My boyfriend’s involvement with other women bothers me

I have written in before... and I need more advice from you and others...

I hate to go into all the details, but I will try to sum it up and lay the groundwork for my question. My feelings towards this are based on a background of a not so good start to a relationship.

My boyfriend of almost 5 years moved to where I live about 4 years ago. We don’t live together but have been exclusive to each other the entire time he has lived here anyway. Because when he moved up here I found out that he was seeing someone there (before he moved) and didn’t have the guts to end it with her (so he says). So he told her a lie and said he was moving because of a job to a different city even, but he still had contact with her once he moved here.

I found her number on his phone and I called her—let’s just say I had the guts to end it.

But ever since then, I have had a HUGE issue with trust.

Throughout our relationship, he was constantly observing other women and then would make comments about them. I’ve had more occasions ruined, like my latest birthday out for dinner, a fun night at a concert to my favorite artist and lots more occasions.

In addition, he was calling women that he worked with from his cell phone at night and having long conversations with them. I thought and still do think this was totally inappropriate. These women are single and even though it’s just talking, it was never around me. I finally had enough.

So we went to counseling, he only went twice, once by himself and once together. She told him it was very inappropriate to notice and make comments about other woman. And she told me in confidence, that I will never have peace or harmony in this relationship because he has NO boundaries.

He thinks as long as he is not pursuing them sexually that everything else is okay. He did stop calling these women, and I found out that he was confiding with them about me, which really upset me. He only stopped because the counselor said what she said that it wasn’t appropriate, I don’t feel HE thinks that it’s inappropriate.

What do you think? I think it’s disrespectful and it hurts my feelings. So here we go, I’m back to asking—is it appropriate for him to be gawking at other women, especially with me?

He tries to play it off even though I call him out on the carpet for it. He denies that he was looking. My recent approach has been not a scolding one, but almost laughing... Like ha ha, I saw you, you’re so funny... He will say I was just looking at the vehicle or whatever, but I know better, and I just laugh (at least to him anyway).

But here’s the deal, it used to be that he would notice only me and not all the external distractions around him. He compliments me and tells me how much he loves me and how beautiful I am, blah, blah, blah.

But he is SO EASILY distracted to the point even watching TV. He uses the excuse that men will be men. But I think it’s more of his insecurities to be noticed. Just yesterday he told me, you should have seen how I was dressed today, I was looking pretty d_mn good.

I really didn’t react, I just said, oh, I am sure you did. He is a very good looking man, and is considered at his work to be a BIG gigantic flirt (so I’ve heard).

And the women he has talked on the phone at night in the past work with him on his team. He used to tell me things, but now he doesn’t talk about them.

Which is kind of the goal I wanted from seeing the counselor, and he doesn’t speak out loud or make comments to me about other women, or the women that he observes.

But he is still doing the action, only removed are the ‘words.’

It’s kind of catch 22 for me, I want an open honest relationship, but do I really with him—when I don’t like the part of his honesty?

Will this only get worse as time goes on, if we were to marry or live with one another? I have my whole heart invested in this man, and we do have the best chemistry I’ve ever had with anyone. I love him, but I am not sure if he will ever understand boundaries in a relationship even though I’ve asked him straight out—maybe you’re not meant to be in a long-term relationship and he says that this ‘our relationship’ is what he has always wanted all of his life.


If a partner engages in behavior which is upsetting, it is very easy to get a partner to refrain from doing that behavior in front of you.

Punish your boyfriend for his behavior, and he will hide it from you (see react poorly). But, this does not mean that he will change his behavior when you are not around.

Human behavior is driven by our emotions (see Damasio).

When the immediate threat of punishment looms large, it is easy to get a partner to change their ways. But, it is difficult to change a person’s underlying feelings and emotions.

This is important to highlight: Short-term behavioral change is relatively easy; changing someone’s underlying emotions is difficult. As such, this problem probably won’t go away (see rules about love).

Are you entitled to feel the way you feel?

Of course. You should be treated the way you want to be treated, and anything less can lead to feelings of betrayal (see what counts as cheating).

Is your boyfriend sincere about wanting to be with you?

Most likely. But, relationships are complicated. Relationships involve three different emotional systems—sexual desire, love and attachment (see sex, love, attachment).

It is quite possible that you boyfriend is in love with you and that he is deeply attached to you. And most likely, your boyfriend has strong sexual feelings for you. But, sexual desire is rarely directed at only one person. For some people, it can be very difficult for them to control their feelings of sexual desire (see likely to cheat).

Your boyfriend’s flirtatious behavior and his contact with other women is probably driven by his sexual desire (see flirting).

Again, this doesn’t mean that he loves you any less. Some individuals just have a more difficult time controlling their sexual feelings. It is likely that you boyfriend would behave this way in any relationship.

Or think of the problem this way: If your boyfriend’s contact with other women is motivated by a desire for friendship, he should be reaching out to all sorts of people—including unattractive and unavailable women (as well as men).

So, while your boyfriend says that he is not sexually pursuing these women, it is probably best to ignore that statement and watch how he behaves. Most people do not understand their own behavior or how profoundly their sexual feelings motivate their actions (see sexual desire).

Does this mean that your boyfriend will eventually cheat on you? Who knows? For some people, flirting provides enough excitement and sexual attention. And unfortunately, some people always need more sexual excitement than flirting can provide (see husband constantly cheats).

Where does this leave you?

No relationship is perfect. All relationships involve both costs and rewards (see quality of relationship quiz).

You’ll have to decide if the rewards outweigh the costs of being with your boyfriend. But, expecting a fundamental change to occur is not very realistic and should probably not be factored into your decision making.

Hopefully, other people have some advice to offer you as well….

 troubled relationship | worth saving

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