Dear Dr Victoria, I recently signed up to an internet dating site and spend a lot of time emailing someone really nice.
We emailed each other for about 3 weeks and were getting on really well. The site I used is referred to as a ‘relationship site’ which means that you do not usually get to see what the other person looks like until you have struck up a rapport with them.
We both agreed to meet up for a drink next weekend and pondered whether we should release our photographs to each other before or brave it out and meet without knowing what we looked like. However, we chickened out and sent each other our pics a few days ago.
This guy’s photo is a little blurred and I thought he looked familiar but I couldn’t think from where. At work I lunch with the girls from our finance department and have been keeping them updated on my ‘new find’. I had to get some petty cash from our finance department today and while I was waiting on it being counted out, I was hovering over one of my lunch friend’s desk. It was there that I noticed Iain’s photo pinned on her wall board with their arms wrapped round each other. I felt sick but somehow managed to politely ask who the person in the photograph was to which I was informed that it was her boyfriend, although he had given me a different name and they have been going out for ages. There’s no mistake – they are one and the same!
I hate him for being such a liar! I really want to do something to give him his the biggest scare of his life but what? Do I tell my colleague? What do you think would be the best punishment for him?
Dr Victoria replies:
You’re right to be angry about this and your friend will be very hurt too. But as for punishment, are you sure you’re not over-dramatising the whole situation? If your internet love interest and your friend’s boyfriend are genuinely one and the same person, simply have nothing more to do with him. It’s not nice to be deceived, but your friend is the one who has more right to feel aggrieved. If she wants to punish him in some way, that’s her business. But don’t get involved or coerce her into taking any action. Tell her what’s going on but don’t tell her what to do.
You’re friend does need to know what has happened. They’re just dating at this stage. Their relationship may have got quite serious, but you don’t know that. She needs to know what he’s been up to in case she’s thinking he might really be the one. How bad would you feel if they decided to get married and she was still oblivious to his deceptive ways? Clearly, joining an internet site when you’re in a relationship is bad enough, but given that your friend still has her boyfriend’s photo on her desk, it doesn’t sound like the relationship was coming to an end. This man has purposefully set out to deceive – hence the fake name and the hesitation in exchanging photos. This doesn’t sound like a case of a man who is in an unhappy relationship which has come to an end and who has then unwisely joined an internet site, rather prematurely, in order to make a fresh start. But whatever his motives, he doesn’t sound like an ideal catch!
So tell your friend – but get the facts straight first. There’s a slim chance there could be an explanation. He could have a twin brother for example, but it seems extremely unlikely. If your friend sees the photo herself she will be able to confirm if it’s her boyfriend. When you tell your friend, try not to get too emotional or angry. Just give her the facts and be sympathetic to how she feels. Let her see the photo and emails if she wants to. She may feel she needs to see the evidence before she can believe it for herself. If she does confirm it’s him you should then leave her to decide what she’s going to do about it. Just let her know that you’re shocked and surprised too and that you won’t be having anything more to do with him. And it probably goes without saying but you shouldn’t tell your other colleagues about this either. If anyone asks you about this man, just change the subject or brush them off.