Friday 22 June 2018

Ask Brian: My boyfriend is really protective of his phone and I think he's sexting other women again

Our no-nonsense agony uncle gets straight to the point of your most pressing issues

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

I am writing to you because I am feeling a little lost and mixed up/messed up.

I don't really have anyone else to talk to about this, and I'm hoping to get some helpful advice on how to deal with what I'm feeling.

Over a year ago, I confronted my boyfriend of three years about finding explicit messages/photos that he'd been sending to other women, via e-mail, viber, whatsapp.

It wasn't the first time I had found and confronted him about these things, but it was the first time I had delved deeper into what was going on.

Previous times he told me that it was normal for guys to look at porn and it wasn't cheating if he wasn't physically doing anything with other woman. They were only "fantasies" or he was "curious" about sex.

For years since we started going out, I had been open minded about porn and him/us watching it. But the revelations of his sexting put a whole new spin on things.

I knew at the time that he was very unhappy in his job and was using the porn etc as a type of escapism. For the first time he admitted that he had a problem and that he needed help to deal with it. He went to counselling and I also attended the therapist separately on my own, as I needed someone to talk to.

Since then, we have been trying to work on things ourselves. It's been a long road and for the first year although I had threatened to leave because I couldn't deal with what was going on, I stayed. I stayed out of duty to my family and loyalty to my husband/my friend, who I felt had no one else to turn to for support.

During this time I remained relatively calm and focused on being an ear to listen to him, and a shoulder to lean on when he needed it, needless to say that I almost completely set aside my own feelings to hold everything together for him and our children.

Over the last few months, since he has found his feet in a new job, I have almost wanted nothing to do with my boyfriend physically. Which I feel is understandable after everything that has happened. But along with this, my feelings of hurt and anger started to rise, I'm guessing after keeping them suppressed for such a long time.

We have had many open and meaningful conversations about how to continue, mainly after I have a meltdown about an inconsequential matter like him going out to the pub (something which I used to encourage before all the revelations and confrontations, after all everyone needs to get out once in a while).

He has reached out to me several times, asking me to help us reconnect, which I have responded only halfheartedly to. But in the last month, I was hit by a realisation (during one of these conversations) that we are now at make or break time.

We have both been more relaxed in each others company and have been taking steps to work on our relationship intimately. I've finally felt like I've hit a "reset button" so to speak..... but...... why am I still trying to trawl through history on the PC/laptop.

He will never leave his phone down out of his sight, and I feel I am torturing myself daily over things that could be going on. I feel ashamed for feeling this way. I just want to move on.

But I also feel so inadequate as his experience and attitude to sex is completely different to mine. I'm not a prude, and I enjoy having fun sex, but I feel like I need more emotion given everything that has gone on over the last while.

I guess my questions are;

1. How do I move on?

2. Is it still that I don't trust him?

3. Should I have just gone with my gut instinct and looked after myself in the beginning?

I feel so mixed up, it will break my children's hearts to live apart from their dad.

Really hoping to get some sound advice, I feel lost.

 

Brian replies:

You definitely need to start looking after yourself, you're the victim in this not him.

I think you've been incredible in attempting to help and support him through his problems, but you've done this at the expense of yourself and your relationship. You've gone completely above and beyond what you owed him.

You both attended counselling separately, meaning while you both worked on things individually you didn't work together on the relationship and the harm that had been caused by his actions.

I'd separate the porn issue from the sexting, as they are separate issues (although he may not think so in his mind).

I'd tend to go along with your 'boys will be boys' attitude when it comes to porn - as long as he's not getting unrealistic expectations from it or putting it above your relationship or family life it's no real harm. Basically if he's taking "alone time" for several hours a day in the home office I'd be concerned. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

The sexting issue is far more serious, and is most definitely a form of infidelity. True, it's not physical or emotional infidelity - but it is still a betrayal of your relationship.

It's completely understandable that you feel you can't trust him after this.

His protectiveness over his phone could be habit, but it is suspicious behaviour given his past. Maybe doing this column has made me bitter, but I don't think he's just playing angry birds on it. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt that he's not spending all his time in the toilet sending pictures of his junk to the whole town.

I think the fact you're no longer sexually attracted to him is a major warning sign that things are in decline. You don't want to be intimate with him because you rightly feel betrayed by him and haven't properly dealt with it.

I really admire the fact you recognise that wanting to constantly check his history or snoop through his phone is no way to live. It would be an easy fix, but one that would ultimately make you both miserable and destroy any chance at a genuine reconciliation.

Given there are children involved and beyond his sexting there are no major problems with the relationship, couple's counselling should be your next step. That's how you begin to move on. It may not work, but at least you will have tried your best for the sake of your family - and he might finally understand the extent of the hurt he has caused you.

The trust you once shared is gone, the only hope you now have is building a new trust together. You won't magically wake up one day and trust him by doing nothing.

You do need to start looking after yourself, so set a time limit on how long you're prepared to work on things. Six months might be a good starting point, and if things aren't improving by then it may be time to start making plans to end the relationship. Things don't need to be perfect by then, but they should be showing signs of improvement.

 

Do you have a problem you'd like some advice on? Email askbrian@independent.ie  to submit in confidence.

@Brian_O_Reilly

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