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‘I Think My Boyfriend Is on Dating Sites’

Dear Chump Lady,

I think my boyfriend is on dating sites, but I’m too tech illiterate to investigate it.

Specifically, I think he’s on Hinge and Tinder. Possibly Bumble. I tried making a dummy Hinge account to see if I could match with him (I Googled it and you can’t search for specific people on these apps). But the account wouldn’t proceed unless I enrolled my phone number, which I feel could backfire on me somehow. I don’t want him finding out I’m doing this, but I feel this gnawing in my stomach. The Hinge profile, if he has one, would hit me harder than the others because it’s supposedly specifically for relationships. If he’s on there, I need to see his profile. I need to see what he’s saying on it. I need to see how he’s presenting himself and what he says he’s looking for.

A friend told me to just get a burner phone and use that phone number, but I know even less about all of that and I’m on a budget. Is this the way to go, or is there some alternative that I’m not thinking of here? I asked a dating discussion forum and basically just got a bunch of people saying I sound like someone trying to catfish and scam some unsuspecting guy, so…no help there. I don’t know if a Google voice temporary number would work, or if I should just shell out for a whole-ass new phone or what.

Sorry if I’m in the wrong place. I’m in therapy and trying to get myself to calm down, but I’m really scared to drop this guy without knowing for certain that he’s playing me for a fool here.

-A

****

Dear A,

Whoa, A! Never EVER be scared to drop a guy.

You’re in the power seat, A. You’re the decider. Do you feel safe in this relationship?

Your letter is heavy on the covert spy stuff and light on the details, but I’m going to assume there’s some shady stuff happening for you to feel these deep suspicions.

Either one of two things is going on — he’s totally innocent and you’re irrationally deranged with fear, in which case you shouldn’t be dating. Or — he’s super sketchy, you’re nuts from the gaslighting, and you shouldn’t be dating him.

I know. Not the answer you were hoping for. You wanted tech support (from me, a middle-aged blogger who doesn’t understand her Facebook settings) not a Trust That They Suck sermon.

Here’s the thing with sketchiness and feeling off balance — that’s ENOUGH. You don’t need to crack the code or create fake dating profiles. You just have to listen to yourself and check in with your feelings. Trust your judgment. Pay attention to what you’re observing.

Does your boyfriend ghost you? Is he distracted? Protective of his cell phone? Does he get super defensive? Does this relationship run hot and cold? Does whatever he’s telling you add up? Are you spackling? Oh right, totally makes sense that you slept in your car in January and had no cell phone signal…

Any of this bullshit going on? That’s ENOUGH. You don’t feel safe with this person? DUMP HIM. You can dump someone for far lesser offensives than being on multiple dating sites while feigning a commitment to you. Maybe he doesn’t read books. Maybe you don’t like the color of his sweater. Maybe he drones on about Civil War battles…

YOU GET TO CHOOSE!

Yes! You get to decide if he’s acceptable and worthy of you! Or if you’d rather spend your quality time elsewhere.

You’re DATING. This is supposed to be the best of times. It’s sex and dining out. It’s not supposed to throw you into apoplexies of therapy. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORK WITH THIS.

Oh, but you need evidence?

I long ago resigned from the Marriage Police Squad. But I can tell you what I learned — you can’t win this arms race. If someone wants to cheat, they’ll find a way to cheat on you.

If you catch him and he promises to be transparent and share his passwords and be a good boy, that’s bullshit. Because a) you’re not his nanny. Who wants that kind of crappy parentified relationship? and b) He’ll just get new passwords and new devices you don’t know about.

Duping you is half the fun. It’s not a technology problem, it’s a character problem. You can find evidence of bad character without finding the smoking Tinder profile.

Look, I don’t know what you’re going to find after you set your traps, but it’s obvious that this relationship is not bringing out the best in you. Save the therapy money and just end it, please. (((A)))

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • The day you feel you have to police, trap, discover, spy on, covertly watch, babysit or interrogate a lover or boyfriend is the day you must make another plan. Like your own place. Toss him back. He’s not a good fish because he makes you feel unsafe, uneasy, unloved.

    • I felt uneasy while we were engaged. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to let go of the deposit for the hall and cake and just run. I wish I knew then that the uneasy feeling itself was enough reason to. At the time it felt like uneasiness was not a good enough reason to dump someone but it absolutely is and was. Your gut tells you this before there is a real D-day sometimes.

      OP: Trust that instinct. Don’t worry about what “might have been.” True love won’t leave you with uneasiness and doubt. If you have crazy trust issues then as CL said, you need therapy and to not be dating anyone while you sort it out.

      • I mentioned feeling uneasy to a close friend and she told me to put on my big girl panties and take the plunge again. I mentioned feeling uneasy to my therapist, who said he loves you, he loves your children and you deserve to be happy. Neither of them suggested I explore why I was uneasy despite there being plenty of time since the wedding invites hadn’t even been printed. I look back and see that both of these women need to be in a relationship, no matter how dysfunctional, to feel whole.

        I wish I had trusted my gut then the way I do now.

        • ” … these women need to be in a relationship, no matter how dysfunctional … ”

          More to the point, they needed YOU to be in a relationship. Untangle that skein if you want to waste some time.

          • As a serial monogamist since age 16, guilty as charged. The interesting thing is that I wasn’t marriage-minded, didn’t have wedding fantasies, etc. But after three attempted assaults starting at age 10, I didn’t feel safe alone. It was tragic because I loved to explore the world by myself. Ask my poor mother who had to deal with my elopements in NYC from the moment I could walk. I had friends and loved being social but there’s a particular joy in traveling alone, having your thoughts and impressions to yourself. Like both my parents, I would write and sketch. I would also meet the most amazing people whom I never would have noticed if I’d been in a group.

