I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about a year and we’ve lived together most of that time. Long story short, about three weeks ago he want on a business trip and left his laundry in his suitcase. One day while he was at work I unpacked the suitcase to do his laundry (I do all of his laundry) and while sorting through his dark clothing I found a black dress, inside out, that was not mine. I called him to confront him and he immediately began saying he had no idea where it came. He seems believable and I have no other evidence that he has ever cheated on me. Should I believe him or should I assume he cheated and leave?

Kate: Oh, girl. Oh, honey. No.

No, I would not believe him. But I’m also naturally suspicious of most men, so to be fair, I called my own boyfriend to get his take. This is a boyfriend whom I once confronted after finding a sample bottle of Fossil perfume in his Dopp kit (it was NOT mine). He reminded me that it was actually cologne, and it had come with the watch that I bought him the previous Christmas.

Anyway, my boyfriend tried to think of feasible excuses for your boyfriend. And the best he could come up with — the ABSOLUTE best — was that your boyfriend of a year likes to cross dress, and that the dress you found in his suitcase was actually his. The second theory was that your boyfriend is such a messy guy that he threw all of his clothes all over the hotel room for the duration of his business trip, then swept everything into his suitcase when it was time to leave. In his hurry, he accidentally packed a dress that had been left on the floor by a previous guest.

In cases like this, I like to apply the rule of Occam’s razor. In other words, what’s more believable — that your live-in boyfriend of a year, whose laundry you wash routinely, has been hiding a cross-dressing habit, or that he hooked up with someone on a business trip and accidentally packed the dress she left behind? What’s more likely — that the hotel cleaning staff missed a dress in some dark corner of the room, and your boyfriend happened to pack it without noticing, or that the dress was mixed up with his own clothes for much different reasons?

If I was going to be enormously charitable, I’d ask whether there was the slightest chance that your boyfriend was assigned to a hotel room with a female co-worker. (Or any co-worker who wore dresses — I’m not trying to be heteronormative.) But if that was the case, why wouldn’t he, you know, tell you that, rather than flatly denying any knowledge of the dress? My boyfriend actually asked another interesting question, too, which is how the other woman (or person) could have left the hotel room if they left their clothes behind. To me, that makes everything worse, because it introduces the possibility that it wasn’t even a one-night stand. That it might have been a premeditated act of cheating — premeditated enough that the other person brought an extra set of clothes.

Our world is so complex that it’s difficult for me to recommend that you assume anything. But you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to agree that it’s a sketchy situation. I also don’t know if you should walk out of a year-long relationship based on circumstantial evidence (I mean, I would in this case, but I’m not you). Still, you don’t need let it go just because he denied any wrongdoing.

You say your boyfriend seems believable, so I’d sit down with him. Calmly tell him how finding the dress made you feel, and don’t let him gaslight you if he tries to claim there’s nothing suspicious about it. Ask him to acknowledge that it was an unsettling discovery. Give him another chance to explain. I think his face-to-face reaction will tell you a lot more than a phone call. If he can be calm and sensitive and acknowledge your feelings, that’s at least one positive sign. If he’s shifty or defensive, or he tries to tell you you’re crazy, it might be time to hit pause on the relationship. It’s probably time for him to do his own laundry, anyway.

Allen: Yeahhhhhhhhh, you should probably leave.

Even if he didn’t actually cheat on you, which he probably did, what good reason is there for him to have a dress in his suitcase? There isn’t one.

Him brushing it off by saying he had no idea where the dress came from is a pretty obvious lie, and immediately tells you that you can’t trust him. Women don’t randomly sneak dresses into their suitcases as practical jokes. He knows exactly how that ended up in there.

Building up trust in a relationship is difficult. And I’m not sure it’s something that can be done in just a year. But whatever trust you built up should have been completely shattered after finding that dress and listening to that odd excuse, which I know you said was believable, but come on, the Russo brothers made Avengers: Endgame seem believable too — doesn’t mean I’ll be traveling through time and space any time soon. Trust is the foundation of a relationship and if you don’t have that, it’s probably not worth sticking around.

