Dear Margo: When It's One Thing After Another

Margo Howard’s advice

When It’s One Thing After Another

Dear Margo: I’m in my late 20s and have been living with a man roughly the same age for the past year and a half. The relationship has been wonderful. Until a few months ago, I had no reason to distrust him, but I started to suspect something when he didn’t want to answer when I asked about his dinner with a male friend. I looked at his cellphone a few days later and saw he had met with a female friend I did not know. When I confronted him, he said it was a woman he met at the gym, but he didn’t want to tell me because in his culture women frown on their significant others having female friends (he is from a different country).

He swears she is just a friend and says she is religious and has invited him to church, etc., which I know is something he wants to get back to. Aside from that, nothing else seems odd, and he continues to share everything that goes on.

At about the time of the “secret meeting,” he announced he’d like to spend time away with the guys maybe once or twice a month. I was fine with that. Then, the time away increased to four days staying with me and three days living with his sibling. Now, he has announced that he wants to step away and think about the relationship to make sure he wants to be with me for the rest of his life, decide whether he wants children, etc. He stresses that he does not want to make the same mistake twice. (He has been married before. It ended badly).

He says we will continue to talk and go out, but there will be nothing physical. I have had a string of bad relationships, so I know what terrible is, but as he’s being a gentleman about it all, I just don’t know what to think. — RAL

Dear R.: There are gentleman bank robbers, too, my dear. To this neutral observer, it sounds as though your live-in love is moving out of the relationship in incremental steps. His idea of continuing to talk and go out while he re-virginizes himself is highly suggestive of his planning to make a break for it. I would make it easy on him — and yourself — by telling him you’ve decided, in one fell swoop, to call it a day. Why stick around for his dismissal notice? — Margo, efficiently

Wanting a Do-Over

Dear Margo: I had a fender-bender in the parking lot at work. At first, I didn’t notice, but the person whose car I hit did and was understandably steamed. I did something really stupid because I was scared. First, I said I didn’t notice, and that didn’t go over well. Then, I actually said someone else was driving! It was ridiculous and pathetic, but I was really nervous, and this came out before I knew what I was saying. Anyway, I gave the other person my insurance information and hope that will be the end of it. We’re in different departments, so I don’t think there will be any repercussions as far as my job goes, but I feel like a jerk. Should I try to make some sort of amends or just keep a low profile and hope it blows over? — Feeling Guilty

Dear Feel: Because your insurance company will right the wrong, no harm, no foul. I’m sure the other person knows exactly what was going on, and for him or her, it’s a settled issue. If, however, this is eating at you, by all means write a note saying you are feeling foolish, the whole thing came from fear, and you wish you had behaved with more integrity. Over and out. — Margo, correctively

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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22 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  He has already left you and has probably totally or partially moved in with the *friend* who he not only  hid from you but lied about until you caught him.  (By the way…in MY culture…live-in bfs who have lunch dates with female friends and lie to keep it a secret are frowned upon).  He is probably telling his new love that he has broken it off with you and you are now *just  a friend* that he talks to and has lunch with from time to time and ironically he is telling his new love the truth since he has put the kibosh on sex.  Lose him. 

    LW#2:  Sorry…but how do you *not notice* that you hit someone else’s car to the point where there is enough damage that insurance comes into play.   You noticed, but thought you could get away with it.  Your co-worker knows you noticed and probably knows you lied about someone else driving and while he/she is happy to have your insurance pay for the damage, he/she has pegged you as a scoff law and a liar.  I suppose fessing up now to the fact that you are a scoff-law and liar may clear your conscience somewhat and is the right thing to do but don’t expect your co-worker to change his/her mind about you.   And it is interesting how people in one department work with people in other departments and gossip spreads between them so I suspect the gossip mill has you pegged too.  I doubt you will lose your job over it as your boss/employer willprobably think this is a private matter but if you don’t get that promotion you want down the line….it might be beccause you are a scoff-law and a liar.  You have broken the proverbial egg.    

    • avatar Ariana says:

      LW#1: Please let me know which culture it is where it is considered OK for partners to sneak out and meet others and then lie about it later. It’s a shame that this guy is trying every trick in the book to try to still seem like the good guy. He wants to break up, he should own up to it.

