I snooped, he cheated. Now what?
June 9, 2006 5:54 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend cheated on me. What do I do now?

We just moved in together after being in an ostensibly committed long-distance relationship. (We were together for quite some time in the same place before I moved for work.) There were a few things that didn't add up, and I couldn't get over the feeling that something was wrong.

So I snooped through his computer and found emails confirming that he'd dated and slept with at least one other girl. Their relationship, which went on while I was living in another state, ended when he came clean to her that he had a girlfriend.

I know I shouldn't have snooped. I know that was wrong. But I can't exactly forget what I found.

He's out of town until Monday morning. Part of me wants to leave a note, pack up, and be gone when he returns. Part of me wants to wait until he comes back so we can have it out in person.

Complicating this is that I recently moved back to this area to be with him. Right now I have no job or car. I do have some money saved, and my family is nearby, so at least I have somewhere to go.

I feel lost, angry, and confused. I don't know what to do other than get checked out for STDs.

Do I break up with him? Do I give him a second chance? Do I wait for him to come home and confront him in person?

Any advice or guidance would be appreciated. cheated.on@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (87 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, poor you. I feel for you, sister!

This is what I would do. This is not the best thing to do or the smartest thing to do, but this is what I would do:

Since you are without car or job, this is a good/bad time to leave. You are lucky to have family near by. Call up your sister or someone and get your shit out of there this weekend. Good thing he is out of town. Is he out of town with another girl? Not to put the idea in your head, but who knows!

Get out of there. Leave a note that says "I know about the cheating. Thanks for nothing."

And never EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER talk to him again.

Mutual friends? Call them before he gets back and tell them: "I just want to let you know that Bob and I broke up. It was not nice and is quite messy. I don't want to get into details, but I'd prefer it if you could let me know if he and I are both invited to a BBQ or some other event where we may have to meet up."

Owe each other money? If you owe him money, write a check and leave it on the table. If he owes you money, add to your note "I expect a check for $234 in the mail within 2 weeks."

Sucks to be you right now. BIG HUG!!
posted by k8t at 6:06 PM on June 9, 2006


Oh, and yes, get the STD test.
posted by k8t at 6:06 PM on June 9, 2006


I have been there and I stayed. Why? Well, I was young and I was in love and I decided it was about him and not about us.

Yeah, it was about him and his inability to love me or fully commit to me. Ever.

Leave him. Once a cheater, always a cheater. The fact that he did this when you were in a long distance relationship of the most ideal sort (ie, with an end in sight) and effectively cheated on the other girl with you at the same time, by lying about your existence just indicates what a duplicitous jerk he is. He also had the gall to endanger your health, which is absolutely inexcusable.

You deserve so much better. Leave. Tell him you know. He doesn't deserve an explanation of how. And, like k8t said, don't ever talk to him. It's called practicing the fine art of "Dead to Me." As of the moment you walk out that door, he is a zombie, and you don't talk to zombies or pine for them.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 6:11 PM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


I believe the usual advice is to be gone when he returns, and take any CDs of his that you like.

You're also allowed to break one thing of his that you know he likes, with a value of less than $100.

But other than that: big angry fights are not as satisfying as you hope they might be. I'd just leave. Life is short, and trust is important. You can either spend months and years trying to trust this guy again, or you can spend one month forgetting about him and getting on your feet again, and then be ready to move forward and find someone worthy of your trust.
posted by jellicle at 6:14 PM on June 9, 2006 [3 favorites]


Oh, and don't talk too much shit about him to your family/friends. It makes you look bad. Instead, bitch about him to strangers online.

Be mature about it. Because... guess what? He isn't good enough for you anyway. He cheated on you because not only couldn't he control his sexual urges, but he felt compelled to go ON DATES. It wasn't just physical - it was emotional. Therefore he is into you enough to be worth your time.

Stop by the bookstore and breeze through some of the breakup help books - they seem helpful. Also "He's just not that into you..." is a good read.
posted by k8t at 6:17 PM on June 9, 2006


oh my god jellicle is a genius. do those things. all of them.

Oh, and don't talk too much shit about him to your family/friends. It makes you look bad.

No, the secret is to be fine for a little while, and not really give up so much, but then at some point break down and spill it all out and get both the pity and the 'she was trying to be so strong!' points. just don't push it after that or you'll be cast as a whiny baby.
posted by soma lkzx at 6:21 PM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


I would suggest that you fess up--completely acknowledge that you did not trust him and confirmed it through his emails. When he attacks you for invading his privacy accept the full responsibility but do not let yourself get defensive or involved in a discussion re your misdeeds. Then, there is no clear answer for the next steps. I would strongly suggest that you not do something precipitous or irrevocable. One thing I think I have learned is to never say never but his misdeed obviously warrants serious thought on your part--and on his part. If you are unequivocally sure that you have interpreted his emails correctly I would be most concerned if he starts denying or rationalizing his misdeeds. You probably can weather an affair better than a lack of honesty. I wish there was a simple answer but I do not know what it is. What ever you do, do not set him up to lie. That will only fuel the problem. Don't ask him if he had an affair. State that you read his emails and want to discuss the affair he had. My Best wishes for a successful outcome, what ever that might be.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:22 PM on June 9, 2006


Assuming that this was completely against the rules of your relationship at the time that it happened, I'd pack your things and move in with a family member, be there when he gets back to let him know what's up "I know about the affair. We can talk about it if you want to but for now I'm not living in this house" and if he wants to talk about it or work things out, he can do it from the angle that you're gone unless he fixes something not you'll leave IF he can't convince you not to.

I'm sorry about all of this, it's a terrible feeling. Also, if for some reason he wants to lose his mind about you snooping in his email (which is not cool, as I think you recognize) make sure to differentiate it from the cheating problem. It sucks for him that you broke his trust and read his email. It sucks for you that when you did that you discovered something that maybe you had suspected all along.
posted by jessamyn at 6:29 PM on June 9, 2006


Oh, and I forgot, you have to listen to breakup songs.

Dar Williams' Blessings is good:

"If you're gonna get your heart broke, you better do it just right,
It's gotta be raining, and you gotta move your stuff that night....."

But the best breakup song of all time, ever, is Richard Shindell's Are You Happy Now?.

"You took the toaster when you went,
You never paid your half the rent..."
posted by jellicle at 6:31 PM on June 9, 2006 [3 favorites]


Jellicle: good advice, good taste in music
posted by tippiedog at 6:39 PM on June 9, 2006


I will try to put a very different perspective on these matters:

1. You had no business at all reading his personal e-mail. Even if you are in a relationship, your significant other has his / her right to privacy. In my view, you are the person to have done wrong, not him. If I were him, I would likely consider leaving you rather than the other way round.
2. Why is it that people always frame sexual activities of their spouses which occur outside of the relationship as "cheating"? People, once and for all, just get this one fact: No matter how close you are in a relationship, the other person still has the right to do whatever he or she wants. You do not own him/her. If you want to leave because of what he / she did, feel free to do so, but do not blame him / her for doing anything morally wrong.
3. I have the intuition that you might have barely touched the actual problem in your posting, namely that "There were a few things that didn't add up". What were these things? Did you get the feeling he didn't give you the attention and affection you want? That would be a problem, probably one you could talk about with him. Did he give you incoherent answers concerning his activities and whereabouts? That is not a problem, since he does not have to give you accurate information on all details of his life. See point 1.
4. To put this very bluntly: Humans are driven by their desires, of which a very powerful one is the desire for human contact, and yes, this includes the exchange of romantic deeds and even of bodily fluids. Get used to it, people. Humans "cheat" on each other all the time, have always done, will always do. And this doesn't have to be bad either.
5. If I were you, I would not breach the topic with him. Also I would consider having some extra fun myself. If you are anything like the other human beings on the planet you will know other men you experience attraction to. Go ahead! And cut your man some slack - provided he didn't fail you in respects which are really important in which case you should address this problem and should this be unsatisfactory you should split.

