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#756: “How do I confront my long-term boyfriend with evidence of infidelity?”

Hi –

The subject line has most of the relevant details. A friend of a friend (Jane) presented me with a screenshot of messages my boyfriend sent her through a major dating site. The messages themselves are innocent enough (about radio shows and favorite desserts) but whyyyyyyyy are you sending strange women messages on a dating site when we are talking about who we would have in our wedding party? He’s been shitty and distant and “I don’t know if I want this” for a few months, so I’m pretty sure he won’t be upset that I found out. I’m expecting a “You’re right, let’s break up” response, which terrifies me, even though I am so fucking angry right now at him about this. (Super extra fun, the intermediate friend is my boss’ wife, so this is bleeding into work because the friend discussed it with her husband, the boss). I’m so mad, and I want to confront him, but I don’t know what to do or say. I’ve never been in this situation before.

He sent this message three months ago, according to Jane. She didn’t see me until yesterday and didn’t feel like she knew me well enough to get in touch specifically for that, I guess. She said as soon as her Facebook sleuthing revealed he was with me, she stopped messaging him immediately. No reason to doubt Jane.

Sincerely,

Not Good Enough, Apparently

Dear Plenty Good Enough,

I have left your email subject line as the subject of the post, for clarity’s sake. I know that this hurts, and it sucks, and I’m so sorry.

My question is: What do you want to happen now?

Your boyfriend is visibly withdrawing from the relationship, being “shitty and distant,” and saying “I don’t know if I want this,” and was until recently messaging at least one woman on a dating site. I know you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into your relationship if it’s gotten to the point of picking out wedding party members, but I think it’s time to stop mentally outfitting the bridespeople and groomsmaids and to start thinking about your happy post-this-particular-man future. Whether that means finding a new place to live if you currently live together, or extracting all of your stuff from his place and dropping off a box of his stuff in return, isn’t it time to break up with someone who will probably be relieved to be found out and broken up with? Preserving a relationship with someone who doesn’t really want to be in a relationship isn’t winning. From the heart, please believe me: One dude’s wandering eye and half-hearted affection is not a referendum on your worth.

My suggested steps:

Spend one 24 -48 hour period indulging the fantasy that revealing what you know will turn him into groveling apologetic jelly (apolojelly) as he falls to his knees and begs for your forgiveness.

Jadis from The Chronicles of Narnia turning a fox to stone.

Tell your closest friends what’s going on and enlist their help with the logistics like extracting your stuff and returning his.

Tell him version of “I am breaking up with you, goodbye. You’ve been shitty and distant lately, and finding out you’ve been messaging other women on dating sites is the last straw. Here’s your crap. I don’t want to be friends.

If he denies talking to other women, (“What other women?”), etc., throw your head back and laugh. You could show him the screen shots or you could leave him wondering how much you know.

Walk out of his life.

Jadis, Empress of Charn as played by Tilda Swinton, riding a motherfucking badass chariot

Block him everywhere he might contact you. Return none of his attempts at communication.

Grieve for the good times and the hopes you shared. Heal.

Move on with your great life. If you run into him socially, look at him like this:

Prince gives the side-eye and the fuck-you stroll.

A year from now remember him as a vague, unsatisfying anecdote who taught you to never settle for anything less than the love you deserve.

Rihanna sits on a throne while dancers rise at her feet.

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214 comments
  1. A year from now remember him as a vague, unsatisfying anecdote who taught you to never settle for anything less than the love you deserve.

    This. I was cheated on by my very, very first boyfriend, who was my first everything. It’s been nearly a decade since I broke up with him, and I swore that I would rather be alone than ever be with anyone who treated me like that. I have been so much happier, both when single and when partnered, once I established that as my baseline. It will be so much better.

  2. Yes to everything the captain said. There is no other healthy choice here but to leave him. You are absolutely worth so much more than he is willing to or could ever give you.

  3. archerchoi said:

    The Captain’s advice is spot on. Since your sign off implies otherwise, I want to say you ARE good enough. For yourself. You shouldn’t doubt that.

  4. thelittlepakeha said:

    Excellent choices of gif. Walk away and be awesome, LW. (Personally I like the laugh and let him guess how much you know response to the “what other women?” question.)

  5. Elf Krystal said:

    The Captain is right of course, LW. It is a hard truth when you have invested much time and love into someone who is no longer vested in you. Here’s how Jorge Luis Borges puts it:

    You Learn

    After a while you learn the subtle difference
    Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

    And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
    And company doesn’t mean security.

    And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
    And presents aren’t promises,

    And you begin to accept your defeats
    With your head up and your eyes open
    With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

    And you learn to build all your roads on today
    Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
    And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

    After a while you learn…
    That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

    So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
    Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

    And you learn that you really can endure…

    That you really are strong

    And you really do have worth…

    And you learn and learn…

    With every good-bye you learn.”

    You are very much Good Enough, LW. He is apparently not Good Enough to treat you right.

    • peeta8 said:

      That is not Borges. The poem is “After a While” by Veronica Shoffstall.

      But good sentiment for this situation! I agree that LW can do better. If he is sneaking and being cowardly/dishonest now, he would probably do it again later when the stakes are higher (e.g. even after kids)…

      • Elf Krystal said:

        Hi Peeta8, Actually, Veronica Shoffstall plagiarized this in the 70s. She just translated it off of Jorge Luis Borges’ “Despues de Tiempo.”

        http://emanix.livejournal.com/25090.html .

        But she did make it widely available in English, for which we are grateful. An even earlier version of this in English was called, “Comes the Dawn” , listed as “Author Unknown”. it’s often attributed to Shakespeare on line, but the original author is Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges.

        • peeta8 said:

          Oh wow! …Although that link only says it *may* be Borges — it doesn’t sound like him to me, but I can’t find any other attributions. There is a Google books result in Spanish that credits it to Anonymous. :-/

    • Wonderlust said:

      Minor point: that poem was actually by Veronica A. Shoffstall

      (I love Borges too, though!)

  6. Karen said:

    I am not sure about this one. I feel that anyone, even the shittiest-seeming boyfriend, deserves at least one chance to explain himself, I’ve heard too many real-life stories and novels to not know that there are so many possibilities out there why someone is being shitty and unsure of himself and yes, even on a dating site. If anything, it would be better for the world if his sentiments, whatever they are, could be met with understanding and love. I am not one to agree that anger is justified and good. It hurts people.Saying all this, I do not mean the relationship should necessarily continue and forgive all and sundry. But people don’t suddenly turn into monsters, is my point. They are still people with fears and longings and feelings, with deep-down reasons why things are quite understandable and logical. The apolo-gelly is not the only option.

    • If you don’t mean the relationship should continue and all should be forgiven, what do you mean?

      No one said he’s turned into a monster overnight. Indeed, the LW has stated that her BF has been distant and unpleasant for months.

      So why not be mad?

    • JenniferP said:

      The good news is, I guess, that if the LW and the boyfriend are meant to work it out somehow on amiable terms, nothing we say could persuade her to not do that. “Hey, you’ve been distant and shitty lately, what’s up with that?” “My friend Jane said you’ve been messaging her on a dating site. What’s up with that?”

      • sunshine said:

        Hmm… possibly. But the guy has already shown himself to be cowardly and dishonest, so this approach just gives him more chance to do that. LW seems very into bf, and so it will probably be hard for her to disengage (even with months of shittiness and evidence he’s looking for someone else), without giving her more excuses not to.

        I really like the Captain’s original letter far better, because it “believes” this guy’s actions and doesn’t fish for words that may or may not be truthful.

        • therufs said:

          Cowardly and dishonest? It might be true, but I don’t see that spelled out anywhere in what we have from the LW.

          • JenniferP said:

            My question is, why are you invested in this *not* being true?

          • erica said:

            Umm…he’s chatting up other people on a dating site while he’s in a mono relationship with someone. That’s dishonest. He’s showing strong signs of having second thoughts about marrying LW, but instead of clearly communicating that he’s just being “shitty and distant” and seems to be hoping that the LW figures it out on their own. That’s pretty cowardly.

            I agree with CA. Why * do * you feel so determined to doubt the LW’s version of events and paint her BF as a good person?

      • rydra_wong said:

        Also, if LW’s boyfriend actually has a compelling explanation which makes it all understandable, nothing stops him from blurting it out, even as the LW carries her boxes out of the house.

        But LW is not required to coax and cajole and assist him into coming up with it. In fact, if she has to cajole and assist him into coming up with excuses for himself, this thing is certainly fucked.

        If this is salvageable, then one of the requirements for salvaging it is going to be LW’s (Ex-)Boyfriend being willing to put some effort into that cause, spontaneously dealing with his shit and committing to trying to make things right.

        She can, if she wants, confront him with the information, and say “Okay, what the hell?” and see if he can tell her anything that will make a difference in how she feels about it.

        But the LW says:

        I’m pretty sure he won’t be upset that I found out. I’m expecting a “You’re right, let’s break up” response

        I feel like, if she’s right and his response to being confronted with evidence of infidelity is not going to be “I’m so sorry, such-and-such explanation, how can I make this right?” but “yeah, we should break up” — this is basically over already.

        She can’t make him give a shit.

      • b said:

        Not sure I agree with assuming worst case scenario and giving advice based on that only, going on the pretext that if not worst case, they’ll figure it out no matter what.
        Even if the pretext is true, it makes all the advice look stilted and difficult to trust.

        • JenniferP said:

          Advice is caveat emptor; if the relationship is strong the LW will say “fuck no” and ignore it. If I am misreading a good thing I am happy and excited to be wrong. I want the Letter Writers to be happy, and I want to be wrong about the worst case scenarios.

          As you can see from the LW’s comments in the thread, I was not so far off the mark, and there has been a TON of making excuses for shitty behaviors at letter writers on the site of late. “Sorry your best friend totally disappeared for your wedding, she probably had reasons.” “Sorry your boyfriend is making you call yourself ‘not good enough’, I use OKC all the time and it’s not a big deal.”

          • Thanks for this, Captain. I love reading the site, but the comments making excuses for crap behavior were seriously beginning to bum me out.

          • JenniferP said:

            Lots of #notallcheaters & #notallfriendswhoghost of late…

          • nobody said:

            The devil has enough lawyers in his employ. He doesn’t need any more advocates.

    • MsM said:

      He doesn’t have to be a monster for the relationship to be over. And if LW already knows that there’s no chance whatever he has to say is going to salvage this for her – which is entirely justifiable, considering he could have handled whatever problems he was having differently than he did, or at least without needing to be confronted over his choice – then no, I don’t think she does owe him a chance to explain. He can sort that all out on his own before he tries dating the next girl.

    • Anothermous said:

      As someone who has survived infidelity in my relationship, here’s what made the difference: I didn’t find out, he told me as soon as he really internalized what he was doing, he quit that shit immediately, assumed full responsibility for his own failures, and we went to counseling.

      Boyfriend in the letter had a dating profile at least three months ago, and probably longer. He has been doing this for a while. He has had a chance to bring whatever dissatisfaction he’s feeling in the relationship to the LW so that it can be addressed and they can give their relationship a real chance, with his honesty on the table. He has not done that. It’s not LW’s job to drag it out of him, and the fact that he hasn’t told LW on his own already is a pretty good indication that he’s not willing to take responsibility for his actions. If LW confronts him, I’d be willing to bet money that he’ll pull out every verbal trick in the book defend himself.

      And really, what does the LW have to gain by demanding an explanation? What LW’s going to hear is all the reasons Boyfriend didn’t want to remain faithful–NONE OF WHICH will make her feel good about herself (again–I’d bet that Boyfriend will do everything in his power to blame LW for his failings). LW does not need that on her plate right now. Furthermore, there are only two “reasons” that it could really be, anyway: 1) boyfriend was dissatisfied in some way with his/their life, and used cheating as an outlet, or 2) boyfriend is actually just that enormous an asshole (narcissist or the like). Reason number 1 is on boyfriend to address and be upfront about (as stated earlier), and he never did–bad sign, he is at best cowardly and immature, and LW should leave because no one has time for a cowardly, immature boyfriend. Reason number 2 means that he is someone from whom LW should run screaming. The takeaway in either situation is: LW should leave.

