Nipping crazy in the bud
January 13, 2008 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm young and new at relationships...but already noticing some bad tendencies. How can I stop them before I get blacklisted as a psycho girlfriend?

Long story short: my second serious relationship ended because I had one bad encounter with his ex and it spiraled out of control. Before that the relationship had been loving and we had a lot in common, though even if I hadn't been crazy it would have been a difficult one due to communication problems.

Instead of trusting him let my suspicions turn me into that whole green eyed jealous monster. In the end, I lied to obtain information, then snooped (and got caught), violating his privacy in way that hurt him and made me feel like a creep (I was). The sad thing about the snooping is that it showed that things were tapering off with his ex until I started acting crazy. We broke things off because of the trust issues. And then I went even crazier and e-mailed the ex a quick dirge about how she had ruined everything and then became a prolific writer of maudlin e-mails to him .

Well, I don't want to be this sort of creep again. No matter what happens, I want to have some sort of integrity.

In my past I caught my father having an affair when I was 10 and it broke up my parent's marriage, so I do have a history of snooping and having it screw things up. But with boyfriends I've never been jealous before. My first serious relationship I didn't even bat an eyelash at female friends and it never would have crossed my mind to go through his e-mail.

Right now I'm struggling with my self-image. I feel like I'm a psycho and I'll never have a normal relationship. I'm also having problems because I'm still in contact with him and there has been some talks about getting back together that always end in him saying "I just don't know..." I can see it in his eyes that my image of him has been damaged by my actions, possible irreparably, and that it's likely I need to let go.

I have been seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist for anxiety issues, but I'm thinking of ditching him because he thought my behavior was "perfectly normal considering the situation." In fact he said I should snoop (!!!). That's a lot of the reason I'm posting here rather than seeing a professional.

I guess what I'd like is suggestions for strategies for dealing with obstacles in relationships in a sane manner, suppressing inner urges towards craziness, recognizing when to just cut things off, and the like. Books, stories, techniques, morally-strengthening habits/hobbies, anything that can help push me away from this sort of behavior.
posted by idle to Human Relations (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Your therapist is wrong. Tell him you think he is wrong, and that you want help on avoiding such behavior in the future. If that doesn't work, get a new therapist.
posted by grouse at 9:04 AM on January 13, 2008

I think you already highlighted what needs to happen to have a healthy relationship. Communication. You said your relationship would have been difficult anyway because you two had problems with it. I've been in a very similar situation with a boyfriend and his ex. It is incredibly hard not to be "psycho" when your partner isn't being completely open with you. Maybe he doesn't think there is anything to tell, but YOU don't know that.

You can't trust someone who hasn't earned your trust, even if they seem like a trustworthy person. You have to let the other person know when something doesn't feel right, and do so in a calm manner so they don't automatically put up their walls of defense. If the other person can't handle your openness without thinking you are being crazy, then they themselves are the problem. The point is to communicate so that you don't actually act on the psycho urges. Once you start snooping the relationship is essentially doomed, so yes, your therapist is an idiot.
posted by pontouf at 9:13 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why do you feel the need to label yourself "crazy"? I just re-read your other posted question, and from that one you indicated the dude was not being upfront about his contacts with his ex. I am not condoning the snooping. That is a very-VERY- female type thing to do, and it is just an ugly habit. I know lots of women who check text messages and grill their boyfriends about who called, etc. That isn't very condusive to a healthy relationship. I don't think men or women should be spying on each other, it just leads to more distrust in the relationship. It might be something you do in 7th grade, but you need to grow out of it. Growing out of it isn't labeling yourself as "crazy". He gave you a reason to be suspicious and you took that and ran with it. Don't be too sorry this relationship ended and don't totally blame yourself. He doesn't sound like much of a prize. Use it as a learning experience. Good luck.
posted by 45moore45 at 9:19 AM on January 13, 2008

Yes, ditch that therapist. Yikes.

