#983: “How do I comfort my friend…my sexy friend…who lied to me about having a girlfriend…about his recent breakup with that girlfriend?”

Hey Cap!

Okay so this is going to be a little complex, but  I hope that you could maybe provide some insight on the situation. 

I met a guy online (a long-distance situation) and we’ve been in contact almost daily for a year and a half now. We’ve gotten to know each other and it turns out that we’re on the same wavelength and get along so well. In the past I had asked him if he had a girlfriend because I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything (we have “intimate” moments), and he said no and that he used to but that he wasn’t happy. But just recently, he messaged me that he had finally broken up with his girlfriend! So my questions are actually:

1. Initially I felt hurt that he lied, but approaching the situation calmly,  it’s difficult not to comfort him, I mean we ARE friends and we do feel a little more than what friendship feels like. When he told me I politely thanked him for telling me and asked if he wanted to talk about it. 

When he opened up a little about it, he said that he thought that it would make him feel better, but after doing it, he felt sad. But he also kept telling me that it had been a long time coming, and that he had been wanting to do it for so long. I’ve never had happy breakups even when I was the one to break it, so I told him that sadness for a while is normal, and that if he had wanted to do it for so long then, there’s a fundamental basis for it that’s obviously important. So now, how do I actually comfort him?

2. I’m confused about the situation. At times he tells me that I make him smile, that he wants to be with me, and I believe because if I didn’t, then we would’ve stopped talking ages ago. The connection and attraction that we have are both pretty strong, and I actually want him and want it to work, and I have plans to see him in a few months. I don’t know what to make of it – him telling me that he’s now free, how he initially feels about it, and so on. So Cap’n, can you please help me make sense of it? Thank you Cap’n!


You asked for my take on “a complex situation” (from your email subject line).

Whatever this guy is to you and however you feel about each other, he lied to you about having a girlfriend all this time. And it’s not like he never mentioned it and you never asked. You asked him directly because you were not comfortable doing “intimate stuff” if he was involved with someone else, and he said no. And then you talked almost every day for a year and a half. He didn’t “forget” that he had a girlfriend or “forget” to mention her.

It’s also highly possible/probable that he lied to his girlfriend about having an “intimate” friend who he had attraction and “almost daily” contact with. Like, maybe they had some kind of agreement or open relationship and everything was cool, but since he’s describing himself as now being “free,” I think it was…not cool?

You’re asking how to comfort him and he seems to want you to comfort him. Okay? Who’s comforting you about the confusingness of being lied to all this time? What is he doing to make you feel better about being hurt?

For a while in my life I was the queen of the long-distance sextual relationship. I’m really good at longing and storytelling and someday, and because the Internet is magic I kept finding people who were also good at those things and together we’d spin some tales and build up all this anticipation and then we’d finally meet in person and…


…one by one…

  • …”I’m single. Well, actually I’m divorced. ‘Separated’ is more like it. Well, we will be separated soon, just, not yet. It’s just not the right time.” (These people are definitely still married to each other).
  • …Told me he was 45, was really 55.
  • …Was at least 15 years older than any photo he’d posted on line or showed me.
  • …He was not all that into me once we met in person.
  • …I was not all that into him once we met in person.
  • …Good on the phone, selfish and annoying in bed.
  • …Bad with consent and careless about safe sex.
  • …Or, sexually AWESOME, bad with everything else.
  • …I was but one of the sympathetic and imaginative ladies in his harem of long-distance ladies.
  • …Or, I was now “his only friend” and/or “only reason to live.”
  • …In one case the “harem of ladies” AND “you’re my only real friend” situation were both true? (Ugh.)
  • “She’s just my roommate, I swear.” (She was his girlfriend.)(Who was working her ass off to support him through a crisis.)
  • …Showed up to my city for a visit with no money and expected to move in with me…the first time we met. (NOPE!)
  • Hey come to my son’s birthday party I want you to finally meet my friends and my mom and my son…bring your video camera and take some home movies for me…oh, also, I will treat you like the hired videographer and my mom will treat you like the caterer/party planner because my real actual girlfriend who I’ve never mentioned is also here and nobody knows about you.” (TRUE STORY, Y’ALL)(I ACTUALLY PUT ON A CLEAN SHIRT AND WENT TO THIS DUMPSTER FIRE OF A “PARTY” AND TOOK VIDEO AND PUT SNACKS ON PLATTERS AND SMILED)

Me, Aged 24-33 = A MESS. A mess with a big phone bill who sent novels worth of sexy and attentive instant messages and emails to verbal, imaginative, interesting men in far-off cities.

These Gentlemen of Mystery I got tangled up with often had a lot to recommend them at the beginning. We had great chemistry, they made me feel important and sexy in a way I hadn’t before, they allowed me to spin out a fantasy life over time and distance and distract me from the mundane day-to-day, there was an inherent drama in traveling to meet them or them traveling to meet me, I got a lot of excitement out of each ping saying I had a new email or text message or IM and those methods of communication were fertile ground for a charismatic and wordy person like myself. Long distance romance spins out in words and you can collect those words and re-read them and go live inside the story you’re making and have actual evidence of the other person’s thoughts and feelings and fill in the spaces in those lovely, lovely blanks. Plus, I got to say “I have a boyfriend” without having to deal with the reality of an actual boyfriend up in my space and business all the time. I liked the version of myself I could create with these men.I liked being In Love. I liked practicing being In Love…from a safe distance.

Long distance relationships are real relationships, relationships that start online and grow over time are real relationships, and they can work – My Facebook wall is covered with too many cute pictures of the offspring that resulted from cross-country flights and leaps of faith and love to ever say that they can’t.

That said, if you’re planning a long-term future with someone, proximity eventually matters. Seeing a person’s living space, seeing how your intended love interacts with the people around them, seeing them in their milieu and day-to-day life, having the evidence of your own eyes and ears and other senses to guide you about whether this person is good for you, whether they are compatible with you, whether the picture they presented to you is congruent to the picture you observe, learning how you are together when it’s not just the adrenaline rush of a quick few days or some texts between classes or those late night phone calls…it’s important. It’s part of this and you can’t skip past it to happily ever after. You have to reckon with boring real everyday life.

Besides meeting online from a distance, the men I met during that period of my life all had two very important things in common:

1) They all *lied to me* about something really important early on in the relationship.

2) Being long-distance made the lie harder to spot. This meant that it took longer for the truth to come out, during which time I became very invested in the relationship and it was much harder to leave than if I had known what was up right away.

In all cases, I found out about the lie and I chose to believe the explanations and justifications they threw at me, usually some version of “I didn’t want to hurt you,” “I knew you would hate me when you found out and things were going so well between us that I was afraid to ruin it,” or “I lied initially when we first met because I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with you, and then it was never a good time to undo the damage.

In 100% of these cases, I would choose to “be the bigger person,” look past the red flags, demonstrate how empathetic and chill and forgiving I could be, and, 100% of the time, a situation that was about *a lie they told me* would turn into *me reassuring and “comforting” them.* For how they hadn’t meant to hurt me.

Because RealLoveTakesWorkAndCompromiseYaKnow.

The Mediocre Dude With 1,000 Faces:I understand if you hate me now” or “You probably hate me now.

Past Me:I could never hate you!

Current Me: “Pssssttt hey you don’t have to hate him to know that you deserve better than this. You could say ‘I don’t hate you but I don’t think this is going to work out, sorry, bye‘ and hang up the phone now.” 

Mediocre Max (Mike/Milton/Marvin/Martin/Merle/Matt/Mitt/Melvin/Merv/Mark/Mario/Mason)(Marco/Micah/Maxwell/Miguel/Malik/Miles/Marshall/Murph/Malcolm): “It’s just that I have a bad history with [ENTIRE SAD LIFE STORY] and I don’t really know how to [TREAT YOU/WOMEN WELL] because of [REASONS THAT ARE COMPLETELY NOT MY FAULT] + [CODED WORDS THAT INDICATE YOU SHOULD HAVE EXTREMELY LOW EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT I CAN DO BETTER IN THE FUTURE] + [WORDS THAT INDICATE THAT WE SHOULD CONTINUE HAVING SEX, WHATEVER HAPPENS].

Past Me: “It’s okay! I forgive you! I know you love me and we can make it work.” (i.e. My emotional labor can solve anything!)

Current Me: “He said a lot of words but none of them were actually an apology. Huh. That’s interesting. What if you told him, ‘I don’t want to make you feel worse right now, but I also don’t want to keep talking about this. I wish you all good things, but I just can’t be with someone who doesn’t tell me the truth. Let’s end this now before we both get more entangled and hurt?‘”

My dear Letter Writer, forgive me, probably 50% of this blog is me trying to yell through time to my past self – “Run away! He’s not worth it! You deserve better!” Let’s bring it back to you.

Your dude isn’t necessarily like the dudes I met and your experiences won’t necessarily be just like mine. People fuck up and make mistakes, not every relationship ends or begins cleanly, and maybe this friend you have is genuinely sorry for lying to you about his romantic situation for so long while you were doing whatever intimate & sexy stuff you had going on. You want this to happen and I want to be optimistic for you and give everyone the benefit of the doubt here. So what I have are questions:

  • Has he told you he’s sorry?
  • Has he used words like “I’m sorry I lied to you about that, I shouldn’t have done that, that wasn’t okay, I understand why you’d be upset” without trying to self-justify or make you feel sorry for him or comfort him?
  • Have you said (or do you feel like you’re able to say): “Hey, sorry you’re hurting, but can we talk for a second about how I had no idea you had this girlfriend until just now? That’s messed up and it doesn’t make me feel good.
  • Does he try to “rules-lawyer” his way out of a difficult conversation, like, “We weren’t technically together when that happened, so it doesn’t really count as a lie”?
  • Is there a vibe where you’re like “Ok technically he has a point, so why do I still feel so crappy?
  • Which is more important – you feeling good, safe, able to trust – or him winning the point?
  • What does he do for you?
  • What has he done for you lately?
  • Do you trust him to tell you the truth from now on?
  • What would happen if you took a couple of weeks off from talking with him so much?
  • Another version of the above question: What’s That Thing in your current, day-to-day life that you’re ignoring or avoiding or putting off while you dream about Someday, When You’re Together?
  • Could you work a little more on That Thing and a little less on This Sexy And Complicated Dude at least for the time being?

You don’t have to dump him as a sacrifice to my younger self, but you also don’t have to comfort him through any of this. You don’t have to overlook the hurt you’re feeling in the name of being a good friend right now. If he’s good for you, and a good friend to you, maybe let him do the work of showing you that goodness before you invest more of yourself in his comfort?



201 thoughts on “#983: “How do I comfort my friend…my sexy friend…who lied to me about having a girlfriend…about his recent breakup with that girlfriend?”

  1. I remember being so concerned with how my crop of complex guys felt. I was always so busy trying empathize with the guy that I forgot (or didn’t realize at the time) that I was at least as worthy of empathy. It was more than ok to make decisions based on what’s best for my own emotional health and that needed to be my focus. LW…is that your focus? Do you think it should be?

    1. I was the same! I was sooooo worried about their struggles. I discussed their struggles at length with friends, never mind how shitty they were to me. I thought it was okay, because the connection was SO SPECIAL. Ugh.

      1. That’s always a red flag of a bad relationship – when you describe it to your friends and find yourself going on and on and ON about all the other person’s struggles, how hard their life is, etc. As opposed to a brief summary like, “Yeah, he’s divorced, has an IT job, recently relocated from Seattle. We both love MST3K and kitty cats.” As opposed to directly talking about any of your OWN feelings. When you give off a vibe like someone soliciting for a charity as opposed to an equal partner describing their other half. (Saying this as someone who’s been there, done that. And since I have been there and done that, the red flags now jump out at me right quick).

    2. The last question we finally ask ourselves is the first question we should have asked: How can I/you have a relationship with a person you cannot trust.

  2. In the past I had asked him if he had a girlfriend because I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything (we have “intimate” moments),

    LW, I want to focus on this for a sec. He doesn’t respect you, and he doesn’t respect your deal-breakers. You had conditions for doing A Thing with him. You trusted him when he said those conditions weren’t in play. This dude betrayed your trust. He lied. And then you did A Thing with him that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. Your agreement came directly because he lied.

    LW, this dude is not on Team You. He lied to you and now he wants you to Perform Sympathy and feel bad for him for something you didn’t know about, and would have been a major redflag if you’d known. What else is he lying about/willing to lie about in order to manipulate you into doing something?

    He had plenty of times he could have mentioned Girlfriend. He didn’t. He knew what he was doing.

    At times he tells me that I make him smile, that he wants to be with me, and I believe because if I didn’t, then we would’ve stopped talking ages ago.

    My reading comprehension isn’t up to great things today, so I’m not sure if this means that you believe that you make him smile because otherwise he would have dropped you, or you believe it because if you didn’t believe it, you’d have dropped him. Either way, he’s telling you things, but how do they match with his actions? He says a lot of things. What he _does_ is cheat on his girlfriend with you and after they break up, expect you to perform the role of New Nurturer and help him through the tough times.

    LW, you deserve someone who doesn’t lie to you about these things. You deserve someone who doesn’t lie to get you to consent to things. You deserve someone who makes you smile, not just him smile.

    1. This. I mean, I read it the first way, and that basically comes down to “if he wasn’t getting something out of me paying all this attention to him while he lies to me, he’d have dropped me.”

      (I hadn’t really thought about the other reading. If it’s the other way, then it’s basically “he’s getting something out of me paying all this attention to him while he lies to me, so I can’t drop him.” And the only thing I can say to that is: LW, a lot of people will want things from you, and that doesn’t mean you have to give them those things.)

      Of course you make him smile, LW. You were fun to cheat on his girlfriend with.

      Of course he wants to be with you, LW. You’re thoughtful and caring and while you’re initially hurt about being lied to you’re willing to put that aside in the name of being “calm” because he gives you connected (pants?)feelings.

