What's my boyfriend up to?
January 12, 2009 1:21 PM   Subscribe

What's my boyfriend up to? I hate these questions, but I could really use your help.

I'll be as to the point as possible. My boyfriend and I have been in a fantastic relationship for nearly a year, but very recently I've been having nagging doubts about how honest he's being with me. We are both university students, and live together in term time - I love him, and he says he loves me.
He has gone so far as to tell me that I'm the only one for him, and everything has been great.

This morning, checking my usual websites, I noticed that my boyfriend was still logged in to a gay dating website we both use for fun.
As much as I tried to resist, I ended up reading some messages in his outbox (I know I shouldn't have and I feel guilty).
He's a popular guy, and there are a lot of flirty messages going back and forth with guys, which I'm not at all comfortable with, and it seems like he's playing the field a bit, but I can overlook it, that's just how it is...
But one message really crushed me. In it, he basically tells someone he's dating a guy called Mark (not me), and says they met last summer.

I've never met Mark, but they are friends on facebook, and they exchange texts regularly.
I know I have no real evidence of anything going on, but it seems a really odd thing to tell someone if it's not happening.
I totally appreciate that men will be men, and gay dynamics can be different to those of a straight couple, but I don't know how to interpret this.

Cut to a few hours ago, and after a bit of a cry, I called my boyfriend. He could tell I was upset and dropped his work to come and be with me (thats the kind of great guy he is).

When he arrived, I told him I wasn't sure I trusted him, and if there was there anything he needed to tell me. The answer was no.
I specifically asked whether he was seeing anyone else, or had done in the recent past. He seemed shocked I would ask, and said again, the answer was no he wasn't - he never had, and never would.
I asked him who Mark was, and he told me they had met over summer and they had just become really good friends. (Mark apparently isn't gay.)

I didn't have the guts to tell him that I read some of his messages, so couldn't ask him directly about them.

This pretty much fits with what I knew about Mark, and I don't really know when they'd get the opportunity to meet up regularly, but I don't understand why he'd tell someone they were dating if they're not.

I'll reiterate that my boyfriend really is a lovely guy, and I want more than anything to be able to believe him. Talking it over with him helped, but there's still doubt in my mind.

Up until now I really have thought he was the most trustworthy, wonderful guy, so am I being stupid for still feeling suspicious, despite his total assurance? Have I totally misinterpreted the situation. I don't want to let a good thing go, but I really don't want to be taken for a fool either.

Once again, sorry - I normally skip these types of questions, but I think you could help give me some perspective.
posted by jonty to Human Relations (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm afraid you're going to have to ask him.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:29 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So basically you snooped around in his inbox, found something that may or may not be true, and then you don't have the courage to confront him with it?
That is some really weird behaviour :) And slightly creepy as well!

I would suggest asking him about it in a casual way and see what happens. If you just ignore it, it'll eat away at you forever not knowing everything about your boyfriend..since you seem to want that. And i guess he'll know a bit more about your personality when you tell him you were snooping in his mailbox.
posted by kampken at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2009


Ug, this sort of thing is so terribly difficult. While I'm sure he is a fundamentally good person, and probably does care a great deal about you, from my experience, there is usually at least a kernel of truth in your suspicion. There is no logical explanation for why he would lie; it's highly suspect. I know it's hard and awkward, but I think you should approach him about it. Or, at the very least, keep your eyes peeled and stay alert. Whatever you do, don't push it aside or try and force yourself to forget it. That's just setting yourself up for disappointment. But here's to hoping no such disappointment comes! Best wishes.
posted by faeuboulanger at 1:36 PM on January 12, 2009


jonty: (I know I shouldn't have and I feel guilty).

Whatever. That has nothing to do with this. Feel sorry about it later. Talk with the boyfriend. Do it now. Say what happened. Say, "I'm sorry, I looked in your inbox and I'm sorry about that, I should not have, but I need to know what this meant." He will almost certainly act as though you're a jerk for having snooped. Fine. Even if he's right, that's not the issue, so stick to your guns: this isn't about your snooping right now (a relationship issue that you can and should deal with in the future) - it's about the status of that relationship. So when he says "I can't believe you did that," say "I can't either, and we'll have to talk about that, but right now I need to know where we stand."
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 PM on January 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


And you have to uphold your part of the bargain - if it works out, well then, you have to talk about what you did, apologize, and discuss what led to it.
posted by koeselitz at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2009


You're going to have to come clean about reading his inbox and ask him about it.

I totally appreciate that men will be men, and gay dynamics can be different to those of a straight couple, but I don't know how to interpret this.

