Dear Mistress Maeve,
A couple months ago I moved in with my boyfriend of less than a year (we're in our 40s). I felt like things were going very well, but a few days ago, I figured out - to my gut-wrenching surprise - that he secretly "chats" online with women via a commonly known "social networking website." He apparently presents himself as available and has accumulated many sexy female "friends." He swears he does not meet any of these women in person. I don't know how to make sense of this so soon in our relationship. I am not a big Internet person - what is all this sneaking around online about?
Cyber-sick in Southern Vermont
I wish I had better news for you. Your man is either lying to you about his online flirtations, lying to these women about being single, or both. Any way you slice it, he's lying.
Don't get me wrong - casual flirting outside the relationship is a natural tendency that, if indulged with a measure of integrity, can be healthy. It's nice to get and give benign amounts of attention from and to someone other than our partners - it reminds us that we're still attractive, sexual beings (which can translate into hot moments at home). However, healthy flirting doesn't involve hours spent online portraying yourself as single when you actually have a live-in partner.
Tell him you're hurt by his online dishonesty - the least he can do is acknowledge your relationship publicly. As to whether he's taking these relationships too far, that question comes down to trust. Think long and hard about whether you trust this man you're now living with. If the answer is no, I see another move in your future.