As a (probably flame-inducing) aside: All of these woes are likely due to our dreadful heritage of christianity, which teaches us "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Like most of the other commandments, this is put absolutely, which is just too limiting and inflexible for us desire-bound humans. In my part of the world, this commandment even implies that it is sinful to even imagine acts of extra-marital relations, which puts a powerful internal enslavement on the believer. Hooray for Christianity!
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 6:51 PM on June 9, 2006 [2 favorites]


I've been that man. In fact, I half-wondered if you were my ex, though some details are slightly different.

A long-distance relationship is complicated, and difficult. They generally fail because of this. It's even more difficult the first time out. When I was in one, I cheated on my partner for a number of reasons, mostly to do with personal immaturity and a lack of confidence in our future. It was a one-off, and contrary to "once a cheater" beliefs, it's never happened since.

In my case, I returned from the trip to be with her. It was very touch and go for a while, but my girlfriend decided to stay with me. She was extremely upset and very hurt. It took a very long time for her to regain trust, and obviously it was never as total as it had been before.

Something like this puts a huge strain on relationship. If we got into a row, she'd say things like "I should have left then". A certain joy evaporates. However, we went on to be together for almost another two years, two years I value very highly and I think she does too. I did regret cheating on her, very much, especially for the hurt it caused.

We split, in the end, because we'd gone back to a long-distance relationship (over visa issues) and it was simply no longer tenable. Had that not been the case I think there are better odds we'd still be together, though admittedly I'd still have had to grow up.

All this is to say that because he cheated doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is doomed. It's morally indefensible, I know, but somehow cheating on a long-distance partner feels very different to cheating on someone physically in your life.

I'm not sure what made her decide to stay, in the end. I know that when I was asking her to stay, there wasn't any artifice, and I'd like to think that came across. If you want this relationship to work, you have to find out if he really feels for you the way you hoped he did. That he slept with someone else while you were miles away doesn't automatically mean that he doesn't care for you.

I'm really sorry this has happened to you.
posted by fightorflight at 6:59 PM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Herr Farhstuhl: that's one chip on your shoulder.

2. People can be obligated to one another. If the poster was in a relationship where it was clear they were monogamous, then, yes, to have other partners is cheating on that deal. And that's morally wrong.
4. I'm driven by a desire for food. That doesn't let me steal your sandwich and say it's OK because it's natural
5. It sounds like the poster is very much a partner-bonding monogamous type. Being with other people would only make her feel much, much worse.

None of these things has *anything* to do with Christianity.
posted by fightorflight at 7:03 PM on June 9, 2006 [3 favorites]



No matter how close you are in a relationship, the other person still has the right to do whatever he or she wants. You do not own him/her...do not blame him / her for doing anything morally wrong.


Sure the other person can do what they want, but that includes managing expectations before entering into a relationship. From anon's response, it seems pretty clear that there she sees the relationship as some implicit agreement to monogamy. It's not boinking someone else that's wrong, it's agreeing not to do so and then going ahead and doing it anyways.

or, y'know, what fightorflight said.
posted by juv3nal at 7:05 PM on June 9, 2006


The reasonable thing to do when you physically split up was to either break up or agree that you were both free agents while you couldn't be there for each other. Long-term long-distance relationships are often not as satisfying as we hoped they would be when they began. My point being: Your boyfriend slept with someone else while you were living in another state, broke it off because he still wanted to be with you, and now he is with you. I'm not saying you should be happy about it, but people here are talking as if you'd been living together for contiguous years, and then you caught him fucking your best friend in your wedding dress on your birthday.

From a guy who might easily have done the same thing (what happened to you, not the wedding dress thing), here's what happened. He got lonely. He thought about breaking up with you, but didn't, because ultimately he wanted to be with you in the long term. And yet, that want was not enough to satisfy him while you were apart. So he compromised by finding companionship and ultimately waiting for you anyway. It happens all the time, it doesn't make him a bad person, and it certainly doesn't mean that he doesn't love you.

You should talk to him about it, tell him how you feel, and listen to how he feels. Then you can decide what to do. Breaking up with him because he would not stay celibate while you weren't there for him proves nothing.

Also, I noticed that you conveniently didn't mention how long you were living in another state. A week? A month? A year? Not a very important detail, except insofar as it's more important than anything else in the whole story.
posted by bingo at 7:14 PM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Herr Fahrstuhl and fightorflight make some valid points. As a gay man, I recognize the "Humans are driven by their desires" and that a "long-distance relationship is complicated, and difficult" points made. Experienced it all.

If you end up working things out, check out 'Make Up, Don't Break Up: Finding and Keeping Love for Singles and Couples,' Keeping The Love You Find' and Harville Hendrix's Imago.

If you end up breaking the relationship as per -- Stop by the bookstore and breeze through some of the breakup help books - they seem helpful. -- check out 'How to Survive the Loss of a Love.'
posted by ericb at 7:15 PM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


bingo: My point being: Your boyfriend slept with someone else while you were living in another state, broke it off because he still wanted to be with you, and now he is with you.

No, the other woman broke it off upon discovering the boyfriend's relationship with anonymous.
posted by evariste at 7:19 PM on June 9, 2006


Oh. I guess maybe it could be interpreted either way.
posted by evariste at 7:19 PM on June 9, 2006


@fightorflight:

First of all, I am indeed quite sensitive on this topic because I don't see monogamy as the thing that makes relationships valuable, but rather what the two people involved feel for each other. No two people in the world will fulfill all their respective other's needs. Why is it that we allow our spouses to have friends (maybe even opposite-sex friends) and hobbies, but not sexual relationships? But I conceed this is a unpopular view.

2. That presumes that they have explicitly discussed that matter. Judging from what I gather from my social vicinity, this is very often not the case. Instead, it is presumed relationships are automatically monogamous, because that is the way our christianity-based culture prescribes it. If they had explicitly negotiated this, things are a little different, but the question still remains: Why is it so important who your spouse rubs his body with, if - and that I a thing I had already stressed in my original post - he or she still is a loving, caring and attentive partner, which is very well possible.

4. This is an invalid analogy. When you steal the sandwich, it's gone. The only things you lose when you have sex with another person are your sperms and they get replaced quite fast. As an aside: When you have nothing to eat, it is in some jurisdictions not illegal to steal food. In Germany where I live, this is called "Mundraub".
5. This is a thing I would actually like to here the poster's feelings on.

Concerning Christianity: The common model for relationships (monogamous) is in our culture derived from christianity (which has roots itself, of course). My belief is that this model makes people unhappy. But since I have no suffiently sound knowledge on the cultural history of man / woman relationships, feel free to regard my previous posting as personal opinion.

Oh, and between my somewhat manifesto-like argument and the points most of the other posters seem to make (namely, "cheating = bad"), bingo's take seems to be a reasonable middle ground-
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 7:21 PM on June 9, 2006


bingo hits it! Well put.
posted by ericb at 7:22 PM on June 9, 2006


leave this page open on his computer screen.
posted by meta x zen at 7:25 PM on June 9, 2006 [3 favorites]



Do I break up with him? Do I give him a second chance?


There's no right answer. Many couples can't get past such a betrayal. Others manage. But I'm struck by the fact that you make no mention of feelings for him. Do you love him? How would you feel without him in your life?