First of all - I am sure you have heard this before but your discovery of your dad's affair is not what broke up your parent's marriage. The fact that he was having the affair was more of an issue, I am sure. However, that doesn't mean that snooping is okay.

My boyfriend and I went through this a few years into our relationship. I snooped and then accused him of cheating on me (without real evidence, though). The snooping had a far greater affect on our relationship because he felt he couldn't trust me anymore. That was 5 or 6 years ago, and we're still together, but it was hard work and even now I can still sometimes feel repercussions due to it.

As to why I snooped, well, I was insecure. It wasn't enough for him to tell me that he wouldn't cheat on me. I was convinced that he would cheat anyway. I worked on becoming more sure of myself (with therapy) and that helped alot. So did age and experience. I don't feel like the state of my relationship is the center of my universe anymore.
posted by cabingirl at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I feel like I'm a psycho and I'll never have a normal relationship.

You're not a psycho. You are a person who behaved badly in one specific situation.

But with boyfriends I've never been jealous before. My first serious relationship I didn't even bat an eyelash at female friends and it never would have crossed my mind to go through his e-mail.

See? You are perfectly capable of a normal relationship. But not with this guy.

There are some people who bring out the worst in us. It's clear that your ex (whether knowingly or unknowingly is not for me to say) pushes buttons that make you act psycho. This doesn't excuse your behaviour--you are still responsible for your own actions. But the responsible thing to do now is to stop trying to restart the relationship with your ex. He's not for you. You won't make each other happy. Move on.
posted by happyturtle at 9:34 AM on January 13, 2008 [11 favorites]

yes find another therapist. just like each student in a final-year psychology class is vastly different from one another, each therapist brings to their practice a different set of values, experiences, social graces and depth of wisdom from which to cull advice. It's not unusual to change therapists, and you will not hurt this person's feelings (business is business - and that is business for them)

to find other therapists, ask your trusted friends, ask your minister/rabbi, or simply ask the same source that recommended the current therapist for another name.

as far as being hyper-vigilant. you yourself know that this is not a good approach, so you have taken the first important step. You have grown and you have learned from this experience. You are still on speaking terms with the ex, that's great! As you move to new relationships with new people, perhaps adopting a more zen approach would be beneficial. I have learned much about letting go, about healing, from Pema Chodron, particularly in "When Things Fall Apart". She also wrote "The Places That Scare You" and "Comfortable With Uncertainty"

As far as what else to do - morally-strengthening habits/hobbies - running, swimming, other aerobic zen-inducing exercise is also good.

Be well.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:39 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Well, you've recognized the problem behavior and you can see the historical event that probably set it up. That's a pretty good start. Sounds like you might have unresolved issues around your father's affair/divorce. If this is at all true, just remember you were the kid and they were the adults in that relationship.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:39 AM on January 13, 2008

There are some people who bring out the worst in us.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I had a looong (too long) relationship where I was "the psycho." I was never that, before or after, with other people.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

It seems like this is at least in part a self-control issue. By which I mean you seem set on fulfilling your most instinctual behavior without taking the time to think through the potential consequences of those actions to determine whether it's a wise course of action of a foolish one.

Take writing the ex nasty emails blaming her for ruining your relationship. I can sympathize with the motivation behind the action -I can understand wanting to write and send such an email to someone you felt was intentionally trying to sabotage your relationship. But it seems like in your case there is no filtering system between feeling the desire to undertake some base level action and actually performing the action. Even just taking a few seconds between thought and action would lead you realize sending such an email is going to only make you look bad, fail to generate any positive consequences (the chances of her receiving such an email and thinking, "Gee, she's right, I should apologize and quit interfering in her relationship" are slim) and will only push your significant other further away because it makes you look unstable. Same with snooping. Sure, a lot of us probably have some desire to know who our significant others are communicating with and what goes on in those communications. But again, just a few seconds of forethought should allow you to realize the multitude of reasons actually giving in to that desire is a bad idea. Say you find out your ex is cheating through reading his emails. You're stuck because the only method you have to confront is by saying, "So, I was doing something arguably just as dishonest and sneaky as what you're doing, but nonetheless..."

