Was He Cheating Or Just Keeping His Options Open?




I started talking to a guy I knew about two months ago. Everything was going great conversation wise, all of the green flags. Our first date was for brunch and lasted 14 hrs with no sex. I’d been clear with him I wasn’t ready to jump into a relationship, that I wanted to take things slow and he was respectful.


We began sleeping together after our second date. He was cooking dinner for me multiple times a week and volunteered to build me heavy duty shelves for my apartment from scratch and actually did. My male friends even liked him.


We had the “we’re not exclusive” talk, but agreed to tell each other if we were seeing anyone else. Then I found out he was sleeping with someone I knew and verified it. He downplayed their relationship and flat out lied to me.


I told him it appeared he wasn’t being truthful and to never call me again. I subsequently found out he downplayed me to the woman he was sleeping with and said he didn’t think we were exclusive.


To me, this was clearly about the capacity to be honest. Did I handle this right?



When you first met this man, you told him you wanted to take things slow. That was after you had a 14-hour marathon date with him. You then had sex with him on the second date (no judgements here, just FYI) and he began cooking for you "multiple nights a week."He also met your friends and built - from scratch! - a shelf for you.


Nothing about how this relationship has unfolded aligns with your intention of taking things slow. It's important that you acknowledge that, as I think it has something to do with how this situation played out.


You and he agreed you were not exclusive. That means he was free to sleep with whomever he wanted. You don't get to gatekeep that. In his mind, they probably were casually hooking up and not dating. Even if they weren't, you have to understand that most people in his shoes would lie. It's not the ethical thing to do, of course, but it is the diplomatic choice. In fact, I would even go so far as to say he lied because he liked you and didn't want to ruin his chances with you.


Even after all the ways this guy showed you he was interested, you still agreed to not be exclusive. Why? Was that a decision made on your part or his? If you were the one to lay that boundary down, I have to say I don't blame him for keeping his options open. Why he would sleep with someone you know is beyond me, though. Even still, if he didn't know you two were connected, he's still not at fault.


If you're going to lay down a boundary like wanting to take things slow, it's imperative that you adhere to that boundary. If you don't and you contradict yourself, that will set a precedent and cause people to question your word. It will also send a mixed message, which is what I think may have happened here. Your words conveyed one intentions, your actions another.


I don't think you're upset he lied. I think you're mad that you weren't the only woman he was seeing when you thought you were. That's totally understandable. I'd be hurt, too.


I subsequently found out he downplayed me to the woman he was sleeping with and said he didn’t think we were exclusive.


But...you weren't. How is saying you weren't exclusive when you weren't downplaying it? Maybe to him everything up to agreeing to be exclusive is casual dating? Something missing from this story is how you found out about this other woman? You say she's someone you know, but did this woman contact you? Did a mutual friend spill the beans to her/you? Was this something you learned via social media? I'm asking because I'm trying to discern if he was behaving in a way that made you not trust him. That would help explain why you didn't want to be exclusive yet.


The real question here is: why did you disregard your own boundary and let things escalate at the pace that it did? And why did you agree to not be exclusive if you were going to be upset if you learned there was someone else?


I know you want to blame him for this unraveling, and I think the fact he lied was wrong, but I don't think he's the bad guy you've decided he is. I'm sorry, as I'm sure that's not what you want to hear. I would be remiss if I just did the "men are trash" thing here. In this case, I think you both played a part in why this didn't work out.


Going forward, you need to ask yourself how you would feel if the person you're dating was dating someone else. If you're not comfortable with that idea, then you need to speak up and let them know. Don't just stay the course because it's easier or less fraught. It's always better to know where you stand than to assume.


I'm sorry and good luck.


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