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Should I be worried about my bf's relationship with his ex?
July 27, 2012 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I accidentally read an email from my BF to his ex GF, who is getting married on Saturday, which he closed with "I will always love you." Should I be concerned about his feelings for her?

My 32-year-old BF has had only two real GFs including me. He doesn't speak of his ex often, but I do know that she was pushing for marriage and he wasn't ready. I don't know if this is the only reason they broke up. The relationship ended 4 years ago. He has told me that they still call/email each other occasionally to catch up, which I’ve always thought of as healthy and appropriate.

Recently he used my phone to check his email and did not log out. I inadvertently read an email to his ex GF (I know, I know), who is getting married on Saturday, that wishes her happiness and closes with "I will always love you."

Should I be concerned about his feelings for her? That sentence,"I will always love you", just seems… too much. I have exes that I feel fondly towards, but this is something that would not cross my lips. I mention that he has had only two relationships (with a 4 year gap) in between because my mind is racing with thoughts of him being “hung up” on her for all that time and ultimately settling on me because she became engaged.

I did not log out of his email account. There are more emails between the two of them that I am struggling not to open.
posted by eliseb to Human Relations (80 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you need to talk to your boyfriend about this. Tell him you accidentally read that one email, that you've got concerns about his feelings for his ex and the impact that might be having on the two of you, and listen to what he has to say in response.
posted by orange swan at 10:39 AM on July 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I love several of my exes, and might conceivably tell them so on an important occasion. However, I love them in a particular post-relationship way based on our past intimacy. It's great, in fact, to be able to love someone in that almost detached way - because of who they are, because of what you know about them, and not because your lives are entangled on a day to day basis. It feels good.

But that doesn't mean I'd marry one of them! Not in a million years!

Obviously, don't open the other emails. Log him out right now so that you're not tempted.

Do you have any other doubts about the relationship? Is he distant with you? Does he seem likely to cheat? Does he treat you badly? If not, stop worrying! (Also, do you tend to over-worry?)
posted by Frowner at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


I accidentally read an email from my BF to his ex GF

Hmm, I feel like this was not an accident.

But since you read it, what else did the email say? The line "I will always love you" alone sounds like he's hung up on her, but the content of the rest of the email could be very telling as to his feelings. It would certainly bother me a lot to see that. To answer your question, I would be a bit concerned.
posted by amro at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Your best course of action is to ask him directly, because we can only give you our own experiences, which might be interesting, but will be irrelevant because none of us are him, or you, or the ex.

I've told exes that I love them/will always love them, but I didn't mean it Like That, and also as a lesbian, this is just a thing a lot of us do - keep exes close. One lives downstairs, in fact, and is my partner's best friend.
posted by rtha at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


First of all: Log the fuck out.

Secondly: Talk to your boyfriend about this. The internet can't know his motivations/feelings.

Thirdly: Good luck with everything.
posted by Grither at 10:41 AM on July 27, 2012 [23 favorites]


Some people are more open with the L-word. In the context (he didn't want marriage with this person, and is wishing her well on her marriage to someone else) it sounds more like being open with wording than like hung up feelings.
posted by anti social order at 10:41 AM on July 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh hell no. This only more the reason I believe exes should be ex'ed out entirely. He's being inappropriate. Yes, you read it on your phone but... don't worry, it's on YOUR phone. Maybe a chat with him will do. He should not be saying those things to her, especially that she's getting married and he's with you. Yeah, I'd be concerned.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 10:42 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, if you wanted to have an affair with someone who was getting married, why on earth would you write a congratulatory email and close with your love? That's like the skeevy-creepy passive-aggressive dictionary definition right there! It's not unusual to assure someone of your love on an important occasion - especially maybe an ex who you wish well but don't want to be with. Especially if he feels some guilt about breaking things off - he probably, probably just wants her to feel that he is deeply happy for her and that there are no bad feelings.
posted by Frowner at 10:42 AM on July 27, 2012


Talk to him.

Speaking for myself, as a happily married woman for many years, I still love some of my ex-boyfriends. Love doesn't die just because relationships don't work. And I know my husband still loves at least one of his former girlfriends.

The thing is, we love each other more, and we would never ever see former people romantically. That's the state of mind your BF is hopefully in too.

Also, stop reading his emails and remember to apologize profusely for your reading of this one.
posted by bearwife at 10:42 AM on July 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


Log out and don't open them.

Let your BF know you saw his email to his Ex and that you were kind of shocked about the closing line. He wrote this on YOUR phone and he didn't LOG OUT???? He's down on his hands and knees begging to be asked about this.

Where are you in your relationship? Have you been together very long, or just recently? What do YOU want for your future relationship?

If you think you want to marry him, and his previous relationship broke up over this very issue, then there's a reason to be concerned.

No matter what, you've got to talk to him.

I'd consider breaking up because he's too stupid to live. But I'm harsh.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:42 AM on July 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


This totally depends on the context of their ongoing contact. I can easily imagine using 'love' to mean 'think you're a really beautiful wonderful person but in a totally non-romantic way'. Which might be a nice thing to say to someone who's about to get married. Then again, it might indeed indicate he has lingering feelings. I don't think you can assume one way or the other without talking to him.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:42 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nobody can read his mind, but I can give you a couple of bullet points/perspective as a human male.

* If there was something shady going on, or if he was a shady guy, he most likely wouldn't have used your phone and wouldn't have left himself logged in.

* If the well wishes sounded genuine and not sarcastic, I would guess that he's just feeling momentous and dramatic and wanted to put something momentous and dramatic and positive out there.

* A lot of people talk about loving someone, but not being *in* love with them. I don't understand that, myself, but it could just be a crutch they developed after the breakup and one he's still referring to.

* If you can't put this out of your mind 100%, the next best thing to do is tell him what you saw and let him explain. He's going to be red faced and he might be angry at you but it's better than him wondering why you seem "off" for the next 6 months.

