Dear Margo: And I Am Marie of Romania

Could my sometime boyfriend be lying to me? Margo Howard’s advice

And I Am Marie of Romania

Dear Margo: I’ve been seeing a man for a year and a half — but heaven knows not on a regular basis. Sometimes we will see each other a few days in a row, but then he will disappear for weeks at a time. He tells me he can never predict his schedule because he works as an undercover operative for the CIA. That’s also the reason he gives me for why we never go to his place — because “the agency” doesn’t allow it. This is getting to be pretty hard on me because I can’t make plans, I don’t know where this relationship can go, and I fear I might be wasting my time. (I am 40.) What does all this sound like to you? –Wasting My Time?

Dear Waste: To be frank, it sounds like you are extremely gullible. I again trot out my favorite saying about the wishful acceptance of something highly unlikely: “It is like believing that a dinosaur died standing up in the museum of natural history.”

For one thing, I do not think undercover CIA people are allowed to tell anyone but a spouse what they do or for whom they work. (Often, friends of CIA administrative personnel know what they do.) Having actually known a few spooks myself, the thing about not having people over is simply not true. Often, undercover operatives tell friends their employment is working for the government/Department of Defense/FEMA … anything but the CIA.

And so, my dear, I don’t know if this guy is married, a criminal or just a guy who is not interested in a real relationship, but he is lying to you, and I would bid him adieu soonest. –Margo, stealthily

True or Not, a Novel Way To End Things

Dear Margo: I know that this has occurred since the beginning of time, but why do married men think they have the right to step all over someone’s heart? Granted, it takes two to tango, and the heart wants what it wants, but now I wish we had done things differently. We are both married with families, but were drawn to each other in the beginning in what he said was a spiritual friendship. After a year, we were drawn to each other physically. This went on for the next two years. I thought it would be only a diversion, but now I feel I love this person.

Recently, he informed me that he was asked to be part of an old Native American medicine society that requires pure thoughts and actions. He is serious in fulfilling this obligation, and part of this is giving me up. He admits that two years ago, when our relationship began, he was at a vulnerable point in his life. I feel despair at the turn this has taken. I will miss the closeness we had. He wants to maintain our spiritual friendship. I’m not sure I would like to. A part of me feels anger toward him, and now I feel I was a fool. I would like to get over my anger and be friends, but I still have feelings for him. What do you think I should do? –Heartbroken

Dear Heart: This scenario hasn’t really been taking place since the beginning of time … if only because Eve had no one to step out with. But yes, it is an old story. In your situation, you do not say whether this man is a Native American or a “guest” in this medicine society. It is possible he made up this society mandating purity — but that hardly matters. He wants, for whatever reason, to end the intimacy part. I think in some instances it is not useful to remain “friends.” For you to do so would cause you pain, so let the break be a clean and definitive one. Absence will help your feelings diminish, as will remembering that he wanted it to end. –Margo, reconstructively

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

96 comments so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    My Dad was CIA so I can fill you in a bit.

    First, there are varying levels of cover. NOC – Non-Official Cover – are the ones that the CIA will deny, and they are on their own if “discovered.” They are very, very rare, they are all overseas, and that’s all I will say on that.

    More typical is what my Dad was: Official Cover. These are the ones Margo is picturing, who are assigned credentials with some other government agency. They are generally assigned overseas to embassies/consulates, and the ambassador knows who they are. On rotations back to the US, they are usually assigned to Headquarters. My Dad’s career went: 8 years in one country, 4 years in DC, 6 years in three other countries, 3 as a Stateside instructor, 2 in another country, then 3 more in DC. He always had some government title. One of those titles even appears on my adoption decree.

    Then there are the hordes of analysts and admin folks. They need not conceal their employer, though is it wise to do so if traveling. I have traveled with their analysts to countries for which I worked policy issues, and they asked that we refer to them as our colleagues from our organization, which we did. Just better not to be more of a target than necessary.

