Q: Hi Meredith,
I've been reading Love Letters from the beginning. I was hoping I wouldn't ever have to write in for guidance but alas, here we are.
My boyfriend "Tom" and I have been dating for over a year and half. We moved in together earlier this year and things have been absolutely amazing. We openly and easily talk about our future together. Things just click in every department. For reference, we are both in our mid/late 20s.
Tom is more of a night owl than I am (he also goes into work a bit later than I do in the morning) so I usually turn in a couple hours earlier on weeknights. The other night, I got up to get a drink of water and I walked into the living room. Tom was furiously typing away on his laptop and clearly was so engaged in whatever he was doing that he didn't see me at first. When he did notice me, he immediately minimized the screen and shut his laptop. I obviously called him out for his sketchy behavior and asked what he was doing. He opened his laptop back up and showed me a pornographic literary website -- a lot of erotic reading material. I don't have a problem with porn in general, reading or watching.
My problem is that there are also chat rooms where people interact with one another. From what I gathered, it can range from actual personals (let's meet up) to group stories (someone writes out a scenario, another person jumps in with the next part of the storyline until 20 people have made up a story). My boyfriend was partaking in the latter.
I was shocked to say the least. We have (or so I thought) an extremely active and fun sex life. He apologized profusely and said he'd never partake in the chats again. He said he had known about the website for a long time and had always just read the stories. He said he only very recently decided to check out one of the chat rooms.
He also claimed that he never interacts with people one on one. Although he knew I probably wouldn't be thrilled about it, he thought there was no harm in a group chat putting together stories. I reiterated that while I thought reading/watching pornography was fine, he crossed the line by actually interacting with other people.
My question is: Should I believe that he's never taken it beyond a group chat? Even if I do think he hasn't cheated physically, is that where he is progressing to? What if he likes some girl's storyline? Is he going to want to try out her ideas in person? Am I just overreacting about this entirely?
– My Boyfriend Has a Late-Night Problem
A: I understand why you're uncomfortable about the chat room stuff, but I just don't think that Tom planned to use this website to set up an in-person cheat. I can't make you any guarantees, of course, but based on what you've told us, Tom likes erotic fiction and found a snazzy website. He got carried away, probably chatting up a bunch of people who just read "Fifty Shades of Grey."
You've explained your boundaries and he's accepted them. He didn't get defensive and he certainly didn't hide. (He opened that laptop pretty quickly, didn't he?)
Again, I can't promise you that he's never going to cheat on you, but this website stuff doesn't sound very serious. You've told him that you don't want him to chat with others. Now he knows the rules.
This is the kind of thing that happens when you're learning how to live with someone. You want to do all of the weird stuff that makes you happy, but suddenly there are witnesses. It takes time to adjust. Take a deep breath and keep communicating.
Readers? Was this cheating? Was it going to lead to a cheat? Is she setting the right boundaries? Discuss.
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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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.