G'luck!
posted by ftm at 10:42 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are two issues here:

1) you 'accidentally reading his email: I don't think there was much 'accidentally' about it, seeing as you would have had to open the message in the inbox. Be that as it may, I don't think it's too big of a privacy invasion, but let's not couch it terms to deny your accountability.

2) We can't know if the "I will always love you" thing is a deal breaker without knowing the rest of the message. It could be anything from "I would take you back at any moment you decide to leave him" to "It wasn't meant to be, but I do love that we had what we had when we had it".

You kind of have to talk to him about it if it's bothering you, unfortunately.
posted by Think_Long at 10:44 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Log out of his email account.

Well, could be two things: 1) he was trying to reassure her that she was very meaningful in his life and that she'll always hold a special place in his heart even though they've both moved on and he wishes her well, 2) he's still in love with her.

The way to tell the difference between one and two is...if it's one he'll treat you well and if it's two he won't. As if, cares for you, is tender toward you, is considerate of your feelings and wants to plan a future with you. If he is those things, you're fine. If he's not you're not. And telling which is which does not require a mico-analysis of the semantics of the word love in modern email communication.

Or in other words --- if this is freaking you out because it makes other things make sense, if it seems like the key to a larger pattern or just one example of him being distant and not committed to the relationship, then yes, worry. Otherwise, you're fine. But reading all his emails is going to make things not fine no matter what happens.
posted by Diablevert at 10:45 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Love is so vague. Tell him you read his e-mail to her. You could have stopped yourself before you read the whole thing but your curiosity didn't let you stop. Now you are suffering from your curiosity. All you can do is ask him if you should be concerned by his love for her. I believe he meant for her to know that he cares for her and wants her to know that. Only he could give you that answer though.
posted by Yellow at 10:45 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd worry less about him getting angry with you. Talk to him. You have excellent questions.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 10:46 AM on July 27, 2012


Log out so your not tempted to read more and then tell him curiosity got the best of you, and you're sorry, but you read a recent email he sent and you just can't get it out of your head and need to talk about it so it doesn't eat away at you for a while.

if you don't confront him it will eat at you until it does. He will be upset, to a certain degree, but that's better to happen now than later.
posted by zombieApoc at 10:46 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's the one who knows what he was really thinking, not us. You and he know the full content of the email — we've only seen a few words from it. We can't know what's in his head. Talk to him about this, starting with a profuse apology for "accidentally" reading his email.
posted by John Cohen at 10:47 AM on July 27, 2012


Datapoint - I would say that to a couple of my exs because being with someone for a few years gives you a deep connection that doesn't go away because you split up, though it might feel weird. I would say this despite being with a wonderful man who I love in an entirely different way. They are no competition to him.

I wouldn't rush to feel upset, though I see why you're feeling weird.
posted by kadia_a at 10:47 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


my mind is racing with thoughts of him being “hung up” on her for all that time and ultimately settling on me because she became engaged.


Just wondering, how did you feel in the relationship before this?

-Did you feel very secure?
-Did you always feel like you knew that you were loved?
-Did you feel like you were getting your needs met for attention, affection, sex?
-Did you ever feel like something was off, asked, and were told everything was fine?
-Did you ever feel like there was something odd about your boyfriend's communication with his ex even though you thought the amount was healthy? Like was he secretive about it or acted weird before or after?

If you're having some cognitive dissonance right now because you're thinking, "I felt incredibly secure and happy and everything was great," I think this is more likely to be something innocent that you don't have to worry about.

But if you always had some kind of weird twinge at times, and now you have a feeling that something has been explained or now makes sense, then I think this is more likely to be an issue. Or, maybe there is an issue but it's not actually about the ex at all, but this was the passive way your boyfriend found to bring the issue to the surface.

Either way, I would say talk to him but don't feel too guilty about reading the email, because it sounds like something that was done on purpose.
posted by cairdeas at 10:49 AM on July 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


She's an important person to him. He very well may mean it that way. It doesn't necessarily mean that he's *in love* with her. There's a lot of people I love that I am not in love with, even exes. And why shouldn't they be told that?

But you've a legitimate question. Ask him. If he gets defensive, then you should worry.
posted by inturnaround at 10:54 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm going to disagree with the rest of the group here. I agree that snooping on your significant other is generally wrong, but if you have "probable cause" - ie, you accidentally stumbled on something that leads you to question his truthfulness - then you are entitled to answers. Do you really want to be one of those women posting inane things on AskMe later like "I just discovered my boyfriend was cheating on me! I'm shocked because he seemed so reliable, even though I discovered an email where he confessed to being in love with his ex."

What I guess I'm saying is that ethically, there's a huge difference between the police randomly searching houses and the police going to a judge to get a search warrant. Likewise, there's a big difference between you rummaging through your boyfriends email out of paranoia as opposed to rummaging through it because you found a big red flag and might potentially save yourself years of infidelity down the road.

It's not my place to give you advice on the "right" thing to do, but I will say that from a pragmatic perspective, the best way to get the complete truth out of people during an interrogation is to ask them a series of questions where you secretly already know the answers to some of the questions (but not all of them).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:56 AM on July 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Since we're taking a poll here, I think this kind of thing is fine. I have a few friends whom I deeply love. I have a couple of exes who also have that place in my heart. No big deal. Cf: this thread and my comment there.
posted by salvia at 10:57 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Read the emails, you might as well. But be prepared to admit to doing so, so he knows what's going on with you. And be prepared to feel shitty about it. You really have no good choice so you might as well go with the choice that gives you more information about this man who has intimate access to you (physically and emotionally). Protect yourself.

