You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'relationship'.

Weary in Westland

  • Posted on February 1, 2016 at 5:49 am

Dear Christine, 

I have a friend who has feelings for me that are unwanted by me.  I’m recently single but she even made it clear she “loved me” when I was with my last girlfriend.  She sent me her true confessions by email which my partner read and wasn’t thrilled with.  She also tried to kiss me once but I turned away just in time! I asked her to stop it then and she did sort of slow down but recently she’s been hinting at her feelings even though I’ve been bordering on cruel with my responses.  I’m getting really turned off by it.  I did value her friendship but I’m ready to tell her to just leave me alone.  Is it possible to have a friendship with someone who is in love with you when you don’t feel the same?  I don’t, and never will return her feelings but we have fun as friends and I’d like to keep that.  Is there a way to get her to stop or do I just need to end the friendship?

Thanks, Weary in Westland

Dear Weary,
How do you get anybody to do something they don’t want to do?  I haven’t figured that out.  I have 5 cats, so I get to experiment with this continuously.  If what I want happens to match  with what they want or need, it’s great!  If not, I’m usually the one disappointed.  Likewise for you.  You can’t get your friend to stop loving you.  Her feelings are there and are real and can’t be turned off like a light switch.  She didn’t hide her feelings when you were with your last girlfriend, and now that you’re single, she keeps hinting now.

She’s not getting is that you “aren’t that into her.” The more she tries to kiss you and make you fall in love with her, the further away you go.  She doesn’t get subtleties and is pushing you to be direct and blunt with her.  If there is a chance at a relationship, she’s ready and not waiting.  If there’s no chance on your part, then there’s no overlapping middle ground.  Remember the Venn Diagram?

If she wants a relationship and you don’t, there might be a friendship where there is overlap.  But since you want different things, there’s no common ground.  If she can’t be friends and you can’t be more, then you are a “disjoint” and there is no friendship.  You can only go to the lowest common denominator in a relationship, and she can’t limit herself to your lowest requirement:  friendship.
Remember what Maya Angelou said:  When people show us who they are, believe them.  This woman is NOT a friend.  She is not able to be a friend.  The kindest thing you can do is to be direct and clear and let her friendship go.

Take care,

Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

 

Anita (a-neat-a) in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on January 10, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Dear Christine, 

I’ve been with my partner for 10 years and we get along great.  I feel the secret to our success has been keeping separate homes.  Every couple years my partner, Alice, really pushes for us to move in together.  I realize it would save us both a ton of money and it’s a pain going back and forth.  Plus, I do love her and plan to spend the rest of my life with her.  What holds me back is one, she’s a slob and I’m a neat freak, and two, I sometimes like my space and really feel the need to go home and sleep in my own bed alone. 

I’ve almost given in at times but I worry it will end us.  If we sell both of our homes and buy a new one and don’t make it, it’ll be a mess.  I have absolutely no one who agrees with me.  My friends, family and partner all think I’m wrong.  So I see you answer questions and I read your columns so I thought I’d ask.  Am I in the wrong? 

Anita in Ann Arbor

 

Dear Anita,

Your conflict is the fodder of comedy, as in The Odd Couple on TV and on stage.  It’s as common as can be in human existence.  And everyone you know likes to weigh in on who is “right” and who is “wrong.”  The only opinions that matter in this situation is yours and Alice’s. My first question is: What’s true about your relationship with Alice?  Do you and she really get along great or does she need you to cohabitate?  Is she just tolerating your quirk or does she also credit the success of your relationship to each of you having your own space?

There’s no right or wrong way to be a couple, so long as you both agree on the boundaries and ground rules.  I once had a client, a gay couple who lived in different houses a mile apart.  They were told by their therapist that they could NOT be a couple if they lived in different residences.  I don’t understand that requirement. One in the couple was fighting his ex for custody of their children, and living with someone out of wedlock was used against his case, so they bought 2 houses.  There’s plenty of straight couples who do not cohabitate, and sometimes live far from each other, one on the East Coast, the other on the West.  How do they manage to still be a couple?  I’m sure there’s a lot of commuting back and forth, phone calls, texting, Skyping and the like!  But no one disputes they are a couple. So, couples can be couples but not cohabitate, if that’s what they both choose.