            Observing is not just for creeps and stalkers. I was once in a cafe and felt someone staring at me, turned around and saw the director Sally Potter sitting alone at a table with a little smile on her face just soaking in people, probably in a lovely haze of creativity. She saw me looking back and twinkled. It looked so blissful but I wasn’t yet middle aged and so I couldn’t be anywhere alone for more than five minutes without being creeped on. Attempts to study self defense were a wash because I had trick knees from a series of dance and sports injuries. At the time there weren’t a lot of self defense resources for people with physical limitations, classes were often run by assholes and I’d end up getting injured.

            Even though I’m pretty boringly hetero, I had fantasies that I could occasionally shape-shift into a guy so I could go places that it wasn’t generally safe for girls to go. I wanted to be invisible. Feeling unsafe also affected my dating preferences. After a date ended up in a horrifying fistfight with some rando street guy, my taste in men shifted from “gentle nerd” to a little tougher.

            Basically reality destroyed my solo flights and, being unable to afford a personal body guard detail, I went from relationship to relationship until I met FW my last year in college.

            But here’s the thing: Nothing destroys beautiful solitude more than a cheater. They resent your peace of mind and ability to enjoy periods of solitude because they don’t share it. The way they know they exist is the constant attention of others and they suck all attention to themselves. It doesn’t have to be positive attention but he would sabotage every time my attention drifted from him.

            If I had a time machine, I sometimes think I would have been better off getting a concealed carry permit.

            • Yes, I hear you loud and clear on the “cheaters don’t tolerate solitude” issue. I never hid the fact that I’m an independent intellectual introvert. Now I realize that my STBX FW resented my relatively few moments of solitude and did everything she could to sabotage them. Worse, I often let her. Onward and upward!

            • Hell of a Chump, your post reminds me of the lyrics to my friend Cindy Lee Berryhill’s song, Da*n I Wish I was a Man: “Like heroes in books I’d go a travelin’ “. Check it out on youtube. A feminist anthem about all the indignities of being a woman.

        • Gavin De Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear” shows why ignoring our gut instincts and listening to others is a terrible idea. That therapist you had–what a quack.

    • Exactly. Or, if this guy is a total peach and the writer is suffering from major paranoia and self esteem issues…then better to deal with those and not date anyone for now. I wish I understood in my 20s that by the time you’re spying on your partner, you’ve lost the relationship, either because he’s untrustworthy or because you have a personal issue to work out…or both!

  • A – You could ask him if he’s interested in dating others?

    For chumps, the harder issues to discern are whether the love interest is capable of a reciprocal relationship beyond the initial attraction. Rather than only being hyper alert to red flags, notice whether the person listens as much as they talk. And when they do talk, is it about experiences and values you share? Is it about on-going hard work, community service, family, animals, etc? When they listen to you, does it inform the next conversations?

    Also, don’t have sex if you don’t know enough about each other.

    • He’s very unlikely to answer the question honestly. Cheaters like to use people. They like the thrill of deceit.

      • Yeah, all my attempts at honest communication ever did to me in my marriage was teach him how to abuse me better.

      • I don’t think cheater like anything. I think they are so self centered that they are oblivious to others. They cannot put themselves in anyone else’s shoes because it is beyond their capacity. Leading a double or triple life by being on dating sites, etc., takes a lot of mental skill and effort that does not include anyone else.

  • “Either one of two things is going on — he’s totally innocent and you’re irrationally deranged with fear, in which case you shouldn’t be dating. Or — he’s super sketchy, you’re nuts from the gaslighting, and you shouldn’t be dating him.”

    This is great advice! Read it very carefully multiple times.

    Please use your time in therapy to delve into why you’re feeling so “off”. If it’s you being suspicious or some fear about being in a relationship, that’s definitely something to work out with a good therapist. Perhaps while you take a break from all love relationships.
    If it’s him giving off subtle hints about cheating, other woman or a sense of entitlement, stay in therapy and lose this guy. Find out why you’re trying to ignore deal breakers or red flags before getting into another relationship. And ask the therapist what they think about cheating. Their answer should be that it’s a deal breaker not something to be fixed.

    You truly don’t want to be a spy or police person in your life. It’s exhausting and will only bring you down.

    • Or there’s the “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” thing. I’ve known a few borderline women who were very quick on the draw to blow up friendships with other women based on irrational suspicion. But these same women would take mountains of shit from men so I think it was a matter of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. They’d transfer the rational suspicions they had towards intimate partners and also the history of being burned in relationships onto hapless other women (easier targets).

  • I agree with everything CL says, but A, I totally understand your need for certainty. I had the same situation and I’m really glad I found out. FW’s profile was full of lies and his profile pic was from one of our romantic trips with ME CROPPED OUT! When I saw that, it finalized things for me and was able to walk away and not look back. At the time I was thinking it might be me having trust issues from my original FW, but no, it was real and this also helped me to trust my gut more after that.

    Could you use a friend’s phone number, or have a friend set up their own fake profile?

    • Slightly off topic but you being cropped out is insult to injury. I heard FW talk to OW about taking someone in the family to a certain restaurant like he was a good family man and I was actually the one who did it and PAID because he spent his entire pay on video games. And I wasn’t even a blood relative. You are literally an appliance or facilitator of their good times.

      I think that where there is smoke there is fire and after what I have been through I would just leave if I was not married- then I would need proof. If you must know, be safe and do not confront this person for your own safety. Quietly leave if you live together and clearly end it but before the surveillance make sure you are also preparing to leave. Pursue new interests and friends and possibly get therapy because when you find what you need or you just realize you do not feel safe and leave, you will need something to fill that void otherwise your mental health can take a hit.

    • Yikes! These people are disgusting.

