I met my partner on a dating website (no, not Grinder!) a couple of years ago. My boyfriend and I have been together 2.5 y and it’s been a great relationship so far. But my boyfriend has always suggested that we open our relationship to include sex with others outside of the relationship. I don’t really want to do that, so for the past 6 months or so, we’ve been connecting with people on the Internet. Mostly it’s just chatting, you know, harmless fun. That was fine for a while, but then he really wanted a threesome, just for the experience. I was hesitant, but it seemed better than opening the relationship entirely. I really don’t want to sleep with anyone else, but I know he does. I’m sure I’m the best, but what if I’m not? At least with a threesome, I’ll be there and know exactly what goes on.
I’ll be honest, it was great! We both had a blast! But it was supposed to be just for the physical experience, not for any real relationship. Well, after a few encounters, I discovered my boyfriend and our “3rd wheel” texting to each other all the time. I know I shouldn’t have, but I just felt something was different, so while my boyfriend was in the shower, I checked his phone. Obviously it’s no longer just a 3 way physical experience. They are sharing on an emotional level that I expect from him with me, but not with anyone else. So, here’s the thing. I couldn’t stand it and I told him I felt horrible that they started something without me, and we had a huge fight. I didn’t admit that I’d read all of their texts, but I know he knew that I knew, and finally he admitted that they’ve been texting and occasionally seeing each other outside of our 3 way encounters. And I can see that they really, really like each other. He says he still loves me and I’m first in his life, but I don’t feel like that’s really true. I told him that if I’m really going to be first in his life, I need him to stop texting this guy, and whatever else they might be doing that I don’t know about (yet). He said that it’s really no big deal, and now I noticed that he’s stopped texting this 3rd wheel when I’m around. I hate to admit it, but I checked his phone again and they are still texting each other and it’s the same level of closeness. I’ve never been like this, checking a boyfriend’s phone for texts and calls. I feel terrible about it, and I love my boyfriend and I know he loves me, but their continued connection is driving me crazy. I don’t feel like I can trust my boyfriend any more, and I really feel like someone’s going to get hurt by all this dishonesty. So, what can I do? I told my boyfriend to drop this third wheel or just be honest and tell me what is really going on. This is a hot mess and am
Helpless in Canton
Dear Helpless in Hazel Park
So the big problem I’m hearing here is trust. Do you really trust your boyfriend? It doesn’t sound like it to me. I don’t know how relationships can survive in any healthy form if there isn’t a foundational trust cementing the love. I’m not sure either one of you really trust each other! You don’t feel comfortable trusting his answers without checking his phone behind his back, and he texts and meets up with this 3rd wheel when you’re not around. I wonder what your agreement about boundaries is with each other. What is private and what is shared? What breach of boundaries has a consequence of ending the relationship? So far, the breaches have only created fights and disagreement. It all boils down to: What do you need, what must you have, and what must you not have, in order to stay in a healthy relationship? People stay in unhealthy ones all the time, out of fear, low self esteem, lies, financial reasons, security, children and so on. If both of you are willing to stay in a distant relationship that includes lying and sneaking around each other, that is your call. It sounds like you want him to own up to what he’s feeling for the 3rd wheel, and like you really want him to pick you over the 3rd wheel. I resonate with that, but it puts you in the position of needing something very important from your boyfriend. He gets all the power here. He gets to tell you “nothing” is going on and there’s no need to drop someone who is “nothing”. You, however, have snooped in his phone to get the “truth” but have not admitted that to him. So, from my point of view, you both have broken trust with each other. So, the question then, is, how do you reestablish trust with each other? It takes complete honesty. Each of you have to give the relationship 100% of yourself to make it work, not 50/50. Consequently, you do not get to determine whether or not the relationship works or lasts. It only works when both of you give everything to it. Otherwise, the one who cheats, lies and breaks trust can end the relationship, no matter how much you have done right. It doesn’t sound fair, but it’s how relationship work. Respect is another foundational value that healthy relationships need. Right now, I don’t think you or your boyfriend really respect each other. You both are sneaking around on the other, one way or another.
Love is wonderful and fantastic and amazing! However, loving your boyfriend won’t make him never cheat or never break your trust. And if you trust him, then what has happened to your honesty, sneaking behind his back to check his messages. You don’t have to be victim to whatever he decides. You can decide that you don’t want this sort of dishonesty, confusion and feeling helpless. You can choose to separate or even end the relationship if it’s not what you truly want. Whatever you tolerate will certainly can continue in the future. So my response is that you aren’t helpless; instead you are a strong and powerful and good person who deserves to be treated well. Start with that. Confront behaviors that seem “off” or breaking trust. Tell him what you need to rebuild trust. Be willing to let go of this relationship, because if you can’t get trust and respect, it’s probably time to move on. Love brings us together, but often times mismatches us. We have to have shared values of respect and love to overcome the times we don’t love the other’s behavior.
Good luck to you,
Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888 Click here to email Christine.