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

CALLING TIME ON CO-DEPENDENCY

This summer I ended a long-term relationship with whom I thought at various points in our time together I was going to spend the rest of my life with and potentially marry.

My ex obviously didn’t quite feel the same way and any hint of a conversation about the future (usually instigated by me) was met with a swift change of subject, uncomfortable silence or worse, the topic was shot down with a defensive attitude about ‘feeling pressured.’

Throughout our relationship I often felt insecure and ultimately became riddled with anxiety about where I saw myself within the relationship.

Clearly we were on wrong pages when it came to some of the fundamental things between us. Yet, I ignored or rather didn’t see the warning signs of someone who wasn’t able to emotionally commit to me. Instead, I told myself to hang on in there, given a bit of time and space emotionally, he would come round. Surely?

Towards the end of our relationship and since our breakup given the time to reflect (including plenty of chats to girlfriends, Google searches related to relationship breakdown and from my own professional experience), I realised that one thing had been staring right at me in the face and I had totally failed to see it – I had been in a co-dependent relationship. In other words, I put more of myself into the relationship than he did to the detriment of my own self-worth.

I hadn’t realised how much at the time and throughout our time together I relied on him for support and reassurance. The emphasis being on the amount of support and reassurance I needed from him. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t seek support and reassurance from a partner; but in my case, I couldn’t see anything outside of being with him.

This was the problem. I had somehow built my entire existence around prioritising his happiness.

So how did this co-dependency manifest itself?

In reality it was simple, I mothered him. I cooked, I cleaned, I organised social events, holidays. I arranged his life so that he didn’t have to. When he was angry or upset, I took his irritations as my own. Lines had become blurred.

The effects of this was a slow-burner resulting in subtle changes in the dynamics between us over a period of years. The more I did, naturally he did less. In a practical sense this was fairly obvious when we lived together, but significantly this was reflected in his attitude towards me. In some unconscious way I believe that he grew to resent me for taking on this ‘mothering role’ and at the same time I began to resent him for not helping out more and failing to listen. But for me, every physical thing I did was my way of expressing affection and love. A classic sign of co-dependency and signs of a toxic relationship.

I was clearly living in a world of denial about where we were at. In reality however, I was afraid of being alone and had conjured a fantasy of us eventually committing to one another when he was good and ready.

It’s strange to look back now and see what finally ended us. A holiday. One that gave us both some amazing memories. But upon our return to the real-world, I realised how much we had both changed and at the same time hadn’t.

Prior to calling on time on the relationship, I had begun to unconsciously move the boundaries of what I found acceptable and the holiday together reaffirmed this. One significant moment was when he was making jokes at my expense (I cannot even recall precisely what had led to this) and it resulted in an anxiety attack. Initially, I put this down to feeling tired from the amount of travelling we had been doing but each time I sat back and thought properly about the event, I knew that it was the physiological result of something deeper.

It was incredibly upsetting to end the relationship and for him, my true feelings came as a shock. He hadn’t realised how unhappy I had been. In one of our last conversations, he asked me why I hadn’t spoken up before. But I had tried many times, but perhaps not hard enough or rather I had not approached the conversation in the right way. I had grown used to hiding my own feelings so I stopped expressing myself.

I have learnt since ending the relationship that the behaviour my ex and I displayed towards one another was not healthy and having recently entered into a new relationship, I now have the responsibility to speak up for me and for him.

K1PZ4FEMEQ

If you are unsure of whether you are in a co-dependent relationship, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you apologise often for your behaviour/actions unnecessarily, and in some cases apologise for your partner’s (possibly to others)?
  • Do you avoid confronting a partner about decisions/certain discussions due to fearing rejection? Are you also blamed for being over-sensitive if your decide to voice your thoughts and they are rejected and this subsequently causes upset?
  • Do you feel unable to say no to your partner? This could be to do with day-to-day decision making, or deeper issues such as with money and sex.
  • Do you protect your partner’s behaviour through denial of your own feelings?

If it’s a yes some of these, you could be in a co-dependent relationship. It doesn’t mean that a relationship will ultimately fail but it may be necessary to establish clear boundaries and ensure that a life exists outside of the relationship itself, for instance by focusing on and fostering other relationships with family members and friends.