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dating coach for smart, strong, successful women Evan Marc Katz
2 years ago, I met a wonderful man with whom I share many interests, activities, and a similar outlook on life. We started out as friends and running partners, but 3 weeks after we started being “more than friends” he told me he loved me and we had the “exclusivity” talk.

Fast forward 1.5 years and everything was going great until we started having little disagreements about the sharing of pictures on social media. When we were first dating, he had no problem with me sharing whatever I wanted on social media. Then he started saying, “Do you have to post that?” The posts he objects to are those where I tag him with me doing something. We had an argument about this and he stonewalled me for a week despite me trying to reach out and discuss things. He broke the silence eventually and we talked it through and everything seemed hunky-dory. So I stopped posting anything about us; I just don’t want to deal with his selective censorship on my social media account.

About 2 months ago, I was using his computer and found text messages sent during the time we had been arguing – specifically sext messages– to his ex-girlfriend in which he was propositioning her for sex (I wish I could unsee the stuff he wrote) and she refused him so the booty call was never realized. I was livid. I asked him to explain himself and he said he was just frustrated and started talking to his ex while we were fighting (like meeting her for coffee and talking/texting to her on the phone) because he needed a “female perspective” on things when I was “frustrating” him. I made it clear that this is unacceptable and if he wanted to continue with me, he could not have his cake and eat it too. He maintains “nothing happened” because they did not have sex. However, I see this as cheating as do most of my friends. We talked it through and he said that he stopped contact with her and that it is “just us” now. In the time leading up to this post to you, he has been behaving just fine and even talking about future plans. We have plans to run all 6 marathon majors together and travel and see the world. However, I find it very hard to trust him. I continue to wonder what he does when he goes home. Does he need more female perspective?

Am I a fool for staying with him? Is this a deal breaker just because the cheating was not physically realized? This thing he did really kicked me off Relationship Cloud 9 and I now go on with the relationship with the expectation that we will complete our running goals together, but after that I may have to let him go.

Thanks,
Leanne

Dear Leanne,

I had a dream last night where I took a woman home and kissed her — whereupon I quickly realized that I was married and that the woman in my dreams had to leave my house. In my dreams, I cheated on my wife. We can debate whether a wife should dump her husband over one kiss or not, but to be clear, the kiss was cheating, even if it didn’t go any further.

Bewildered by my dream, I told my wife when I woke up this morning. She immediately lit up. “That is SO funny,” she said, “I had a dream that I almost cheated on YOU last night.” I laughed. I don’t remember all the details, but the situation was my wife proposing a threesome with another couple (on of whom is on a popular TV show) — and debating to herself (in her dreams) as to whether it counted as cheating if it was with a woman. She decided it was and remained faithful to me. Whew!

You can try to make meaning of it but it’s much easier to pay attention to how someone treats you in real life — instead of playing thought police to someone else’s fantasies.

I know that’s a little bit TMI, but it just happened this morning, and I thought it said a lot about my marriage. We have a relationship based on honesty and trust, not fear and suspicion, so neither of our dreams upset the other. Weird shit happens in dreams. You can try to make meaning of it but it’s much easier to pay attention to how someone treats you in real life — instead of playing thought police to someone else’s fantasies.

But enough about me. Now let me turn this to you, Leanne.

Before I rip your boyfriend a new one, I have to say, I’m always amused at how women manage to “find” texts from 2 years ago. I’m guessing your boyfriend must have taken a screenshot and turned them into his desktop background, so you just happened to stumble upon it when you were walking by his computer. Don’t get me wrong: I acknowledge that you actually caught your guy cheating. But I really do not get women who claim to trust their boyfriends (you called it Relationship Cloud 9!) and yet still snoop around looking for evidence to the contrary.

Moving on…

There is no one definition of cheating, no more than there is one definition of attractive or smart or funny. But, as you know, what I do is to attempt to impose some order and rationality on what is acceptable and unacceptable dating and relationship behavior. In other words: I make up rules that I think apply to the majority of people and then get yelled at by strangers who disagree with me. Fun!

So here’s my definition of cheating: it all starts with intent.

I can flirt with a woman at a party. Make her laugh. Charm her. It’s part of having a flirtatious personality. But that doesn’t veer into cheating unless I’m asking for her phone number with the intent to pursue a sexual relationship with her. We can debate how much flirtation is disrespectful. A good boyfriend will not have a strange woman sitting on his lap or make sexual advances, but he can still enjoy making that same woman smile. It’s all about intent.

That’s why there’s a big difference between watching online porn, and going on Ashley Madison to solicit sex from another woman. A big difference between having a dream about cheating and actually cheating. And, of course, a big difference between telling an ex on Facebook that she looks great and reaching out to her via text to see if she’s up for an illicit tryst.

He can try all he wants, but there’s no defense of it. His attempts to do so only make him seem less trustworthy. Think about how you might reconsider your stance if he owned his behavior, apologized profusely, admitted his fault, and promised that he loved you and it would never happen again.

Yes, this is cheating. Yes, you’re a fool for staying with him. Yes, you have to let him go.

By denying that cheating is cheating, your boyfriend has pretty much admitted that he is either selfish, clueless, unreasonable or amoral. Either way, it’s not the kind of guy you should feel comfortable as the foundation of your universe. You seemed to miss the earlier signs of his selfishness and stubbornness when he stopped talking to you for a week because he was upset at your tagging practices. That’s some childish bullshit right there. You may have missed it the first time, but now, it’s undeniable.

Yes, this is cheating. Yes, you’re a fool for staying with him. Yes, you have to let him go.

Thank god you happened to find those two-year old dirty texts on his computer. 

Next time, for your own sake, find a guy who doesn’t make you want to snoop on him, okay?