I'm NOT saying that if you love him, you should stay with him (or leave him). But if you do, maybe you owe it to yourself (and him) to have it out with him. People DO get past this stuff -- but they have to want to.

I found Fahrstuhl's post pretty distasteful. He seems be be implying that "cheating" is all about sex (and that we have Christian/Victorian attitudes about sex), but it's not -- it's about lying and breaking a trust. And that's a horrible thing for one person to do to another. But I do agree with him in one sense: the flesh is weak. People get tempted; people screw up. SOMETIMES it's true: once a cheater, always a cheater. But not always. The question is, do you care enough about him -- and the relationship -- to find out? No one can answer that except you.

My thoughts are with you!
posted by grumblebee at 7:26 PM on June 9, 2006


Why is it that we allow our spouses to have friends (maybe even opposite-sex friends) and hobbies, but not sexual relationships?

Why? Because our genes would like to be passed on, and not letting other people stick into your girlfriend's genes is a good way to ensure that.

This is why most relationships can be assumed to be monogamous unless otherwise clearly decided between the partners. I'd not that your line of argument here *really* isn't helping anon, who is pretty upset. Telling her that she should have been clearer about him not sleeping with other people is blaming her, and *this is not her fault*.

4. OK. I'm driven by my desire to be alpha male wherever I go, so I'm going to sock you in the jaw. That's OK, because it's natural, right? You'll heal pretty quickly.

bingo and grumblebee are right.
posted by fightorflight at 7:32 PM on June 9, 2006


When trust is gone, it's hard as hell to get it back.

How important was trust to you? For most people, it is implicit in the relationship. Was this the case?

How much effort do you want to put into working to get that trust back?

I lost implicit trust once and, yikes, that was the end.

Move out, mourn the loss, and move on.
posted by plinth at 7:47 PM on June 9, 2006


If someone doesn't respect you enough to break up with you before engaging in a relationship, however shallow, that person isn't worth your time or affection.

Leave him, seperate yourself from the situation so you have some way of reconciling your thoughts and make a decision at some point in the future if you believe you can trust him again.

This goes beyond money, and living space. This is about someone respecting you as a person as someone who is worthy of your trust and respect.
posted by iamabot at 7:57 PM on June 9, 2006


As of the moment you walk out that door, he is a zombie, and you don't talk to zombies.

That's cool. It's good advice. And I'm so stealing this line.
posted by frogan at 7:59 PM on June 9, 2006


Why is it that we allow our spouses to have friends (maybe even opposite-sex friends) and hobbies, but not sexual relationships?

Why? Because our genes would like to be passed on, and not letting other people stick into your girlfriend's genes is a good way to ensure that.


@fightorflight: This is a strange argument. If you assume our genes want to be passed on, wouldn't sleeping around like a baboon ensure this much better than monogamy? Naturalistic arguments are of no help here anyway, since having sex is nowadays mostly not about reproduction. What I was trying to say with this question is the following: When the poster's spouse was absent, she missed him. This is the bad feeling. I don't see how this feeling gets worse depending on how the partner is celibate or promiscuous, as long as he keeps it discreet (which he presumably did). This kind of thing can, as others pointed out, actually save relationships. And yes, I do blame the poster for snooping around her spouses e-mail which is a bad thing.

4. OK. I'm driven by my desire to be alpha male wherever I go, so I'm going to sock you in the jaw. That's OK, because it's natural, right? You'll heal pretty quickly.

No reason to get aggressive here :-) OK, but I see there is some merit to this argument that I'll have to think about. The difference is probably that you hitting my jaw would inevitably hurt me and give me physical bruises, which is not the case in infidelity. My jaw hurts no matter how I think of it, infidelity is not such a big deal if you don't want it to be one.

@anonymous: What is it that bothers you about your spouse having slept with someone else? What is it that is bad about that? In what sense do you feel you can / can't trust him again? My advice to you would be to weigh how much you'd miss him, what he means to you and how he has been treating you apart from this one incident. I would just like to point out that when you move on to the next partner, chances are that this will happen again in which case the mourning would start all over again. I am not an expert, but just by quick googling, there's one quote I found : "Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002 - Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy)" (http://www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/infidelitystats.html)

My point is: Expecting monogamy all the time is just to high a standard to live up to; Additionally, and more importantly, infidelity in itself does not have to be something shattering. Your spouse has relationships with many people apart from you - friends, family, colleagues, his hobbies and god knows what else. I stick to my original point and phrase the question directly to the anonymous poster: What is it about the affair of your spouse that is so bad that you consider throwing away the good things you (presumably) have? My point: Our culture puts high demands on sexual fidelity which are in my opinion not grounded in the effects on everybody's happiness and wellbeing which these high demands have. Therefore it would probably be wise to reconsider these standards, or as I put it earlier: Cut the man some slack. He is still there for you. You are still in his heart. He still finds you sexually attractive (I presume, if not, that is an entirely different issue of which the infidelity would have just been an effect). Leaving him would seem like "the right thing" to do or "the self respecting thing" to do. I would hold that this is not automatically so.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 8:08 PM on June 9, 2006


As an eternally single (by choice) person, I can only give anecdotal advice. Sort of. My sister has been married for 15 years. Her husband has cheated on her five times (that we know of). Each time she has stayed with him, partially out of fear, mostly out of love and whatever else makes people stay. The last time it happened was very recently, and she is completely floored, freaked, and depressed. The last time was supposed to be the last time, but she's a stay at home mom, has no formal education, and is worried that she'll never be able to support herself and her kids (she's also 1,000 miles away from our entire family). Not that this is ever going to happen to you, but my point is really that it will probably never stop (and I feel that I'm really just being nice with the "probably" thing), and that the longer the relationship continues after this, the harder it will be to leave. Unless you're the type that can live with an "open" relationship (and plenty of people are - it's a personal preference just like everything else, IMO), get out now.

And good luck. What you're going through is horrible, and I'm really, really sorry that it's happening to you.
posted by mewithoutyou at 8:15 PM on June 9, 2006


@iamabot:

If someone doesn't respect you enough to break up with you before engaging in a relationship, however shallow, that person isn't worth your time or affection.


This is exactly the kind of thinking that limits the freedom of both spouses in unnecessary ways. Breaking up before engaging in a relationship however shallow? What does this mean? Where is the limit? Kissing somebody? Touching somebody in a suspicious manner? Thinking of somebody else too often or with the wrong feelings?

Who decides? It is hardly conceivable that a couple could agree on guidelines that regulate every potential encounter between the partners and outside people, apart from the fact that this would not be very romantic or satisfactory.

The other way to handle this would be not to regulate individual actions but to find a guiding, more abstract and therefore more flexible principle, e.g. "don't hurt your spouse". Not causing your spouse pain is not always possible (not only in romantic affairs but in all kinds of other ways), but this is something that could form a basis for a better moral than "monogamy uber alles". Something like "try to minimize the pain you cause to your spouse while looking after yourself and your needs" would probably be workable. This would allow infidelity as long as it is kept discreet, which in the case at hand it could have been if anonymous hadn't read her spouses private e-mail.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 8:17 PM on June 9, 2006


Oh, and adding to mewithoutyou's post: Staying with him and feeling bad about it (like mewithoutyou's sister does) is obviously not a good thing to do, but maybe in your case there is a way to stay with him and not feel bad about it.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 8:20 PM on June 9, 2006


Missing detail: how perfect have *you* been in the interim?
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:30 PM on June 9, 2006


Herr Fahrstuhl:
1. You had no business at all reading his personal e-mail. Even if you are in a relationship, your significant other has his / her right to privacy. In my view, you are the person to have done wrong, not him...
2. ...People, once and for all, just get this one fact: No matter how close you are in a relationship, the other person still has the right to do whatever he or she wants. You do not own him/her.


