Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today, we've got this woman, who's weighing a rather unusual offer from her boyfriend: He says he'll stop cheating on her with various men...*if* she agrees to marry him. Should she take the deal or break it off? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
There are some layers to this one, but let's start here: Your boyfriend is not cheating on you because he's bisexual. He's cheating on you because he's a cheater. If he wanted to explore his attraction to men, he should have either ended his relationship with you or asked if you'd be open to some form of ethical and mutual nonmonogamy. Instead he chose to lie, sneak around, and cheat on you for eight years — and now he's saying that he won't stop until you marry him. Your problem isn't that you're dating a bi guy, it's that you're dating a monster.
So, suffice it to say, I do not think you should accept your boyfriend's "proposal," if we can even call it that. Instead, I think you should cut your losses with this man and run for the hills ASAP. Here are four reasons why.
1. Honesty is not some special prize you need to "win" from your partner. It is something you are entitled to, a nonnegotiable that must be abundantly present in any relationship from day one. Likewise, your boyfriend's faithfulness, commitment, and loyalty are not bargaining chips for him to use against you whenever he wants something. The fact that he views his fidelity as a negotiation tool is a serious red flag for your future together: What happens if you disagree about something else down the road, like having another kid? Will he dangle that threat of cheating again unless you meet his demands?
2. Getting married to fix your relationship is never a good idea. Marriage will not magically erase the issues you two have as a couple — in fact, it will likely magnify those issues by a factor of 1,000. This is obviously not to say that marriage is always a bad idea: For a couple whose relationship has actually strengthened over time, who have encountered obstacles and found healthy ways to overcome them together, and who can communicate honestly and openly even in difficult moments, marriage can be a logical and wonderful step to take. There are plenty of good reasons to tie the knot, but "because he won't stop cheating on me" is not one of them.
3. You mention that leaving this relationship could be upsetting to your 8-year-old son. That's an understandable concern to have, but I think you should consider the ways that staying might hurt him too. I'd argue that your son would be better off having a mom who was genuinely happy, secure, and fulfilled in her relationships and who could model for him what healthy and affirming partnerships look like.
Kids are perceptive. Hopefully your son doesn't know about your boyfriend's cheating, but on some level, he's probably aware that something isn't right with how he treats you. What would you want your son to do if he found himself living with a toxic, selfish, cheating partner someday? Would you want him to stay put or to leave? Whatever you'd hope your son would do in this situation, you should do for yourself right now. He'll learn from it.
4. Marriage or no marriage, your boyfriend probably isn't going to stop cheating. You've given this man eight years to change his ways, and he hasn't done it yet. What is it about a wedding that he thinks will suddenly make him a better, more honest partner? Is it a matter of having a legally binding contract? Does he think he'll feel more accountable to you if his friends and family watch him say some vows? Does he believe that doing it in a church would give him some sort of religious obligation to stay faithful to you?
Whatever his logic may be here, it's flawed. The only way he'll ever stop cheating is with some genuine honesty, introspection, remorse, and self-control on his part — not to mention a basic level of respect for you and your needs. Clearly, he possesses none of those things. Instead, he's hoping that a marriage contract will do the work that he's not willing to do himself. It's a doomed mission.
The good news is, this man's problems don't have to be yours anymore. You deserve happiness and peace, your son deserves a healthy and stable home life, and frankly, your boyfriend deserves some consequences for his terrible behavior. Call this relationship off and never look back. Your family will be better off in the long run.
TL;DR: Putting a ring on it will not put an end to the cheating. Dump him.
Last week, we heard from this woman, who wants to know whether to tell someone in her social circle that her husband is cheating on her. She's not really friends with this woman — in fact, she describes her as a "bully." Does she deserve to know the truth anyway? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
Bully or not, I think this woman deserves to know the truth. Having your husband cheat on you with countless women is not a fair punishment for the crime of being a jerk. There's also her health to worry about here; the husband might be putting her at risk for STIs by hiding all these other partners from her. And then there's the fact that she's pregnant, which adds a whole other layer of risk to his behavior. If nothing else, this woman should be told what's going on so she can protect herself and her future child.
Now, to be clear, if you've been the target of this woman's bullying in the past, you would be well within your rights to let someone else intervene on this. You shouldn't have to go out of your way to help a person who's been cruel to you, and you might even need to create some distance from her to protect yourself. That's perfectly reasonable. But if the bullying is something you've only heard about or caught small glimpses of — if you haven't experienced it firsthand in any significant way — I think you should set aside your (very understandable!) negative feelings about this person and help her.
Having said that, "helping her" does not necessarily mean telling her yourself. And if you do decide to take this on, I wonder if there are other people you could bring it to first, since you're not particularly close to her. So here are a whole bunch of options for how you might choose to handle this, ranked from most ideal to least ideal (at least, in my humble opinion).
First choice: If you happen to know the husband in this scenario, you might consider taking this matter directly to him. Urge him to tell his wife the truth before someone else does (maybe before you do). Generally speaking, I think it's better if cheating can be revealed by the actual partner who committed it, as opposed to an outsider. But, of course, this only works if you have an existing rapport with the husband and would feel safe approaching him about such a touchy subject.
Second choice: If getting the husband to come clean is a no-go, does this woman have any close friends who might be willing to talk to her? You mention that you're not particularly close with the wife, so you'd like to tell her anonymously. But I think sending someone she is close with to break the news would be preferable to, say, DM'ing her from a burner account. If at all possible, it would be better if she could hear this news from someone she loves and trusts — someone who can help her through what is sure to be a devastating moment in her life.
Third choice: If her husband and closest friends aren't willing to step up to the plate, now we're getting into the territory of you telling her. But (sorry!) I think telling her directly, with your identity known, is better than doing it anonymously. Of course, this comes with all the obvious caveats about your well-being and safety — don't do anything that you think might open you up to this woman's bullying behavior, or any other serious repercussions. But if you trust that she could hear this news from you without lashing out, I think the information would be more credible and believable coming from a named, human source.
And that leads me to...
Fourth choice: If none of the above options work, for logistical or safety reasons, I agree that telling her anonymously would be better than doing nothing. Sending an anonymous note is not the most ideal solution: I think it's one of the harsher ways she could find out about this, and the easiest for her to dismiss as being untrue. Getting that message would likely make her paranoid, too, as she would always have to wonder which person in her life was the sender. But hey, on the other hand, maybe that's a more fitting punishment for being a bully. If nobody in your life feels comfortable approaching you directly, what other recourse do they have besides a note?
So yes, I think telling her anonymously is a better route than not telling her at all. Even if it's not a perfect approach, it does give her all the information she needs to protect herself and get out of her marriage. I obviously don't know the specifics of this woman's bullying behavior, and she might not deserve your empathy — but you'll have done the right thing by giving it to her anyway.
And hey, if you need a little extra motivation to help this less-than-stellar human being, consider this: Maybe one reason she's been a jerk all these years is that she's been stuck in a miserable marriage with a truly terrible man. Even if she doesn't know about the cheating, surely she's picked up on all the ways he's been distant, selfish, and unloving to her. That's no excuse for being a bully, but it might be one explanation. And maybe, when given a little bit of compassion and the information she needs to free herself, she could learn to be a better person. I certainly hope so. Good luck telling her, however you see fit. I'm rooting for you.
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