      (I bet his girlfriend also felt connected to him, at one point.)

      To go back to your first question: If you ask, he will tell you exactly how to comfort him (possibly with words like “I don’t want you to feel like you have to” or “you’re so nice, you don’t have to, but…”). It’s up to you if feeling connected to this guy is worth doing what it takes to make him indicate he feels comforted.

    2. Also: note that the guy only revealed that he had a girlfriend after the breakup, when the LW would feel like she ought to give him sympathy.

  3. I’m going to be more direct than the Captain because I think she’s even now giving your “friend” too much benefit of the doubt. (Probably because she is much nicer than I.)

    Your “friend” is a liar and a cheater and he hasn’t come clean about either one of those, based on what you’ve written here. You deserve better than to be some dude’s long-distance backup.

    I think your script is, “Huh, I thought you said you didn’t have a girlfriend, but now you’re breaking up with one? I don’t have time to sort out how both of those can be true [BECAUSE THEY CAN’T, DEAR :LW] and I don’t want to spend time working on an LDR with someone I can’t trust. Best of luck and have a good life, but I’m out.”

    Perhaps I’m being too harsh. All I know is that, in my experience, people like this continue to have trouble keeping their stories straight and if you were to become his official seal-on-parchment GirlFriend, someday he would be giving you the “oh, she’s just a friend, she doesn’t mean anything, she’s having a rough patch and I’m trying to help her through it, don’t you WANT me to have friends, and by the way we’re done because she’s actually more than my friend now” speech.

    1. No, you’re way too nice. I’d have evily laughed at the phone at him until he had ended the call.

      Btw: doing a lot of casual online dating, if I had a dollar for every guy who told me his girlfriend was okay with this – no wait the relationship actually ended yesterday (when I asked to talk to her) -etc it would be enough to pay my bills next month.

      1. I would have done the same, but I am an embittered cynic who has apparently lost the capacity to develop romantic feelings and doesn’t mind if said capacity never finds its way back, so grains of salt etc.

    2. Totally agree. From the LW’s point of view, he lied about having a girlfriend and from the (now-ex) girlfriend’s point of view, he was carrying on an emotional affair (at least) with the LW. The fact that the LW was deliberately misled about the girlfriend makes me highly suspicious that the ex-girlfriend did not have a clue about the LW’s existence. Or it may be that she discovered it and dumped the guy. It doesn’t matter. The LW should take this as a pretty damning indictment of this guy’s honesty and ability to respect boundaries—she wasn’t comfortable having “intimate moments” with someone who was in a relationship. He misled her so that he would get to cross that boundary. There are all kinds of red flags here.

  4. Thinking of the reasons I stayed with people who were absolutely not good for me…the biggest one was the fear and pain I experienced at the thought of being alone. Of having to manufacture a way to fill the void that they filled for me, and I had no idea how to do that. The emotional pain I experienced felt nearly unbearable. It was easier to be with them (even while I was being hurt by them), than it was to feel the pain of facing my sense of abandonment. I didn’t have the resources to face it at the time. Now I do.

    At the time, though, i couldn’t even admit to myself, much less anyone else, that I was so unhappy within the relationship, because admitting it would require me taking action that I wasn’t ready for. I wish I had known then that being honest with myself had its own healing power. And that I didn’t have to take any steps I wasn’t ready for. But lying to myself was only going to damage my soul.

    I had to do a lot of self work, including therapy, to get to a point where I preferred my own company to being with someone who made me uncomfortable (much less caused me pain); and where I was able to identify and the. pursue the things I wanted to do.

    1. Good comment. So much of what’s wrong in relationships can be tied to needing the idea of another person as providing worth for our self and life. My feeling is, the very best relationship you can possibly have with another person will come from a place where you are totally at home with yourself and love being just with yourself, and where you know that you can and do take care of yourself.

    2. “At the time, though, i couldn’t even admit to myself, much less anyone else, that I was so unhappy within the relationship, because admitting it would require me taking action that I wasn’t ready for.”

      This lays out so clearly and concisely what I went through in my own toxic relationship. And why I defended said relationship, even when I was completely miserable. Thank you for that!

      I ended up jumping ship from toxic boyfriend directly into a relationship with my now-spouse, who is amazing and supportive and wonderful. I’m grateful that I was both extremely lucky to find him, and also clear-headed enough to recognize that this new relationship lacked the red flags of my old one. But though I wouldn’t wish it away for the world, I do sometimes in retrospect wish I’d had a period in-between to be alone and work on myself.

    3. Yeah…I wasted almost seven years of my life (and I know others see their broken-up relationships more positively, but I see mine as nothing but a total waste that could’ve only been a partial waste if I’d ended it years before I did) with someone because I didn’t know that my preferred state of being by myself was just fine. I thought I was stuck with my now-ex, because starting all over again sounded absolutely miserable (going out and meeting people is anathema to me – it’s not that I don’t have fun, it’s just that my idea of fun = getting up at 2 a.m. to drag my ass up a mountain).

      Things had to hit rock bottom and then try to dig even lower before I understood that anything, even setting up an OKCupid profile, would be better than staying with my ex. I promised myself I wouldn’t set that profile up until I was good and ready to do so, and 4 1/2 years later, I’m still not ready and doubt I ever will be…and aside from some occasional pitying looks and snide remarks from people who don’t get that being coupled is NOT the One True Way to Happiness for everyone, I haven’t gotten any grief for it.

      1. Thank you for this, NTNA. I’m a recent widow, and I spent most of my 20s with a withholding, passive-aggressive, asexual man. I finally took action, left him, and found my husband. But yeah, all of what you say resonates. I was married twice, for 25 years total, and it’s like shouting into the wind to say NO, I really DO NOT want another relationship. I’m well experienced with this, though, because throughout my 20s, I was all like NO, I really DO NOT want children — in the South. I am glad you and I are both at a place, or beginning to be at a place where we are comfortable in ourselves. I wish you all the best!

  5. I once started dating someone who mentioned that he was still living with his ex gf (but they were totally broken up, really!) but then I ended up at his place and….it was a 1 bedroom….and they were both still sharing the bedroom. I noped out of that situation so fast I think I left skidmarks. It just wasn’t worth it to me to deal with the drama. Seriously, you deserve better. Your situation isn’t really that complex, you were lied to by a guy that you thought was trustworthy.

    1. I just had something similar happen – I had met a dude on Tinder and we wanted to meet up for a hookup (with the potential of it becoming a FWB situation) and he asked if I had a problem with him “not being quite single” (is not quite single like not quite pregnant?). He has a relationship with a chick who is adamant that they’re not a couple, but gets jealous when he gets likes from women on Instagram. As a general rule, I don’t get involved with people in relationships (I don’t care if it’s monogamous or open), but this had ALL my alarm bells ringing and I couldn’t run fast enough.

    2. You might have been in my apartment and on a date with my ex!
      He told multiple women that we had broken up, and that he was sleeping in the spare room while he tried to find a new place and move out. We had a one bedroom apartment with pictures of us together on the living room walls. Our clothes were in the same closet. You’d have to have been blind to get past the entrance hall and not smell a rat.

      It took me a long time not to be angry at those girls, because it felt like they were being willfully ignorant, but I’ve slowly come to realize how well guys like him spin lies, how well they figure out how to fill the right void in your life to make you want to overlook their bad behavior, and how finely tuned the shower of flattery that they bombard you with to stop you questioning things too much is.

      When I found out about one of the girls I kicked him out. That was two years ago, and I’ve just heard from her out of the blue. She wanted to check the timeline of them meeting because she suspected he’d been lying about being broken up with me (spoiler, he was!) and she needed to know exactly how big a liar he was because she was now pregnant and had just called off their engagement over unrelated infidelity.

      LW, lying to you, and cheating on his girlfriend are two very big instances of dishonesty. It tells us that he’s pretty comfortable telling big, long term lies, even if he knows that he’s hurting people he is supposed to care about in the process. What kind of friendship/relationship is really possible with someone so lacking in integrity? You deserve someone who doesn’t lie about big important things and who definitely doesn’t ask you to comfort him in the face of those lies.

      1. I think guys like that subscribe to “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission” from both the new interest or the girlfriend. IF the new interest finds out and IF he can’t convince her that he and the GF are roommates/about to break up/in an open relationship/but she cheated on me first and IF she peaces out, he probably figures he can always look for another sidepiece and the GF is keeping the bed warm in the meantime. If the GF finds out, pretty much the same thing but he can always promote the new interest to GF.

        1. I also think people are too quick to blame the “other” person. Yes, there are some people out there who pursue married men or find out about a girlfriend and proceed anyway. But more often than not (in my experience), it is the person in the relationship who is lying to the “other” person (along with lying to their partner). I can see that it is easier to blame someone else outside of the relationship for the problems – it abdicates (your and) your partner’s responsibility for your problems, but… if your partner is lying and cheating, the problem is your partner.

          1. After all, the person in the relationship is the one who has made the commitment. They are the one breaking it by cheating.

    3. What jumps out at me here is that he brought you home to his place. I was once legitimately stuck in a 1-bedroom place with an ex for several months. Because this was one of the most expensive housing markets in the country neither of us could afford to pay the rent on our own, it was a 1-bedroom so wasn’t suitable for getting a roommate, and the landlord was my co-worker so we couldn’t just bail out of the lease. We both dated others during that time. But as difficult as that situation got (this was my Darth Ex, so it got rough), neither of us brought anyone back to our place!

      Ironically, it was during that same time period that I started seeing a guy who adamantly swore he was separated from his wife but couldn’t move out yet for financial reasons. Which I believed because I was in the same boat! Until one day I picked up the phone to hear his wife screaming at me about how I’d seduced him and broke up their marriage and hurt their young kids. Except, umm, yeah, he was the one who pursued me and lied to me about being married. So with that I was out.

      LW, I know you care about him, but he lied to you. I struggled with this for a long time, but it is possible for something to both have some good traits *and* for that same person to do objectively crappy stuff like lie to you. And someone who lies to you isn’t worth your time and energy. You deserve so much better.

      1. To be honest this was in SF and of course its hard to move around when you are in a really expensive market and not making much money. I forget exactly what he told me but I did not get “still sleeping in the same bed with my “ex” from it”. I was more than a little weirded out by the whole thing and whatever his deal was I wasn’t interested in hearing about it. At that point I’d known him for like 2 weeks max. Like either you’re single or not, like there’s no shades of gray here.

  6. I’m also pretty stuck on the “he lied to you” bit. Relationships are about communication, and this wasn’t an omission–you asked and he lied. The part of me that likes to be charitable feels differently, but also has no reason to be.

    My experience of a lying BF is a bit different because it never came out that he had another GF, but while we initially stayed friends after the breakup his lies wound up backfiring when he was trying to lure me back in–first he managed to piss me off (mostly due to bad timing) and then actually helped me get totally over him.

    Relationships are communication, and lies are not good communication.

  7. My dear Letter Writer, forgive me, probably 50% of this blog is me trying to yell through time to my past self – “Run away! He’s not worth it! You deserve better!”

    It turns out that’s both popular and helpful; please stick with it!

    I’m going to veer away from hoping for the best to highlight something important about the lie: this dude sucks at sexual consent. He actively, intentionally lied to you for over a year about having a girlfriend, about something that he knew was an important element of your decision to engage with him in “‘intimate’ moments”. There are doubtless great things about this dude that have attracted you to him, BUT I CAN’T SEE ANY OF THEM THROUGH THIS GIANT RED FLAG COVERING MY ENTIRE VISUAL FIELD. If he were closer and you were in a position vet his claims and behavior so he could rebuild trust, it *might* be worth trying to salvage a relationship (though it might well not), but given the circumstances, I think you should write the sunk emotional cost off as a learning experience and cut him out of your life.

    1. What’s the phrase; “Rose-colored glasses make red flags just look like flags”?

      1. From Bojack Horseman: “it turns out, when you’re looking at red flags through rose tinted glasses, they just look like flags”

        Stoked to see a fellow Bojack fan!

    2. Johann7…the sucking at sexual consent was something the Captain related about her past. It’s not something the LW said about her current situation. That said, I’m in agreement with advice to the LW: run away. he’s not worth it. you deserve better.

      1. No, Johann7’s point is that the LW gave her consent for sexual talk / cybersex etc on the grounds that the dude was single. He breached her consent agreement by pretending to be single.

        Would he breach condom consent? STI consent? Having sex in the first place consent? We don’t know, but we do know that he didn’t care about her be-single-first consent so clearly some degree of breaching consent is okay in his book.

        1. To add to that list of consents: Consent or non-consent to record any intimate moments that occur over a computer/the phone. Seems extreme at first but who else imagines this guy saying: ‘Oh, I just wanted to feel close to you and you are so far away and I was living with that (insert derogatory term for gf that implies lw is the only one who can comfort this guy in his time of need)’

      2. No, because the LW said:

        “In the past I had asked him if he had a girlfriend because I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything (we have “intimate” moments)”

        She consented to those intimate moments with the understanding that he was single. Since he lied about being single, he put her in a situation that she had not consented to, and had in fact specifically asked about, because she wanted to avoid it.

        Achieving sexual “consent” via deceit means that you aren’t allowing the other person to make an informed decision and exercise their own agency.

        This dude sucks at sexual consent.

        1. I almost want to say that the term you’re looking for is Rape By Fraud if the intimate moments got past a certain level of intimacy.

  8. If I could have back all the time I spent in my 20s comforting people (mainly men, but I am bi, so let’s be serious) who had just savaged my emotions, I would have so much time. I don’t know that I even want it back, per se. I may just want to live that moment again, but this time say to each of them, “You are a shitweasel, a waste of every precious second I’ve spent on you, and now I’m going to kick you quite hard directly in the taint and then go shopping.”

    Shitweasels do not deserve your concern, LW.

