Checking Your Partner’s Phone Is Abusive Behavior

I have been dating this guy for over 6 months, known him for 1.5 years, and we recently became boyfriends 2 months ago (we are exclusive). I love him very much but we have been having some problems as of recently.

To make a long story short, I found on his computer that he had been texting someone else about having sex about a month back. I was really thrown and hurt and confronted him, he said he fucked up, did it for validation and that he was never going to do it again and that I am the one he chooses. He gave me his word but said that he’s not gonna show me his texts b/c he considers that an invasion of privacy.

Since then I have had a lot of intrusive thoughts about the status of our relationship and whether I think I can fully trust him. He is 8 years older than me, has lived in the city for almost 15 years and has a lot more experience in terms of life and sex. I want to trust him and make this work, but I am afraid of getting hurt/cheated on. 

One aspect that complicates things is that he does nude modeling on the side. I have never been a big fan or proponent of this “side-gig” that he has. Recently he did a photoshoot that depicted him and another guy embracing in skimpy underwear and it tugged at my nerves. He also recently posted a picture where you can see the outline of his penis (a picture he sent to me a week or so back that I took to be a cute moment for myself). Overall, he says that nudity is something that’s been a part of his content and these are just jobs that ask him to model and they don’t mean anything.

I still don’t feel totally comfortable seeing him with another man in such an intimate way. But these risqué photos that have been put out on the internet make me uncomfortable. I have a lot of vulnerability around nudity that he doesn’t have. I see all these guys post these thirsty comments and it makes me jealous and sad because I see his nudity as something that is apart of the intimacy of our sexual relationship, something I hold sacred, that I don’t really want the rest of the world to be in on. But now it kind of feels like what I hold sacred is out there for everyone else so I’m left with nothing. 

So I am not too sure what to do. I don’t like the nude work that he does. I tell him how I feel and he gets mad that I am not supporting him, that these are my insecurities that I am projecting onto him, and that he hopes I see things his way. It hurts b/c I don’t feel like we have an effective conversation about it & I don’t know how to just “be okay with it”.

Friend, you are conservative and the guy you’re trying to date is not. Regardless of the fact that he cheated on you, you two sound incredibly incompatible.

I sympathize with your feelings, but this doesn’t bode well. Let’s analyze something you said. If you feel you’re left with “nothing” after his modeling photos are out there, that means the experience of being with him amount to “nothing.” You’re getting him; the rest of the world just gets to see him. But if others seeing his body cancels that out, it’s time for you to move on.

There’s judgment in the way you talk about his work. I don’t think you are intentionally judging him, but the judgment seeps out with words like “risqué” and “skimpy,” and writing “side gig” in quotation marks. They show that you see little integrity or validity in what he does, and that’s a problem. If this judgment is crystal-clear to me, someone who does not know you, it’s probably coming out in your face-to-face interactions with him, and that may be part of the reason why you’ve never had an effective talk about this. Think about how he might feel being judged for the work he does by someone he cares for — work he may depend on in order to pay rent.

The real issue here is not his modeling. The real issue here is that he cheated on you once before, and it sounds like you’ve never regained trust following that experience. Which is valid! Cheating is a hard thing to bounce back from, and many couples who claim to have “worked past” it still feel deep, underlying resentments and hurts that later appear as lack of trust. I think that’s what’s happening here.

At this point, you don’t have many options. It’s evident that you are not comfortable with his work. It sounds like a dealbreaker to me. If I were in your shoes, I would tell him that, emotionally, you’re at an impasse: he has to choose between dating you or continuing to model. For the sake of your comfort and happiness, it doesn’t sound like he can continue doing both.

And no, you can’t go through his texts or check his phone, and you shouldn’t have snooped through his computer if that’s what you were doing. Even if doing so revealed valuable information, you still invaded his privacy, which is abusive behavior in a relationship. Everyone is entitled to their privacy, even the guy you’re dating.

Here’s an important thing we all need to remember in relationships: you can’t trap someone into telling you the truth or trap someone into honesty. You’re not a prison warden, you’re a boyfriend. If you’re checking his phone and going through his computer, it’s the equivalent of holding a gun to his head and frisking his clothes: “If you’re lying, I’m going to find out!” That’s not love or trust. That’s control.