Quite a contridiction there. A person has a right to do whatever he or she wants, including sleep around -- except snoop email. Thats really the end-all of evil deeds.

Rules get set in a relationship. Frankly, I don't care if my wife reads my email, and vice versa; Sleeping around: no. Everyone has different rules, and if they are broken, anon has every right to end things.
posted by Spurious Packets at 8:31 PM on June 9, 2006


*foams at the mouth*
"Once a cheater, always a cheater."

ARGH. That line is such trash that it makes my blood boil to even see it. It's also complete bullshit.

The others are right about one thing - you had no right to go snooping through his email. Cheating aside, snooping around is a pretty big violation of trust in my book. (from what you said, you broke the trust first by snooping around instead of opening up a line of communication with him about the stuff that "didn't add up") What didn't add up anyway?

"ended when he came clean to her that he had a girlfriend."
How long ago was that? Sounds like he said "Uh, I can't see you, $other_woman, because I have a girlfriend. I should not have done this." Obviously you haven't talked to him about it so you have no idea what the other side of the story was.
* Were you two broken up at the time?
* Was there a commitment that you both agreed on that was supposed to be upheld while you were living in another state?
* Did you expect him to be celebate the entire time?
* Were you completely faithful as well or did you just not get caught?

What you do is your own choice. But don't buy the "once a cheater, always a cheater" bullshit. My advice is for you to sit down with him and calmly discuss the situation. Be open about it and expect the same thing back from him. Simply packing up, moving out, and never talking to him again is the spineless way out. If you talk to him and decide "you're an asshole, I don't ever want to see you again" then fine. Move out at that point.

But it sounds like there was a serious gap in communication somewhere along the line. Communicate with him. Discuss the issue.
posted by drstein at 8:43 PM on June 9, 2006


Quite a contridiction there. A person has a right to do whatever he or she wants, including sleep around -- except snoop email. Thats really the end-all of evil deeds.

Good point there, let's see if I can get this out of the way: First of all, of course anon has the right to stay or go as she pleases, rules or no rules in effect.

But then there is a difference: Anon's spouse sleeps around without her knowledge. No damage done. Anon reads spouse's email. His privacy violated.

The basis here, as I stated in an earlier posting is: Trying to avoid damage (hurt feeling) in others is a good thing. Caring for yourself is also a good thing.

Sleeping around without her knowing does no damage. How could it?

You argue: Rules get set in a relationship. By whom do they get set? How were the specific rules set in this case? I wouldn't even talk rules here, I'd talk agreements. And it isn't even - in my opinion - necessarily a moral wrongdoing to break an agreement.

@drstein: Couldn't agree more in terms of practical ways to solve the situation. Well argued, well put.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 8:50 PM on June 9, 2006


Sleeping around without her knowing does no damage. How could it?

Are you stuck in the 60's, or is this just a troll? How about AIDS? Hepatitus, maybe? Besides any obvious emotional issues.
posted by Spurious Packets at 8:56 PM on June 9, 2006


And it isn't even - in my opinion - necessarily a moral wrongdoing to break an agreement.

If both parties agree to break an agreement: fine. If one party breaks an agreement, but fesses up: not great, but probably fixable. But if you break an agreement concerning something important and cover it up, thats lying. Is "your word" something thats worthless to you? For many people, and almost certainly anonymous, trust is the most vital thing in any relationship: romantic, personal or business.
posted by Spurious Packets at 9:07 PM on June 9, 2006


dropping the bastard will make you stronger
posted by growabrain at 9:11 PM on June 9, 2006


@Spurious: I silently assumed that reasonable protection was employed. If it wasn't, the situation would be different.

The obvious emotional issues you state are not so obvious to me. Whom do they affect? The person who is "cheated on"? Please explain how something a person does not know about could affect him. The person who "cheats"? Then please describe which emotional issues you mean.

And as to agreements and what you refer to as lying: I am not stating that agreements have no value, just that they do not have absolute value, that is, that they can be weighed against other goods.

To describe this using as an example the situation at hand: A agrees with B that they have a relationship with each other that precludes having sex with another person. Person B wants to have sex anyway and does so, but acts in a way that everything looks to person A like he did not have sex with another person. There would be no way for A to tell if B had sex, even though he did. In such a situation an agreement may be broken, in my opinion.

You see, I am quite opposed to any moral absolutes. In my opinion, life nowadays is so complex that moral absolutes are not fine grained enough to deal with it.

By the way, I also do not agree that "lying" is always a bad thing. For example suppose I asked something very personal (pick any example you like). You do not want to answer, but I insist and insist, then in my opinion, you are entitled to lie in order to protect your privacy. Otherwise you would be obliged to give me personal information you do not want to give me just because I asked you and because lying is bad.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 9:23 PM on June 9, 2006


Bad to snoop, worse to have found out he cheated. Some guilt for both, an double extra super sized helping for him.

If it were me, I'd clear my life out, disentangle my life and then, if inclined, talk it over with him. Let him know why you looked and that you wished your fears hadn't been confirmed but they were. The relationship, for me, would be done.

I'm sorry you've been put in this situation. I've had it happen to me and it really does kill something special in a relationship that is very, very hard to bring back.
posted by fenriq at 9:33 PM on June 9, 2006


This isn't about what Herr Fahrstuhl thinks, and people should stop talking to him about his issues with relationships. Even if you believe everything he says, anonymous can still break up with her boyfriend for any reason that seems fit to her, and need answer to nobody for it, including herr fahrstuhl.

anonymous, none of us know you or your boyfriend. We don't know whether he was a cad that we'd always been suspicious of, or The One For You who screwed up for the only time. That it seems to have been broken off by TheOtherWoman isn't auspicious. I would end it and lick my wounds, along the lines that jessamyn gave.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:44 PM on June 9, 2006


I silently assumed that reasonable protection was employed

I don't feel thats a reasonable assumption. And why should anon have to make this assumption? She silently assumed her boyfriend wouldn't cheat, and look what it got her.

Person B wants to have sex anyway and does so, but acts in a way that everything looks to person A like he did not have sex with another person. There would be no way for A to tell if B had sex, even though he did.

But back in the real world, A actually did find out that they had sex. By your statement, its now not ok for the agreement to be broken. I guess. You are spending so much time removing every drop emotion from your comments its hard to judge what you're actually getting at.

And if by "there would be no way to tell" you are referring to the fact that she shouldnt have been snooping email (yes, snooping is bad). There are many ways these things get exposed. People talk. Mutual friends see people hanging out with people. There is no such thing as "there would be no way to tell".
posted by Spurious Packets at 9:48 PM on June 9, 2006


This isn't about what Herr Fahrstuhl thinks, and people should stop talking to him about his issues with relationships.

You're right. Now I remember why I dont usually post in these type of threads!
posted by Spurious Packets at 9:52 PM on June 9, 2006


I believe the usual advice is to be gone when he returns, and take any CDs of his that you like.
You're also allowed to break one thing of his that you know he likes, with a value of less than $100.

Stab him.


Please don't encourage anonymous to break the law.

Like most of the other commandments, this is put absolutely, which is just too limiting and inflexible for us desire-bound humans.

So stealing and perjury are just fine, too, then?

you hitting my jaw would inevitably hurt me and give me physical bruises, which is not the case in infidelity

Oh, you can become injured (by STDs) through infidelity.

Anon's spouse sleeps around without her knowledge. No damage done.