      Mind you, cropping the ex out is a step up from some of the stuff I’ve seen where the ex is still in the picture but is defaced in some way. I saw a surprising number of those just from casually looking at profiles to see what’s out there. I bet those morons wonder why they can’t get dates. Looking at profiles certainly helped confirm my decision to never date again.

  • Well if he’s given you reason to be shady just walk no need for proof. You deserve to feel safe in a relationship. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say best case it’s in your head and they’re just old profiles he never took down . Ask him. Tell him you’re distraught. If he is a keeper with nothing to his he’ll feel terrible you’re distraught and want to do everything he can to make you feel better including showing you the profiles. If he is t interested in making you feel better then you have more than enough evidence you should walk.

    • Ask him and observe his reaction, actions, answers carefully. Does he look at you when he answers, does he mumble some vague things, etc.? Read up on how to spot lying before you ask. Is he offended that you asked? He should want to make you feel safe, assured, etc. He should be concerned about how you feel, not upset that you asked. I really believe that the day you have to start snooping the relationship is or should be over. Give him a chance to let you know if the profiles are old, etc. If you decide to proceed with the relationship, proceed with caution. Or just SLOW WAY DOWN. I had a couple of minor red flags and wish I had paid more attention to them instead of thinking he forgot or it was just one time he drank too much. IMO it is better to be in a relationship with yourself than in one with someone that you can not trust. Suspicions do not usually crop up out of nowhere. Where there is smoke, there is usually a fire or one about to start. My best to you.

  • I went down this rabbit hole with my husband of 28 years. Once I found him on the sites I created profiles he would go after. I messed with his head and he came after me on the verge of violence calling me a “betraying bitch” I got my teenage kids out safely after that. Trust your gut feeling. Don’t stay for 28 years like I did to be single at 55 after growing up with abusive parents and an abusive husband. I wish I would had left a decade earlier. You matter!

  • A lot of cheaters convince their victims that only a Law-and-Order level of evidence is proof of cheating and they are innocent until absolutely proven guilty and by a jury of their cheating peers.
    But we do not live in a court of law and we can make life decisions based on uneasy feelings, hard-to-define feelings of not being safe, and reasonableness.
    This relationship is not healthy for you.

    • Yep, this was my problem. I thought I didn’t have a good enough reason to leave. Even after the divorce, one of his disgusting fucking whores (whom I thought was one of my closest friends for years) told me that I had zero proof.
      Like, ok, right, you dumb bitch, somebody stole his pictures online, gained access to his email account, broke into our home, cracked the password on his computer, and logged into the accounts they made up with his pictures and emails and posted on it from our house. To frame him. That like so totally makes sense.

      Not only are cheaters immoral, they’re also dumber than deep fried shit. It’s crazy but they get away with more than they should because they’re so unbelievably fucking stupid, it’s hard to believe anybody could be that stupid and do such stupid, nonsensical things. Plausible deniability I guess. If you do something beyond stupid that makes zero sense to do, a lot of people will find it unbelievable.

  • I don’t see how your phone number could come back on you. You can sign up with a fake identity and have none of your private info on your profile. You communicate with potential dates through the app, not by phone. Guys might request your number if they’re interested in meeting you, but you don’t have to answer their messages.
    It’s not like the dating apps have the manpower to be cross-checking phone numbers to be sure you are who you say you are. If they did, there wouldn’t be so many creeps on there.
    Are you worried BF might find out through sneaking looks through your phone? Put a lock on it.

    That being said, I agree with CL that if you don’t trust this guy and suspect he’s cheating, it’s enough reason to end the relationship. There’s got to be a reason why you think he’s on dating sites.

    I had an uneasy feeling about my FW 36 years ago, though it wasn’t about cheating amd there were no indications of that. It was something I couldn’t put my finger on, so I dismissed it as me being nervous about relationships because my previous BF had been such an asshole. Turns out my instincts were correct. Don’t ignore your gut.

  • We all know you are in a dither right now, feeling desperate, thinking you need concrete proof before even considering confronting or breaking up. Unless you have psychotic issues and I highly doubt you do, always and I mean always trust your gut. Even if he hasn’t hooked up with anyone yet, the intent is there and you need to start to take control. First thing you should do is walk away, permanently. No conversation. Yes, it will hurt and yes you’ll go over and over in your head if it was the right thing to do and was your reaction over the top. However, down the road a bit you will be happy you took control and dumped this cheating, sneaky asswipe before he dumped you.

  • I have a relationship now where I can use his cell phone, iPad, computer, etc. at any time. I even have his emails showing up on my phone and we have a way to alway find each other on the Life 360 app. This gives me comfort because my ex wouldn’t let me near anything of his. It wasn’t always that way, but it morphed into that and I allowed it. I am so much more at ease now knowing that everything is transparent and shared. I will never be conned and gaslit again.

    • Right. It’s not the same as the marriage police, to know that you have access to shared devices – it makes particular sense to do this when you have kids, since kids often want to use whichever phone is around for playing games, etc. I should have seen it as a red flag when my STBX subtly stopped sharing devices with me even though we still had a kid under 7.

      Here are madly waving red-flag behaviors of STBX I also ignored toward the end:
      1. Putting down the cellphone as soon as I walked in the room
      2. Taking the cellphone to the bathroom, generally having it all the time
      3. Not immediately handing the phone over to kid upon request
      4. A call/text from a name I didn’t know on the locked screen. I thought about teasing “is that your girlfriend?” but thought the better of it, since it was the summer after STBX’s mother died. As an academic, STBX knew a bunch of people I didn’t know. Guess what? 🙄

      All best to you, A.

      • My FW started doing the same things with his cell phone. It was one of the earlier red flags. He also turned off Lock Screen previews so I could see who texted him but not the content of the text. Before the affair he would have me text people from his phone if he was driving. Then he abruptly changed his passcode.

