Q: This may sound strange, but I think I’m the other woman. I have been dating my boyfriend for six months, and although he recently moved in, he sometimes works late and doesn’t come home until the next day. He goes outside to answer calls. At times when he calls me, he whispers into the phone and I can barely hear him. At first I thought I was just imagining things, but now I’m not so sure. Am I crazy?
A: Well, there are all sorts of red flags flying around here. I’m not saying be the boyfriend police and check up on him, but the things you describe are definitely some of the warning signs that your partner is fooling around. You add another component – you think YOU might be the other woman. That means you believe there is someone who has been seeing him longer than you. Interesting observation. Most believe their relationship is the primary one. You think yours is not.
If you were one of my clients, the first question I would ask is, “How did you meet him?” If you told me “through friends,” that’s a good sign. Others you know would know him, and his history. If you said, “Online,” that could be a red flag. Although many meet that way, it’s also a forum for storytelling. I can’t tell you how many people write me with stories of rearranging their entire lives for someone they met online only to find out they were lied to. This, of course, could happen even if you meet someone through friends, but I hear it more about online. Ex-etiquette rule No. 8, “Be honest and straightforward” is an important rule to live by when starting a new relationship – and maintaining an old one.
If you suspect your partner is cheating, be on the lookout for a few other red flags:
• You’ve never met any of his friends or relatives, especially if he says he has children.
• When you’re together he rarely wants to go out in public.
• The phone is a huge indicator: For example, his cellphone is rarely out of his sight, but when you call, he’s “left it in the car” or “at the office.” Or, when his cellphone rings, he won’t let you answer it and he goes to another room or outside to listen to his messages.
• He takes all his laundry to the cleaners.
• He maintains a separate mailbox or P.O. box for his mail.
If you can say yes to at least two, there’s likely a problem. He may not be cheating, but he also may not be ready to commit, whether you are the other woman, or not.
What do you do? No one is making you be in that relationship. If something is not right, figure it out and talk about it. If something is within your power to change, change it. If not, consider walking away. Know your deal breakers (Ex-etiquette rule No. 4).
It all begins with an honest conversation … like I said, Ex-etiquette rule No. 8.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.