      LW, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It sucks, it sucks majorly, and you deserve better. I hope that, a year from now, you are in a much better place, either happily single or dating someone better than this guy.

      • Melanie Chorisglossa said:

        Quoting for truth: “It’s not LW’s job to drag it out of him, and the fact that he hasn’t told LW on his own already is a pretty good indication that he’s not willing to take responsibility for his actions.”

        Respect for the partner also means taking their choices to share/not share into account at face value; respect might seem a strange word, if we’re talking about “giving him a chance”, but I think it’s applicable here because Boyfriend also has agency. After reading what LW has reported, I find “give him a chance” too mired in a redemption narrative for my personal comfort. LW has got her own life ahead of her; shackling herself to the emotional version of a “fixer-upper” in the guise of a noble rescue of the relationship? Uhm, no.

        LW’s awesomeness is not defined by the failures of one choice of partner. LW, you deserve far, far better than you got this time around. Strength to you, moving through what you have in front of you.

      • Gloria said:

        I don’t disagree with any of your point, but I can see one other potential reason for infidelity – Bf wants out of the relationship, but has internalised some sort of message that being unhappy is not a good enough reason. By cheating, either he gives himself a ‘good enough’ reason to point to for ending things, or (more likely, in my experience) he forces the LW to be the ‘bad guy’ by ending things.

        Either way, LW, you deserve a partner who loves and respects you, and your current BF is showing wither of these behaviours.

    • neverjaunty said:

      No no no a thousand times evil bees. Yes, people are human and not ‘monsters’ without feelings just because they’ve been a lame significant other. BUT: the belief that somebody “deserves at least one chance” is, in effect, saying that it is wrong to unilaterally end a relationship; that if someone like LW decides they are done, they are not allowed to *be* done without affording the other person a chance to talk them out of it.

      That is very, very wrong, even though well-meant, and is exactly how we get exes calling and stalking because ‘I want her to give me one more chance and if she just listened she’d reconsider’, it’s why people who have made a clean break with toxic exes are scolded by their friends with ‘geez, can’t you at least hear the guy out before you dump him’, and worse, it’s why people stay in relationships with gaslighting assholes, because they use that “explain myself” opening to con the breaker-upper into sticking around.

      Relationships do not require due process. They do not require the person getting out to entertain counterarguments as to why they should stay. They do not require somebody who is angry and hurt to express “understanding and love”, as opposed to basic civility.

      LW does not owe anything other than basic human politeness, and absolutely does not have some moral obligation to let him present his rebuttal.

      • Knitting Cat Lady said:

        TW: domestic abuse

        Yep. Aunt T’s first husband was abusive. Gaslighting asshole when sober, physically violent asshole when drunk. Think punching his heavily pregnant wife in the face and locking her outside in -15C weather in only her night shirt and bare feet.

        He always promised her to change, stop drinking and be a good guy. He had plenty of explanations to why he behaved the way he did.

        And because he was a very good and charismatic lawyer on top of the gaslighting he managed to talk my aunt into staying time after time.

        BF can say what he want. LW doesn’t have to listen.

      • jaynn said:

        This is one thing where our media narratives drive me nuts–they treat relationships as needing only one person to start but two to end (especially if the one person is male) when it’s the other way around.

        • PollyQ said:

          Wow. This is really perfectly put.

        • Ann said:

          Put perfectly succinctly!

      • Relationships do not require due process.

        QFT

        • Nerdlinger said:

          I want this on a t-shirt or a throw pillow!

      • Book_Belle said:

        This times 1 billion million infinity.

      • Great comment, but in future please reconsider the use of ‘lame’ as a slur.

        • Season said:

          Who are you talking to, Monica?

          • Neverjaunty referred to “being a lame significant other” in their first paragraph.

            I also dislike disablist slurs like this, but in my experience most people dont realise that such terms can be an issue, until they are called on it.

      • “Relationships do not require due process.”

        This is going to be a pillowcase. So you know 🙂

    • My kneejerk reaction was also to let him explain and give him the benefit of the doubt. There could be lots of explanations for messaging someone on a dating site, pulling away and acting shitty and distant, right?

      But the more I think about the more convinced I am that the Captain is right – I don’t see what reason or explanation he could give you that would make any difference. If you feel compelled to talk it through you’ll talk it through, and that’s ok. However, you’re asking for advice here, and I feel like the best advice in this situation is to just leave, grieve and heal.

      • MellifluousDissent said:

        Mari, not to be overly cynical here, but who cares what the explanations are? I mean, seriously – is there an explanation that would lead you to conclude that this guy is actually a super-awesome boyfriend who has totally earned a spot in your life as permanent lifetime companion? Unless the explanation is “I have an identical twin brother that I never told you about because we’re sharing one life so that we can pull off the greatest magic trick of all time, so sometimes I’m me and sometimes he’s me, and that’s why it seems like sometimes I love you and sometimes I don’t,” I’m not sure there’s any explanation that’s going to make this relationship anything other than emotionally bad for the LW. (And even then, dude, we’re married, you probably should’ve warned me about your secret twin brother magic thing.)

        The LW’s already describing herself as “not good enough” – where does that feeling take her in five years? Ten? Staying with someone whose bad behavior makes you feel like you’re not good enough is a good way to emotionally cripple yourself and make your life a lot sadder and smaller than it needs to be (and waaaaaay sadder and smaller than you deserve).

        • Mari-täti said:

          Mellifluous, exactly. There’s basically nothing that the soon to be ex can say that would actually make a difference. So I’m adding my voice to the chorus of DTMFA. Sorry that was unclear from my first comment!

          • Anon y mous said:

            Yes – it would be different if LW said “everything is awesome EXCEPT Infound out about this thing.” But it kinda sounds like this relationship is bad for a lot of readons.

          • Mari-täti said:

            To clarify further: I was trying to demonstrate, clumsily, the degree to which I’ve been socialized to always, always take care of the feelings of other people – it doesn’t matter what they’ve done, my kneejerk reaction is to let him explaaaaaain, he didn’t meeeean it. Am working on it.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          Bizarrely enough, I had an actual experience with “evil twin brother.” Two, actually. Innocuous:briefly dated a woman whom I knew had a twin, but did but know was an identical twin. About a year afterward, I ran into twin socially and mistook her for her sister. Good thing I only hugged her! Less-innocuous: my boyfriend’s friend decided that he wasn’t going to break up with me without a trapeze girlfriend waiting, so he took matters into his own hands and created a dating profile for boyfriend without his knowledge or consent. Now, his friend was right on two levels: it was a shitty relationship that needed never to have started, and should have been ended by any means necessary, and it did indeed take a woman waiting in the wings (whom he promptly cheated on) to end it. But wacky comedy hijinks are like gunshot wounds: they never quite work the way they do on TV Neither of us discovered this profile until months after the relationship ended, and can you imagine the complications had friend’s plan worked? Ugh.

          Tl; dr: try to fix it if you want to, LW, but you almost certainly deserve better “shitty and distant and won’t care if I introduce a breakup-inducing event to the relationship.” Break it off or not, but put on your hottest outfit and play in your generation’s equivalent Sheena Easton’s “Strut” or Kiki Dee’s “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” and go flirt with the world. Make some good art.

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            *did NOT know her twin was identical. Good grief.

          • HeyNonnyNonnyMous said:

            You know, I’ve always thought Cyrano de Bergerac was a pretty messed-up story, and it does not improve with a modern twist. Your ex’s buddy sounds like a real jackass.

        • Sparky said:

          Don’t forget the other soap opera plot devices besides and evil twin, boyfriend might have amnesia and not remember he’s in a relationship, hence the coolness and distance, and dating profile. He could be being blackmailed to break up with LW so he can marry the daughter of a powerful businessman or foreign leader. Someone might be drugging him regularly to find out his secrets…

      • My kneejerk reaction, on the other hand, was “why the **** was he even ON a dating site when he was in a long-term relationship?”. There are lots of places online to engage with people if you just want a completely platonic friendship online; “dating site” immediately suggests that he was looking for either a replacement for his current relationship, or wanted to cheat. Yeah, I know dating sites sometimes have a “just looking for friends” option. Steakhouses sometimes have a vegetarian meal on the menu — it’s for people who are dragged along involuntarily, not something which is supposed to bring the vegetarians in to eat.

        • I dunno. If it’s OKC, they used to have a lot of neat quizzes that I could see someone being interested in. OTOH, that doesn’t equate to “putting up a profile” or “chatting with people found there”.

          But realistically, shitty and distant and “I don’t know if I want this” for a few months would be enough justification for a breakup all by itself, if the LW feels it is, so the dating site thing is just more “last straw”, IMO. *shrug*

          LW: I hope you do whatever will work out best for you, hopefully with a minimum of extraneous drama. *offered Jedi hugs*

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      Luckily, there’s no need to wait for him to explain anything, because he’s already done this: He said “I don’t know if I want this” and followed it up with actions confirming that he doesn’t want to go through with a loving, supportive, agreed-to-degree-of-monogamy relationship.

      Saying that someone is behaving badly doesn’t equal ‘they’re a monster’. Likely as not, they’re just an immature human being with lousy habits and a failure to understand good communication. Fortunately for the letter writer, that’s absolutely nothing to do with them, nor is it their job to try and fix it: they get to walk away and live happily ever after. One hopes that he’ll look back on this in a couple of years’ time and goes ‘I really was an arsehole to the poor girl, I should have used my words and ended it much sooner’ but he can have his learning experience on somebody else’s dollar and represent to the dating pool as a changed human being.

    • Tabitha said:

      I think anger can absolutely be helpful in some circumstances. When I was in a relationship that wasn’t noticeably awful but had slowly eroded my sense of self, anger is what saved me. It was one bright flame in the miasma I was struggling through and following it got me to the other side.

      Anger can hurt people if you lash out but it can also provide clarity and strength of purpose. In my case, holding on to my anger for as long as I did gave me the push I needed to cut my ex out of my life and to start to find myself again. If anger can help the LW the same way then they should absolutely use it.

      • Yes, I absolutely agree, and I’m very wary of anger and angry people. But anger is a very valid, human response, and it helps protect us and keep us from harm. Anger is justified, and can be part of the healing process — and the only person who gets to say how long is an appropriate amount of time to be angry, is the person who is angry.

        I don’t think holding on to anger, railing against things you can’t change, etc is helpful, but hot damn sometimes it’s exactly what’s required to get you the hell out of town and be able to do things you usually wouldn’t.

        It is okay to be an angry bear if you’re stung by a bee. It’s okay to be an angry bear if someone’s between you and your cubs. It’s okay to be an angry bear when you’ve been betrayed, put at risk (medically speaking especially — if he’s messaging, he may be seeing other people) by someone you loved and trusted and who is lying to you.

        It’s not okay to hurt them or throw things or set them on fire, but it’s okay to WANT to as part of grieving.

        • thelittlepakeha said:

          Anger is justified, and can be part of the healing process

          Especially from an abusive relationship (which this probably isn’t, just really shitty). It’s a pretty common delayed reaction as you slowly start to realise just how fucked up the whole thing was.

          • Absolutely! Anger is what let me leave, because prior to being angry I had been befuddled and baffled and sad and hurting. There was constant despair (and despair said “You’re not worth anything, you might as well die”), then came fear at a turning point of his behaviour, in the grip of that fear came anger, and anger interrupted with “Fuck this, this person is not worth my life”. I could’ve used that anger oh, years prior, but it was still THE pivotal moment of of my own thinking.

            These days I’m mostly incredulous, but it was very much a part of the healing process for me — as was letting go of that anger once it had run its course.

    • So many possible reasons for being on a dating site? Oh do tell.

      • Blue Meeple said:

        Some dating sites also let you look for friends or activity partners and not just romantic/sexual partners. I met one interesting (and two very uninteresting) people this way using okc. It wasn’t the main reason I was using the site, though, and it’s frankly silly to assume that’s the reason someone is on a dating site. There are other places to make friends. Dating sites are, first and foremost, dating sites.

        • This is true. Also, if you are using OKC to find friends, then surely you would say to your partner, “Hey partner, I want to meet some new friends so I am setting up this profile that says I am looking for friends only and mentions my monogamous girlfriend that I am monogamously dating monogamously. How do you think I should answer this ‘what mythical creature would you be’ question?”

