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My precious girlfriend is too exquisite for words.
December 29, 2008 8:51 AM   Subscribe

If actions are doubtlessly mightier than words, would this person be considered trustworthy?

I have a friend who has been in a long distance relationship for about a year while her boyfriend is working abroad and waiting for her to go to school where he is. Boyfriend has come home to visit her many times, and visa versa. They are definitley an exclusive couple but they appear to be cut from different cloths. She grew up around all sorts of social butterflies who understand certain types of obligation in relationships, while his behavior in relationships is not always conventional. Recently, she found his address book on his computer. Entries consisted of mostly women, and notes about them containing details of how 'amazing' or 'exquisite' they are. When she saw her name, there were no descriptions or words describing her beauty. He is a decent and somewhat nerdy person who treats her like gold, and he has regularly told her how beautiful, smart, amazing, exquisite, funny, talented, etc. she is in real life (same list of adjectives)...in addition to going out of his way to do nice/cute things for her and spending lots of money on her. But if he really has such strong feelings for her&only her, why wouldn't he write it down, the way he wrote about the other 'friends'? If he thought she was so mysterious and intriguing and dear to his heart, why wouldn't he think of her when he was writing about other people? Is this normal behavior for couples to not acknowledge each other in addressbooks? Since they are already so familiar with each other do they not need to 'remember' each others' qualities in notes (the way one would need to remember friends from foreign countries)? She believes he would never physically cheat on her, but is this 'emotional cheating'? As long as they both know in their minds that they are the Only Ones for each other, should she let actions always speak louder than words and forget about it or should she talk about it with him? What is a reasonable response to this?
posted by johannahdeschanel to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
couples... do not acknowledge each other in address books?

Maybe I'm a little different - I mean, I never take notes on people in address books, and I'm not even going to comment on noting that a woman is 'amazing.' But yeah, if the notes are at all intended as a memory aid... I wouldn't bother taking notes on my girlfriend. Semi-related example: I once kept a paper address book but never bothered writing in my then-girlfriend's phone number, because I knew it by heart.

Her being 'absent' is not the issue. Why there are lots of notes about other women being 'exquisite' is, however, at least something to talk about.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Recently, she found his address book on his computer.

And how did this accident happen?

Based solely on what has been written here and how it's been written (Only Ones?), she sounds like a person with a certain set image of how things should be and when things aren't that way she assumes the worst and perhaps, goes snooping for answers.

She needs to speak to him, and not strangers on the internet, if she has an issue with him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The fact that he didn't put that SHE was beautiful is not so much a big deal as the fact that he has a bazillion numbers at his disposal and they're in a long-distance relationship. RED FLAG.

My partner is quite the social butterfly and notes in his address book where he's met someone (i.e. Jennifer--Church). After a while he took off my note because he wasn't about to forget me any time soon. That part isn't so strange.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:00 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it was a huge red flag, but if you knew this guy, you would know he is not the cheating type. I just don't understand this person's emotions or motives. The whole thing is strange to me.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 9:05 AM on December 29, 2008


No good ever comes from snooping (accidentally or on purpose) on computers of significant others.
posted by proj at 9:09 AM on December 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


The dangers of poking around others' things is that one is likely to find something unexpected, and often unsettling.

I'd say she should let it go, although there's a good chance it will continue to stick in her craw and taint the relationship. And if he's as good to her as you imply, that's too bad. On the other hand, maybe he's got himself a girl in every port and every chat room. It's awfully cheesy to annotate address book listings like that... so I'd suspect they're both young, and it's their first - or first series of - turns on the escalator of love. Trust and faith sometimes require people to just simply trust; to have faith.

Of course, there's the option of confrontation. And what if he denies? Will she believe him? Will she ever trust him again, because there's a grain of doubt? Will he feel violated that she snooped in his stuff?

Either way, she's likely now to suspect him of stepping out, even if he's not. Every thing he does, says, writes, whatever, will now glow with the possibility of deception. And that's unfortunate.

