I became suspicious when, also about a year into our relationship, he acted very strange after a particularly long trip. He said that he was just grumpy and shutting me out because he’d just spent weeks camping and constantly surrounded by people and needed some time to himself, which I accepted at the time but have since come to view suspiciously. At any rate, the basic gist is that I had a bad feeling about this woman. In the past year or two our relationship has become stronger and more committed, he’s begun treating me better than I’ve ever been treated, and we’ve been getting along famously, so I stopped thinking about it so much. But this weekend, I was using his iPad (I don’t have one) while he was in the bathroom, and a message from this girl popped up. It reminded me of all those suspicions and I scratched the itch to snoop for the first time in my life, reasoning that the conversation was already open and I was just scrolling (not a good excuse, I know, I know). Because they have apparently not been talking much, it took me only seconds to see the very long message from her explaining that she had begun dating a close mutual friend of theirs and wanted to let him know so that their “three musketeers” friendship could remain stable. That part makes sense. However, she then mentions that the situation is additionally complicated by “a few romantic encounters” between herself and my boyfriend, and that he means so much to her and she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship.
When my boyfriend came back from the bathroom, I told him his friend had messaged him and that I’d accidentally seen some messages, and his face fell. My boyfriend says that she merely misconstrued one-on-one dinners as romantic encounters. I’m not sure if I believe him. I should mention that I do have some anxiety issues, so sometimes worry excessively. I don’t know what to do. Her excessive Facebook posting on his wall does seem to gel with the possibility that she would accidentally assume they were on a date, but I feel like he’s asking a lot of me to believe that the phrase “romantic encounters” means something innocent.
The worst of this is that I guess that if he had cheated on me, it would have been in that less committed part of our relationship, not recently. I don’t fear that he would cheat on me today, yet for some reason it still kills me to not know whether it happened. I want to believe him. I know he loves me and we truly have been through a lot together (his cancer, my accidental pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage), and I don’t want to break up with him. However, I don’t know how to believe him on this issue. I fear it will eat at our relationship. How can I trust him again? Should I trust him again? — iPad Snooper
What’s bothering you the most here, I suspect, is not the idea of your boyfriend “cheating” on you during the less committed part of your relationship — and I use quotation marks here because if you weren’t truly committed, then is it really “cheating”? — but that your boyfriend isn’t being clear with you about the nature of his friendship with this woman and, most importantly, isn’t being clear with her about the nature of your relationship. You want to feel so important to your boyfriend that all the other important players in his life not only respect your relationship, but understand its significance. But if this woman, someone who litters his Facebook page with “flirty” messages, didn’t even know you existed until a year into your relationship and, even now, feels the need to warn your boyfriend that she’s dating a mutual friend and basically doesn’t want things to be “weird” among the three of them, I can appreciate why you’re feeling insecure.
But from where I sit, comfortably on the outside, this friendship your boyfriend has with this other woman doesn’t sound very important. A few public posts on Facebook certainly don’t mean anything. And if their text conversation you read on the iPad had lapsed for a while, it doesn’t sound like they’re in close contact. If you don’t have any concern that your boyfriend would cheat on you now and you don’t have any reason not to trust him, I’d let this drop.
Yes, your boyfriend may not be telling the entire truth about the nature of his friendship with this woman over the course of the multiple years they’ve known each other, most likely because it doesn’t have much bearing on anything today, and, if he was intimate with her at some point after you two started dating, however non-committal you may have been, he likely doesn’t want to unnecessarily hurt you or plant any seed of doubt or worry for you. And if you did find out that “romantic encounters” does, in fact, mean more than a misconstrued dinner or two, what good will that do you? Is that going to make you feel better or worse about anything? Probably worse. So, what’s the point?
Forget about the past, and look ahead. Your boyfriend can’t change any of his past behavior. He can’t un-do anything that might have been done any more than he can go back in time and make clear to his friend whatever intentions he may or may not have had when going out to dinner with her. What he can do is clarify relationships going forward. So tell him what you need from him to feel secure about your relationship and to let go of anxiety you have about his friendship with this other woman. Would you feel better if you had a chance to meet her some time? Do you want him to be more transparent online about your relationship so no one doubts your commitment? Do you want him to tell you more about her and what their time together on the road entails? Communicate your needs and if they aren’t met, then you can worry. But worrying about something that may or may not have happened years ago, before you were even committed to your boyfriend, is a waste of energy.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.