My boyfriend of five years told me today that he started a business with a female former co-worker. They are opening a bar together, which I knew was a dream of his, but he kept the business dealings from me for the last year. This woman has been a point of contention in our relationship. I'm ready to leave him, but he says he had to ensure that his business venture didn't get out in order to protect the job he just resigned from to open this bar. What to do? —Anonymous
It would take leaps of logic to pass off your boyfriend’s actions and poor explanation as sensible.
The good news? At least you know where you stand with him now, even if you are way down on his list of priorities. The ex-co-worker, the one with whom he’s tied up his finances and is building his dream, and all without even mentioning it to you for a year? She’s high on the list of priorities. The bar is, too.
Here’s what’s been happening: There’s been a woman who has consistently popped up in your relationship over the years. You turned a blind eye to her repeated presence, probably because addressing the real reason she kept coming around would have caused you to make some uncomfortable realizations about your relationship. You probably wanted to be happy, so you may have pretended that she just wasn’t taking no for an answer. Or maybe you thought she was crazy.
The truth, as you hopefully can see now, is that she kept popping up because he wanted her around. Period. Maybe it’s because she’s cool and they have a platonic friendship. Maybe it’s because he wanted her investment in his business. Maybe he’s been keeping her on the side as his No. 2 all this time. Who knows? What we do know is that whatever the nature of their relationship, he’s been lying to you about it for a long time.
I’ll focus on the business aspect because we know for sure that he’s lied, by omission, about that for the last year. If she’s been a point of contention, he knows that you think something fishy is going on. He didn’t tell you that he was going into business with her because he knew you would be pissed, and he didn’t want you to know that he was in contact with her. But he did it anyway.
He lied about all their conversations when they dreamed about this business. He continued to lie about all the long conversations they had about building this business and creating a business plan for this bar, and when they merged their finances into an account. He’s lied and lied and lied.
And he’s still lying. Not telling you because he didn’t want his job to find out doesn’t make any sense. He thought that if he told his girlfriend of five years (or even five months), she would call someone at his job and tell him or her about his bar? Huh? If anyone would have close ties to his job, wouldn’t it be his former co-worker with whom he just invested in the bar?
The only way his story would kind of make sense is if he thought you would be so mad about his starting a business with a woman y’all have been beefing over that you would call his job and tell them about it. But if he thought you would be that mad, it’s all the more reason he shouldn’t have started a business with this lady.
I know you don’t want to leave after five years, and that you might have written your letter hoping that I could help you find some sort of way to work this out and help you keep your relationship. I know you want to believe him so that you don’t have to deal with this betrayal. But I can’t advise you to stay. You can stay and have a relationship, but it won’t be healthy. The goal is a healthy relationship, not just to be in one to say you are and to not be alone.
He’s lying to you, and he’s been lying to you for at least a year about the nature of his relationship with his ex-co-worker. He waited until the last minute to tell you (part of) the truth. He just quit his job, which means the bar is opening soon and it’s crunch time. You were only told now because it was impossible to keep you in the dark any longer. If you’re a halfway-involved girlfriend, you would want to show up at the new bar to help out or support him. There was no way you wouldn’t see his new business partner there.
Think about what this looks like if you stay in this relationship. Your boyfriend, whom you can’t trust because you just found out he’s been lying for at least a year, will be working long hours—because no one starts a business and just works eight-hour days—and late nights with a woman you don’t trust him around. You’ll either pick up a second “job” policing him full time or drive yourself crazy wondering what he’s up to.
Neither of these options is a way to live. What is? Keeping your self-respect and walking away from this bad situation. It may not keep you warm at night, but it will keep you sane.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “I Hate All the Family Drama. Is It Cool to Spend the Holidays Alone?”