So: let it go. Shanti, shanti.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 9:10 AM on December 29, 2008


In my opinion, she should not talk to him about it. This is the penalty for snooping -- you cannot ask questions about what you found.
posted by Houstonian at 9:18 AM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Isn't it important to understand an SO's motives, no matter the cost? Because the damage could be much worse if they are deceitful.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 9:27 AM on December 29, 2008


I see it as no more than a memory aid for him.

She should consider it a compliment to her that he does not seem to qualify her as he does these other women, with his adjectives.

I personally find her snooping in his address book to be the more untrustworthy of the two behaviors. She may have found the address book, but she also could have closed it quickly instead of snooping further.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:34 AM on December 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


The damage could be so much worse if she comes out as having gone through his address book.

She either trusts him, or not. Based on that, they need to have a talk about exclusivity, where he either confirms her fears, or not. But seriously, she shouldn't have been snooping.

I have people in my address book who I email. I'm not having sex with any of them. They're just people I know. Hell, I wish I was having sex with some of the 57 people in there.

Finally, why didn't she just ASK to see his address book? Why go looking through his computer without his knowledge or consent?
posted by Solomon at 9:36 AM on December 29, 2008


Isn't it important to understand an SO's motives, no matter the cost? Because the damage could be much worse if they are deceitful.

Conversely, then, what are her motives? If she confronts him, not only is the address book content an issue, but so too is the reason for her to have not just stumbled upon it, but obviously delved into its contents. Is she ready to answer that, too?
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 9:37 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think that for her to bring it up with him in a relationship where she has no other signs of things going wrong is a mistake. If there are other things that make this seem oogy, that's one thing, but if he truly "treates her like gold" then I think for her to bring it up is just introducing a vehicle for mistrust into the relationship without good reason. This is such a borderline thing for her to be worried about - it could mean 100% absolutely nothing. But if she wants to discuss it, then she's got to explain why she was in his address book, that she doesn't trust him, etc etc etc. It would make a lot of obstacles between them. Worst case scenario - he's not cheating, but then after the discussion he's hurt and angry and he starts to wonder...

On the other hand, why was she poking around in his address book? Maybe you could have a frank discussion with her about whether she's getting some other sort of signal that he's untrustworthy. Maybe you think he treats her like gold, but she's noticed some little details you haven't seen.
posted by marginaliana at 9:38 AM on December 29, 2008


Yeah, I tried to tell her it's proof that he loves her more, as he does not objectify her qualities the way he would with regular girl friends. I was sort of leaning in that direction, but you said it perfectly. Thanks.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 9:38 AM on December 29, 2008


Isn't it important to understand an SO's motives, no matter the cost?

Only if you're okay with the chance that "the cost" might be the end of the relationship.
posted by ook at 9:48 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Snooping? She shouldn't be able to discuss it with him? Please. Just because it's on a computer (a computer that he presumably let her use) doesn't make it evil evil snooping if she looks at it.

She either trusts him, or not.

This is really ridiculous. We trust people to do or not do various things based on our information about them. I trust my partner to be honest about the people he sleeps with, I don't trust him to be on time. I trust my partner to lock the door when he leaves the house, I don't trust him to put the lid on the sugar bowl. I know these things because I have information about him based on years of experience.

To say that you either trust someone or you don't, and that means you should ignore information that is at your disposal is completely ridiculous.

If I had a penny for every woman I know who found information like this, ignored it because "Don't you trust me, baby? I thought you trusted me!", and then ended up with an STD, I'd have seven cents. REALLY.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:53 AM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


if you knew this guy, you would know he is not the cheating type.

BULLSHIT. There is no such thing as the "cheating type".

Well, actually, there is. Know how you can tell if someone's the cheating type? If they cheat.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:55 AM on December 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


By any reasonable standard, what she did (snooping and violation of privacy) is far worse than what he did (failed to write appropriately positive adjectives next to her name in his address book).

If anyone's behavior needs explaining or defending, it's hers.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:57 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


holy shit. best answer ever, sondriliac.

