it because they can understand, and also they are not a secret, and know that me lying to them ends when we get engaged. Sigh. So, I would think your boyfriend would understand that you need to do what’s best for you. It sucks to be a secret.
posted by buttonedup at 4:59 PM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

FYI: From the original post, she knew he was still married and separated from his wife. So he wasn't lying about being married, he just didn't mention that his family doesn't know about the separation.
posted by politikitty at 5:04 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

It looks to me as if they may not have been separated very long (he just moved to New City three months ago). In which case, there may indeed still be some avoidance, some uncertainty about what they're doing. I'd consider that fairly normal as an early reaction to the situation. They may have been trying to "make it work" since she came out to him--that's not exactly unheard-of in this scenario. If they're three or four years separated, though, then it starts to look more like someone or someones are having trouble grappling with reality and making decisions, which means it's less likely he'll get it together to clear the decks for you.

Gotta say, I would not have expected Mefi to come out so strongly for Anybody Who Doesn't Tell The Truth About Their Personal Lives To Their Homophobic Relatives Is Probably A Grifter.
posted by praemunire at 5:51 PM on October 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

A lotta guys will lie and say their wife is cool with it. Before you do anything else, verify this WITH THE WIFE. Also, if possible, make sure she is the actual wife and say, not some friend he put up to impersonating the wife. Dudes can be shitty and lying so VERIFY THIS. You already know that this has happened to you before, so be very wary.

Beyond that...assuming everything is actually on the up and up and not lies, it's not a great situation for you because your relationship (or hers if she gets into any, for that matter) can't progress as long as they're putting on a happy family show. I have sympathy for not wanting to out her to shitty religious family members, but unfortunately at some point the truth will out there. How long do they plan on putting on this show? Will you and/or the wife's eventual new girlfriend be cool with being on hold and no holidays for years on end? They live in different towns, does anybody's family even know that? What is happening when the families are nagging them for children? (Are there any already?)

I think you could string this out for a while, but in the end the relationship can't go anywhere as long as she and he are playing the lying game. I wouldn't recommend staying in the relationship if they don't plan on outing themselves as splitting up (much less her orientation) any time soon.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:40 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh Jesus no. Hightail it.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is a late answer.

First of all, you are entitled to be uncomfortable with this situation, even if true. Even if he's the best man in the world, his marriage and the way he lives it will definitely have potential downsides. It is perfectly okay to decide from the beginning you do not want to deal with those downsides. In my late 40s, I would not be put off by this, but I would have said no in my mid 30s even if his story were 100% true. Much depends on whether you want marriage and kids. If those things are what you want, then I think you should walk away from this situation sooner rather than later. He can circle back and find you again once his life is less complicated if you are still available then.

If you do decide to see what happens, talk to his wife before she comes to visit. I'm sorry to say it, but "my wife is okay with this" is the most common lie ever, particularly for married men in different cities. Hong Kong is *full* of married finance guys whose wives all apparently enthusiastically embrace an open lifestyle and 98.9% of those men are lying.

I would, myself, ask to be put in touch with her before she come to visit to confirm that she is indeed okay with him being in a new relationship and does know about you.

"Dear Melissa, I know this sounds strange as a question coming from a woman you have never met, but I need to verify a few things Melvin has said. Unfortunately for him, "my wife and I live separate lives" is a really common lie which married men tell and I don't want to be part of hurting another woman so I want to be sure of my ground. Melvin has told me that the two of you separated on xxx date and that you both see other people and that you have stayed married so far for family reasons. Can you please confirm these basic facts are accurate? Please be aware I ask less out of mistrust of him than I do out of respect for you in this difficult situation. Thanks! Jenny"

If he comes up with excuses not to put you in contact with her, dtmfa. Run.

On a more philosophical note, whenever these kinds of questions come up on MetaFilter I generally find myself an outlier and I wonder if this is a result of many years of living in Europe. I have many friends with extremely unconventional marriages and I don't find the situation you describe a red flag in and of itself for his basic personhood. I have friends in roughly the same situation. People look at marriage through all kinds of lenses and stay married for a variety of reasons which often have little or nothing to do with romance. I personally can imagine opting for this choice rather than cut off their whole conservative family in one go. And I don't think it makes him evil or a born liar. I really don't like this whole idea that someone who lies once will always lie. I find it both untrue and unkind. But obviously people differ.

Good luck.
posted by frumiousb at 12:40 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. I appreciate the perspectives, and it's given me a lot to think about. I haven't had answers to my questions yet, but I want to wait to hear him out. He acknowledged them and asked that I give him "time to answer them as sufficiently as you deserve." I'll keep you posted.
posted by teststrip at 2:15 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not everyone who lies to their conservative religious families will lie to others. Many people have good reason to keep things secret from their families, and are justified in creating an elaborate false narrative that their family of origin believes to be true. Everyone must do the best they can in dealing with a family they did not choose, a family that is likely immersed in a culture they didn't choose. Sometimes it's best to lie, and good and right and just.

However, creating elaborate double lives is a transferable skill set. Be sure he's someone who will use their powers for good, not be tempted to use them when it just seems "easier" not to tell you the truth about one little bitty thing -- and it's easier just to pile another not-technically-a-lie on top of that, and well, it would upset you if you knew he lied and so he'll just cover that up with a misleading story -- beware. Those little bitty inconsequential lies are little red flags. Little tiny ones. Remember to check for them, because they are easy to miss if someone is trying to keep you from seeing them.

(Insert pithy Star Wars quote about the dark side here)

Do figure out how you will verify you are talking to his actual wife when you check with her on the facts presented to you being accurate.

You should also look up what gaslighting is and how to identify it, just in case that ends up being useful to know later.
posted by yohko at 6:29 PM on October 18, 2018

I haven't had answers to my questions yet, but I want to wait to hear him out. He acknowledged them and asked that I give him "time to answer them as sufficiently as you deserve." I'll keep you posted.

Not giving you straight up answers seems off to me. He's been in this situation for two years? Also the wording of it, that you have very understandable (predictable) questions, and he asks you to give him time. I'm getting a bad feeling here.
posted by Mariemma at 4:14 PM on October 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: I met his wife an it went uh, mostly well. As in I liked her a lot until she got drunk and got overly dramatic. Thankfully I kept my cool and handled it well!

Everything he said is true, however my empathy for her is somewhat reduced. What wasn't apparent (to him) is that she has some control issues and was none too pleased with the concept of a new girlfriend. I'm in no way a rebound, either. It seems she wants him to continue functioning as core emotional support while she explores her new orientation and relationships. Ball is in his court to manage boundaries appropriately, and I'm going to peace out in my own corner of the planet. Thank you all for your advice!
posted by teststrip at 11:00 PM on November 16, 2018 [10 favorites]

« Older YouTube video preview on Twitter and Instagram?   |   I need Supercook, but different...? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.