My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years. We are both in our twenties, so we are young. We have both experienced serious relationships prior to our current one. This year we moved in together.
He is very independent and keeps to himself but lately I feel he is being secretive. His new thing is the Internet and instant messaging. I wouldn't have a problem but he is not open about who he e-mails and attempts to hide the screen if I walk into the room. I am very open with him about who I e-mail. He chats for hours and it used to be an everyday thing until recently when I started to complain.
I don't want to stifle his freedom but I want to be able to trust him - why can't he share with me? When I bring these questions to his attention he gets angry and says I am over-reacting. Am I being unrealistic about open communication in a relationship? Am I being psycho? How do I deal with these trust issues? How can I convey my feelings without him getting defensive? How can I deal with the emotions he brings out?
I'll answer your questions one at a time, OK?
Am I being unrealistic about open-communication in a relationship?
I don't know. Open communication essentially means that each person has a right to ask anything they want to know and the other person has a right to answer or directly refuse to answer. The question is whether this is a "privacy" issue alone or whether it is more than that. If it's a privacy issue, I'd simply suggest that you ask him everything you want to know and accept his answers as all you are going to get from him, and then make your decisions based on that. If he's hiding something from you that relates to your commitment to each other, that's another matter.
Am I being psycho?
How do I deal with these trust issues?
Here's how to decide whether he's trustable in general, and whether he's trustable about his e-mail specifically. First of all, ask yourself: "Does He Keep His Word?" (This is about ALL areas of your life with him, the big stuff, the small stuff... everything.) If the answer is "Yes... Almost all of the time." then you can trust him.
If the answer is "He only keeps his word about half the time." they you can NOT trust him. (This is what "cons" do... they tell the truth about half the time and lie the other half... It's all designed to cleverly keep you off balance. These people can be enjoyed, but they can't be trusted.)
If the answer is "Yes, about everything except the e-mail." then you can trust him in all OTHER areas, but not this one. (This is what most of us do. We tell the truth all of the time, EXCEPT when we are lying to ourselves or when we feel ashamed and have something specific to hide...).
He may be lying to himself about something related to e-mail, or he may feel ashamed of what he's doing, etc. This would mean that you have something to be concerned about related to e-mail but that, basically, he's an honest person...an honest person with either a behavioral problem or a shame problem.
How can I convey my feelings without him getting on the defensive?
You probably can't. You don't control whether he gets defensive or not. But this letter doesn't really say how you feel either, it just says you "have a problem" with him. Do you worry that he's going to leave you by falling for some other person through e-mail? Do you think he's having cybersex, and, if so, would you be angry, scared, sad...? Don't be too concerned about whether he gets defensive. Just state your concerns, ask him direct questions, settle for the information he gives you (and tell him that you aren't going to ask again), and make your decisions based on what he says (and doesn't say...).
How can I deal with the emotions he brings out?
Admit to yourself how you feel, regardless! (Sad, angry, scared, whatever....). Express your feelings to him if you feel safe enough to... (From what you wrote, he seems safe... but that's for you to decide...) Then, after you've admitted how you feel and expressed your feelings to him (or to someone else who is safe and kind...), DO something effective about how you feel. Make some decisions about the e-mail problem and tell him what they are... Put your feelings into action to improve your life in some concrete way.
I hope this letter helps! If I seem to have missed the point or if you have additional questions, don't hesitate to write to me directly to discuss this further.
Thanks for the letter!
Tony Schirtzinger, ACSW, Therapist
This question was answered by Andy Bernay-Roman, RN, MS, LMHC, NCC, LMT. He is a nationally certified counselor in private psychotherapy practice in South Florida working with individuals, couples, and families with a deep-feeling therapy approach. Andy's medical background as an ICU nurse contributes to his success with clients with difficult medical diagnoses and/or chronic physical conditions. He also serves as head of the Psychological Support Department of West Palm Beach's Hippocrates Health Institute.For more information visit: http://www.deepfeeling.com/