I would be seriously concerned with his poor boundaries and lack of consideration for her feelings, BTW. Telling someone you'll always love them right before they get married is really rude and shitty if you refused to marry them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:58 AM on July 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


if the email is just good wishes and stuff, it's probably nothing to worry. more like a fondness rather than a romantic thing most likely. (unless it was "i will always love you please don't marry him")

if it's like the email i found (that was actually up on the screen because the browser got hung up when he was closing it and didn't realize it) that was directions on where to meet and when, that's worth worrying about.

however, as some other posters have said, if there's other stuff going on - he's distant, weird about you seeing or using HIS phone, has calls that he won't answer in front of you - those are much larger red flags.
posted by sio42 at 10:59 AM on July 27, 2012


I will always love my exes and even ex friends. Yes, even the ones who were toxic. It doesn't mean he wants to be with her.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:02 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I say so in our occasional emails and phone conversations. Even when my guy is in the room. If he were a jealous man we wouldn't be engaged. I am very grateful he is not.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:03 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tell him you read it and how it made you feel. See if he can reassure you or if he is still hung up on her. I found that sharing what I read brought about a lot of uncomfortable feelings, but it can be a catalyst to finally make the changes necessary that he may otherwise not have made. In my case, it finally brought some behavior I found unacceptable to a close. Try it and see. You have nothing to loose and a better more loving boyfriend to gain.
posted by i_wear_boots at 11:07 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


wolfdreams01 : I'm going to disagree with the rest of the group here. I agree that snooping on your significant other is generally wrong, but if you have "probable cause" - ie, you accidentally stumbled on something that leads you to question his truthfulness - then you are entitled to answers. Do you really want to be one of those women posting inane things on AskMe later like "I just discovered my boyfriend was cheating on me! I'm shocked because he seemed so reliable, even though I discovered an email where he confessed to being in love with his ex."
**IF** the OP has probably cause - and not if the OP has decided she probably has cause after the fact.

There's absolutely no reason from her post to believe this is the case, so she should (1) log out, (2) confess and apologize to her boyfriend, and only after that (3) discuss the email she read.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:08 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


True Love in this differs from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Love is like understanding, that grows bright,
Gazing on many truths
There's no reason--at all--that he shouldn't feel love for his ex without that being in no a threat to your relationship. There are many kinds of love. I tell lots of my friends--male and female--that I love them, but it doesn't mean that I'm seeking to be in an exclusive romantic relationship with them. Believe me, it's a Good Thing that your partner still feels love for his ex--it shows that he's not someone who changes his affections lightly or who gives them on a whim.

You need to talk about this with him, but wait until you're sure you can do it without accusations or drama and lead off by apologizing for snooping through his email.
posted by yoink at 11:09 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, please don't approach talking to your boyfriend as an interrogation - unless you want it to go badly, and you already view your relationship as adversarial.
posted by rtha at 11:12 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


No idea. What did the rest of the email say?

My boyfriend overuses the phrase, "I love you"to his male and female friends. I don't know if I could picture him saying "i will always love you" to an ex, though. And I love most of my exes. We had some good times. But wouldn't end an email to one of them with that phrase. Maybe: Love, Kogeliz.

Second. Hey, I would open the rest of the emails. I mean, it's your phone. You already opened one - why not the rest? My boyfriend reads my stuff sometimes and i read his if I'm bored enough and he leaves tabs open on the pc.
But, as you can see, most people advise against this because it shows lack of trust.

So. Without the details of what the emails said, this would be impossible to answer.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:16 AM on July 27, 2012


That sentence,"I will always love you", just seems… too much.

"I will always love you" is not something I would say platonically, and I don't think anyone I know has ever said it platonically to a former partner. YMMV.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:22 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


my mind is racing with thoughts of him being “hung up” on her for all that time and ultimately settling on me because she became engaged.

Even if you're right about the first part, the second doesn't necessarily follow. It's perfectly possible that some small, intermittently-flickering part of him IS still hung up on her (as opposed to merely wishing her well), AND that he is genuinely in love with (as opposed to having merely settled for) you.

I also wouldn't take the long gap between girlfriends as evidence of anything but his being choosy. (There's an even longer gap in my romantic resumé, and the idea that I'm still in love with my ex, rather than my wife, would be crazy talk. Memail me if you want details.) Under the circumstances it's quite likely he was a little hung up on her, at least residually, until he hooked up with you -- but in that scenario the long gap is a cause, not an effect, of the enduring feelings.
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:23 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


If he left it open on your phone than you don't have anything to apologize for for reading it. If my wife left an open letter on the kitchen table to an old flame I'd read it and not consider it snooping. If I had to rifle through her desk to find that letter, that's a different can of worms. What he did was essentially leaving it there, on your kitchen table so don't feel bad or guilty.

Now with that out of the way, I agree with the above posters that there's simply not enough context here for anyone to make any kind of comment.

For myself, I still have feelings for some of my ex's, BUT, I have absolutely zero desire to ever become involved with them again. End of story. I also don't think I've ever told any of them this, but that may be as much due to my style as anything else. I could see a message saying "I'm so happy you're getting married... blah, blah, blah... You are and always will be someone I love tremendously...etc." being nothing more than saying the same thing to my sister.

I think you need to look at the rest of your relationship, the context of the letter itself (is it "I love you and want you back" or "So happy for you, love you forever"). If he's writing this on YOUR phone, my guess is that you have nothing to worry about.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 11:24 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Days before his exe's wedding he sends her an email telling her "he will always love her." That's some grade A emotional manipulation there and I have no idea how that can be interpreted as anything other than him trying to get her back. I suppose if the gist of the email was "I'm so happy you have found the right person and I wish you and your future husband all the best. Even though things ended between I look back with nothing but fondness and love when I think of you. I look forward to seeing the beautiful photos of your wedding and I hope you have a great honeymoon.". Even that topped off with "I will always love you" is a bit much....