Wow, Herr Fahrstuhl, you're being wrong a lot tonight. Her trust was indeed violated. That's significant damage.

I silently assumed that reasonable protection was employed.

If another, non-STD-preventing form of contraception is used, why should condoms be used between two monogamous partners? I'm guessing that's what anonymous assumed, and this guy violated her trust.
posted by oaf at 10:01 PM on June 9, 2006


Do I break up with him? Do I give him a second chance?

You're the only person who can answer. And I know that sounds cliched, but the point is that some people leave, and make it work; some people leave, and regret leaving; some people stay, and make it work; and some people stay, and regret staying. This isn't one of those forks where one road is measurably better than the other. You just have to pick a direction and walk.

In your shoes, I would wait until I'd talked with my [girlfriend] before deciding. But assuming she gave the "right" responses, I would probably choose to stay and try to make it work. You learn a lot more from trying to solve problems like this than by walking away from them; and even if our relationship failed, I'd probably learn some lessons during the process of trying to heal the wounds that would benefit my next relationship.

Also, it's what I would want: If I made that mistake, I would want my partner to forgive me and give me a second chance — and I believe in "Do unto others..."

Moreover, assuming this relationship failed, my decision would affect future relationships. Eventually, I'm going to get married and my wife is going to hear the story, and she's going to conclude that I would react the same way if she cheated on me. If I don't give my current girlfriend a second chance, my future wife might assume that she wouldn't get one, either; and although I don't want her cheating on me, I think it's important for her to feel loved unconditionally — which means that she should feel certain I'd love her even if she fucked up in horrible ways. Because again, that's what I'd want.

But ultimately, after all these deep, soul-searching ruminations, you're left standing at a fork in the road and you have to choose your own course. I hope that reading other people's thoughts might help you, but remember that good people have chosen both roads and alternatively succeeded and failed with each. There is no "right" answer, no path you "should" choose. It's just a choice you're going to have to make, and live with. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 10:19 PM on June 9, 2006 [4 favorites]


If another, non-STD-preventing form of contraception is used, why should condoms be used between two monogamous partners?

I'm guessing that Herr meant that anon's bf was probably using condoms with the girl he cheated with. But indeed, we don't know, and neither does she, although maybe if they talk about it, she'll find out.
posted by bingo at 11:36 PM on June 9, 2006


Herr Fahrstuhl, answer anon's question or move on. Enough with the monogamy and christianity hang-ups. Leave that for another time.
posted by mathowie at 11:48 PM on June 9, 2006


well, in this case your behaviour surely depends partly on how much you like the guy or - dare i say it? - love him. and on whether you think he really cares for you. you don't mention that side of things. lots of relationships and marriages survive 'cheating', and many people indeed later regret leaving a partner just because he/she gave in to what are after all natural instincts. long-distance relationships are always vulnerable to this kind of event. on the other hand, if you don't truly care about the guy, or you know he doesn't care about you, you should probably leave. however, you seem to have been together for a while: surely you owe it to yourself to talk to him about it, whatever the outcome?
posted by londongeezer at 3:27 AM on June 10, 2006


Herr Fahrstuhl, answer anon's question or move on. Enough with the monogamy and christianity hang-ups. Leave that for another time.

I had always thought the green was also for broader discussions rather than solely for giving direct advice and consolation. If that is so, then I apologize to anon for derailing the thread based on that misunderstanding.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 4:31 AM on June 10, 2006


Fahrstuhl, I think you're confusing the green with the blue.

Sleeping around without her knowing does no damage. How could it?

Are you in a relationship, Fahrstuhl? I've been married 10 years, and that comment -- while perhaps literally true -- is mindblowingly unrealistic. It's SO hard to keep secrets in a serious relationship. We all have "tells", and our significant others know us better than anyone else, so they're in the perfect position to read the tells.

I'm not saying affairs are bad or good, here. I'm saying that if you have one, you shouldn't be so naive to think your SO won't find out, no matter how carefully you cover your tracks. So if the rule is, "don't hurt your spouse," you're engaging in behavior that you know has a good chance of doing just that. Thinking, "I'll never get caught." Is like thinking, "I know how to conduct the perfect murder."

And you're I think you're wrong that our drives towards monogamy/sexual jealousy are primarily driven by Christianity. They're primarily driven by "The Selfish Gene."
posted by grumblebee at 4:49 AM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


He might be an inveterate cheater, destined to do it again - on the other hand, this might have been a one-off, because he was lonely and weak while you were away. You won't know which until you sit down and talk about it - that means you have to find some way of telling him you looked at his emails. You both need to know what you're each prepared to put up with, and there's only one way to find out what this is.

I had to put up with a bit of this while our r/ship was still long distance - the difference being that he told me of his idiocies. I made it clear I wouldn't put up with it, but stayed with him, and I've now moved to be with him and things are going very well.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:54 AM on June 10, 2006


The common model for relationships (monogamous) is in our culture derived from christianity

I think that may be the silliest thing I've ever read on the Green.

A moment's thought would tell you that, as Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Ancient Greeks and Romans and all kinds of other cultures also have the idea of monogamy, it makes no sense at all.

The concept of marriage is listed as one of the Human Universals, in the book of the same name by Donald . E. Brown.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:55 AM on June 10, 2006


Seriously, move out first. Be out of the apartment by Monday. You're hurt and you need time away from him.

No matter how you slice, if you stay in the same physical space right now, you're just going to hurt MORE. So don't do that.

Once you have a bit of space, then feel free to talk to him and decide if YOU want to stay.

Also, quit snooping through loved one's email. Part of a relationship is being willing to talk. Since you two couldn't do that, I'm inclined to think the relationship is dead. But that's up to you and him.

But first, get the hell outta there, so you aren't and more importantly, don't feel as though you're dependent on him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:04 AM on June 10, 2006


I think that may be the silliest thing I've ever read on the Green.

I'd have to choose this:

Anon's spouse sleeps around without her knowledge. No damage done. Anon reads spouse's email. His privacy violated.

No personal offense intended, Herr Fahrstuhl, but this is neither the time nor the place.

Anonymous: as others have alluded to, there's not a universal answer here. You didn't tell us what you want to happen, or what your feelings are for the guy. Whatever you want to happen, you should try to make happen, because you'll regret it if you don't. Just general advice, for anything.
posted by danb at 5:44 AM on June 10, 2006


So let's see if I have this right:

1. Longtime boyfriend agrees to her plan to have her quit job, quit former city to move in with him.

2. Longtime boyfriend dates and has sex with another woman, violating explicit agreement of monogamy and, consequently, shattering the premises she relied upon to make large changes in her life, so that they could be together.

3. He does not tell her the truth, and admit his mistake.

4. She find out by going through his email.

Those of you blaming this woman for snooping are nuts.

She was looking for the truth, the cancer on the relationship that she (at least) thought might go the distance. Justified snooping, surely.

In a vacuum, going through your partner's things isn't appropriate. But there are surely exemptions, and this is one.

Breaking a stranger's car window is bad. Unless there is a baby inside and it's 95 degrees and no air and closed windows and the driver's nowhere to be seen for 20 minutes.

If your partner came home with blood on their clothes and threw something in their dresser drawer and wouldn't talk about it, would you eventually open the drawer or not? If you opened the drawer and found a bloody knife, would you be wrong for "violating their trust"?

Please. She trusted him living states away, and he violated that trust, in the biological sense even.

She may decide to talk to him about it, and he may be able to obtain her forgiveness, and they may go on, and even possibly be happy again.

But her minor boundary violation is insignificant next to the death penalty he may have brought on their relationship. Good for her to have the courage to find out the truth.

