Advice regarding long-term relationship with suspicious behavior patterns by partner?
July 31, 2004 10:44 AM   Subscribe

A friend has beeen in what she thought was a committed long term relationship over the past couple of years. However, he said he planned to be on his way to her a couple weeks ago, but dropped out of contact soon after. Unfortunately, this has happened before, and this time she finally caught a clue. It's very likely she's not the primary relationship, and he's been using her to cheat on someone. Given past patterns, it's also likely he will get back in touch, and may show up on her doorstep.

This is not an acceptable situation. Aside from the obvious - avoid any contact - what else can she do?
posted by vers to Human Relations (17 answers total)
Why does she need to do anything more than avoid contact with him and make it clear that he is no longer welcome in her life? Seems relatively straightforward to me.
posted by biscotti at 10:47 AM on July 31, 2004

Yeah, this is way too obvious. There's a massive trust problem in the relationship, and trust is what relationships are built on, therefore, tell the friend to break it off whenever he comes back into the picture and avoid all contact with him.
posted by mathowie at 10:51 AM on July 31, 2004

Avoid contact? what are you, dense? the appropriate step is to find out who his main relationship is with and rat him out.

This guy is obviously a jerk and would just find someone else to cheat with. I won't go as far as to say he should be castrated, but I wouldn't just let him off scott free.
posted by bob sarabia at 10:57 AM on July 31, 2004

It's not clear what "else" means in your question, vers--are you looking for some kind of legal or moral remedy, like a restraining order, or some kind of background search on him?
posted by LairBob at 10:58 AM on July 31, 2004

Avoid contact? what are you, dense? the appropriate step is to find out who his main relationship is with and rat him out.

I have never understood the compulsion some people feel to do revengeful things like this. Get the hell out, be thankful you wised up, and get on with your life. Anything else is not your business, and is likely to cause YOU (and everyone else) more harm than good. IF the guy's cheating on someone (and this is by no means certain), his SO either knows and tolerates it, suspects and will find out, or is an expert at self-delusion, regardless, it's nobody else's business. The person in question's business ends at "I don't trust you, goodbye, phew, I'm glad that's over with".
posted by biscotti at 11:10 AM on July 31, 2004

Thank you for your comments, and I apologize for asking an obvious question. The problem is that I'm watching a friend have her heart broken after the realization that he was likely lying - we may never know. I agree about trust being the foundation of a relationship. One problem is that she may never know for sure the what and why of the situation; another is that she feels like a sitting duck unless she moves. I don't know that there are any legal remedies in this sort of situation - he had asked her to marry him, but they were not married, so as far as I know she has no legal claim.
posted by vers at 11:14 AM on July 31, 2004

The more your friend obsesses over what exactly happened with this guy, the stronger her emotional bond to him is, and the harder it is going to be for her to move on. My advice to her would be to spend a lot of time out with her friends to focus her attention away from this mess and at the outside world and people with whom she has decent relationships. It would also probably help her to nurture platonic relationships with members of the opposite sex... This will help snap her out of bad habits if self-esteem was a factor in her present situation, expose her to a network of decent guys for when she's ready to start dating again, and keep her from becoming jaded. She should also change her locks.
posted by alphanerd at 11:59 AM on July 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

One problem is that she may never know for sure the what and why of the situation; another is that she feels like a sitting duck unless she moves.

When I've been burned, I didn't seek revenge or legal recourse or blame myself entirely. What I did do was analyze what went wrong and where it went wrong, so I could learn something from the situation so that I can avoid it if it ever comes up again.

I'm a big believer in never repeating mistakes and doing your best to learn from the ones you do make. There's a big opportunity for your friend to turn her life around, make better choices, spot problems when they arise, and find the perfect man in the future.
posted by mathowie at 12:02 PM on July 31, 2004

Obviously we don't know all the facts here, but is it possible that there is some other explanation? I have a co-worker who went through a similar situation (committed relationship with three sudden, unexplained, weeks-long disappearances) -- the third time she hired a PI and found out not that he had another family/life but rather that he was an addict and the "dissapearances" were deep and dark bouts with drugs and alchohol. Because she investigated, she was able to get him help, and they have now been happily married for more than six years.

I'm not saying that's the story here, but it is possible, if she loves and otherwise trusts this man, than investigation may help ... one way or the other.
posted by anastasiav at 12:07 PM on July 31, 2004

Thank you all again - approaches and altermative explanations are welcome. Matt and Bob, revenge isn't a motive - it would be nice to know he will never do this again, but that's up to him. Knowing why this happenned would be helpful - he put a lot of effort into this, and we don't know why - there really is no obvious gain. I believe in learning, Matt. Anastasiav... I am grateful you asked, but as far as we know, no drugs, no drink, and vegetarian.
posted by vers at 12:38 PM on July 31, 2004

While I suppose it is best to get over the situation as soon as possible, if your friend ever hopes to actually know what the case is she needs to hire a PI to look into it. Afterall, he could be a spy or something.
posted by bob sarabia at 12:43 PM on July 31, 2004

Reading this, I agree with most of the comments, but the poster's phrase "sitting duck" sticks in my craw.

