Emotional infidelity in an otherwise loving boyfriend...grounds for breaking up?
July 15, 2009 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Emotional Infidelity: Snooped in his email, found flirtatious, emotionally charged emails to other women, questioned his integrity, never got closure. Now we're broken up and this situation contributed. Was I too hard on him?

I broke off a 2+ yr relationship recently (the following situation contributed), and have been wondering about this issue for some time.

This man was truly in love with me, and wanted to be with me in the long term (we're late 20s). When we met, he was still in the process of breaking up with his ex. His past relationships are characterised by deep emotional bonds and special connections.

Many months into the relationship, I was at his place and unexpectedly found his email open on the computer. I know I shouldn't have, but I snooped. I saw some email correspondence with his ex - emotionally charged stuff, with her re-stating her love for him and hope that he would come back to her, and him expressing how he still has fond feelings for her, even admitting to some confusion, and wishing her well.

But what bothered me more was that there were also emails to/from other women from his past - some overtly sexual, describing their "warmth" and, for one in particular, how he dreams of her. This girl lives in New York and he said he'd be on the next bus to see her if she wanted him to.

When I got over the initial shock (and guilt) of the situation, I questioned his integrity, and his strength. Why didn't he defend me to his ex, or tell her to stop communicating with him altogether? I too had had a passionate relationship before him, but we had a clean break, and there was no way I'd consider engaging in that kind of email exchange. Isn't that what being faithful is all about?

So...I confronted him. I told him everything I've written above. I clearly stated that I didn't think we should break up over it, but that I wanted some explanation. I also apologized for snooping and gave him the chance to call me out on it (although I realize that's pretty pathetic...the deed was done). He apologized many times over, and I resolved to let it go - I knew, after all, that he LOVED me and was devastated by this situation.

But he never did give me an explanation. He never said why he hadn't defended me. Never gave me a promise that it would not happen again. Sometimes I think I should have asked him for that...but part of me thinks that he should have found it within himself to revisit the issue after some time had passed and the dust had settled. To make things right and to communicate openly.

I couldn't shake this nagging feeling that my partner needs to be stronger...someone who knows how to do a clean break (as I do) and who won't indulge their lingering feelings for past flames.

Despite his not coming through on this issue, though, he loved me very much and made that clear to me every day.

Anyway, my question was about the emotional infidelity. Did I overreact? Am I being too idealistic in my expectations of a partner? Was this grounds for a breakup? Or did I throw away a good thing...
posted by masala to Human Relations (55 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dreams, affectionate words, and lingering feelings do not equate to infidelity, they just mean that these women meant something to him, and have made a lasting impression on him. Why would you treat his continued correspondence with them as a bad thing?
posted by tybeet at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2009


But what bothered me more was that there were also emails to/from other women from his past - some overtly sexual, describing their "warmth" and, for one in particular, how he dreams of her. This girl lives in New York and he said he'd be on the next bus to see her if she wanted him to. He addressed these women as 'baby' in his emails, sometimes signing them 'Love', ___(my ex).

Nope, you didn't overreact. In my experience, it was just a matter of time before he physically cheated. He may have honestly loved you, but he sounds like the type who needs to be desired by many women, and unless you're into polyamory, that won't end well.
posted by desjardins at 4:38 PM on July 15, 2009


You found him secretly but overtly flirting with other women. Would you be happy if you were still together, constantly wondering what else you didn't know? He's the one who had the good thing going, not you. Take some time to heal and then go find someone who won't take advantage of your trust like this.
posted by katillathehun at 4:39 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and an apology is not what you needed or deserved. You deserved an explanation.

This girl lives in New York and he said he'd be on the next bus to see her if she wanted him to.

what the fucking fuck. buy him a fucking ticket.
posted by desjardins at 4:40 PM on July 15, 2009 [42 favorites]


Deep emotional bonds and spiritual connections MY ASS. I don't mean to be harsh but please realize, there are guys who simply don't do shit like this, especially with e-mails that are "overtly sexual."

Snooping wasn't cool on your part, but it confirms that you didn't trust him and that you had good reason not to.

Did I overreact?

Nope. You reacted just enough.

Am I being too idealistic in my expectations of a partner?

Also no. Set that bar higher.

Was this grounds for a breakup?

Sounds like you think it was.