A lot of us (my guess is a lot more than would ever admit to it) have crazy thoughts and desires of things we'd like to say or do to other people. The difference between the people who seem stable and secure and those who get labeled as "psycho" boyfriends or girlfriends is the former realize it's not necessary to actually go through with every base level thought that enters their heads by running through the scenario and determining a sort of cost/benefit analysis before deciding on how to proceed.
posted by The Gooch at 10:00 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're new at relationships and you made a series of mistakes. You can see that and hopefully you've learned from it. Your ex is experienced at relationships and he was sneaky anyway. You're better off rid of him and his no-self-respect ex.

One thing you can do is really consider the men you select for relationships. Is this person emotionally healthy enough to sustain a good, loving relationship? Ask yourself that question a few times - when you first meet and attraction confuses you, when you've been dating awhile, when you've had a fight. When you realize you're in a relationship with someone unhealthy end the relationship. It doesn't have to be a big blowout, just end it. This is true of romantic relationships and friendships. It's hard to learn to behave in healthy ways when you're surrounded by people who behave badly.

Everyone makes mistakes, so don't ditch on emotionally healthy people who screw up a bit. But really consider whether or not people are capable of being the friend or partner you need. One of the greatest demonstrations of self respect is raising your standards. Surround yourself with mentally stable and emotionally giving people. And then treat those people like the gems that they are.
posted by 26.2 at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

In my past I caught my father having an affair when I was 10 and it broke up my parent's marriage, so I do have a history of snooping and having it screw things up

Your snooping did not break up your parents' marriage. Your father's unfaithfulness broke up your parents' marriage. You did not screw things up. Your father screwed things up (literally). My father tried to pull this shit on me-- told me that I was the one who made my mother unhappy because I was such a bitch when I was 16 (jesus, who isn't), neatly sidestepping the fact that he had an affair and possibly a baby with a colleague (and then the mistress was hiring me to babysit the kid--ugh), and pretty much flaunted it in my mother's face. If your parents are telling you that it's your fault they split, they need to #1 be in therapy themselves, and #2 pay for your therapy.

So quit that guilt trip right off the bat.

Ditto the earlier post-- no you should not have been snooping, but on the other hand that boyfriend should not have been seeing the ex when she was clearly looking for a different type of relationship and it bothered you. Sounds like your problem is not that you are unnaturally suspicious, but that you seek men that you can't trust because they don't behave in a trustworthy way. You don't sound psycho, just a little damaged (who isn't). My suspicion is that when you find a man you can trust, you won't need to indulge in the snooping instinct.

Cognitive therapy sounds like a good choice (but, yeah maybe with a different therapist) because it can give you practical tools and habits to deflect you from the snooping.
posted by nax at 10:10 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I used to be a horrible snooper and I always caught the offender (which made me want to snoop even more). Then I realized that I was just dating scum, people who didn't deserve any trust because they were assholes. When I started a relationship with my now-fiance, I was amazed that I trusted him completely, and never snooped. It turns out that I just didn't feel the need. He deserved and got my trust.

This last boy was up to something fishy, and you figured it out. Sometimes your gut instinct is right. I'm not saying it was okay to snoop, but I guess he was asking for it by not being up front with you. He was doing something that made you suspicious. You're still young, so you have a good chance of running into someone who's not a scumbag.
posted by nursegracer at 10:16 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are some people who bring out the worst in us.

Exactly. Trust your inner psycho. Mine has never been wrong.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:46 AM on January 13, 2008 [14 favorites]

A lot of us (my guess is a lot more than would ever admit to it) have crazy thoughts and desires of things we'd like to say or do to other people. The difference between the people who seem stable and secure and those who get labeled as "psycho" boyfriends or girlfriends is the former realize it's not necessary to actually go through with every base level thought that enters their heads by running through the scenario and determining a sort of cost/benefit analysis before deciding on how to proceed.

