Q. I’ve been in an on-and-off relationship with a man whose handsy, flirtatious style of interacting with women he finds attractive has always bothered me. I’ve broken up with him over this and have explained in detail several times how humiliating it feels to me when he acts this way.
The times we’ve started up again, he always says he’s a “new man” who understands my feelings. He even thanks me for helping him to be a more-respectful person. Then, months later, things begin to slide.
This time, the slide was accompanied by a health scare for me when I had some symptoms that are commonly associated with an STD.
I tested negative for this STD (he’s positive for the STD, and we use condoms), but his behavior toward one woman in our group became so flirtatious that my mind started interpreting threats everywhere regarding our relationship.
I decided to look at his text messages with this woman, whom he once described as someone he feels “fatherly” toward. Sure enough, they had engaged in a sexual relationship during one of the periods where he and I had separated.
At this point I just want to make a clean break from him romantically, but I’m worried about all our mutual friends.
I’m struggling with how to talk to him about learning that he’s lied to me for years about his relationship with this much-younger woman. He will erupt in a nuclear reaction at hearing that I looked at his phone, despite anything I might say about feeling worried about the connection between my health, our sexually intimate relationship, and his behavior.
Can you offer any suggestions for conducting this ending of the romantic relationship that won’t ignite a reaction that could include losing friends in our circle?
DONE FEELING SUSPICIOUS
A. I’d start with this rhetorical question: Why do you owe your boyfriend a detailed and transparent account of why you are breaking up with him (yet again)?
It seems to me that breaking up is one time when you don’t need to explain yourself fully if you don’t want to. He may believe he is being blindsided, but many people do not actually want a chapter-and-verse recitation of their own faults and failings when their partner is already leaving.
I suggest you convey: “I’m tired of not trusting you. I’m tired of worrying about your health and mine. This relationship is too much work for me. This roller coaster isn’t good for me. I need to make a clean break and be on my own.”
Any breakup puts shared relationships at risk. Your discretion regarding private conversations and your refusal to engage in emotionally charged accusations might be a welcome relief to people in your shared group.
I suspect that any true friends who have witnessed your unstable relationship over the years might find a way to say, “It’s about time!”
Q. My wife and I are seniors. We recently began a casual friendship with another couple. We’ve shared two restaurant meals with them over the past three months.
They are heavy drinkers and large eaters. We are neither — with the result that their share of the bill is much greater than ours. They don’t offer to cover extra costs or to pick up the tip.
Our last meal together resulted in them eating (and mostly drinking) $80 more than us, with the two couples splitting the bill evenly.
My wife indicated that she’d like to put together another dinner and I said I would ask for separate checks. She feels that this is “cheap.” I feel we’re being taken advantage of and this will continue as long as we let it continue.
A. I’m with you. Getting separate checks is not “cheap.” All you have to do is establish this one time and then it will be just what you do.
You can say (to these folks and then directly to the server), “We’re going to go with separate checks tonight.”
I would consider this a good way to move forward in a relationship with people you don’t know very well.
Q. “Upset Husband” was a self-made guy who did not want to accept a generous cash gift from his in-laws.
My parents gave us money for a house, which we gratefully accepted. Then they wanted to control what we did with the house.
That gift ended up costing us a lot.
A. That was my read on this particular letter.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.