Or did I throw away a good thing...

Again I'm going with no.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:44 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


The hard part about breaking up is that you're saying goodbye not only to the bad things but also to the things that where good. And those things can get bigger in your mind as soon as you're broken up.
You balanced the good and the bad at that time and made a choice. Accept that that choice comes with some grief about the things you lost and move on.
posted by jouke at 4:45 PM on July 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


where
posted by jouke at 4:46 PM on July 15, 2009


masala: This girl lives in New York and he said he'd be on the next bus to see her if she wanted him to.

See, I'm all for close friendships with exes but that there? Is hedging his bets. It reads very much to me like keeping one warm on the back burner just in case the main course doesn't pan out. (Behaviour like that has a way of being self-fulfilling, by the way, exactly as it did in your case.)

However, despite the fact your boyfriend was an immature commitment-phobe ass, you bear responsibility for your own behaviour and choices. You didn't ask for what you wanted, and then you left him because you didn't get it. He's arguably not boyfriend material, but he's definitely not a mind reader.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:49 PM on July 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Look, you "threw away" a guy who told another woman he would be on the next bus to see her, a guy who wouldn't stand up for you when his former girlfriend dissed you, a guy who liked to let other women know he was interested in them. (And that's only what you know about, right?)

Sometimes it is really hard to not look back on a relationship and imagine it as better than it was. It is so tempting to revise the relationship and let nostalgia or fear cloud your vision of who he was. I suggest asking yourself this: "Don't I deserve to be with someone who would never ever do that to me?" Even though I don't know you, the answer is yes.

P.S. It's sort of a silly book, but you might want to read It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken.
posted by val5a at 4:52 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Was I too hard on him?

No. The snooping was a bad idea, though.

Anyway, it's over. Move on and date other people.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:55 PM on July 15, 2009


You did not overreact. You are not being too idealistic - in fact, you are being a bit of a pushover. Your relationship had DTMFA written all over it from the outset. The man didn't love you; at least, not the way you think he did.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:59 PM on July 15, 2009


Snooping? Not appropriate, and others have already pointed that out.

Having a boundary that doesn't include your partner exchanging flirty, emotionally fraught emails with people he's attracted to? Not overreacting.

It's not everyone's boundary, but it's not a crazy boundary for you to have. Seriously, if that's a deal-breaker for you, it's a reasonable deal-breaker.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


For someone who claims to make clean breaks, you are thinking about this way too much. Your reaction was certainly within the range of reasonable and appropriate. He dicked you. You realized it and dumped his ass. It is no more complicated than that.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:00 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


An email to a woman that says "I think you're fantastic. Really, you're a terrific person. If I weren't in a relationship, I'd want to be in one with you", in a lot of contexts, is a very supportive and loving thing that a friend can write to another, even if they're of different sexes.

An email to a woman that says "You say the word, I'll drop everything to come be with you" is something a guy says to a girl when he (a) will drop everything to go be with her, or (b) wants her to think he will, and he knows she'd never ask. Either way, a huge relationship red flag.
posted by davejay at 5:13 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know his ex girlfriends -- the one who was calling, the one in New York, and the others? The ones who were still hanging around, while they and he had a hard time making a clean break?

Well, you'll become one of those if you keep over-thinking this.

You shouldn't have snooped, and you shouldn't expect answers to your questions about what you found while snooping. But, your expectations were not too high, and no, you didn't throw a good thing away.
posted by Houstonian at 5:15 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


What a horrible person he is.

You did a good thing in dumping his ass.
posted by jayder at 5:17 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yes, you should have snooped.
posted by jayder at 5:17 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


He probably didn't explain it because he didn't have a good explanation.
posted by delmoi at 5:20 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


[H]e sat there looking stunned, tears welling in his eyes. He apologized many times over, and said how lucky he felt that I did not kick his ass to the curb that day. I resolved to let it go...But he never did give me an explanation.

He said nothing at the time and offered no explanation afterwords because had no good explanation. He teared up because he was upset he got caught and risked losing you (which he later did). You're better off without him. Also, sadly, don't be surprised if he ends up with one of those girls (saying this as someone who was in a very similar situation to yours). Try not to let him take up too much mental space.
posted by piratebowling at 5:37 PM on July 15, 2009


I couldn't shake this nagging feeling that my partner needs to be stronger...someone who knows how to do a clean break (as I do) and who won't indulge their lingering feelings for past flames.