    1. Here, here! Think of all the shopping. (Or sub in activity of choice.)

      LW, this of course is not to say, as Captain pointed out, that your job is to make good on all the time We All Wasted on undeserving crapbags. If this person turns out to be a not-undeserving not-crapbag, then huzzah. But those of us who have come waltzing down that road see some similarities here, and maybe you do too, and if you want to go shopping (or whatevs) instead of spending time on this human, you can see there’s plenty of support for that choice here.

    2. I don’t think I’d be able to get that time back, because it was by nurturing unworthy shitweasels that I slowly learned that I could be around other people and feel like I had something to offer, and eventually the thought of someone loving me wasn’t too implausible. Nurturing was the only way I knew how to get the love I craved, since I couldn’t accept it when it was offered straight-up. But that aside, god damn I’m glad that stage is over and I can prioritize people who actually treat me well.

      1. I want to second this so hard. I dated some terrible men. I was full of self-loathing. While I’m a bit mad that past-self didn’t end things with crappy Darth 2 years earlier, I know it was all real lessons I needed to learn and I’m grateful to be on this side where I know the people I don’t want to date but also it lets me really appreciate how much better current partner is.

    3. +1000.

      I love the way you put so bluntly – “comforting people who had just savaged my emotions” – THEY were the ones who committed the act of harm, and now you’re the one having to comfort them?! Late 20’s Me wants to print this comment out and send a fax from the future to Early 20’s Me marked “URGENT.”

  9. The Evil Bees must have built a hive somewhere nearby because the buzzing is loud and clear. This guy is bad news! He lied to get past your boundaries, he lied to get consent that would have been withheld had he been honest, and he lied to make himself feel good at your expense. I don’t think you can make this work because the only reason it’s worked to date has been his ongoing deceit.

  10. “You initially said you didn’t have a girlfriend, and now you’ve said that you’ve finally broken up with your girlfriend. Those 2 don’t go together. Which one is true?”

    “What are you going to do to rebuild trust with me so I know you’re not lying?”

    You’re going to see him in another few months. Will that be in his home town? If not, can you arrange it so it is? And arrange it so you’re not staying at his place or you have a back-up so you don’t have to stay at his place. This way you have a chance to check out more of his story. When checking him and his situation out, make sure you meet his friends– or listen carefully to his reasons for why you can’t. His friends can tell you a lot about him. Take note if doesn’t seem to have any or if his friends are all online or if his friends are people he’s only known for a short while.

    1. Yes, exactly this. I was in a similar situation once– I was (I thought) this guy’s girlfriend, except it turned out that he (probably) had another girlfriend and I (probably) was the other woman. Various red flags? Didn’t want me telling anyone we were in a relationship. Didn’t want me to meet his friends or family. Correction– actively prevented me from meeting his friends and family. Did not want me present in the capacity of his girlfriend at social events. Dumped me the moment that it looked like my meeting these people would be unavoidable.

      In short, is this guy excited to show off his awesome new girlfriend to his favorite people? If yes, great! Is this guy really weird about integrating you into his broader social life? ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT.

      1. “In short, is this guy excited to show off his awesome new girlfriend to his favorite people? If yes, great! Is this guy really weird about integrating you into his broader social life? ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT.”

        This, all of this, else YOU TOO can have a Mr. Secret Baby in your life! (Dear Readers, rest assured, he is not really in my life as anything other than a punchline at this point.)

    2. I wish I’d done this when I was younger. I got emotionally invested in a guy that ended up not only having a live-in girlfriend but several girls on the side – of which I was one. And…the kicker? I came home from a weekend away with a friend to 12 messages from him. He’d called me collect. From prison. Where he was being held for reasons still unknown to me, but he was calling me for bail money. I emailed him to tell him off and his live-in girlfriend emailed me back – and told me that if I’d slept with him I should be tested because he’d given her two different STD’s from the women he’d been sleeping with. Luckily for me I was only emotionally invested and hadn’t physically gotten involved with him. Do you know he emailed me when he got out of jail to tell me off for not being there for him in his time of need? WHAT?!?! I never responded because I just didn’t have the energy to argue with that kind of stupidity.

    3. Oh LW, the Captain had very wise advice but I cannot endorse Clarry’s post more strongly. I was THIS VERY person in the Eighties (Pen-and-paper letters not texts! Long-distance phone calls not flat-rate!) and spent -years- being the Understanding And Forgiving Long-distance Girlfriend. Only when I arrived in his hometown to see him in his native environment did I finally have enough information to make the informed decision to get the hell out and away…but he dumped me hard before I could do it. I don’t think I could have found my self-esteem with a scanning electron microscope.

      On the other hand his roommate and I had many long interesting conversations several of which were about how similarly badly we were being treated by him…and we will be celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary next April.

      1. Finally something good comes from all the bad! Congratulations, SamKD!

        1. GhAWDs no. I did, however, have some choice words when he called up a few months after the dumping wanting yet another go-round.

    4. Going to see him another few months? Why does this guy get to waste another few months of LW’s valuable time and emotional attention? LW, the feelings are complicated, but the situation is simple and the guy is transparent. He lied. He did this to get past your conditions of consent. He lied for a long time. Every time he talked with you, he was lying, and he did it to get you to do something you wouldn’t have done if you’d known the truth.

      1. Why still see him anyway? For closure, if nothing else. For “maybe it really WILL work out” with a side of “and it’s not like I’ve got anything/body good going on nearby anyhow” and lots of book/television/movie lovers-reunite happy endings with a dash of “I don’t want to believe I was that wrong about someone for that long.” Oh wait – that was me. Which means I totally understand why LW isn’t ready to toss this particular fish back in the sea just yet. I’d love to tell me then and LW now “don’t go! Be Warrior Woman and tell him off now for his lying lies! You can and will do SO much better in the future!” but curiosity is an incredibly powerful drug. Go…but have condoms, backup housing and a credit card with enough buffer to get you the hell home on no notice at all if it goes sour.

          1. It may be true that finding someone else / going shopping would be more effective closure, but isn’t this thread full of stories of people learning that the hard way by not doing those things themselves at the first red flag (because, as RabbitRabbit reminds us, “rose-colored glasses make red flags just look like flags”)? I don’t think SamKD is saying “LW should still see him for closure,” but rather, “LW may decide she still needs to see him because she thinks that will give her closure.” Maybe seeing him (and learning this lesson the hard way) WILL provide closure this time in such a way that in the future LW can get closure from finding someone else or going shopping.

            LW didn’t ask “do I comfort my friend…?” She asked “how do I comfort my friend…?” So she might not be ready to act on “you don’t.” She might not be willing to abort. She might still go through with seeing him in a few months because she doesn’t have the distance/perspective to recognize the strong pink tint of her lenses, in which case, “run away!” is useless–that ship will have sailed. But SamKD’s advice about the logistics of seeing him and what to look out for if and when she does isn’t necessarily inconsistent with LW hoping her guy is a good guy. She can take those precautions without abandoning hope for or jeopardizing a potential happy ending with him. If we accept that LW might see him anyway despite the chorus warning her not to, why wouldn’t we want her to have some tools to mitigate what we know will likely be a terrible, scary, heartbreaking experience for her?

          2. I didn’t read SamKD’s comment as “If you do this monumenally foolish, but understandable, thing, here are tools for the inevitable heartbreak.” I read the comment as “Yes! There are good reasons to stick around! Reasons like closure.”

            But even if you’re right, I disagree.

            Remember, the LW won’t be seeing this guy anytime soon. So preparing for seeing him is, effectively, putting her life on hold.

            Think of it: months training herself to ignore the lies. Months teaching herself that her emotions aren’t important. Months getting more attached to this guy.

            No. I don’t think that’s a good idea at all.

            That’s why I was dismissive.

          3. Sigh. Yes, the vast majority of us think this guy is bad news and that LW would be best served by cutting it off cold now and not going on the trip several months hence. However 1) it isn’t our decision and 2) LW may decide to go anyway for Reasons, some of which I listed. I am certainly not advocating “go anyway for closure” but rather saying “a need for closure” may drive LW to keep the visit (as it drove me long ago) and hear but not heed voices urging otherwise (as did I.) Thus I wanted to offer acknowledgement of and sympathy for a decision the heart makes over the brain’s objections and some practical advice if that indeed happened.

          4. I realize I’m probably flogging a dead horse since SamKD has offered clarification (which I think confirms what I said last night) and you Mrs Morley have apologized for misreading their original comment, but writing this is making me feel better about my previous comment not having been successful, so here I go.

            Just because YOU (and *all the rest of us, including me and SamKD*) think something is a bad idea doesn’t mean LW isn’t going to do it anyway. And if we accept that she might do it anyway for reasons of her own, again I say to you, do we still not want the best possible outcome for her no matter what she does? People do things that are bad ideas all the time against the advice of people who know better, even when the advice is solicited (and in this case, I repeat, LW was not asking whether or not she should comfort her friend, but how to–so much of the advice in the comments section here IS unsolicited).

            Recognizing and preparing for the possibility that a person might do A Thing that others know to be a bad idea is categorically not the same as claiming that A Thing is a good idea. Similarly, comprehensive sex ed and giving out condoms in schools are not endorsements of teen sex–they’re pragmatic responses to the reality that you can’t stop teens from having sex just by telling them not to have sex and leaving them ignorant about consent, contraception, STI prevention, healthy relationships, etc.

            SamKD’s advice is about how, ***if*** LW goes forward with meeting this guy, LW can become better informed about him and how she can most easily and safely get away from him if she needs to. You can offer someone a parachute (or a condom) while simultaneously hoping they don’t put themselves in a position to need it–the offer alone is not a command to go skydiving.

          5. No need to apologize at all Mrs Morley! In re-reading I see how one could interpret it that way and I wasn’t the least bit upset in the first place. However since it was very kind to offer one I accept in the same spirit of kindness. No worries; we’re all good 🙂

  11. Captain. How could you not link Janet Jackson in that list?

    Fear not. I am here to rectify the situation.

    JANET: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9uizdKZAGE

    And LW, our girl Janet has a real point. From what you tell us (and I’ve come to believe strongly that what we choose to include and choose to omit tell us plenty about what’s going on), what this guy has done for you lately is hurt you and confuse you. And while he does that, he makes claims on your time, asking for your care. Boooo.

  12. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, LW. It really hurts to trust someone and discover they haven’t been honest with you.

    I don’t see any indication that he apologized for lying, or even acknowledged that he lied. For me, an acknowledgement and apology would be a bare minimum for recovering from something like this with any sort of friendship intact. Absent that, I’d feel messed with and used, mildly gaslit, and like it was not safe to trust the person again.

  13. Dear LW,

    I’m not as sanguine as the Captain.

    I knew a man who’d occasionally, out of the blue, say “I broke up with someone.” His friends would say “Who? Does she know yet?”

    I think your long distance guy is like this man.

    Dollars to donuts that at least one of the following is true:
    – His girlfriend doesn’t know they’ve broken up (because he never told her)
    – He broke up with one girlfriend, but he’s seeing multiple other women – women he hasn’t broken up with

    Please think carefully about why you should comfort him.

    Please think carefully about the kind of relationship he’d provide.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    1. Agreed–there are a LOT of possibilities that involve more lying:

      -His girlfriend broke up with him, which is why he’s all sad about it.
      -There was never a girlfriend at all and he just wants attention (and to show how in-demand he is)

    2. hahah, omg, I dated a guy who broke up with me and didn’t tell me! We kept hanging out as normal! (Luckily, I was not sleeping with him.) He just stopped calling me by pet names and started using my legal name exclusively…and then started calling another girl who often hung out with us a pet name.

      Fortunately, my reaction was “huh, this guy is CLEARLY a dick” and quietly stopped hanging out with him. (The girl was super-cool and we are still friends. That was over 20 years ago now. Neither of us talk to that dude anymore.)

      1. My college roommate dated a guy whose go-to method of breaking up with people was to stop taking their calls, while having his mom still take messages and claim that of course he was still into you. She knew this because he was doing it to at least one girl when they first got together, and he freely admitted that that was how he handled the end of a relationship. Then it happened to her and she was shocked and hurt because she’d assumed she would be special enough to change him and/or that of course *they* would never break up.

        I wish I could say that she (or at least I, by observation) learned from the experience and stopped dating assholes, but that sadly did not happen.

        1. Oh wow this was my ex. When I started seeing him (I’d known him online for a long time) he had “just broken up” with his last girlfriend. I supported him through the break up and that’s how we got close. Two days after our first date, he “had to” meet her for a sort of “closure” meeting, which he said afterwards had been hard and emotional and we met up that evening and had a really lovely date to help him get his mind off it.

          A little while later he showed me an email from his ex just to “prove” how crazy she was. It was all “I get that you wanted to break up with me but you could at least have told me?! I mean you went straight from breaking up with me to a date with your new heartthrob, so there must have been something going on!”

          This didn’t strike me as too unreasonable but I thought okay maybe she was a bit clingy. He seemed pretty clear about them having broken up. In fact the reason why our FIRST date happened was that she’d invited him to her mum’s birthday party before they’d broken up and he didn’t think it was appropriate for him to go now they were over but didn’t have a good excuse or anything else to do that day (he and the mum were fond of each other). So I invited him to a event that I knew he’d be into.

          It always struck me as weird that he always said our anniversary would be the day of our second date, not the first. He said it was because that “closure” hadn’t happened.

          It wasn’t until he did it to me too that I realised he only broke up with people in his head, then stopped talking to them and just expected them to disappear.

    3. This is along the lines of what I was thinking. Something about this dude screams “Does not take action to improve his own situation/is a passive participant in his own life.” Ever seen Sliding Doors? If not, definitely watch it – both because it’s funny and because Jerry the Cheating Boyfriend (you find that out in the first 5 minutes, so no spoilers here) is so utterly frozen with indecision. Every slimy, deceitful mess he makes with women is because he’s just incapable of being decisive. There’s a scene where he tells his friend that he’s “finally broken up with” the Other Woman. The viewer knows he hasn’t – she dumped him – but he was seriously relieved to be out of the relationship and he sure talked a good game.

