Dear Thelma: He says he loves me but there are two other girls in the picture

  • Family
  • Sunday, 15 Sep 2019

Dear Thelma,

I am writing not so much for advice but for you to help me understand. I met a guy who seemed innocent but confident in his own skin, successful but down-to-earth, funny but not overly so, awkward but cute. Everything about him seemed honest and real.

He is about six years younger than me.

When I met him for the first time, I was with my friends, and he with his. My friend thought he was adorable and was playfully flirting with him. They connected but not romantically, and kept in touch once a week via text (so almost non-existent – plus my friend always initiated). He asked her once or twice about me and and a few weeks later, the three of us went out together.

Both of us got along like a house on fire and the following days we were on the phone till the wee hours of the night. We just went from that to seeing each other almost every day; there would always be an excuse for him to see me – whether it was to fix something in my house or a late night dim sum stop.

We eventually grew close and confided in each other. I told him about my lost love, and he told me about his inter-religious relationship. He said he would call it off as it was not something he could pursue due to family, proximity, etc.

He conveyed the story very simply, making it seem like something he wasn’t completely vested in; plus given his loose timeline commitment, it seemed fairly new.

One day, he came to me saying she had broken up with him. He made her seem petty and superficial. The incident was hardly ever brought up again.

Swiftly, he confessed and we got into a relationship. He was the man a woman can only dream of. He ticked all the right boxes, and I am hardly ever stretched by delusion. He spoke of marriage and a future together.

All along, he was promised to be married to a family friend. When I found out, I broke off with him.

With persistence, he assured me that he is trying to end things with her but because the families are so deeply involved, the matter is not straightforward. Like most manipulators, he was very convincing. Tears were his forte.

Later, I find out both women were still in his life. His version is, he hardly ever saw the Muslim girl as she is not from the country, and the family friend is just an obligation (he spent every waking moment with me, so I half bought his story) but I broke up with him anyway. He tried for a while, sitting outside my house and sending his friends to do the talking on his behalf, etc.

Help me make sense of this – was this real? It sure did feel real. I’ve been in a fair number of relationships to say that feelings like this cannot be faked, and time is a currency of commitment – both of which he gave me abundantly. Help me understand.


Dear Crowded,

He’s a piece of work, isn’t he? What you have there is a classic manipulator. Let me break it down for you.

He romanced you just like in the films, hanging around you every day, showering you with attention and taking you out for late night intimate suppers. That was designed to make you feel special. The term for that is love bombing.

You see, con artists, narcissists and cheats know that they’re up to no good and that you will eventually see through them. Therefore, they shower you with attention, overwhelming you with it.

They do it because we don’t usually get that kind of complete validation. Nasty types work the love bombing hard because they hope that you will love it so much, that you will overlook their true nasty nature.

And it worked! You were so excited by his complete and total attention that you switched off the thinking, critical part of your brain.

What he told you was, “I have been seeing this girl and making her tonnes of promises about the future, but now that my family are asking questions, I have abandoned her and am cheating on her with you.”

You were so mesmerised by the love bombing that you accepted his version, the one where he was terribly misunderstood.

And when the girl became fed up of being cheated on and dumped him, he had the cheek to call her petty. Really?

Yet you swallowed his version of events there, too.

The vision broke when you found out he didn’t just have one girl out there, but two.

Interestingly, he tried exactly the same trick to pull the wool over your eyes. What he said was, “I have been seeing this girl and making her tonnes of promises about the future, and my family like her too. But actually, I have abandoned her and am cheating on her with you.”

This time you didn’t fall for it. So, he upped his love bombing and tried that corny romance film thing where he sits on the doorstep like an abandoned dog and tries to get his friends to talk you into dating a serial cheater.

You are a much better person than I am because I would have been tempted to kick the weasel. Luckily for him, you’re a nice girl.

So, what do you need to take away from this? I think the first thing is that you should stop accepting what people tell you. Instead, evaluate their actions.

Next time someone tells you about themselves, pretend it’s happening to other people. “Alex tells Lacy he’s got a girl waiting for him but” and that will be enough to show you what is really happening.

Also, time does not equal commitment. Stalkers spend all their time on their victims and you wouldn’t see that as a good thing, would you?

Hopefully, you will recognise love bombing now and see it as a sign of bad things to come. Instead, see how the man treats the other people in his life.

Consider that it’s OK to have a bad ex but if they are all miraculously petty or evil, then I’d suggest they’re not the problem – he is. Also, he should have decent relationships with friends and family. Again, there may be the odd hiccough, but the overall rapport should be good.

But most of all, there’s this: Relationships don’t always work out, and that’s OK. The important thing is that you are honest. There is never an excuse for cheating, and there is no excuse for pretending you have a future when there is none. When it’s not working, you say so – kindly but firmly. And then everyone moves on.

I hope this helps and I hope your next boyfriend is the real deal.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.  Email or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND ADDRESS, AND A PSEUDONYM. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views. 

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