    As for who they can tell: ideally, if under any kind of cover, the CIA would prefer you not tell anyone, but let me tell you, family life can get strange and eventually anyone with a brain will start to wonder. My Dad never told his parents because he judged that they would not be able to keep it to themselves. He felt guilty about that. My Mom also worked admin for the CIA, so no conflict there. We kids were told when he judged that we understood the importance of NOT saying anything. But at one point he was using a pseudonym, so – kind of hard to hide this indefinitely from your kids.

    But when he retired, one of the mementos he was given was a large CIA medallion with his service dates on it, encased in a clear display. So obviously – not THAT secret! At least – not in retrospect.

    As to having people over: of COURSE you can have people over. Duh.

    • avatar Pinkie says:

      Wow. This is interesting to know! I can see where the less said, the better.

    • avatar MB T says:

      I knew someone who worked for the CIA, but in admin roles, they never spoke about their work.  I have also met two people who worked at “DOD”, etc. and lived abroad for years.  They too never discussed what they did at work, and we kinda just knew not to inquire. 

      LTR1 needs to get in line with the hundreds of other gullible women out there who have been taken advantage by these liars.  I am going to go out on a limb and think she met him online as well.

  2. avatar P S says:

    LW1 – *slap* Wake up!

    LW2 – *slap* Wake up!

    • avatar Diane Shaw says:

      P.S. Hahahahaha. That was great. Not much diff between Ltr. #1 & 2 today.  Is it a full moon?

  3. avatar D L says:

    LW#1 – I’m not going to fault you for being guillable (we’re all human and make mistakes) but being guillable for a year and a half?? Now I have to suspend my disbelief.

    Whether he’s married, a con-artist or has a harem at this house doesn’t matter. This man has no interest in pursuing a real relationship with you whatsoever. The fact that he disappears for weeks at a time and hasn’t once invited you over to his place in the past year (and a half!) are HUGE, WHACK-YOU-OVER-THE-HEAD RED FLAGS. I also think you may need some therapy to understand why you are only now questioning whether you’ve been duped.
    You asked, am I wasting my time? No – you’ve wasted your time.

    LW#2 – Nowhere in your letter do you even mention your husband or children (other than you have them). You don’t mention that you love either or are sorry for what you have done to them. Your self-righteousness over “married men thinking they have the right to step all over someone’s heart” is.. dare I say… ballsy (to say the least)? YOU cheated on your husband, YOU cheated your family and yet you can whine about how things didn’t go your way? You’re not even writing for advice on how to repair the damage you’ve done or that you regret your actions. Your only concern is whether you should “remain friends” with him or not.

    Lady, you are SAD and PATHETIC!! I hope your husband finds out, divorces you and takes the children to be with him. Then you’ll have all the time in the world for your “spiritual friendship” ~ what the heck is that anyway??

  4. avatar flyonthewall says:

    What strange letters today. Love the comments, everyone.

    L#1 Yes, you’ve been conned. Try doing a background check on him and see what you come up with.

    L#2 Anyone worth their salt in the area of spirituality will tell you that adultery is wrong. It is selfish and hurts others. Best to let that relationship go and focus on your marriage. Your husband will probably want a good divorce lawyer.

  5. avatar Mary says:

    OH my!  I’ve had a stressful day and just got to read these dear Margo’s.   What a fun way to end the day!!!

    Are people realy this stupid?

    Yes they are, and we have examples of this every day.  But these two letters just made me laugh.  Thanks Margo!

  6. avatar Sweet Dream says:

    I know a guy, let’s call him Mike. He decided that the grass on the other side of the fence is greener and told his wife (after started cheating on her for 2 months) on her birthday that he wanted out. This other woman that he reconected with is technically married but always running around with other guys. He reconected with her over a highschool reunion and really fell hard for her, knowing full well of her history. After five months of whirlwind romance she got tired of him and dumped him, but hoping for them to remain friends. He came whinning to my husband (who for the most part was helping him and symphatized with him). I asked my husband if he was aware of Mike’s lies (about his bad marriage) and he said no. Eventually Mike went crawling back to his wife, never told her what happened during their separation. I’m having a hard time to keep quiet (I like Mike’s wife), because I think she should be checked for possible STDs. I also have a strong suspicion that my husband was this other woman’s next target. The saddest thing is there are many people out there who don’t respect marriage aven do their damnest to destroy it.

