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TODAY contributor
updated 7/29/2009 3:09:26 PM ET 2009-07-29T19:09:26

Q. My boyfriend has hidden the fact that he regularly has coffee with a single woman who lives in our apartment building. This has occurred for the last year and a half of our two-year relationship. He does not want to stop. He says, “It is nothing because I am the landlord.”

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I strongly feel that he is crossing a boundary and it is a sign of disrespect for me if he chooses to continue. I have put in my notice to move from our building because of it.

I see their relationship getting to be serious and do not want to stick around waiting for something to happen.

Am I right in not trusting him, or am I getting worked up over nothing?

A. From the information you have given, I cannot tell whether your boyfriend is crossing a boundary or not. But there is a relatively easy way to find out.

Suggest that the three of you have coffee together. In other words, invite yourself to join them. Your boyfriend’s reaction will be telling.

If he is glad to have you come along, then this is probably a nonthreatening friendship. If he hesitates or refuses, he could very well be having an emotional (or even a physical) affair. Typically, people having affairs want to keep them separate and secret.

Then again, I have seen people who are paranoid and jealous, falsely accusing their partner of having affairs. So if you are like that, constantly badgering your boyfriend with accusations and suspicions, he might feel driven to hide his associations with other people, even if these associations are perfectly innocent.

So if you are a very jealous type, you should examine your own motivations and actions. Being overly jealous can strangle a relationship.

On the surface, however, it does seem odd that your boyfriend insists on having coffee with another woman. Even if he is the building’s landlord, there is nothing that obligates him to have coffee with her. Many landlords don’t socialize with their tenants.

If you have already given notice to move from the building, it seems as though you are fairly certain that your relationship is nearing its end.

If you do go along to their coffee meeting, you can observe their behavior and get a feel for the nature of the relationship. But don’t over-interpret every look and glance. It would be a shame for you to end your relationship over nothing. You might be reassured.

If he is reluctant to let you join them, you have further questions to explore. Is it possible the coffee friend doesn’t know you exist? Does he not want her to know he has a girlfriend? Does she think of him as her boyfriend or future boyfriend?

Once you find out more, you will be better able to know where you stand.

Dr. Gail’s bottom line: Typically, people conducting an emotional affair want to keep it underground. If it’s out in the open, it is likely a friendship.

Any ideas, suggestions in this column are not intended as a substitute for consulting your physician or mental health professional. All matters regarding emotional and mental health should be supervised by a personal professional. The author shall not be responsible or liable for any loss, injury or damage arising from any information or suggestion in this column.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her most recent book is “The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life” (Rodale). For more information, please visit www.drgailsaltz.com.

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