      LW#2: Exactly – not notice? Please. Good call on the workplace repercussions, that is very likely. I know here that whenever something happens in the parking lot they are always discussing it during coffee breaks.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      In my culture, too, Katharine. It’s not the lunch. It’s the sneakorama.  

    • avatar phrugall says:

      Katharine, you are so right on both counts.  LW1 needs to get out NOW, and LW2 will need to work hard to repair his/her damaged reputation, but it can be done over time.

  2. avatar Ariana says:

    LW#1: Not even to the casual observer. If he’s not interested in continuing a physical relationship where you had one before, then he has moved on already. He’s not taking time to ponder about having a life with you, he’s thinking about how to break up without having to actually be the one to break up.

    Have a meeting with him and tell him you’re disappointed that he acted like a coward and moving out inch by inch and dragging it out so long that you have to be the one to break it off. Since he’s already half living with his sibling, give him a few days to clean out his stuff while you’re at work.

    I’m sorry to hear that your relationship ended with your guy. It’s better to make a clean fast break, it will cause you less heartache in the end.

    • avatar mayma says:

      “Since he’s already half living with his sibling…”

      Oh, my.  He’s not living with his sibling, dear.   

  3. avatar lisakitty says:

    LW1:   Your boyfriend comes from a different country, and wants to get back into church.  It’s possible that he regrets living “in sin”  (not my opinion, people, but most religions frown on living together without being married) and meeting this woman who is active in church has triggered him wanting to change the way he’d want to spend his life.  The fact that he’s basically moved out (albeit gradually) suggests to me that he’s looking to change his lifestyle.  It’s possible he feels ready to marry but doesn’t want to marry YOU for various reasons.  Let’s face it:  the Madonna/Whore complex still exists.  He may want to be with someone who shares his core values and culture and it doesn’t sound like you are on the same page here.

    I’ve found that many guys, especially as they get closer to 30, start to reevaluate the way that they live their lives.  I don’t think I can count the guys I know who dumped long term live in girlfriends and then turned right around and married some woman they barely knew.  One guy I know dated his girlfriend for 14 years: they started dating at age 15, lived together on and off through college, etc.  Then one night he and I were out to dinner and he told me he was flying home to break it off with her for the last time.  One the plane on the way back, he met a woman and two months later they were married!  It happens all the time.

    What to do?  First of all, move OUT (or kick him out) and cut the ties completely.  Yes, Margo is right here.  You can’t take this relationship back to dating.  That’s like putting toothpaste back in the tube.  Don’t see him.  Don’t take his calls.  Let him go find himself… and you go find someone who shares more of your core values: like honesty.  And finally, next time be very careful of who you live with.  It’s better to date longer than to just jump into a living together situation.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      I think you’re giving this far too much consideration.

      The guy is screwing around on her. Done.

      • avatar lisakitty says:

        Well, David, I disagree.

        The LW needs to know it’s not her fault.  And I’ve seen this happen SO many times before that I know it’s not just some guy “screwing around”.

        There are some men, David, who can’t decide what moral code they want to live by until they are faced with life changing events.  For many men, it’s a milestone birthday.

        Not done, sugar.  Just the beginning.  And if the LW is not to repeat her mistakes?  She should know WHY this dude acted in the way that he had.

        And not all men leave women to cheat. Sounds like maybe YOU do?  Don’t project!

        • avatar Ariana says:

          I agree with David. If he was really only meeting this girl from church in an innocent way, he wouldn’t have lied about it. He met a girl at the gym, then made a date with her for dinner. If you are in a serious relationship, you do not go chatting up members of the opposite sex (or same sex, as it applies) and making dinner dates. So then he lied about it to his GF, and when he was caught, made up an excuse why he should spend more time with this girl (e.g. go with her to church).

          It was disingenous of him to claim that he’s wanting to evaluate whether or not he wants to spend his life with her.  He’s basically just dragging out having the “we need to talk” conversation.

          I can’t imagine at this point that she is going to get a straight answer to the breakup reason, since he’s already established a pattern of dishonesty. She’ll get:

               It’s not you, it’s me.
               I want to date others for a while
               I’d rather just stay friends

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          I like how you tell me not to project and then you turn around and do exactly that.

