Good weekend? Hope so.
I think I might change the name of this blog to “I-Checked-My-Significant-Other’s-E-Mails-And-Now-I’m-Miserable Letters.” Although, it’s just not as catchy as Love Letters. And I don't think it would fit on the top of the website. We'll just have to keep the status quo, I guess.
Q: Hi Meredith,
I live with my boyfriend. I moved to Mass. 2 years ago to be with him. I really love him – he is really great – very cute and mature, but can be really funny and silly, and thoughtful and considerate. He has a good job and really does a lot around the house. He really treats me well and my friends and family love him. I knew I would never find someone like him again which is why I didn’t have many reservations moving 800 miles to be with him, and for the most part I'm really happy. I was also ready for a new city and a new job so the move just sounded fun and so far it has been great.
However, my boyfriend recently got a Blackberry and I started reading his emails, something I like to think I would have never done before, but they were just so ... available. I found one I didn’t like, a joke to a friend about a hot girl at a bar and would I (his gf) ever find out if he cheated ... this was sent a weekend I was away. My boyfriend said he would never ever really cheat -- he was just joking around, that he was sorry I read it, but that I shouldn't snoop. I believed him, he is a really good guy that I love and trust, so I tried to get over it. ... but it really freaked me out and made me doubt his integrity and sort of internally criticize everything in the relationship and whether or not he really loved me. I wallowed in it a few days, but then moved on. He put a password on his phone and I was sort of glad not to have the temptation b/c I knew I had violated his privacy and would be upset if he did that to me ... so I just chalked it up to him being a jerk and me being equally jerky by snooping.
But then, a few weeks later, he tells me about some strange, suggestive emails he got from a girl that he and a coworker responded to, to try and figure out who it was. He said it was no big deal, but I was curious and guessed the password, hacked into the phone and read them. Crazy, I know, but with my trust already shaken I had to find out. Turns out, he responded rather suggestively to the emails when he thought they might be from a former intern he had worked with. He assures me that he never would have done anything, and admits they were very disrespectful (which is why he didn’t want me to see them) but he just wanted to figure out who it was harassing him, but that he never did and he assumes it was just spam and is never writing back again. The address is now turned off. But I just can't get past it. I mean, he said dirty things about liking this girl (the emails said "I want to make sure you're into me before I reveal my identity"-- ugh) and he specifically mentioned to the phantom e-mailer they could meet up the next weekend (when I was out of town)! He said this was to get the person to say who they were, and that if he found out it WAS this intern he would have said "you're crazy I have a girlfriend, leave me alone." But why didn’t he say that at first if that is what he meant???
I made him move out a couple days- during which he reassured me of his love and admitted he should have been more respectful and forgave me for snooping and freaking out (I completely lost it when I read the emails and broke a picture frame).. .but said I should trust him if I live with him and assume the best, not the worst. I guess he is right; I'd want that from him. I love him and do not want to break up especially if he didn't even actually cheat. If he had cheated, I think it would definitely be over. But it still is pretty weird, I mean I do love and trust him but people can always let you down, no one can be 100% sure that they would never cheat. So what do I do now? I mean, best case scenario this was just a joke with him and his coworker egging each other on. Whatever. Worst case scenario, he really did like the girl and would have cheated but changed his mind at the last minute... he denies this, but I can't stop wondering if it is true and if so, is it wise to continue in this relationship to get my heartbroken later?
I love him and think he is a great guy and wish I could always assume the best, but I really am not so sure this time and am starting to have serious doubts. During the time he moved out I thought about getting my own place in Mass. and being on my own and I'm OK with that. I've been through a lot of rough stuff in my life and this would really suck, but I know I could get over it and be fine. But, I love him and don't want to do that, I want to stay with him and be with him so I'm going to-- but how do I stop freaking out? It really hurts and makes me feel so sad and pathetic. I feel stupid for snooping, I would be furious if he did that to me. I'm sure it would hurt him, too, to see I emailed an old friend about missing an ex sometimes, but that is why email is private and you shouldn’t invade your significant other's privacy. I get that. But, I already did it and now I'm stuck replaying it in my mind constantly and analyzing "well since he said that THIS way, maybe it means it WASNT a joke....." It is a bad situation certainly, but is it something I need to end a relationship over? When we talk about it, he reassures me nothing happened, he didn't like the girl, would never cheat, and ends it by saying there is nothing else he can do or say I have to decide if I trust him. My friends and family say he is a good guy so I don't think I'm being an oblivious idiot by staying, but I just feel so insecure and shaken and I don't know how to get past it or if I even should. It has been awhile and it is not getting better and I'm starting to lose confidence in myself -- I feel like it isn't fair to dump him over my suspicions, I'm not even sure I believe he did anything wrong, but I also know I can't keep going on like this. I used to be a calm, happy person, in a great relationship... and now I'm a paranoid freak who is considering moving out just to stop worrying.
– Blackberry Ruined My Life
A: BRML, I don’t know whether you should break up with him. But here’s what I do know: I get many letters from people who check their significant other’s e-mails and texts only to find what they feared most – that their partner is cheating, or at the very least, flirting.
Flirting isn’t so bad. It’s not the best, but it’s not the worst.
There are many people – men and women -- who never give up flirting. No matter how committed they are in a relationship, they’ll still wink at the cute cashier at the drug store, or flip their hair seductively when they see someone attractive on the T. Maybe they’ll even send a suggestive text. They’re not bad people – they just need to participate in the world of attraction, even if that just means prolonged eye contact with someone they’ll never talk to.
To partner up with a professional flirter is a complicated thing. You have to have thick skin. You have to feel as though there’s a real friendship and trust that prevents any emotional or physical cheating. I’m not sure your guy is a professional flirter (PF), but it’s something to consider. Often, PF’s are much adored by families and friends. That’s because the PF’s are flirting with them.
Your immediate goal, regardless of whether your boyfriend is a PF, is to avoid the accusatory tone when you talk to him about all of this. The first text to his friend about a hot girl at a bar doesn’t raise any red flags for me, really. The only real red flag is the suggestive message to his anonymous co-worker about getting together. That one crosses the line.
You should tell your boyfriend that you’re concerned about both of you. Was your move to Massachusetts too much pressure on him? Did it up his level of commitment before he was ready? Or are these texts simply evidence that he’s a PF? Keep a soft voice when you ask these questions so you get some honest answers. Tell him that you don’t like what this has turned you both into – a possible cheater and a jealous, spying girlfriend. See if you can be constructive as a team to avoid becoming “that couple.” Your first paragraph suggests you have the potential to be more than that. You just want to make sure you’re not buying into a lie.
You should know this: Even non-PFs say gross things to their friends about cute people in bars. Even non-PFs will, at some point in their lives, do or say something that falls under the umbrella of creepy. We’re all human. This is why our significant others should stay away from our personal e-mails. It’s best for them not to see these moments of weaknesses and immaturity.
Ask the right questions – in the right tone – and go with your gut. If your gut tells you to go, your family and friends will support you once you explain it to them (hopefully). If your gut tells you to stay, start believing in yourself and stay away from e-mails that aren’t meant for you.
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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.