I’m 27 and I’ve been living with my boyfriend (whom I’ll call Buddy) for over a year now. Before we became an official couple, Buddy, who’s 33, was in three other serious relationships. He’s still friendly with two of those women, and I don’t actually mind.
What bothers me is that the girl he dated right before me for three and a half months is still hung up on him, and he won’t break off all ties with the meddler like I’ve asked. Buddy and I have had massive fights over this girl. After I noticed that he looks her up on Facebook regularly, he offered to block her. A few days later, when I asked if he’d done it, he told me that he had but then refused to prove it. Recently, he Googled her and after I called him out for it, he set his browser to private. I’ve explained to Buddy that even white lies can kill a relationship.
Is this normal? I feel so betrayed. I know I have trust issues but when Buddy lies to me it hurts so much.
Major Trust Issues
Dear Major Trust Issues,
First of all: Yes, you are definitely normal. Since there’s absolutely no possible way to know what’s going on in another person’s head at all times, it’s natural to speculate.
Sometimes, speculating leads us down a fluffy path lined with beautiful flowers and warm, reassuring thoughts. On other occasions, it leads us down a dark thorny rabbit hole of crazy conjectures and wild assumptions. We’re all prone to insecurities, some of which are bound to manifest as relationship doubts, no matter how long we’ve been with someone or how strong our bond is.
Arguably, there’s an upside to a dose of relationship jealousy. On a biological level, it’s a reminder that your significant other is desired, which can make you feel good about landing them and inspire you to do what it takes to stick it out as a couple. That said, when envy becomes more distressing than manageable—when the emotion transforms from a minor nagging itch into a giant drooling fanged green monster—it can be poisonous to both the individual experiencing it and the relationship they’re in. If you’re spending more time fielding ugly thoughts than positive ones, it’s time to rethink your situation and pinpoint whatever’s triggering so much negativity.
So let’s consider the root of your current frustrations. You mentioned that you’ve been cyberstalking your boyfriend’s ex, but what you described sounds a lot more like cybersnooping. To be clear, there’s a big fat difference between Googling your boyfriend’s ex so you can assess every ounce of information about her available for public consumption, and slyly sitting down at your boyfriend’s computer to comb through his Internet activity. Personally, I’m against cybersnooping, which is a blatant violation of privacy akin to reading someone’s diary. I would even argue that anyone who cybersnoops relinquishes the right to be mad about whatever they uncover through such measures. Somehow, I doubt you’d like it if your boyfriend were to attack you with tidbits gathered from sifting through your phone or computer. As you’ve already seen, spying doesn’t even inspire honesty. Rather, it engenders covert behavior (like going incognito online).
You accuse your boyfriend of lying, but your sneaky behavior is equally ill advised. You say you feel betrayed, but every time you go behind your boyfriend’s back to monitor his browsing history or his Facebook account, you betray him—and the relationship you’ve built together.
Human relationships are complicated. You will never know everything going on inside your partner’s head. You will always have to wonder whether your boyfriend is being entirely truthful. You will always feel vulnerable. These are the less awesome aspects of choosing to commit to another human being. We are all flawed, and we all have secrets. If you want a relationship in which trust is never an issue, I’d suggest getting a dog.
Since you tolerate your boyfriend’s ongoing friendships with some of the other women he’s dated, I suspect you have it in you to stop this mere three-and-a-half-monther from troubling you so much, and to prevent yourself from dismantling your relationship one unfounded accusation at a time. My advice is to calm down and find something better to do with your time than monitor your boyfriend’s online habits. If you want to discuss his ex, open up the dialogue in a non-judgmental manner and give your boyfriend space to tell you how he honestly feels. Then express how you feel about the whole situation, without referencing information culled through spiteful amateur detective work. The thing is, he chose to be with you, not her. And I’m sure he has his reasons. Ultimately, if you can’t tame your cybersnooping reflex or shake the ex anxiety, your relationship issues might run deeper than the girl your boyfriend dated for less than a quarter of the time you’ve been together.
At this stage, I think you have two choices. You can embrace what works in your relationship and pledge to move forward, understanding that there will always be elements beyond your control, and that sometimes you will feel hurt and suspicious and exasperated and terrified—but other times, you will fee safe and comforted and relieved and loved. Or you can break up now, before you drive yourself completely mad—and drive your boyfriend far, far away in the process.
No one wants to date the cyber police. And no one deserves to have their every move scrutinized, not even by the person they love.