New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. Read some of the most popular Dear Wendy posts here. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), do a search in the search bar, or submit a question for advice at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
A few days ago, I had to use dropbox on his computer and it automatically opened his account. A folder with a weird name caught my attention so I clicked and didn’t even know how to feel with what I found. It was a folder with at least 25 different images of my feet, pictures he took without my consent while I was sleeping. There were also two or three videos of him massaging my feet. It made me uncomfortable to know that I was being filmed while sleeping. Also, the pictures were full close-ups, so I felt like it didn’t matter that it was MY feet; he just wanted feet. There was not even one picture of my face … but who knows if I would’ve find that even creepier.
He has low self-esteem and depression, so I couldn’t confront him about it without thinking it through first. I checked and the date of those videos was before he confessed his fetish, so I figured he only confessed because he was ashamed. I talked with him, asked for an explanation, he was very sorry about it, I asked him to delete those pictures, and he did. In the end, I forgave him, but now I’m wondering if this is something I shouldn’t forgive so easily? I think I might have some resentment towards him now. I felt somehow abused, but I can’t think of a way that we can completely close this chapter. Help? — Feeling Defeated
Let’s get this out of the way: what your boyfriend did — taking photos and videos of your feet, without your consent, while you slept is creepy and wrong. It’s a betrayal of your trust and a violation of your privacy. But his doing that isn’t the only reason you’re upset; the level of creep and ick isn’t the only reason you’re questioning whether you forgave too easily. The bigger — or at least equally big — issue is that your boyfriend betrayed you twice in this scenario — the first time when he took 25+ images of your feet without your knowledge, and the second time when he essentially “confessed” without really confessing and sought acceptance, if not forgiveness, with actually confessing his true crime. And in your telling him his foot fetish was normal and didn’t bother you and he shouldn’t be ashamed of it, you relieved him of his guilty conscience. Had you known what he was actually feeling guilty about, you would not have absolved him so quickly, and there’s the rub (no pun intended).
So, what do you do about this problem? You tell him you’re mad that his initial confession was essentially a lie — or at least, not the whole truth. Tell him you feel betrayed not just by the photos and videos he took without your consent, but by the absolution he got from you without first confessing what it was he was really seeking forgiveness for. Tell him you feel violated times two and that you deserve more regard and respect that he’s shown you, as his girlfriend, as a woman, as a person.
Finally, be careful not to let his self-esteem and depression issues cloud or dilute honest reactions you might have to behavior that’s less than savory. It’s one thing to be compassionate — and most people, regardless of their mental and emotional well-being deserve compassion; but it’s quite another to give a pass for behavior you would otherwise not so easily accept or forgive.
You can get past this issue if you decide you want to. Trust can be restored. You can most definitely forgive. But I would urge you not to forget. File this away as a red flag (a big one, at that). Your relationship is still very young and to have fallen in love as quickly as you say you did, there may be blinders still in place that have prevented you from seeing the whole picture of who your boyfriend is. Seeing — and accepting — the flaws of people we care about can deepen our love and strengthen our bond, but it can also showcase deal-breakers we didn’t know existed. Ultimately, though, any scenario that moves your forward and closer to authenticity is good, even if it doesn’t always feel comfortable.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.