@Simon_Cossar i can’t tell you exactly what was causing my login issue, but i can tell you how i fixed it and maybe that’ll help if someone else has a weird bug that sounds similar in the future.
i had cloudflare doing DNS only. when i turned cloudflare to HTTP and DNS the login issue resolved
just a thought. i’ve not set our forum to operate on https yet. i wonder if cloudlfare was trying to force https through the service they provide and that was messing with login