Q: Hi Meredith,
I need to admit first and foremost that I am a 24-year-old girl with trust issues -- shocker. I've been cheated on in most relationships. I found out by being the "crazy girl," looking through phones and most social media platforms based on the time period (MySpace, Facebook, etc.). I am a very good snoop, we can just say that.
I started dating this guy last summer and I thought he was absolutely perfect. I had known him since we were kids and we reconnected in Boston. We hit it off instantly and we've been happy ever since. He gets along with my family better than anyone, and I could see him fitting into my life permanently.
A while back, I caught him looking through my phone because he was nervous about an old co-worker of mine. He didn't find anything and we got over the situation. I forgave him and he believed me when I said that I only loved him.
Then a few months passed and one morning his alarm was going off downstairs. I got up to run down to shut it off, and immediately I was tempted to look. I wanted to make sure he was a genuine guy like I had believed him to be. I needed to look.
There was a message from his ex. He had deleted the actual text messages within their conversation, but her name was still there so I knew they interacted. It was unsettling that he felt the need to delete them. I asked if he had talked to her lately and he said he hadn't. I let it go.
Another month passed and yesterday I went through his phone when he was in the shower because I couldn't stop thinking about his ex. I found more messages from her -- innocent, but I still wanted to know why he felt the need to talk to her. She lives in another state and has a boyfriend. He initiated the conversation with her to begin with, which is concerning. She luckily stopped talking mid-conversation because she probably has morals.
I also found a video his friend sent of him making out with another girl. I don't know how long ago that video was taken. I didn't want to jump to conclusions because this was from a college friend; it could've been from years ago. I also found random texts from girls at work that were borderline flirtatious, not cheating status, but borderline inappropriate.
After that horrifying experience of knowing my boyfriend is still talking to his ex, viewing him kissing another woman, and knowing he flirts with his co-workers, I simply asked the only question I could get away with from all of that detail, "Are you still talking to your ex?" He said, "No, she's psychotic."
I can't tell him I went through his phone, but it's eating away at me. If I tell him what I did, he won't trust me either. Have I blown it with him? Am I ever going to be able to trust him? I love him and I want to make it work. He hasn't cheated, but I've caught him lying. I know no one is perfect, should I let him off the hook? What do I do now?
– Without Trust, Boston
A: The way I see it, you have two options here, assuming you want to stay in this relationship.
The first is to drop the issue, swear to yourself that you'll never touch his phone again, and accept that your boyfriend is going to have secrets. He's allowed to have inside jokes with friends at work. He's allowed to have a benign conversation with his ex and not tell you about it (in my opinion). I don't like that he lied, but you only asked him about his ex because you broke into his private property. You have yet to find any evidence that he's cheating. You can let this go now if you want to.
The second option is to confess that you broke into his phone. You'd have to apologize and assure him that you want to respect his privacy. I can't tell you how he'd react to your confession but maybe he'd have empathy. After all, he's done this to you. (And he did lie.)
I'd go for option two because I'm all about disclosure and talking it out. I also believe that some honesty might prevent you from making this mistake again. I fear that if you don't tell him what you did, you'll just keep obsessing and snooping. You have to break the cycle.
No matter what you decide to do, you should be in therapy. These trust issues have spawned obsessive behaviors. You imply that you were compelled to break into his phone -- that you couldn't stop yourself. You need to talk to a professional about how to end this ritual. You also need to learn how to pay attention to real life instead of technology, which paints a misleading picture. Your letter barely mentions your reality with this guy. Are you happy? Do you laugh with him? Is he caring? Are you getting closer? These are the questions you should be asking yourself. The answers are so much more important than whatever is in his phone.
Readers? Should she go with the first or second option? Or can you offer a third? How bad is it that he lied about texting with the ex? How can she stop herself from snooping? How can this relationship be saved? Help.
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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.