Personally I think that is excellent advice. Beating yourself up for being psycho isn't doing you any favors, but neither is excusing it entirely, no matter what your ex was doing (not that it sounds like you were excusing it). The Gooch's advice to accept those crazy impulses as something relatively normal that we all experience, but to think things through and exercise self-restraint rather than acting upon those impulses, seems spot-on.

To build off of what The Gooch said, then, I'd add that in 'thinking things through,' not only would it help to consider the likely consequences of acting on those impulses, but also to consider how you would feel (and what you would do) if the situation were reversed and your SO did to you what you were contemplating doing to them. Personally, I can't think of many things that would have more adverse effects on my feelings for a trusted and loved individual than discovering that they were violating my privacy, in matters big OR small. Realizing that on a visceral level has stopped me on many an occasion from snooping on others, and I've never been in a situation where I later had reason to regret not violating their privacy (if someone -is- engaging in shady dealings behind your back, they're going to screw up and it's going to get out sooner or later).

Finally, I'd nth the suggestion to break off ties with the ex, at least for now; I'm not really sure how you're going to successfully work on the problems you feel you have if the person who triggers them in you is not only still in your life, but (from the sounds of it) still a potential SO in your mind. Furthermore, your discussions about getting back together that always end up with the ex going, "I just don't know" ... eh, well, obviously I don't know for sure but it sounds to me like on some level he's got a power trip thing going on, enjoying having the upper hand as you attempt to win him back even if he doesn't have any intention of ever getting back together with you. Again, I could be completely misreading that situation but that's what it sounds like IMO - either way, again, until you're feeling a little more sure of and comfortable with yourself, it seems like getting this person out of your life for a while would be a healthy thing to do.
posted by zeph at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2008

Imagine you're trying to get to a building. That building is called "a healthy relationship". Try to picture it--give it a physical embodiment. Imagine the landscape around you.

Give "craziness" or "snooping" a physical embodiment, a kind of building or forest. Imagine what it looks like. Imagine the landscape that surrounds it. Maybe you felt like you needed to stay there for a while, but it's not getting you to "a healthy relationship." When you focus on the fact that you were "snooping", you're keeping yourself in that building. You're comfortable in that building. You were there for a while. But it sucks! So you need to walk out of that building, and close the door, and walk away from it.

However, it won't be enough to walk away from "snooping". That's like giving yourself directions that start and end with "walk away from your house."

It just won't work in the long run. You'll have to start walking towards "a healthy relationship." That is a different journey. To make it, though, you have to stop hanging out in "snooping" no matter how comfortable it is and how much you're used to hanging out there.

Hope that helps. Good luck.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:07 PM on January 13, 2008

Tons of great advice here; I'd favorite just about every comment above.

You asked for books, and this one really helped me rethink my whole approach to relationships a few years ago: How to Be an Adult in Relationships. It's not so much a self-help book (disregard the cheesy title, please) as it is a way of learning how to be genuinely good to yourself and thereby how to cultivate the kinds of relationships in which you (and your partner) can be good to one another.
posted by scody at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2008

I'm a snoopy kinda person too, and so was my last girlfriend. The difference was, I would check out the books on her shelves, movies in the cabinet, and ingredients in the kitchen, while she was looking through my drawers, pockets and hard drive.

Curiosity is a great thing in relationships. You just need to find constructive ways to focus it. Use it to get to know who the other person is and what they like, not what they're up to or what they're trying to hide.
posted by sambosambo at 12:29 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

You did something you're not proud of, you realized it, and now you're focused on building your own integrity. That's great, and a great way to move on. First, you have to figure out what kind of person you want to be, what do you consider behaving with integrity? Then find things that support that. There are a lot of books that can give you food for thought along the way (biographies of great leaders, eg).

the snooping. That is a very-VERY- female type thing to do, and it is just an ugly habit.