  • Ahh the good old gut instinct. The one we too often ignore. You don’t need evidence (amateur-level), you need to evaluate your relationship (pro-level). Then have a sit down with your beau & discuss your relationship. If he won’t do it or gives unsatisfactory answers or continues whatever is triggering your gut? Yeah, time to book it outta there. Staying in a bad or unsatisfying relationship is the #1 mistake and always the #1 regret. Don’t be us in 10, 20 years.

  • For tech advice: You can download the google voice app to get a cell number that goes to your phone. I use it for work/dating/shopping contacts or any time I want a layer between my personal cell number and a person or advertiser.

    That said, Chump Lady is right. Dating is about finding and building a relationship that makes your life better. That adds something to your one precious mortal time on this earth. If this relationship is triggering this much stress, is it worth it?

    Maybe he is doing something shady, maybe he isn’t but you don’t feel like you trust him because of some early breech, or because his hair subconsciously reminds you of a shady TV character. In the end it may not even matter why, but something about this situation isn’t working for you. It is upsetting you. If you don’t feel like you can have a conversation with him that will resolve it then you need to get curious about why. If it’s you, it is still ok to end things with civility and work on yourself with your therapist to be better for the next one. If it is him then you are at no great loss to remove harm from your life.

    I have dumped good men to work on myself and have stayed in uncomfortable relationships for far too long. I regret the times I stayed far far more. The good men are in some cases still friends and maybe we’ll reconnect if both parties are ready. Maybe not. But I regret the most twisting myself in knots to make some else’s life better at the cost of my own.

  • Unfortunately whatever you suspect is going on is probably FAR worse in reality.
    No need to confirm, just get out and have your therapist help you start healing from the damage this jackass has already done to you. Good luck to you♥️

  • Ditto on For Reals. 34 years for me. My denial was strong but hiding a secret life for that long creates a master at manipulation, a magician really. I was so naïve, trusting, hopeful for the future. Not anymore. I don’t trust blindly now. Working on healing myself and very picky who enters my bubble of sanity. Trust your gut.

  • A, Hugs to you. I know what it’s like to feel off balance. I remember in couples therapy we were supposed to compliment each other to start the session. I wanted to stand up and shout, “There’s something really really wrong here.” My gut was screaming and I simply was not capable of listening. My brain was telling me that I trusted and loved this man and I could not reconcile the two sources; brain and gut. Please continue going to therapy for you, but the takeaway is if you don’t trust your boyfriend, he isn’t trustworthy. This relationship is not for you.

    • I think I was lucky – at court ordered mediation I let him speak first and the mediator told me – after the Great Tantrum and Storm Out in session 2 – she had never seen less to work with but we needed to do what the court ordered.
      It absolutely confirmed that no I wasn’t the problem. And that I couldn’t fix it

  • “Any of this bullshit going on? That’s ENOUGH. You don’t feel safe with this person? DUMP HIM. You can dump someone for far lesser offensives than being on multiple dating sites while feigning a commitment to you. Maybe he doesn’t read books. Maybe you don’t like the color of his sweater. Maybe he drones on about Civil War battles…” OMG–this made me laugh so hard!! My FW got a Bachelors Degree in Social Studies–and we lived in Gettysburg–so I had to hear every minute of every battle, every time we drove somewhere! I was looking forward to him having a classroom so he could teach those kids instead of me!! AND he never landed that teaching job! Ugh. Thanks for the laugh today!

  • OP has gotten some priceless advice from CL and will be getting invaluable support from CN.

    My comment is this:

    How many of us “seasoned” Chumps have been so well-educated (or so close to Tuesday) that we know exactly what advice that WE would give… and then have it substantiated by CL’s same reply? Even down to some of the same phrases or observations? (Many times before I even finish the end of the OP’s various dilemmas , my brain is screaming “gaslighting!”, “word salad!”, “character problem!!”, “trust that they suck!”)

    When we are at that point: That, fellow Chumpsters, is healing worth celebrating. 🎉 🏆 💪🏻 🥂

  • If you want to do some tech PI work, maybe sit down and take 15 minutes and make a list of all the tech you will have to
    monitor. Start by going to the App Store and looking up all the dating and hookup and communication apps. Then there are the dummy apps that conceal their true function. Websites. Burner phones. Extra laptops. Secret cell phones. Multiple email accounts with multiple social media accounts which can be used as avenues to communicate. Memory sticks. You would need to be a human Unix station, 24/7/376, with a few hundred underlings on their Unix stations, monitoring all
    the tech possible to use to cheat, and you could still not cover all the exits.

    This is no way to live, and love has nothing to do with a situation where you need to do this.

    OR

    You can take 10 seconds and write ONE question on a piece of paper:

    Are TRUST and SAFETY the foundation of this relationship?

    NO means GO, because without it, you have no relationship.

    Where there is deception, there is no relationship.

    If I have to try to control and monitor someone, I have no healthy relationship.

    Without trust and safety, there is no healthy relationship.

    If someone is deliberately hurting me, the only thing for me to do is leave.

    In 1993-ish, three years into the relationship with Traitor X, I suspected he was cheating. He was definitely lying about a relationship he had with a woman in his junior college class. They were “study partners.” My gut was going off and telling me otherwise. 27 years later, after a marriage, co-founding a business, having a child, and a painful whopper of a DDay just after our 20th wedding anniversary, I realized I was right. Except for having my daughter, I wish I would have trusted myself and left. Now we are all stuck in a nightmare existence. I can’t get away from him 100% like I could have back then.

