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Parallax - Advice            April 10, 2000

   He's very elusive of late, she never sees him...

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I fear my boyfriend is cheating on me. Every time I call him late at night he is not at home. In the morning when I ask why he doesn't answer his phone he tells me he turns it off before he goes to sleep. I also feel like I used to see him all the time and now we only see each other about twice a week. We've been dating for 2 years and we're both 27 now. We've never talked about getting really serious or anything like marriage but we are exclusive. We both have busy jobs so it's not like we get to spend days together. But we used to spend every evening together and he practically lived in my apartment. All of a sudden he has started spending less time at my place and less time with me. He says it's easier for him to stay at home since he's been working so hard lately but I feel like I see him so much less now. Of course I could just ask him if he is up to anything bad but I don't want to accuse him and lead us into this whole nasty conversation around cheating. I know he is against cheating and I feel like he'll be so offended if I bring it up. I don't want to disturb him either while he's got a very stressful time at work.

But I am very worried. I think about where he might be all the time. And I'm often wondering if he's lying to me about business dinners. I'm wondering if I should just break up with him. If I feel I can't trust him and question where he is all the time, do we even have a good relationship? Is there a good way to bring up this topic? Or do you think I should just be quiet about it or leave?

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Her view:

Dear Suspicious,

You need to take a few deep breaths and find a hobby. You are spending too much of your time worrying about what he is doing when he is not with you.

From your description, your boyfriend sounds like the perfect guy. He sounds hard-working and it is clear that he takes his job very seriously. More importantly, it seems he has real issues with infidelity and is not the type to cheat.

You say it is a stressful time for him at his job, so it must be possible that it really is easier for him to stay at his place. You also mention that you have started to think he is lying about business dinners. Did he use to go on these before?

While I think you may be overreacting, your fears are real enough that you should deal with them. Talk to your boyfriend about this, just be careful how you do it. Anyone is likely to be offended if you flat-out accuse them of cheating - even if they are cheating. You have suggested that you might just break up with him rather than discussing this, so what harm can there be in raising the topic? There's a chance he'll say he is sorry he has been so busy, and he will make it up to you when he has less work to do. So don't be shy - it's your relationship too.

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His view:

Dear Suspicious,

I think your boyfriend is cheating on you. If it smells, feels, and sounds like...

Otherwise he's very tired of the relationship and looking to get out. Either case, he doesn't have the guts to say anything so he's trying the subtle approach, where he simply does what he wants while blaming it on trite excuses and pretending nothing has really changed. I have to say, I've been there, and I empathize with your man.

But, since you are asking, I say break up with him. And do it now before he dumps you. In fact, you'll be doing him a favor, since that's what he probably wants. Don't worry, this is actually a low-risk strategy, if you consider the possible outcomes.

If it turns out I'm right and your suspicions are well-founded, then voila, the end to something that was defunct anyway. If I'm wrong, and let's pretend he really is stressed and overworked, then he'll apologize, beg, and either commit to some changes or face the closing credits.

Unless he resorts to guilt reversal (which, judging from your letter, he's already attempted in the past). If he tries that, and you let him get away with it...well. Then I not only empathize with him, I begin to admire him.

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