I totally understand still loving an ex, but there is a huge difference between merely having feelings and then expressing them to the individual. Especially right before their wedding. The feelings in and of themselves are not *necessarily* the problem, but him directly expressing them to his ex is inappropriate to put it mildly. If the Op had overheard a conversation between her boyfriend and a friend where he said something to the effect of "part of me will always love ex" I would be a lot more generous in my interpretation of events. But I think at best his behavior is inappropriate and at worst he's blatantly pursuing another woman.
posted by whoaali at 11:24 AM on July 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


Either way, I would say talk to him but don't feel too guilty about reading the email, because it sounds like something that was done on purpose.

At least, it was very very careless. If he left a page up where you actually saw a list of emails and recipients, I think that's very annoying.

That said, if the email didn't propose alternate scenarios or anything, I personally wouldn't be upset about the few words you quoted. Sending a valedictory letter to an ex on the eve of their wedding is kind of an old-fashioned thing to do but harmless and maybe even rather sweet-- unless he really hurt her badly when they broke up and should just be giving her space. (Is that the case? We don't know.) Otherwise, if you are going to write that sort of letter at all it should probably be fairly demonstrative or there is no point. My guess is, if your relationship is good otherwise this is a case where you can be happy that he treats his ex nicely, rather than having a lot of shitty breakups in his past.
posted by BibiRose at 11:24 AM on July 27, 2012


Also, please don't approach talking to your boyfriend as an interrogation - unless you want it to go badly, and you already view your relationship as adversarial.

Oh, of course - please don't take me literally on that. I didn't mean you should actually interrogate him like he was a criminal! (Thank you for catching that wording, rtha.) I just mean that your goal here is presumably to find out the truth (at least, that's what I'm taking from the way your question is worded) and thus the same operating principles as interrogation apply - namely, not to reveal the full extent of the knowledge you possess in order to elicit maximum truthfulness.

While it would certainly be great if we could all trust our significant others to be honest with us at all times, so that we could always find out the complete truth simply by asking them, a quick look over the "human relations" section of AskMe strongly indicates that this is highly unlikely.

I guess it might be very helpful here if you could reveal more about the context of your boyfriend's interaction with his ex, as well as the full content of the email. I'm sure that would help a lot of us in terms of establishing the probability of anything untowards going on.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is your boyfriend generally open about his emotions with other people. If I had a positive break up with a boyfriend I could see myself saying this as a friend and not have a hidden agenda. I tell close male friends that I love them when the occasion arises (A close relative dies, they're going through a tough time, well wishing) without meaning anything other then support.

Log out. Don't read anything else. If you trust him and have no reason not to, you'll just be reading into things that aren't there. Let him know what you read and simply just talk about it. They broke up a LONG time ago, I doubt that any lingering feelings would be there anymore.

Maybe take this time to reflect on your own relationships with others. Do you have male friends (or female) who you love but are not IN love with? I would view this from that point of view.

That being said, if you do have trust issues with your boyfriend and great concern, this could be a bigger problem, but only you know that.

My husband had a long time ex who he re connected with and it really bothered me. I never knew what they said to each other, but it eventually ended. I had to trust him that nothing was going on and I'm glad I did.
posted by Danithegirl at 11:31 AM on July 27, 2012


I love lots of people I have zero intention of hooking up with. Some of them are my exes.

Unless there is something else you are not telling us about this situation, I'd say leave it alone.
posted by Aquaman at 11:32 AM on July 27, 2012


Doing dumb stuff like leaving emails open on devices not your own, etc, is not always some dramatic cry for help/attention/a ~sign of something. I hate that generalization. Sometimes people just do stupid things.
posted by elizardbits at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you need to talk to him about this, but from your post it seems like his relationship with her ended because he did not want to get married to her, he spent four years single and not trying to get back with her (you would think someone who was hung up and still in love with a person would do that, right? Especially if their ex had wanted to marry them!)

There's a reason they broke up and did not get back together. None of us here really know that reason, and we don't know the email she sent to him. It could be he's pulling some emotionally manipulative stuff on her, or his ex could have written him something like "you know, a part of me will always love you, but i'm so happy to be marrying [fiance] and you eliseb seem so happy together!" But we can't know.
posted by inertia at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2012


A few clarifying details...

I may be more sensitive than usual because we are in an LDR. He lives 4,000 miles away in the same city as her. He lived here for the first 8 months of our relationship and has been gone for 4 months. We were together this weekend. He used my phone to check his email because his does not work in this country. The next time I opened my browser I was faced with his inbox, at the top of which was her response to his email, which was nothing but "I'll call you soon".

His email, keep in my mind I am translating from a second language, says something to the effect of, "I tried to call you but couldn't get you. Know that I will always love you". I don't think that gives any clarity as to whether this is a "I'm so happy for you" or a "I want you back" situation.

I am starting to feel paranoid about past events now, such as coming across (not while snooping - I was in his presence!) pictures of her and CDs she made for him in his apartment. I know that just because you break up with someone you don't immediately rid yourself of all mementos, but do you haul them across the ocean with you 4 years later?
posted by eliseb at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2012


Still: Log out now (it's called damage control), and talk with him asap (that's called communication). How are we to know what moves him, when - apparently - even you have your questions?
posted by Namlit at 11:43 AM on July 27, 2012


First thing is, take some time.

I always think waiting for a day or two before deciding is a great thing.

Second, this is going to be a judgment call.

Third, what language is it in? Are these sorts of declarations considered normal in that language?

Fourth, do you love him? How important is this relationship to you?

Fifth, is this something you would not want in a relationship? This is the most important thing. Only you can decide if this is a dealbreaker. Its okay if it is. Its okay if it is not.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:44 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


To give you some perspective, my last girlfriend used to get text messages from her ex saying things like "Miss you, honey," and she responded the same way to him, but I'm absolutely confident she never cheated on me. It just wasn't in her nature.

On the other hand, my first girlfriend used to end messages with "Miss you" or "Love you" and she cheated on them every time I was single and she came to Boston to hang out with me (although to be fair, she broke up with them shortly thereafter, so I think it was a transitioning thing).

