Friday, February 09, 2007
Dismaying Story #112: Worried About the Naked Woman in the Bathtub
I'm in a bit of a dilemma and I'm hoping you can help me sort through it. My boyfriend and I have known each other for two years. Up until October '06 we were really good friends. We've been hopelessly in love for most of the time we've known each other. I lived out of the area for a while so when I moved back for a new job, we decided to start dating.
He has kind of an interesting past. He is 25 and I am only his second relationship. The other was in high school. In the time between he had what he called 'randoms' -- women he had sexual relationships with. Since we've been together he has assured me he loves me and that he would never cheat or stray or do anything to make me lose confidence in our relationship. For the most part, he's done that.
We both work full time and our schedules rarely mesh, but we see each other 3-4 days a week and talk on the phone every day. When we are together, I feel like everything is perfect.
I was cheated on in my last relationship. That left me feeling cautious, especially with his past.
He has seemed withdrawn the last few weeks. It could just be the fact that he's looking for a new job and his immediate future is uncertain. We've already spoken about moving in together over the summer and where our life is going to go. I was concerned, and I have the passwords to his email, MySpace, IM services, etc. He told them to me one night when we'd had a bit too much wine with dinner. I went into his email and MySpace yesterday and found in his email activation notices and newsletters from various dating and sex personal sites. I also found emails from a woman. The emails started out innocent enough. Her saying she was working too much, him saying that was no good. But then she said all she needed was a hot bath to recoup. He replied saying he had images of her naked in the bathtub and he shouldn't keep going because his mind was full of dirty thoughts. She replied saying that was fine, and he replied back saying they should IM or talk on the phone. These exchanges occurred about 3 weeks ago. His accounts on the personal sites are all active and have been accessed in the last week or two.
Should I confront him or just let it go? If I confront him, he'll know I was snooping, and I don't know for sure if he would have actually met her, or anyone else. Or do I let it go and wait for him to cheat, while hoping he doesn't?
Signed, In a Dilemma
Dear In a Dilemma,
That's quite a pickle -- in order to confront him about doing something underhanded, you have to confess to doing something underhanded. That's not the big issue, though. He has a track record of relationships with no commitment. For years he has been getting together with women for fun and jollies with absolutely no expectations placed on him.
Could he change and go monogamous with you? Of course he could. People mature; their needs and goals evolve. However you now have clear evidence that he has not changed his ways. He is actively looking for other women. There is no other reason why he would be working the dating sites, not to mention baldly flirting about sex and nakedness with another woman. This is completely unacceptable in a committed relationship. He was doing his best to develop a sexual relationship with that woman, and based on her email response I would be surprised if he hasn't already succeeded. His withdrawn nature during the time since those emails is another clue pointing to the same thing.
My advice is to walk away. Your boyfriend is still too immature and self-centered to commit to a stable relationship, and staying will only end up hurting you. He may eventually be ready to commit, but he is not there yet, and waiting for him to get there would be a GALACTICALLY bad idea for you. He may never get there and the journey would be so painful for you that the relationship would be poisoned beyond repair by the time he did.
The worst thing you could do would be stay and say nothing. You would be setting yourself up for more pain. (I say "more" because I'm sure it hurt plenty to discover what you did.)
Could you confront him, hope that he will break down and apologize and swear to never do anything like that again and the two of you will live happily ever after? Sure, you could, but in my opinion the chances of that scenario happening lie somewhere between zero and unlikely. He has proven he is not ready to give up his wandering ways. Confronting him would likely result in an immediate break-up, which he could then blame on your "deceitful" ways in invading his privacy.
It's up to you if you want to admit that you looked at his email (and honesty is the best policy, even if the admission is painful) but either way I recommend you find yourself another guy, one who is ready for the kind of relationship you deserve.
All the best,
Several readers have already responded to the Question of the Week about relationships in fiction. Take a moment to see what books other people list as their favorites, and maybe nominate one of your own.