A boys will be boys attitude is really sort of silly when, clearly, you are a man and capable of fidelity. If you're going to have an open relationship, that entails a lot of open and honest communication. And if you guys haven't agreed to an open relationship, he's still cheating, whether your dynamics are gay or not.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Be forthright and tell him you snooped where you shouldn't have, apologize profusely, then hope he forgives your breech of trust. Then you can bring up your concerns over what you found, and if he assures you that nothing is happening or has happened, then you must take him at his word. Emails, IMs and other online correspondence can easily be taken far out of context, especially when they're "discovered" by someone looking where they shouldn't have. It is entirely possible that he was harmlessly flirting and used the "I'm seeing Mark" line as part of a fantasy. But, only your boyfriend can say for sure, and you are going to have to believe him because you are not on the moral high ground here.

Sorry to put it so bluntly here, but you screwed up. Until he confesses something beyond just playing around, you're the only one who demonstrably violated the trust of the relationship.
posted by arco at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your gay/bisexual boyfriend flirts with men on a gay dating site for fun? Yeah, that's the source of your problems.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:39 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So basically you snooped around in his inbox, found something that may or may not be true, and then you don't have the courage to confront him with it?
That is some really weird behaviour :) And slightly creepy as well!


That's totally human behavior. Obviously not ethically right, but its been done before. Creepy, well, we're all human.

I agree that you should ask him. Tell him you were weak. Explain that you care about him so much that you made some mistakes, but that you have to know.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:40 PM on January 12, 2009


damn dirty ape: Your gay/bisexual boyfriend flirts with men on a gay dating site for fun? Yeah, that's the source of your problems.

Urm... we don't know the poster's sex, so the boyfriend may well be straight-up gay. Which would explain the "gay dynamics" comment, as in "I know, being in a gay relationship, that I shouldn't necessarily expect the same thing someone who's in a straight relationship might."

posted by koeselitz at 1:42 PM on January 12, 2009


If you want him to come to terms with you about the messages then you will have to accept that he will expect you to come to terms with him for snooping.

In my relationships, cheating AND snooping have both been been dealbreakers.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:42 PM on January 12, 2009


it is possible that he said he was seeing mark in the e-mail to deter the advances of the intended recipient, and that he said he was seeing a guy, instead of you, because he still wants that person to think that he's gay. unfortunately, even if there is an explanation for that particular message, you probably still have to tell him that you found it. You need an honest answer from him, and you need to be honest to him, and confess that you were snooping.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:44 PM on January 12, 2009


I guess I should briefly clarify, I am a guy.

I should also clarify, that I *do* feel guilty about snooping, and I will no doubt apologise to him for when I feel a bit less confused.
posted by jonty at 1:46 PM on January 12, 2009


Oh, honey, you have to tell him what you've told us. It's probably going to be an awkward and difficult conversation but your questions are just going to fester until you confront the matter. Good luck!
posted by overglow at 1:47 PM on January 12, 2009


It's going to hurt, but you'll need to just say what happened and get it over with.

Curiosity is powerful and curiosity rewarded with shocking facts is precisely how we learn which kind of curiosity to override if we're not able to deal with either the answer or how we arrived at the question.

I'm sorry. I know this kind of thing is awful to go through, but it's one of the many learning experiences on this planet that are actually worth the experience...eventually.
posted by batmonkey at 1:55 PM on January 12, 2009


I undertand that, my point was that his boyfriend shouldnt have an account to a dating site, let alone an active one that receives and sends messages. That can only end badly, and looks like its already doing so.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:56 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's probably cheating on you. Confess that you snooped in his email, and get the truth from him. And then you will probably need to start packing up and moving out and on with your life. I'm sorry.
posted by orange swan at 1:57 PM on January 12, 2009


I'm going to skip the snooping part as different couples have different parameters for transparency in relationships. But regarding what he's up to, in my experience where there's smoke there's fire.
posted by fiery.hogue at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2009


it seems like he's playing the field a bit, but I can overlook it, that's just how it is...

Really? Because if you're truly the only one for him that generally means, you know, not playing the field. Unless you have an open relationship, which it doesn't seem that you do.

I would go with your instincts on this one. Something is sketchy. I think it's more likely that your boyfriend leads a fantasy life that doesn't include you, than that he is boinking this straight guy.

But, you never know. You need to ask.

I would probably try to hack my boyfriend's facebook before talking to him, just to cover all my bases, but I'm like that.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:08 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't disagree that you should talk with him.