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            “How do you think I should answer this ‘what mythical creature would you be’ question?”

            Which is actually what OK Cupid was, before it was a dating site, unless I’m completely misremembering. I recall the change happening while I was in high school, we used to do the quizzes a lot and it started getting a heavier and heavier social focus, wanting to match you up with other users based on results.

        • andie said:

          Also worth noting that “Jane” said that he stopped contacting her the moment he realised that she knew and was able to get in contact with the LW… DTMFA LW, you deserve so much better than this guy. Anyone who makes you feel worthless is not someone you should be around, because you’re actually worth a hundred of him.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Oh, FFS. That bullshit is what kept me in some really scary and awful situations. While his sentiments are supposed to be met with ‘understanding and love’ is the LW just dogshit? What about her sentiments? Did you see how she signed the letter? Did you even read this letter and how torn up and hurt she is? What about HER feelings? What about the sentiments of the women he messaged, who probably had no idea that he was in a relationship? I am fucking tired of the idea that we are supposed to manage the feelings of men when they act shitty and mistreat us. NO. The LW’s first obligation is to herself and her own mental health.

      Also, this whole “anger is bad” bullshit–anger is anger. It is a natural reaction to bad treatment. You know what’s bad? Patronizing, guilt-tripping bullshit like yours that belittles what women like the LW are going through.

      If the LW dumps him, she is doing a loving thing in teaching him that treating the people in your life like shit will have consequences.

      • msethyl said:

        Yeah I don’t really understand this whole “anger is bad” thing, like, AT ALL. Sometimes people behave egregiously and we are angry. Anger is justified and logical in many situation. Lots of people are mean, take advantage, are dishonest, etc. because they CAN be, because they LIKE to be, and because they know they can get away with it and it’s easier than being a good person. Why NOT get angry at that?

      • Mayati said:

        Wild applause! Unless you’re obsessing over a feeling, feelings don’t hurt other people. They exist in your brain. And you can’t force them to go away — you can only understand them and choose where to go from there — nor can you force yourself to feel the “right” thing, like forgiveness. LW deserves some self-understanding and self-love right now, not…whatever the hell sanctimonious repression would make the person who wronged her feel more comfortable. If you can’t be angry right after someone you love gives up on your relationship, when on earth can you be angry?

        Saying “don’t be angry” to someone who’s in LW’s shoes is like saying “don’t run a fever” to someone fighting an infection. The fever itself is NOT THE PROBLEM. It’s part of the healing process, even if it looks scary for a little bit.

      • LabLizard said:

        Anger is like fire in a forest. Controlled burns eliminate the deadwood and make for a healthy ecosystem, aka relationship or mental health alone.

      • YAAAASSSSSSSSS!

        I literally copied and pasted this to a word document and am printing it out to keep handy. Entirely way too many times I have let people treat me like crap because *REASONS* which were always “they are allowed to act out their feelings on me/with little to no regard for me and I just have to take it because they are in pain and it is my duty to not judge their behavior because of their feeeeeeeelings.” This now, enrages me.

        Anger is not bad!!! (I say angrily). Anger is an emotion just like any other emotion – it is teaching us something. Almost always anger is teaching us “this thing that is making you angry is bad for you – stay away!” Acting physically or emotionally violent against another person because of anger is bad.

      • I wanted to say that you are one of my favourite commenters, and I have friends IRL who call it “The Sheelzebub Principle” without ever having met you because we apply it to so many things. You always have great, compassionate things to say, and I wanted to say thank you as your comments to others have helped me.

        • Sheelzebub said:

          Thank you! That is such a nice thing to read!

      • boutet said:

        Aaaah yessss I was scrolling down just aching for this comment and then it appeared

    • Elsajeni said:

      Anger does hurt people, yes. It’s also often a response to being hurt, as is the case in this letter. So… the LW’s boyfriend gets to hurt her by being distant in their relationship, secretly messaging other women on dating sites, etc., but she can’t be angry about being treated badly and hurt, because that might hurt him back?

      It’s nice to consider other people’s feelings and try not to hurt them. But it is not the LW’s job to protect other people’s feelings at the expense of her own, especially someone who is clearly not taking much care to avoid hurting her feelings.

    • LofWT said:

      Better for… the world? Captain, I hope you’ll allow a little snark on my part because I am giggling madly over here. LW, I encourage you not to assume personal responsibility for global peacekeeping initiatives in your current or future relationships. I don’t know you/the particulars, of course, but I’m willing to bet you’ve already bent yourself into gentle, forgiving shapes while this guy wangsted for months over how little he wanted to do for you. I have a lot of experience embodying sweetness/kindness/yielding feminine forgiveness itself, and the results are My Dude Partners’ Delicate Egos: 10000000000, My Desires and Needs: 0. Check the scoreboard, my dear, and read how futile it was for me to doormat my way to fulfillment.

      Come to the dark side, LW. There is such a dearth of angry women in the world, and we have Turkish Delight.

      • neverjaunty said:

        All of the love for “wangsted”.

        And yes, anger is underrated. Probably because of the stereotype that anger always leads to punching walls and hysterical yelling, instead of positive action, which is exactly like saying that romantic love always ends in a tragic fiery car crash.

    • eselle28 said:

      I think someone should listen to his explanations and meet his sentiments with understanding and love. I don’t think that person should be the LW. She doesn’t need to turn him into a monster to decide that she will end this relationship, seek someone who is less shitty and unsure of himself, and let her former boyfriend work through his feelings with Team Him.

    • If LW does break up with him, he is still a human being with feelings and needs, yes. But LW is no longer required to care about any of them, because LW has feelings and needs, too, and they are MORE important for the LW because they are the LW’s and the LW’s alone. Relationships may require equal weight to both peoples’ emotions and needs, but this is occurring at the expense of the LW’s, not with hers. I think people are absolutely entitled to love and friendship, but if you treat the people who love you like crap, it is 1000% okay for them to leave. People who do bad things are still people, but the onus is not on the people they’ve hurt to forgive, love, or otherwise deal with their emotional needs.

    • Mel Reams said:

      I feel that anyone, even the shittiest-seeming boyfriend, deserves at least one chance to explain himself, I’ve heard too many real-life stories and novels to not know that there are so many possibilities out there why someone is being shitty and unsure of himself and yes, even on a dating site.

      Nope nope nope a world of NOPE. The LW said:

      He’s been shitty and distant and “I don’t know if I want this” for a few months, so I’m pretty sure he won’t be upset that I found out. I’m expecting a “You’re right, let’s break up” response

      When you’re pretty sure your partner will say “you’re right, let’s break up” when you confront him about cheating/attempting to cheat, the relationship is already dead. Aside from the ridiculous notion that a man who’s been treating the LW poorly for MONTHS deserves a chance to explain himself, there’s really no point to wasting time on whatever sad excuse he comes up with.

      And again, boyfriend has been treating the LW badly for MONTHS. Multiple months! What could he possibly say that would make it worth the LW listening to him when she could be packing up anything he left at her place and not speaking to him?

      I am not one to agree that anger is justified and good. It hurts people.

      That is such complete and utter bullshit. Anger is an absolutely necessary part of healing. The idea that I wasn’t allowed to be angry about my abusive childhood has set my healing back YEARS. Swallowing down anger can only ever make it worse, feeling it and believing that you have the right to feel it is the only thing that can possibly help anyone move past their anger. And in the LW’s case in particular, they have every right to be angry. Boyfriend has made them feel so shitty about themselves that they signed their letter “Not Good Enough, Apparently.” What more does it take for someone to be allowed to be angry?!

    • He has had a dating profile as of three months ago.

      He has had three months of chances to explain himself.

      He is an adult. Adults are capable of saying “so, I did this thing because reasons” without being prompted. And explaining yourself is something you can do as an adult; it is not something that you are only allowed to do when you are caught.

    • nonniemu said:

      How long have you been listening to stories to think that even “the shittiest-seeming boyfriend” deserves a chance? I mean I just think your level of ‘shittiest’ must be pretty light. I don’t think abusers, for example – of either gender – deserve ‘a chance’. They’re a grown-up, participating in a grown-up relationship – if they can’t handle that, then it’s not the other person’s responsibility to stick around and take it just because they said ‘yes’ to the relationship in the first place. Quite the opposite, I think the abuser deserves to be alone until they learn how to treat the person they’re with like a fellow human being instead of a verbal and/or physical and/or emotional punching bag. And while LW’s boyfriend isn’t being outright abusive, he has certainly abused her trust. LW is not his mom or his therapist – she has no obligation to stick around while he works out “how not to take out his fears and longings and feelings in ways that hurt other people.” (And hell even his mom and therapist have every right to say “son/client, you’re a git, and I am going to end our relationship until you’re not a git anymore.”)

      On another note, anger is a perfectly healthy and absolutely justifiable emotion. I mean, if some of the women in my life that I *know* are staying with abusive men would actually *get* angry instead of making excuses, they might actually find that it gave them what they needed to leave the men who are hurting them. I’d cheer over that. Heck, even Mr. Rogers, the Nicest Guy on the Planet, talked (well, sang…), not about trying to deny your anger, but how to redirect it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIP9dZj3kKQ I do think LW should cut her losses and leave without any big scene, yes, but that’s because having seen big scenes, I don’t really think they accomplish much except to give both parties permanent bad memories and leave them upset for days, and I don’t think LW deserves that.

      • pyn said:

        Mostly agreed, except the implication that women in abusive relationships just need to be angry to get out is terribly misinformed and victim-blamey. Saying they just make excuses also completely misses the whole crux of what an abusive relationship is. It is in no way the woman’s fault that she is being manipulated, and frankly the implication that they just need to feel a specific emotion is bullshit.

        • Ack, you’re right, that came out completely wrong – I ought to have written out my entire thought, which is to say “making excuses for the men hitting them”. And I did use the word “might” deliberately – as in I understand that there’s no guarantee it would, but I’d like to see them angry enough to *maybe* say “fuck this shit” and walk out the door instead of telling themselves “he’s just having a bad day” for the thousandth time. :/

    • alexis said:

      For one thing, one reason people cheat is to basically self-destruct a relationship. It sounds from the LW like the guy doesn’t really WANT to be with her anymore, and maybe sort of wants to be caught and broken up with. So what’s the point of letting him explain and loving him through it? I don’t think the LW carrying around a cross of My Boyfriend Was the Worst I Am So Angry would be productive (but LW still has the right to rage!) People don’t suddenly turn into monsters but people are alkward and they totally turn into spineless awkwardly-trying-to-wriggle-out-of-this-relationship, looking-for-something-new boyfriends.

      I don’t think LW OWES him a chance to explain himself. He says he is not sure he wants this (their relationship) anymore. His actions are pointed the same way. The best thing LW can do for both of them is to BELIEVE HIM and peace out

  7. Yes. Yes to Jadis. Yes to Prince.
    No to your soon to be ex.

    The Captain gave you a good script.

    Here’s another script. “We’re done. Here’s your stuff.”

    If you live together? My preference would be to leave and let him deal with home fall out, but if the two of you own, that’s messier. If you must cohabit until one of you finds somewhere else, he gets the couch.

    In a year- or sooner- laugh.

  8. Knitting Cat Lady said:

    I have three stories for you, LW.

    1. Friend called off her wedding one week before the set date because her fiance had admitted to cheating on her constantly. He wanted to come clean before the wedding. He also didn’t know if he’d be able to stop. She kicked him to the curb.
    Now she’s married to someone else and has a daughter.

    2. Cousin J walked in on her boyfriend having sex with another woman. Twice. He had promised her to change his ways after the first time. Seeing that he obviously didn’t she broke up with him
    She’s married another guy and has a son.

    3. Cousin H was with her boyfriend for 25 years. They decided to get married as a sort of anniversary thing. During the planning boyfriend suddenly said: ‘You know what, I don’t actually want to marry you.’
    Cousin H said fuck you and the horse you rode in on, and left him. There had been more problems and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
    About half a year later she married another guy after a whirlwind romance. They’re still together two years later. Haven’t met him yet, but my parents tell me that he’s a great guy.