WTF, 45moore45?
posted by salvia at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think the two secrets are: don't date chumps and if you are in a relationship, communicate with your partner in the relationship. There's a reason that a lot of older couple stress communication as the secret.
posted by history is a weapon at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2008

Mmm live and learn, Chicky. But in the future, it is something that once you start - you can't stop. Resist the temptation, you're condeming yourself to a witch hunt! There's no possible positive outcome... If the thought crosses your mind, that's ok - Just don't act on it! Just say No!! :) Then because it's not something you actually do you'll find the thought will cross your mind less and less and if it does it's easier and easier to ignore. But learn the lesson this time or you'll do it harder the next...
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2008

One piece of advice I think you could implement right away to help you retain better control over your behavior and the steering of the relationships you encounter is to take things more slowly. Try being flirtin' friends for a nice, long while before you get romantic with someone. You need to be able to reveal this part of yourself to people you are involved with, and develop trust through this exchange of honesty and vulnerability. Untrustworthy partners, unless they're downright sociopathic narcissists, will be mighty turned off by a revelation from you that you might get scared and cross lines into snooping. People who have nothing to hide will, on the other hand, say "Okay, I could live with that, I could forgive that, but you should really just talk to me first," right?

So, work hard on being slowly, deliberately honest about who you are, warts and all, and you'll atrtract people who can share that trust. You already know there's a problem and you have good intentions to remedy it, and that's a great big first step. Good for you, and good luck!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's ok, you've learned a lesson and as you seem pretty self-aware this will help next very much next time.

I learnt a while ago that snooping at best makes you feel bad about yourself, and at worst confirms your worst fears AND makes you feel bad about yourself. But having said that, if I hadn't succumbed to a desperate snoop during the one crazy-making relationship I had, I wouldn't have had the knowledge to kick the idiot out for good. Hurt like hell but there you go.

What I'm saying is that I learned that if you really have to snoop because he will not talk with you about the issue, that's human, but you need to do it knowing it will undermine the relationship and possibly end it, whether you were right to worry or not. So, the core lesson is not about to snoop or not to snoop, but to understand and manage the possible consequences - and judge whether the end really justifies the means.

Every relationship teaches you something - the key is implementing those lesson learned for next time. Once I had done the deed and discovered the truth, I was able to make it as dignified an end as I could muster, thanks to earlier lessons learned about how not to make a painful situation worse. I wrote those furious emails, but didn't send them, I wailed and gnashed in private or with good friends and a decent therapist but not in public, and I accepted that time and no contact were the best forms of healing.

But I also learned from this situation the difference between descending into paranoia when there's actually very little wrong, and the gut feeling of smelling an actual rat. This has been invaluable in not letting that dissappointment (and worry over my actions then) scare me away from new and better kinds of love.

So don't worry, just by asking these question I think you're doing absolutely fine. Go you!
posted by freya_lamb at 2:11 PM on January 13, 2008

hmmm . . . here's your problem--some snooping on everyone's part happens. I work very hard to keep it at a minimum. In my last relationship, I snooped once in 4 years. I think that's pretty good.

I think it is human. "Things were tapering off with his ex?" That sounds like you had some suspicions that were well-founded. That's why your therapist is saying that. In some situations, it makes sense.

However, I think your problem is that your are likely snooping as a way to deal with your anxiety. That's never good, because every time you are anxious you snoop so that you feel better. That's a cycle you won't break until he's found out and been hurt by your actions. As for the letters, again a way of getting out of anxiety.

in short, don't drop the CBT therapist, do exercises he gives you and work hard at getting better. Test what he or she says by reading your own CBT books on the side and doing those exercises.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:12 PM on January 13, 2008

Jealousy is usually a self-image problem, where the jealous person is subconsciously certain that their partner could not really want to be with them. So they will grossly overreact to any perceived threats, and try to manipulate the partner in various ways into staying with them regardless of his/her desire to leave. The same underlying bad self-image makes people rush into relationships; if someone comes along who shows interest in them, they feel a desperate need to take advantage of that interest, because they think it will never happen again.