Opposites attract.  It seems that every couple is made up of a lark and a night owl, and so co-sleeping can be difficult, as described in a New York Times article today:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/fashion/sleep-marriage-couples.html.  People actually get better rest when sleeping alone, but report more satisfaction when sleeping next to their partner.  And if that partner snores, or if both of you have different sleeping schedules or work opposite shifts, sleep may suffer and the relationship might be stressed. But it is better for each to sleep as their unique chronotype (https://www.bioinfo.mpg.de/mctq/core_work_life/core/introduction.jsp?language=engdictates).  Forcing a lark to become a night owl may well put more stress on the relationship than sleeping separately.

What’s important is to recognize and accept differences between you and your partner.  That means, you accept Alice’s sloppiness and she has to accept your neatness.  What does acceptance look like?  That can vary considerably.  It might mean having one home, but double the size of either of your houses, so you can divide up the neat areas and the messy areas, and close doors to not see each other’s way of being.  And compromise on the common areas.  It may mean two houses.

What do you and Alice need to do to make your 10 year relationship work for you as you go into your 11th year? Talk openly and honestly about each of your needs.  Are there any points or areas of overlap?  Is there any sane way to live together in one house and have both of you feel comfortable and at home without resentment?  In the NYT sleep-marriage article, Bruce Feiler recommends that you accept your differences and not force the other to sleep or wake at your schedule, as that will cause the other to be tired, irritable, less focused and less able to function at work, and the demanding partner will be blamed.  Instead, carve out time when you both are alert and make sure that is quality time.  At least when it comes to sleep.

So, I’m not in the business of telling you if you are right or wrong.  😉   I just want you and Alice to negotiate with each other without benefit or detraction from family and friends’ opinions.  Be honest with each other about who you really are and what you must have and absolutely cannot have in the relationship.  I know you’ll figure out what is best for the two of you as individuals and as a couple.

Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Astonished in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on December 13, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Dear Christine,

I was lucky enough to nab the love of my life about 4 years ago and we’ve been blissful ever since. I have no doubts about my feelings for her. Last weekend I had to go into work on a Saturday and others were there. Everyone was casual in jeans and such.  My boss, a man a few years older than me was there and its so weird I almost have a hard time writing this, he was HOT in his blue jeans!  So, that night I had a sex dream about him and I’ve had a few since.  I would never act on it and I doubt he even knows who I am. He has a wife and kids.  I have NEVER been attracted to a man in a sexual way.  Is this normal? Could I be Bi?  I never thought so.  Should I tell my wife?  Thanks,

Astonished in Ann Arbor

 

Dear Astonished,

We are sexual beings, wired to feel that chemistry with people that suddenly look hot to us that we never thought about sexually before.  It’s just part of being human.  It’s not like you were out looking for your boss to be hot, or to be attracted to a married man, or a man at all!  It’s not like it makes you bi or gay and if this is where it ended, you didn’t cheat on your wife either!  It just happened. There is nothing wrong with feeling turned on by anyone, even if that person is your boss! There could be something wrong with actions you might take on those feelings!  You could lose you your job and your marriage.

How open are you with your wife?  Do you share personal attractions each of you might have for someone else?  I have known couples who have rated individuals walking down the street as they sat at a sidewalk café, each sharing who they found attractive and comparing each other’s choices.  It can be fun!  It also could be threatening if the two of you have never talked about the possibility of being attracted to anyone but each other.  I would encourage you to talk to your wife about this, as being honest and open deepens emotional intimacy.  If she has any questions or fears, she has the opportunity to ask them.  If you are afraid you might act on your feelings, it’s really important to talk about them, if not to your wife, then to a therapist or someone you trust to help you sort out what your priorities, values and needs are.

Feeling an attraction so anyone is completely normal and does not have to be a threat to your marriage.  Keeping your feelings a secret could end up being a problem, particularly if your wife noticed your reaction to seeing your boss.  I have always told my wife of any attraction I’ve had to someone else, because I want her to know that the attraction is there, but there is no threat.  I choose to be with my wife each and every day, and when that changes, I know it will be time to get some therapy, and maybe end the relationship.  Likewise, she has told me when someone has had a crush on her.  I particular I remember a student (adult) when she was teaching.  I later met the student and I found the student’s crush adorable.  My wife kept good boundaries with the student, and we kept talking honestly to each other throughout the situation.

It’s ok to feel whatever you feel because you are not your feelings.  You are more than your feelings.  You have the awareness to have choices in your behavior, even though you do not choose what you feel.  I would encourage you to tell your wife about your attraction to your boss, so you can process with her and protect your job and your marriage.   Good luck!