I agree with you that women feel like they have to ignore the info at their disposal...but I believe this because I think it's sexist. If a guy found their girlfriends writing messages about the macho man they met at so-and-so's house, of course they would be pissed. They would probably show up at his door with cement boots. But when a woman even questions the motives behind some nonesense like this she is suddenly the Bad Man, or "snooping" because WOMEN ARE JUST CRAZY PARANOID OMFG.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 10:00 AM on December 29, 2008


DWRoelands clearly has the best answer johannahdeschanel.

What she did is definitely worse than what he did. End of discussion.
posted by FusiveResonance at 10:08 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What did she 'do'?? Prevent herself from getting lied to and cheated on? Personally, I believe that when you are in a relationship, there is no such thing as a 'personal life'. Everything should be an open book. If he wants to hide things, he should not be in a serious relationship. But I can not speak for everyone.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 10:11 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe a more appropriate question in addition to the others should have been "is this emotional cheating, and is emotional cheating a good reason to dump someone?"
posted by johannahdeschanel at 10:15 AM on December 29, 2008


But when a woman even questions the motives behind some nonesense like this she is suddenly the Bad Man, or "snooping" because WOMEN ARE JUST CRAZY PARANOID OMFG.

No, this isn't a man vs woman issue. The issue is that she suspects something and rather than talking to him about it, goes snooping and then asks strangers on the internet whether his actions are acceptable, all before actually doing what should be done in a relationship, communicating.

Also, it seems as though she's already placed him in a certain box (She grew up around all sorts of social butterflies who understand certain types of obligation in relationships, while his behavior in relationships is not always conventional.).

It doesn't matter what anyone here thinks, she needs to talk to him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


A lot of people are flat-out lost when not in a relationship. A lot of long-distance relationships don't work out. This guy may be hedging his bets so that Just In Case things don't work out with his long-distance girl**, and/or maybe he gets lonely, esp. being in a strange place with limited social connections, and getting to know (but not sleeping with) other women makes him feel less alone.

It's worth noting that he's keeping notes because he lacks the social skill (memory is a part of this) to keep these women straight. Better socialized people, such as the girlfriend, would do the same thing but just keep these notes in their head, tucked away from prying eyes.

** Ironically, this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy...
posted by LordSludge at 10:21 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


ut when a woman even questions the motives behind some nonesense like this she is suddenly the Bad Man, or "snooping" because WOMEN ARE JUST CRAZY PARANOID OMFG.

I don't think anyone is saying that, I think the general consensus has been that looking through your partners' phone, e-mail, computer files, private information, etc. is a bad idea regardless of if a male or female is doing it. I mean, come on, that's literally the definition of snooping, no scare quotes needed: to pry into the private affairs of others, especially by prowling about. Doesn't mean cheating is acceptable behavior either.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2008


Personally, I believe that when you are in a relationship, there is no such thing as a 'personal life'. Everything should be an open book. If he wants to hide things, he should not be in a serious relationship.

This is, and I'm being charitable here, a fringe position. Everyone needs some privacy, however seriously committed they are to another. It's a basic aspect of human nature and tied up with our idea of dignity and autonomy. That's why trust is so important in relationships. You trust that the things being kept private aren't toxic to the relationship.

If I were you, I would think deeply about this stance in light of how relationships really work in the world.
posted by prefpara at 10:30 AM on December 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Johannah, you seem to be getting a little too close to this situation for someone who isn't one of the involved parties.

Based on what little information you've shared, it seems like there's nothing to worry about. If he's "somewhat nerdy" and "not always conventional," he may just be one of thse guys finds it easier to befriend women than men; regarding the descriptions of his other friends, he could just be really cheesy...calling someone "amazing" may be a reminder of an interesting conversation with an acquaintance or it could refer to an in-joke. You don't know.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm going to chip in here to agree that the conversation here is not helpful or productive to the issue at hand.

I'm thinking about this as if I were in his shoes. I've written something down and I know why I've written it down, but I don't know that my girlfriend has seen it and, furthermore, I am unsure how she would react to it.

If I found out that she had "found it," I would not be in the least upset if I felt committed to the relationship.

