Friday, February 09, 2007

Dismaying Story #112: Worried About the Naked Woman in the Bathtub

Dear Andrew,

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He has seemed withdrawn the last few weeks.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.


  1. I married a dilemma like that once. Don't walk. Run!!

  2. Anonymous3:08 PM

    I have to comment as I find so much of this type of concern with my clients. With the advent of the Internet, it has become too easy for people to interact with others via the web in what they believe is a consequence free scenario. Bottom line, good natured flirtation is one thing, having a cyber tryst is quite another. Even if people never meet, have no idea what each other looks like and would never physically cheat on their spouse, having an emotional affair is just as damaging. Dirty thoughts of naked others in bathtubs steps over the line and does nothing to instill comfort in a relationship. I have often worked with clients that find themselves lost in multiple online pseudo relationships behind their spouse's back and realize it is destroying the fabric of the marriage. Intention is the important thing, and intending to secretly, or openly, continue an exciting and spicy dialog with a stranger IS cheating. It is an emotional, psychological and spiritual betrayal of marriage vows. Anyone who finds himself or herself confronted with a spouse/lover who cannot, or will not, cease participating in this type of behavior should run screaming. There is no commitment to a genuine relationship if one of the member’s self talk gives them permission to betray the bond emotionally.

  3. clap clap clap -- run don't walk away from him

    and if i were you -- i wouldn't confront him about what he's done -- he knows it

    just explain that you've realized he is not the right person for you to be in a relationship with...

    i've found that with men like this -- the best way to deal with them is NOT to tell them what they have done -- as they already know -- just tell them that you are going to be doing the best thing for you and that means not seeing them...

    good luck!!

  4. Anonymous6:35 PM

    I agree with AZ Goddess and the anon up above.

    An emotional affair would hurt me more than probably a physical. Knowing that they have talked about it, fantasized, had online sexual talks...that just would send me off right there.

    As AZ Goddess said, I would just say that the relationship isn't going to work because what the lady wants is not what she is getting. I don't know if she would NEED to say why, but rather that they "have grown apart" or something like that. He obviously is not mature enough to handle a long term committed relationship and waiting around on him to decide could be way to painful in the end. I would say, just go.

  5. Yep. Bail out. Bail out now. I know this is not what you want to do. I know it is easier said than done. It will be painful and you will grieve.

    But it will be far easier to deal with the grief than the almost inevitable heartbreak this relationship is headed for. If you take the initiative now and walk (run) away now you will be the one making the decision about when things are over between you two. Not the one who is committing the betrayal. You will be the strong one. Trust me, in the end, that is far easier to deal with than waiting for it to happen to you.

    And you unquestionably deserve better.

  6. You already have the answer, you know that it is time to move on. It is important to understand that this was caused by his inappropriate behavior, lack of maturity, not ready to fully commit. This is in no way your fault, unless, of course if you decide to stay with him.
    Be you, give yourself the respect you deserve, learn the lesson that is here and move on down the road.

  7. AGREED, AGREED, AGREED. You DO know the answer and most likely just need to hear a few voices rallying behind you as you follow through. That's ok!!! I'll gladly rally.

    It is TIME TO BAIL. Were I you, I would be furious and disgusted, and I would not be gentle in breaking up with him. Keep it short and let him wonder. Don't even explain. Andrew is don't need to "confess" that you snooped...especially since the guy gave you the access (despite the fact that his judgment was impaired). He doesn't deserve your honesty. And in NO WAY does your nosy-ness justify his behavior. Then, move on the best way you know how.

    But in my experiences, the most important thing to do when you feel so helpless and even possibly inadequate, is to empower yourself enough to be the one to leave. You can't control the fact that you've been betrayed, but you do have the power NOT to allow him to betray you again.

    The other way to empower yourself would be to NOT allow him to speak for all men. There are sooo many great men who don't want to betray you...or who would at the VERY least, end the relationship with you before launching his next one--and set you free with a little bit of dignity.

    He's already eaten his cake. Don't let him have it, too.

    Good luck, girl. Check back in to report your JOB WELL DONE! Rally!

  8. He is a cheater. Bail on him. This man is only thinking of himself, and not how to treat you properly.
    Run. Staying will only lead to heartbreak.

  9. Anonymous5:25 PM

    This is the woman who wrote the letter. I appreciate all of your comments, and the advice you've given. However, since the incident I mentioned, there's been nothing. No emails, no log in's to the sites, no phone calls to numbers I don't know. I check his email, myspace, and phone records twice a day. I just have this feeling that he behaved that way once, just to see if he could.. When he found he 'still had it' it was enough. I don't know what the future is going to bring for him and I, but I don't think it's going to be bad..

  10. This exact same thing happened to me with my college boyfriend. I confronted him (badly, with lots of tears) and he apologized, said it was innocent, etc. I believed him when he said he wouldn't do it again. He didn't do it again, but the trust was lost between us. We broke up (badly, with lots of his tears) a few months later.

    I say, confront him, so he has the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions. And then, leave him.