This really resonated with me. I once was in a similar, albeit milder, situation and it was extraordinarily painful. I did not have the overtly sexual or offers to go visit emails to contend with like you did, but there were other things that made me feel like I was some sort of consolation prize and that he would drop me like a hot potato if one of the exes "wanted him back". I tried to be supportive of these friendships, but there were a few things that happened that made me reach a breaking point.

I finally realized that I was not comfortable with the boundaries he had in place in these relationships--or a failure to make a clean break (and to truly be with me) as you described it. His boundaries weren't as weak as the ones you described (overtly sexual? Offers to come visit? ICK!!) but they did not work for me nevertheless. And following up with what Darlingbri said above, it was my obligation to make my feelings known and to stop trying to be the "laid-back" and understanding girlfriend at the expense of my own values and feelings.

So I did make it known...and only when I made it very clear how much it was hurting me, did he set firmer boundaries with these exes. My point? You have to set your own personal boundaries as to what you want in a relationship and demand that those boundaries be honored. There are no guarantees that the other person will comply, but you will definitely get what you need, whether it be with that person or the one who does honor your boundaries.

(FWIW, I don't think I would have been nearly as understanding of what you described, so no, I do not thik you over-reacted).
posted by murrey at 5:38 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I being too idealistic in my expectations of a partner?

You clearly have certain standards that some would call high, but that's ok. Just realize and accept what you want and need out of relationships and seek out people who fill that role. Do be careful though, as there hints that you want someone really strong and full of integrity. People are people and sometimes they're weaker than we or they think. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Sometimes I think I should have asked him for that...but part of me thinks that he should have found it within himself to revisit the issue after some time had passed and the dust had settled.

Ask for what you want or need in a relationship. People aren't mind readers, sometimes you have to pointedly tell them what you want.

Introverts spend a lot of time in their heads and sometimes don't understand general societal patterns or behaviors and need to have it explained to them. So he may have thought what he was doing was ok. Doesn't mean he's right in that behavior, just that if you have certain expectations of behavior from an SO, you need to articulate it to them.

That said, based on what you describe of the situation, the guy sounds like he was being a greedy douche and you're better off without him. If it was such a good thing, you guys would get better and you'd trust him. But you don't, so let it go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:42 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's unlikely that you'd find cllosure because of something he might say. You'd still be trying to figure out why it seemed he actually loved you, or why he needed to write such letters to other women when you were fully available to him. He probably doesn't understand his behavior any better than you do.

The reason you'r so unsettled is that you're trying to understand something that doesn't fit with what you know about relationships, such as: If you love someone, you don't look outside the relationship for emotional and sexual "warmth." If you love someone, you defend her when the situation calls for it. (By the way, these statements aren't true for everyone.)

His behavior isn't rational, and you're not going to make sense of it in the context of your own values and assumptions. There are reasons for the things he was up to, but you can only guess about those. He probably doesn't understand them, either.

If you're going to get closure, it'll come from yourself. You know you can't tolerate certain things, and you know he's not even offering to quit doing certain of those things. You've done the right thing according to your own judgment. When you find yourself wondering what the hell he was thinking, you need to turn your thoughts to other matters
posted by wryly at 5:47 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I couldn't shake this nagging feeling that my partner needs to be stronger...someone who knows how to do a clean break (as I do) and who won't indulge their lingering feelings for past flames.

There's nothing wrong with wanting that.

However, are you sure that that's an accurate description of yourself at this very moment in your life? Because "clean break" is not how I would have characterized the attitudes you express in this post.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:53 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


He sounds like the kind of person who enjoys the drama, ego boost and emotional kick he gets from highly charged situations with women, so he'll work that with whomever will meet him halfway. It's not kind of him to do that with exes, because he's toying with them and keeping their emotions aflame at a point when it's best that they just forget about him. And it's not fair for him to be doing this kind of thing when he's in a relationship.

Forget about this guy and find someone who can find whatever romantic satisfaction he needs within the context of your relationship.
posted by orange swan at 6:13 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


You did something wrong, found someone else doing something wrong, you reacted wrong (Quite understandable to be upset, but you "dropped" it immediately while letting it fester), he reacted wrong (Didn't fix things immediately), and it turned out right. If he was doing this, it truly bothered you, and he had no intention of changing his ways, the relationship would have only caused more pain.