    The video of the police interview of Chris Watts’ mistress, Nicole Kessinger, was recently released. The other day, I listened to it like I’d listen to a podcast. This is the kind of person you’re partnering with when you choose a cheater. Have higher standards for yourself. That’s where the authentic love is.

    https://youtu.be/uLc0GHtbNLM

    • You are right on target, Velvet Hammer. There is no end to the cheating apps available, the endless email addresses, the burner phones, even “Words With Friends” game has a chat function that can and has been used for sitting right at the kitchen table with you in the room, texting his mistress while “Playing a Game”. It is no longer possible to track all the strands of infidelity. Here’s the one unfailing fact: your gut is on your side, will never lie to you, and should be trusted. You don’t trust him? Whether you KNOW anything, whether you can PROVE anything, you should exit that relationship. My first inkling of infidelity, long before I discovered anything at all, was a sudden influx of thoughts about divorce and what I would do if he wanted one. I didn’t want one – I was happily married (I thought) – but suddenly, for no reason at all and completely out of nowhere, I was thinking what’d I’d do if he wanted a divorce. Listen to your gut. It has evolved over thousands of years to protect your interests.

      • My ex and his OW chatted on Chess With Friends. It’s ridiculous. He also put a lock code on his phone, took the phone in the bathroom, and started locking the bathroom door when he was in the shower, which he had never done before.

        I completely agree – TRUST YOUR GUT. My ex gaslit me so badly, I stopped trusting my gut feelings. Part of the KNEW from the very beginning that something was off about his “new friend”. He tried to tell me I was just jealous that he had a female friend,. Even as messed up as I was then, I asked him if I had EVER in 15 years ever had an issue with any of his female friends (and he always had female friends). He had to agree that I was not normally jealous or at all concerned.

        My ex had an “explanation” and plausible excuse for everything I saw that didn’t make sense other than that he was having an affair with this woman. Because I loved him, I wanted to believe him.. Turns out I was right about every single detail. EVERYTHING.

        Trust your gut and go. I wish I’d left in September 2017 when he first admitted having had (notice the past tense) feelings for this stupid ho. Instead, I stuck around for 3 1/2 years and endured an absolute hell where I was sure I was going insane.

        I’m a pretty good amateur detective (the paralegal in my attorney’s office said I would make a very good PI), but you don’t need all the evidence. You already have your answer.

      • This reminded me of a red flag in retrospect: I had a male friend that I met through a rare disease network. It was a long-distance friendship based on our mutual diagnosis of a rare disease. We started playing Words With Friends, and I was open and upfront about my friendship with this man, who helped me with my journey into remission. The FW was SO JEALOUS even though I shared my conversations.

        The FW told me that men are only friends with women so they can fuck them. ding ding ding that was the red flag I overlooked. HE WAS ONLY FRIENDS WITH WOMEN FOR SEX.

        And yet my rare disease friend was someone that I would never meet, and our conversations consisted of meds and scrabble words.

        One of my few regrets is that I stopped participating in that friendship, and then he died. And then D-day happens.

  • I would say take a break from dating. It’s too exhausting to play spy.

    I have a suggestion if you feel you must spy. Use his telephone number to sign up. The app/program will tell you 1) this number has been used already (bingo, you caught him) or 2) it will send a code to his phone.

    I did this and the number was used. I dumped very quickly!

  • Sometimes I read the “Sherlock Chump” commenting something like; “Well, if the STD panel comes back positive- That’s IT! I’m leaving!”. I wonder why the coin flip of a positive clap test should be the final straw? Shouldn’t the behavior of the cheater who put the chump in this position be the deciding factor?
    Time and again, I read it. though. Trust. I was exactly in that position, I was certainly not willing to accept responsibility for MY choice to set boundaries and leave the relationship, but now I’m smarter.

  • Ooh boy do I have a story on “transparency” when a SO wants to keep both relationships going. FW got caught at a bar in the middle of the workday with the supposedly ex-AP and begged and pleaded with me to stay. There was nothing going on between them. Something about her just needing an ear regarding a work situation and decompressing for drinks. Told me he would share his phone location with me. Whelp, he just started leaving his cell phone at work and would text me from the iPad when out and about with her. The thing is, everything felt off to me even without evidence of the wrong doing. OP, if your gut is screaming at you, just listen. I get wanting to find a smoking gun, but IMO since you presumably don’t have children or marital assets I would just jump ship on a hunch alone.

  • Please listen to your gut. Your body will tell you the truth, even if it is in opposition to the words coming out of his mouth. My gut KNEW something was off from day one of the FW’s affair. I was uneasy for months, then finally asked him point blank, “Are you having an affair?” “Nope” was the answer. I didn’t want to be that suspicious, controlling spouse, so did my best to believe him. Life was getting worse, not better. Over 7 years I asked him again, a few times, with the same response.
    The point is, a cheater LIES. That is what they do. Why they lie isn’t important. Is that what you want in a serious relationship?
    I finally developed a serious auto-immune condition, probably brought on in part by the stress of my gut fighting my brain. I wanted to believe his lies, so much so that I made myself sick.

    I understand the need to have proof. I do. But if you are policing now, trust me when I say it isn’t going to improve.

    In my case, It ultimately came spewing out as a way for him to live an “authentic” life. A life that involved a long-term affair, massage parlors, prostitutes, Craigslist hook-ups. And an HPV diagnosis for me. Oh, and when I uncovered one of his dating profiles, the only true thing he said about himself was that he was married. He lied about his age (10 years younger), claimed he had a PhD (1 semester of Community College), worked at a high level for a Federal Health agency (unemployed).

    Don’t be me. If your gut is screaming something is up, don’t ignore it.

  • Isn’t it “interesting” how people will insult you for trying to protect yourself and know the truth in a romantic relationship? If you thought your business partner was stealing from you, nobody would have a single fucking issue about you looking into the matter. But if it’s your boyfriend? Ooh, you evil catfish, you bad person, how dare you try to learn the truth! Now because you don’t want to be cheated on, you DESERVE to be cheated on. They hope he is cheating on you because you dared to see red flags and be afraid he might be.

