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Guilty in Grosse Pointe Shores

  • Posted on August 2, 2016 at 9:44 am

Dear Christine, 

 I’ve discovered evidence that my long time partner is cheating on me.  We’ve lived together for 15 years and a few days ago she left her email account open.  We normally respect each other’s privacy but I went and looked at her emails. I guess I’ve been suspicious.  I found more than I wanted to find. She’s definitely being intimate with someone else. Someone I don’t know.  That night I tried to get her to talk a bit about our relationship, give her an opening to confess. It didn’t work. I haven’t told her what I know. She’s acting like nothing is wrong between us. We are still very close and she tells me she loves me all the time.  Should I tell her I know?  It would mean admitting I peeked.  Part of me wants to ignore it and hope it blows over.  I don’t know what to do.  Any thoughts? Advice? 

Thanks, Guilty in Grosse Point Shores

Dear Guilty,

I am sorry to hear of your discovery of infidelity.  You’ve been suspicious.  Something hasn’t been right. Perhaps your partner wanted you to snoop to learn the truth.  Cheating trumps snooping, every time!

Healthy relationships are based  in trust.  The truth is often painful.  Couples often work through infidelity, but the slow drip of dishonesty will end the relationship. You need to understand why she lied and broke a fundamental boundary.  Tell her you read her emails.  She can then give her side of the story.  Then both of you decide if there’s enough worth working on.  If something has been missing in the relationship, this is the best time to get everything out in the open and discuss it completely.  Then, get counseling to rebuild the relationship or figure out how to part peacefully. There is no need to make any decisions immediately.  You have been together for many years and have a lot of memories, emotions and intertwined lives.

Keep healthy boundaries and don’t contact the other person or vent on FaceBook or tell friends all the gory details. They may feel a need to take sides and then be angry with you if you stay together, after all.  If you don’t have a neutral friend who can listen, they try psychotherapy.  Take your time to figure out what you really need and whether this is going to work for you as you learn the whole truth.  And take care.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD

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