Now is the harder part: Deciding what to do.

Fare thee well, anon.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:26 AM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


God, don't take his CDs or steal any of his other crap. That's just lame.
posted by delmoi at 7:22 AM on June 10, 2006


You're the only person who can answer.

Amen. That was a great comment, cribcage.

The only thing I'd also strongly recommend is confront him in person on the affair instead of running away. Move out if you're too upset to stay there, but still talk to him when he comes back. No reason to be afraid to hear what he has to say, and to tell him face to face what you have to say, make your feelings clear and make him do the same.

Even if you are already more set on breaking up, if you never have that confrontation you'll be left with the feeling that things were not resolved. It'll only make it worse for you.
posted by funambulist at 8:07 AM on June 10, 2006


(to clarify - what I meant is I thought all of cribcage's comment was great, just in case it sounded like I was saying only that line was...!)
posted by funambulist at 8:08 AM on June 10, 2006


I agree with delmoi. Please don't retaliate; this is not a Kelly Clarkson video. Don't be that old-fashioned stereotypical woman scorned, who has to destroy and steal things and do other passive agressive bullshit to make herself feel better because she's too mature to deal with it on an adult level.
posted by iconomy at 8:14 AM on June 10, 2006


Just went through a very similar situation last year. 1. Plan immediate exit strategy. 2. Dump him in person. He won't be pissed about snooping, he will be begging for you not to leave (that's what happened to me). 3. Do not go back to him ever.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:18 AM on June 10, 2006


I read your title and that was enuff, nothing else matters... step up and jump out! End of discussion.
posted by BillyG at 8:42 AM on June 10, 2006


But then there is a difference: Anon's spouse sleeps around without her knowledge. No damage done. Anon reads spouse's email. His privacy violated.

Except for, you know, the very real possibility that she could DIE because of it. Anonymous here isn't the FBI, no one's going to die because she read his email. You simply shouldn't be keeping secrets from your partner, at all.

And I think from the emails that he was definitively, well, looking at other options. If he had picked up a drunk chick at a bar, hired a prostitute, or otherwise had a one-night stand, that would be wrong, but possibly forgivable.

But that's distinctly not what is indicated here. He was auditioning new people for the part of the girlfriend. People who do that really never stop.

Get the hell out, NOW.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:53 AM on June 10, 2006


i don't know that i have any specific advice, at least anything useful, and a lot depends on the depth of your relationship with this guy...but i'm no fan of the approach in which the act of cheating automatically makes someone inhuman, thus justifying your treating the person as such...

...with regard to snooping, i think there's kind of a parallel here with the cheating: sleeping around is wrong if it occurs in the context of a relationship where it is understood as forbidden...what about snooping? if you turned it around--absent this situation, say you found out your boyfriend went through your stuff, your computer files, without asking, based on his feeling that 'something was wrong'...is that okay? is it justified? would you be coming in here saying 'my boyfriend went through all my personal stuff...he doesn't trust me...what do i do?'...(no doubt with the predictable 'you go girl' responses about controlling jealousy and creepiness and invoking 'sleeping with the enemy')...

the 'cut and run' advice is at least consistent in that it would also reflect your inability to ask the guy to his face what the story is...you didn't mention it, so i'm guessing that before you started snooping you didn't confront him about it at all...so you denied him an opportunity to come clean about it, which he might have done had you been more direct and said 'there's something wrong here, and i have some suspicions'...of course, you'll never know...

sure, there's a chance this guy is a creep and doesn't deserve any consideration...but (again, depending on the level of your connection with this guy and your own sincerity about the relationship, which we don't get an objective view of here) is there nothing about your history with this guy that would enable you to try to understand where he is coming from? would it make a difference, for instance, if guilt over it has been eating away at him and he has known he must tell you but hasn't been able to? would it make a difference if he did this, for whatever reason, and it led him to the realization that you are the one who is really important (making it more likely a one-time thing)? would it make any difference if the guy has some kind of abandonment or loneliness issue as a contributor? how about some kind of sex addiction--not necessarily one he has acted out on time and again, but something he struggles with just the same?

...and is it possible that if you assert yourself, make it clear what you will tolerate and what you will not, that the guy might respond to that? your inability to confront him at the outset (and the need to ask others whether you should do so now) would indicate that you perhaps haven't laid down the law...even if it doesn't work out with this guy, think about that down the line--sometimes a guy will think he can get away with this because he doesn't know the depth of what a ball-busting amazonian bitch you can (and should) be if he tries to screw you over...

sure, it might make it easier for you in some ways to cut yourself off emotionally and make a break...and with a lot of people, it seems the default response is to assume that the guy either doesn't care about you or intentionally hurt you, or that once he has done this he will always do it, but life is more complicated than that...when you get into a serious relationship with someone, you're going to hurt each other in various ways over time...sometimes you're going to be wrong, and sometimes he is...and yeah, some people jump out at the first sign of this, but some people don't, and they take something from it, and move on, perhaps a bit stronger over time...
posted by troybob at 9:47 AM on June 10, 2006


You learn a lot more from trying to solve problems like this than by walking away from them; and even if our relationship failed, I'd probably learn some lessons during the process of trying to heal the wounds that would benefit my next relationship.

This is so true. In our throw-away society, we tend to give up at the first sign that things aren’t running smoothly, and not having worked through these problems, we repeat the same mistakes of the past.

Anon, only you know in your heart what the right thing to do is in this case. But here’s my two cents: In your place, difficult and hurtful as it may be to confront the problem, I would stay and talk things through to see if things are indeed irreparable.

If you care deeply about him and your relationship, you owe it to yourself to figure this out through an open dialogue. Don’t rush into ending things because once the anger and hurt subsides you may just end up with regret for what might have been if things had been different.
posted by phoenixc at 9:49 AM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Expecting monogamy all the time is just to high a standard to live up to;"

No, it's not. It's really pretty easy, as there's just that one simple rule— Don't fucking cheat on your partner, retard.

But oh noes, I was cast adrift in the sea of my own urges! I was unable to survive them! Arguments from nature are facetious at best, and Christianity is not the issue, no matter how much like Neitzsche you fancy yourself. Even in open relationships, honesty is the key. This relationship did not have honesty.

To the original poster: While in a long distance relationship, a girl I cared for very much cheated on me. When she told me, I was heartbroken, and was willing to look past the cheating in order to patch things back up. In the end, we still broke up, and it destroyed several friendships as well as the relationship.
However, I'm now happier than ever (at least regarding romance). I found an even better girl, and we've been living together for about three years.
What you do is up to you. But I'd advise moving out, then having the talk. By moving out, you'll be in a position of strength that he'll have to negotiate against. If he makes it clear that he's willing to reform, you may want to give him another chance and date him (but not move back in). If he brings up the snooping, dismiss it. It's a canard, a red herring that distracts from the real issue. No one cares if the Americans didn't have beach landing passes at Normandy.
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


He was auditioning new people for the part of the girlfriend.

I think this needs to be repeated. Obviously I haven't read the emails, so I can't say for certain, but this is definitely the vibe I got as well.

...and if dagnyscott is right, then you have to leave. It won't be a one-time thing; the other gf broke it off -- not him. Once he find a better prospect, he'll cheat again. It seems to me that he's actively looking for other partners, and that the poster is the one who'll be dumped once he finds someone else. Right now, she's his fall-back position.

Mind you, I say this as a deeply monogamous (nonreligious) person, so my view is likely slanted.