  7. avatar MB T says:

    I had a girlfriend who was very beautiful, smart and had her act together.  We saw her bf all the time and never suspected anything.  After a year, she decided to “have the commitment conversation” with him.  It was then, while her head was in the refridgerator looking for something to eat, that her bf told her he was married.  She was sooo stunned and shocked that she saw white and didn’t completely pull her head out of the fridge when she closed it.  SHE BROKE HER NOSE!  It was tragic at the time, but we all laughed about it later.  (Of course she dumped him right then before going to the hospital.)

    • avatar Sweet Dream says:

      MBT, I’m sure glad that I’m not in the dating scene anymore. It’s almost impossible to tell who you can trust. If something were to happen to my marriage, I will stay single forever. I am so very affraid of STDs.

  8. avatar Deeliteful says:

    Back in the day LW#1’s man would have said, “If I told you I’d have to kill you.” when asked what he did. Didn’t play then, doesn’t play now.

  9. avatar Bella Mia says:

    In a culture in which such a large section of society admits to cheating – why don’t people make this the default assumption when thing seem squirrel-y? When the phone rings in the middle of the night – we assume it’s bad news for good reason. Ladies are we so intoxicated by love that we lose our ability for critical analysis – I’m afraid so. The price we pay is wasted time and energy with men who are users and predators. Fish in clearer and cleaner rivers.

  10. avatar Drew Smith says:

    Both letters are either jokes or written by people so hopelessly clueless that they are doomed to live lives of disappointment, regardless of the advice given.

    Seems to me that they were provided by Margo simply for their entertainment value, and they are entertaining indeed, but no more so than the responses, thanks to you all.

  11. avatar Grace Malat says:

    To the first LW, my, my, my if you’ve watched any type of ‘spy’ movies or TV shows, a current one is Covert Affairs, you would know that people who work undercover never tell anyone what they really do, even spouses and family members may never know, or not be told for many years. To tell someone they’re not serious with is a serious breach of protocol and would put both people at risk, if he were telling the truth.
    If this letter is true you’re just a lot on the gullible, naive side and at 40 are you feeling a wee bit desperate, and that’s why you’re willing to suspend all common rationale and believe the load of bull this guy is selling you?
    Most likely he is married.
    But it is a felony offense to impersonate and represent oneself as someone they’re not in any branch of law enforcement and the military. I’d report him, call the CIA and let them know what’s going on.

    Second LW, while someone who is Native American stated that they’re never asked to give up something in order to be pure, I think if you think about it, in this case it makes sense. The guy wants to be spiritually pure and you can’t do that if you’re lying to your spouse and family. If you’re cheating on your spouse you’re not being honest and thus one cannot be spiritually pure.
    Other than that one reaps what one sows. You had an adulteress affair with someone who was also married. The fall out if this were to be found out would be horrifying, not one but two whole families possibly destroyed. And who knows the guy may confess to his wife as a way to purify himself completely so that he can start his new journey free of the lying of that transgression.
    You’re upset because he’s embarking on a new journey and you’re not a part of it. Too bad. Sounds like he’s trying to make amends and better his life, and all you can do is whine about how he has devastated you.
    Guess what? He didn’t do this to you, you did it to yourself. You went into this relationship as a married person having an affair with a married person, I don’t know what you were thinking and where you thought it would ultimately end. Maybe with the two of you riding off into the sunset happily while you left behind the destruction of two families? You are and have been selfish. It’s time to decide if you want to be married and at this time the only man you should be concerned about is your husband, either leave him or commit to him. But stop agonizing over an affair, it’s over, get over it and leave the guy alone.
    And no there can be no ‘spiritual’ friendship. You must sever all ties with him, now and forever.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Grace, I hope your reference to spy movies and shows like “Covert Affairs” is tongue-in-cheek… they bear very little resemblance to reality. FWIW, the closest fictionalized representation of that life is “The Good Shepherd,” which, ironically, many found to be a bore. (The inspiration for that movie was James Jesus Angleton, someone my Dad knew by sight around the hallways). The worst offenders for depicting spy life are such gems as James Bond, Alias, the Bourne series, Burn Notice, and The Recruit – which, sadly, tried to get it “right” but was waaay off.