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD.
Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

 

Sneaking Around in Southfield

  • Posted on December 6, 2015 at 5:00 am

Dear Christine, 

I am a 37 year old lesbian who has only been deeply in love one time when I was 23.  She loved me too and it was so intense.  She had a lot of pressure from her family and religion and eventually broke my heart and hers and she left me and married a man.   I have tried to move on and I just haven’t been able to feel that strongly about anyone else.  Recently I met someone who I could see myself growing old with.  There is love and comfort although not the same deep passion I once felt.  I am on the verge of having a good life with a good person and then,  “the one” finds me out of the blue.  She is married, has 3 kids, super active in her Baptist church, and apparently has never stopped thinking about me either.   She will not leave her husband, tell her family or let on to anyone at all that she still loves me but wants to see me “privately”  We did spend one amazing afternoon together and the passion is still there.  Unlike her, I can’t keep the wife and have a mistress. I know this sounds nuts and in my mind I know the right answer is to not be tempted by empty promises.  Do I choose a life sneaking around to have the love of my life in bits and pieces, or do I choose safe and comfort even if I may never feel the intense kind of love again.   I seriously think I may make the wrong choice.  Thanks for listening and if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you. 

Signed, Sneaking Around in Southfield

 

Dear Sneaking Around,
Wow! Look what you have created!  Yes, you are in charge of your life and you can make your life work for you the way you want, or you can drift from one happening to another, being victim to other people’s actions.  You didn’t expect your ex to reappear, but here she is, creating earthquakes in your otherwise calm life.

How wonderful that you have had that incredible passionate love experience at least once in your life.  That’s an amazing feeling, but you know by this point in your life, it never lasts.  It is hormones, chemistry, timing and is fleeting.  It’s also a lot of projection:  putting your hopes and dreams of the perfect relationship on a human being you don’t know well who is frail, contradictory and has faults that you are not seeing or acknowledging yet.  The Japanese call it “love psychosis” and if it lasts 3 years, that’s unusual.  During that passion, you have an opportunity to form a deeper emotional connection with that person from shared values, trust, honesty, openness and vulnerability and mutual goals.  Or the passion fades and the relationship cannot be sustained.
So, your choices at this point are:  What sort of relationship do you want?  Passion that is hidden?  Being someone else’s mistress? Cheat on your partner you are growing old with?   Trust your ex who broke your heart  and promises nothing of substance now?  Honesty with friends and family who care about your happiness?  Or sneaking around, taking whatever crumbs of passion your ex has for you, all the while keeping a huge secret from your partner, and everyone else you interact with?  And if you choose your ex, what happens when her husband or your partner learns the truth?

It’s all in your hands.  Who you choose reflects your values and your character.  Be fully yourself and be confident in your choices.  Write me again and let me know what you decide.
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Wondering in Walled Lake

  • Posted on November 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

Dear Christine,
Question?  Why do gay men get so offended when I hit on them.  I even had a guy at work report me for sexual harassment just because I told him he was cute.  I’m a flirt, I know it. Is it wrong?
Wondering in Walled Lake

Dear Wondering,
You’ve given me no specific personal information about your sex, gender, age, orientation, etc, so I don’t have a clue who you in this work conflict. Apparently, the “guys” at work do not appreciate being told they are cute at the workplace. Flirting can really mess up a work environment. My history as a former blond hair woman is that sexual harassment is a real problem and can make life a real nightmare. I forgot just how angry Mediterranean men made me when I lived in that part of the world when I was 20 and still blond. I would speak Hebrew only and never admit I was from the United States, or else all of the men (Greek, Palestinian, Israeli, etc) assumed I was ready to join them in immediate sex. Tourists with blond hair have a reputation, it appears. I lived there for a year, so I made it clear I understood the local language and learned to walk with my eyes on the ground in front of me always. Anything else was considered a come-on! I appreciate my relative freedom in the United States, but since my hair has turned white, I truly appreciate the fact that men ignore me! I no longer get whistled/gestured at or get unwanted flirting at the office or on the street.

So, from one who has been sexually harassed for simply being who I was, blonde and a young woman, I can understand how your colleagues are offended by your flirting. You are at work. Keep your interactions and behaviors work related and I’m sure you won’t get any more sexual harassment reports from gay men or anyone else. Flirt at parties or at the bar. At work, be professional, always.