About your father's affair and your parents' breakup, there really isn't much a 10-year-old can do that qualifies as "snooping". Stop blaming yourself for that. Your parents' relationship having deteriorated to the point where your father had an affair could not possibly have been your fault. It's their fault(s). Without knowing the details, and I'm sure you don't know the whole details yourself, there's no way to assess blame between them--other than that he was so indiscreet that you discovered it--and even so, that's up to your mother and father to sort out, not you. You were 10. You were, and are, absolutely blameless.

If your father or mother blamed you, or let you think they did, then they were wrong to do so. You need to reject that blame, and therapy will help you do so. Whether or not you bother to make that clear to your parents is up to you; there are reasons for and against, talk it over with a therapist. My guess is that you're terrified of repeating your mother's experience, which is leading you to expect men to behave like your father, but I strongly doubt you know why your father did what he did. It might help to have a full and frank discussion with your mother and/or your father as to why he had an affair.

If your mother was totally blameless (and it really isn't likely that she was totally blameless), then take that as confirmation that you can't, in the end, prevent your SO from having an affair if he is determined to do so. It's his choice. You can make it clear that it would hurt you if he did, you can do your best to make him not want to, you can run around trying to find out if he is (although this, as you know, is a bad idea), but in the end, you cannot stop him from doing it. Your SO is an independent person who makes his own decisions.

People generally live up or down to our expectations of them. If we trust them, they will tend to behave in a more trustworthy manner. If we distrust them, they will tend to behave in a less trustworthy manner.

If your mother wasn't totally blameless, then what were her mistakes? (I would not be at all surprised if she had been intensely suspicious of your father all along, perhaps to the point where he felt that, since he was being constantly suspected of having an affair, he might as well actually have one.) Are they anything you might realistically repeat? We are not doomed to repeat our parents' errors, but the less we consider those errors, the more likely we are to repeat them. But whatever your mother's mistakes--if any--were, it was still your father's decision to have the affair. Just because your mother might be worthy of some blame, wouldn't excuse your father.

However, this is between them. Their responsibilities to you were parental. The breakdown of their marriage would always have affected you, but that it affected you so badly was your parents' mistake. (And it's a very common mistake parents make; they're hurting a lot, so are only thinking of their own hurts.) They're the only parents you've got, though. So maybe you should forgive them, or maybe not, it really depends on your relationships with them. Whatever you decide, you need to acknowledge that your parents' divorce has affected your own model of relationship dynamics, and work on dealing with that, to build up the idea that what happened to them doesn't have to happen to you.

As for the therapist, well, I'll go against the popular vote here and say, give them at least one more chance. You haven't said exactly what it was you did to "snoop" to us, just said that it was a terrible thing to do. You imply that you explained it to the therapist. Maybe the therapist might be right, in that maybe what you did really wasn't so terrible? It sounds like you made a few phone calls and looked through his email and his phone. That's wrong, but it hardly seems unforgivable. Also, the man is a therapist - he sees people whose reactions to suspicions of infidelity include but are not limited to: parking their car and watching all night in front of the other woman's house, to see if their boyfriend turns up; confronting the boyfriend's mother and screaming at her to demand she tell them the truth about the boyfriend's affair with the other woman; harassing the other woman's own boyfriend; manufacturing "crises" in the early morning to get an excuse to go over to the boyfriend's house to check if he is there. And so on. So maybe you don't look so bad, to the therapist.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:19 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

It might be helpful to differentiate between the in-relationship snooping and jealousy and the post-relationship nasty emails. The former is one thing--it's natural, and you both can take some responsibility for it, because he did give you reason to suspect he was up to something. Like freya_lamb says very well, this is something almost everyone goes through in some sense. It's really the fact that you were unable to resist the temptation to send unpleasant emails to him and the other woman after you'd already broken up that pushes you a little bit into "crazy ex" territory.

But let me be clear--this does NOT mean that you are crazy. You're not. Really, everyone thinks about sending those awful emails. We should do everything we can to resist, because it never, ever helps anything and always has the worst consequences for the sender. But if the urge to send such emails is indicative of crazy...well, count me in the crazy camp. You can't stop yourself from wanting to do something like that sometimes--but you can control whether you actually do it. That's one thing to take forward from this experience. Write those letters in your journal, or send them to yourself, or just write them in your brain. Just make the choice not to send them to other people.