What's his personality like? Has he ever cheated on anyone he's been with before? That's generally a good indicator.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:49 AM on July 27, 2012


Hmm, I feel like this was not an accident.

If you discuss this with your boyfriend, be prepared for a discussion from him about the meaning of trust and respect that you will not enjoy. I truly think this incident may reveal more about you than him. Please leave it alone.

On the merits, I am not troubled by his email. She was an important person in his life, and I see no harm in him still having affection, if he even meant what he said. I do not know your boyfriend so I do not know if he would be given to this sort of frilly words. I note that you say it is in a foreign language. Would you be able to post it in the original language? It is possible that there may be a lost nuance. For example, I certainly see a difference in English between "I will always love you" and "I will always care for you".

Your concern strikes me as misplaced because you are worried about his feelings and that it means that maybe he "settled" for you. The truth is that everyone settles. There is no such thing as "the one", only the best available option. That is not to say that one's ultimate choice is unpleasant, but only that one cannot choose an unavailable option. At some point, he chose you and you chose him.

You can speculate about his feelings, which you will continue to do no matter what he says should you decide to confront him, or you can simply consider if he is loving to you and you are loving to him. So many couples would be better off if they would only realize that love is not a feeling but an action.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:53 AM on July 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I am starting to feel paranoid about past events now, such as coming across (not while snooping - I was in his presence!) pictures of her and CDs she made for him in his apartment. I know that just because you break up with someone you don't immediately rid yourself of all mementos, but do you haul them across the ocean with you 4 years later?

It really, really depends on the person. I still keep letters from a boy I met at summer camp when I was 14. We met again years later and I was totally not interested in him at all. But I still keep the letters because they're a part of me and that time in my life. I still have a very fancypants piece of jewelry from my first relationship. Same thing, I have zero attraction to that guy now, we only talk every few years and plus he is married. But I like the jewelry and the memories are important to me.

But that is just me. It could be different for your guy. I am just saying this is not necessarily a bad sign.
posted by cairdeas at 11:54 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I tried to call you but couldn't get you. Know that I will always love you". I don't think that gives any clarity as to whether this is a "I'm so happy for you" or a "I want you back" situation.

Ah yes, given this ambiguity, then a conversation is in order.

But as wolfdreams01 says, we can't know for sure from any of these indicators you're giving. Take mementos. Sure, they could be a bad sign, but I have lots of mementos from relationships that I wouldn't return to. The photos connect me to who I was in those eras. But it's not like I'm going to become a 17 year old punk-ska tomboy again, nor do I want to date a mohawk-wearing teenager or even the 30-something married consultant that he grew up to be.
posted by salvia at 11:54 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no way to answer this without knowing more context.

I mean, she's getting married tomorrow, you know? This is his ex. My off-the-cuff reaction is that it's possible he's feeling all wistful and emotional-like and a little bittersweet and he's saying this in a way that is more "I'm so happy for you and I esteem you greatly and (music swells as he watches her sail away into the distance with her love, a solitary tear in the corner of his eye)." Basically just wanting to put a warm, sappy sort of cap on things. Dudes are dopey like that sometimes.

This is suggested to me by the fact that it comes at the end of an email which wishes her well in her marriage. If something more snakey were going on, it would probably be accompanied by more worrisome things. I'm figuring you'd have mentioned those if they were there.

my mind is racing with thoughts of him being “hung up” on her for all that time and ultimately settling on me because she became engaged.

Well - again, data point, but here it is - in my own life, once I get to the point in a relationship with someone where it comes to "I love you," I know that it'll always be true on some level. I'll always love them as a person, I'll always want the best for them and hold them close to my heart, even if I won't always be with them or even want to be with them. Even if I don't even talk to them much after the breakup. It'll be a different sort of love, yeah, but I love them.

I have exes with whom it'd be a totally normal thing to say something like this. Some of them, we say it all the time. One ex, who is one of my dearest and closest friends - when I was going through some horrible shit earlier this year, they wrote to me something like, "Please just remember that I love you and I'm here for you if you need anything." It was meant the way a family member would say it (and that's how I took it), but someone without that context might see it differently. Maybe even freak out if it were someone I were dating. Who knows.

So - while you might never say something like that to someone you didn't want to be with, you don't know whether or not the same is true of your boyfriend. You have every right to ask him about it if it's concerning you but I can't promise he won't wig out that you read his email.

Some folks might insist that this definitely means something shady is going on, and I can't tell you what to believe or not believe, but I can certainly say that possible circumstances exist under which this is no big deal, and you should probably keep an open mind about it and remain as calm as you can. If this is what I suspect it is - a bittersweet cap on their story together from a guy who's having Feelings - then what he's going to hear is that you read his email and also you're suspecting him of being up to something shady when he's not, and that's a conversation that could go to a bad place with tremendous speed and ease.

Upon reading the followup:

I know that just because you break up with someone you don't immediately rid yourself of all mementos, but do you haul them across the ocean with you 4 years later?

Yes. Well, I would. Maybe he does. Especially if things ended on a good note. Maybe he's a sentimental goof.

The next time I opened my browser I was faced with his inbox, at the top of which was her response to his email, which was nothing but "I'll call you soon".

Wait, can I get clarification on something?

You originally said you accidentally read his email. But now you say that you saw his inbox showed her response. Did you have to click on it to read what he wrote? Because from what you've said, "I'll call you soon" is not an unusual thing for her to have written to him and doesn't really warrant investigating. So, I don't know.

His email, keep in my mind I am translating from a second language, says something to the effect of, "I tried to call you but couldn't get you. Know that I will always love you". I don't think that gives any clarity as to whether this is a "I'm so happy for you" or a "I want you back" situation.