    It’s so fucking insane. But if you don’t spy on them, then you end up like me and get called a fucking moron for not knowing. And people say you’re a damn liar and you knew all the shit you didn’t know. Just like people talk all the shit about women on shows like the Tindler swindler about how fucking stupid they are. But if they had looked at his phone and found out so they could get the hell out and save themselves, then they’d be evil fucking abusive bitches who deserved whatever he did to them for violating his privacy.

    It’s just so fun how no matter what happens the cheater is always the victim and the non cheater always deserves it.

    There are enough red flags going on here that you think your boyfriend is on multiple dating sites. Your subconscious is screaming at you to protect yourself. Listen to it. Trust YOU. Just get out of this relationship.

    • Thank you, KatiePig, for articulating my entire experience with Cheater #1. He told our friend circle that I knew he was cheating and I didn’t care. I was considered an idiot for not realizing what was happening, for not seeing the signs, etc., etc., etc. Then I was called a chicken fried bitch for having the temerity to be angry and cutting these people off when I did uncover the string of affairs.

      You are entirely correct, that the betrayed spouse/partner cannot win. In the minds of others, who likely haven’t suffered through infidelity, the affair(s) absolutely must be the betrayed partner’s fault, because of their deficiencies. Not the reasoning that the cheater would cheat on a super mom, super model, super star, super everything because it is due to the cheater’s own character deficiencies and has nothing to do with the betrayed partner.

      As we’ve all read here before, they would cheat on anyone with anyone — because they can.

  • “You don’t feel safe with this person”.

    BINGO!

    What you’re experiencing is your bullshit radar going off and it’s best to listen. This is your life with this guy…..your bullshit radar going off.

    That’s reason enough to dump him even if he isn’t actually doing anything. People who behave in shady ways make poor partners.

  • If you think he’s cheating, he is. I knew lots of things were ‘off’ with my now exhusband. I became a detective, found him on Facebook with 2 aliases, a Twitter account, and discovered he had over 60K in debt he was hiding from me and multiple credit cards and unsecured personal loans, I knew nothing about. I didn’t even bother finding out if he was on any dating apps, he was clearly leading a double life.
    I filed for divorce and served him with papers. Just get out and go No Contact. Don’t waste any more time on this guy.

  • Been there, done ALL that and in the long run but gut was telling me the truth the whole time….which exactly what your gut is telling you A. Time to drop him bc it’s clear you don’t feel safe in the relationship. Odd that you would specifically call out those 3. Has he hinted/said something about those 3 that makes you suspicious of them or has them on his phone? If so, there’s your sign!

    Big hugs! It sucks.

  • One thing I have found useful for breaking up when my gut is screaming that something is wrong but I don’t have “evidence” other than that: I tell the person “I want to break up. I’m just not happy”. If he asks why, say “I’m just not happy in this relationship, I don’t know why, but I am just not happy”. “We have both tried very hard, but I am just not happy. I need to end this relationship. ” And if he starts pouring reasons on you for why you should continue to put up with him, keep repeating “I’m just not happy”, as needed.
    Also, you can do this by email or phone; you don’t have to do it in person.
    The fact is, this relationship is not making you feel safe and truly loved; so you really aren’t happy. That is reason enough to leave.

  • 2 things…

    (1) CL you said to A: “You wanted tech support (from me, a middle-aged blogger who doesn’t understand her Facebook settings)…” It’s not you Tracey. It’s Facebook. Facebook makes sure to keep moving the target and changing settings so no one knows what’s what there. 🙂

    (2) I always think about how some FWs persuade chumps to trust them and that they’ll be “transparent” and share passwords etc. Not only is that a losing battle and you end up having to be the relationship police…. But how can it do anything but breed resentment? When does it stop? When do you trust? It just seems like it’s truly the impossible task. No relationship is worth that. I lost 2 years of sleep thanks to the trauma of FW leaving me. How many more would it have been if I had to spy on him every day? A… if you are living with this much fear and doubt, trust your gut and get free of him.

    • “Facebook keeps moving the target” – you’d better believe it. I found a “chat” with vanishing text on FW’s face book messages. That face book function was designed to facilitate cheating.

    • 1) It’s called deceptive user interface designs or “dark patterns.” For example, I wanted to deactivate (although not delete) my Facebook account. You have to go through multiple pages to do so, and they ask if you would rather just sign out, if you really want to follow through, and the default is to automatically reactivate after 7 days unless you select “don’t reactivate automatically.” Insanity.

      2) Cheaters are only transparent on things they know they can figure out workarounds on. “Of course you can see my credit card history….I’ll just start using cash.” I played way too much of this better mouse trap/better mouse game. So much wasted time.

  • Ugh, that awful, off-kilter feeling. I hate it and as a much younger person, suffered with it regularly. Interestingly, ONLY AND ALWAYS with partners who turned out to be not-nice in various ways. They weren’t necessarily bad people or cheaters, just not right for me, treated me shoddily and liked me off-balance. The day I made a decision to not entertain such relationships again – and to own my own role in allowing and enabling such things to develop – was literally the day before I met my husband (though I didn’t realise it, because it was also my first day at my new job and he was in IT there, so we did in fact meet, but it was very brief and not remotely memorable… to either of us!).

    From the time we became an item, I never felt insecure. Not ever. If he said he was going somewhere or doing something, that’s what he was doing and he called reliably when he said he would. The one time he ever stood me up, it turned out that he’d got home to his house share to get ready for our date and found that the geyser had burst and the house was flooded and it was a disaster. Even then, I waited MAYBE 20 minutes and then got a panicked text. The wrecked carpets were testament to the reality of the situation!