Let the past be. Worrying about this can do no good.
posted by Saydur at 6:17 PM on July 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


I couldn't shake this nagging feeling that my partner needs to be stronger...someone who knows how to do a clean break (as I do) and who won't indulge their lingering feelings for past flames.

If that is what you need in a relationship, that is what you need. The only person who can make that declaration is you, though.
posted by trunk muffins at 6:21 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Now that you're single (or with someone else), its only natural that you are thinking about this.

It doesn't mean you were wrong, though.

Good luck with the rest of your life.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:59 PM on July 15, 2009


Your guy had a psycho ex.

Next, your guy had a dishonest, snooping girl.

Now, he's got a psycho ex, and an ex who snoops his emails. Neither ex seem to be able to let go.

No one here seems to choose mates very well, but he does seem consistent, at least.

Sorry, but that's the view from here.
posted by FauxScot at 7:10 PM on July 15, 2009


I agree with everyone. Oh, and about the snooping, sure it's wrong, but I found that girls only do it when they have a gut feeling that there is something to be found from the snooping and the guy is not to be trusted, and they're ALWAYS right. And usually it's about something the guy has lied about already, so no, talking about the problem doesn't work. Has anyone ever been in a situation where the snooping was for no reason?
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:17 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and about the snooping, sure it's wrong, but I found that girls only do it when they have a gut feeling that there is something to be found from the snooping and the guy is not to be trusted, and they're ALWAYS right.

That's a simple case of confirmation bias.
Would you remember the event of snooping if it ended up being a nonevent?
posted by tybeet at 7:21 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


To me it sounds like there was a real communication problem. I think people only have these "emotional affairs" when there is something they want that they aren't getting from their current relationship (wanting to feel desired etc) and they aren't prepared to ask for it. Not asking for what you want in a relationship can lead to all sorts of problems in my opinion.

Also, not just women snoop. Not just men have things worth snooping on. Its a human condition, not a gender based one in my books.
posted by Admira at 7:47 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the dude doing communicating with his exes in this way? I think you handled the aftermath with class, including acknowledging the betrayal of his trust by reading his emails, and he definitely should have found the resolve within himself to let you know it wouldn't happen any more if he really wanted to keep you.
posted by fantasticninety at 7:52 PM on July 15, 2009


Next, your guy had a dishonest, snooping girl.

My philosophy is that when snooping turns up duplicitous, conniving, mendacious behavior, the snooping is then retroactively justified.

If snooping reveals only innocent behavior, the snooping is worth of condemnation.

Paradoxically, you cannot know, prior to snooping, whether your snooping will turn out to be justified.

But the absolutist position of people here, that snooping is wrong, puts them in the position of condemning a wife who snoops in her husband's e-mail and learns that he's banging the babysitter, the secretary at work, and his wife's best friend. The condemnation of snooping in a cheating asshole's e-mail is simply not rational.
posted by jayder at 7:56 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


He's an attention whore. You did the right thing. Learn a lesson, put it in the past and move on.
posted by torquemaniac at 7:57 PM on July 15, 2009


>When we met, he was still in the process of breaking up with his ex of 2 years.
That's a pretty bad place to start off.

>6 months after he and his ex broke up she randomly called
If he was still taking her calls to have unpleasant conversations (not, whoops you forgot to cancel the electricity), he probably wasn't ready to be in a relationship with you.

>There were also emails to/from other women from his past - some overtly sexual, describing their "warmth" and, for one in particular, how he dreams of her. This girl lives in New York and he said he'd be on the next bus to see her if she wanted him to. He addressed these women as 'baby' in his emails, sometimes signing them 'Love', ___(my ex).
HOLY FUCKING SHIT. So he dreams of other women, what else is new. Why on earth do those women need to know about it? No one's feelings are 100% perfect, but the only person to whom he should be expressing those kinds of feelings is you.

>He said how lucky he felt that I did not kick his ass to the curb that day.
Here he was telling you that he deserved to be broken up with. This is one of those times when you should take what a guy is saying about himself literally, eg, "I'm really fucked up" or "You're too good for me." This, coupled with his inability or unwillingness to come up with an explanation, basically means that he was upset at being caught but probably wouldn't stop.