You're right, it doesn't. Either ask him about this or don't, but right now you're second-guessing the shit out of both him and yourself and I don't think it's helping, no matter what the answer turns out to be.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:57 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Days before his exe's wedding he sends her an email telling her "he will always love her." That's some grade A emotional manipulation there

I disagree. It's an emotional time. I have exes who would say that to me and it would mean "I'm not ditching you just because you're getting married. I wish you well. I'm so glad you found someone. You'll always be dear to me." (With a subtext of "I love you as a person, you weren't just a booty call.")
posted by small_ruminant at 12:02 PM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not saying you shouldn't talk to the guy about it and what their relationship is. I'm just saying, don't go in assuming the worst.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:03 PM on July 27, 2012


I'm not going to get into the "should you/shouldn't you" of reading more (or having read at all) because I think that's a bit of a symptom - you're just trying to figure out the disease, really.

Perhaps you could take a step back, allow your emotions to cool, and then perhaps sit quietly and really think about what outcome you want (proof he loves you? proof he's over her? proof he's *not* over her?) and what steps will best allow you to achieve that goal.

Some options might be:
Reading the other emails and going in with as much information as is available.
Letting him know you did not read the other emails, but it would make you feel more secure if he gave you permission to read them
Choosing to simply ignore it and hope it means nothing

Based on your initial question and your follow up, I don't think ignoring it will work for you. Asking to read the emails might make him feel better, but you have to be prepared for him to say no and delete them, and for you to lose the opportunity to learn more (and it's up to you how much that opportunity is worth).

But until you've *honestly* identified your goal, it's a little hard to work toward it.
posted by dotgirl at 12:10 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking differntly about this now. I get a not-good vibe from this, especially with the additional information that you've provided.

Call your BF and say, "Hey, you left your email open and logged in on my phone, with your last message to your Ex up for me to see. Is there any reason at all I shouldn't read the rest of your correspondence with her?"

If he's cool, there shouldn't be. If he isn't you'll know soon enough, and you'll know what the story is.

I'm the suspicious type, I'd have read all the rest already. You know that what's contained there will either be, "My new girlfriend is awesome, we're so happy together," or it's going to be, "I'd dump her in a minute to be with you."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:20 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am starting to feel paranoid about past events now, such as coming across (not while snooping - I was in his presence!) pictures of her and CDs she made for him in his apartment. I know that just because you break up with someone you don't immediately rid yourself of all mementos, but do you haul them across the ocean with you 4 years later?

Maybe? Maybe not? Let's be honest: anyone of us who answers this question with any definitiveness will be making it up, because we don't know your boyfriend. This means the only answers you will focus on are the ones that say "he's in love with her, he's hung up on her, here are the warning signs", because this is the only information we have. The only way you are going to find out about this is if you ask him. Reading this thread will only exacerbate your fears.
posted by Think_Long at 12:20 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm the suspicious type, I'd have read all the rest already. You know that what's contained there will either be, "My new girlfriend is awesome, we're so happy together," or it's going to be, "I'd dump her in a minute to be with you."

I would do this too. This is what you really need to know, and it's in those emails. Read them, and then decide what to do. You need more information.
posted by 3491again at 12:38 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just stop it. He's with you, not her, and she's getting married.

You want to continue to be with him? Accept that there may or may not be a certain amount of ambiguity in any and all relationships. Your relationship with him is your concern. You want to make your relationship a going concern, accept that you may or may not know the degree of ambiguity and trust how he is with you.

Reading other people's email is just wrong on a very fundamental level. And except in extreme circumstances (abuse, lawbreaking) is a far greater violation of trust than even a sincere "I'll always love you" from him.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:52 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am 34. I've only had a couple of serious relationships before the one I am currently in, and my favorite one lasted on the order of 13 years. I have since moved across the country in various directions twice, and you'd better believe that I still have the binder I made of the emails we sent when we were long-distance early on, some cards and gifts that have sentimental value, other random crap, and we're still close friends. I display photos of us/him, some of the objects from our relationship are on shelves in my living room... basically he is still one of my best friends and I will always love him and have told him so many times (heck, he might be reading this!) and I enjoy having evidence of that friendship in my life. Critically, all this same list of things (well, except the binder of emails, but that's just because no one else had email back when *printing it all out* seemed reasonable) is also true of several close friends with whom I have never had a sexual/romantic relationship -- so it isn't as though I weirdly fetishize this old relationship, I just treat it as the significant friendship, complete with happy memories, that it is. For people who say exes should cut each other off, I say, I'm an introvert with 4 friends and this relationship represented literally half my life when we broke up. More than half of my self-aware life, natch. I'm not giving that connection up because it squicks out new partners for a while.

Six months after we broke up, me saying "I will always love you!" had about a 70% chance of being maudlin and wanting-to-get-back-together-ish. Five years later, it feels distantly curious and slightly awful to imagine being in a romantic relationship with him, although I still do love him differently than anyone else and I'd support him like family if it ever became necessary. Despite all this, there's no way in hell I'd even try to cheat on my current partner with him, that's ridiculous.

It sounds like your bf has been totally up-front about his relationship with her, and that says a lot to me. In other words, based on my personal experience, you're over-reacting (to me understandably, given the long-distance thing, which can mess with your mind -- but still over-reacting).
posted by obliquicity at 12:59 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bah!

I'd hold the phone up to him and say "why would you leave an email open on my phone in which you tell So-and-So that you'll always love her?"

I'd be prepared to believe that it was just a lingering fondness that isn't a big threat to my relationship. BUT! I'd be miffed that he left it on my phone and would put me in a position to feel doubt.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:17 PM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good golly, I'm so shocked by all this. He'll always love her! He was with her for years! She's getting married! It's a time when you say meaningful things! And even "I Will Always Love You" is a song about parting a serious relationship on good behavior, if you want precedent. It's even better that you're translating from a different language, and we're losing shadings along the way. I would say this to some ex's on some occasions!