But as to the harbingers of doom: note that participation on the site is something BOTH do. Note further that the BF is not trying to entice someone else, but saying he is seeing someone. Note further that BF may be engaged in a fantasy, misleading someone else to avoid them getting the wrong idea, or simply being loose/inexact with the truth in order to avoid revealing true personal details.

For the record: my name is not really Clyde Mnestra, and I suspect some of the rest of you are frauds, too.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:11 PM on January 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


The only way you're going to find out the truth is that if you ask your boyfriend the truth, and 'fess up that you read his inbox.

If you want him to tell him the truth, you might as well too. Take a couple of days and collect yourself, and ask him with a clear head, and hopefully no regrets. I hope all goes well with you.
posted by QueenHawkeye at 2:18 PM on January 12, 2009


Oh, I was going to say that your problem is that he's gay, but since you say that you are a guy (you could have mentioned that when you mentioned "gay dating website" that "Oh yeah, we're guys" but hey, we shouldn't be making heteronormative assumptions either)...

Your problem is that you read his inbox.

If you can't let it go like nothing happened, 'fess up. If he's as great as you say it is, you'll talk it out. If you can't talk it out... from what it sounds like there have been relationship terminating worthy actions from *both* of you. I would never write to someone that I was dating a friend if we were just friends, nor would I tolerate my partner doing so. And it would take a hell of a lot of explanation for me to tolerate my partner snooping in my Inbox.

If you're going to fix this, you need to get ALL of the dirty laundry out in the open. All of it. Start with your own offenses and work your way through the rest.

Also: you guys are a couple and you use a "dating website" for "fun?" That's just trouble waiting to happen. If you have an open relationship, that's one thing, but from what it sounds like - you're monogamous and sending some pretty bizarre signals.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2009


It sounds like it's eating you up and until you talk with him about what you did, it's going to gnaw away at you and rob you of the enjoyment you usually feel when you're with him. Do what grapefruitmoon suggests. If your snooping or his infidelity are deal-breakers, then you won't be any worse off than you were with this guilt/suspicion hanging over your head.

FWIW I would expect my wife to snoop if I left the computer logged into any kind of social networking site. I think he has a bit more 'splainin' to do than yourself.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:31 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm always wary and skeptical by default but I don't think he's done anything wrong. He was speaking shit on the net. After you pay your bills and watch some porn there's not a lot else left to do..?

Don't ask him to explain anything - just apologise :)
And relax!

Make that two (independantly reached) votes for no. My SO... is kinda big and sexy so I hesitate to say he has lots of gay friends. He certainly does know a lot of guys that like to feel his arms... ?? but anyway :)
- I do think he's aware of why you would be suspicious but no, he definitely didn't feel that your boyfriend is cheating on you.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:47 PM on January 12, 2009


I noticed that my boyfriend was still logged in to a gay dating website we both use for fun.

It sounds like your idea of "fun" may not include some activities your bf defines as "fun". You may need to communicate your expectations and boundaries with him. This does not necessarily require you to admit to any snooping, unless he asks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:56 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


By way of disclosure, I'm queer myself...

I hate to kick you when you're down, but seriously, you violated someone else's privacy ... regardless of what they are or aren't doing. You've lost any credible ground for being able to point a finger at him for alleged indiscretions of any sort and what you feel is the result of that violation. Being someone's boyfriend/partner/husband does not entitle you to some magical dispensation for violating personal ethics. Wouldn't *you* feel angry, hurt, violated if he rifled through your private communications and made summary conclusions based on what he found?

I think what is hurting you more than whether he is "cheating" or not is that you yourself weren't acting honorably. It's a human thing to make mistakes, so don't be too hard on yourself, but also, you need to make some soul searching decisions.

If you want transparent honesty, then that starts with you. Confess what you've done, explaining that you meant no harm and you discovered things you had no business reading. You can not realistically expect him to be honest with you (you say what you know about "Mark" is after tearfully asking about whether there was anything your bf needed to disclose jives with what you knew before your snooping safari ... well, duh! If your bf doesn't know his privacy has been violated, he doesn't *ahem* know you know something... and quite possibly means he truly *didn't* do anything to violate your relationship).

Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Frankly, I'd dump anyone's adult ass who went through my stuff because its a sign they can't be trusted. (I'm a rehabilitated snooper myself from childhood days, when the sibling I snooped on, instead of kicking my ass like I deserved because I was an insecure brat, took time to educate me on how to respect other's privacy and our relationship is still sound to this day because I took the path of honesty when I got caught out.)

