Lately, I’ve been finding it hard not to “snoop” through his comments and posts on websites and forums (like tickld). His online persona is much more coarse than his real-life personality. He sometimes makes sexist remarks and exhibits a lot of behavior and uses language I find really rude and disturbing. He said online he was an atheist when in real life he is a Christian who used to work for a church, attends church regularly, discusses scripture and spirituality with me regularly, etc. Last night, he made a comment online about currently being with his “best friend,” but he had told me around the same time over the phone that he was at home, getting in bed (I checked the time stamp of his comment). He also wasn’t with his best friend today, unless he has a best friend I’ve never heard of or met up with his best friend after 11 PM on a weeknight and just didn’t tell me.
Obviously, I realize how easily this could be a huge miscommunication. That said, should I even bring it up? Am I going to come across as a paranoid and controlling girlfriend? Am I acting paranoid and controlling? At what point do things warrant confrontation? I feel like it’s not healthy to bring up every little thing that crosses my radar. I also realize I’m not responsible for being his moral compass regarding discrepancies in his online/real life personalities.
Background information: I have Bipolar II and Borderline Personality Disorder which means how I see things is often not how they are. We have a very open relationship and great communication, but I am also a very confrontational person. I really need some feedback on this. In general, what is controlling or paranoid behavior? How can I avoid it? How can I know when I’m doing it? How do I deal with it? — Paranoid about Being Paranoid
First of all, as someone with Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder, you should be seeing a therapist regularly. If you aren’t, I highly, highly recommend you find one. You have mental illnesses that can be managed and treated very effectively, but, if you aren’t proactive in all parts of managing them — which includes regular therapy sessions — they can quickly turn your life upside-down. Once you find a therapist, or if you already have one, you should be addressing your broader questions to her or him about what paranoid behavior looks like and strategies for avoiding and dealing with it. Those are far bigger and more general issues than I can attempt to address here and you really need a professional who is familiar with you, your illnesses, and your behavior traits to help you.
In regards to your specific issue about your boyfriend’s questionable online behavior that you’ve discovered by snooping on him, I would definitely ask him about it. Regardless of whether it was paranoid and controlling to basically stalk him online — it is a little paranoid, fyi — you can’t not un-know what you’ve learned. You read what you read and now you have questions and, until you get some answers to those questions, they will plague you and your relationship. So tell your boyfriend that you did something you know is a little weird — you read some of his favorite sites and forums specifically to find comments from him — and you have some questions about some of the things you read. Give him an opportunity to explain himself.
If it were me, and I had reason to question my partner’s values based on language he used — whether it was online, to my face, or repeated from someone else — then I sure as shit wouldn’t be “confident I’d want to spend the rest of my life with him,” as you say you are about your boyfriend, ESPECIALLY if we hadn’t even been dating six months. You can’t be confident you want to spend your life with him if your trust in him is shaky enough that you’re stalking him online and then being troubled by what you discover. That’s not what a fantastic relationship looks like, and it’s most definitely not what “great communication,” which you say you have, looks like.
You obviously have questions or doubts about your boyfriend or you wouldn’t be snooping like you are. Those doubts may have everything to do with YOU and issues you have, or, more likely, they are at least in small part the result of your boyfriend’s behavior offline — things he’s said (or hasn’t said), things he’s done, little idiosyncrasies that may not mean enough for you to call out but raise enough of a red flag for you to want to learn more. But you should be talking to your boyfriend if you want to learn more, not snooping. You may not necessarily believe what your boyfriend tells you if you pose questions directly to him, but at least you both know the score and are at the same point of discussion. When you learn information by snooping, you still don’t know the whole story and you’re then at a place where you either have to fill the gaps with assumptions or confess your snooping and then pose questions, which immediately puts your partner on the defense.
But you’ve already snooped and as I said, you can’t un-know what you’ve learned. So now’s the time to talk to your boyfriend, confess what you’ve done, and hope he isn’t so defensive that he won’t be honest with you.
Finally, think of this whole thing as one big red flag — the fact that you felt pushed to snoop, the fact that you snooped, and the fact that you found some pretty weird things about your boyfriend when you snooped. None of this is necessarily worth breaking up over, but it should serve as a huge speed bump in your relationship and prompt you to put on the breaks, slow down, and get to know each other a little more before rushing into home ownership together and marriage and all this other stuff that is difficult to un-do.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.