      So yeah – *if* he and this girl are actually broken up, I have a feeling it’s not so much a thing he *did* as a thing that kinda happened through inertia.

  14. Oh god, the Captain’s party story makes me want to take her past self out for all the drinks, and tell her “You are awesome. Never forget that.”

    1. I’ll be honest, it makes me want to try and organize a party in her honor. But… I have no organizational skills and have a good chance of being too geographically removed to do the thing.

      So… Jedi Party?

  15. My take on this is simply – as of now, he’s lied TO you. Now you’ve seen his pattern – so, how long do you think it will be until he lies ABOUT you …. to the next woman he pulls this same sort of shit on? Because he will, virtually for certain. Dump his lying ass. He is not worthy of you. And you DEFINITELY do not owe this lying sack of shit any “comfort.”

  16. LW, let me say one thing. You will find someone else. I know that it can seem like this person, this connection, this guy is irreplaceable. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. But it’s not. He’s not. You can find other guys who won’t lie to you and will make you feel like this. You deserve better, LW.

  17. Bluntly, LW, your “friend” wants you to comfort him now, in his hour of need, because you’ll be too busy focusing on his feelings to ask questions about the way he lied to you.

    This dude is the cheesy, awful Chris Angel of relationships, and his emotional pain is the puff of smoke distracting you from his sleight-of-hand girlfriend shenanigans.

    I’m so sorry this happened, LW. You’re way too good for this guy and his act.

  18. LW, this guy doesn’t care about you and your feelings. Don’t waste more of your life energy on him! He’s not a good boyfriend for you!

    You might feel sad and lonely when you break up with him, but those feelings won’t last forever. Just imagine what you can do for yourself with all that time and emotional energy you have been devoting to this dude!

    You deserve to be treated far better than this. If you want a loving and respectful partner, this is a good example of the opposite.

    I’m sorry you have invested so much time into this guy but I hope you can treat it as a learning experience.

    All the hugs to you if you would like them.

  19. Ugh, ugh, ugh to the whole “getting a divorce/separated/but not really” thing. A few years ago, I met a guy who was separated who said that his divorce was “almost final.” Y’all, nothing had even been filed. When I finally decided to look it up, because, wow…his divorce has been “almost final” for well over a year…and asked him about it, he said some ridiculous crap about how he was trying to work out the agreement with his “soon to be ex” before filing but that she was stalling (which, of course, doesn’t explain why he hadn’t filed anything.) I still can’t believe that I put up with it and made excuses for him (both to myself and to my friends.)

    1. Exact same thing happened to a good friend of mine, only they were to the point of almost buying a house together. Suddenly, he was “having trouble with the bank” and other myriad excuses for why he couldn’t buy the house with her yet. His wife had ZERO idea what was going on (apparently she thought he was traveling for work when he was gone and with my friend). It was insane. And yet…I hear about this kind of manipulative crap over and over again from different women.

      If someone tells you they lied to you about something as important as the foundation of your relationship, BELIEVE IT. He told you who and what he really is. Don’t expect that to change.

  20. How do you comfort him? A lot of “hmm” and “I feel you, that sucks” will do the trick just fine. Sometimes a person just has to get all their sads out and it’s good to have someone to affirm you. Hope that answers your question. Now, LW, let’s get to the good shit: how will he comfort you?

    You were lied to. By someone you trusted. You’ve been in this long-distance, emotionally intense relationship for a year and a half now. He makes you feel so good. You get so excited to hear from him. You tell him things you didn’t think you’d tell anyone. You trusted him. And he lied to you. How is he comforting his friend, you, in this time of betrayal and confusion?

    If he’s not, if y’all haven’t addressed in depth the fact that he was dishonest and disloyal, please think about that for a looooooong time. Please think about all the times throughout every day that he could have told you he lied and has a girlfriend. Please get out a calendar and mark down each month that passed without him telling you he lied and has a girlfriend. Please look through every text he’s sent you that did not say, “I lied: I have a girlfriend.” Please recall that you deliberately and directly asked if he has a girlfriend, and he deliberately and directly told you, “No.” Please consider all the things you bring to the table, all the reasons he likes talking to you, as literal things you brought to a table; and consider the things he brings to the table as a chocolate cake. And you asked, “Are there apples in this cake? I am allergic to apples.” And he said, with his cheeks bulging with your homemade potato casserole, “No. It is a chocolate cake.” And think about all the foods you brought that he has eaten throughout your five course meal without telling you the cake he made was a vegan recipe that substituted apple sauce instead of butter.

    Please think about what you wish he had said. Please think about what you would have said if you were in his position. Please go back to thinking about how you asked him, and he lied through his teeth. I’m saying these things because you asked the captain how to untangle this situation: a relationship, whether it’s strictly friendship or it’s rolling around on the edge of friendship and occasionally bumping into romance, is an agreement two people enter into. When you get emotionally intimate with someone, especially for a long time like you and your friend have been, to lie to or mislead your friend is a mean and disrespectful move, and there is no grey area. You either are transparent and truthful with a person or you are not. You said you didn’t want to continue your “intimate moments” if he was seeing someone already; well, it turns out he was seeing someone already. Many people above me have pointed out that this man lied to you. You call this situation complex. I don’t think it’s complex at all. I think your feelings are complex. And I think you know yourself better than anyone in the world ever could. I think you need to take a minute away from this man and away from this situation and let yourself process this.

    Set aside an hour where you sit in your most comfortable chair and simply dwell on things. Turn off your phone. Do not read or watch TV. People deal with breakups by themselves all the time, so please don’t let worrying about him interrupt the Dwelling. Just angst about this. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t feel stupid and self-absorbed and maudlin and emo. You are the star of the show that is your life, and this is the part of the movie where someone lied to you, and this is the angsty scene where sad piano music plays and you gaze pensively out a rainy window, wearing soft blue pajamas and hugging your knees to your chest. Just sit by yourself and let yourself feel this. Feel it from every angle. Lean into those feelings. Think about what those feelings are telling you.

    Things to think about while you’re Dwelling:

    ` How do you feel?
    ` Why do you think you feel that way?
    ` When did you start feeling that way?
    ` When you feel bad, does he make you feel better?
    ` When you feel bad, does he make you feel better, or does he distract you?
    ` When you feel bad, does he make you feel better, or does he make you feel like the problem isn’t as big a deal as you thought?
    ` Pretend your letter was written to you by a friend. What would you tell your friend?
    ` Pretend this is a movie, and you are on your third beer. What do you shout at the screen?
    ` Pretend this isn’t the only lie he’s told you. How would you feel? What would you do?
    ` Pretend he never says he’s sorry. Pretend he’s never sorry. Does that change how you look at him?
    ` Pretend it’s the future. Pretend you met in person and you’re a couple now. Pretend he spends a lot of time texting and online, and if you ask him what he’s up to, he just says, “Just talking to a friend of mine,” presses the lock screen button, and puts his phone in his pocket. You know. Does he know you know?

    As far as life events, this one’s not the worst thing that could have happened. You’re a strong person and you’ll be ok. And you seem pretty fine about it in your letter. But that emphatically does not mean you don’t get to be upset about it. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to linger here. It doesn’t mean you have to “move on” or push past it or “not make a big deal,” or “not make it about yourself,” or whatever you’re telling yourself. You are a person and you get to feel some type of way about things.

    If it were me? I’d distance myself from him until we had “drifted apart.” Or maybe I would have the courage to bring it up like the captain always advises. Maybe I wouldn’t move in with him and “find out” he’s cheating six months in.

  21. “Initially I felt hurt that he lied, but approaching the situation calmly, it’s difficult not to comfort him”

    dear LW, I wanted to highlight this part of what you said because as yet another person who wasted a large number of years bolstering the fluctuating egos of a number of guys instead of taking care of myself, this really stood out to me. because to me it reads as though you feel that ‘approaching the situation calmly’ equates to ‘taking all your feelings and emotional reactions out of the equation and looking at it Rationally, Like A Person With No Feelings Of Their Own Would’.

    LW, just in case this is a thing you do not know or find hard to hold on to, it is entirely rational – and thus, y’know, not inherently not-calm – for your feelings to be involved here. your initial response of being hurt is not an irrational one, and you do not have to ignore, minimise, bury, bypass or otherwise sideline your real, rational, valid emotions in order to approach a situation ‘calmly’.

    there’s a lot of rhetoric out there, often vocally supported by a certain kind of dude especially on the internet, about how Emotions vs Logic, you know? all that stuff about Head vs Heart, Left Brain vs Right Brain, etc. and it’s never a bad idea to sanity check oneself about acting on one’s feelings, and for sure, some emotional responses ARE irrational, but it’s still totally possible to have even an irrational emotional response (‘you bought me this nice plant but my anxiety is acting up and I think you bought it because you HATE me’) and still approach the situation calmly (‘ugh, my anxiety is doing the thing again. I am going to let it do that in the background and thank you for this plant because it’s so nice’). not-calm would be eg throwing the plant out of a window. calm is just…there are my emotions, which I am going to engage with and do my best to understand, but do not necessarily need to act on right this second until I’ve thought about where I really want this situation to go.

    and in your case, this situation is a potential romantic relationship! FEELINGS BELONG HERE. including hurt ones. being calm about being lied to by a guy you’re into isn’t saying ‘but ignoring my feelings, what about YOUR feelings’, it’s saying ‘I was hurt when you lied to me; where do we go from here?’ and really thinking about how you feel, and what you want, and what will truly be best for you.

    1. I call this “emotions exist for a good reason”. What purpose does anger serve? It’s our alarm system. It tells us that we need to look out for ourselves because someone is harming us.

      Right now you are turning off your alarm. Please no. That’s a bad idea.

      Sometimes our smoke alarms give off false positives (stupid toasters) but we don’t turn them off. I (try to) turn off my anger-alarm when I get triggered (because my alarm got confused and thought all religious stuff = dangerous). That makes sense.

      This situation though. Your alarm is RIGHT. There was at least a trash can fire in your living room. Started by this dude. Yes, he’s sad, but no one should get a pass on being a decent human who tries to make amends for the damage they caused (maybe they can’t because reasons, but they at least try to do what they CAN).

  22. “Initially I felt hurt that he lied, but approaching the situation calmly, it’s difficult not to comfort him, I mean we ARE friends and we do feel a little more than what friendship feels like. When he told me I politely thanked him for telling me and asked if he wanted to talk about it.”

    LW, I am really distressed that your first instinct in this situation was to play it off like you weren’t hurt, and offer comfort to him. This dude lied to you about having a significant other, while pursuing a romantic(-ish) relationship with you. FOR OVER A YEAR. And you felt like you had to play the cool girl for him, rather than sharing your honest emotional reaction.

    If you don’t feel like you can share your emotions and seek support from him without jeopardizing your relationship, then you guys don’t have a relationship.

    1. “LW, I am really distressed that your first instinct in this situation was to play it off like you weren’t hurt… like you had to play the cool girl for him, rather than sharing your honest emotional reaction.”

      This was my reaction, too.

      Now that you’ve had time and space to think it over, you don’t have to keep being chill about it. You get to change your mind about being lied to, and about your response to being lied to, and about him.

  23. I used to do this; change the meaning of what they had done to suit my need for their “friendship” and it slowly eroded my integrity. I eventually and painfully realised that they were lying liars who lied and that the this type of stuff spoke to who they were fundamentally, what their core values were and their beliefs around relationships, fidelity and trust. Those values and beliefs did not add up with mine so we were fundamentally incompatible.

  24. You know, I think this is one of thise situations where the fact that you felt the need to write and ask for advice is very telling.

    Suppose the guy had been honest with you. Your questions about what to do would have been a lot simpler, wouldn’t they? They’d have been:

    – I really like this online guy but he’s not available, what do I do? Answer: not have intimate moments.


    – I got close to a guy who was in a relationship and now he’s left his girlfriend, what do I do? Answer: figure out the right time to make a move.

    I think you would have felt able to answer those questions for yourself. Instead, you’re feeling uncertain … and that’s because he deliberately treated you in a confusing way. That’s why you’re confused. He lied, then he gave out mixed signals. That is confusing.

    He cultivated feelings in you that you would not have allowed to develop had you known the truth. Now you know the truth, but of course, the feelings are still there, because feelings for someone are a lot easier to prevent than to cure. So you’re confused, because your feelings don’t match the situation.

    And neither does his behaviour, because in this situation what he ought to be doing is apologising for messing you around and trying to make amends rather than treating you like the therapist for all his feelings about stuff he’s done to you. He’s making his dishonesty your emotional responsibility … but because you still have feelings from the time when you thought he was a good guy, your guard isn’t up.

    He may be able to sound considerate, but his actions have been nothing but selfish from start to finish.

    Honey, this guy doesn’t need comfort, he needs consequences. You deserve better than this.

  25. I was terrible at this for the longest time, but LW, hopefully you can learn from my (and all the other commenters’) experience that lying liars who lie about important stuff are not worth your time. I know you like him, you like who he seems to be, but unfortunately the odds are very good that it’s a pleasant fiction. He probably likes who he is when he talks to you online too. I’ve spent a lot of time earnestly believing my vision of who someone is despite all evidence to the contrary, and I hope you don’t do the same. It sucks to be deceived, but that’s what’s happened and be kind to yourself – people who do this are often quite good at it, and hell, they often half believe their own lies and are doing it on autopilot rather than stroking their moustache while cackling evilly. Don’t be distracted by the probably strong impression that this guy isn’t an evil mastermind (just a regular hot mess), that he just made a mistake – it doesn’t matter. Great big huge lies like this are generally speaking not one-offs and they say something about how much he respects you and your wishes.