    Unless you really are genuinely paranoid and I feel like you’d be aware of this, unless there is some very specific thing you aren’t mentioning about yourself and your own mental health, your instincts are enough. Value yourself. Step off the roundabout. It’s okay. I guarantee your life will be greatly improved. Not necessarily instantly, but soon enough.

  • I am recently divorced from a FW who is a master conman. He looked like an awkward nerd but found out too late that was a rabid womanizer, dating site regular, porn addict, cyberstalker, fake receipt-maker, and thief (he stole phones, watches, and computers from work–desktops! Found out he would go to work in the middle of the night and walk out with boxes of electronics!). I was married to him for 23 years before I knew anything but I always felt something was off. He used tech to lie, cheat, and steal. There is this pre-tech red flag from when we were dating in the early 90s that I keep kicking myself in the head for. He had a planner where he wrote his schedule and I remember seeing entries like “Lunch with Jackie” or “Movie with Bambi.” When I confronted him about it, he said I was imagining it. I said I saw it in your planner. He showed me his planner and the entries were painted over with white-out and he wrote over them “Study at the library.” I said I saw it and you just covered it! And he said no, he just used white-out to correct his spelling of library. I knew he was lying but I let it go. I will never know why I let it go. I was 18 and clueless. I was gaslit from the very beginning. I look back at that memory and realize that this is who he is. He loves the con. This is what he enjoyed even when he just had paper and a pen. So you can just imagine how he got infinitely vile with the use of tech.

    • Yes, they get off on the con. Mine was the same way. Ridiculous the things I ‘knew’ but had no proof of. Plus they can always play the Jealousy or Crazy card when it suits them which makes you doubt yourself.

  • “is there some alternative that I’m not thinking of here? ” Hell yeah just break up with the guy. OP, you’re light on specifics except you’re very specific about which apps you think he’s on, which leads me to believe me you have specific reasons to believe he’s on dating sites. You want proof without him finding out you’re checking just in case you’re wrong. OP, you’re not wrong. But if you choose to ignore the advice here and get proof before dumping, you MIGHT be able to (and that’s a big might). You don’t need a burner phone, just a fake profile with fake pictures. Phone numbers are not divulged on any of those apps. But here’s the thing, if you don’t find him on there, it doesn’t mean he’s not there. The algorithms can be weird, or he can be putting in incorrect information about himself which would make it harder to find him if you don’t know what lies to be searching for. To be clear, NOT finding him on a dating site is NOT proof that he’s not on it. (I’ve been on dating sites and I know of what I speak)

    “If he’s on there, I need to see his profile. I need to see what he’s saying on it. I need to see how he’s presenting himself and what he says he’s looking for.” How in the world could that possibly matter? He’s looking outside your relationship for something, something that doesn’t involve keeping his dick in his pants. That’s all you need to know.

    Regarding the possibility that you’re paranoid or have trust issues and he’s completely innocent, I’m sorry OP that’s never how these stories end. You have a gnawing feeling for a reason. You deserve better. Break up and move on. You don’t need him.

    • “Regarding the possibility that you’re paranoid or have trust issues and he’s completely innocent, I’m sorry OP that’s never how these stories end.”
      I was thinking something similar to this on the drive into work. Only on TV shows or in the movies have I seen the “I thought s/he was cheating but really they were just embarrassed to be a LARPer” or “it WAS his cousin (that he doesn’t have an incestuous relationship with). Usually suspicions of cheating = cheating.

  • A – pay attention to CL: Never EVER be scared to drop a guy.
    Think of yourself and practice strong statements that begin with “I.”
    “I broke up with him because I felt a gnawing in my stomach.”
    “I stopped dating him because I felt it wasn’t right for me.”
    “I felt unsafe in that relationship.”
    They are strong because you are speaking from what you feel and know about yourself.
    They are vague because of what you don’t know about your boyfriend but this is ok. At this point you don’t know & that’s a red flag.
    You can only control you. It sounds like his behavior is confusing to you in some way. I had to learn that my experiencing confusion because of someone’s actions is the first sign that something is wrong.

    • “you don’t know and that’s a red flag”. Sounds like this nails it. Seriously consider the fact that you may not want to know. Many chumps are in denial. They do not have proof or they know but “have no proof”. I hate to hear someone say “but I have no proof”. Trust your gut. How often does your gut fail you?

  • They just go subterranean if you ask them outright. I found lube in our car and my ex still managed to convince me it wasn’t what I thought. If you have that uneasy feeling it’s a good chance you’re being gaslighted. I wish I would have listened to my gut but when you’re being psychologically abused your instincts get extinguished. Nevertheless I think you have to confront them, do a bit of digging for your own peace of mind but them listen to your gut.

  • I had one of these dating experiences post divorce from cheating XH.

    After dating for 2 months, meeting his kids, friends, work colleagues and traveling together, I suggested taking down the dating profiles when things became physical. Seemed reasonable as he said there was no one else. He agreed and a few weeks later, I checked to see if he had taken his profile down. I couldn’t see his, so I thought we were good and I removed mine.

    Chumplady often writes about reciprocity and mutuality in healthy relationships. Our relationship seemed “hollow” on his part. Sure, he showed up, but the conversation was about him. We did things with his friends. Took trips that he wanted to take etc…He asked very little about me (a big red flag in dating). No terms of endearment from him after 4 months. I was there to make him look good. Oh, my aching gut!

    I created a fake profile and there he was – still active on Match. He blocked me, so that I couldn’t see that he was still active. I asked if he had taken down the profile and he was honest and said not yet (I didn’t ask about why I was blocked as I feared I’d look psycho). He came up with some bs excuse about being hard done by his former XW – a supposed cheater. At best, he was emotionally unavailable. Or a shell of a person that needed a ton of external validation from the opposite sex. At worst, a cheater. Then another promise to take it down “soon”.

