Q: Back in January I met someone who I thought was a pretty stand-up guy. I was showing a friend a notorious, open-after-2 a.m. bar for a drink and cliché Irish Boston scenery. After one drink and about 30 minutes of my toes getting stepped on, I somehow struck up a conversation with this stand-up guy. I proceeded to break the cardinal preliminary-talking-points rule by nervously chatting about my ex cheating on me (due to the fact that my ex's best friend was randomly there and interrupted our conversation to introduce himself). This guy didn't seem fazed by the awkwardness of the situation and actually asked for my number.
We texted daily and went out on a first date that I thought was pretty fantastic. Stand-up guy put my coat on for me and paid the tab. We had solid conversation and a quick kiss before I got into the cab. Classic first date material. Although I was excited about meeting someone new and interesting, I was a bit apprehensive because I had to begin studying for the bar exam. Studying for 10+ hours a day is not an opportune time to try and get to know someone. But stand-up guy proved once again that he was pretty stand-up. He visited me for a coffee study break almost every day for the entire time I studied. He didn't even drink coffee. At this point, he was almost too good to be true.
After the bar exam he became harder and harder to make plans with. I knew something wasn't right -- super big red flag -- but I couldn't help thinking back to how great he had been, how his actions were matching his words and all of that other great stuff. I also didn't want my past relationship trust issues to carry over.
Fast forward to last week. I finally had some time to do normal things again so I asked stand-up guy to come over for dinner. He graciously accepted, asked what was on the menu, and then ended up texting me the day of with a family related excuse. I felt terrible for even beginning to think he would use a family excuse to blow me off and sent back a "Family first. Hope everything is OK" sort of text. No response. After about five days of zero communication and girlish over-analysis, I pieced some things together using my laptop and intuition (which I had regrettably been tuning out). I told stand-up guy that I thought he had a girlfriend and that it was an unfortunate situation and thanked him for everything during the bar exam. We finally spoke about it and he neither admitted nor denied the girlfriend part. We both know that if he didn't have one the entire time he would say so.
I feel awful for his girlfriend, I've been there, but I'm not in the business of ruining already-ruined relationships. I know I'm not a victim in all of this -- I consciously and/or subconsciously missed red flags along the way. It all just seemed too improbable to be true and I was afraid to let my past experiences cloud my judgment about someone new.
So I guess I have a few questions: What was the end game here? Do people really just cheat for the sake of cheating? Do you have to ask every new person you meet if they have a significant other? Can you no longer assume people are single if they act very, very single?
– Hi, my name is do you have a girlfriend, Boston
A: You're allowed to feel like the victim here, HMNIDYHAG. You were duped and it wasn't your fault. You didn't know that this "stand-up guy" had a girlfriend until you did some serious online sleuthing. You have every right to be angry and disappointed that it didn't work out.
As for why people lie about significant others, well, it's complicated. In some cases, the cheaters are liner-uppers. They've already moved on from their current relationships (despite the fact that they're still in them), so they don't even see the overlap as cheating. In other cases, the cheaters are just bad people who tell horrible lies so that they can get attention from someone new. In your case, who knows? Maybe your guy was single when he met you but got back together with someone while you were studying. Maybe they were on a break -- until they weren't.
But here's the thing: Most people don't have the time and energy to juggle big lies. And had you not been studying for a massive, life-changing exam, you would have wanted to see this guy more often and his issues would have come out that much earlier. You would have wanted to meet his friends. You would have asked to see his apartment and the red flags would have smacked you in the face. You would have asked him personal questions that he wouldn't have been able to answer.
You are an open, thoughtful, and studious person who's looking for genuine emotional intimacy. You're probably destined to have some failed romances (because we all are), but in the end, you'll get to the bottom of every case -- law-school style -- until you find someone who makes you feel safe.
And for the record, this is why it's great to date friends of friends of friends. Make sure that the people in your circle know that you're looking for a nice guy (who's single). Let your friends know that the exam is over and that your priorities have changed.
Readers? Is she allowed to feel like the victim? Does this happen often? How can you be sure that you're on a date with a single person? What happened here? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.