>He loved me very much.
Not enough.

Aren't you glad that you snooped? I am.
posted by thebazilist at 8:31 PM on July 15, 2009


Some time ago here on Askmefi I asked a similar question. I had snooped and found just about the same thing: Flirtatious emails with an ex. The relationship spiraled downward from there. I spent a lot of time regretting what I had done. I figured that if I left well enough alone maybe he would have eventually stopped having such correspondence. I went over and over it in my mind. I worried I was crazy and would never be able to trust anyone. I worried I would ruin another relationship the same way.

That was in 2007...

Fast forward to now. I learned I need a certain degree of trust in a relationship. I have a boyfriend now who is very open about things and because of that I haven't had the desire to snoop. We talk about our past openly and about our friendship with exes (the other guy would NEVER do this...probably because he was hanging on).

A few months ago the ex in the question got into contact with me. I had been doing the no-contact thing for awhile and it worked out great, but I had moved on so I figured what the heck. We had some innocuous conversations and I discussed it with my current BF. He trusts me, but I think if you are going to have a friendship with the ex, you should discuss it with your current boyfriend. I feel so glad when I think about it that I have such a wonderful boyfriend who is so open and that I was able to dump the lameo who hangs on to his exes.

Snooping is a symptom of a bad relationship, not a cause.

I learned that I don't have to put up with B.S. about exes. For every guy holding on to their ex, there are 10 that aren't. Find one and let this old loser go. Some of my old questions have some good info if you are interested...

Emotional infidelity is real and no one should have to put up with it.
posted by idle at 8:41 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hi there.
He says that he knew I was the one when we met.
All else aside, it's important that you understand that this 'he knew I was the one' stuff is childish fantasy bullshit. Doesn't matter whether this needy creepy little dude said it to you, or you to him, or you heard it in a romantic comedy, or whatever the hell. He loved you, you loved him, he did some stuff, you did some stuff. That happened; it's just facts.

There's no such thing as 'the one.' Once you rid yourself of your dependence on that fantasy you'll have an easier time understanding and dealing with things like a guy keeping in uncomfortably close contact with his XGFs.

Dig?
posted by waxbanks at 8:51 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wow, I'm surprised so many people here find the snooping justifiable.

You are persecuting this poor guy for essentially a thoughtcrime, violated his privacy, and are looking for further justification.

How could he possibly trust you after you read his email? There are probably things in your email you wouldn't feel comfortable with him reading.

Judge people on their actions, not their thoughts or emails. He didn't cheat on you, there is no such thing as an 'emotional affair' and the relationship was already in trouble the moment you snooped. The trust was probably never there from that point on.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 8:57 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Been in a similar position to yourself (long distance then living together, him supposedly spiritual/introverted, things didn't add up, bad gut feeling, snooped, found similar, he later confirmed he'd physcially cheated too, DTMFA) and questioned it afterwards. But it's like when you leave highschool. You know you hated it at the time and couldn't wait to get out of there, but when you first started sending out job applications and no-one called you back, you started to think about all the good bits about being 16 (and not focus on the bad bits) and almost wished you were back to when "life was easy". But then you land an awesome job and your social life starts rocking and you don't think that way.

There were good things about being with h im or else you wouldn't have stayed as long as you did, but not enough good things (or too many bad things) for you not to want a chance at something better. The catch is you only get a chance at something better if you let go of the old thing to make space for it. Trust that it's worth it and make the leap. If he really is "the one" then he'll wait forever for you to come running back so don't worry... and by the time you realise there's no "one" you won't care about him anyway.
posted by Chrysalis at 10:41 PM on July 15, 2009


8 billion people on the planet.

There is sure to be a better choice than that guy.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:57 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


masala: Anyway, my question was about the emotional infidelity. Did I overreact? Am I being too idealistic in my expectations of a partner? Was this grounds for a breakup? Or did I throw away a good thing...

I think you made a few mistakes, but they've only cost you ten months. Here is my take on this situation:

First of all, the snooping: you should not have looked through his email. Yes, this is a trust issue, and it's something you and he would have had to work out no matter what you found. The work of a couple is to work such things out; at some point, you both would've had to face each other and decide how you were going to proceed on that point.