    Another month elapsed and he was active on the dating site. This time I told him my friend saw him active on the site. I ended it with him (finally!). He gaslit and said it didn’t mean what I though (the sole purpose of Match is to match singles with other singles – so how could it not?). He wasn’t remorseful, didn’t take down the site. He was just pissed.

    I knew early enough to better protect myself and boundaries. I’m glad I ended it, but wished I had loved myself enough to do it sooner. I went back to therapy. I won’t make that mistake again.

    “A”: I think you know the state of your relationship, and if you’re honest with yourself, it isn’t good. Please love yourself and get out. You deserve better.

  • I was engaged to my FW. Which means on D-day the things that went through my mind: 1) get out of my house and my life, 2) disgust, I will never touch him again because barf, 3) I could never trust him again, and 4) I will never put myself in a position that I have to police someone.

    It’s ok to be alone. In fact it’s BETTER to be alone and not lose yourself to someone else.

    You deserve someone that respects you, that you have fun with, that you don’t feel like you’re not worthy.

    Like CL said – dating should be the best most exciting time – sex and dining out.

    • “I will never touch him again because barf” LOLOLOLOLOL Even little kids on the playground have that biological intuition to avoid “cooties.”

  • A, it’s pretty clear that you’re not paranoid and deranged. So, the answer is quite clearly, “he’s super sketchy, you’re nuts from the gaslighting, and you shouldn’t be dating him.” I’d bet every chump here — and we’re *the* experts when it comes to cheaters — read your letter and came to the same conclusion. Oddly enough, this might be validating, but not what you want to hear? We’ve been there, too.

    Your concern and curiosity is sooo normal. I’m with other chumps who say that sometimes, a little evidence helps you accept reality and trust he sucks; it also helped me understand disorder and betrayal, and I know what’s possible and what to look out for. And still, CL is right. Focus on you and what feels right. This precarious, stressful relationship will only get worse over time, so don’t invest any more of yourself. If you do get evidence, let it confirm the decision you already made. And don’t keep digging, because it’s a bottomless well. You’ll keep finding more — and if you stick around, he’ll keep on adding more. Just like there’s no closure with a cheater, and no perfect comeback for a fuckwit, there’s no “coming clean” either. The truth is that it’s a fucked up skein, and it’s not your burden to untangle. You deserve better, A. We’re rooting for you!

  • It might seem creepier if men do it but I’m of the camp that believes hiring a PI for a premarital check isn’t that outrageous if someone can afford it because of the many serious risks of getting married to a fraud. The more seamless the faker, the more dangerous they might turn out to be. At the very least one can avoid getting hitched to someone in severe debt. Avoiding life-threatening STDs and the crippling abuse that almost all cheaters eventually engage in is also reason enough. And there’s worse. Batterers can get their records expunged if they please no contest and it’s a first arrest but those documents exist somewhere. My attitude is controversial, I know, but I’ve heard too many horror stories at this point.

    By the same token I think any married person, particularly those with children in common, is not being unreasonable to hire a private investigator in response to seeing certain red flags or developing certain gut feelings. Solid evidence can get a better settlement in fault states and can even be used to get back squandered marital assets (cheating costs money most of the time) in no-fault states. It can shorten proceedings and bring down legal costs. The threat of shmoopies being subpoenaed is a multi-purpose bargaining chip and can make FWs less combative and more cooperative. Though proof of regular old cheating with other consenting adults generally doesn’t affect custody in most places, proof of really twisted, dangerous, illegal and pedophilic behavior might and any sane parent would want to know how deep that rabbit hole went. For one, the sicker the criminal, the more likely they are to reverse charges on their own chumps so getting proof is a protection. Even if the courts refused to protect children from a credibly alleged pedo-rapist parent, I’d still want to know to be able to inspect options.

    But if someone isn’t engaged, has no children in common and hasn’t been together long enough to be eligible for palimony in US states that allow this, I don’t think it’s worth the expense. It would be better to do a writing exercise of listing everything the person does that seems shady and cutting losses. Like CL says, just being uncomfortable is a big enough red flag.

  • This is such good advice for dating. I tell my daughter (age 22 and 15), “You don’t need a reason to break up with someone. If you don’t want to date him, that is a good enough reason.” I think women especially get so caught up in this idea that they HAVE to find someone, and if they are too picky, they will get left behind. And they feel this pressure that they cannot break up with someone unless they have a really good reason. That’s nonsense. You are DATING. You end it by saying, “Hubert, I don’t want to date you anymore.” And then walking away. That is advice I really wish I had listened to when I was nineteen and married the EX. I actually didn’t even like him that much, but I had this idea that I had to marry him unless I could think of a good reason not to marry him. Now I wonder why I was so stupid. I could have just dumped him. I was nineteen. There would have been plenty of other options, and even if there weren’t, that’s okay too. Studies show over and over that single women are generally happier than married women. And if some guy is making you so crazy while you are dating that you are considering making fake profiles to stalk dating sites looking to see if he is there… just dump his ass and walk away. Nobody needs that kind of stress.

  • I’m late to this party but I’ll put a comment here for those who find this post later: “I’m really scared to drop this guy without knowing for certain that he’s playing me for a fool here.”

    He’s just a boyfriend. Dating is supposed to be the time when you figure out if someone has the good character to be a good partner and a match emotionally and psychologically. You can drop someone you’re dating just because YOU don’t feel enough of a bond or just because your gut tells you something’s off.

    And if you think a fiance or a spouse is on dating sites, that’s reason enough to break up or get a divorce. Your job in the relationship is to be a good partner, but not at the expect of your integrity and peace of mind. There are plenty of dead and missing women who should have left long before their partner escalated to murder.

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