    What you can take away from this, LW:

    If people show you who they are, believe them.
    There are plenty of other guys out there. You’ll find someone who loves you the way you are.

  9. Rose Fox said:

    This is the heart of it for me:

    He’s been shitty and distant and “I don’t know if I want this” for a few months

    That doesn’t sound like a keeper, LW, and I think you know it. In a way it’s great that his infidelity came to light, because it gives you a way to talk yourself into the breakup that pretty clearly needs to happen. Many sympathies. I promise you will be so much happier without this shitty, distant guy weighing you down.

    Also, regarding the work-related aspects of this: you absolutely get to say “That’s personal and I don’t want to discuss it” (repeatedly, if necessary) to any inquiry made by your boss, your boss’s wife, or Jane about whether you’re breaking up with this guy, or about why you broke up if they find out after the fact. It sounds like there’s a lot of blurring of lines between personal and professional here–did your boyfriend know that Jane knew your boss’s wife when he messaged her? was he setting himself up to get caught? how did your boss’s wife know that the guy Jane met on a dating site was your boyfriend? so many questions!–but you get to redraw those lines very brightly and sharply and firmly if you want to.

    • Anne On said:

      The boyfriend is utilizing the “soft no” by saying he doesn’t know if he wants this. The rest is pure dick move, but that one sentence is pretty clear. Best believe him.

      • LabLizard said:

        And for the love of corn, do not even contemplate marrying someone who doesn’t know if they want to marry you.

        • YES. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt — the goalposts will keep moving and there will always be reasons why not.

          You deserve someone who is thrilled at the prospect of marrying you or otherwise spending their lives with you, LW.

  10. Andrew Glasgow said:

    Simply messaging someone on a dating site shouldn’t be a breakup-level offense. I’ve messaged plenty of people on dating sites I had no interest whatsoever in actually fucking. OKCupid is mostly about connecting singles, but it’s also got lots of stuff that lets people talk about shared interests and stuff.

    Being shitty and distant and “I don’t know if I want this” so soon before the wedding is a very bad sign, though. A person about to marry the person they love should be happy about it, and happy when they’re with them. At the very least, the wedding should be indefinitely postponed until the LW and her SO get things sorted out.

    • jd said:

      Did your profile explicitly state that you were in a committed monogamous relationship looking for friendship connections only? Because if not, then you were being a shit (both to your partner and to the people you were meeting without appropriate disclosure). I use dating sites to meet new friends all the time, but I do so with full transparency about my interests and current relationship status. If I were ever to be in a monogamous relationship (I am poly so this is unlikely anyway, but hypothetically), I’d fully expect a partner to be upset if they came across a dating profile which genuinely appeared to be about *dating*. I’m assuming that if Jane was messaging this guy with the idea that it was potentially romantic (hence sharing it with the LW when she found out he was attached and to whom), then that’s what he was there for.

      Also, *anything* that is a deal-breaker for someone is a deal-breaker for them. There is no “must be this grievous” qualification.

    • misspiggy said:

      True, but my partner knows that I message people on OKCupid. If he didn’t and he found out, I’d expect him to feel betrayed, because if it was innocent why didn’t I mention it in advance to forestall any confusion? Plus in this case the messaging is one among several things the guy is doing to distance himself from a committed relationship. Either he’s tried to be direct about his concerns and his partner freaked out, in which case they should break up, or he’s a coward, in which case they should break up.

    • I think that if you’re going to say it shouldn’t be a breakup-level offense, it has to have a couple of base requirements–one of which is that your partner has to know, so that if her friends come to her with screenshots of your messages you’re able to say “Oh, no, he’s just trying to find partners for his competitive weasel-juggling meetup group!” and be comfortable.

      That’s not what OP’s partner was doing. OP’s partner was cheating. Whether or not he ever met a one of these women, what he was doing with them–going around behind OP’s back to seek validation and not telling the people he’s talking to that he has a girlfriend–is totally emotional cheating.

      Cheating is absolutely a breakup-level offense.

    • sunshine said:

      The purpose of a dating site is… dating. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, you should not be on a dating website, messaging other people (with the stated purpose of dating), unless you’ve somehow cleared it first with your partner. I’m not saying it’s cheating, but it’s definitely dishonest, both to your partner and to the people you’re messaging.

      Also, if you’re actively looking for others to date, you’ve clearly either missed a couple steps in terms of a) working on your existing relationship instead of looking for solutions/ dedicating energy outside of it, and b) breaking up. Remember, LW is in a long term relationship. Who wants to be in a “monogamous” LTR with someone who is hitting on/ interested in dating other women? Totally agree, though, that someone considering marriage should be happy about it.

      • Hungry_pixel said:

        Also, as a mate of mine who is on OKCupid and been annoyed by people apparently looking to cheat points out, if you are looking for ‘friends only’, you not only tell your partner, you tell the person you are chatting to. It’s easy to do. The phrase “my partner” is not a hard one to insert into conversation.

        If LW’s partner had told Jane’s friend he was friends-hunting, Jane’s friend would have said so and probably wouldn’t have done the screencapping.

        Dating sites be for dating.

        • msethyl said:

          Yeah I mean, I think all this equivocating is missing the point that Jane clearly thought there was a line crossed and I think we should believe the LW and Jane in this that this was inappropriate, and move forward from there. I don’t think it particularly serves the LW to sit around and think of all the reasons it could be totally innocent — we don’t need to make this “distant, shitty” guy’s excuses for him.

          • espritdecorps said:

            Well said.

          • neverjaunty said:

            Seriously. But no, some dude has to jump on and identify with LW’s boyfriend and defend him to her. Christ.

    • In a literal sense, anything is a breakup-level offense if it is (a) an offense and (b) prompts a person to break up with another person.

      In a broader sense, I agree with you that having a dating profile and soliciting people to talk to (potentially just for the attention, especially since there’s no evidence that he has gone on dates) could be a manifestation of his desire to receive attention from women who are not his girlfriend and nothing more than that. The fact that it’s a dating site suggests that he wants it to be some form of romantic attention, which is bad, but I’m not entirely convinced that low-grade online flirting, which is all we really have evidence of here, is a terrible and horrific thing.

      More broadly, this guy sounds like he’s wanted out for a while but lacked the courage to end the relationship. If that’s indeed the case, it’s pretty shitty of him, but unless he outright lied in the subsequent conversation (Him: “I don’t know if I want this.” Her: “Woah! What do you mean?!” Him: “Oh, nothing, never mind. I’d love to make your brother my best man!”) then it seems like a failure of communication on her part, too. He was signaling pretty clearly that he wanted out but that he was going to go the cowardly/shitty way of making her do it.

      To me, this pretty clearly adds up to a breakup, but I personally wouldn’t be as contemptuous/spiteful toward him as others here. It seems pretty unnecessary.

      • misspiggy said:

        It’s the cowardice which inspires the contempt.

      • “If that’s indeed the case, it’s pretty shitty of him, but unless he outright lied in the subsequent conversation (Him: “I don’t know if I want this.” Her: “Woah! What do you mean?!” Him: “Oh, nothing, never mind. I’d love to make your brother my best man!”) then it seems like a failure of communication on her part, too.” What? So she’s a failure if she can’t get him to spill his guts? Come on now. She’s not his mommy. And she can’t force anyone to talk. Why are people so eager to give this guy some unlikely benefit of the doubt? Occam’s razor tells us he’s trying to get some on the side and eat his cake too. If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.

        • LabLizard said:

          She can hear him when he says he doesn’t know if he wants to marry her and: a) stop any wedding planning and b) talk to him to see if they can work it out. This is not to say that what he is doing is OK, it isn’t. It is deceptive to the LW and to any women he is writing if he didn’t be open about being in a relationship…. which he hasn’t been or Jane would not have done FB research.

          • LabLizard said:

            Addendum: Or could have done this ^ when things started souring. Sorry I am not quite caffeinated yet.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Because a lot people seem to be putting themselves into the shoes of the broken-up-with, and are therefore on Team You Owe Me A Chance.

        • Molly Grue said:

          Okay.

          What is going on here, both with the shitty communication “I’m not sure..” and with the cheating, is that LW’s boyfriend is ducking the responsibility of the EMOTIONAL LABOR of the breakup. (see: http://www.metafilter.com/151267/Wheres-My-Cut-On-Unpaid-Emotional-Labor ).

          I have seen this happen OVER AND OVER AND OVER again with my straight friends (also, sometimes, with queer ones, but it’s women having to do the emotional labor in male/female relationships that stand out in terms of numbers).

          My read is: he wants to be broken up with but doesn’t have the guts to do it himself, so he is doing his damndest to shift that responsibility over to LW.

          Which is, in fact, a shitty, cowardly, and gross thing to do. But I see it happen again and again.

      • MsM said:

        As others have said, these are dating sites, not low-grade flirting sites. Even if he’d cleared it with his current partner, that’s an inconsiderate thing to do to women who are presumably looking for something more serious unless he also disclosed that was all he was looking for to them. Add that to the “I don’t know if I want this” comments (which, yes, she could’ve pursued more thoroughly, but that doesn’t mean she shares responsibility for how this has gone down; it just confirms that marriage is not something these two should be talking about), and you have a guy who doesn’t want to take a good, hard look at the problems he’s facing, let alone put in the work to fix them. Again, that doesn’t make him a monster, but it does make him a pretty lousy boyfriend and a terrible long-term prospect. At least right now, in this particular relationship. Hopefully he’ll learn and sort it out. He just shouldn’t continue to do it at LW’s expense.

        • Light37 said:

          Good point. If Dude is not representing himself as only looking for friends- and from the letter it appears he’s not- then he’s leading on people who are interested in romance and are presumably on that site in good faith.

      • Oh for goodness sake! “Cheating” ( for most people I know) is doing something that’s against your explicit or implicit agreement for the relationship.

        And if you’re doing it secretly because you know your partner(s)will think it’s cheating? Then for that relationship, it’s cheating.

        So making new friends =/= cheating. Creating a profile on a dating site and not telling me == cheating.

      • LegalBeagle said:

        Nothing has to be an objectively “break-up level offence” to justify a break-up.

        LW feels betrayed and hurt and has been treated with little respect and honesty. That is what matters, not the objective wrongness or otherwise of the conduct. It doesn’t matter if he has actually met other people, or done anything other than exchange messages. He has not treated his partner with respect, or had the courage to be truthful.

        I say this as someone who stayed with my Darth for 3.5 years – despite him having little to no respect for me and my ability to make my own decisions and feel my own feelings. I was gaslighted into feeling that I was wrong not to trust him or believe him as “it’s not like I cheated on you”. The perception that there has to be a “break-up level offence” to justify a break-up – is utter rubbish and oh so damaging.

        LW if you feel like you’re not being treated with respect (and by your sign off, as well as the “shitty and distant” comment, it seems you are not) GTFO. Respect is the foundation of any relationship – not an optional extra you have to earn.

        • HeyNonnyNonnyMous said:

          Hey, I had a Darth who did that too! Oddly enough, I might have found it easier to forgive infidelity, which I could have understood on some level, than his actual treatment of me.

        • Courtney said:

          “The perception that there has to be a “break-up level offence” to justify a break-up – is utter rubbish and oh so damaging.”

          Exactly. You’re breaking up with someone, not formally charging them with a crime. You don’t have to prove the elements of your case to decide that you don’t want someone in your life.

        • I was my own Darth for a while, in that I thought that since there hadn’t been any “break-up-level offense,” I would be throwing away an objectively good thing (even though I was incredibly unhappy), and then wouldn’t I be a monster. ALL THE BEES. No, not even bees, because I like bees.

          • Hit “enter” too soon, apparently: I like bees, so not all the bees. ALL THE WASPS.

        • MamaCheshire said:

          Oh GEEZ. My Darth Ex loved the “at least I didn’t cheat on you!” thing.