However, second, I've found that when someone ‘snoops’ and discovers something they didn't want to discover, they almost always lose perspective and forget about the relative importance of the issues involved. As I said, the work of the couple is to resolve various issues and to advance intimacy for mutual benefit, and your misstep was part of that process—but his making a comment to another woman that he was ready and willing to leave you moves well beyond the realm of trust issues to the realm of issues that threaten the relationship itself. When a guy gets to the hospital with a punctured lung, a severe concussion, and a hangnail, the doctors don't bring out their toe-clipping shears and get to work on the nail; and when you've displayed a small lack of trust while at the same time he's snipped away most of the relationship's tendons, you really should let the lack of trust go for the time being until the whole ‘hey other women, I have dreams about you and want to leave my partner for you’ issue is settled.

And that's where I think you made your mistake. See, in life (and relationships are really just microcosms of life) shame and guilt are often just self-indulgences that give us an excuse to let our hearts brim with feeling and emotion; they're rarely of any actual use, and often they can trip us up pretty bad. I sense that, in order to take him back and try to rectify the situation (and perhaps to give yourself more blame and therefore to attribute to yourself more power over the situation) you've put a substantial burden on the act of looking through a partner's email that probably shouldn't be there. Honestly, think about what it might have been like if he'd been innocent and you'd found nothing: yes, he might have been slightly annoyed, but then again it might have mattered very little to him. I could give a rat's ass if my partner reads my email; hell, she knows everything about me already, so I don't really know what it matters. Many couples are like that; it sounds like you two hadn't figured out the boundaries surrounding email yet, so what you did was a very, very minor thing, believe me.

What's likely is that, in the back of your mind, you're giving yourself some version of the popular fallacy of guilt by extension: ‘but this would never have happened, neither of us would have had to go through all this pain, if only I hadn't been so nosy!’ I urge you: stop it. First and foremost because it simply isn't true; no two partners can survive what he did without facing and dealing with it, and this would've been true even if you'd never found out; it may have been unspoken, but the space between you would've become more and more palpable. He made that move, not you, if you start blaming yourself simply because you peeked into his email you'll end up blaming yourself for world hunger just because you didn't finish your vegetables when you were a little kid.

So when I say that you made a mistake, I don't mean to say that you should feel bad about it. As I'm sure you've gathered from the (quite appropriate) vitriol your ex seems to be inspiring in people here, whatever you did to hasten the end of that relationship was a net benefit, believe me.

I only mean this: if you ever (heaven forbid!) find yourself in a similar situation again, the right thing to do would be to confront him with confidence and demand an explanation; and, if he brings up the fact that you broke his privacy, you ought to say, ‘Yes, that's a big deal, and we need to work on it, but right now we need to decide if you want to be with me and I want to be with you.’ I think you made a mistake when you felt guilty and ashamed of snooping into his email—honestly, a year later? And you're still acting so sheepish? In your post, you talk about it like you've beaten a kitten!——and you let that guilt and shame prevent you from following the matter down and seeing it to a conclusion by demanding an explanation and forcing him to tell you what his intentions were. Don't be too wrapped up in your own residual feelings to deal sufficiently with the issue at hand; be bold, and, most of all, don't sell yourself short!

Again, you haven't lost a good thing. This was a learning experience; you picked up a lot of useful lessons along the way. Probably more important than the little lesson about how to deal with cheating partners when they're discovered via peeked-into email was the lesson about how this guy was a creep and you really shouldn't be with him.
posted by koeselitz at 2:08 AM on July 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


jayder: But the absolutist position of people here, that snooping is wrong, puts them in the position of condemning a wife who snoops in her husband's e-mail and learns that he's banging the babysitter, the secretary at work, and his wife's best friend. The condemnation of snooping in a cheating asshole's e-mail is simply not rational.

I explained this above, but: right and wrong are not absolute and of the same value in every action and in every case. Snooping can indicate trust issues; those have to be worked out between couples. It can in certain circumstances really and truly be an invasion of privacy. I guess the point is that, even in the worst case, it's really akin to not taking the garbage out or forgetting to put gas in the car—it's part of life that will work itself out; whereas infidelity is on a whole different level and indeed not even on a level at all. The one is an indication of a problem to be solved by the partnership; the other is an indication that the partnership itself might be the problem that needs to be solved.
posted by koeselitz at 2:13 AM on July 16, 2009


FauxScot: Your guy had a psycho ex.