Relationships are built on trust. Since he cheated on you once before and lied about it by omission, he already broke that trust, so you have two options. You can believe him and trust his word going forward or you can’t. If you can’t, there’s nowhere to go from here. Without trust, you have no foundation upon which to build anything.

And since we’re using words like “sacred,” which sings of the pulpit, let me say this: trust is the only sacred thing in a healthy relationship, not bodies or skin or even sex. Trust is the oil that keeps all happy relationships running smoothly. If you trusted him, his modeling gig wouldn’t be so threatening to you. But you don’t.

Here’s why “sacred” is a dirty word, one that prickles my skin whenever it’s used in talks of love and sex. When my father found out I was gay, he told me that the union between a man and a woman was “sacred,” something anointed by God. Therefore, he said, “unnatural” unions like mine are worse than wrong; they are a mockery, a disfiguring of god. We are the inverse of something sacred — its gross deformity.

The same cruel charge has been used to decry all kinds of nontraditional relationships, and by extension, nontraditional people. For centuries, fidelity, sexual exclusivity, and nudity have been seen as sacred, so the whores and harlots and people who wear skimpy clothes and unmarried women have long been demonized, charged with witchcraft, and burned at the stake. You describe his body as “sacred” — for your eyes only. The implication this draws is that his nude modeling, skimpy underwear, and normal human sex drive — which will invariably extend beyond an attraction to only you — are evil. 

That implication may not have been your intention, but using that word betrays your belief that the privacies between people in love are elevated and inaccessible to others. Inversely, you likely see the world outside your relationship as a minefield of threats and temptations. That’s a very stressful — and ultimately ruinous — way to approach dating.

Here’s something to think about: His body isn’t yours. He shared his body with others before you and he’s sharing it with you now. Appreciate it, please it, but know that you’re one of many people who will see it, touch it, and fuck it. Some people can’t face that fact and are driven crazy with jealousy over it, but it’s the truth. He has a timeline that existed before and will almost certainly exist after you. He has a private life you will never fully be privy to. You can never know everything.

Why is trust so important? Because of this inner life we all have, you can never completely check someone’s word. Let’s imagine a scenario in which you check his phone and social media chats daily going forward. If he’s smart, he’ll delete messages, rename contacts, and slip quietly away to cheat. It’s not hard to not get caught. So you can be the ultimate “prison warden” boyfriend and he can still slip through your fingers. Is that the kind of relationship you want? 

The fact is, you can never fully know what someone does when you’re not looking, and if that lacuna of knowledge makes you distrusting and fearful, then your relationship is doomed. You have to make peace with everything about him you don’t know and will never know and trust that when he speaks, it’s the truth. If you can’t do that, break up.

Love, Beastly 

Like this post? Please tip me! Every dollar helps me continue running this blog. Above Image: After Dark male model Jim O’Donnel, 13 x 19″ by Jack Mitchell. This photograph was from a session for After Dark magazine and was selected and signed by Jack Mitchell as one of his favorites. Jack’s artist statement on his work for the magazine: “After Dark was a magazine of entertainment, theater, and the arts. It was a popular magazine, with a gay slant, enjoyed by many gay men, and some broadminded women and men, as well as (I learned years later) many closeted male youngsters. The magazine was ahead of its time, as advertisers were reluctant to place ads in an essentially gay magazine at that time. Today they swarm like bees to place their own hot ads in gay publications. I had been photographing on assignment for Dance Magazine well before After Dark was created. Being a friend of William (Bill) Como, the editor, and being gay, I was called into service, for the life of the publication, to photograph many of the handsome young men and women who were featured in After Dark. Needless to say, this was enjoyable work for me, Because, mixed in with the hot-looking young guys and gals sent to my studio were some famed performers like Debbie Reynolds, Giancarlo Giannini, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Natalie Wood, Placido Domingo, Sergio Franco, Leonard Bernstein, etc., all at the top of their careers. And there were the Warhol people, Ultra Violet, Sylvia Myles, Joe Dallesandro, Jane Forth, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, and Andy Warhol himself. Some days in my studio seemed like I was working in a candy factory, or a lunatic asylum filled with the most beautiful people in the world.”

3 Comments

  1. Great advice!!
    Even if your unadorned & absolute use of the term ‘dealbreaker’ sounds sometimes too harsh.
    Thanks you!!

    Like

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