Christine Cantrell, PhD,
Psychologist
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Outsider in Ortonville

  • Posted on November 15, 2015 at 8:00 am

Dear Christine
I’m new to the LGBT community and about a year ago established myself with a fun group of lesbian friends and it was great. Then I started dating one of them and I’ll admit, I thought it would lead to forever. After 2 months, she broke it off and now I’m out of the group. One person from the group who still talks to me a bit told me that’s the way it is in this community. Is this what I have to look forward to? Ugh!
Outsider in Ortonville

Dear Outsider,
I’m sorry that you’ve been dumped not just from your girlfriend, but also from this circle of “friends.” I imagine she’s been a part of this group for a long time, so it isn’t too surprising that her friends welcomed you at first, but they also are following her lead as far as friendship goes. Not all lesbians are like this, but friends usually “side” with the friend they have known the longest and the best. This happens with straight couples all the time. Last week I answered a question about someone wanting to date someone at work. The same dangers apply to a group of friends as to a group of colleagues. There’s a lot of dynamics at play here, and a lot of long term friendships and connections. To date one person when you’re fairly new in a social group and have the relationship end, can cost you that circle of friends. Perhaps once the emotional dust has settled, you will be able to be friends with some in that circle again. Perhaps not.

Go out and keep meeting new people and several new circles of friends. This one group is not all of the metro Detroit LGBT community. Try events listed in GOAL/WOA and at Affirmations, or at the local Metropolitan Community Church in Ferndale. Be open, not bitter. Be at peace with that group’s response to the break up, rather than angry. If they can’t be friends with you after one of their own broke up with you, it’s probably saved you years of grief and drama!

What you have to look forward to is whatever you create in your life. Your attitude and your approach will pave the way for future friendships or tensions. There are a lot of people who are open to meeting new friends all the time. Get out, get involved in something that interests you and go have fun. Meet new friends and remember that living well is the best revenge!
Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD
Psychologist
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Not Sure in Novi

  • Posted on November 1, 2015 at 10:58 pm

Dear Christine, 

I met someone new through Match and I have a question  I’m going really slow with her because on our second date, she told me about her childhood, which was horrific!  I don’t want to share the details of that but she told me she was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.   I’m not sure I believe that really exists and fortunately, I’ve seen no sign of it in her.  I know she is damaged and that I do see.  I’m concerned about going forward in a relationship and considering steering us towards just friendship.  Is there any advice you can give me about dealing with someone who is still recovering from a horrible past… and does MPD really exist?   Thanks for your thoughts on this. 

Signed, Not Sure in Novi

Dear Not Sure,

It is wise to move slowly in this friendship or relationship or whatever it develops into.  All of us emerge from our childhoods and families with scars and wounds and part of our responsibility in adulthood is to work on healing from those traumas that befell us as children through no fault of our own.  Dating is a time to learn about each other and find out who each other is and if you are compatible, if you share the same values, needs, goals and approach to life.  It takes time to get to know each other well enough to find all this out.  Don’t rush it!

Multiple Personality Disorder diagnosis does exist, though it is currently called Dissociative Identity Disorder, (DID) which is one of several Dissociative Disorders.  DID involves the person experiencing two or more distinct personality states and gaps in recall that is more serious than could be attributed to ordinary forgetfulness and are not induced by medical issues or substances.

Everyone dissociates to some degree.  Marathon runners and other athletes will separate themselves from their physical pain to complete their goal, for example.  You might “get lost” in a book, or find that 3 hours have passed without notice while playing a game on the Internet.  Most people don’t feel like they are two or more distinct personality states, though most of us will talk of our “inner child” or “inner parent”.  We all wear different hats in our life, depending on whether we are at work, with family of origin or with friends, for example.  But most of us are completely aware of their personal history or feel a sense of self and of agency even as we switch one hat for another.

People with DID creatively figured out how to dissociate, even to the point of having different personalities, in order to survive great horror, chaos, trauma or abuse in the first 5 years of life. Try not to be skeptical  or judgmental, but instead have compassion.  You heard her story on the second date, and I’m sure that was pretty rough for you to hear, and for her to tell.  Perhaps she told you early on so if you couldn’t handle what she is about, neither of you would be too deeply invested.

