It’s zero degrees at the Globe. You can chat with me as I shiver at 1 p.m. For now, the letter:
Q: My boyfriend cheated on me. Not physically, but emotionally for more than a year (we’ve been dating for just over two). A few weeks ago, I was on my boyfriend’s computer and when I went to type in a website, I noticed that he had been on Craigslist. We have been discussing moving in together when his lease is up at the end of the month and he said he had been looking at apartments, so I wanted to see what he had found. I go to his web history and see a title “Here is what I want – m4w – 28 – Cambridge.” My heart speeds up, a lot.
Later that night, I confront my boyfriend about it by saying, “I saw something on your computer for Craigslist and it didn’t look like it had anything to do with apartments.” To abbreviate a very long story, he informs me that he went on “Casual Encounters” on Craigslist. My heart speeds up again. I ask him why, how often, and if he had ever met up with anyone. After several iterations of his story about how this all came to pass, I finally got the truth, or at least I think I did, which was pretty awful. Since this revelation, he has apologized profusely up one side of the street and down the other. Apologies are great, but they don’t erase what he did.
My boyfriend claims that about a year-and-a-half ago, while he was in grad school out in Western Mass., he developed an addiction to pornography. It started with looking at websites very, very frequently. Then last summer, he was in Philadelphia for the summer doing an internship (I should state that I live/work in Boston). We stayed together during this period, though it was hard being apart and we actually saw each other every other weekend throughout the summer; what I thought was a testament to our love and commitment to one another. What I did not know was that, while he was alone down there, he was both responding to and posting ads on Craiglist casual encounter. In order to keep this from me, he set up a fake email account. Although, according to him, he set up the fake account so “these people” wouldn’t know who he was. He claims that the pornography sites weren’t doing anything for him anymore and he viewed this as another form of pornography. I disagree with this view point, strongly!
He claims to have stopped his Craigslist activity when he returned for his second year of grad school. But “old” habits die hard and this past spring, while he was out at school, he started up on Craigslist again. He again claims that he “kicked the habit” until early June when he began working from home and he went back to responding to and posting ads. Though he claims he never met up with anyone, I have a hard time believing him because he kept so much from me already. He also has no response when I ask him how long this would have continued had I not caught him.
I have many, many questions right now, the most basic of which is, will I ever be able to forgive him? He was unfaithful to me. He lied to me, even after he had been caught. On a different note, he has been a bit of a slacker professionally and in our relationship. For a year now, he has been saying that he wanted to finish school (done), get a job (done), and then get engaged (laughable at this point). He has done a lot of things these past few weeks to try to make up for being unfaithful. And he has taken steps to get over his “addiction” including going to church regularly (did not go at all prior to this) and going to counseling. At his request, I went to counseling with him and will continue to do so.
The fact is I love him. This is the man that I thought I was going to marry and grow old with and raise a family with. And I was so excited to struggle with him and overcome things with him and I thought he was it for me. But now, I don’t know if I can get past this. I don’t know if I can believe him when he says he is going to be a better man, the man I deserve. I know that I don’t need him. I moved to Boston after college, got a job, an apartment, and a life. I know that I can live without him, but I don’t want to. Can I/we move past what he did?
Thank you for listening. Sincerely,
– Help Me Forgive, Boston
A: HMF, do we have to help you forgive? Can we help you move on instead? Let’s take a look at some of your letter.
"On a different note, he has been a bit of a slacker professionally and in our relationship.
My boyfriend cheated on me. Not physically, but emotionally for more than a year (we’ve been dating for just over two).
He also has no response when I ask him how long this would have continued had I not caught him.
He lied to me, even after he had been caught."
And my favorite:
"I know that I don’t need him."
You love him. I get that. But imagine being married to him. Imagine what some of these problems might look like in 10 years.
I’m all for sticking it out through bad times, but this guy has been entertaining himself online for more than half of your relationship. I have nothing against pornography. But there’s something different about communicating with actual humans who’ve posted ads on Craigslist. That's not just pornography -- that's interaction. At what point does he cross the line and actually meet up with someone?
You ask if you can forgive and forget what he did. I fear that you can -- too easily. You can stick it out while he’s in therapy, but I’m not so sure he can be anything other than what he is. Some people wouldn't mind what he is. But your letter suggests that you're looking for all of the things that he isn't.
Readers, am I right to say she should consider bailing? Is his pornography addiction a cheat? Should she stick around to see if he’s capable of righting his wrongs? Share here.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.