I also hope you initiate a conversation with him about this. It'll be hard but likely worth it. He may be absolutely stunned to find out how insecure you are about his affections.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:21 PM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would read the other emails, to get some perspective on what was going on. Not every one would. I think you are more likely to get information about what's going on than from people on the internet. Going on just that email, it doesn't seem all that worrying, but still worth a "what's up?".
posted by annsunny at 1:34 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I definitely would not read his other emails. And actually, this is something that I, as a European, also would say to some of my Ex girls.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:13 PM on July 27, 2012


"Is there any reason at all I shouldn't read the rest of your correspondence with her?"

His response should be, "Only if you consider yourself to be a decent person who wants to continue this relationship."
posted by Tanizaki at 2:15 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is 95% about your own insecurity. He didn't say anything untoward, and if he had anything to hide he certainly would have hidden it better than that.

I disagree that you should bring it up, unless it's as a huge apology for violating his privacy and then taking it super personally.

The line "I will always love you" alone sounds like he's hung up on her

Incorrect. As RJ Reynolds said, marriages are a time when you share lots of feelings and make meaningful statements.

This was none of your business to start with, and now it's become even more about you than him. If you don't trust him, fine. You don't trust him. But if you mistrust him anyway when confronted with something this innocent, then what are your love and trust really worth?
posted by hermitosis at 2:34 PM on July 27, 2012


It's also worth noting that in many languages, there's more than one verb for "love." My ex and I are still close friends-slash-family, similar to what obliquicity wrote above. He's on the other side of the planet, and definitely doesn't pose a threat to any romantic relationships I might have here. We were together for about 18 years, but that ended eight years ago, so we've both completely moved on.

We frequently say in text, email, or Skype conversations that we love each other. But we say it in a way that makes it clear that we're referring to familial affection-type love, and not the romantic variety. The latter would be... weird, at least for us.

If the language you're translating from makes this distinction, it's worth noting which form of love it refers to. Even if it's the romantic kind, it doesn't necessarily raise a red flag, but it does make discussion of the message even more important so that you can understand what he was feeling when he wrote it, and what (if anything) it means for your relationship.
posted by Superplin at 2:34 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a very laissez faire kind of spouse, and I don't believe in the zero contact rule for exes. It would not bother me if my husband chatted with or met up with his ex once in a while. I still like to keep up with what's going on with those of my exes who I like. Even so, I would be rather shocked to come across correspondence between my husband and an ex where he said "I love you" in any way. I guess I did not realize how unusual my perspective was.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:41 PM on July 27, 2012


I logged out without reading more.

I intend to tell him what happened. Curiosity got the best of me and I opened the email. I’m not proud of it. He’s bound to be unhappy but I think he can forgive me. I don’t plan to post the contents of the email in the original language. That feels like even more of a betrayal to me. I don’t think any shading is lost in the translation- it is the same phrase for “I love you” that he says to me, romantically.

Believe me, I know about affection for exes. I have an ex husband whom I love in the same manner that I love my brother and I tell him so if the occasion arises. It’s the phrasing and the timing that are eating away at me. I think that several months of a 4,000-mile separation and 7-hour time difference coupled with a language barrier have taken a toll on me and I’m not proud of it. I love him deeply and I am confident that he loves me as well. I’ll talk to him about it and give him a chance to explain. If his love for her is anything more than platonic at this point, it’s not something that I can handle.

Thanks for the insight, everyone.
posted by eliseb at 2:44 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The people we fall in love with have probably been in love before. It doesn't diminish their ability to love us, and it's not important to be loved "more" than whoever came before, though we often feel that we DO love new people more, as we are creatures of the present tense and the romantic rationalization.

He just said his permanent goodbyes to someone who he once loved in a way that's similar to how he loves you now. Regardless of whether he had any residual feelings, he has chosen you. Accept and cherish it.

That couldn't have been an easy email for him to write. Acknowledging permanent closure is difficult, and if that's the only thing that stands out, I think he probably did a pretty classy job of it. You are with someone who treats his exes like humans. I think you could maybe benefit from being a little more supportive and respectful. If you want to truly hear about how he's handling his ex getting married, this is the worst possible way to initiate that discussion.
posted by hermitosis at 2:45 PM on July 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


I would not worry about this. It's much more worrisome to have a boyfriend who doesn't respect and cherish his previous loves.
posted by dchrssyr at 3:22 PM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


What you choose to worry about is up to you. My experience may be atypical but it is offered for your consideration. YM will certainly V.

For the record: I still love all of my ex's, going back to Junior High. I do not love them the way I did when we were together.

These amazing women are some of my dearest friends. We don't hang out or anything but once a year or so I get to spend a little time with one or another. Spouses are always welcome.

It chokes me up a bit to think that I have been a small part of their lives. Certainly, they were hugely influential in mine.

It would be a big problem if my wife objected to these friends, but thankfully she's also amazing. I tell her when one of them sends a message, or calls, or is in town and wants to meet for lunch, or has football tickets to give away. I am very appreciative of the way my wife handles this, and I let her know it.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:05 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


First, log out, so that your struggle is moot.

Second, sit down with him when you both have time to talk, and talk about it. He might already know, if he realized he forgot to log out. Either way, whatever is going on with him, you owe it to him to admit what you've done regarding his privacy.

For the record, I still care about all the people I've been close to in my life, even the ones I don't like very much; I believe that good people deserve respect and care, even if they weren't a good partner for you. So now it is up to your boyfriend to tell you how he feels about her, and you can go from there.
posted by davejay at 4:31 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good on you for logging out. Curiosity can easily get the best of us, especially in the moment without any time to think about consequences. I think reading one email because of his login laziness is easily forgivable, but reading the other emails would have been a massive betrayal. I hope you follow through on your intention to talk to him about it because this will nag at you if you don't. Honestly, I'm with the group that thinks you have nothing to worry about. He was most likely sending a meaningful pre-wedding email that wished her well and reiterated his affection for her. I have one ex I would easily say, "I will always love you" to, but I have moved on by leaps and bounds. That said, you need answers, and they can only come from him. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:38 PM on July 27, 2012


"My 32-year-old BF has had only two real GFs including me."

