He Claims He Only Cheated Once

Send your own relationship questions to [email protected].


Hi Meredith,

Last summer I started seeing a man in his mid-30s. In the beginning he said he wasn’t a “relationship guy” but asked to be exclusive after a few months. I had a big work project and didn’t have much free time so I told him I wasn’t seeing anyone else. He was fun, but after my project ended in December, I wanted to find someone open to having kids/settling down. He was traveling a lot then, so it felt like the right time to end things.

Before he left, he asked me to reconsider ending it. He said his perspective had changed over the last months together. I suggested that we take it slow and asked him to think about what he wanted for his future while he was gone. During his trip, he called and said he was sure wanted to be in a serious relationship and had the same future goals.

By March, quarantine propelled the pace of our relationship. It was amazing despite suddenly seeing each other 24/7. But in July, I discovered a pattern of lies and cheating. He came home late one night, and I accidentally locked him out because I didn’t realize he was in the basement at 1 a.m. He seemed on edge. I told him I thought he was acting odd. He got offended and asked if I thought he was cheating. I was surprised, said no, and went to bed but couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The next day I asked to see his phone and found texts with a woman from a business trip in December inviting him to her hotel room. He offered to stop by her city on his way home. He also met up with at least two women in December, and I suspect a few others when he went away few months before (after asking me to be exclusive). One of these women asked for a long-distance relationship, which he declined, but they talked on the phone a few times while we were in quarantine.

As I was confronting him, he grabbed his phone and ran to the bathroom to delete other messages/calls. He admitted to cheating with the woman who asked for a long-distance relationship. He says the cheating was a “one last hurrah” before settling down. But I also saw receipts that didn’t add up to where he told me he was, old group chats with guys sharing risqué photos, and Viagra/condoms in his work bags. After tripping on all the red flags, I ended it. He cried, wrote me a long letter, and continues to ask to meet up as friends. I’ve told him I’m not interested. He insists that he “only” cheated with one woman, once. As we were breaking up, he accused me of “probably cheating, too,” and said he can’t trust me.

I keep replaying things that don’t add up in hindsight. I feel like the last year was a lie and I’m in shock. He says it wasn’t as bad as I imagine. Most times, I’m sure I never want to speak to him again. I know the only way to move forward is to accept that I’ll never know the full story or how “bad” he is. How do I stop wanting to confront him about this cheating happening more than once?  What do I say to mutual friends who write it off as one mistake when it seems so much deeper? I’m avoiding them currently. I hate the effect this is having on me because either way, I know that he’s not worth my energy.

– Fooled


You know it was more than one indiscretion. He can redefine moments however he wants, but your gut is telling you everything you need to hear. As much as it would be nice to get a full confession from this ex, you don’t require it. Also remember that he’s probably lied to himself so many times that he might believe his own story. If he’s stuck on the “it only happened once!” narrative, it might be true at this point – to him, at least.

It’s a good time to avoid friends who don’t get it. Honestly, who are they to tell you it was one small mistake? What about when he accused you of cheating on him? Honestly, these friends should want something better for you.

I understand why you want to uncover every detail you missed and every lie told, but let’s just assume you’ve figured out the gist of it. Let’s also decide to accept that while he was a duplicitous, bad boyfriend, he also liked you and wanted to keep you around. That doesn’t justify anything he did, but it might let you give yourself a break for being in the relationship at all. This man liked your company. You asked him to be clear about his intentions but he wasn’t. This is not your fault, nor does it say anything about your ability to choose a good partner.

You can grieve this without investigating it. Drop the case, cease all contact, and surround yourself with people (even virtually) who make it easier to talk about other things and move on.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you stop going over every detail after you learn this kind of thing?

Love Letters

What’s your love and relationship problem?

Ask Meredith at Love Letters. Yes, it’s anonymous.

About Love Letters