          Pot > kettle.

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Hear, hear Margo! I especially liked your comment re: “gentleman bank robbers.” It’s obvious what he’s doing. I’d call it a day too. You are very young, with lots of time on your side. Mr. Right is out there; say goodbye to Mr. Wrong.

    L #2: As Margo suggested, a little note. Then “least said soonest mended.” Good thing you don’t work WITH this person, which would be even more awkward. I once bumped (just barely) the back of a college classmate’s car. I did tell her upfront, and she gave me a look that would kill. She demanded we go “see the damage,” which was none whatsoever. Then she had the “good graces” to forgive. Some people are ungrateful when you are upfront and honest.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      Some people are ungrateful, but you handled the situation properly and can look your friend in the eye without feeling shame or guilt.

      I can’t imagine being so immature that she’d actually try to lie about it to a work colleague as if she was a 5 year old. I’m not sure why Margo called “no foul” on that one. It’s not so much that the person is getting the damage paid for, but the way the person tried to wriggle out of the blame.  Her answer is basically saying: Oh well, you lied about it, pretended you didn’t notice, tried to blame a ghost driver, but hey since you finally got caught in the end, everythings OK.

  5. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) Efficiency by all means. Get rid of him before Christmas, and make sure your friends know of your new single status so they can include you in their plans accordingly, possibly introducing you to someone new. Why on earth would you want to allow yourself to be  victimized by some jerk who’s forever going on and on about his needs to be sure about you … or anything? Clearly, he’s a slow-motion dumper. Again, get rid of him.

    LW2) A short — really short — note of apology, without discussing blame or details, would be a good way to close out on this. “I am sorry this happened, and regret any inconvenience this may cause you in dealing with insurance issues.”     

  6. avatar butterfly55 says:

    LW 1 – email -your’re wrong, so long

    LW 2 short note – my bad, so sad 

  7. avatar blueelm says:

    Wow! LW1 what a trusting soul you are. And you say you’ve had bad relationships before too? Well try to hold on to that good nature you have while you dump this guy and let him move in full time with his mistress starting NOW.

    Change the locks, anything he leaves after x date in notice will be left for him to collect, whatever it takes. That’s no gentleman, just a cowardly liar.

    He hasn’t shown you respect, he’s just shown his true colors.

    • avatar blueelm says:

      And for those saying he wants to clear his sins. Please!

      You don’t fix your own sins by blaming them on some one else and running away.

      Church or no church this guy is a PIG.

    • avatar mayma says:

      I wouldn’t call this “trusting.”  I would call it dependent.  If she’s had a bunch of bad relationships, and she is willfully blinding herself to what is so obvious, then she needs to take a hard look at her own patterns and not move on to someone else until she has better self-esteem.

  8. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – that big bump you felt the other day was the Clue Bus smacking into you. What more do you need? A Clue Tank?

    LW2 – I bet they had a good chuckle about it in the break on the other person’s floor. Learn from it and let it go.

  9. avatar bamabob says:

    LW1: You’ve been dumped, he just doesn’t have the cajones to tell you. It’s up to you to have enough cajones for both of you.
    LW2: If you had t-boned the car, backed up, aimed, and hit it again to make up a spot, you still shouldn’t send a note saying “sorry, my bad” until you get permission from your Insurance agent first. No matter how insignificant the fender bender insurance companies are very clear that you do not admit a bloody thing. I understand you feel like an arse for your actions and want to rectify the situation, but I doubt it will change the other person’s opinion of you or the accident…but it could give fodder to any litigious actions she may wish to pursue, especially if you put your mea culpa in writing. At the very least, ask the Good Hands People before you act.

  10. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: Really? Chalk this up to trusting people way, way too much. I was naive once too. Don’t get all paranoid about it, but do dump him after he’s paid up any bills he might be sharing with you. You mentioned he comes from a different culture & religion. Some friendly advice: marry/date within your own major religion. It will save a lot of trouble down the road. Most young men from other countries are after one of two things: sex and a visa. They rarely marry “out”.