AUDREY: I CHECKED MY BOYFRIEND’S PHONE AND FOUND HE HAS CHEATED – WHAT DO I DO?

Dear Audrey,

For some time now I have had some suspicions about my boyfriend’s behaviour and recently I discovered that he has been sending and receiving explicit messages from a woman we both used to work with.

There have been red flags in the past about the woman in question. When she still worked at the company, she would often turn up ‘just to chat’ with him, and this often involved some obvious flirting between them and non-existent concealment of the fact from her. This was despite the fact that she knew that we were an item.

At the time when I told him of my discomfort, he argued that his relationship with her was purely professional and it was nothing to worry about. The flirting always continued and there were even times he would rub in the fact that she was clearly into him by saying how attractive she was and how much they had in common. This upset me a lot.

When she eventually left the company, pleased was an understatement. I was elated. As far as I knew, with her gone she was out of his mind.

The first I realised that they were still in touch was over Facebook; she started to ‘like’ some of his posts, which soon turned into comments. Initially I didn’t say anything, I was being silly, paranoid even, well that is what I told myself. But when she made some provocative comment about a post he made, resulting in days of toing and froing between them in clear sight, (including lots of frankly suspicious emoticon useage) I told him again that I felt uncomfortable. He dismissed my concerns saying that I was being silly.

Then everything went quiet on the social media front and life carried on for almost a year, until I checked his phone. Since the radio silence between them publicly I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something else happening behind the scenes. On the day in question, I strangely felt compelled to do it without really any prior warning or justification for doing so. 

The messages had started casually enough and then after a few months they had grown explicit and conspiratory, the most recent ones talked of a desire to be together and also included exchanges of photos in their underwear and even less.

As I went through them I felt my heart being broken and then the pieces stamped on. Now I don’t know what to do. If I tell him that I’ve seen them, then he knows that I have been through his phone and he might end things with me. If I don’t say anything, I think I might go crazy but I don’t want to lose him.

What should I do?

From,

Heartbroken

 

Dear Heartbroken,

Your instinct was telling you something all along. Although instinct is not a complete science, it does help to listen to it.

That being said, you found concrete evidence for your boyfriend’s cheating. There must be a part of you that feels vindicated, even if just a little bit. You were right all along. But knowing that doesn’t make your situation any easier or absolve the upset you feel.

What is interesting is where the blame appears to lie in your eyes: towards the other woman.

The blame is firmly placed on her and you paint your boyfriend as someone with no decision-making powers of his own, as though he was flapping his arms in the wind as she made her move. And as the saying goes, it takes two to tango and certainly to type text messages.

The relative contradictions that modern technology provides; an inherent ability to distance ourselves from other human beings, yet we feel able to plot and conspire, and also send explicit images to people we may feel like we wouldn’t usually share a bus seat with. But that’s beside the point, you are hurt from your boyfriend going behind your back and continuing a version of a relationship with someone who you feel threatened by. As it’s the relationship with the other woman that is the crux of the matter and his inability to leave it alone.

So remember that your boyfriend played as much a part in this merry sexting and general bad behaviour dance as your ex-colleague, if not more so.

Perhaps she did pursue him? And actually right in front of you. But did he make it clear that he was otherwise coupled up?

He appears to have had very little respect for your feelings, fuck, he bulldozed over your continued concerns with a truck and then told you that you were crazy for questioning his commitment.

These are signs of someone desperately living in denial with a capital D. Some people have the ability to tell themselves certain information until they believe it to be true. Any information to the contrary is seen as false and the deliverer of that information as hostile. Your boyfriend is protecting himself first and foremost in how he responded to your concerns. After all, self-preservation is a natural human survival strategy.

You are unsure as to whether to say anything to him about what you have unearthed – it seems like he may have already made a decision for you. He is talking of leaving you. I can’t say how serious he is with that, but assume he is. How does that make you feel?

I imagine pretty shitty.

You end your letter pacing between two scenarios; admit that you’ve been checking his phone and discovered his infidelity, or bury the issue and try to pretend that you haven’t seen what you’ve seen.

But therein lies the problem, you cannot unsee what you have seen. It has been burned into your consciousness.

And would you want to?

If you hadn’t checked his phone, perhaps you would have found him out somewhere down the line, that is unless he had already upped and left to be with the other woman. Perhaps their messages are just a simple fun activity in his mind and he has absolutely no intention of leaving you. It just passes the time.

Perhaps you confront him, force him to admit his plans and cheating ways – as let’s not forget, there is room for interpretation from individual parties when it comes to cheating via phone/internet and so on.

FYI – I am firmly in the camp of ‘HELL YEAH IT IS!’ if plans are afoot for a coupling and graphic images being sent.

What happens then?

He may fire a number of things back at you; you broke his trust for checking his phone or you never trusted him in the first place. In effect, he may spin things around. Or he might not and in fact beg for your forgiveness and admit he made a mistake.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Or perhaps I wonder if you are living in a world of denial yourself (with a smaller, quieter ‘d’), pretending that a relationship was right for you that was wrong on some levels, inasmuch as his inability to see some of the discomfort and pain you experienced when you expressed yourself about his relationship with the other woman. That to me, says more about the state of his feelings towards your relationship than the act of texting the other woman does. 

By not allowing yourself to face the fact that you have experienced something painful and by not telling a partner that you feel seriously hurt, you have already shut down a part of yourself emotionally. You are in effect being blinded by denial.

So do yourself a favour, allow yourself to be vulnerable and confront those demons that are holding you and your current relationship to ransom. Honesty may not bring the answers that you seek or necessarily want, but don’t allow yourself to shy away from owning your emotions either and also standing up for them.

Audrey

MOVING ON

A little over three months ago I ended a relationship.

There were a number of reasons why the relationship broke down; his infidelity leading to a lack of trust on my part, my obsessive tendencies/insecurities that resulted in criticism and judgement towards him and the relationship (and for him, one of the reasons why he strayed), and ultimately me realising that I saw different things in our futures. Breaking up was, as the saying goes, hard to do.

I had been with Harry* for just shy of four and a half years but I guess the hardest thing to overcome following the breakup was that throughout our relationship he was my best friend. I felt, in a cliche way that I had lost a part of myself.

Do I regret the decision of ending things?

I would be lying if there hadn’t been moments, jolts where I felt like I had made the wrong decision. But regret? No.

Sure, I’ve felt (and have moments where I feel) sad certainly if something reminds me of him or times together.

One of my close friends asked me recently how I might feel if I discovered that he was dating someone new, would I feel jealous? My response – yes to an extent. Perhaps because I have dipped my feet into dating again and see that there is life after a breakup, or the fact that I was the one who instigated the breakup, I feel as though I could accept the news and it not strike my core. I can now look back at our relationship with a fresh and healthier perspective and look positively towards the future.
* The name has been changed.

** Originally posted on ‘The Sum of Our Parts’ blog by the same author.