    LW, you really honestly deserve better. If you can acknowledge the hugeness of this lie to yourself, and really believe and internalise that he’s the kind of person who does that, you might find it a lot easier to move on.

    1. This is so very true. Some lies are deal breakers; this is one of them. I have an ex like this, he’d lie about everything. EVERYTHING. Years later we met up (I am still friends with his family) and I’d been hearing all about how he had pulled himself together and turned his life around, and he was in a great relationship with a really great woman and they had a child together.

      I saw him and his new lady at a dinner. My friends were right, his new partner seemed really smart and cool and nice. I thought to myself, ‘he did good.’ And then at one point he pulled me aside, just radiating panic, and whispered, “Listen, if she asks, just say I went to Harvard, OK?”

      I was like, “Um…what?” Because he definitely, 100% did not go to Harvard.

      “I just didn’t think I was good enough for her, so I said I went to Harvard,” he replied, visibly sweating. And I just shook my head, because I realized he’d just sabotaged another relationship. I could tell he cared about her, but he was still a lying liar, and he lied right up until the part where he cheated on her and left her for someone younger and less savvy, someone who had lower expectations of him. And then he lied to that girl too.

      You deserve better.

  26. I understand you have a good connection and attraction to this fellow. Please be very careful going forward. He lied to you at the outset about something you clearly indicated was important to you. He lied so he could have what he wanted, when he knew it was not what you wanted. It is possible that this is the first time he has manipulated a woman by lying. It is also possible that this is his normal way of behaving.

  27. 1. He lied to you for over a year about something very important.

    2. He lied to you in order to get you to do sexual things with him that you wouldn’t have done otherwise.

    3. When it finally came out that he was lying to you, he wanted you to not focus on how you might be hurt by his lies, but rather how you should comfort *him.*

    4. All that time he was typing sweet nothings to you he was saying the same things to his girlfriend. Every time he told you he made you smile, he was not only lying to you about his girlfriend, but lying to her about you. Just think about this for a minute: after sending those intimate things, his girlfriend walked in the room and said, “hey babe, what’s up?” He clicked the screen off and said, “oh, just working out something with the rest of the guild for our next raid. It’s not important – well, not as important as you! C’mon, let’s watch some netflix.” Later, while they snuggled together on the couch he ran his fingers through her hair. “You just make me smile, you know?” Then he wondered when you and he would be sexting next.

    5. If you become his RL girlfriend you’ll get the same treatment. Everything he said to you before he’ll say again some other woman 500 miles away who also believes him when he says he doesn’t have a girlfriend.

    You may like this guy – or like the version of him that you’ve imagined based on your online interactions, but he’s fundamentally dishonest and unfaithful. That doesn’t make for good relationships.

  28. it’s difficult not to comfort him

    Why is it difficult? Why do you want to comfort him? As far as you were concerned, this event was long in the past and he coped with it perfectly well without your help, and one of the reasons he broke up (finally – if he did, indeed, break up) with his girlfriend is that he wants to explore what kind of relationship he can/will have with you. And that’s something where you get a deciding vote: do you want a relationship with the person he is right now, warts, lies, and secret girlfriend and all?

    we ARE friends

    Really? Friends don’t lie to friends about important things. Friends don’t get themselves into messes and then lean on you to get emotional support. What, other than keeping you entertained for purposes of potential sexytimes has he done for you that were acts of friendship? I know letters are, per force, short, but if you had no pantsfeelings for him whatsoever, nor he for you, would you still be friends? What would that friendship look like?

    he wants to be with me

    Starting a new relationship by asking your girlfriend-to-be to comfort you over breaking up with your previous girlfriend is – never mind the fact that he lied to you and coerced you and strung you along on false pretences – a shitty thing to do.

  29. You make him smile and he likes you, but that’s not the same as actually caring about you and respecting you as a person. When he lied to you about his girlfriend, he did that to keep getting the things he wanted from you (smiles, conversation, intimate stuff) with active disregard for whether you wanted to give them under the real-life conditions. He deliberately denied you what you wanted.

    But let’s say we forget that. Let’s say that you imagine the most sympathetic set-up imaginable that has him lying about the girlfriend. Now he breaks up with her. What does someone who cares about you do? A) Fess up with an apology and questions about how to make you feel better. B) Keep the breakup off your radar and deal with the rough emotions with someone in his support network who won’t be getting punched in the gut by the news. C) Give you the news without explanation and then complain that he doesn’t feel all better after telling you, letting you do all the emotional work on both sides.

    We might dicker about whether B is chosen with caring or cowardice, but C cannot be chosen with respect or caring for the other person. And no amount of politely thanking him for casually exposing a lie or comforting him or other selflessness will convince him to be less selfish with you.

  30. we ARE friends

    Since when do friends lie to one another about their intimate relationships? I mean, he doesn’t actually sound like someone I would call a friend.

    LW, honestly I’m not sure why you would do anything with this person other than kick him to the curb. He’s got some mind games action going on here with you.

    There are so many other fish in the sea, fish who will agree to a baseline of respect for you that starts with not lying to you about their current/recent partners. Please allow yourself to grieve over having been deceived by this joker, and find someone who won’t lie to you.

    1. Yep. LW may be a friend to him, but he’s sure as hell not a friend to her.

  31. Did he act surprised when you didn’t know about the girlfriend?

    If so, it might be a sign that he’s having trouble keeping his lies straight – which isn’t hard as long as you a) lie only to a few people, or b) tell the same lie to everyone.

    If he’s telling lots of different lies to lots of different people, chances are you’re not the only online intimate partner he’s got going on – maybe he mistook you for one of his other honeys who knew he had a girlfriend and didn’t care. Think back and see if there’s been any times where he’s referenced a conversation you never had, or anything like that.

    But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was only lying to you. There’s still the combination of “we’ve been in contact almost daily for a year and a half now” and “it had been a long time coming, and that he had been wanting to do it for so long”.

    What if the “so long” that he had been wanting to do this for was a year and a half or slightly over that? Had he decided the relationship wasn’t going to work, and immediately started shopping around for a new one – but strung his girlfriend along for all that time?

    Or was he trying to work things out with her while keeping you available on the side just in case?

    Either way, what’s to keep him from doing the same to you?

  32. “What are you going to do to rebuild trust with me so I know you’re not lying?”

    THIS. At the very least.

    And I know how tempting it is to just sew up the big tear you just found in your favourite, irreplaceable thing. But this guy is a drunk Edward Scissorhands hands who will savage it again and again.

    I’d still be dubious if he had come to you admitting the lie, but that never happened because he quite simply FORGOT lying to you. That’s how easy it came! He didn’t feel guilty about tricking you into intimacy because it’s all a big role playing game to him.

    “That he wants to be with me, and I believe because if I didn’t, then we would’ve stopped talking ages ago.”

    Oh he’s not going anywhere but no. No, what he wants is for you to carry on being a sex and sympathy dispenser, who expects nothing in return. He deeply values your character in the harem game – not your actual real self who didn’t want non monogamy. If he thought of you as a real person he’d remember lying to you and would have felt increasing guilt every day since then. But it’s not a lie to him, it’s a game. He has to say silly, meaningless words online before the meat puppets dance. You wouldn’t remember something you said in an online role player game months ago and nor does he.

    And you need to comforted for this absolutely callous thoughtlessness by your entire Team You as they nurse you through a break up, as you discover, this guy? Totally replaceable. Without added lies.

    1. “I’d still be dubious if he had come to you admitting the lie, but that never happened because he quite simply FORGOT lying to you. That’s how easy it came! He didn’t feel guilty about tricking you into intimacy because it’s all a big role playing game to him.”

      Elevated for truth. He never actually came clean about the lie, he just forgot! How many other important details, conversations, etc. has he forgotten or will he forget?

      This may sound callous, and I don’t mean for it to be, but I don’t think this guy likes or respects you nearly as much as you like or respect him. He likes what you can do for him and what you provide – intimacy, sexytimes, and emotional labor. You deserve so much more.

  33. Dear LW,

    Your questions were how do you comfort him for the end of his relationship, and what is the nature of your complex situation.

    It may seem as though the Army isn’t answering your questions directly.

    That’s because you’ve assumed facts not in evidence: that he’s your friend; that the situation between the two of you is complex.

    Neither of these assumptions is correct. He isn’t your friend: he’s an online acquaintance who lied to manipulate you into sex. The situation is simple: you really like the online persona of a man who you know is dishonest.

    I am sorry you’re in a tough spot. I believe that if you accept that the man you like and lust after is a fiction, you may get past your unhappiness more quickly.

    Again, Jedi hugs if you want them.

    1. Perfect summation of the case, the disconnect between LW’s actual questions and the Army’s responses.

  34. I’m not even in this situation, and this take makes me so happy. I’ve read too many advice columns where the take is “If he didn’t lie, you wouldn’t give him the sexytimes he wants. Therefore, he’s justified in lying, and you’re bad and prejudiced for not giving him what he wants.” And I start gnawing on the furniture in sheer rage.

    Thank you for taking the stand that lying is bad, even (especially!) if consent is on the line. One wouldn’t think that would be rare, and yet.

    LW, it might be hard to not comfort him if you, like me, were socialized to prioritize Manfeels over everything else. It’s insidious, because it always felt like it was specific to that person, and that situation. Buuut the common thread was there.

    It is not your job to mop up his feels. It has nothing to do with your relationship status, either. Friend, BFF, girlfriend, FWB, dog-walker, whatever. “Emotional sponge” is not in anyone’s job description, except maybe a therapist, and they are not there to soothe your hurt feelings in the way that many of these dudes seem to want. (Sexily and unquestioningly, never aiming to improve the behavior or ask for any effort from them at all. Now I’m making myself queasy…)

    1. Yes! Like when you travel out of the country for 3 months and you get back and he basically immediately tells you he’s a terrible person and he cries and says the night before you got back he made-out with some chick at a bar and you spend the next 1.5 hrs comforting him…..ask me how I know

      1. All the UGHs along with the empathetic hugs. All you can do is sock it away in mental closet, cauldron, library, or whatever you have that you’ve labeled “Life Experience” and move on. Just know that everyone else has a container like that, too.

      2. Or when your roommate – whom you considered a friend – gets shit-faced drunk and sleeps with your boyfriend. And then calls you up from HIS place the next day, crying, and asks you for a ride home, and then wants you to comfort her because he was disrespectful to her in bed. And then he invites you over and makes you dinner and apologizes for betraying you, and then wants to complain because the sex was bad.

        Ask me how I know.

  35. I do the following inventory whenever I feel like a guy is Too Good To Lose! But if he’s just slipped up in a way that suggests his face is actually just a lovely mask, I do the ‘what does he bring to the table’ inventory. (Your list may vary but this is mine)

    Tick each that apply:

    Intelligent conversation
    Affection (including remembering what I like and doing those things)
    Admires me, quirks and all.
    Common interests and values.
    Sexual compatability
    Would give me either good financial or domestic support long term.
    Would be a good parent.
    Doesn’t make unilateral decisions on my behalf but works with me.
    Is attractive to me and puts effort into appearance.
    Complete honesty and openness that doesn’t rely on my asking JUST the right question.

    How many ticks did you get? Just two or three of these things is enough to make me feel completely hooked and excuse all the others. But I came to realize I need ALL of them to avoid getting my heart smooshed. Even if he’s close to a full house there’s a guy out there who can replace those attributes and you can feel the same euphoria with someone else.

    1. I love this list so much. Thank you for sharing it!

      I would also add, as a corrollary to “Doesn’t make unilateral decisions…” that he must also be willing to make *some* decisions, and to participate equally in the big ones, rather than leaving all the emotional labour of decision-making to me. (Why yes, that is experience talking. Why do you ask? 😉 )

      1. Oooh, that’s a good addendum. I often say to my awesome boyfriend that he exceeded my wishlist, but can’t exactly explain *how* when he asks.

        You’ve cleared that up for me, he makes decisions, does emotional labour , advises me and he’s capable with life admin too.

    2. “that doesn’t rely on my asking JUST the right question”

      O.M.G. I can’t even express how much this one means.

      1. Oh, the old “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Because you didn’t ask,” game.

        I hate it. If it is obvious that I would make a different decision with the information in your head, then please, PLEASE, give me that information, without making me ask for something I don’t even know exists!

  36. Dear LW, you don’t have a friendship-and-hopefully-more with this guy. You have a friendship-and-hopefully-more with a man who does not exist in the real world, a man who is a character in a story that the real-life dude was telling you. It’s a story where a long distance friend was a honest person who respected you, who made a decision to treat informed consent as more important than his selfish desire to have long-distance fun behind his girlfriend’s back. It’s a story where you said ‘I don’t want to get in the middle of anything’ and that choice was honored. The real-life man who told that story is nothing like the character he painted for you in words.

    Words are powerful. Stories are incredibly powerful. Stories matter. That’s why we cheer for and cry over characters in our favorite stories even though we know those characters *literally do not exist in reality*, that they are a collection of words put together by another real person who made them up. That’s why people spend tons of money and hours of their precious time sitting around tables pretending to be magic-users or warriors, why people in massively graphic-intense online games like WoW will just sit around talking and *role-playing* for hours instead of going on whizbang raids for treasure.

    It can be really, really hard to let go of stories that matter, LW. There’s a lot of denial and bargaining that comes across in your letter – if only you set aside emotion, believe what he says, ‘help him’ with his conflicted feelings, then everything will be OK and you will get what you want – but I think some part of you, deep down, knows that you’re grieving for a story that you thought was true.

    Forgive yourself for believing him, LW. You had every reason to do so, and you are not dumb or naive any more than people are dumb or naive for caring about stories that matter to them. Grieve for the friendship you thought you had. It will hurt you far, far less to work through this hurt now, instead of later, when reality gets to the tipping point that denial can’t help anymore.