Something else to consider is that the fact that you're still talking to him is actually part of the problem. Clean breaks, baby. They're the only way. You've shown each other you can't trust each other. It doesn't matter whose fault it is--and it's probably both--but it didn't work out and it's OK. There are other people out there--people who haven't done anything wrong to you and to whom you've never done anything wrong. Possible fresh starts of friendships and relationships in which you can use the lessons you've learned from this experience. Maybe you never will be suspicious of a lover again, because you'll choose people you know you can trust. Or maybe you will be suspicious again, and before you decide to snoop, you can sit down and really evaluate whether you have a real reason to be suspicious or if you're just being insecure, and then act accordingly. Sometimes people really do shitty things and try to hide them, unfortunately, so learning to blindly trust everyone you like isn't really the most practical solution. But you can learn when to trust yourself, to look at a situation and see if there is a real-life reason to feel that way. Maybe the real-life reason isn't that they've done something wrong, but your gut is still saying that they're not quite right for you, and that's OK too.
posted by lampoil at 5:15 PM on January 13, 2008

Really, everyone thinks about sending those awful emails. We should do everything we can to resist, because it never, ever helps anything and always has the worst consequences for the sender. But if the urge to send such emails is indicative of crazy...well, count me in the crazy camp.

To some extent it's the desire to matter to someone as much or more as they matter to you. One of the worst things that can be done to a person is to treat them as if they don't matter. For most people, nothing makes us angrier than that (and this feeds into road rage and internet trolling behavior). Because one of the easiest ways to matter to a person is to hurt them a lot, it's tempting to do that just to redress the slight.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:24 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Excellent advice given here and really you sound like you get what needs fixing. Snooping is something everyone has done and if they say they haven't, they're lying.

Snooping is usually a result of feeling fearful because we don't trust something or someone. If one feels a desire to snoop, then that one needs to look at why there is a desire and go from there. Communicating that worry is usually helpful, whether first to a friend or directly to the one involved.

Don't blame yourself for your parents problems. Never do that. Eventually the secrets would've surfaced, and you had no part in that at all. All you did was move the discovery forward a bit, but that doesn't make you the one at fault. The only ones at fault were the ones directly involved.

The whole thing about relationships is learning. With each breakup there is one lesson learned. Some are harder lessons, or sadly more painful lessons, but they're all lessons just the same. Just realize the mistakes made and move on.

We've all had bad relationships and have done things we wish we could erase. Just don't dwell on the bad stuff and move yourself forward. As Scarlet O'Hara would say, "I'll worry about that tomorrow." It's the best advice I've ever known, at least when it comes to badly ended relationships anyway. ;)
posted by magnoliasouth at 11:49 PM on January 13, 2008

Snooping is something everyone has done and if they say they haven't, they're lying.

So many people in this thread are saying this, and it's not true. The most snooping I've ever done is pick up a ringing cell phone and say "hey, it's Bob calling." And I felt like that was a slight invasion of privacy.

Once, I was asked to bring my then-bf's notebook to him from his room. The notebook literally fell open to a half-finished letter to me. I saw "dear salvia" and stopped there. I didn't read it. (45moore45, was this very "male" of me?) I considered asking him later what the note said, but I ended up not even doing that. I decided that if he wanted to talk to me about the subject, he would give it to me. Otherwise, the paper was his way of having a conversation with himself.

Snooping is a good way of finding thoughts the other person has rejected as irrelevant, as not needing action. These things can hurt you, or get you excited for no reason. In the early days of dating someone, my diary runs the gamut from "I want to marry him" to "today he was driving me crazy." Someone once found one of the "he's driving me crazy" pages loooong after that trait of his no longer bothered me. Even though it had no truth, it still really hurt his feelings. Should I never be annoyed? Should I censor my own discussions with myself? Instead, I just learned to be more careful about hiding my diary, but bottom line is, it was at least half his fault he got hurt. What if he'd found the "I want to marry him" pages after I'd reconsidered that, but he still thought it was true. What if he'd proposed? What if he'd said "oh, this is too much pressure?" All the while it wasn't true. Snooping is an invasion of someone's privacy, and it's also just a dumb idea.