          Things he DID do that “at least” weren’t cheating, before I kicked him to the curb:

          – Drove a car in a deliberately reckless and dangerous manner in a snowstorm while we were having an argument over some political issue or other.
          – Asked in the most menacing way he could manage if I was scared of him during another argument that happened after the above incident.
          – Told me he’d submitted job applications that I then found on his floor several weeks later.
          – Posted a personal ad for a threesome without telling me, and then dragged me to meet up with a girl who had answered the ad.
          – Told me in graphic detail how much he wanted to seduce various guys while he was stoned, despite being all “no homo!” when sober.
          – Oh yeah, left illegal drugs in my car that I didn’t know about when I was driving across state lines to work event security at an SCA event, then when I got pissed off about this, complained that I was choosing the SCA over him. (This was the catalyst for the breakup, because: NOPE.)

    • Knitting Cat Lady said:

      What does a dating site do that other social media doesn’t?

      The vast majority of people there are looking for a partner in the pair bonding sense.

      Sharing common interests: The vast majority of people do that away from dating sites. There are plenty of online venues that cater to any kind of interest.

      Also, messaging someone on a dating site without telling the partner? Huge break of trust.

    • Anonematode said:

      Yeah, no. My recent ex tried to pull this excuse on me when I found out he still had an okcupid profile up, after we had talked about monogamy, and gotten to the “I love you, this is a serious relationship for me” stage, that he had been checking a few times at least. LW: possibly a somewhat similar situation to yours. He had kind of flipped from his initial total lovey-doveyness to crappier inattentive behavior. But, each time there was some issue, I took the route of giving him a chance to explain, like the suggestion by another commenter above. Bad move, in retrospect. In retrospect, there were one or two other specific points when I should have dumped his ass, and a number of smaller incidents that added up to problematic patterns of behavior. But instead I gave him the opportunity to make excuses, argue as if each thing was an individual event that shouldn’t be judged against the rest of his behavior, etc. That pro-communication route works if both people are legitimately trying; not so much if one person is unable or unwilling to engage in perspective-taking.

      So a couple weeks later, things have been lagging along kind of roughly, and one evening we’re each making plans to hang out separately with other friends of ours, and my now-ex fesses up that he still has a profile up and has logged on “just once”, because it sent him an automated birthday message (a month before that time). Other readers may guess where this is going. Turns out one of the friends of mine that I was going to hang out with had recently signed up for okc, saw that he had a profile that he had logged in to that week, and had confronted him about it. But again I gave him the chance to explain, and he claimed the same thing as the above commenter, and claimed that his timing in telling me was unrelated to optics or a calculation about my probable response had I heard about it from my friend first.

      Sadly, it took another month after that before I gave him a shape up (for reals) or ship out ultimatum and he took the ship out option. The disadvantage of this method is that on top of all his other shitty behavior, I gave him the opportunity to add patronizingly claiming that he’s breaking up with me for my own good, and *him* avoiding and not talking to *me* at parties thrown by (our many, in a small town) mutual friends (though not avoiding the parties altogether, of course, just using them as an opportunity to mope at me as if I had caused this painful rift), after I refused to continue doing unreciprocated emotional labor in listening to and soothing his feelings about the breakup and his feelings about my feelings.

      Short summary: every relationship is different of course but the Captain’s original advice avoids many potential pitfalls that I have encountered.

      Also, looking at the online dating profiles of exes that you met offline is sometimes illuminating. This particular guy had answered okcupid’s question about if the respondent thinks it’s wrong to keep a dating profile up once a relationship has become serious with “it’s not wrong”, adding his own comment something along the lines of “serious isn’t forever.” So there’s a point in favor of doing some internet research on new dates even when you don’t meet them online, I suppose.

      • Commander Banana said:

        Yup. I give ALL THE SIDE EYE to anyone who claims that they use dating sites “to meet friends.” There are eleventy million other ways to meet like minded people online that do not involve using dating sites. I have used dating sites for about 2 years and I NEVER ONCE MET ANYONE WHO WANTED TO BE MY FRIEND on a dating site.

        There is no way in seven hells I would buy the excuse that someone was using a OKC profile “to meet friends.” That is pure-D bullshit.

        • Good Wolf said:

          Yes, true. I have made platonic friends through OKC, but in every case, we met up with the mutual understanding that we were testing the waters to see if we were compatible for dating. In some cases, we met, discovered that we shared interests and enjoyed each other’s company but felt no romantic/sexual attraction, and ended up becoming friends instead. And I like to go into each first date with this in mind as a possible outcome. But in my experience it has never been the REASON for initiating contact.

        • jd said:

          It’s quite a bit more likely for people who have trouble meeting others with similar interests/backgrounds. As a queer trans person, I definitely use it partly with the purpose of connecting with other queer trans people when I move to a new city with romance as an ideal but with friendship explicitly as a desirable outcome as well (and just last week met a monogamous queer lady in a committed relationship who is using OKC specifically to meet new friends). There *aren’t* much better ways of quickly tracking down new local people online than a dating site, especially for those of us who struggle with large crowded spaces and RL social gatherings that are the typical alternative. So it definitely happens, but with a total absence of the shadiness being described here.

          • Commander Banana said:

            I’m queer, FWIW, and have met friends through OKC…after I met them and we determined we weren’t romantically interested in each other. YMMV, but if I were in a relationship and found out my partner had an OKC or other dating profile they were actively using and didn’t tell me about, I would not be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

        • I’m still on OKC, and I look at it every month or so. I did actually meet some very nice people via OKC in the last place I lived, but I think using it this way is highly regional–it was very common the last place I lived, seems to be uncommon here.

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            Similarly, different cities can have different common uses of Tindr – either for dating or for casual hookups, generally.

            Boyfriend is totally shady though.

          • Oh, LW’s boyfriend is TOTALLY shady. Best Boyfriend knows I have an OKC and I show him messages I get, if they’re funny. I’m kind of annoyed by the implication that I must be a cheater. 🙂

        • Emily said:

          Eh, I know someone who uses it that way. But she explains very clearly in her profile that she’s only looking for friends and will never be looking for anything other than that (she’s aromantic and asexual), and shuts down anyone who messages her without having read that part of her profile.

        • Courtney said:

          Even if you want to just meet friends on OKC, it’s incredibly difficult. I actually DID try to use it several years ago to make new friends when I was new to the city I live in. Abyssmal. Failure. None of the gals I tried to befriend responded, and the guys I tried to befriend assumed that “looking for new friends” meant “looking for new friends (with benefits)” despite me being as clear as I could possibly be that I was looking for platonic friendship with an emphasis on someone to help introduce me to the cool stuff in my new city. After having the “Oh, shit. He thinks we’re on a date” experience with three different guys, I said to hell with it and abandoned it as a way to make friends. The only actual friend I made through OKC was a gal who went on a few dates with my then-housemate…so, OKC, once removed.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      “Simply messaging someone on a dating site shouldn’t be a breakup-level offense.”

      Thank you judge! We’ll go by your dictate. Or maybe not, since this sounds like the level 10 horseshit that it is.

      The vast majority of people are on dating sites to date other people. If he was on OK Cupid or something to meet platonic friends, he would have told the LW. And I doubt Jane would have been all “Wow, this is skanky, he’s LW’s fiancee” because he would have been clear that he had a fiancee and was looking for friendship only.

      You know where people go to meet new friends? MeetUp. There are groups around shared interests, and he’d be able to meet people of both sexes who share the same interest. Weird!

      And they shouldn’t put things on hold indefinitely. She’s been in limbo long enough. He is obviously not happy and should have ended things. He didn’t and wasted her time. Her time and her mental energy are valuable, she deserves better than this shit, and she has every right to go. If you have to work things out before you even get married, the marriage will be dead in the water.

      • Sparky said:

        It confused me that the boss’ wife appears to be on a dating site. Or was it her friend? I couldn’t tell, and this isn’t important to the LW.

        • I think Jane (dating site lady) is friends with boss’s wife (the “intermediate friend”) who is friends with LW.

          • LW said:

            You nailed it.

    • Commander Banana said:

      I’m pretty sure that anything can be a break-up level offense if the person in question thinks it’s a break-up level offense, unless there is a secret Tome Of Things That Are Actually Break-Up Level Offenses in a dusty temple somewhere that I don’t know about.

      • Okay but imagine if such a thing did exist, and included every reason for breaking up ever. It would be like the medical coding system that includes “suicide by jellyfish”.

        Reason 42.169.3a – Food-related – Cutlery Weirdness – Inappropriate Use of Fork – Eats yoghurt with a fork
        Reason 42.169.3b – Food-related – Cutlery Weirdness – Inappropriate Use of Rork – Tried to comb my hair with a fork and punctured my scalp

        • LabLizard said:

          Which would still leave you with Reason 42.169.98 and 99 – Food Related- NEC (not elsewhere classified) and NOS (not otherwise specified)

        • AW said:

          “suicide by jellyfish”

          Didn’t a movie end with this? I can’t remember what it was about at all but I distinctly remember the male lead getting into a bathtub with jelly fish and one of his organs going to a different character in the movie who needed a transplant.

          • Twitchy said:

            Seven Pounds, I think.

        • Commander Banana said:

          !!!!!

          Dude I eat yogurt with a fork sometimes when I’m at work and have run out of spoons in my pack of plastic cutlery
          It has to be pretty thick yogurt though and it ends with me sadly scraping at the yogurt bits that the tines leave behind

          TLDR ALONE FOREVERRRR

      • Also I really like your handle it has a nice rhythm to it.

        • Commander Banana said:

          Haha thanks I have a weird name that rhymes with banana and I used to introduce myself that way so people knew how to say it, and it morphed into Commander Banana.

          Tl;dr, if you have kids check the pronunciation in the baby book BEFORE saddling them with a name.

      • Brooks said:

        My partner once had a quasi-girlfriend tell her that she was breaking up with her because, among other break-up-level offenses, my partner had professed the opinion that London’s public transit system was better than the S.F. Bay Area’s.

        (We’re pretty sure that’s not the real reason, though, as the reasons changed a few weeks later, and there was an unmistakable cloud of bees around the whole breakup. Including, at one point, the reason being approximately “I’m pretty sure I’m not actually polyamorous and bisexual after all, and I’ve decided to be monogamous with my new boyfriend. No, I haven’t told my long-distance girlfriend yet.”)

    • I’m still on OKCupid. Everywhere on my profile (vital stats and in at least 3 of the personal essays) it says “I am in a happy, committed, monogamous relationship, just looking to meet people who might turn out to be friends” (I’m still new to the area, and I’m exploiting every possibility to make new friends). I don’t message people. When men message me, I delete them. (And often show them to my boyfriend if they’re funny.)

      If you’re on OKC to make friends, you’re not messaging people in skeezy ways. If you’re messaging people in skeezy ways, you’re not on OKC just to make friends.

    • neverjaunty said:

      You don’t get to decide what is and isn’t a “breakup-level offense” for anyone else. There is no Uniform Code of Breakup Justice that decides what things “justify” a breakup, such that if the action does not violate the UCBJ, breakups are wrong, unjustifiable and not allowed.

      Also, protip: “X doesn’t justify breaking up because I’ve done X and I didn’t mean anything by it” is, politely, misplaced.

    • eselle28 said:

      Sometimes people do use online dating sites to look for friends. However, in this case we know how he was using this site. He was using it in a way that didn’t reveal his relationship status and that made at least one woman he was messaging feel that it was behavior she needed to reveal to his girlfriend. We know from the LW that he was also doing so secretly.

      Does this mean he met or would have been willing to meet women from the site for romantic dates? Nah, not necessarily. But I’m not going to buy that he was just seeking some new buddies given that set of facts.

      • Commander Banana said:

        Yeah and I feel like if the LW was okay with this she would…not be an LW? In this case I don’t think it’s helpful for her to be inundated with messages declaring that having a Sooper Sekret OKC account is totes ok and not something to be upset about.

        • JenniferP said:

          FOR REALSIES.

          If the hinky secret dating profile thing doesn’t apply to you, then it isn’t about you. You don’t have to justify why you use a dating site or find reasons that it might be okay within a commited relationship. It’s clearly not okay with the LW, which is all the info we need.

    • Clipping your toenails in the bath can be a break-up level offence. As can having weird ears, no longer inspiring feelings of love in your partner, liking broccoli, and (this one I have genuinely heard) hesitating before you step on escalators. You are allowed to break up as soon as one person does not want to be in the relationship. Staying in a crappy relationship because it’s not technically bad enough to leave is just as dumb as breaking up with someone cool because they have Scottish parents, and the latter at least lets you get back to releasing copious amounts of gas and eating toast in bed.