I have experienced that men with this kind of history tend to place a large amount of weight on their past. And this weight prevents them from moving on in a healthy manner. I have my fair share of exes and perhaps have a degree of affection towards some of them. Sometimes I think about love towards them. But I have committed myself to moving on and not being a dramatic figure in their lives.

If that means I can't be selfish and spell all my soul into them and re-hash our past with them, then so be it. That's how you move on, that's how I maintain friendships with them, that's why their girlfriends like me. I don't have to worry about anyone reading my emails or overhearing calls because I don't cross lines like "love you" or "miss you so much." Unless English is not his first language, it is unusual and perhaps inappropriate to say these things in a platonic friendship, and somewhat disrespectful to you and his ex's fiance.

Moving from lover to friendship means treating their current relationships with respect for example and not pulling some "I will always love you"My Best Friend's Wedding"-ish drama. There are other ways to express how important a person is to you and how significant their marriage is. I don't think it implies he is cheating, I think it implies a certain immaturity and a lack of commitment to moving on and making his ex a truly platonic friend.

For all the people saying this is normal and they do it all the time, I wonder how many of them are now in relationships and what their significant others would have to say about this.
posted by melissam at 6:58 PM on July 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


> Believe me, I know about affection for exes. I have an ex husband whom I love in the same manner that I love my brother and I tell him so if the occasion arises. It’s the phrasing and the timing that are eating away at me. I think that several months of a 4,000-mile separation and 7-hour time difference coupled with a language barrier have taken a toll on me and I’m not proud of it. I love him deeply and I am confident that he loves me as well. I’ll talk to him about it and give him a chance to explain. If his love for her is anything more than platonic at this point, it’s not something that I can handle.

This is not about his ex. This is about you and the insecurity you're feeling due to the distance between the two of you. That's what you need to talk with him about. Tell him that you read the email and that it made you feel lonely and far away and paranoid, and figure out how you two can fix that.

Don't pick a fight by "giving him a chance to explain" the theoretical shades of meaning in the phrasing he used to warmly wish an ex happiness on her marriage in a personal email that you admit you should not have read, but that he didn't even think to hide from you.

That's not a winnable argument for either of you. He can tell you that his feelings when choosing those words do not match your interpretation, but that doesn't change how you felt when you read them. Just keep this about the two of you. Much simpler to solve this by talking about how you both feel about your relationship, rather than him trying to choose his words to other people based on speculation as to how you might interpret every nuance (in translation!) if you were to read emails not intended for you, is it not?
posted by desuetude at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would tell him what happened. Sure, you made a (wilful?) mistake, but. If it were me, it would gnaw at me forever-- I'd have the same degree of difficulty forgetting about it whether I brought it up or not, but if you bring it up and he is able to comfort you somehow, then that's a plus. I think the damage has been done either way, because it's going to be a part of your consciousness forever, basically.

I agree with desuetude, especially: rather than him trying to choose his words to other people based on speculation as to how you might interpret every nuance (in translation!) if you were to read emails not intended for you
posted by stoneandstar at 11:53 PM on July 27, 2012


Also, I'm currently in a happy relationship, and I have one ex (only one out of 3-4) who I would consider telling that I loved them. The reasons:

1) We broke up due to circumstance, but the circumstances were decisive (so it wasn't that I didn't love him anymore, but there's definitely no way we could ever be together)
2) He was extremely cut when I broke up with him, and he has always maintained relationships with his exes, so I think it would mean a lot to him to know I still have feelings for him/want to stay friends/didn't hate him when we broke up
3) The feelings I have for him are strong (admiration, affection), but I would never think of cheating on my current partner with him, or even resuming any kind of friends-with-benefits relationship, even if I was single. The flame is definitely gone.

So it's very possible that his feelings are innocent, and he's simply fond of his ex, and telling him that he loves her is a relatively safe thing to do now that he's with you and she's getting married. Emotions are strange. In almost any situation I'd be wary of someone keeping too intense a connection with an ex, but I do think there is the distinct possibility that he simply has a sort of unresolved thought process w.r.t her.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:58 PM on July 27, 2012


Yeah, one of my exes is getting married this year and I toyed with the idea of sending an e-mail to him apologising for being a bit of a dick when we were together. I decided not to in the end. But this is something people do. It's weird when you hear your ex-partner is getting married, even if the relationship is ancient history.

A lot of people talk about loving someone, but not being *in* love with them. I don't understand that, myself, but it could just be a crutch they developed after the breakup and one he's still referring to.

No, I don' think so. For me, my exes are exes for a reason, but I know several people who broke up with their partners because they were best friends more than lovers at that point. I have friends that I love and am very fond of and I don't see how this could not be the case in this situation.
posted by mippy at 2:07 AM on July 28, 2012


If its in an another language, also consider possible differences in culture. I know I was shocked when I went on a rotation in puerto Rico, at a big professional corporate company, and everyone there gave each other kisses on the cheek to say hello before a big meeting instead of shaking hands, and the girls said "te quiero" to their male boss while joking around, who they absolutely did not love in a romantic feelings kinda way.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 3:58 PM on July 28, 2012


I'm not saying there's nothing going on here, but "I will always love you" is not necessarily the same as "I still love you".
posted by peppermintfreddo at 8:49 PM on July 28, 2012


It might be both: something you shouldn't worry about and also a bit of complicated inside feelings coming to the surface in the way they sometimes do for everyone, even the happily monogamous. Thank God, I don't give my SO any reason to complain, but there is always weird stuff down inside if you look closely enough at anybody's heart.

I'm not sure if I would bring it up or not. If it's destroying you, then yes, talk about it. If you can let it go and think of yourself as having stumbled upon a private moment that has zero to do with his IRL present day feelings for you, then leave it be.

I'm not saying "don't be worried." Maybe you should be. It depends on your current relationship.
posted by skbw at 9:27 PM on July 28, 2012


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