My fiancee has a (married) BFF who is an ex-lover. They used to hook up whenever they were single. Early in our relationship my fiancee said that he wished he dated her, later swearing that it was just drunken rambling. The problem went away for several years because she moved far away, but now she’s back and he sometimes hangs out with her, usually at her house or at a bar for drinks or an evening walk in the park.
He won’t let us be friends, saying he wants his alone time to catch up with her. I’ve asked him not to hang at her place, which makes him angry; I’m insecure, I don’t support his friendships, I need to go to therapy, he’d never cheat on me (he’s ‘jokingly’ kissed people at parties before), why can’t I trust him?
Recently, he and I were supposed to go to a big sporting event on a day that is special to us; he cancelled because he had other plans with her, stating that we could “reschedule sometime” and making it clear that I wasn’t invited to their plans. He said her husband was coming, but he didn’t end up showing because he had to fly somewhere last-minute for some kind of emergency. I’ve seen the two of them together and there’s clearly attraction there, even though they don’t openly flirt in front of me. He hasn’t bothered to properly introduce me to her, and I’ve never met the husband. This has been going on for a couple of months.
Now here’s the thing. I don’t think he’s lying about the cheating. He has some trauma from a past relationship where he was isolated from friends and family. Recently, I broke down (for the millionth time) about the rescheduling of our important event and things suddenly “clicked” for him; he said he had forgotten that he had not given me a date for rescheduling our event, and he was only trying to make sure he got as much time as possible with the important people in his life. (She was only free that weekend, apparently). Now that I’d reminded him of the exact sequence of events, he realized he’d fucked up. He admitted that he’d been gaslighting me, and promised to do better. He’s even signed himself up for therapy. But he still sees her regularly, and doesn’t take my preferences into account.
Chump Lady, our wedding was postponed due to COVID, but now I’m wondering if I should go through with it at all. I love him a lot, but I’ve been cheated on before and I’m afraid. Is this an innocent friendship? Am I getting chumped? Is it just a difference of values? Will he change? Do I give him an ultimatum, or just leave?
Dear Confused Certified Chump,
You wrote to me, the “Leave a Cheater” lady, so you know the answer here. You just want permission to do it — yes, please call off the wedding.
We can go down the rabbit hole of what sort of hold his “BFF” has on him, but the real question here is what you will tolerate. He’s drawn the You’re Not the Boss of Me battle lines. (He doesn’t have to consult you about his plans, he cancels dates, he won’t introduce you…) Don’t fight on that ground. When you go there, you’re Mother who won’t let Mike Pence sit with the ladies. You’re the enforcer of his nonexistent boundaries. The warden of his dick.
Decide what YOU want in a relationship — and stick up for yourself. Does he measure up?
It’s OKAY to want to be your life partner’s best friend.
It’s OKAY to expect exclusivity — especially when you are engaged.
It’s OKAY to assume basic respect.
This guy appears to be failing all these metrics. He doesn’t have to agree with your exceedingly reasonable expectations (he clearly doesn’t). It’s your job to pay attention to his actions.
Do not give him an ultimatum. He has repeatedly flunked the “respect the boundaries of our relationship” test. When you give someone an ultimatum, you’re handing them the deciding power. It’s a weak move.
Essentially you’d be begging him for basic decency. (Regardless of what’s going on with BFF.) And he can placate you, or pretend, or go underground, but the important lesson is: You had to beg him for basic decency. It does NOT get better.
You’re young, you’re in love. This is where he’s supposed to be bringing his A game. Would you ever treat him the way he’s treating you? He’s already set up the power imbalance. It does NOT get better.
Now to untangle some of your letter.
My fiancee has a (married) BFF who is an ex-lover. They used to hook up whenever they were single.
You’ve never met this woman, but you know that she’s his best friend and they used to fuck.
So, he told you this. So, he’s an asshole goading you into the pick-me dance. He wants you to feel off balance about this. It’s deliberate.
He won’t let us be friends, saying he wants his alone time to catch up with her.
You fell into the Cool Girlfriend bear trap. Oh I don’t want to be that insecure person who won’t let his partner have friends. Watch me be understanding and unthreatened! I trust you!
The answer to this shadiness is not further fealty, okay? You don’t have to prove your cool to ANYONE. He won’t introduce you to his “friend.” Is this a singular policy? Or are you barred from meeting all his friends? Both are bad. You’re not a dirty secret, you’re his fiancee.
I’ve asked him not to hang at her place, which makes him angry; I’m insecure, I don’t support his friendships,
You can’t support a friendship you’ve never met.
I need to go to therapy,
Not for the reason he thinks, but to figure out why you’d tolerate this fuckwit.
he’d never cheat on me (he’s ‘jokingly’ kissed people at parties before), why can’t I trust him?
He said her husband was coming, but he didn’t end up showing because he had to fly somewhere last-minute for some kind of emergency.
Uh-huh. I’m getting the vibe he wasn’t invited either.
I don’t think he’s lying about the cheating. He has some trauma from a past relationship where he was isolated from friends and family.
Fuck his past trauma. He admits to gaslighting you. He is a self-admitted liar.
This is a classic mindfuck: This Other Person pulled the shit I am pulling on you, so You Must Trust Me to Help Me Get Over It.
You want transparency, introductions, assurances. Oh no! Then you’d be like that person who ISOLATED him.
DARVO (Deny Action. Reverse Victim Offender.) He’s isolating you. He wants you to think you’re the controlling one, when he’s being controlling.
Oh hey, there’s the Cool Girlfriend bear trap again. Let me prove to you I’m Not Like The Other Ones! Here’s benefit of the doubt/a payday loan/no pushback…
… wouldn’t want to trigger his trauma.
If he were an ethical person (he’s not), with a traumatic past, he’d have MORE communication with you, not less.
he was only trying to make sure he got as much time as possible with the important people in his life. (She was only free that weekend, apparently).
Translation: You are not one of the Important People in his life.
Actionable information, Confused.
Now that I’d reminded him of the exact sequence of events
Does he have early onset dementia? He needs reminding?
He admitted that he’d been gaslighting me, and promised to do better. He’s even signed himself up for therapy. But he still sees her regularly, and doesn’t take my preferences into account.
Wow, that therapy really seems to be working!
Let’s put aside his obvious inappropriate invitation-only thing with BFF (which is a dealbreaker in and of itself), and focus on this guy’s relationship skills.
1.) He keeps secrets.
2.) Gaslighting is a go-to tool in his tool box when he doesn’t get his way.
3.) Blameshifting (you’re insecure, etc.) is another tool.
4.) You’re Not the Boss of Him — he doesn’t want accountability.
5.) He makes promises and breaks them (see “do better” followed by “keep doing the same thing.”)
He’s not marriage material. Well, unless you want a shitty marriage of eternal chumpdom. Keep the ring (it’s a gift!) and cash it in for some therapy on boundaries.
If he wants an explanation on why you called off the wedding, tell him you’ll get him an answer soon. You’re rescheduling. Had he been an actual Important Person In Your Life, you would’ve replied.
Then, no contact.