If someone wants to tell you something, they'll tell you. If you want to know, ask. If you think they're lying, say, "sorry, but I don't believe you." In new dating relationships, you should just break up when you find yourself reaching the point of playing detective.
posted by salvia at 11:56 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Snooping is something everyone has done and if they say they haven't, they're lying.

It may make people who snoop feel better to believe this, but it's not true.
posted by grouse at 12:09 PM on January 14, 2008

OMG, BTDT--a lot.

Snooping is about people keeping secrets. And that is about trust. My family was loaded with secrets, although I didn't really get the significance until I started screwing up my own life.

I ruined two relationships like this, (not that they were very good to begin with) but I was acting so nuts it scared me. I have gone way beyond what you have done here, here is a clue--I got really drunk one time, and called women up in other states and threatened them, years after their relationship with this guy was over. I was a psycho, totally.

Finally I got some good therapy. It didn't take forever to get it right, but I finally did. Now I have a happy relationship, no trust issues, (well, not hardly ever, but I backslide sometimes.)
posted by chocolatetiara at 12:17 PM on January 14, 2008

salvia you should just break up when you find yourself reaching the point of playing detective.

If it's your natural inclination to play detective, following that advice means you would "just break up" (you make that sound so easy and painless!) a lot. Some people don't so much play detective as live detective. If someone opens their wallet in my presence, I now know somewhat more about them. Just glancing at their bookshelves can reveal volumes, so to speak. I sometimes have to consider what it's polite to pretend not to know. If you're that kind of person, and I think the OP is, then you're better off erring on the side of not knowing, and as for your own actions, you're best off setting a clear line for your partner's privacy--never any snooping that requires you to do anything, like as picking up their wallet or phone or diary or logging onto their computer or whatever to go through it--and if you find yourself tempted to cross the line, stop.

The temptation to snoop is a test. Don't "just break up" when faced with a test, try to pass it. If you fail, then there's a case to be made to consider breaking up; but if so it's you who've done them wrong, so breaking up with them over it when they are happy to forgive you seems a bit perverse. Confess and apologise.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:48 PM on January 14, 2008

good point, aeschenkarnos. What I meant was if you take multiple steps to communicate about the issue ("if you want to know, ask. If you think they're lying, say, 'sorry, but I don't believe you.'") and still cannot get to a point where you trust and believe the person, such that you don't need to snoop, then it's time to start thinking about whether it's really a good relationship (or, I guess, whether you have bigger trust issues).
posted by salvia at 3:46 PM on January 14, 2008

still cannot get to a point where you trust and believe the person, such that you don't need to snoop, then it's time to start thinking about whether it's really a good relationship

Oh, definitely.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:05 PM on January 14, 2008

Thanks for all the great comments. I would mark a best, but that wouldn't be fair. In the end he said he didn't have feelings for me anymore. I suppose it wouldn't have worked out anyway, because I had not only violated his trust and privacy, but in doing that it became clear that he was violating other things (It was worse than I imagined, though it wasn't literal cheating) and leading this unfortunate (but not blameless) ex on. He wanted the benefits of ties with her, without the challenges of a relationship...and it ended up being the same for me.

I feel like her was using me to get over her and if he had been upfront about his ties with her I wouldn't have dated him...or at least finding out later wouldn't have shattered my trust. In the past men have confessed entanglements with exes early on and I have discontinued dating before things go bad. I might be wrong, but my personal belief is that unless some time has past, it's impossible to be "just friends" without someone getting hurt.

It just reminds me that you should really spend time getting to know someone before you dive into a relationship. And curiosity and relationship problems should be addressed together.
posted by idle at 10:30 AM on January 16, 2008

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