Q: Dear Meredith,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for about nine months now and everything seemed perfect until recently. I found out he was communicating with women from his past and then lying to me about it. He was going through his messages on Facebook as I was sitting next to him, and I saw the conversation between him and someone he went out on a date with, saying he wonders what it would of been like to be with her in a sexual way. After that, my trust in him pretty much no longer existed.
Because of this, I found myself going through his email when he wasn't in the room. I know this is totally wrong, but I felt like when I asked him questions, I never got an honest answer and that was the only way to get answers. In going through his email, I found topless pictures from only a few days before of a woman he has been friends with for a long time. When I confessed to looking in his email and confronted him about it, he felt embarrassed and guilty and said it was totally crossing the line but that it was done as a joke and she has always done stuff like that when he has had a girlfriend. He agreed that it was wrong and was sorry and promised not to do it again. But how can I believe this?
Also in his email I found emails from pornography websites, which doesn't bother me, but also porn chat room websites, which does bother me because it is more personal. I also found pictures he emailed himself from Facebook of women I don't know, some I do know, and one of his ex. I also found a receipt for a mini spy camera. Seeing this totally sickened me. What could he be using it for? I haven't told him I saw this yet.
I thought he was "the one" until seeing all of this stuff, and whenever I approach him about it he says I have to trust him at least a little bit. He always acknowledges what he does is wrong but keeps on doing it. I just don't know if I am being too easy on him because I know this behavior isn't acceptable. I feel torn about what to do because I really see a future with him and love him but can't get past these things and do not know how or if I can trust him.
– Depressed, NJ
A: Things you've found:
1. Flirtatious/sexual email to a former date.
2. Topless photo of his female friend.
3. Pornographic chat room websites.
4. Pictures he emailed to himself of random women and his ex.
5. Receipt for "spy camera."
That's quite a list. Read it out loud for effect.
Apologies can be confusing when your instinct is to be hopeful and forgive. That's why you have to ask more big, open-ended questions that force him to beyond "I'm sorry." Does he think that this will happen again? What did he expect to hear from his former date? And ... has he done anything to set boundaries with the topless friend?
If you really quiz him about his motivation (and hear some probably-lame answers), you might get the information you need to feel better about going with your gut. The apologies are getting in your way. Keep talking until you get past them.
Readers? Why hasn't she ended this? Is his behavior forgivable? Does everything on the list bother you? What does she need to hear to help her walk away? 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 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.