If I found out that she assumed the worst, especially when the worst wasn't intended, I'd be a little upset. Why assume I meant harm? What about other entries that have no notes? Do I intend harm there, too?

If I found out that instead of coming to me she asked the Intert00bz for help on what she should do, I would feel that communication in the relationship is damaged and, perhaps, the long-distance is too much of a strain for her. (This assumes I have all good intentions, of course, which I would, but I'm not the one we're talking about.)

Another thing: This reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Elaine was interested in a visiting doctor who referred to her as "breathtaking" only to find out he used the same word when describing a baby she considered ugly. Perhaps it was all in Elaine's head. Perhaps it wasn't. Nevertheless, she didn't try hard enough to find out the truth from the source so the relationship never started. Comedy with a kernel of truth? Dunno.
posted by tcv at 11:08 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think your looking too far into this, but as a person who keeps notes about people in his contacts, I think the fact her name had no notes is signifiant.

My contacts has notes on family members, friends, students, team members, ect - only the few people I regard as close or precious to me have no notes - they don't need them.
posted by rmathew1 at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2008


Everything should be an open book. If he wants to hide things, he should not be in a serious relationship.

If your friend shares that opinion and she wants to be in a serious relationship with him, then by her definition she must talk with him about it. Here's how the conversation might start:

"I believe that when people are in a serious relationship, everything should be an open book. I'll start first, by sharing four new facts with you:

1. I want to know if you are emotionally cheating on me.

2. I looked through your address book, and found notes beside the names of everyone but me.

3. I want to know why other people in your address book have notes such as 'amazing' or 'exquisite'.

4. I want to know why notes are not next to my name."
posted by Houstonian at 12:54 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with all the answers that say, talk to him about it.

Idle speculation: It sounds like he is a nerd. Probably one of those million lifehack/GTD sites recommended a brilliant, perfect way to organize your address book and this detailed note-taking somehow wound up in there as part of the nerdy lifehacking organizing task he undertook. Some people like to classify everything, which is a little weird when it applies to women but again, might fall under the awkward/nerdy/OCD category moreso than trying to be deceptive and cheat on her. Also, is this an address book that predates the relationship?
posted by citron at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe a more appropriate question in addition to the others should have been "is this emotional cheating, and is emotional cheating a good reason to dump someone?"
The act of writing the word "exquisite" next to a woman's name is not cheating, emotional or otherwise.

Personally, I believe that when you are in a relationship, there is no such thing as a 'personal life'.
It doesn't matter what -you- believe, it matters what -your friend- believes. She's she's the one in the relationship and you, ostensibly, are not.
posted by DWRoelands at 2:01 PM on December 29, 2008


Could you stop marking every answer the best answer? It makes it hard to read the thread with the whited-out background.
posted by Maisie Jay at 2:13 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I agree that the prob here is not that there was no entry next to her (as everyone has said, he doesn't need reminders on the supposedly most important lady in his life), but rather why he's describing the looks of so many other ladies (which implies a sexual interest in them, no matter how innocent).

Just make sure when she does broach the subject with her SO, she doesn't come off as accusatory and she should expect the "best" answer (that he just uses those notes to help him remember people he doesn't know so well, or that those notes are from before they started dating). If she is accusatory, even only subtly in tone or body language, and he's innocent, this could seriously damage their relationship.

So like, "Hey hon... I didn't mean to [a little white lie], but I caught a glimpse of your address book the other day and saw some notes about girls in there describing their looks, and naturally I was curious..." and hopefully that's enough to get him going.

If he's perfectly innocent, he'll probably feel a little guilty and get shamefaced... because really, a guy shouldn't be waxing eloquent on other women's beauty, unless those notes were from before when he was dating her. If he truly loved her he wouldn't care about other women- and I don't like the implication of "hedging his bets" because that implies he's not too serious about his relationship with her.

If he's guilty, he'll either turn the argument against her ("How could you violate my trust like that!!") or play it off really well and casually if he's a good liar ("Oh, those are from before I met you, no biggie"). Ok, maybe in the second scenario he could be truthful, but I know if my boyfriend found some notes about other guys, even if I wasn't planning on cheating on him I would still feel a little guilty because I know that's wrong.