Next, your guy had a dishonest, snooping girl.

Now, he's got a psycho ex, and an ex who snoops his emails. Neither ex seem to be able to let go.

No one here seems to choose mates very well, but he does seem consistent, at least.

Sorry, but that's the view from here.


Pardon my incredulity, but: are you seriously suggesting that you'd prefer a partner who cheated on you to a partner who read your emails?

Honestly, masala, in most long-term relationships this would hardly have been an issue at all. A person who takes deep offense when his partner happens to read his email is a person who really shouldn't be in an intimate relationship anyhow.
posted by koeselitz at 2:20 AM on July 16, 2009


He's an attention whore. You did the right thing. Learn a lesson, put it in the past and move on.

Yeah. A narcissist, I think. You got lucky. I married him.

One of their attributes is to embellish their relationships with the warm glow of totally awesome, but it's only a glow--not real.

You got lucky. I snooped too, by the way--similar experience. It's wrong to snoop and there's no two ways about it, but there you go. I can't even say I'm really sorry about it. I sensed something was off, and it was. It says something that in five years I've never had the slightest feeling that I should check out Mr. Llama's email habits.

No one should snoop on other people's private correspondance, ever, but I think that the feeling that maybe you should snoop is something to pay attention to, unless you're kind of a basically snoop-y person.

Anyway, it's hard to believe maybe, right now, but I think one day you'll look back on this (as I did, after a lot of pain) and go thank fucking Christ.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:25 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


By the way: you're probably a much more evolved person at 29 than I was, but when I was involved with the ex-Mr. Llama, I put on a watermelon sized pair of rose-colored glasses because I was about to turn thirty and wanted to be with someone and wanted to believe that he was The One.

This probably isn't you. But I'm just saying, in case it is.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:28 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


When we met, he was still in the process of breaking up with his ex of 2 years, and it always bothered me that they were not fully 'over' when he began pursuing me.

I stopped here and thought to myself, I would dump him in an instant.

Please learn to respect yourself before beginning your next relationship.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 6:40 AM on July 16, 2009


@koeselitz:

No, I'd prefer a partner who was grown up enough to maintain a quality relationship by dealing with/ talking about difficult things in an adult manner.

I'd prefer living with someone other than the secret police.

I'd prefer living with an adult that makes good relationship decisions.

Snooping is as bad as cheating when it comes to the violation of basic trust. Good people do not read other people's email or diaries, unless invited or unless they are dead. Being a decent human involves respecting the rights of others. There are other means of assessing trustworthiness that don't involve spying, snooping, prying, lying, or other equally immoral practices. Can you think of a few?

FYI, this is why phone eavesdropping is illegal in lots of jurisdictions. The courts generally agree; it's bad behavior. Reading someone's mail is a Federal offense. It isn't just politness.

The risk of infidelity (emotional or physical) is inherent in voluntary relationships. You minimize it via honesty, communication, and situational awareness. Someone else's evil behavior does not justify evil behavior on your part. The species can't advance with such an unevolved approach.
posted by FauxScot at 7:21 AM on July 16, 2009


MeTa regarding the snooping question
posted by desjardins at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2009


You did not throw away a good thing. Someone writing intimate letters, and worse, exchanging them while they ostensibly have committed to someone else is not someone worthy of your love. You did the right thing in leaving him. You did not over react. My advice is that you do one of those "clean breaks" you're talking about here and forget you ever met this irresolute boy.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:37 AM on July 16, 2009


OP:my question was about the emotional infidelity
desjardins: Nope, you didn't overreact. In my experience, it was just a matter of time before he physically cheated.

oh great, now people are supposed to be punished for crimes we might commit or at most are contemplating committing? are you going to put me in jail for thinking about killing that driver who cut me off this morning? are you going to prosecute me for saying bad words? this is absolute bullshit.

this person is exchanging emails with an ex. he has a pretty good excuse for being cordial, flirtatious, warm to this person. she is his ex. they have history together. most of us usually don't just get over serious relationships that easily and not all of us suddenly hate who we once loved. it's okay for him to talk to this person. meeting, touching and those kinds of things are where your rights get violated. you are not owed an apology. in fact, I would have ended the relationship because you read my email. there is a difference between noticing the inbox is on a screen and reading the messages in it. you made the choice, you acted. as far as I can tell he did not.

