Q. Hey Meredith,
I am 19 years old, have been in my relationship for a little over three years, and we live together. I never like to speak about my relationship problems with anyone, but I would like someone else’s point of view about whether I’m overreacting. Months ago, I started snooping and finding countless messages my boyfriend was sending to women, some old friends, some complete strangers. All of them involved him wanting to send and receive private pictures, and trying to meet up.
He would swear nothing happened in real life and that it was just him “being a man with temptation on the Internet.” The last time I snooped was in the spring, and the behavior had continued. We got into a fight and he said it’s my fault — if I didn’t go through his phone, we would not have these problems.
To stop the cycle, I stopped snooping. I get the urge to do it, but I tell myself to trust him. I can’t help but feel like I am just ignoring a bigger problem. When I talk to him about it, he tells me I am being crazy. So I don’t bring it up anymore . . . but I feel myself going crazy. Am I overreacting? How I should handle this?
A. Welcome to gaslighting — when someone makes you feel “crazy” as a form of manipulation. Please don’t let your boyfriend rewrite the truth here. Your bad feelings are valid, and your gut isn’t leading you astray.
Snooping isn’t great, but in your case, you found the thing you were looking for. Maybe your boyfriend doesn’t meet with these other people in person, but he’s in a constant state of looking for attention from others. When caught, he tells you that he’s simply “being a man.” Will that be his defense for every conflict in the relationship? There are many red flags here, and he’s made it clear that he doesn’t feel accountable for any of them.
You’re not overreacting and should “handle this” by considering life without him. You should also share more of your relationship problem — and other details about your life — with friends and family. There is no need to isolate yourself.
I’m just going to say it: You are too young to be living together. Your boyfriend wants to play the field. Break up, move back home, and go to college. ASH
Why did you start snooping to begin with? I’d bet $5 the answer is that you didn’t trust him. That alone is a good enough reason to end this nonsense. You don’t HAVE to be in a relationship with him. It’s OK to walk away if you don’t trust someone. JIM-IN-LITTLETON
Please, please, please leave. Your man is not a good one. The mental abuse he is inflicting upon you is an entirely different level of cruelty. By his (flawed) logic, you are the reason there are relationship problems because you are catching him at his bad behavior. So, in his world if you just let him continue to be a bad man, everything will be groovy — in spite of how it impacts you. ZIPPYZAPPY123Columns and responses are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters, questions, and comments to email@example.com.