I hope that she is in therapy and working on her own healing and integration of the fragments of her self.  I hope you can be honest with yourself, as well as her, to  supportive of her chosen path for healing.   Ask her questions in a non-judgmental way.  Find out if she has got a handle on her particular constellation of issues, personalities, needs and ways to cope with all of this.  Does she have a therapist and a supportive network of friends that she can call in a crisis?  You should not set yourself up to be her one and only support.

There’s several excellent books you could read for your own understanding.  Robert B. Oxnam wrote his autobiography:  A Fractured Mind.  My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder, 2006.  He was a successful man, scholar, world traveler and sought after expert on Asia appearing on television.  His story is of his treatment and recovery from MPD.

A couple of other helpful books are:
*The Stranger in the Mirror, Dissociation–The Hidden Epidemic, by Marlene Steinberg and Maxine Schnall, 2001.

*The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk,  2015.  Dr. Van Der Kolk is one of the leading experts in trauma and dissociation diagnosis and treatment since the 1970s.  This book is filled with neuroscientific research findings as well as stories of resilience of his patients.

*Amongst Ourselves:  A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, by Tracy Alderman, Karen Marshall, 1998

*Coping with Trauma Related Dissociation, Skills Training for Patients and Therapists by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steel, Onno Van Der Hart. This is a manual for patients with trauma related dissociation disorders, including exercises and homework sheets.

Movies such as The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil are dramatic and not helpful to understanding what DID is or how to be in a relationship with someone with DID.

This is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself and what you can handle and where your limits are.  Take your time.  Enjoy this friendship and whatever else it might become.
Christine Cantrell, PhD,
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Freaked Out in Fenton

  • Posted on October 18, 2015 at 11:41 am

Dear Christine,   

I am dating an amazing woman.  We met just 2 months ago at the Womyn’s Music Festival.   Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to this as my family rarely showed any physical affection but I am really freaked out about my girlfriend’s odd relationship with her brother.   When we’ve been out with him people often think they are a couple and not us!  When he is at our house they seem to have no boundaries when it comes to even private bathroom time.   I’ve made some subtle remarks and she just says her whole family is that way.   I had always wished for a closer family but this stuff is way over the top.  Is this normal for some families?  We are visiting her family for Thanksgiving which will be the first time meeting them.  Perhaps I’ll see how that goes before I make a decision. 

Signed, Freaked out in Fenton

 

Dear Freaked Out,

Boundaries are critical to a successful relationship.  Understanding and accepting each other’s boundaries provides emotional and physical safety for intimacy to grow and deepen. But individual needs of boundaries can be very different.  Think of the Saturday Night Live recurring skit of Virginia and Roger Klarvin, (played by Rachel Dratch and Will Farrell) insist on being overly affectionate in social situations and dominate the conversation about sex and their expanded boundaries, making everyone else uncomfortable.  It’s great fodder for comedy, as we all have been on one side or the other!

You don’t have to have the same open boundaries as your girlfriend and her family, but you do have to be comfortable around them when you visit.  There may be ways to do that without breaking up.  You might need to stay in a hotel and be at the family house for limited times during the visit.  Think about your needs and comfort, share those with your girlfriend.  If any of your needs are non-negotiables, please make that abundantly clear, as that may be what helps you decide if this relationship is for you or not.  Non-negotiables are those things that you have to have or cannot have to be in the relationship.  Don’t compromise on your needs.

I remember working with a couple long ago.  The husband’s mother would come into their bedroom and climb into bed with them when they visited her home.  The wife found this creepy and uncomfortable, but the husband thought it was normal.  Later, this differing definitions of boundaries was one of several non-negotiables that the wife had tried to ignore to stay married.  They eventually divorced.

Your number one job is to take care of you and your needs.  Likewise, your girlfriend needs to take care of her self and her needs.  What’s left over is what you create a relationship with.  If she’s undermining your needs, it doesn’t bode well for a future together.

Happy Thanksgiving, where ever you celebrate it.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Worried in Washington

  • Posted on October 11, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Dear Christine, 

I am a 20 year old man dating a 45 year old man.  I am very independent and mature and have lived on my own since 17 supporting myself.  I grew up on the streets and in foster care and my friends just think I’m looking for a daddy and that I’m being used.  That’s not true. My man wants to make it legal and marry me.  The age difference doesn’t worry me like it does my friends but what worries me is his relationship with his ex.  They still communicate a lot and when I ask him about their relationship I don’t seem to get answers.  He just brushes it off.  I love him and can’t imagine not being with him but are my friends right to worry?