      You are right, though, that one’s employment is NOT to be casually revealed. Which is why the employees don’t typically engage in shoot-em-up fiery car chases, rooftop jumping around, crashing through windows etc. A little subtlety is called for…

  12. avatar butterfly55 says:

    LW1, next time he calls tell him your other

  13. avatar LyleAustin says:

    The man described in LW #1 is a classic textbook case of a Sociopath. Intelligent, high charisma, socially charming, they are incapable of telling the truth even when there is nothing to be gained from the lie. The CIA operative is a common role they’ll put on, often displaying a coin or medallion or some other trinket they say is used to identify one another (CIA operative) with. Most sociopaths are men, though that may be changing as women are gaining much more prominence in the corporate workforce.

    A married sociopath is rare, as they do not like to be constrained in any way. They might claim to be a widower, having lost their wife in a tragic accident, or possibly as a result of the work they do; hence the need for you to keep your distance from their residence as the location might be under watch by enemies or foreign operatives.

    Because of their charm and charisma, many otherwise intelligent and educated people can fall victim to them and be swept into their fantasy world. This is when it is REALLY important to listen to that little voice inside you saying “Wait a minute. This doesn’t make sense.”

    Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, it’s much easier today to run a background check on these would-be CIA spies, Undercover Cops, Gang-land Enforcers, Military Heroes, etc. Most often you’ll find that rather than growing up on the streets, they came from normal, often well-to-do families; dead wives being alive and divorced (or long time abandoned/separated).

    He may not be married, but he’s definitely someone you would be well rid of.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents worth.

    • avatar moonrevenge says:

      That’s a good point, about the dude being a sociopath. I have a friend who dated one. My radar is usually pretty good, but this man was so charming. I really thought she’d finally met a decent guy! It was only months after they’d broken up that I found out he went from being nice to her to using her as a punching bag when he found out she was pregnant, among a bunch of other horrid things.

  14. avatar Briana Baran says:

    A few miscellaneous and curious thoughts arising from Margo’s amusing cinema noir selections for the day.

    Do some people live in such a narrow and small world that they automatically assume that anything even slightly outre, and beyond their immediate experience, must be a hoax, or even a joke? Do they honestly believe that all of the smiling shiny people they know are produced in a factory (in some exceedingly bland Town Somewhere, by Everyman Inc.), and spend all of their time being socially correct, driving the acceptable car, painting their picket fences, and making certain that their lawns, children, nails and lives are perfectly trimmed to conformist standards? I find this oddly hilarious.

    I also find it both extremely funny…and horribly disturbing…that people believe that what they see in “CSI”, NCIS”, various other incarnations of crime, law enforcement, forensics, and medical shows (not to mention action/thriller movies such as the Bourne, and other “spy” movies…”Salt” was a particularly silly example…also the “Die Hard” series, etc.) is accurate, true, actual, and factual…and base their beliefs on real-world law enforcement, military, and letter organization activities and procedure on what they view while watching entertainment media. It is fantasy-fiction-entertainment. It is hyperbole, of either a subtle or extremely graphic sort. It’s also why people like Casey Anthony walk away from murdering helpless babies. Give it a moment…you’ll understand.

