Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm fighting a daily battle to stay with my fiance, whom I love with all of my heart. He makes me laugh, he's compassionate and kind, and I really do love him for everything he is. The trouble is that I just found out that he has constructed a version of himself that he wants to be -- not who he actually is. My issues aren't necessarily with the complexity, but with the lies he told to uphold this image. I told him in the very early stages of our relationship that lying was my only deal-breaker.
We've been together for almost two years now. We were friends for about four years before that. For the last year before we got together, we hung out frequently alone and genuinely enjoyed each other's company. When we decided to become a couple, it was beautiful. Right away. It almost scared me how fast we went from friends to being in love.
Quick backstory: I met my ex-husband when I was 16. We married young, stayed together for 11 years, having two beautiful children that we now co-parent successfully. Our marriage didn't work out because we matured and no longer functioned as a couple. I had a long-term relationship after him that was an utter nightmare full of lies and cheating that I only discovered after it had been going on for over a year. I was comfortable being alone until J and I got together.
J, on the other hand, had multiple girlfriends over the years, but with no relationships lasting longer than a month or two. I didn't pry too much when we first got together, as he seemed to really value keeping the past in the past. Over time we discussed the partners we'd had and left it at that.
Fast forward to this year. We got engaged in January and I was over the moon. We'd had incidents during the course of our relationship when I'd catch him in stupid white lies. Nothing major, but things there really wasn't any reason to lie about. I reiterated over and over again my standpoint on lying.
In May, everyone had gone to bed and I signed into my computer that we share. When I opened the browser, a toolbar I hadn't installed appeared. It was for some dating website. I'd been in a similar situation with my previous relationship and I was in shock and decided to investigate.
What I found from the Google search history was repeated entries for gay porn which spanned from several years before until a few days before we got together. I'd borrowed his phone about six months before and seen an entry or two of something similar, but when I'd asked him about it, he claimed someone must have borrowed his phone because it wasn't him. I told him that it wouldn't have bothered me, as my own sexuality is flexible, but that I loved him and would be fine if he were curious. He denied it altogether. (Other back story: When he was young, his mom discovered gay porn magazines of his father's and when she confronted him, he admitted to it, moved out, and has lived a gay lifestyle since.)
I confronted him the next day. He got angry and yelled, even though he'd never done that before, coming up with a bunch of excuses that were just illogical. Over the next 24 hours I got several versions of the truth, from his calling gay phone lines out of curiosity, up until he admitted that he'd talked to multiple people and slept with three of them. I was confused and hurt that he'd never told me before. I asked him if he was bisexual or gay, so that I could know where that left us. He still says he's 100 percent heterosexual, that he's never been attracted to men and that he didn't enjoy it.
The lies got to be too much, and I felt as if I didn't know who he actually was and I broke up with him. He asked that I not tell anyone why we broke up and I respected that. I went to get tested and stopped talking to him. A few days later, I finally gave in and agreed to meet up to talk. We ended up getting back together on the conditions of couples' therapy and complete transparency.
In my heart, I feel like the right thing to do is to walk away. But I'm torn because I still love him. My issues are 1. How can I trust him again? 2. How can I trust that he won't suddenly accept his sexual identity and leave me? 3. Is it even fair for me to stay with him if I think he's just denying who he is because he hates that part of himself? If I love him, shouldn't I want him to lead a fulfilling life, including the honesty that goes with that? 4. He still wants to get married next year as we'd planned, but I don’t know if I can commit anymore. If we can no longer marry as we'd wanted, are we just wasting each other's time? 5. Since the break-up, the relationship I have with his family is VERY strained because they don't know the truth. I feel that he threw me under the bus to save himself, and I still harbor resentments about it.
Honestly, I really don't want a break-up answer. I really do want to try to get back what we had. But how? How is this even fixable?
– Unsure About the Future, Mass.
A: You don't want a breakup answer, you say? Well, I'm not sure I can give you anything else. I'm sorry.
At the very least, marriage must be off the table. The fact that he wants to carry out the original plan is a bad sign. It basically means that he's still content to cover up big problems, and that he's more concerned with appearances than making you comfortable.
He lied to you even though you were open to hearing and accepting the truth. He cheated on you. Then he threw you under the bus with the family. As much as he probably loves you, he fends for himself. He does whatever he wants and then covers his tracks. You can't commit to that.
My advice is to accept him a love who wasn't right for a lifetime. But if you must reject all breakup answers, start by telling him that marriage is off the table while you work on this in therapy. An ask him if he can tell you what he thinks you want. Find out whether he's been listening.
Readers? Any advice that isn't breakup advice? Any potential for recovery here? Discuss.
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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.