Worried in Washington

Dear Worried,

Good for you for your independence and supporting yourself at just 20 years old.  You know that you can always rely on yourself to survive, and these skills and experience will be resources from which you can draw in future trying times.

As far as marrying at 20, what’s the rush?  How long have you both been together?  How did you meet?  Do you share common values, goals and trust each other?  Do you communicate well with each other? (I see a red flag here regarding your man’s ex).   Have you discussed what sorts of things would be crossing a line for each of you that might end the relationship?  Do you know those about each other?  Everyone has a limit somewhere.  Before marrying, first you need to know those things about your own self, first of all, and secondly you need to make sure he knows what those non-negotiables are.  And he needs to be clear with you.  If those limits are not identified and discussed, there’s another red flag.  And if you don’t trust each other to be honest with each other about this and other topics, a third red flag.

There’s nothing wrong with his wanting to be friends, even close friends with his ex.  But there’s nothing wrong with you not accepting that friendship either.  What matters is that you each know yourselves as individuals well enough to communicate and negotiate these issues.  If you can’t agree on this issue, that red flag waves in the gale.

Right now you sound like a couple of lesbians, blurring the lines between friends and ex-lovers.  Even if the new girlfriend knows up front when she dates someone who is still “friends” with her ex, the new girlfriend may not find it comfortable.  So, your friends are right to worry, whether you are lesbian or not!  You are young and your friends are protective.

Remember, gay marriage is legal in Michigan and if this turns out to be a mistake, it can be costly to divorce.  I know a handful of couples that married in Canada on a whim over the past 10 years.  Marriage was romantic, but didn’t really mean anything, but now they are hiring divorce lawyers so they can legally marry their current (different) partner.  Good luck.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Snooping in Springfield

  • Posted on September 28, 2015 at 9:03 am

Dear Christine,

My girlfriend hardly ever uses the computer so I guess that is how I first got suspicious.  We’ve lived together for 3 years now and I was the one who suggested we maintain respect for each others privacy. When she first moved in she started opening all the mail even if it was just addressed to me.  I have nothing to hide but I didn’t like the feeling so we talked about boundaries and since then have been doing fine.  “Mary” I’ll call her Mary but that’s not her name, hardly ever touches her computer at home since she’s on it all week at work.
For the past few weeks she has been on it all the time.  So, I got to wondering why and I snooped when she wasn’t home.   
She has been talking to a former girlfriend and it’s mostly catching each other up on their lives over the past years.  There is some talk of their past relationship and trying to hide it from parents and other friends before they were out. 
This ex lives out of state somewhere it seems and they’ve talked about a potential trip to visit in the future.   I’ve found nothing to prove that the intention is to get back together and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to confront her because of our agreement to respect privacy.  She hasn’t told me she’s emailing an ex even though I did make a comment asking why she’s always on her computer at home. 
Do I wait it out? Do I tell her I snooped?  Should I stop snooping? 

Signed, Snooping in Springfield

 

Dear Snooping,

This someecards sums up your problem pretty well.  You were the one with the privacy issue, and yet you are the one breaking the agreement.  If this information you gained is truly insignificant, then let the whole issue go, and resolve to not snoop again!

If it is significant to you, then it’s time to have a conversation with “Mary.” The only way to create a foundation of trust is to be trustworthy and honest. Mary probably suspects nothing, unless you are acting guilty around her. Snooping is how reporting is done.  It definitely can crack open doors for you to push on.  You can orchestrate this snooping into Mary eventually telling you why she has been on the computer so much lately.  And then you can have a discussion about boundaries about being friends with/travelling with your exes.

Or you can confess to Mary that you had hinted around, asking her about her extra time on the computer, stoking your curiosity and your snooping. Confession is good for the soul.  However, then Mary knows a truth about you that may be uncomfortable for both of you to acknowledge.  No one is perfect, and perhaps what Martin Amis writes is a deeper truth:  “Are snoopers snooping on their own pain? Probably.”

Search your soul and see what you need to do for you, and for Mary and for the relationship.  Perhaps this is a reminder that you need to have more frequent honest conversation.  When your fears get the best of you and you snoop, sometimes it backfires.  Learn from this, do whatever you need to, to let it go or make amends, and then move on.  Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD, Psychologist