How Do I Stop Internet Sleuthing?


Dear Meredith,

My question relates to the aftermath of a relationship. I’m 32 and I broke up with my on-again, off-again almost-boyfriend of a year in October. The relationship ended for the same reason that it never flourished – I wanted more commitment and he didn’t – so we agreed that there was no way forward. I’d held out because I kept hoping he’d change, but I was (and still am) relieved that it ended. I had spent a lot of time feeling frustrated with myself (for staying) and him (for not being who I wanted him to be) and increasingly bitter about the whole thing. I don’t want to be in a relationship where the priorities are so mismatched ever again. But I’m still crushed on some level. He wanted to be friends, but he had a history of coming around after we’d agreed to stop seeing each other, and I had a history of taking him back against my better judgment, so I asked him not to contact me for a few months so I could disengage emotionally.

Well, it’s been a few months, he hasn’t contacted me, and I most definitely have not disengaged emotionally. I came home after the holidays hoping to find a letter from him in my mailbox (we wrote letters to each other) and burst into tears there was none. I discovered the Instagram of a girl he slept with when we’d agreed to see other people, and reviewed the last six months of her posts to try to determine if they were still spending time together. I googled him in various creative ways (neither of us is on Facebook) to figure out what he’s up to. I am not tempted to contact him and all this internet sleuthing makes me feel awful. I have an advanced degree, a good job, good friends, family who love me, and yet I’m also (evidently) a creep with no self-confidence. How do I channel the part of myself that broke up with this guy for good reasons and asked for space because I needed it, and suppress the sad, pathetic, part of myself that’s sabotaging the space he’s given me? Not to mention that my behavior is inappropriate and unbecoming, and is delaying, if not preventing altogether, the kind of mindset I’d need to eventually be his friend (if I decide I want that). How do I take control? Thanks for your help!

– Sleuth


Please be a little nicer to yourself. You’re not sad and pathetic. You’re not a creep (most of the time). It sounds like you didn’t accept that the breakup was real until your mailbox was empty. That means it’s still brand new.

I wouldn’t call your behavior “unbecoming,” just unhealthy. You need new routines that have nothing to do with this ex. Perhaps you can check someone else’s social media page, or spend some of your spare phone and computer time playing Tetris (I’m serious; games can help). You can change your behavior and force another action.

If you do find yourself on his social media, remember that whatever you see is only part of the story. You have no idea where he is, how happy he was when he smiled in a picture, and whether an Instagram photo tells an accurate story. Take a look at your own online presence and think about all of the strange stories one could invent based on the few things they know about you.

As for your last concern, the friendship, please put that out of your mind. Friendship is not on the table right now, and for the record, I don’t think he could be a pal to you either. You were on-again that many times for a reason.

– Meredith

Readers? How can she stop this habit? Also, can they be friends?

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