    1. Neverjaunty, I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter. This, this, all of this.

  37. LW, if you confront him, he may try to tell you that when you asked, it wasn’t a lie because they weren’t dating yet/they were on a break/he didn’t think of her as his girlfriend at the time/he hadn’t even met her yet/he misunderstood your question.

    It’s even possible that one of those will be the truth. But that means that he just didn’t bother to tell you, person who made him smile, his friend that he had an amazing connection and intimacy with, his friend he was speaking to almost every day about important things in his life that hey, he’d met someone in real life, that he was dating, until he broke up with her and wanted you to comfort him. That he did not think it was worth informing you about this change of status from not dating to dating, until he wanted emotional labour in the form of comfort from you.

    Can you trust that he has not been lying -about- you to other people? Can you trust that if he meets someone new in real life who he decides to start dating, that he will let you know? Can you trust that there aren’t other parts of his life that would inform your choices on how to behave towards him that he has simply neglected to mention?

    1. I was going to say exactly this. It’s not clear from the letter exactly how long he had been with his girlfriend, so it is *technically* possible that he was in fact single at the particular moment in time that the LW asked the question. It’s possible that he didn’t *technically* lie to you, at the time.

      But the thing is? That doesn’t matter. Because he still lied to you. You were clear with him that you didn’t want to be intimate if he had a girlfriend. So let’s say, hypothetically, that he did meet this amazing girl after you asked him that question, and decided he wanted to be with her. The ethical thing to do in that situation would have been to say to you “Dear LW, I met this amazing girl and I want to be with her, but I know you said that would be a dealbreaker for us. Is it still a dealbreaker, or is there something that can be worked out here?” But he didn’t say that. He said nothing at all about her, and continued to let you think you were the only person he was seeing. Therefore – he still lied.

      I just…I know this guy too. And if he’s anything like the version I dated, he will grasp onto anything he thinks can bolster his case. So if you confront him for lying about the girlfriend when you asked, he will almost certainly say something like “But I didn’t lie, because I wasn’t seeing her at that time!” Which again doesn’t matter, because there WAS a time, probably quite a long time, when he actually was lying to you about her.

      1. Yes. IMO, if someone asks you a reasonable boundary-setting question (like “are you single, because that’s important to me”), and you start formulating “letter of the law” answers like a member of the Unseelie Court, you are not acting in good faith anyway.

        There are probably edge cases and exceptions, but generally… nope.

      2. Was scrolling down to see if anyone else had thought of that idea– that he told what was the truth when the question was asked, but then chose to omit what was clearly very important info to the LW about a new girlfriend when that development arose, and that his ass views this as entirely adequate and no cause for upset whatsoever on the part of the LW. After all, even though she once brought it up as an important issue, he has no way of knowing if it’s still an important issue months later, if he even still remembers the conversation, because who remembers everything? Clearly not the guy who says he has no girlfriend and then expects sympathy for his breakup with his non-existent girlfriend.

  38. He just LIED to you for a year and a half. He managed to maintain this lie for EIGHTEEN MONTHS. It would have been so easy to keep up the lie at this point, and then you’d just never know and he’d never be caught. So why did he slip up now?

    Because he felt bad about the break-up and wanted your emotional labor to soothe him. He is broken up about this girl (not you! This OTHER girl) and he wants free comforting, and he figured admitting he’d pulled you into an EIGHTEEN MONTH CON would be much less distressing to HIM than having to deal with his feelings alone about this OTHER girl. (Which makes me think SHE broke up with HIM– and good riddance!)

    He doesn’t give a crap about you, LW, and I’m sorry. If he cared a single thing about what you thought he would have maintained the lie (or never lied in the first place). You are only words coming out of his computer or phone that exist to make him feel better and he has no empathy for you at all, or possibly very little concept of you as a real person.

  39. He Has A Sad about how his breakup with his kept-hidden-from-you girlfriend made him feel, and he wants YOU to comfort him?!

    I get that you are trying to sympathize and understand him because that will hopefully keep you from feeling like you’ve been dumped on and used, but… you’ve been dumped on and used, and he’s still doing it.

  40. I wish I’d known just how many of these guys there are/were when I was entangled with mine. I was the only one who understood him. We really had a connection (online, then over the phone). He was separated from his wife, they married too young and never should have been together, it was all very tragic, but I was bringing him hope again.

    Then he came to visit. Looking not at all like he did in the (I learned) 10-year-old photos he had sent me. And when he opened his wallet, I saw the pictures of his children. The two children he had never mentioned, not once, one of whom was one year old. We had been talking for 18 months. He admitted that okay, he and his wife were still together, no plans for divorce right now “for the sake of the children”, and yes, they’d had sex which resulted in the second child while he and I were telling each other how much we loved each other, but honestly if I had agreed to let him visit sooner he wouldn’t have “given in to temptation”. And then his phone kept bleebling with texts and emails, and it was his wife…or the other women he was talking to. There were at least three. That was when he brought up polyamory.

    If I could have physically forced him back onto the plane, I would have. As it was, it was a very awkward weekend, and a very awkward year following where he kept sending me sad emails and chat messages about how he thought I’d be more understanding, and he didn’t want to “lose what we had”, and really, he’d be filing for divorce any day now…whoops, she’s pregnant again…wait, not his wife, one of the other women…

    If he has lied to you before, he will lie to you again. He’s not sorry, he wants to keep you on a string for emotional (and physical) validation. There are no strings on you.

  41. Captain, once again you are speaking my truth. “Mediocre Man with 1,000 Faces” doesn’t have to just be long distance or online, either!

    I think it is so important that you note there doesn’t have to be this binary of “I could never hate you/I love you/we can make this work” vs “You are [insert whatever self deprecating monologue he trends towards] I hate you forever now bye.” Someone doesn’t have to be a monster, nor do you have to actively hate someone for that person to be Not the Right Person for You.

  42. The Mediocre Dude with 1000 Faces

    I too have spent far too much time comforting this guy (usually he started feeling *so bad* if he ever made me cry that I was tearfully consoling him and lying about how easily I cry). Captain, maybe if you yell a little louder my past self might hear you too?

    Seriously everything you said rings so true – the empty spaces between words, messages, interactions fill with intrigue and profound meaning; the delicious hint of drama inherent in distance, and most of all the fool’s gold lure of “I can fix anything with my emotional labor.”

    LW, there’s so much good advice here. I can’t add anything other than Jedi hugs to you, if they’d be welcome.

  43. OMG NO he DOESN’T “want to be with you”. He does not want you to be his girlfriend. Let me repeat for emphasis, HE DOES NOT WANT YOU TO BE HIS GIRLFRIEND.

    What he wants is a “buddy” (maybe with a few benefits) to comfort him while he gets over his most recent breakup (I’m betting that even if he claims that he broke up with her, she actually ended it, which is why he’s so sad about it), until he can find a new girlfriend. If you fall into the trap of comforting him, that is what you will be to him. Honestly, I’m sorry to tell you this, but it’s too late to be his girlfriend at this point. If he actually wanted you as a girlfriend he wouldn’t have strung you along and lied to you all this time. He doesn’t respect you and he’s just keeping you around as a side thing for moments exactly like this: when he’s sad and wants someone at his beck and call to give him whatever emotional (and maybe sexual) reassurance he needs. He’s probably saying things like how he’s a bad person just so that you will argue and say “No you’re not, you’re such a great guy, blah blah blah.”

    I promise you the minute he’s gotten through this breakup–with your help–he will go out and find another girlfriend and then thank you for “being such a great friend” and “helping him out” during his hard times, (and if you seem at all upset that he started dating someone else instead of you he will act all confused and say that you two are just really good friends and you were never “together” like that so he doesn’t understand why you are upset and why aren’t you happy for him that he’s found love because that’s how a real friend would feel) and then keep stringing you along with the hints of possibility that maybe someday he’ll want to commit to you so that next time he gets dumped by someone you will be there to comfort him all over again. Don’t fall for it!

    1. This. I mean, people leave their girlfriends for someone new Every. Single. Day. Whether the new relationship works out is a separate discussion, but the point is if this guy wanted you to be his girlfriend he probably would have tried to make that happen.

  44. LW, I’m going to say something potentially inflammatory, and I apologize in advance: I think, in your heart of secret hearts, you know full well this guy is an epic lying douche; but he’s also incredibly hot and preternaturally funny and charming and intelligent, and you really want to enjoy facefuls of that delicious rush you get from interacting with him. I DON’T BLAME YOU. I have been there so, so many times. And I can assure you, people who, for whatever reason, rely on the kindness of strangers for their emotional sustenance are usually one or more of the above, because ugly, unlikeable, stupid people do not get to coast on any of those qualities.

    You are probably better off just cutting this guy out of your life, but if you succumb to his many appealing if superficial attributes, I have zero judgement for you. Just be honest inside your brain about it (“This dude is terrible but so, so, sexy, and I’m going to let myself experience this”) and do yourself a couple of favors: 1.) make him wear a condom, regardless of your birth control situation, because God knows where he’s put that thing (and don’t expect him to be honest about it); 2.) don’t for the love of God loan or give him any money; and 3.) have a good therapist picked out for the inevitable rocky, abrupt, heartwrenching end.

    I hope you’ll get rid of him but I so, so understand the pull not to.

    1. **“This dude is terrible but so, so, sexy, and I’m going to let myself experience this”**

      Writing him off is the best option, but I get that she might still go for him, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. If so, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Like – hey, why can’t *she* date other guys while also engaging in whatever it is with this guy? If he has no loyalty for her, why does he deserve hers? Why can’t *she* have her cake and eat it, too? Why is this okay behavior for him and not for her?

      The answer is probably because she doesn’t *want* any other guys, but this is precisely why, IMO, she should make herself go on other dates. If she’s gonna go the, “I know this will hurt, but it feels good so I don’t care” route, she should have her life arranged in a way that will cushion the blow of the inevitable fallout. Even in “uncomplicated” dating situations with normal and non-deceitful people, you should keep your options open until the other person gives you a clearly and unambiguously stated reason to focus on them.

      Also – OMG, OMG, OMG, the Captain’s answer and every single comment are so fabulous and make me feel so much less alone (well, the me from maybe eight years ago). Killin’ me softly with your song, y’all…

    2. ooh you just reminded me of a classic F*boy I chased to get laid. I honestly went and picked him up at 3 am on St. Patty’s day (me being sober) and drove him home to his place and finally got my wish: a quickie in the morning before he ran off to work. I’m sure he is good in bed. But he didn’t bother with me. The entire time leading up to that I kept saying I know him, I know he’s bad news, I know sleeps with basically everyone he can but he hit on me and I was like..I’m fine with one good lay from this dude! But it was not a good lay. Harrumph I say.

      1. Hey, you got him out of your system. That’s actually better than the alternative – the amazing sex-god of your daydreams has been replaced by a five-minute pre-work quickie, and you could lay that ghost to rest.

        1. I had a huuuuuuuge crush on this guy for the longest time and this is exactly how I got him out of my system. As soon as I’d slept with him and it was obvious he just wanted to treat me as a sex toy, my feelings for him all but vanished. No regrets. In this case it was pretty good sex.

        1. OK, this experience costs X-many tears, and that experience costs Y-many tears, or I could skip the experiences entirely for Z-many smiles.

          Well, Y experience isn’t worth it, but X! Oh, X! Yeah, I’ll pay that price. And then I’ll do Z for afters.

    3. Been there and done this, and I have zero regrets. The sex was amazing and worth it as long as I kept what to what I enjoyed (These Items In This Box) and not what I didn’t (Box Of Emotional Stuff), and eventually, I got tired of it/him and moved on. Actually, as time went on and it was clearer and clearer to me that I was objectifying him and using him (which btw I was 100% open about, especially when he would once again try to rope me in with Alllll his Feeeeeelings – which of course never came with any actual movement to end his relationship [judge me if you have to, it’s okay]) I started to *actually* think of him just as Some Fuckboy and his idiotic emotional manipulation attempts no longer had any sway over me.

  45. Hi LW. I’m a little older than The Captain, and with that aging, I’m a whole lot more blunt and unapologetic than I was in my very tender twenties. So, while I agree with all of the above, I can totally remember what that felt like twenty-odd years ago.

    I think you should consider channeling your inner Fortysomething Broad That Does Not Take Shit Anymore: block him.

    If you’re stuck on the idea of comforting him — and I get it, I really do — think of it this way. You are giving him the chance to learn that lying will blow up in his face.

    Yes, Awkward Army, I HEAR you: “Shitweasels (bless you, Novel deVice) NEVER LEARN!” Truth. But that’s not the point. Whether he chooses to learn it or not is not LW’s responsibility. She’s just graciously giving him the chance to learn it. Being able to see it that way would have helped me so much back then, when I always wanted clean hands.

  46. LW, I feel you. Long story short, I dated a guy with a long-distance girlfriend with whom things were going badly and oh god how he wished he could break up with her so he could be involved with me blah blah blah. I knew about her, so like you, I told him I wasn’t comfortable continuing to do things with him if he had a girlfriend (shame on me, this was after a few dates already). He broke up with her. You’d think that means it worked out right? No. Like your buddy here, he became the sad man with a sad life who needed comfort. He eventually said he figured out he shouldn’t be dating (…me). So I split, to give myself space. Fast forward a couple months later, it turns out he had gotten back together with the girlfriend who he originally told me made him miserable. And that’s when I finally put together the kind of guy he is : someone who is incapable of appreciating the things he has and always wants more: more attention, more validation, more excitement. The kind of guy who dates people for the feelings they give him, and not for the actual people that they are.

    You don’t need people like this, because they will always take what you give, and not give back.