      It’s not like we’re saying “steal all his left socks and pee in his shampoo”, just “break up with the tepid dude who may be cheating on you”.

      • msethyl said:

        No but what kind of monster clips their toenails in the bath???!

      • redaly said:

        This!

        This is true, and should be told repeatedly to all children everywhere, because I have seen so many people stay in relationships that range from terrible to just really uninteresting even to the people involved because a valid break-up offense hadn’t happened yet.

        You get to decide what bothers you, and it doesn’t have to be violent, or cruel, or even something that other people can understand, it just has to mean that, to you, this person is no longer someone you want to spend your time with. Period. I mean, when I was sixteen I broke up with a guy because of the way he reacted when a bird shat on his head. Yes, OK, it was never going to be a serious relationship so I didn’t really need much, but still, I get to decide what deserves a break-up, NO ONE else does. Except the toenails in the bath thing, that’s just gross.

  11. Part of me wants to suggest that you skip the confrontation and go straight to the part where you arrange for his best friends to see you talking very intimately on multiple occasions with somebody ridiculously attractive and charming.

    This, however, is probably better as fantasy than reality.

    So, you should probably stop planning the wedding. Maybe for good, maybe for now.

    Your choices are, roughly:

    1) break up, with or without mentioning Jane. With or without mentionng his shitty behaviour in detail.

    2) let him know that his current behaviour is unacceptable in someone you’re committed to and ask him if he would prefer to change the commitment or the behaviour, because one of those things is going to change, and if he says and shows that he’s serious about being with you, slowly work your way back to the point of planning a wedding, maybe.

    If you go for 2), don’t get sidetracked into what it all meeeeeans. You don’t care, right now, WHY he’s being shitty and distant, you don’t care what his intentions were in messanging Jane.

    You care that he’s being shitty and distant and that his actions with Jane were ambiguous enough that a) she felt she needed to figure out if he had a partner, and then to stop talking to him and then to tell you and b) you agree.

    The odds that you are both wrong a out what he was doing are, frankly, much less than 50 percent. It could happen, but I’m afraid it probably didn’t.

    But regardless, don’t get sucked into that conversation and if you’re breaking up with him absolutely don’t get sucked into it. No good will come of that.

    If you want to stay with him AND he wants to stay with you AND he stops being shitty and distant AND gives you reason to believe that he’s not checking out other options on the side, then maybe there will be a time when you two can talk about reasons and intentions and what he meant by it, but not unless and until those things happen, or you risk being pulled into a spectacular Darth Spiral, and, LW, you deserve so much more. So very much more.

    • Pawsitive said:

      Just wanted to say I think this is great advice: do what you’re going to do with a level head and a clear idea of your worth, and DON’T let anyone make excuses.

    • Linden said:

      Speaking from experience, it’s well-nigh impossible to step a relationship down from “we’re committed and heading toward marriage” to “we’re dating casually again for a while.” I’m sure there are people out there who’ve made that work, but I’ve never seen it.

    • attica said:

      This, this, this. The fear that he will break up with the LW if confronted tells me this is a key to the problem. “Please let’s not break up, the wedding is almost planned!” is textbook Sunk Cost Fallacy.

      But not breaking up will sink your costs way further and way faster. Cut your losses, LW! Leave, laugh, and love!

    • bean said:

      Seriously, there is no sunk cost to worry about when getting married. The costs haven’t even begun. Feel free to hit the brakes right up till “I do.” Even in your dress with everyone waiting and the organ playing, it is 1000 times better than marrying a dodgy guy. Do not let plans and parties and expectations and embarrassment get you to the altar with misgivings, hoping for the best.

    • Light37 said:

      Yes! Ending it now is going to suck, but it sucks a lot less than finding yourself married to someone who’s doing the “I dunno if I want to be here” dance.

  12. So much of his behaviour sounds like Classic “I want it to be over but I don’t want to be the one to end it” Asshole. So he acts like a prick in the hope that you’ll end things, and he can be the injured party. He can bitch and moan to friends and family about “We were going to get married then she dumped me!” and conveniently ignore the fact that you did so for being a lying, cheating wankstain.

    I’ve been there, and it’s really tempting to dig your heels in. If he wants out, he should put his big boy pants on and have the guts to end it, right? It really pissed me off to feel like I was being sidelined into being the bad guy. But it’s kind of like that washing-up war of attrition with a slob housemate – you wind up doing the dishes eventually because they just don’t mind the festering greasy pile as much as you. Your partner has been drilling holes in the ship for a while but is expecting YOU to be the one who jumps overboard. I’m afraid you’ll probably have to but trust me – when you pull yourself onto the beach and look back at him waist-deep in water shouting “but I’M not the one to abandon ship!”, you’ll feel nothing but relief.

    • Blue Meeple said:

      I dated that guy! He “didn’t want to hurt me”, so instead of just breaking up with me, he got more and more distant and did other shitty things until I had enough and dumped him. And then, as you say, he got to be the injured party because how dare I be angry at him for “not wanting to hurt me”?? Even though his being distant and doing shitty things hurt way more – and longer – than a clean break ever would have! Gah.

      • Yes, this is how my soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law treated my sister. LW’s boyfriend either 1) doesn’t have the maturity to ask for what he needs in the relationship with LW and seeks it elsewhere, or 2) he’s decided/slowly coming to the realization that LW isn’t really the one for him long term and has just been terrible about not ending things so he doesn’t look like the bad guy.

        LW, I’m sorry, because I know this hurts very, very badly. But it will get better, especially when you’re not always asking yourself why you aren’t good enough for that guy.

      • Serin said:

        Yep. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d split up with someone for being involved on a dating site — it would depend on the details — but I would definitely split up with someone for being distant and obnoxious and for saying, “I’m not sure I want to take our relationship to the next level that we’ve been planning” without offering any other alternatives.

    • Yeah. I dated a dude who cheated on me three times with the same woman (I forgave him, lather rinse repeat), and after some thought, after the breakup, I concluded that he wanted out but didn’t feel like he had adequate grounds to break up with me, so he cheated on me and then only clumsily tried to hide it.

      He then wanted to “stay friends” so he wouldn’t feel like he was a bad person, but eff that.

      I look back on that relationship with gratitude that it happened, because it was really nice when it started, and then gratitude that it ended, because I deserve better. And now I have it.

    • Linden said:

      Heh. I divorced that guy. He’s still whining.

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      Was it Veronica Mars that had an episode where the guy wanted to force a break up because if he did it himself the tradition was that she got to keep the (expensive, heirloom) ring? Some show in that genre, anyway.

      That ship metaphor is great.

    • notleia said:

      Oh shit, been there.

    • I dated several of these “I want it to end but don’t want to be responsible” guys. I waited all of them out. (Why, I’m not quite sure; maybe I thought I was accruing cosmic points for patience?)

      I regret having dug my heels in. In all cases, it was a waste of time and kept me emotionally invested in someone who wasn’t sufficiently invested in me to break up properly, let alone be in relationship properly.

      • LabLizard said:

        I waited it out so that they could stop thinking of themselves as “the good guy” or “the guy that gets the bad breaks”. So not worth the time to teach a grown man I am no longer in a relationship with a bit of self-awareness.

    • Molly Grue said:

      YES. I just left a comment somewhere… in the thread above? That I think [boyfriend]’s behavior is the behavior of someone who doesn’t want to do the emotional labor of breaking up.

      Every single breakup (male/female) in my friends group, from Seriously Abusive Hit Him With a Cast Iron Pan to Just Kind of Lazy and Not Worth Your Time, pulled this stunt. It makes me SO ANGRY. It’s like social judo, helped out by all the sexist narratives that emotional labor is women’s work and when a relationship doesn’t work out, it isn’t because a guy is a lazy turd sitting in the middle of the carpet, it’s because the woman didn’t sacrifice enough of her time/energy/thought/soul on him. It’s always her fault.

      Given this, my advice, for what it’s worth, is to break up with as little fuss and muss as possible. Why waste energy on a relationship when the other party clearly isn’t?

  13. 30ish said:

    Oh man, that’s so tough. I’m sorry, LW. I agree with the Captain’s advice, but I’ll say if you do want to confront him about this and hear his explanation – rather than just breaking up directly – then do it. You have to be aware though that confronting him might reveal further instances of cheating or near-cheating, and you have more than enough reasons to break up already (especially him being shitty and saying he doesn’t know if he wants this relationship anymore), so you have to weigh that against the desire to confront, if you think you’ll suffer additionally if more sleazy stuff is revealed. I guess it could also provide you with a more definite feeling of having to move on, which might be helpful.
    Kudos for hearing this news and not shooting the messenger, btw. I really admire that.

  14. Anisoptera said:

    LW I know how hard it is to see the bad in people you’re very close to, or to see it clearly at least. And that’s partly because we develop beliefs about who someone is and what they’re like that can be resistant to change. Unfortunately it’s possible to be deceived, or to just be wrong, or to be blinded by wishful thinking or otherwise mistaken about the whole of someone else’s identity.

    What I mean is, you have this mental picture of this guy as this awesome person you like so much you’re planning a wedding. It’s going to be tempting to think that you can somehow fix whatever this is and get back to that. Please consider the possibility that he’s never been quite as you’ve seen him, that he’s been deceiving you. That he may well make an attempt to deceive you again – although if he’s telling you he’s not totally into your relationship perhaps not. Believe what he says. He’s not into it. He’s fishing for alternative options. You don’t have the relationship you think you have.

    It’s super hard to change these mental pictures once we have them. To adjust our beliefs about reality. To accept we can be wrong about something so important and someone we think we know so well. But step back and try. Life is too short and there are better, less tepid lovers waiting.

    • neverjaunty said:

      THIS.

      Especially when adapting to the new reality is very painful.

  15. Mary said:

    I think this is probably the most likely version, but I think it would probably also benefit the LW to think about the question, “If we were going to carry on, what would I need to see?” What explanation for the messages would satisfy you? How much apology? What non-shitty, non-distant behaviour would you need to see going forward?

    If he turned around and said, “You’re right, I’ve been crap. I’m so sorry. I don’t want to break up and I do want to have a future with you. What do I need to do? What do we need to do?” – what’s your answer?

    It might be too broken to fix. It *might* be fixable. That means actively fixing it, not just forgiving and forgetting because of a dramatic one-time apology. So what would that look like? How could you re-build the trust and the intimacy? What would it take?

    If nothing else, think about this whilst you’re still angry so you don’t get seduced into, “well, he *looks* sorry, and he *says* he’s sorry, so I guess we carry on” and then find yourself in exactly the same situation but two years older. Good negotiation strategy isn’t to prepare for the worst, because sometimes you get confronted with something just a little bit better than The Worst, and you’re so surprised you accept it and only realise later that it’s still utterly unsatisfactory. So think clearly about what circumstances you would be willing to work this out, and make sure that if you do decide to try this, you’re holding him and the relationship to high standards.

  16. DameB said:

    LW, I don’t know how old you are. But I’m in my 40s.

    When I was in my 20s, everyone was getting married. EVERYONE. I had one summer where I had a wedding every other weekend from early May until late September. My own wedding was one of those. And in many of those cases, one partner was acting weird or squirrely or getting cold feet or doing stupid things in the run up to the wedding. (This was back before anyone used the internet to date but I imagine if Match.com had existed, at least two or three of them would have been in your situation.)

    Now, almost two decades later, I notice a striking pattern. Those couples where one member acted weird and distant and shitty in the run up to their own weddings? They are all divorced. Every. Damned. One. Of. Them. And we’re not talking amiable divorces. We’re talking public scenes, sobbing and screaming, ugly custody battles, court fights, bitter acrimony.

    Those who were stressed but stressed TOGETHER? Still married, happily.

    Think ahead twenty years, LW. My friends who didn’t break up with their “shitty, distant” partners all have N kids in therapy, a mortgage on a house full of dead dreams, and an ex who they can’t rely upon for child support payments.

    Best of luck. Ninja hugs if you want them.