Move out!
posted by aramaic at 10:06 AM on June 10, 2006


the standard of monogamy is more gray than that, i think...while it's not something i feel is sufficient as an excuse in the context of an otherwise healthy relationship, there are factors that i think weaken the resistance: the increasing oversexualization of the culture, the higher emphasis on instant versus delayed gratification, and market-induced impressions that sex should be more/better than it actually is in reality...

...plus the fact that with sex taking up so much cultural space, there is little room left for the modeling of healthy adult relationships...
posted by troybob at 10:08 AM on June 10, 2006


"the other gf broke it off -- not him."

Where does it say that? The OP says "Their relationship, which went on while I was living in another state, ended when he came clean to her that he had a girlfriend"
Nowhere in that sentence does it say "SHE dumped HIM when SHE found out he had a girlfriend." The way it was written, it could very well be read both ways. Why are some people so quick to place all of the hatred and blame on the male half? Yeah, the guy cheated. Doesn't mean that he's not the one that came clean about it and broke things off. Perhaps he decided "You know, this isn't right. I like $original_gf too much and I need to be faithful from now on." But no, people would rather just label him as a cheating pig man and thump their chests in victory.

I still say that the OP needs to sit down and communicate with her boyfriend, because it certainly does appear that there's a serious lack of dialogue. If she doesn't think it's getting anywhere, then yeah, fine, break it off and move on.

And I'm still wondering what the "other things that didn't add up" are/were.
posted by drstein at 10:21 AM on June 10, 2006


"Expecting monogamy all the time is just to high a standard to live up to;"

No, it's not. It's really pretty easy, as there's just that one simple rule— Don't fucking cheat on your partner, retard.


Even if you strongly disagree with my views, there is no need for name-calling. The point is also not that the concept is very hard to understand, it's just that empirical studies such as the one I quoted upthread show that infidelity happens quite often (the study I quoted named 50%-60% of all marriages) and if a rule is broken so many times, it might be time to consider the value and the viability of the standard (in this case, absolute monogamy).
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 10:23 AM on June 10, 2006


...and i'm curious about something else, the more i think about it: had you snooped through this guy's stuff and found nothing at all, would you have owned up to it?
posted by troybob at 10:23 AM on June 10, 2006


Brandon Blatcher is right on. Move out now.

He's a liar. He lied to you, and to the other woman, and was prepared to lie to you indefinitely. He lied while you completely uprooted your life to be with him. That's a big problem, and worse than the actual cheating, in my opinion. He might tell you that he'll change, and that things will be different, but do you really want to stick around to find out? That shouldn't be your problem.

It's going to hurt a lot, but it'll get better eventually. Maybe in a year or so you'll be able to look back and find his behavior amusing in a pathetic sort of way, and you'll be a stronger person for it.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:35 AM on June 10, 2006


Everyone has their own line in the sand.

If I said I'd pick you up at 8:00, and I don't get there until 8:30, trust has been broken. Can you live with that? Could you live with it always getting broken? Possibly. It'd be annoying, but you might learn to deal with it in your own way and accept that while I may have had every intention of picking you up at 8, for whatever reason it didn't happen, and it doesn't happen often enough that you just can't trust me when I say I'll do it.

Same thing with cheating: just another form of broken trust. Now, could you deal with that form of trust being broken over and over again? Where's your line in the sand? For some people, this isn't an issue. It sounds like this is a problem for Ms. Anonymous. Have some resolve, commit yourself and your actions to you values, otherwise they are worthless.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:50 AM on June 10, 2006


And on (non) preview:

had you snooped through this guy's stuff and found nothing at all, would you have owned up to it?

This is irrelevant to the discussion. Let's say, for argument's sake, that she wouldn't have fessed up. That makes her a lousy person. Perhaps even lousy enough for her boyfriend to leave her, had he found out. But we aren't talking to her boyfriend, we're talking to her, and dealing with her issues, which are a separate thing from his.

If her boyfriend later posts an AskMe saying, "My girlfriend snooped and found out I cheated on her, how should I feel about it?" you can pick up with your derail from where you left off.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:54 AM on June 10, 2006


actually, it is not irrelevant...it speaks to the fact that we will tend to apply a different standard of trustworthiness to others than we would have applied to ourselves, as well as illustrating the often convenient movability of that 'line' you're fond of...
posted by troybob at 11:10 AM on June 10, 2006


If she had snooped and she was wrong, she would have done wrong. And, in that case, she should have confessed, because her snooping would have shown that there was a lack of trust in the relationship on her part. But in this case she was right; her boyfriend had already broken the trust involved in their relationship, so there was no trust left for her to break. It's kind of like shooting someone who you think is approaching you threateningly with a gun; if he does have a gun, what you did was justified. If it turns out that he was only holding something shiny in his hand that you thought was a gun, you've done something really really bad.

Actions are never wrong in and of themselves; they can be wrong only because of the context in which they are performed.
posted by spira at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2006


Unfortunately, you misunderstand what I said. I said that one's "line in the sand" should not be immovable if you are to have any peace of mind, otherwise there's no point in drawing it in the first place. In addition, the idea of one single definition of "trust" for all things small and great is myopic, as I think I illustrated well in my example. Then again, perhaps not so well if you didn't get it.

As for the relevance, again, you missed the important clause: it is not relevant to this discussion, since the anonymous poster attempts to address your point by clearly saying "I know I shouldn't have snooped. I know that was wrong." She gets it.

Or are you trying to suggest that all levels of trust are exactly the same? That is, the trust that I have in you to pick me up when you say you will, or that you will remember to call the Cable company to pay the bill, is exactly the same as the level of trust asked for when you agree not to fuck someone else?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2006


Previous comment directed at troybob's point, not spira.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:45 AM on June 10, 2006


Herr Farstuhl— First off, the citation you give is worthless, so stop basing your argument off of it. There's no citation given in the paper that says where they got that information, and the whole piece is about something quite different (couples therapy post-cybersex). According to the CDC, about 4.5% of men and 3.8% of women admit having extramarital sex in the last 12 months, and there are (at least as far as I can find), no accepted statistics on how many people cheat over the course of a marriage (you could, if interested, extrapolate from this [rate x the average length of a marriage x the number of people who have been married]/the number of people who have ever been married, to get a projection, but there's no way to tell exactly how accurate that number would be). At best, your statistic could be salvaged to read "about 50-60% of men IN COUPLES COUNSELING has admitted cheating."

Which is very different.

Second off, presuming to give relationship advice from a position that would be laughed out of the great majority of relationships because of some bizarro ideological prejudice that you have is simply not helpful, thus violating the underpinning theory of AskMe answers. (I am attempting to help by dissuading the asker from giving your answers too much credence, since I doubt that they will be deleted).
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 PM on June 10, 2006


I have a lot to say about this, but I am rushed and didn't even have time to read all the comments. I'm sorry if this has been said, but the most important thing I wanted to say to you first is this:

It seems like you aren't sure if things are really over right now. My advice to you is that, until you decide if things are really over or not, DO NOT tell your parents/siblings that he cheated on you. They will never forgive him, and if there is even a chance that the two of you will reconcile and try to work things out, they don't need to know the extent of the damage. I would keep it to "we are having some problems..." and not go into much detail. If you decide you hate him and never want to see him again, FOR SURE, then tell them.

I was cheated on, stayed with the guy for five years after that, and we still broke up. To this day, my family will not accept that I have re-formed my friendship with him and I still get "I told you so"s. Not fun.
posted by starbaby at 12:10 PM on June 10, 2006


Excellent advice, starbaby.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:41 PM on June 10, 2006


In our throw-away society, we tend to give up at the first sign that things aren’t running smoothly, and not having worked through these problems, we repeat the same mistakes of the past.