  47. LW, no matter what bullshit this guy has fed you/will inevitably feed you, please hold onto these fundamental truths*:

    – You are allowed to feel hurt.
    – You are under no obligation to approach this situation “calmly”.
    – You absolutely do not have to push down your hurt so you can comfort the person who hurt you.
    – Approaching this situation calmly won’t encourage him to be straight with you in the future. On the contrary, it teaches him that there are no consequences for lying to you.
    – Comforting him in exactly the right way will not transform him. He will not be flooded with gratitude towards you, he will not treat you better because you made him feel better, he will not become an honest person capable of committing to you.
    – When you pretend that your feelings are small and unimportant, other people will treat your feelings as small and unimportant.
    – There is no prize for being the Coolest, Calmest, Most Comforting Sort-Of-Girlfriend Ever. All you get is more time in Sort-Of-Girlfriend limbo until he gets bored and moves on.
    – There are plenty of cool attractive people out there who will want you as more than a long-distance back-up for emotional support and sexy chats. You just have to be open to meeting them.

    A Reformed Chill Girl™

    *harvested from the field where I once tended my own crop of Sad Complicated Internet Men

    1. “Approaching this situation calmly won’t encourage him to be straight with you in the future. On the contrary, it teaches him that there are no consequences for lying to you.”
      Quoted for truth.

    2. “You absolutely do not have to push down your hurt so you can comfort the person who hurt you.”

      So, so much this. To crib from something I saw elsenet: You do not have to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.

      Your emotions matter. What you feel matters. Comforting the person who hurt you doesn’t matter (harsh, I guess, but there it is).

  48. I’m going to weigh in as someone whose LDR worked — REALLY worked, as in it’s now 16 years since we met online, 15 years since we met in person, 7 years since I moved across the country to be with her and 4 years since we got married.

    NO LIES. Moments early on when incomplete truths were told — the most notable being that, for the first several months of increasingly warm friendly communication, I did not tell the wonderful woman I had met that I wasn’t straight. I didn’t claim to be straight, but I did mention past boyfriends and deliberately didn’t mention past girlfriends, sexual identity struggles, etc. We had met in an online group dominated by straight women, and when our friendship began, my sexuality wasn’t relevant. Then the friendship became warm, then REALLY warm, and the omission started feel like a blazing, choking pack of lies.

    The turning point came when I wrote her an email coming firmly out of the closet, apologizing for having kept that truth from her, and leaving the next step in her hands. (We had fallen in love by then, the air cleared beautifully, she was relieved rather than upset, and we went on from there.)

    The point I want to make is:

    – I didn’t outright lie in words, but I did deceive by a careful and deliberate omission. Doing this was a standard survival technique for gays (and still is in too much of the world, alas), but it became a dishonesty and got in the way.

    – Although I was lying by omission, I was not concealing another relationship, or any other deal-killer (kids, depts, prison records, etc).

    – I came clean, and I apologized.

    My now-wife accepted my apology and we moved easily on from the cat-out-of-the-bag moment, as we still call it — and we could move on and build solidly because the lie had not been a dealbreaker, because it had not become the first stone of a wall of fakery, because I resepcted her and our relationship and didn’t pretend that the truth didn’t matter.

    What I had done wasn’t a vile thing, but it was a deception. Lying has its place, beginning with white lies, and it’s acceptable — even good — to lie in some situations. It’s damaging to lie in others. Situations change, and when they do, it can change what’s acceptable, or good, or damaging, or despicable.

    So, to the LW and anyone else: if your LDR has lied to you, and the reason wasn’t good and the lie was big and ugly and he/she acted as if it shouldn’t be held against them — the fact of my happy ending is NOT a justification for any crap you’re being asked or expected to take on board in the hopes of a happy ending. My now-wife deserved nothing less than truth, respect, and the freedom to decide how to deal with the revelation. You deserve that too. EVERYONE deserves that.

    1. All of this. I was in a sort-of similar position, in that my current relationship started with a deception on my part. I was still living with my husband when I started seeing my current partner – my husband and I were clearly and definitely separated, and he knew I was dating, but we were getting along well enough that there was no particular hurry for him to move out. Obviously I didn’t share this information with every person I dated, because it would have been too much, too soon, if the dating relationship fizzled quickly.

      But here’s what I did do:

      ~After my second date with my now-partner, when it became apparent that there would be a third and probably more, I came clean. I like what Beth said about “the omission started feel like a blazing, choking pack of lies” – there was a clear point for me where the omission went from not mattering at all, to mattering a great deal. And that point came very early in our relationship (after a few weeks, not months or years.)

      ~I sent my partner an email explaining everything. I did not over-explain, just laid out the facts (definitely separated, yes still living together, yes he knows about you and you can meet him if you like.) I apologized for not telling him sooner. And I left the ball in his court as to how to proceed. I would have been hugely disappointed if he had broken up with me over it, of course, but I figured if it was going to be a dealbreaker for him, he should know about it as soon as possible. I did not ask him to comfort me, and I gave him whatever time and space he needed to make a decision.

      I’m not trying to set up a situation where I say that my lie-by-omission was better than LW’s boyfriend’s lie because Reasons. But I do think it matters what happened *after* the lie. I told him about it, apologized, and was willing to accept the consequences, up to and including breaking up if he had felt he couldn’t move on from there. And unfortunately, LW, I’m not seeing any of that in your boyfriend’s behaviour. The fact that he expects you to comfort him after you found out about a huge, extended, dealbreaking lie – it doesn’t sound to me like he really gets why it’s important to you.

  49. A very wise woman named Susan Elliott (her book “Getting Past Your Breakup” is brilliant) once wrote the words: “what he does with you, he’ll do to you”.

    Right now you’re the lied-to other woman who he’s been having an emotional affair with for ages while he psyched himself up to break up with his girlfriend (if indeed he HAS broken up with her this time).

    If you end up in a face-to-face relationship with him someday, two things will happen:
    1) He will almost certainly have another emotional affair with another long-distance girl
    2) Whether he is or not, you will be hyper-vigilant for signs that he IS having one… because you know how likely it is.

    Run, don’t walk, to the nearest NO THANKS to that life of stress & wariness & distrust.

  50. I do believe that there are acceptable answers to “what are you going to do to rebuild trust,” but those answers are NOT “I love you more than her” and “I feel so bad” and “I’m really sorry” and “I really mean it this time. People are capable of change– or at least many people are capable of growing and learning and doing better in the future, but the motivation for those changes generally isn’t getting caught. Getting caught just motivates the person to do better in the future at not getting caught. To rebuild trust there needs to be a plan and a plan that comes from him. (I remember how when I was in school I’d start each new grading period with a resolve to do all the homework on time and to study and to be “good.” It wasn’t until I was out of college that I realized that I never kept my resolve because I never had a schedule, a set period for study, a study-buddy, any sort of plan.) A plan to rebuild trust is not him apologizing enough times. I suggest asking him and listening for what he comes up with. I doubt he’ll come up with anything worthwhile, but listening still can’t hurt.

  51. “In all cases, I found out about the lie and I chose to believe the explanations and justifications they threw at me, usually some version of “I didn’t want to hurt you,” “I knew you would hate me when you found out and things were going so well between us that I was afraid to ruin it,” or “I lied initially when we first met because I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with you, and then it was never a good time to undo the damage.”

    In my experience, all of the explanations that a romantic partner offers up in this situation all boil down to him/her saying, “I wanted something, and the truth was standing between me and the thing I wanted.” Maybe you can work past that, but it requires him owning up to it in a meaningful way first.

    1. When faced with ridiculous requests like that, sometimes I’ve been so gobsmacked that I went along with them — it was like I couldn’t quite believe that someone could want me to debase myself so outrageously, so there *must* be a reasonable explanation… somewhere… I guess I had a little too much faith in humanity when I was younger. I have since learned that yes, people *can* be that selfish, so if it looks and quacks like an outrageous demand, etc. etc.

        1. (n.b.: Pamela Dean borrowed the “fatal flaw of the novel-reader” from Dorothy Sayers in Gaudy Night)

    2. Yeah, I have done similar things. But also, it sounded like it could’ve been one of those watershed moments for CA where she went to a party thinking she would get to meet all these family members…then slowly discovered each easter egg as in GF! Weird Mom vibe! and was already there in a clean shirt and felt like it would be RUUDE to leave for a whole host of reasons and feelings in the moment.

    3. It was more like, I went to the party expecting to meet the friends (and son, and mom) of someone I was dating and then found out it was another situation entirely in the process of being at the party, like, surprise! And then it was easier to just take video than to process anything, or fight about it in front of a bunch of little kids and strangers at a little kids’ birthday party.

      1. This is real redundant, but Cap, that guy was a doucheweasel and youare well rid of him.

        On a similar note, guys who lie sure like to use social expectation/norms of politeness to avoid getting their comeuppance. LW writes as if her ‘friend’ expects her to be super-chilled because ‘she is not like other girls’ (if he hasn’t used that sentence then it was deffo implied). The wotld would be so much better if we were impolite more often…

  52. Hi LW. I want to let you know that I think your relationship is real. I’ve had real long-distance online relationships and they were sometimes awesome, sometimes shitty – a mixed bag, just like IRL relationships.

    You can get the very best of someone when you have an online LDR, and you often get to give the best of yourself too. It makes sense that you feel like you want to give the best of yourself – your emotional care while he’s processing a break-up – to someone who you deeply care about. But in your letter you totally downplay the fact that he lied to you. You’re an awesome and caring person and you deserve better treatment than that.

    What would be your ideal scenario about how things go from here? Not how you should respond in order to be the best helpful friend/partner/lover you can be to him, but what YOU want from a continuing relationship with him, given what you know.

    Your needs and your wishes for the future are the first and most important thing here. Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

  53. I didn’t see anyone else mention it, so I will: this dude, after lying to you for some period of time[1], has now dropped this on you and is angling to keep talking about it. He is 110% checking your boundaries and seeing what he can pull and normalize. You trying to not make a thing out of it is his green light to keep doing such things.

    [1] Maybe when he told you he didn’t have a girlfriend it was true. And then he went and got one later. I can totally imagine some sleaze trying this out as an excuse like it makes things any better. [2] “Well we were long distance and never talked about being exclusive so I thought it was okay!”
    [2] It does not make things any better.

    1. Yeah I thought so too. I also thought he really demonstrated the power of the fait accompli and presenting news as he’d like it to be received. “So! I’ve had a girlfriend all this time. I would like you to file that information as ‘what’s done is done’ and ignore my failure to give a rats ass about how that reflects on me. Secondly I’d like you to begin auditions for her position. I’d like it if you read the part of my mommy behaving like I have a boo boo. Thirdly I need you to help me Spackle all over this by pretending you don’t have any feelings. Cause I don’t have time for those.”

      I always wonder if these guys actually spell it out quite like that or if they’re just careless of other people’s humanity, because they seem to have actual plays for their goals. The captain’s party guy for example, he MUST have known he was using his kid as a human shield from the threat of a scene.

  54. LW – your feelings are your own guide. I totally relate to wanting to show the right amount of understanding but how you feel about this *is* how you feel.

    Sexy friends don’t get to decide how you feel. They don’t get to dictate how you respond to their actions. If when you take a moment of quiet and look into your heart you find you feel any of the following:

    – anger at being misled.
    – embarrassed at having invested so much energy in someone who lied.
    – hurt at not being treated with respect.
    – sadness at feeling like you care about him more than he does you.
    – anxiety about why this stiff happens to you.
    – fear of having to think about walking away
    – any other emotional reaction you find going on

    Then that’s ok. Your feelings are flags, showing you that a boundary got crossed, something got lost, a sexy friend is sexy and also not what you thought he’d be. If you can tune into what you feel and trust that what you feel is ok, then you have that wise Gandalf/Yoda/Big sister guide at your disposal.

    And if you find that you want to comfort him, you’ll know how.

    And if you find you don’t think he deserves your comfort, you’ll know why.

  55. LW, what exactly are you supposed to comfort/support him about? Breaking up with a girlfriend he supposedly didn’t have the last year and a half?
    Honestly, that question is so full of evil bees, it should answer itself.

    Please do right by yourself and don’t waste any more of your life on this guy. It sucks when you think you have something special, but when it’s all built upon a lie it’s not what you thought it was. Any more of your life that you give him from now on is “good money after bad.” Cut your losses and get out.

    You owe him nothing. You deserve better than this.

    1. LW, I hope the above comment doesn’t come across as snarky and unkind. You have all my sympathy, but I want to reach through the internets and give your “friend” whatfor.

      Comfort *yourself.* You have plenty of reason to be hurt, sad, angry, confused, and everything. Pour your healing into your own precious self.

  56. One of the reasons I love this discussion so much is – as I said, I can relate SO MUCH, like whoa. Also, when this kinda thing was something I actively engaged in, literally every last person I turned to for advice or comfort (well, except maybe a paid therapist) just told me what an idiot I was and what did I expect and how could I let myself get into such a situation.

    And…they weren’t wrong…but by showing absolutely zero compassion if not outright scorn, it’s like they might as well have been yelling at a dog. They just made me feel 10 times worse and of course I just dug my heels in that much more because hey, at least Shady Internet Dude made me feel good some of the time.

  57. I have a few thoughts on the comfort thing. LW has been falling for this guy. It’s entirely understandable that she wouldn’t want to let the relationship go with a bang (the way we’re all recommending). It’s understandable that she’d want the relationship to work even though she knows the guy was lying to her from the start.

    It also makes sense that Lying Man would like to go back to that place before his lies were discovered. Of course he’s upset. He’s just been discovered in lies. He’d like to go back to that place before LW caught him in lies.


    The only way Lying Man can be comforted would be if LW told him that it’s all alright and that his lies don’t matter to her. That’s the ticket. That’s the comfort he wants. That’s what he’s asked for/is asking for in as many words.

    And that’s what LW feels a tug for. Wouldn’t it be great for her if she could do something to turn back time, go back to her fantasy, her illusion, that nice dream. Comfort. He gets comfort. She gets a comforting fantasy by giving him comfort (absolution). All she needs to do is pretend that he hasn’t had a girlfriend all this time and that he doesn’t still have a girlfriend now.