    I’ve already discussed the peculiarity of the double standard as nauseum on this site. So many women scream bloody murder over all of the double standards that negatively impact women…yet freely engage in this same behavior by instantly implicating men in any situation in which both sexes are involved…even when it is beyond obvious that the victim is the man. Yet somehow that man will mysteriously, with all evidence to the contrary, become a looming, abusive, twisted, manipulating, controlling fiend…and the woman, no matter how wretched and vicious…his whimpering, cowed, helpless victim. To speak of the progress of the feminine in the presence of senseless, knee-jerk misandry is a slap in the face to every intelligent, strong, self-aware and thinking woman.

    I was a member during the last presidential campaign, and witness to the filibustering, flaming, personal insults, senseless, repetitive, insubstantial and completely unsubstantiated comments that filled the threads by the hundreds whenever any reader attempted a reasoned, researched, considered post. The latter posts, or any attempt to refute the raves, were all too frequently removed, while the incoherent and barely literate rants went untouched. It drove many good and highly intelligent people away from the site. I see the distant, early warnings of this…and I hope that I am wrong. Even on this thread, there is one comment that is simply a snide attempt from an ill-informed person of obviously limited experience to sneer at all of the “gullible” people posting. Apparently we amuse this person.

    That’s nice. I always like to throw peanuts to the baboons at the zoo…

    • avatar Lila says:

      Briana, even MORE disturbing: Apparently some policy wonks, who I can only assume were young, stupid, and steeped in fantasy-TV culture, actually watched “24” to glean ideas for dealing with prisoners at Guantanamo.

      Hubby and I used to watch “24” as comic entertainment. The idea of a show progressing in “real time” was a novelty but the action was SO far over-the-top that we would burst out laughing at least once every episode. Well – after reading about policy wonks taking that stuff seriously – I wasn’t laughing anymore.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Lila, Rusty and I watch a lot of things purely for entertainment. I am not a fan of chick-flicks or serious cinema, slasher films or how-many-ways-can-the-characters-die films…but I do thoroughly enjoy certain hyperbolic action extravaganzas during which many highly improbable and illogical things occur in very public and crowded places, and explosions (I just love when things blow up…in movies), fire fights and car chases between Hummers and Ferraries are considered perfectly reasonable. In Downtown San Francisco. Ah, yes.

        I also know actuality from pure fantasy fiction. What you’ve just posted does not surprise me at all. I talk to a lot of people, and it is disheartening what people believe to be the truth, and the way things are done…all based on TV and film. All fictionalized. All embellished. All completely disassociated from reality. “But my friend said she saw it on NICIS so it must be true!”.

        In two years I will be returning to school. I will be primarily be taking courses in chemistry, criminal law and psychology…with attendant courses in forensic sciences and psychology. I don’t want to be famous or rich. I know the realities. I am the ideal lab rat, fascinated with details, incredibly patient and determined when working at a puzzle, able to work without constant prompting, and with no need for adulation or the admiration of others. It is a very demanding, and often frustrating job…and tailor made for me.

        Everyone keeps telling me, “It’s not like it is on TV!”.

        I know. That’s the pure pleasure of it.

      • avatar LandofLove says:

        Briana, congrats on going back to school. Sounds difficult but cool. I bet you’ll make it with flying colors!

  15. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Another point that I feel a pressing need to make: not all Native Americans (who are not “native” to the Americas any more than their European counterparts, they had to cross the land bridges to get here too…and are not the First People of the Americas either, as archeological evidence has empirical proof of caucasoid remains far older…by thousands of years…than any Amerind/Asiatic remains) share the same culture, myth cycles, religious practices and rituals, or societal values and beliefs. There were once hundreds of tribes…and many were exterminated by their own kind long before Europeans set foot here.

    I don’t have any historical or ancestral stake in this…I’m not even Anglo-European, and my family came here in the late 19th century through Ellis Island and went directly to Chicago. No one was oppressed…except, possibly, them, for being Polish and Italian immigrants. But isn’t referring to Native Americans in sweeping generalities a bit like saying, “What the hell, they all look the same anyway?”.