This is worth repeating.
posted by danb at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2006


to be fair in many ways a long distance relationship isn't truly a romantic one. emotionally intimate yes, but essentially the relationships is just a high maintenance friendship predicated on phone calls, emails and instant messages. It's only theoretically romantic. It's lacking physical intimacy of all varieties and therefore isn't really a romantic relationships at all. It's the illusion of romance
However, you say you were together prior - which begs certain questions - how long were you together prior? was there a verbal commitment at this time? how long did he know you'd be gone? was it possible you weren't ever coming back? If you were together a long time (4+ months) before you left with a spoken promise of monogamy and were going to be gone for set amount of time (a year or less) then it's unforgiveable, since there was a structure to work with if were a couple of weeks and
were unsure when or if you'd be back then c'est la vie the relationship would be a question mark built on nearly nothing.
nonetheless did he violate a trust? yes. but he didn't commit adultery.
a romantic relationship requires romance and physical intimacy and over the phone is just pantomime, really. It's like inviting someone to dinner and not serving food. One will always fill the holes in their life.

you need to find out the circumstances of the why he did it. if he was unhappy with you, or unhappy with that emptiness in the relationship.
posted by starr226 at 4:21 PM on June 10, 2006


Couples aren't couples because of how they are when they're apart.
posted by NortonDC at 11:08 PM on June 10, 2006


@klingklangston:

Regarding the statistic: I stand corrected. I still believe infidelity is very widespread, though.
Regarding my "bizarro ideology": Rest assured that I find quite a lot of the ideas proposed in this thread (namely "spouses should have no secrets at all", "you are entitled to break his stuff because he hurt you", "infidelity is unconditionally bad") quite bizarre myself.

@everybody else, especially anon:

Apart from that, this whole discussion and the partially infuriated and ad hominem responses I got made me think quite a lot about this topic. I think one of the reasons my position is the way it is stems from an experience I had when growing up, when there was an incident of infidelity in my family and where I am sure many feelings (including mine) would have been saved if everyone involved hadn't been so sure that always saying the truth is so damn important. Sure, it is a very comfortable position to say "lying is unconditionally bad in a relationship", "cheating is unconditionally bad in a relationship". It puts you on a very established moral high ground and makes it just so easy to "laugh out" uncomfortable points like the ones I was making.

But then again "back in the real world" (to use the words one poster dismissed my considerations with upthread) it's not about principles, it's about humans who are not perfect, who have strong urges and who can be hurt badly. So what I am essentially advising is the same thing some of the more balanced posters in this thread have said: Talk this through with your spouse, think about the pros and cons on your wellbeing rather than adhering to some bizarre "sock it to the guy, sister" ideology. And consider what the real problems in the relationship are (the "There were a few things that didn't add up" part you barely touched upon in your post).

My thoughts on this have been most eloquently put by sex columnist Dan Savage: "While honesty gets all the good press, no marriage would survive long without lies great and small."
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 6:15 AM on June 11, 2006


This thread is full of both invaluable wisdom and utter bullshit.

One thing you can get from some of the responses here is, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." And, like delmoi and iconomy (along with anyone else who may have agreed with them), I strongly encourage you to NOT do anything lame or destructive as retaliation. There is no honor in that whatsoever.

I'm going to suggest a middle ground to the "stay in/move out" argument going on above: prepare to move out (but don't actually do it), then confront him, and then make your decision. I don't think you would have posted here if you weren't sure of this decision yet, and I don't think you'll be able to reach a conclusion until you get more information. You might not want to do anything hasty at this point, but by all means make sure that you have a suitcase packed and an available bed to sleep in somewhere. (Moving out completely should not be done with 3 hours notice. Unless you don't trust your BF with your stuff, it can be moved out at your leisure.)

Sins of the flesh are unfortunately quite common, and are to some extent in our nature. Men and women sleep around, often with no intention to disrespect the person to which they're committed. But it's still cheating. It is NOT an absolute deal-breaker in a relationship - I know from personal observation and experience. But there's no guarantee that you can come back from it, either. With that in mind, here's a roadmap to trying to fix the relationship:

Confront him to get answers, and to make him answer to you. Do not forget that you're ceding at least a little moral ground by having snooped on his email, but don't let him make that the center of the argument. As a matter of fact, don't even bring that up if you can help it. Unless there's proof that you've been through his stuff, be very strident that you've found out somehow, but that you need not tell him how. Let him torture his own brain trying to figure out how it got back to you. (Now THAT'S revenge)

If you have to admit the email thing, know that you have to be apologetic too, and be prepared to answer for it. But you still have to confront him about his own misbehavior. And he has to answer for it all the same.

Now, forget all the surrounding circumstances. Consider only his fidelity and his justification/apologies for the fling he's had on the side. This is what's at the heart of the matter, and assuming you've taken most of the good advice above, you're prepared to address it directly. (He's probably NOT prepared, so you stand on higher tactical ground.) You're the only person here who's going to be able to judge his character and his authenticity, but here's some general advice for processing his arguments:

* Be wary if he tries to change the subject, if he tries to redirect the conversation on your flaws, if he makes excuses without apologizing, if he lies about the extent of the fling, if he suddenly becomes affectionate in an attempt to distract you, or if he blames the other girl for seducing him. As a matter of fact, if he does any of this, you may want to pick up that suitcase and start walking...

* Be understanding if he's apologetic (without having done any of the above). But that's not the end of the discussion. Be clear that you've lost trust and that you're heartbroken and embarrassed. Let him know what he has to do to fix things. That's really all you can do.

And then you try to start over. At this point, it's only your shared generosity and willpower that can save the relationship. And if one of you is lacking either, then you're not going to get anywhere. It's over, and I'm terribly sorry about that.

Also, anon, let him know that this is the LAST time you'll even consider this type of misbehavior. I can tell by your question post that you're not the type to trust and love while this stuff is going on. Some women can deal with it, and some guys try to get away with it no matter what. But you don't have to accept it if it hurts you. If you reconcile and he does this again, just pack up and move out. You've given him all his final warnings already.

And if there's anything else going on that we don't know about in this thread, know that all our advice is a little less accurate for it. And in the end, it could really swing either way. Good luck.
posted by brianvan at 8:16 AM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


two cents:

I was in a wonderful LDR for over two years; we mutually ended it recently because we felt the best thing we could be for each other was friends, seeing as we lived on opposite sides of the globe. She slept with someone else while we were still together, I didn't. We spoke about it beforehand, and I told her she should if she wants to and if it would make her happy.

The desire for companionship and closeness is always there. It's reasonable to expect a partner to ignore that desire if you go away for a week/month/whatever, but I think if you are separated for extended periods then it's better to be honest with each other and accept that you'll naturally want this closeness, and, seeing as the preferred partner isn't there, maybe you'll get it from other people.

I think he still loves you as much as he ever did. This relationship did not change how he feels about you. The worst part about it to me is that he lied about it to you and continued to try and hide it from you. It is this lack of honesty, rather than faithfulness while apart, that troubles me.
posted by twirlypen at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2006


Hate to say it, but don't do LDR's. Seriously. Very few don't implode horribly, even with the best of intentions. Life is too short to put on hold.
posted by ephemerae at 9:42 PM on July 21, 2006


Some of the advice is a little ...... off
I believe the usual advice is to be gone when he returns, and take any CDs of his that you like.

You're also allowed to break one thing of his that you know he likes, with a value of less than $100.
Steal and break his stuff? If it was a girl who had done the cheating I doubt other mefi's would be yelling to burn her bed and steal her jewellery.

Just sayin'.
posted by lemonfridge at 5:19 AM on September 7, 2006


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