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LOVE LETTERS

Have I stayed in this relationship too long?

He flirts with other women and gets angry with me

Love Letters

Love Letters

Q. This might be a smaller issue, but it kind of sheds light on other snags in my relationship. I have been with my partner for nine years. I met him when I was 24 and he was 33. We live together now with no kids. A few days ago, we were looking at pictures on his phone and I see he is messaging a woman I’ve never heard about before. I see he has been messaging her a lot. I ask, “Who’s that?” — and he loses it. He yells at me, accuses me, leaves, deletes all their messages, and puts a lock on his phone. (He ends up forgetting the passcode to the lock he put on, so now he can’t use his phone either, lol.) Mind you, I do not have a history of checking his phone, so the lock was pretty unnecessary.

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The next day, he says she is only a friend and they were catching up. I asked if she knew about me and he said yes, and that she wants to have coffee with both of us. Now the day after this, I bring up the coffee idea and he says yes, she wants to. I said, “That could be cool; what’s her name?” He lost it again. He said he “doesn’t mind leaving tonight, that I can’t wait to get my claws in his phone, that I am playing mind games, and if this continues we should take some time apart.” All I did was ask her name, and he refused to say it. If he can’t bring himself to say her name to me, why is he talking to her?

All this seems like an out of proportion reaction. He has boundaries/rules about the male friends in my life — who I can talk to and when. But he breaks all his boundaries with his friends that are women. I ended up seeing some pretty flirty messages between them, all initiated from him and not her. It bothers me that he can give emotional flirty attention to other women, and doesn’t have the time or energy to give any to me. (We have a very lacking physical love life, I will add.) Should I just shrug off the hidden relationships like I have for so many years? Should I shrug off the lack of emotional connection he is willing to give me? Is there a better way to approach him? Have I stayed in this too long? Am I making things harder than they should be?

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STARTING TO SPIRAL

A. Shrug nothing off. Spiral yourself into a big, necessary decision.

1. He is losing his temper with you, which is very unpleasant. 2. His reasons for losing his temper are unclear because he is inconsistent and unaccountable. 3. He makes rules about how and when you should hang out with men. It’s your life! Have you come up with any of these boundaries together? 4. He doesn’t follow his own rules — and his behavior isn’t just suspicious, it’s dishonest. You know for a fact that he is flirting with this woman (and maybe others). And ... what about that coffee outing? Will it actually happen? Doesn’t seem like it. 5. He’s not a reliable source of physical or emotional happiness.

I assume you’re still coupled with this person because you have history together, some of which is good, but also because it’s the life you know. It’s been your routine for nine years so you keep doing it — but you don’t have to.

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You ask if you’ve stayed in this too long, and my answer, based on your letter, is a very loud “yes!” Even this one “smaller” issue with the woman and the phone is actually kind of big.

Routines can be broken. This one should be.

MEREDITH


READERS RESPOND:

All the reasons Mere listed. This is very unpleasant all around.

WICKEDBOSTONACCENT


This is a GIGANTIC issue! He is secretive, has anger issues, and threatens to leave. Get rid of him immediately!

HAPPYINLOVE


His reaction was totally out of proportion. He sounds controlling and immature. You sound like you’ve gotten to the point where you disregard every stupid thing he says. I get that this denial is a survival strategy, but you are ignoring a series of red flags. This is not how a healthy relationship works. You know this. Make arrangements to move out and break up with this guy. Want more for yourself.

NANOSECO


I was in a seven-year relationship with a guy like this. We were great at the beginning and I thought I had found someone who would commit to me. Then the flags started popping up. He was constantly on his (password-protected) phone, exchanging flirty Facebook posts with old high school classmates (seriously, how stereotypical), and lost it when some random guy I don’t know followed my then-public Instagram account. I called him on his actions many times and finally made what was a heartbreaking decision to let go. Despite what leads to the breakup, it is heartbreaking, letter writer, because the relationship isn’t what you thought it would be. It will hurt like hell, but once you’re on the other side you’ll wonder what took you so long. You have to rip off the bandage. Good luck!

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LIFEINPROGRESS


You’re describing an abusive relationship. Talk with your family, friends, and/or a therapist about how to safely get away from him.

TERMINATER5


This all sounds awful. I’d have not stayed nine days, much less nine years. Don’t engage him; plan your exit and make it happen.

DOGSKI


There must be 50 ways to leave your lover.

WONDERING-ONE


^Set yourself free!

GDCATCH

Send your own relationship and dating questions to loveletters@globe.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.

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