    • Sparky said:

      In the week before their wedding, a friend’s fiance said he wasn’t sure he wanted to go through with it, she flung the guest list at him and said,”Then you call all these people and tell them the wedding is off!” She knew he wouldn’t. And they had a horrible, abusive marriage. She finally divorced him, met and married a great guy. But she could have skipped the whole thing so easily, if one of them was willing to eat some costs and face some social embarrassment.

      • I knew a woman who had to get staggering drunk on the morning to get through her wedding, which she did because the thought of going out and announcing to all those people that she’d made a mistake was excruciating, and her marriage, like her husband, was nasty, brutish, and short.

        • msethyl said:

          Oh she may have married my cousin. For all of 8 weeks. Everyone could tell she wasn’t into going through with the wedding, but nobody seemed to think it was worthwhile to sit her down and say “it’s ok if you want to call this off.”

          • Anonchalance said:

            In the lead up to my first wedding, I started having second thoughts and couldn’t admit it directly to myself. I was sick and stressed, and regularly woke up in a cold sweat with my heard pounding, but I told myself it was “wedding planning stress” and “normal jitters” and that it “didn’t mean anything.” It bubbled up as I was standing at the door to the hall waiting to walk down the aisle, and I joked to my mom, “Is it too late to change my mind?” Mom didn’t miss a beat and said, “Nope” and just left it there. I caved to the societal pressure that was bouncing around my head and went through with it. If I had gone with my gut and called it off, I could have saved both of us a lot of heartache. Instead I had the unenviable experience of waking up on the day after my wedding and having my first thought be, “What have I done?” And the experience of getting divorced 2 years later. There was nothing really wrong with my ex…he just wasn’t right for me. And by not listening to my true self, I hurt us both.

          • A friend of mine had the official (legally binding) marriage a couple of months before the church ceremony and celebrations, and just closest family as guests for the former. I think that’s a sensible thing to do – if you decide before the legal wedding that you don’t want it, there’s enough time to call off the celebration.

            Big, expensive wedding ceremonies might be part of the reason why people get married to the wrong people.

        • heffalumps said:

          I was living with a couple who were planning on getting married. BOTH OF THEM individually in the weeks before the wedding told me privately that they were “having doubts.” I told them both “THEN DON’T DO IT.” they both insisted they’d invited family, made arrangements, etc. etc. no have to go through with it. they were married less than two years.

          “I think this cliffside might be falling into the sea, should I buy this lovely house there?”
          “NO IT WILL FALL INTO THE OCEAN.”
          “but it’s *so nice*, and I’ve already started the paperwork…”
          /house falls into ocean

          • Ohhhh, man. If anything would tempt me to break my rock-solid “I will not tell my friends what they should be telling each other” rule, it’s this. That had to have been torture.

          • Anonchalance said:

            After my short-lived marriage, a friend of mine who had guessed that I was having second thoughts but didn’t speak up about it, was part of the wedding party for another couple. The couple was fighting A LOT during their wedding planning. My friend pulled them aside and said, “Hey, Friends, I love you and I want you to be happy. You seem to be fighting A LOT right now, which makes me wonder if you actually really want to get married. If you’re just doing this because you feel like you’re supposed to, I can’t be part of that. So…can you sit down and talk to each other about why you’re fighting so much and whether or not you really do want to be married to each other. If the answer is still ‘yes,’ I will be there with bells on.” Couple talked and came up with “YES!!! We want to be married to each other, but OMFG the wedding planning and our respective families are driving us up the wall and making us miserable. LET’S ELOPE!” They called my friend and said, “We’re heading to Vegas to get hitched in a couple of weeks with just a handful of friends, wanna come?”

    • Alli525 said:

      I love your perspective here. I’m rounding the corner on 30 (and happily single), watching a few of the “married young” couples I know start to fray around the edges, or fall apart completely. It’s sad, but not entirely unexpected.

  17. Sheelzebub said:

    The Captain gives great advice here–I concur 1 billion percent. (That’s actually an understatement.) I’m addressing your fear of him being okay with you dumping his passive-aggressive, cheating ass:

    1) Are there things you enjoy that he does not? Do them! Are there things you like to wear that he hates? Wear them! Are there foods you adore that he makes faces at? Eat them! Not to annoy him–who gives a fuck about him at this point–but to remind yourself that you can enjoy these things very freely without him around.

    2) If you live together and you do not own your home together, yes, move out. (If you own property together, talk to a lawyer.) But picture your new home and how you want it to look. Maybe it’s a small, simple apartment with a few things you love, kept just the way you want it. If you live in your own place, clear his stuff out, give it back to him, and make plans for the space it took up. Even if it’s just a few CD’s or a shelf in the medicine cabinet.

    3) Now that you don’t have a wedding to plan or a boyfriend’s passive aggressive dipshittery to deal with, you will have free time for better and more enjoyable things. Fill it up with better and more enjoyable things. Think of the cool and fun things you want to do–they don’t have to be spectacular–you don’t have to go trekking in the Himalayas or anything. But you owe it to yourself to do things you enjoy.Make a lot of plans. Hang out with your friends. Go for walks. Go to dinner. Have people over for dinner or game night or a Monty Python movie marathon if that is how you roll. Join Meet Up. Take a class.

    4) Tell yourself every day, every goddamn hour if need be: “I am good enough. I am BETTER than good enough.”

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this shit, LW. Please let us know how you’re doing.

    • ashbet said:

      So much love for this advice <3<3<3

      And the Captain's — asking for an explanation means that you have to suffer through passive-aggressive, whiny excuses about why he HAD to look for attention (if not more) from other people, because somehow YOUUUU WEREN'T DOING ENOUGH.

      Eff that. If someone is treating me like dirt, the last thing I want to hear is their reasons why they felt justified in doing so.

      DTMFA, and fill your life with things that bring you joy, LW — not people who make you feel not-good-enough. Wishing you well and happy ❤

  18. quinalla said:

    Great advice here and so sorry you are going through this LW. I wanted to recommend this site’s forums to you: http://www.survivinginfidelity.com/forums.asp as just a lot of other folks who are going through or who went through the same thing that can be of help to you I think. Jedi hugs if you want them and if you do end up breaking it off as it sounds like you probably will, take the time to grieve what might have been, it’s ok to do so.

  19. Mir said:

    I noticed you said you’re terrified that he’ll agree to break up. Why is that? I think that’s something to seriously think about. Is it fear of social judgment from family or friends? Fear of change? Fear of the upheaval it’ll cause in your life (if you live together or have shared friends)? Is it fear of
    being alone, fear of not finding someone else?

    Logistical fallout from a breakup can be very taxing, but it is survivable. Social judgment likewise. Gravitate to the people who are on Team You and offer love instead of criticism. If you’re afraid of being alone, please spend time talking to yourself kindly, and do your best to work through that. Write out your feelings, or talk to a counsellor, or confide in a friend. You need someone who will remind you of all the wonderful things about you. You need to believe that a relationship with someone who does not love you and treat you well is a giant waste of your time. Being single is better than being in a relationship with someone who “isn’t sure” about you. If you want a relationship, look for someone who loves you completely, not someone who sees you as “eh, better than nothing.”

    Some practical suggestions for how to do the actual confronting from someone who has been there:

    1. Before you say anything to him, make your decision about what you want. Sounds like you want to end things, which from your description of this guy, sounds like the right move to me, but get into more detail than that: figure out what resolution you want have for shared living spaces or pets, financial details, other logistics, as applicable. Figure out whether you want to try to stay in touch or not.

    2. Hopefully, as you expect, he will be relieved about the breakup. But people who are on the fence about a partner, distancing themselves, looking elsewhere, etc. sometimes do this because they’re afraid of being alone and are using their current partner as a lifeboat because they fear being alone. Sometimes when these people get confronted with the shittiness of their behaviour/infidelity, their reaction is to cling to the existing partner much harder because of terror of being alone – he may profess undying love for you, cry and apologize, and beg to be forgiven so that things go back to how they used to be. Don’t believe him. That’s fear of change talking, not love. Fear is not a basis for a relationship.

    3. Get this solidly in your head: you are going to tell him what you have decided. You are not bringing your case before the Court of Boyfriend for him to consider your thoughts. A relationship is over when one person says it is, period. He gets no veto power, no due process. He can feel whatever he likes, and tell people his friends what he likes, and he can make reasonable demands as to shared furniture or whatever. But you do not need his approval to break up with him.

    4. If he asks for reasons, you only have to give them if you want to. You don’t have to justify anything. It sounds like you want to tell him how angry you are about being lied to. If you do, do that in a way that is healthy for you.

    5. Practice what you’re going to say several times before you do it, either by writing it out, imagining it in your head, talking to yourself in front of a mirror, or with a close friend. The goal is to be able to say what you need to say confidently and unapologetically.

    6. If you have any reason to be concerned for your safety or are just stressed about the idea of him having an emotional meltdown, break up with him in a public place (like a park) where there’s enough privacy to talk about personal stuff but people around if he gets angry.

    7. Have a solid self-care plan in advance for how you’re going to spend the week after the breakup. Where will you be staying, if your living arrangement is in flux? What will help you regroup and relieve stress? You might want Netflix and a blanket nest, or you might want drinks on the town with friends, or a road trip. You might want to go to the art museum or reread a favourite book.

    8. Connect with your support network and let friends and family know you’re going through a time of upheaval and need some extra company and TLC.

  20. Lisa said:

    LW – please initiate your preferred self care options asap. Move your body, eat good food, hair done, work on a hobby – whatever works for you. Breathe and see if you can take a couple of days break from this situation to get your head on straighter and decide what works for you. Highly recommend visiting a friend or going away for a weekend if you can afford it and turn off your phone. No texts, no calls from him, no social media. Nothing. Tell him you’re going out of town and turn it off. You need space and self care stat.

    Ask yourself – is this relationship working as is? Never mind the dating site. If this hadn’t happened, would this still be good for you? AS IS – not the well maybe if he changed, paid more attention, less attention blah blah. AS IS.

    Yes? No? I think you need to be really clear about this info about what you want and need aside from his internet extracurricular activities.

  21. GuideNotDefine said:

    LW, as someone who has been cheated on and who has also cheated (the latter causing me to get the therapy I desperately needed), please believe me when I say that your partner’s level of dissatisfaction with you does not matter. What matters is that he has been unable to be honest with himself about what he wants and what will be best for both of you. It was on him to sit you down and say, “I’ve really enjoyed our time together, but it’s not working for me anymore and I want to end things before one of us gets hurt.” You deserved to hear that from him.

    The idea that a “good” relationship can only end when somebody dies is toxic. It causes us to put on blinders and overlook serious compromises to our happiness and mental health. Keep your eyes open, no matter how much it hurts. You deserve to be happy.

  22. LW said:

    Hello all – LW here.

    Thanks so much to Captain and Awkward Army -so many of your comments have been immensely helpful. Can’t even express my gratitude.
    I can clarify a few things: we do not live together, thankfully. I only have a few things at his house, and vice versa. He is struggling through depression and anxiety and not having the meds he needs, which is a complicating factor. We’ve been in couple’s counseling for a year (as of tomorrow!) I’ve been working as hard as I can to make this work, but as noted above, I can’t make him give a shit. I can’t be some mythical perfect girlfriend that he will someday love and respect properly.

    The good news is I was already beefing up other relationships in light of his distance. I have two girls’ weekends away planned in the next month, and I’m surrounding myself with love and support. I have a good Team Me.

    Someone mentioned not shooting the messenger, and it’s funny because that’s exactly the phrase I used when Jane and I were talking. She responded with “Well, you may be down a potential husband, but you’re up a friend!” and gave me her number and told me she’d been cheated on so I shouldn’t hesitate to call or text if I needed anything. She’s actually super awesome. On that note, thankfully Boss and Boss’ Wife are also great people who respect privacy and won’t make things uncomfortable for me in any way. Jane only talked to Boss about it to confirm whether SO and I were still an item, so she knew whether it was something to raise a flag on or not.

    I like the idea of letting him wonder what I know…

    I’m soaking up your comments as emotional sustenance. ❤ thanks so much.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hi! You’re gonna be ok! YOU ROCK IN FACT.

      And since you have Couples Counseling, “Hey, did you want to tell me about the messages you sent Jane on this dating site? I think I have the screencaps here if you need to recall them. Anything else I should know about?” is a good talk to have with a referee, if that’s a talk you want to have at all.