I could be wrong, but that's my impression:
acting slightly guilty = true innocence.
anger or casual brush off = true guilt.

Wow that sounds really cynical. I'm slightly ashamed of my assesment. These things only really apply to how I would act, I guess. :P
posted by thejrae at 3:20 PM on December 29, 2008


Sounds to me like the girlfriend is being way too insecure. I don't think things will go well when she tells him what she thinks. I think no matter how he reacts, she will feel aggrieved anyway, because of her insecurity. If he doesn't react the perfect magic way, she will take it as a sign of dishonesty and disloyalty, so he cannot win. He will probably react defensively.

Doomed. Learn not to snoop. It can only end in tears.
posted by marble at 6:15 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


"is this emotional cheating, and is emotional cheating a good reason to dump someone?"

Um... if you're looking around for a good excuse to dump someone, you should just dump them instead of pretending you still want to be with them but just haven't found a good enough excuse yet.

"emotional cheating" sounds like thoughtcrime.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:33 PM on December 29, 2008


marble's dead-on here.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:29 AM on December 30, 2008


She's going to have to suffer in silence, or fess up to snooping and just ask. I know I'm curious.
posted by medea42 at 8:56 AM on December 30, 2008


emotional cheating IS a thoughtcrime, because you think you know a nice person, and they just end up being a pervert and a sicko and not focusing on any particular person, but rather an entire collection of them in all different varieties. if a person wants variety, they should go to a brothel, they should not be in an exclusive relationship. they should be weeded out. the point is: people should not settle. why waste time with a person if you do not think they are the most ideal person in the world (or visa versa)? end of discussion. (because i ve no idea what to think of this situation anymore!!)
posted by johannahdeschanel at 10:33 AM on December 30, 2008


Is this a question about a friend or about you? because if it's about you, it sounds like you want to break up with him and should just do that. And it sounds like you are 100% certain you are already in the right and have already decided how things should be, for everyone, and it's like.. who died and made you god?

because this is not trial by jury! It really sounds like this girl does not trust this guy and it might have something to do with trust issues that were present long before this relationship, unless he has done other things so as to be untrustworthy. And that whatever positive things the guy did before, such as always saying so many nice things to her, spending all this money, all in all "treating her like gold," she doesn't want to give him the benefit of the doubt here and has jumped straightaway into accusations of 'thoughtcrime' which is hideous. God, who wants to spend time with someone who accuses them of 'thoughtcrime,' something that you can never prove yourself innocent of? It's a free country! I took Jacqueline's comment that "emotional cheating" = 'thoughtcrime' meant, "emotional cheating" is a 1984-style ridiculous and unfair accusation.

The more I read this thread the more sympathy I have for the guy, who will never do enough for this girl.
posted by citron at 11:56 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your friend sounds extremely unstable, and she should just break up with the guy already.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Maybe these entries are years old and he hasn't had contact with them for years or updated his address book for years.

Talk to the guy. Jesus.
posted by chugg at 1:35 PM on December 30, 2008


I don't get how you go from detailed address book to "emotional cheating," "thought crimes" and "swingers clubs." You are blowing this way out of proportion, all without even talking to the guy about it. Like chugg said above, whose to say this hasn't been updated in years?

Get some perspective, please.
posted by chiababe at 1:54 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Very few people on here have agreed with you that this is an immediate dealbreaker or that in a relationship one must never act privately to any extent, but you don't seem inclined to accept comments that don't conform to your thinking.

I mean, ok. So we know how you feel. It's not really clear what the objective for this thread is.
posted by namesarehard at 3:46 PM on December 30, 2008


johannahdeschanel, did you have a question, or were you only looking to rant at your "friend's" problem? You started by asking a question, you got answers, you marked all of them as best answers but then argued the point with everyone... and now you are calling one of us a smarmy bastard?
posted by Houstonian at 4:23 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


[Comment removed. I'm not sure what's remaining to be answered here, but ranting and calling folks trying to answer your question names is not gonna fly.]
posted by cortex at 4:46 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


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