that does not mean I think you were too hard on him. this does not strike me as if you walked away from this relationship just because of his emails. you wrote of dwindling passion and not-great communication, which suggests to me you were already over the whole thing. that's your right and whatever reason you needed to end something is fine by me. you do not owe him an apolgy or need to feel bad for that. just that 'emotional infidelity' phrasing you have fallen in love with is complete and utter tosh. you made a decision you were entitled to but he did not make a mistake.
posted by krautland at 3:13 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


^ I got the impression that these women were not his ex, and that they went beyond "flirtatious":

But what bothered me more was that there were also emails to/from other women from his past - some overtly sexual, describing their "warmth" and, for one in particular, how he dreams of her. This girl lives in New York and he said he'd be on the next bus to see her if she wanted him to. He addressed these women as 'baby' in his emails, sometimes signing them 'Love', ___(my ex).
posted by jabberjaw at 3:21 PM on July 16, 2009


Despite his not coming through on this issue, though, he loved me very much and made that clear to me every day.

Yeah, but you and how many other women?

Did I overreact? Am I being too idealistic in my expectations of a partner? Was this grounds for a breakup? Or did I throw away a good thing...

No, this guy was no good. Seriously, he thought that the way to fix a betrayal of trust issue was to sort ignore it while pouring on the fawning? That he was lucky you didn't kick his ass to the curb? This isn't the behavior of a guy who realizes he's done wrong and wants to fix it.

This is the behavior of a scammer who, on being caught, is relieved to stay in the con, and thinks the way forward is scam faster and better.
posted by fleacircus at 4:23 PM on July 16, 2009



oh great, now people are supposed to be punished for crimes we might commit or at most are contemplating committing? are you going to put me in jail for thinking about killing that driver who cut me off this morning? are you going to prosecute me for saying bad words? this is absolute bullshit.


I think and dream about exes occasionally. Lots of people do. Sometimes we write emails about various things we are doing in life. I DO NOT tell them "Yesterday I went to Madrid where I ate tapas AND then I had a steamy dream about you. I would fly to Mexico to meet you XOXOXXO LOMGG."

Sorry, there is a big difference between thinking about your exes/being just friends and what this dude did. This isn't about thoughtcrimes. This is about not being ready for a new relationship.

He wasn't over his ex and he wasn't ready to be in a new relationship. I hope you get to have a good relationship someday where the guy can truly honestly be just friends with his ex. Don't let this make you think all friendships with exes are full of drama. Some are, because people don't put any thought into moving on and how their current flame would feel if they knew they were hanging on.
posted by melissam at 8:18 PM on July 16, 2009


Please, don't spend any more time in the past (pining over ex-boyfriends) and look to the future!

Look ahead to new & better relationships with boyfriends who aren't stoking the coals with ex-girlfriends in case the current one doesn't last. He doesn't sound like a keeper to me.

I am very sorry you are hurting, but it's time for you to let this relationship go. It is over. Letting go doesn't meant that you can't glean some lesson from it, as you give it a post-mortem. Maybe in the next relationship you will be able to take a deep breath and say what you want/need from a relationship, because that's the only way your partner will know what you want/need.

Another thing to consider: did you snoop because you had doubts about his fidelity? Or just because it was an opportunity that presented itself? It's generally not an ok thing to snoop in someone else's email, even if you are married to them. (See today's Cary Tennis column on salon.com).

(It is a interesting that he does have a succession of ex's who can't seem to move on after the relationship is over; maybe because he professes such love to each woman, saying she is "the one"?)
posted by Pocahontas at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


melissam: He wasn't over his ex and he wasn't ready to be in a new relationship.
you have no way of knowing that, you are merely interpreting based on your own 'experiences.' you are confusing assumptions and facts and your assumptions stem from your own fear of certain situations either happening or being repeated. this guy cannot be blamed for your past.

also: who knows how this guy usually writes or speaks? perhaps this is his regular vernacular? how many different greetings alone do you see people signing emails with? just today I had some business contact send me an email signed "xoxo, (...)" and it turns out this person sends my whole team emails signed this way.
posted by krautland at 8:04 AM on July 23, 2009


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