Mystery man

We've been together five years and my boyfriend won't tell me where he lives!

Published April 21, 2003 7:50PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I don't know how to address a very troubling problem with my boyfriend of five years.

We live 90 minutes apart, but he makes an effort to see me two or three times per week. We talk daily -- sometimes several times daily, for long periods of time. Our conversations have never grown dull, we are affectionate and have a satisfying sexual life, and he is caring and kind.

The distance has its rewards -- I told him once that I knew my prior marriage was over when the sound of my (now ex) husband's car arriving home in the driveway filled me with disappointment, and I never wanted to experience that feeling again. In the five years my boyfriend and I have been together, each time I hear the "chirp" of his car alarm being activated outside, and soon thereafter his knock on my door, I am filled with happiness and check my hair and makeup like a teenager, and that feeling has never waned.

The problem is, in the five years I've known him, I have always been the one to welcome him to my front door -- he has never invited me to his home. I asked why this was so, early on, and his answer at that time was that he wouldn't dream of making me drive so far when he knows how much and how hard I work during the week, whereas his schedule is completely flexible (true). I thought this was gallant.

Another year passed and I told him that I would very much enjoy a drive down to his house on a Friday evening for a weekend visit, or even the whole of a Saturday together, and that I simply wanted, needed to be able to see his home, his bed, his desk, so I could picture him in bed when I went to sleep. He said, "That's so sweet and romantic. We'll do that soon." We didn't.

When another year passed, I said I was very concerned, hurt and feeling shut out, and asked straight out why I was not welcome in his home. He had no true response for me. Mostly backing and filling and putting me off with a diversionary kiss and a squeeze. I've said, "If you have a roommate you've never told me about, tell me. If you actually live in an apartment or a trailer and not a house, tell me. I don't care where you live, I just want to be welcome, wherever that place is." He insists he lives alone. I've said, "The fact I'm unwelcome in your home tells me otherwise. I'm concerned you're married or otherwise 'taken.'" He laughs this off as absurd given the fact we are on the phone nearly constantly, take weekend trips together, and he spends so much time at my home. He just says, "We'll see. Soon."

I am nearly in tears as I type this because this otherwise loving person just cannot justify to me, after five years of being together, why I am unwelcome in his home ... and am not even given a mailing address (I use a mail-drop address).

In a not-too-serious disagreement recently, over something related to "security" in our relationship, I blurted out the question "How secure can I be when I would not even be able to come to you in an emergency or tragedy of some sort ... I live in the shadow of our state capitol building, and I couldn't find you if there were a bombing, and phones and computers were out, and I needed to come to you." He at first laughed it off as "melodramatic" and then when I promptly burst into sobs with my face buried in my hands, he was horrified and conciliatory and hugged me tightly and shushed my tears. But he didn't invite me over or give me his address. My heart cracked in that moment -- I felt it, and almost heard the ping of it.

What am I to do? I don't give ultimatums because I believe they are always the death knell of a relationship. Ultimatums suggest you've already lost. Who wants to win ground solely by the threat of something? Then again, his refusal to address a legitimate concern of mine has left me adrift with worry and confusion, so much so, I've taken to lying to my family and friends. They think I visit him, see him at his home, and have stayed there. I can't bear to tell them I have no idea where he lives, other than the name of the city 90 minutes away.

Can you help?

Where Does My Boyfriend Live?

Dear Where,

You have to know where your boyfriend lives. Otherwise, if you eventually move in together, how will you get home?

Now, at first, I thought you should just go ahead and find out where he lives and then decide what to do next. I didn't think you needed to tell him ahead of time what you planned to do. Having some experience in routine investigations, I figured it would be no big deal to go to city hall in the county where he lives and do a property records search, or look in the registrar of voters list if he votes, or look in the reverse phone book, if his phone isn't a cellphone. If there was no public record of his residence, then you could hire a private investigator to do a quick and legal DMV search on his license plate. It would be a snap.

Then you could just drive to his address and see if he has any chickens in the yard. You could ring the doorbell and say you were just in the neighborhood and thought you'd drop by. Or if that seemed too forward you could have a friend go to the door with the address written down on a piece of paper, but with maybe the wrong street on it, and just apologize and say she must have the wrong address or something, meanwhile trying to get a peek inside to see if there was a mysterious woman in a negligee, smoking in the shadows, or any kids' toys, or Nazi regalia on the walls, or an eight-track player. She could ask to use the phone and call you while you wait in your car and tell you something in code. That would all be very exciting and Nancy Drew-like.

But it was pointed out to me that this might be considered an ethical breach, or it might seem sneaky. Some people think that if they don't tell you something, you're not supposed to know it. I, on the other hand, feel that we have a fundamental right to know whatever people won't tell us, especially when it's public information, whether it's about intimates or business associates or politicians. We live in an open society. But I know it's more complicated than that when you take into account people's feelings. I also realize that while telling him you're going to find out where he lives is not an ultimatum, but a simple statement of fact, it might sound like an ultimatum. And indeed it might have the effect of an ultimatum.

On the other hand, if you investigate on your own, there's a chance you will learn something amazing. It could be that he's a terrible housekeeper, or he's just pathologically not proud of his lawn, or he just really, really hasn't gotten around to inviting you in. Or he could be a government spy. Or he's dealing meth out of a trailer. Or, of course, the obvious: He's married with children.

The bottom line is, you've got to know, and if he won't tell you, you still have to find out. So you decide: Tell him first that you're going to find out, or find out and then tell him that you know. But find out.

And, while you're at it: Tell me, will you? I'm dying to know.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read Friday's column.

By Cary Tennis

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