My boyfriend hid his contact with another woman

I met a man online that I have been dating for approx. 17 months. After we began seeing each other, he quickly advised me he was getting off the dating site and wanted me to do the same so that we could FOCUS on our relationship.

I was not aware that before he got off the site, he gave his phone number and email address to several different women. However about 6 months later, I came across some emails and phone bills which indicated he had remained friendly with several of the women and one particular woman he had spent 3–4 hours a week talking to. This continued for the first 4 months of our relationship and then stopped. Because it had stopped...I did not address it with him. However, I did make a point of telling him that corresponding IN ANY FORM with someone that was romantically interested in him was a HUGE NO NO to me and that I would consider it infidelity... emotional infidelity... regardless of whether he had physical contact with them. He thought I was making a big deal out of nothing and never admitted all the previous phone calls.

I also told him that in the future, if he were to be contact by anyone, he was to tell me immediately.

He also was receiving phone calls and emails from a woman he lived with for 6 years... there are no children involved and so I find it ODD that they would continue to keep contact. I told him I was uncomfortable with this and again, he said I was over-reacting. The phone calls are short and she is always the one making them.... I don’t know about emails... but still, he would not like it if I kept contact from someone in my past.

Fast Forward one year and I am at his office and pick up a message from this same woman that he had spent so much time talking to you in the past. Two messages in fact. I confronted him and he stated that he did not tell me about the calls because he thought I did not know about her and if he told me I would be angry and secondly he admitted to being flattered as to the reason he called her back. He claimed this phone call from her was OUT OF THE BLUE and that he called her and left a message that he was still in the same serious relationship and happy but commented that it was good to hear from her so naturally she called again.

The funny thing is... she called the office... he called her back from the office which could only be so that there would be no record on his cell phone. She asked him to give her a TIME that they could talk. I find that really strange. It makes me believe that he has been talking to her or emailing her all along... and that the ‘time’ comment was because he was going to have to come back to his office to call her after work (he would simply claim that he had to go back and do some work in his lab). He does NOT want to discuss this whole issue... he just wants to apologize and move on. Again he claims that she just called him OUT OF THE BLUE... which I find really hard to believe... that a woman would contact someone AFTER ONE YEAR if there was not something continually going on... at least some sort of contact. He would never have told me if I had not found the messages.

I told him to send her an email and tell her NEVER to contact him again ... HE DID... but only after I gave him an ultimatum.

The more I think about it, the angrier I am becoming. He knows I can pick up his messages and/or look at his cell phone records... but I can’t do so with his office email and/or phone... so I am beginning to think he is using those to keep contact with others.

He has told me he won’t do it again... but honestly... at this point, I really don’t trust him. He was sexually abused as a child and I know that causes people to have issues with boundaries... and as an adult he has struggled with alcohol although he seems to have that under control.

I am really not quite sure what to do... I don’t want to waste any more time with a man that cannot commit to just me. This appears to be more than a boundary issue... I think he needs other women in his life to build his self esteem... and if so... and if that is what he chooses... then fine... but he needs to at least be honest about it because I am NOT interested in that sort of man.

He says he truly loves me and we really get along great in every aspect but this one. I am not really sure, at this point, what to do.

I don’t want to become hyper vigilant. Perhaps I need to just start focusing more on spending time with my friends without him around (now I include him in almost everything) and step somewhat back from the relationship until he SHOWS me that he can be completely faithful to me. In the meantime, if that does not happen, I feel that I need to put a deadline on our relationship growing more intimate so as allow the opportunity for me to meet someone who can be totally honest with me and totally committed to me....

Please give me your thoughts.

Response:

A couple of things come to mind.

To begin with, everyone holds expectations about love and dating—including expectations about how relationships should work and how partners should interact with others (see what counts as cheating). And because partners do not always hold the exact same set of expectations when it comes to love and romance, it’s important for couples to discuss their expectations with each other.

The tricky part, however, is learning how to have such conversations in a manner that is effective. People often tell their partners exactly what they can and cannot do. Generally speaking, this is not an effective way to discuss one’s expectations because it comes across as being controlling. Few people like to be told what they can and cannot do. And when confronted with an overt display of power, many people do exactly the opposite of what their partners want a means of maintaining some autonomy (see relationship dynamics).

A much more effective way to discuss one’s expectations involves focusing on one’s feelings and needs rather than making explicit statements about what partners can and cannot do (i.e., “it would hurt me, if you were emotionally close to someone else” rather than “I don’t want you to have contact with….”). Essentially, the same message gets conveyed, but the message is easier to hear when it’s said in a way that creates empathy rather than when it is stated as a command (see talk about problems).

And there are some other problems with making one’s expectations too rigid. While it is good to make one’s expectations known, it also helps to keep an open mind. Generally speaking, people try to live up to their partner’s expectations. But, when people fall short of what their partner’s expect, which happens from time to time, and especially when the threat of punishment is high, people instinctively try to hide what they’ve done (see lying and partner’s expectations). So, if you want a partner to be honest, it helps to set expectations while also indicating a willingness to understand and forgive (see getting others to be honest).

Unfortunately, from the sound of your question, it seems like your boyfriend has decided that hiding things from you is better than telling you the truth. This is a very hard dynamic to change. For your boyfriend to be honest, he needs to feel safe talking to you about issues where you may not always see eye-to-eye. The more ultimatums you give, the less likely the truth will be told.

And this is where the real dilemma emerges. Relationships are complicated. Put too much pressure on romantic partners to live up to your expectations and they start hiding things. But, if you don’t assert your needs and feelings enough, partners will do as they please. If you’re too demanding and rigid, partners lie. If you’re too easy going and understanding, partners will not take your feelings into account.

Overall, the trick to having a functional relationship involves trying to find a balance that works—one where your needs are generally met without punishing a partner too heavily for telling the truth. Of course, this is always easier said than done.

 cheating boyfriend | control issues | lying boyfriend | troubled relationship | unpleasant discovery

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