What she needs to do, if this is possible, is to ask herself, all things considered, did the bad of this relationship outweigh the good? She didn't go through with marrying him - either because she had suspicions he wasn't stable / trustworthy, or because it just wasn't time yet - and the guy bailed.

BUT - we live in the modern age. What's the problem with accepting the new limits of the relationship, when he returns? Your friend needn't think of him any longer as serious life partner material, and should be on her guard, but if they have a good time together... is the danger that she will "get sucked in again" emotionally? If so, she needn't move or anything, which in several scenarios will only excite his curiosity and give him the opportunity to show his fake devotion by tracking her down in Timbuktu. What she needs to do is figure out how not to get sucked in again, which has nothing to do with him, it has everything to do with her.

You know, all through history people have been playing these sorts of games, and I think there's a possibility that your friend might learn to adapt the situation to her own needs and life. This guy might actually really be in love with her and have a commitment problem - he's just a neurotic schmuck, you know? Playing a hard & vicious game of "figure me out". Or a gambler, or he goes whoring with an old buddy periodically, or in some other way needing to hide part (most?) of his life.
posted by mitchel at 1:09 PM on July 31, 2004

This whole thing is crazily abstact. Legal recourse? For finding out that someone who lives in another city has decided not to move to be with you? Appropriate action...when someone you were involved with is avoiding you?
posted by bingo at 2:31 PM on July 31, 2004

She can start dating other men - very lightly at first, perhaps non-sexually if possible, to reacquaint herself with the reality that there are endless men out there, a whole world of them : and that some of those are less inclined to cheat or have learned - from bitter experience - the follies and pitfalls of cheating and so learned to walk the straight and narrow.

Those who never have are - perhaps - the safer of the two groups but might, also, be accused of being the less passionate of the two. Further, while innocence of infidelity is in itself a type of emotional tripwire or initial hurdle which involves the very concept that one could cheat, the involvement of one's higher cerebral functions in the process are very much - especially among those so innocent - open to question, and the story of those who believed themselves to be utterly incapable of such acts and then were swept away by the accident of proximity to an unexpectedly powerful personal chemistry is more than common.

Of the other group, well - I've long ago walked away from my former cheating ways, but the memories remain strong - as a warning. The reaction of a partner or spouse who has discovered a mate's infidelity can be explosive and deeply traumatic, bitter, often unexpected, and I cannot ever imagine this as possibly pleasant. In rare cases, violence ensues, but more usually heartache, bitterness, and perhaps the lifelong loss of a friend. The light in the eyes that is love goes out, usually forever, or at the least - should the couple remain together - the relationship for better or worse is forever changed.

But - having been through such experiences - I'd say this : the knowledge or wisdom of this was a bitter and valuable lesson. So - of course, I prefer the "sadder but wiser" .
posted by troutfishing at 9:18 AM on August 1, 2004

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Troutfishing.
posted by vers at 11:43 AM on August 1, 2004

Sorry if this is stating the obvious, but has she googled him? This only works if he is using the same name with her that he would be using in an alternative identity (if that's what he's doing). She could also try accessing the newpaper database in an electronic research site like or and pay to run a search on his name that way, to see if his name comes up in some obscure newspaper article in her state, or in another state. There may even be a way to search marriage records electronically, but I don't know it.

But I wouldn't encourage too much of this stuff, because as others have said it just prolongs her emotional connection to him. It's a terrible position for her to be in, though -- to have invested so much time and emotion in someone whom she suspects, but can't really confirm, has been lying to her. Even if he wasn't cheating or living a double life, she deserves better than the unexplained absences, so I agree she is right to break off contact.

If he had threatened her in such a way that she was in fear for her safety, it might be possible to go to court and get a temporary restraining order to prevent him from coming within a certain distance from her home or work, but that does not sound like it is the case here. If he ever did now threaten her in any way, it would be important to report that to the police in case things escalate down the road.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:57 PM on August 1, 2004

One problem is that she may never know for sure the what and why of the situation; ...
Which could make it hard for her to move on. She could do lots of things to find out what the real story is, but the simplest ways are often the best - next time he appears, sit him down and say "What the fuck is going on here? Either tell me the truth (ALL of it), or go away and don't come back".

There are so many possible explanations for this sort of behaviour (almost all of which are bad news, so she should not hold out hope that the reason wil bring anything other than heartache) that it is the only way she will know. If he refuses to come clean, at least she wil know that his priorities are not with her and that will help her decide what to do.
posted by dg at 6:48 AM on August 2, 2004

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