Given that you’ve only been dating a year, leaving is about as easy as it’s going to get. The alternative is to give him a second chance and try to make things work. So say you do that. You continue dating for another year or two, probably halfway miserable because you never fully trust him. But maybe things are going pretty well and he’s treating you well. Just as soon as you start to fall for him all over again and let yourself be vulnerable you’ll come home from work one day and he’ll be in the bedroom with your best friend.

You said you have no other proof he’s ever cheated. That’s true for everyone until the first time they find proof someone cheated. Once a cheater, always a cheater.

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for the past five years, and we moved in together about a year ago. The problem, now, is that my mom and dad keep asking us when we’re going to get married. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that with HIM. What should I do to get them to stop?

Kate: The simplest answer, of course, is to tell them to stop. “Mom, Dad, I don’t like it when you ask when X and I are going to get married” is a good first step. The next is to disengage. It can be really hard to draw firm boundaries with our parents, who — in most cases — love us and want us to be happy. But it sounds like this has become a recurring problem, and one that’s not going to stop unless you’re willing to take at least a little bit of a stand.

If your parents bring up marriage on the phone, directly and purposefully change the conversation. If they can’t take the hint, end the call. “Mom, I’m going to have to go because I’ve told you that I don’t want to talk about marriage with X.” The same goes if you’re in the room with them. If conversation turns to marriage, just walk away. They can’t continue if you refuse to engage.

You’re obviously an adult making your own decisions, and so you’re the only one who can decide whether or not you’re ready to get married. You’re also the only one who can decide who you’re going to marry and when you’re prepared to make that step. There’s a lot of reasons why you might not be ready to tie the knot with your current partner. Maybe he isn’t reliable enough right now, or not mature enough, or you’re at different stages of your lives. Maybe you’re well aware that marriage is forever — or at least a long time, if it goes according to plan — and you’re not sure if he’s the person you want to wake up next to for the rest of your life. Relationships proceed in different stages for everyone, and it’s okay to be dating someone for five years and still feel a little unsure. Just remember to listen to your gut, and don’t be afraid to let him go if you realize that it’s not actually marriage that you’re uncertain about.

Allen: The actual question here has a pretty simple answer. Tell your parents to shut up. As long as you’re happy, it shouldn’t matter to them if you date this man for 62 years and never get married. Who wants to pay for weddings today anyway?

Marriage is something I think young people in today’s world are jumping into without knowing the full weight of what exactly they’re agreeing to. Forever is a long time. And life is hard. I’m not sure people realize that and I think that’s why so many marriages are ending in divorces. There’s no need to rush into anything. Take some time to live together and learn what each other is good at and what the other one sucks at and then see if you can make adjustments to make things work.

Using my relationship as an example: I am a sleeper. I like to sleep in on weekends. I have my whole life. My lady friend is the earliest of birds. Our relationship came to a head months ago and we had to make some real compromises over our wake-up times. I needed to get up earlier because she was stressing out every morning getting things done around the house and taking care of the dog. But with that, we’ve compromised that there are days and times I’ll be able to sleep in until a reasonable hour. It was a healthy exchange. I think all relationships need to go through those healthy exchanges before marriage, because what if one of you isn’t willing to make that compromise?

I think there’s potentially a more important question you need to think about. You seemed to imply that you’re not sure if this man is the one that — if you wanted to get married — you would want to be married to. After five years of dating, if you don’t know he’s the one, I wonder what more needs to happen for you to make that decision or if it will ever come. I worry you’re spending five years of your life with someone you don’t see yourself with forever. And if that’s OK with you (and him), then great. But it’s rare that people who spend that amount of time together aren’t looking for forever. I think perhaps at least a conversation about what each of you want long-term should probably be had just to ensure you’re both on the same page and have the same expectations. I wouldn’t want anyone to regret such a large portion of their life and feel like it was wasted because the other person had a different mindset or plan.

Follow Kate Masters on Twitter @kamamasters

Follow Kate Masters on Twitter @kamamasters

Kate Masters is the features and food reporter for The Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at kmasters@newspost.com.

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