Hopelessly Devoted and Confused
|Written by Woody Miller on July 17 2012|
I’ve been in a relationship for 5 years now with someone whom I love dearly. For about 6 months I’ve suspected my boyfriend has been going online to hook up with others while I’m at work.
If I get anywhere near the computer when he’s online he’ll close all the windows. Now, I know you wrote about “entrapment” before (the guy who caught his boyfriend cheating online by posing as an online trick) but I did something a little less shocking. I didn’t entrap, I snooped. One day while he was gone I got on his computer and retrieved the history. Sure enough I discovered ads in several hookup sites, and his mailboxes were filled with promises of hookups to come.
I have not confronted him with this information because I don’t know how to go about it without causing a big scene. What do you think is the best way to handle this? I can’t imagine my life without him but I also can’t imagine my life with someone who cheats behind my back.
-- Hopelessly Devoted and Confused
Dear Hopelessly Devoted:
Don’t tell him you went into the computer and searched through his files. He’ll just end up making your invasion of his privacy the issue. Instead, talk to him. *Calmly.* You are not going to get anywhere with a personal rendition of Mt. St. Helens. He’ll never get past the ash. Tell him what you suspect. Don’t threaten him into disclosure—invite him into it. How? First, by making it safe for him (“I’m committed to working out our relationship even if you’ve tricked around.”) Second, by making the price of dishonesty worse than the price of infidelity (“I can forgive anything except lying.”)
If he still denies it, then do what Republicans do when they talk about Obamacare--lie. Tell him you overheard someone at a coffee shop brag that he tricked with whatever screen name your boyfriend’s using and that he described your partner perfectly.
Now, why not just confront him with the evidence in the first place? Because what you did was almost as bad as what he did. You don’t right a wrong with a wrong. If you say you have the right to invade your lover’s privacy because you suspect he’s up to no good, you’re basically saying, “My suspicions are more important than your privacy.”
Taken to its logical conclusion, this “suspicion trumps privacy” mentality means your partner gets to rifle through your diary, your wallet, your checkbook, your emails, your voicemails, your caller ID, and your credit card statements at the slightest whiff of doubt. And you shouldn’t mind, as people hostile to personal liberty like to say, “If you don’t have anything to hide.”
Well, I do mind. Presumption of innocence is a basic foundation of relationships. Ask anyone who’s been monogamous with an obsessively jealous lover who constantly suspects he’s cheating: Being under the same roof feels more like being under house arrest.
Still, you do have a right to protect yourself. Is it correct to invade someone’s privacy if you suspect they’re doing something that will harm you? I say only as a last resort. Pre-emptive strikes may be okay in the war on terrorism but they have no place in the heart of a relationship.
Instead, do everything you can to avoid playing cop without a search warrant. Here are the steps:
1. Talk, don’t attack.
2. Suggest a couples counselor to determine whether your suspicions are based on fact or paranoia.
3. If he won’t talk and won’t see a therapist, start wearing condoms.
4. If he STILL doesn’t get it, or doesn’t care, then break out the CSI kit and start snooping around. Because at that point, it’s over anyway and you might as well get the proof you need for closure.