    I write all this with kindness, with a sort of “I understand how you could feel a tug in that direction because I’ve been so stupidly in love with (what turned out to be) a fantasy too.”

    Stop talking to him. Stop comforting him. Good luck to you.

  58. I, too, encountered This Guy, and so did most of my friends.

    This blog has a pretty substantial readership. If you happen to be a guy who presents yourself as a sensitive literary type, becomes entangled in real-life relationships with women you feel misunderstand you but with whom you continue sleeping, and carries on torrid and drama-ridden long-distance relationships with OTHER women at the same time–what do you get out of this? Do you realize these women are sentient human beings and you’re not behaving with integrity toward them? Do you ever feel bad about this behavior? Have you thought about therapy?

    Tell us YOUR side of the story, Sensitive Ponytail Man.

    1. I wish I felt that Sensitive Ponytail Man had the self-awareness to answer this question. It would be like talking to a space alien.

      I’m afraid, though, that generally the answer would be: “I like having sex, and I like having the attention of women, and I feel entitled to take that whenever it’s offered to me. Sometimes women have the irrational expectation that if I take sex and attention from them, I should swear off taking it from other women. Since that’s unreasonable, the only alternative I have is to tell them what they want to hear.”

  59. Speaking with fellow-feeling here…

    I think the desire to ‘comfort’ guys like this comes from a place of wanting to be seen. ‘How do I comfort him?’ is really only the surface question. There are others underneath it.

    How do I keep his attention? (Because people pay attention to comforters, right?)

    How do I avoid losing him? (Because if I’m undemanding and giving, he’ll have no reason to leave me, right?)

    How do I make myself important to him? (Because comforters are important, right?)

    How do I create intimacy with him? (Comforting is intimate, right?)

    How do I get some real reciprocity into this relationship? (If I put a lot of emotional energy into making him happy, he’ll feel the need to pay it back, right?)

    How do I prove to him that I’m a good and valuable person? (Who doesn’t deserve to be treated the way he’s been treating me.)

    I think at the root of the desire to ‘comfort’ is often the desire to make him stop treating you badly. It’s a very unhappy place to be, because it comes from a place where you have no power or control, and are trying to get some by being unassertive and undemanding.

    It just doesn’t work. Some people just take and don’t repay. Some people don’t or won’t or can’t give you what you want (and have every right to want).

    I think you need to ask yourself, in the kindest way, what you think comforting him would get you that he’s not already freely offering.

    Those are the requirements for the next guy you get involved with to deserve you.

  60. I can’t add much to what the Awkward Army has already said, but I wanted to address this:

    “Initially I felt hurt that he lied, but approaching the situation calmly,  it’s difficult not to comfort him”

    What kind of calm?

    During secondary school, because I didn’t feel safe there, I spent a lot of time putting my emotions to one side and not processing them in order to stay ‘calm’. I couldn’t afford to Feel Things, because I had to Deal With Things.

    This is a false calm, because THE FEELINGS DON’T GO AWAY, and it never actually leads to you feeling better. Long-term, it does not work. At all.

    I really hope that this is not what you are doing – that your calm is a true calm born of actually feeling your feelings and accepting their relevance to your life – but I have a sense that you may be putting aside the Feeling Things (bad emotions! they hurt!) in order to Deal With Things (comfort friend, maintain relationship).

    The hurt you have felt will not go away if you start a relationship with this guy. Even if you think “I am making a calm and conscious choice to move on from this and forgive him”… the hurt won’t leave and you can’t swallow it forever.

    It’s ok if you end up doing that anyway. I’m really bad at taking my own advice on this. But you will have to deal with the hurt at some point.

  61. Been there. I wish there was anything I could say to make you give this guy up, but I know your heart wants what it wants and that’s no easy task. I would urge you to please not go visit him. Or if you feel like you can’t/won’t cancel your plans, then please try to keep yourself from “comforting” him physically. I sincerely hope that if you visit him, the reality of his situation will pull the sweet feelings caul from your eyes and allow you to see him for what he really is. People are not the same in person as they are long distance. We have a freedom to craft our every word online, which most of us can’t pull off when we’re “live”. And you provided him a nice, safe, adoring friend that he could turn to at any time when things weren’t going his way. If you have to go, please binge-watch Catfish before you go, to steel yourself, haha.

    It’s possible he didn’t have a girlfriend at the beginning, but I find it far, far, far more likely that they were simply fighting. It sounds like he has a very longstanding on-again off-again relationship with someone. And those kinds of relationships tend to go on for years. He has been cheating on her with you, and rationalizing that since you’re not “there” that it’s not cheating. And he’s been cheating on you with her by not telling you what’s going on.

    I hope that if you can’t let him go that you’re able to re-frame the relationship so that you can enjoy what you get out of the relationship without losing parts of yourself in the process. Know what he has provided you (an ear, some sexy times, a distraction) and also accept what he can’t provide you (arms around you at night, exclusiveness, dirty dishes in the living room, leaving the toilet seat up). Protect yourself and be well.

    1. I doubt if the visit will happen. Why would it? The LW isn’t girlfriend material for this guy. In X months, as the visit draws near, Something will come up.

  62. A slightly different perspective (but which probably gives you a very similar answer to what everyone else is saying): I started dating my wife when I was engaged to someone else, and both relationships were ones where we met online. The difference is that we are all poly, and I was 1000% upfront with everyone about what was happening.

    When ex-fiance and I broke up, it was my call but I was still really sad about it for quite a long while (partially because of undiagnosed depression). At first, I would go to my partner for comfort over the break up, but it didn’t take long for them to say “Hey, this isn’t working for me, I love you but I need you to find someone else to process these particular feelings with”. And I was like, “yeah, ok, that’s fair”, and then I found other people to talk to! My partner supported me in other ways, mostly by being the same cool person they’d always been. We got to have fun together and I respected their boundaries and eventually I mourned the break up and got treated for my depression and moved on.

    My point is that regardless of whether you decide to keep this dude in your life, the fact that he needs comforting in no way means you have to be the one providing comfort. Most people have access to at least some of: friends, family members, mental health professionals, chatrooms, blogs, literally anyone on earth who is not you, and he can choose ANY OF THE ABOVE to help him work out his sad feelings about his breakup with the girlfriend he lied to you about.

    As an additional note, in your shoes, I would not be inclined to keep the dude around. The having-another-partner thing obviously wouldn’t be a huge concern to me, but a lie that big and that ongoing? I think that would be a deal breaker to me. My wife and I dated for two years long distance and have now been married and living together for six months, and we tell each other EVERYTHING. We always have done. The possibility that they would hide anything important from me is just – completely foreign? I can’t even imagine it. Maybe you felt that way before you found this out and I’m really sorry you had to have your trust betrayed like this (and so blithely too, like he barely pauses for breath between revealing the lie and asking you to comfort him about it? Wow). But there are people out there who won’t do that, and you deserve to be in a relationship with someone you can trust.

    At a minimum, this guy needs to:
    a) Not ask you for comfort about this, not at all, not ever
    b) Respond in a respectful and understanding way when you communicate point a above to him
    c) Apologise for lying to you, ideally without prompting from you
    d) Commit to earning back your trust in whatever ways you think would help (at it’s core, this point is just about him demonstrating he can respect your boundaries going forwards)

    My wife and I are still in the middle of coping with the work that goes into making a long distance relationship no longer long distance and it is hard work, which for you would be on top of the hard work of figuring out if he’s earned your trust back, so if you decide to go that way, make sure he’s worth it.

    I hope things work out for you, LW.

  63. LW I think one thing to know going forward is it is very unlikely he is going to become a cooler guy than he has been up to this point. Like you’ve been seeing his *best* behavior and level of integrity so far. That seems improbable — like no no, the lying about having a girlfriend was a fluke of circumstance, but that’s behind him now, and so he’s free to be as open hearted and honest going forward as I am and as most people are.

    This is one of the big traps with dishonest people — you project on to them your own honesty, or an average degree of honesty, and you think hey under normal conditions of course that’s what I am going to be getting from this person. Yay normal conditions commencing now! And then… it turns out you are always in a state of exception. Over and over and over. Until you figure out: dishonesty is their normal. He could be the outlier on this, life is a rich tapestry, but if you keep coming up against exculpatory circumstances or things you supposedly did wrong that somehow always produce more dishonesty, RUN. (Run already, probably. But that’s easier to advise than to do)

  64. I am reminded of the Mitch Hedberg line-
    “I don’t have a girlfriend, but I do know a woman who’d be really mad if she heard me say that.”

  65. LW, you said you are going to see him in a few months which makes it sounds like this has been something you’ve been planning for quite some time but the breakup with his gf was quite recent. So…..he was making plans to meet up with you while in a relationship? What an awful thing to do to both you and ex GF.

    Also, the fact that he’s turning to you for comfort over his breakup is, like, such a telling situation since he could have just not mentioned the relationship at all (you’re at a distance, you would never have known). It makes me think perhaps this guy doesn’t have a lot of other support in his life to turn to. That’s something you should think about very seriously – does he talk about friends? Family? There’s likely a reason he doesn’t have other close, non-online relationships. Reasons like……being a lying liar who lies?

  66. LW, you said you are going to see him in a few months which makes it sounds like this has been something you’ve been planning for quite some time but the breakup with his gf was quite recent. So…..he was making plans to meet up with you while in a relationship? What an awful thing to do to both you and ex GF.

    Also, the fact that he’s turning to you for comfort over his breakup is, like, such a telling situation since he could have just not mentioned the relationship at all (you’re at a distance, you would never have known). It makes me think perhaps this guy doesn’t have a lot of other support in his life to turn to. That’s something you should think about very seriously – does he talk about friends? Family? There’s likely a reason he doesn’t have other close, non-online relationships. Reasons like……being a lying liar who lies?

  67. This guy is a total BEEHIVE full of ANGRY BEES.

    Maybe this calls for some wisdom from Maya Angelou:
    “When people show you who they are, why don’t you believe them? Why must you be shown 29 times before you can see who they really are?”

    You met him online and are 99.9% sure he was flirting with you while he had a girlfriend.
    Now you know that he will do the same thing to you with some girl online if you become his girlfriend.
    It is likely that, even now, he is talking to a dozen other girls online just the way he talks to you.
    It is even likely that he still has a girlfriend and has “broken up” with her just to pique your interest and get you hooked in.

    This guy sounds like paper cuts and lemon juice combined.

  68. On a tangential note, where do all these human beings come from that they have the energy to PEOPLE so much that they have overlapping beaus/significant others? It exhausts me to even think about it. When I have a roommate or a partner, some days I am so peopled out after work I need a giant FUCK OFF zone around my body until my introversion is placated enough for me to go out and interact with other people again. My phone ringer is kept permanently on mute (I used to go to the trouble to assign everyone I might hear from on the telephone a special ringtone, then realized I literally never take my phone off silent or, at best, vibrate only). When I live alone, there’s a good chance I have literally been mute the entire weekend / entire time I have been alone, not talking to myself and sometimes, though more rarely, not even to my pets (I love on them and play with them without talking to them sometimes, as one of my critters is actually deaf). I’m just saying I don’t know how to social skillz like this. (How do I even have friends? Why do they put up with this? It is a mystery!)

    So…. It is likely I will never be a cheater because that is 200% more peopling than I can typically stand on any given day!

    Also, I have hobbies that occupy my time and do a lot of solo, quiet activities like reading books. I’m just too busy for this extracurricular peopling stuff, given that I have to people at work, and on my commute there and back, and with friends and family and strangers at the grocery store and gas station… How do these folks juggling multiple flirtations and relationships even do it?! *feels tired*


    1. Part of how I seem to do it is that my partners are, between them, getting something like 90% of my in-person social/people energy, even though one of them lives in another country and we go months at a time talking only by email.

      This is a poly situation, which means that I’m not juggling lies or excuses; I don’t know if that means less people energy, but I am fairly sure that it means less stressful interactions with the significant others.

  69. “Initially I felt hurt that he lied, but approaching the situation calmly, it’s difficult not to comfort him…”

    The Specific Vocabulary — when I read this initially,
    jumped out at me as if actually spoken by my ex-
    “Can’t we approach this situation calmly and rationally?”

    LW, are you consciously quoting his words to us about your own emotions?
    LW, are you unconsciously mirroring his words to us about your own emotions?
    LW, are you unconsciously mirroring his words to us about his response to your emotions?

    Historical Fact: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON was never a widespread British WWII slogan [Germany didn’t invade].
    LW, it doesn’t have to be your mantra, either.

    and, a little HuffPo:

  70. I once told a friend of mine that lying to me is a deal breaker. If I’m dating a man, and he lies to me, then I will stop dating him, and that’s that. She told me I should keep going, give him a chance, he could be the Love of my Life!

    I tried to convince her that deal breakers are deal breakers for a reason (and anything can be a deal breaker, and it does not even have to make sense), and she may be OK with this, but this is MY deal breaker, for ME, and so no, if he lies to me, he cannot be the Love of my Life, because it’s MY life and MY deal that he broke.

    She didn’t get it. Later, she got married and was already planning her escape route before the wedding even took place, “in case he turns out to be a jerk.” Sooooo, she wasn’t sure that he wasn’t really a jerk, but was marrying him, anyway?

    I was not able to stand to maintain a friendship with her, because of the bruises on my forehead from too mush desk-banging.

    So, how does this apply to you, dear LW? Well, obviously, this lie was a deal breaker to Captain Awkward. However, it is YOUR life, and YOU are in charge of deciding what deals YOU make and break. Just be aware that for a lot of people, if you keep going with liar-dude, they will be banging their heads on their desks, in frustration for you and your life going forward, knowing that liar-dude will lie to you again and again, and we don’t want that for you.

    You deserve better.

    Also, I don’t think that he deserves comfort right now, and certainly not from you.

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