I've watched so many gay relationships crumble to dust beginning with this premise of what they found via snooping. My current sweetie and I have a very spoken agreement that snooping is a deal breaker and you know what? It creates an honesty between us that is sublime. We have other lovers, too, from time to time, and our openness about it adds a level of joy to our relationship (we each have needs beyond what the other can provide and i'll leave it at that). My other lovers do not diminish my love for my sweetie, my sweetie's love for others makes me proud that sweetie can openly and honestly meet others and be happy with them for what they can provide that I can't possible give.

I'm not suggesting an open relationship (you sound like maybe you couldn't hack it?!?) but instead that you be open to your bf (or if this relationship is now doomed, your future bfs) having a flirty nature that is an honest expression of his personality while he's still coming home to you each night and is there for you in oh so many other little ways.

Good luck, dude. This is the time for you to stand up, be honest and be an adult about accepting the responsibility for your actions (as only he is responsible for accepting the responsibility of his actions). You violated trust, and that's a pretty serious fuck up but I always believe that contrite honesty is the path to ultimate forgiveness.

Allow me to close with an analogy, if you like crime shows ... you know how serious they get about not violating the law to get evidence? This is why you don't have a leg to stand on. You've violated a "law" in a sense, and any "evidence" you gathered ... well, it's not admissible!
posted by kuppajava at 6:08 PM on January 12, 2009


... seems like he's playing the field a bit, but I can overlook it, that's just how it is

I totally appreciate that men will be men, and gay dynamics can be different to those of a straight couple, but I don't know how to interpret this.

The edition of the Gay Handbook you were given upon coming out contains errors. You should contact the publisher and request an revised edition.

Gay relationships don't have to be more sexually open ("men will be men", "playing the field", etc.) than straight ones. If infidelity bothers you, you don't have to suck it up just because you're gay. You're allowed to be gay and be upset by it.

If you consider the relationship to be at the monogamous stage and he thinks it's still at the messing around stage, then the two of you need to have a Serious Talk.

Also, there's the health side of things to consider in addition to the emotional/relationship side. You need to know if he's traipsing around collecting unpleasant surprises to pass on to you.
posted by CKmtl at 6:13 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I might be more upset about my boyfriend snooping through my e-mail than about him cheating on me. One's a breach of trust, the other is a breach of trust and of privacy.
posted by Casuistry at 7:03 PM on January 12, 2009


I think honesty is important. You want to receive it; you have to give it too. Looking in someone's outbox or inbox or whatever mailbox is sort of dishonest. Cheating on a person would be dishonest. Even flirting with someone online when your partner disapproves of that is, in a way, dishonest.

I totally appreciate that men will be men, and gay dynamics can be different to those of a straight couple

You know, this is probably true, but I don't think you have to worry about it here. You are in a relationship with one other person. What matters is your feelings about how that relationship ought to go, and his feelings. What really doesn't matter is what all men might think or do, or how all gay men might behave - that's not so important to figuring out your own relationship.

Right now you've got some issues with trust - you're distrustful of your partner and you've violated his trust by going in his mail behind his back. I think you also may be someone who's not quite sure where his boundaries and relationship standards are and I think you might be feeling that out right now and learning about it.

Here are some questions you might want to consider about your relationship, the one you are in: Is cheating on your partner OK? Is flirting online OK? Is masturbating as part of online flirting OK? Is lying to people you're flirting with online OK? Is going into your partner's mailbox OK?

After you sort those things out, go to your partner. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings, even if they are anxious fears. If he's the great guy you say he is - and it sounds like he might be - your relationship can only grow stronger from it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:33 PM on January 12, 2009


Allow me to close with an analogy, if you like crime shows ... you know how serious they get about not violating the law to get evidence? This is why you don't have a leg to stand on. You've violated a "law" in a sense, and any "evidence" you gathered ... well, it's not admissible!

Uh, I want to register how strongly I disagree with this. I'm a reformed snooper, but what OP discovered is somewhat suspicious and warrants a discussion. And, had he found something more substantial, I think it would be even more preposterous to say that, because OP did something wrong (and he did), he should not be allowed to discuss this infidelity with his boyfriend. His doing something wrong does not absolve his boyfriend of possible (unrelated) wrong doing.

That being said, OP does need to deal with the repercussions of his actions, too, come clean for the snooping and apologize. And seriously work on not violating boundaries. However, I almost guarantee that if the air isn't cleared about this, he's just going to seek out more excuses to snoop. Trust me, I understand the mind of a snooper.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:03 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Agreeing 110% with koeselitz. I once found myself in a similar situation and approached it in just this exact way. I sincerely hope your results are much better than my own.

In any event, koeselitz's advice is good. Go with it.
posted by Shiva88 at 9:25 PM on January 12, 2009


You've violated a "law" in a sense, and any "evidence" you gathered ... well, it's not admissible!