      • golden peanut said:

        Wow. That is sheer brilliance. Not only is it completely fair and reasonable, it’s also going to drop one hell of a bomb on him in front of a witness.

        • I actually made an involuntary screeching and exploding mortar sound while reading the Captain’s couples counseling suggestion.

    • LabLizard said:

      So glad you posted! Great to hear about Team You as well, it sounds like you are in a good place to make big decisions. Jedi hugs, high fives and/or thumbs up, depending on your comfort with touch by random strangers

    • 30ish said:

      I wish you the best. Rock on. Also, I’m really happy to hear that the awkwardness with your boss will be minimal.

    • You rock LW.

      How great that Jane has gone from acquaintance to friend.

      Since you’re in counseling, if you want to, and if it’s soon enough, counseling might be a good arena to break up in.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Oh, this is good news and I’m so relieved. And I’m glad you have a potentially good friendship out of this. This entire thing sucks now but down the road, when you and Jane and your friends are laughing over brunch and you talk about how each of you met, this story will be amazing. Terrible now but amazing later.

      I’m relieved to hear you don’t live together–it will be much easier to end things and move on.

      Seconding CA’s suggestion for the couples’ counselling session. IF you want to confront him about it, do it in the session. And honestly–I’ve dealt with clinical depression and it sucks. HOWEVER, your needs and your feelings count too and YOUR mental health matters too. Staying in this situation will wreak havoc on it.

      Hugs to you!

    • neverjaunty said:

      *FISTBUMP OF JUSTICE* for your awesome self, OP.

      You don’t owe him a chance to fix everything, you don’t owe him being the one to do everything to “make this work”, you don’t have a moral obligation to wait like Penelope until he gets his depression and anxiety managed.

      Things will be so much better when you send him on his way, which will be a better way for BOTH of you.

    • Hi LW! I am so glad you seem to be weathering this well. 🙂 Tiny story time: once upon a time, a woman made a determined effort to get my late husband to leave me. She miscalculated pretty badly, but about a year later, I somehow stumbled on a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend on social media whose long-time secondary bf had just started seeing the same woman. I thought about it for a few days, and then bucked up my courage and sent her a private message: “Hi, you don’t know me, but this woman is bad news. If you want details, I am available. If you would rather I eff off and go away, I am also amenable to that. Just let me know.” She contacted me for more info, I told her the things I knew about this woman. The woman was successful in separating this friend of a friend once removed from her boyfriend, but the friend of a friend became an Actual Friend, and she and I have been friends for well over a decade at this point, and we would never have met if not for the vile cheatress. 🙂

    • jdrives said:

      LW, you are awesomesauce. Way to cultivate Team You! This is a hard thing you are going through, but like the Captain said, you’re gonna be alright.

    • So much hugs and love to you, LW! You’re going to be okay, and you’re going to be awesome.

      I’m really relieved you’re not living with him as that was a major point of concern for me, just because I was in a similar situation a year ago (wow, really?) and couldn’t imagine leaving, it was so hard, finding a new place, it seemed daunting and impossible… until I HAD TO, and then suddenly realized that everything precious to me fit in one suitcase and two cat carriers. Friends and family were AMAZINGLY supportive, have continued to be, and helped me tremendously. I was half-worried my family would hate me as they loved him… but really, it was because he ostensibly made me happy and they love ME and my happiness is more important, so like, no-wedding has never ever been a source of guilt or grief or anything, just people relieved I’m okay and pursuing happiness on my own now.

      Or, in more coherent terms, people who love you will care about your happiness. We’re here for you and I hope you follow up, either with the Cap or on the forums, because we care and you deserve support and happiness.

    • Commander Banana said:

      Big Jedi hugs to you. I have been in relationships with Tepid Dudes, and trust me…you are a zillion times better off out and in.

      • Commander Banana said:

        Out *than* in, sorry!

        Seriously, though, the Awkward Army is behind you one thousand percent and you can absolutely do this. You got this, LW!

    • Mel Reams said:

      All the jedi hugs, LW. It is so shitty that you’ve worked so hard on your relationship (a whole year of couples counseling, that’s commitment!) just to slam into the fact that you can’t force your boyfriend to give a shit.

      You are awesome for having your team you all ready to go! I think you’re going to be just fine, and I want to remind you that you have every right to be super fucking pissed at your boyfriend. Even if he’s depressed, even if he’s dealing with anxiety, even if he can’t get meds/the right meds/affordable meds, even if maybe things could have been different if he were healthy. If you start doubting yourself, this other captain awkward post might be helpful The Broken Record. He’s treated you really badly, you have every right to be angry.

      You can’t love him healthy, and if he’s determined to hit the self-destruct button on this relationship there is nothing you can do about it. Keep taking care of yourself. This is going to suck but you’re going to be just fine.

    • misspiggy said:

      Just in case the depression and anxiety thing ever niggles at you, LW, I’ve been with two guys with significant depression and anxiety. One is my husband, who also cannot get the right meds as it happens. The difference turned out to be that he really wanted to be with me, and so he fought very hard to make that possible. The other guy didn’t. Best of luck to you, you are clearly awesome and have done everything brilliantly.

      • LW said:

        Thank you for this. ❤

  23. e271828 said:

    Wash that man right out of your hair, LW, and send him on his way.

    You are going to be happy in the joyous life you will live without him in it.

  24. Psyche said:

    Here is another good website that helps: http://www.chumplady.com. If nothing else, it will provide you with many hours of cautionary tales about why it is a terrible idea to marry someone like this! Thanks the gods for this red flag, and go forth in your own amazing new life!

  25. Also, not to be a downer, LW, but you should probably get tested for STIs. If he’s been considering cheating, he may have already cheated.

  26. golden peanut said:

    Totally off-topic:
    Hey, married and partnered people: Boundaries! Jeez, you are a team, not a hive mind. Your SO doesn’t actually need to know every dang thing about your friends, especially when it is very personal, sensitive information and YOUR SO IS THEIR BOSS. And if your SO starts to tell you something that you are pretty sure is not your business, tell them, hey, SO, I don’t think Golden Peanut would want me to know that about her.

  27. megpie71 said:

    LW, congratulations. You appear to have narrowly escaped the chance of being made ridiculous as “the woman whose husband started cheating on her as soon as they returned from the honeymoon”.

    Celebrate your narrow escape by dumping the swine. Reflect on the glories of being able to get rid of someone who clearly doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to actually say “I want to break up”, or at the very least, “I don’t want to get married”, and obviously doesn’t give a rancid rat’s arse about your relationship otherwise. Even if he was just putting out feelers, in the tradition of the law of wing-walking (“don’t let go of what you have until you have a good hold of something else”), should you dump him, you’re not likely to be losing that much.

  28. Thanks for checking in, LW. You deserve all the good comments, and better than you’re getting from you’re fiance.

  29. LW said:

    Hello again –

    Did the dumping.
    It went like this:
    “I’ve been made aware you have an active dating profile, and you’re messaging other women.”
    “When was this supposed to have happened”
    “YOU TELL ME” (nice try, bucko!)
    —irrelevant bullshit during which he claims we were broken up at the time—
    “So, do I need to get tested”
    *some crap where he implied I’m promiscuous*
    “I don’t think it was an unreasonable question, given that you apparently thought we were broken up when I didn’t”
    “You’re right. I’m sorry. No, I didn’t sleep with anyone else.”
    —more bullshit—
    Him: “I’ve been unhappy for a long time. I think we should stop seeing each other.”
    Me: “YOU CAN’T FIRE ME, I QUIT”
    *looks at my self-satisfied face, cracks up laughing* “You’ve got this ‘SO THERE’ face”
    “Yeah, well, you’ve gotten to do all the dumping! I get to do some of it!”
    Then we both laughed, and he remembered he likes me and how we laugh together, and he got sad.

    So, it’s done. I’m sad.
    New chapter.

    • JenniferP said:

      A happy sad ending. 🍷🍷🍷

    • It is sad. But it really sounds like it had to be done. Kudos for doing it.

    • Mookie said:

      So awesome. You came at this exactly the right way, and doing so helped you both to a sad, but mutually-satisfactory and cooperative resolution rather than a blow-out full of bad, resentful exchanges, huffs, and burnt bridges. Be proud of yourself, and yourselves as a pair (of acquaintances now, maybe friends), really. Not everyone otherwise compatible for each other can pull off a lasting, healthy relationship. Some fizzle out, some are born to fail, and some run their course.

      It’s a great lesson in coming together to honor the relationship by ending it properly and respectfully, owning one’s mistakes. It can be done, even if one or more partner fucks up while getting there.

      It feels so good, so hopeful, so light and baggage-free, when you can part like this, happier and hopeful and without too much regret. No need to fear the outcome of future relationships, when you’ve wound up a sort-of mildly bad one (at least near the end) this well.

      Well done!

    • Yay! Well done you! Now it’s whatever you want for dinner and a rewatch of that show he hated on Netflix and all that fantastic stuff!

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      You’re sad now, but you’ll be happier soon. As breakups go, laughing together sounds pretty good.

    • Molly Grue said:

      I am so glad this wound up having a satisfying ending for you! I love the “You can’t fire me, I quit!”

      Best of luck going forward, you deserve someone who will put in as much effort as you do!

  30. Karak said:

    I just put the finishing touches of fire on a seven year relationship after a years-long affair came to light.

    Stop talking to him. In the name of God stop. I didn’t stop and became obsessed with what he owed me and how he screwed me over and the time lost to that is months and emotional energy I cannot get back.

    Block, don’t stalk. Repeat that mantra as necessary for as long as you must.

    • Roro said:

      Yep. Talking and keeping in touch is crap. I’m not sure how one can stop though, especially at the beginning. Once you reach the bottom/critical point, yep, you delete all of him/block/delete his friends etc. But at the beginning…it’ll be hard as hell. Don’t blame yourselves if you do. God knows we all make the most pathetic pleas in the immediate aftermath – it’ll subside in time but oh Lord…it burns, unbelievably so, at the beginning. Stay strong

  31. Roro said:

    Don’t laugh with him anymore 🙂 My ex was 40 and an idiot who had been” unhappy for a while/a year” whatever and he didn’t actually bring it up and did all this shit behind my back, preparing new girls to enter the harem. I was finally told- I brought the conversation up- at the fireworks last year hahaha 🙂 He had a sweet oh-I’m-so-innocent-and-unhappy look on his face as if he was blameless. I cried shitless for two months/couldn’t breathe etc then realised hang ooon I don’t respect him. Then BAM love was gone! ME WAS BACK!
    If you look at him for the pathetic little liar he is, you’ll lose respect for him and then everything will be easier. So I think. Worked for me. Yeah we all make mistakes blah blah but come on. He shouldn’t “shit” on other people like that. Poor baby cute him remembering he likes you and you laughing. DON’T laugh with him anymore. Despise him for the cowardice and seriosly I wish that you can soon soon cut him out for good. People with no emotional responsibility like him (he thought you were broken up wtf..you weren’t exaclty informed it seems) deserve no friendships with exes (you). Don’t.
    Tell him ina frenc accent: I piss on you :))))))))))

  32. Roro said:

    ALSO! Don’t feel the need to stay friends with him. I know everyone is playing this card, but perhaps someone who did not respect you should not get your freindship. We all want to do that out of politeness/people expect that, it looks good/people will think more of me if I do/you get to have him close still/be around him etc. Look after yourself and don’t forget…you’re the most important person and at the beginning out of hurt you’ll want him around. But maybe all this “honour thy past relationship” talk everyone else is putting forward is for people who have ACTUALLY honoured it when it was happening. Take stock of your feelings, wants and needs and read this blog
    http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/friends-dont-try-to-screw-you-screw-you-over-or-screw-with-your-mind-other-thoughts-on-being-friends-with-your-ex/
    and don’t forget…it’s ok not to stay in a friends with exes who want you to forget the shady things that characterised the end of a relationship and who don’t seem to feel much guilt. You deserve sincerity and respect girl… It’s ok to say thanks but no thanks, I only stay in touch with people who have not treated me like shit.. Buh-bye

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