The trill of my Facebook messenger woke me from a late afternoon cat-nap.
“Do you have a minute?” Nina*, a long time online friend asked.”I just found something out and I really need some advice. I’m too close to it.”
I threw my legs over the side of my bed and stretched out a yawn. From the urgency in her message and her penchant for writing cryptic status updates about dates gone wrong, I sensed I needed to be laser sharp for this.
“What happened?” I asked in my reply.
“So there’s this guy,” she began.
That’s always how it starts, isn’t it? It’s never, “Everything is going swimmingly and…”
“I met him on Tinder. We’ve been dating a couple months.”
“Stop,” I said. “Define ‘a couple of months.’ ” People like to round up in these situations. three weeks is a month, six weeks is two, and so on. I find that most do it to give the relationship more validity. “How many times have you actually met up with him?”
“Four,” she said. “But we’ve texted almost daily the whole time.”
See? Four dates in two months doesn’t sound as impressive, does it? That clarification changes the context of the situation, which is why I ask people to be specific.
“Okay. Keep going.”
“We were making plans for tomorrow and he said something about having to go back to work afterwards. I was disappointed because I thought he would stay over. He said he couldn’t because he needed to get back to the office.”
“So you two were basically just getting together to hook-up?” I asked.Subtext, baby. I know my people.
“I invited him over for dinner. The plan was that he was going to stay over. I asked him what changed and he said he had a work conflict. I asked what kind of work conflict. He wouldn’t specify. He would only say that he needed to be at a work function later.”
“Did he say what kind of function?” I asked.
“No and that bugged me so I went to his Facebook page. When we first matched on Tinder he had Director of Business Development for XYZ Clothing Brand listed as his job. As of today this information is gone. I sent him a text and asked if he still worked for XYZ Brand. He said no. When I asked where he was working he said he wanted to keep that information private.”
Uh-oh. “That sounds ominous.Did he say why?”
“No. He just said he wants our relationship to stay private.”
Aaaaand there it is.
“So he’s cheating,” I said. “I mean, that’s the only plausible explanation.”
“Yup. I asked him if he was married or in a relationship and he said, ‘Yes. The last one.’ ”
The last one. Nice use of distancing language there, creep-o.
“Okay, so, what’s your question? You know he’s in a relationship and he won’t give you basic information about himself. Sounds pretty cut and dry to me.”
Floating dots. Floating dots. Floating dots. I waited for almost five minutes for a response.
“That’s the thing,” she said. “I didn’t cancel our dinner plans. I wanted to talk to him about this face to face.”
“And have sex with him. Don’t forget that part.”
“Maybe there’s more to it,” she said. “Maybe it’s an open relationship?”
“Possibly, though in my experience most people in ethical open relationships aren’t that clandestine. If his partner has agreed to opening their relationship, then what would he be so concerned about that he had to lie to you?”
Floating dots. “That’s what I want to know.”
If there’s one thing about giving dating advice for a living that irks me it’s the cognitive dissonance. If she were someone who had a No Cheater Policy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation
“The bottom line is that no matter what he tells you, you’re going to keep sleeping with him. So let’s just cut out the middle man and get to the meat of this question: are you a bad person if you continue to see this man knowing he’s got a girlfriend? My answer is: I don’t know.”
I’ve never believed that women were responsible for keeping men faithful. That’s on the man. We could do everything right and be the ideal partner, but if a guy is predisposed to cheat, he’s going to cheat. I don’t believe that he’ll change “for the right woman.” I’ve been The other Woman, knowingly and willingly, so I don’t feel right telling her she’s wrong or bad. She didn’t make a pledge of monogamy and exclusivity. She’s not breaking any rules or abusing someone’s trust. Is it something she should brag about? Absolutely not. That she/I would engage in such a relationship is a mark on our record. I’m not totally absolving her/myself of any wrongdoing. The difference is that in her case, she’s only hurting herself. She’s not obligated to be honest with anybody else. She’s the one who has to face her conscience. You’ll say, “But what about the girlfriend?” Nope. Her feelings are his responsibility.
“Fuck him or don’t. That’s not the issue,” I types back. “Just don’t be surprised if, as time goes on, you find out he’s not who you think he is. He’s hiding for a reason, and he’s dragging you into whatever web he’s spinning. Ask yourself if getting tangled up in that will be worth it down the road, because this could blow up in your face.”
It’s not even the cheating in this scenario that unsettles me. It’s the insistence that she not know anything too specific about him that gives me chills. That lack of transparency means there’s something more to this already nefarious situation.
She thanked me for my feedback and said she’d follow up with more information. We all know she’s going to keep dating this guy. Many of us push through regardless of warning signs.
There’s a line from the Vertical Horizon song “Everything You Want” that plays in my head when dramas like this present themselves in my life.
You never could get it/Unless you were fed it
The last time I slept with an unavailable man was the last time because of how it damaged me. I was fed it, alright. Trust me, most people who enable someone to be unfaithful usually suffer a comeuppance that you’ll never know about. That’s why I tend to go easy on them. They pay for their decisions. I did , for sure.
And so will Nina.