This isn't a good analogy. Evidence gathered illegally can't be used in court because if it could, it would encourage police officers and others to just bust into people's houses and do whatever they want in the name of gathering evidence. Assuming they don't plant false evidence, the evidence gathered illegally still means that the person did whatever they're accused of. It's just that the only way to prevent that behavior on the part of law enforcement is to say, tough, you can't use it in court so you'd better be careful and do shit the right way.

A relationship is not a government. It's not cool to snoop, and shouldn't be encouraged, but it's not as if someone magically didn't cheat, or that the cheating doesn't matter, or that the cheating becomes more legitimate, if you discover it by snooping. Relationships don't work on technicalities, and someone would have to be an idiot to say, "Aww shucks, he cheated on me but I snooped around on him, so I have to forgive him."
posted by Nattie at 12:04 AM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Evidence gathered illegally can't be used in court because if it could, it would encourage police officers and others to just bust into people's houses and do whatever they want in the name of gathering evidence.

It is a good analogy, because if you argue otherwise, the poster will just keep snooping in the future because cheating is "such an awful thing". Preventing snooping in a relationship is just as important for the relationship as preventing police officers from breaking the law in a healty society.

Trust starts with trust. When you violate the trust, you've already lost the case, no matter the evidence.
posted by flif at 1:31 AM on January 13, 2009


So you are both mature enough to play with a gay dating site for fun. That's a good sign, especially at your age. It's difficult to be monogamous, and, IMO (which is not remotely humble on this topic), that counts double for gay couples, because, as you say, men will be men. It's in our jeans as well as our genes.

Enjoying online flirting is a way to get some of the benefits of an open relationship, without exposing yourselves to outsider's health risks. That's a huge bonus! And frankly, telling someone you're seeing "a guy named Mark", is a good way to push an online interest away. Perfectly reasonable. A gentleman avoids breaking hearts or making another feel unattractive. So a friendly "You're sweet, but I met someone" works well (and Chirs, darling, it was true in my case, and my memories of you and Easter weekend remain amongst my very fondest, after 20+ years).

So, you snooped. You can either confess, or, if you are capable, put the mess behind you and seriously accept that all is well. There isn't any other way. Mind, the snooping can indeed be blamed partly on your BF leaving things open, that's sloppy, like leaving your keys in your parked car (old commercial: "Don't help a good boy go bad. Take your keys, lock your car"). Both of you have to accept this sort of complication comes when you "play" with things like gay dating sites. This is why I learned to hate going to gay bars! My first partner still wanted to go to bars, as, for him, it was social. I'm not that social, and I discovered I could not tolerate going to a bar and finding someone very attractive, when I was with my partner.

So both of you need to accept the complicated consequence of snooping and suspicion! Kiss and make up, re-evaluate whether you really need that activity. Do you want to stay hitched, or do you want to play the field? I know how attractive the field is! But don't discount the value of a solid LTR. But hey, flirting doesn't need to be harmful, and can keep things hot and fun. Done correctly, it can help you to get past these years when all your hormones are telling you to have as many sex partners as you possibly can, in spite of the fact your mind knows that is dangerous.
posted by Goofyy at 3:05 AM on January 13, 2009


Trust starts with trust. When you violate the trust, you've already lost the case, no matter the evidence.

The two "wrong-doings" (or acting correctly--not snooping, not cheating) have nothing to do with one another. When you say "trust starts with trust" it implies that something like snooping is going to cause cheating, which I think is raking OP over the coals way more than necessary for what he did. And cheating is that bad of a transgression in the relationship, although clearly this varies between individuals. Quite frankly, I'm baffled by those upthread who have said they'd sooner dump someone for snooping than cheating. Circumstances vary, of course, but one, to me, represents a much larger violation of trust and security.

In relationships where people are emotionally healthy and romantically secure, it's likely that neither snooping nor cheating will go on. But forgiveness is also a large part of these relationships. OP did something wrong. He needs to acknowledge that, come clean, and figure out why he did it. It will probably take time to rebuild trust between him & his SO and, depending on his reaction, SO might have some splainin to do. But if the SO isn't willing to talk reasonably and work with him so that they can both feel more secure and comfortable in the relationship again, then it's doomed to failure anyway.

(And, I'd say, if you're not feeling secure and safe, this definitely isn't a situation to introduce other partners to)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:51 AM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Meh, something came up that caused you to snoop. And snooping often brings about nothing but bad news (I've done it too).

Talk to him but it sounds like your trust is eroding. So be open and honest & decide if you will be able to trust him again.
posted by HolyWood at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2009


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