    Or do people just get it from the movies…?

  16. avatar jedikaiti says:

    LW#1: Are you effin kidding me? Go watch True Lies – you know, the one with Jamie Lee Curtis as the bored housewife who has a fling with a “CIA” guy who can’t hold his bladder.

    It does make me giggle, though – when I lived with the DC area, I had a friend who honstly could not discuss the specifics of his work for security reasons – he could say he worked for <agency> in <really general area>, but that was it. He commented once that he wished he lived somewhere else, because “I can’t discuss my work, it’s classified.” would have been a great pick-up line anywhere else. In DC, however, it’s met with a shrug and perhaps a thought of “Well, he should get good benefits, but do I really want to get involved with a guy who can’t honestly answer the question ‘Hi honey, how was your day?’?”

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      jedikaiti: It so happens that police detectives often cannot discuss open cases in which they are currently involved with there spouses. I know because I’ve both dated, and been friends with, both homicide and narcotics detectives.

      But here is an interesting thought for you as well: my husband is an IT administrator for a large petroleum company’s US office. He has access to to everything on those computers…everything…and I know there are things he absolutely can’t share with anyone, including me. There are a lot of jobs, if you give it some thought, that probably, for very practical reasons, require a greater or lesser degree of secrecy.

      But if I told you what they were…I’d have to kill you…

      • avatar jedikaiti says:

        Very very true, Briana. :-) There is, however, a difference between not being able to discuss details for privacy concerns (or so as not to jeopardize on ongoing investigation, or becuase of a confidentiality agreement) and not being about to say more than “I work for <agency> in <really general area>” lest you face criminal charges for doing so. :-)

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Rusty could face criminal charges if he revealed certain things that he is privy to: The charges would be based under the general heading of industrial espionage. Exciting, isn’t it? (that was sarcasm). He works in the petroleum industry…and a wrong word can actually ruin an entire company’s prospects for a new drilling platform, or discovery rights, etc.. A man in his office sent a single email to another whom he considered a friend…and lost his job because of a casual reference to a very confidential move the company was considering. He could have been charged with espionage. Rusty could not tell me anything about the situation until long after the fact. There could have been actual jail time involved. It happens all of the time.

        The corporate world is as hush-hush and clandestine as the world of letter organizations. Kind of scary, isn’t it?

  17. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – I just read this letter (Monday August 15, 2011) and I am in the midst of the day from Hell. A customer service rep from Air Tran called me a Bitch on the phone. I stepped in the elevator in our office building and it dropped 3 floors (the scariest thing in the world and not at all like the ride at an amusement park) and I spilled something down the front of my blouse (I am wearing white today). 

    So needless to say I needed a good laugh and both the letter writer and Margo’s response has me smiling from ear to ear! :-)

    Sweetheart, you are dating a liar and not even a good one! Put your big girl panties on and dump his butt! As someone that dated men from both CIA and FBI I can tell you from firsthand knowledge there are things they can’t discuss with you, but it is not as secretive as this idiot is trying to  make it. Someone has watched too much TV! :-) And Margo, I NEVER heard the one about dinosaurs, that is HILARIOUS!     

  18. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – I just read this letter (Monday August 15, 2011) and I am in the midst of the day from Hell. A customer service rep from Air Tran called me a Bitch on the phone. I stepped in the elevator in our office building and it dropped 3 floors (the scariest thing in the world and not at all like the ride at an amusement park) and I spilled something down the front of my blouse (I am wearing white today).

    So needless to say I needed a good laugh and both the letter writer and Margo’s response has me smiling from ear to ear! :-)

    Sweetheart, you are dating a liar and not even a good one! Put your big girl panties on and dump his butt! As someone that dated men from both CIA and FBI I can tell you from firsthand knowledge there are things they can’t discuss with you, but it is not as secretive as this idiot is trying to make it. Someone has watched too much TV! :-) And Margo, I NEVER heard the one about dinosaurs, that is HILARIOUS!