The Nondating Life

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

So I was going through his mail and ...

If there’s one thing that observing relationships confirms over and over again it’s this: women and men are idiots.

Three times in the last year I’ve had girlfriends of mine call me or sign on to IM in a state of panic about their relationships. That’s not such an odd thing. Women are prone to drama and freak out about relationships (and need to talk about those freakouts) more often. This does not make them idiots. But in each of these three cases, the conversation started like this.

“Well, he just happened to leave his e-mail open and . . .”

Okay. Whoa. Stop. Right. There.

He just happened to leave his e-mail open. And you just happened to sit down in front of the computer? And you just happened to start opening various e-mails sent and/or received by your boyfriend?

In what universe is this acceptable behavior? Just because your neighbor leaves his front door open, do you feel it acceptable to let yourself into his house and start snooping around?

Hey, your journal doesn’t have a lock, does that mean your boyfriend can go rifle through its pages, looking for mentions of himself and/or your ex-boyfriends?

Of course not.

So what gives you the right to go sniffing around your boyfriend’s e-mail? Nothing. Nothing at all. I don’t care if it “just happened” to be open.

And before even getting to what I really want to discuss here, let me say something else. Man or woman, if you ever come across a computer and see your beloved’s e-mail program sitting there on the desktop and you feel a sudden need to take a tour, it means only one thing: You don’t trust your partner.

Plain and simple. I will hear no arguments on this matter. You have no right to read the other person’s mail, e-mail or journals. And just because they let you read one piece of mail in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s an open invitation to make return visits to look at other correspondence. (What about my blog? That’s an entirely different argument, but I’ll say this much: If you have an anonymous blog and you’re keeping it a secret from a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, you have problems. And if you don’t have them now, you’re going to have them later.)

Now, what complicates this for two out of three of these situations is what my girlfriends found when they went snooping. In one case, much of the drama and worrying turned out to be about nothing.

But in the other two cases, evidence was found. I’m not going to go into specifics, but in both cases ample evidence of cybersex was found.

Before any guys work themselves into a lather, let me say this wasn’t simply evidence of visiting a porn site every once in a while. This was evidence of one-on-one back and forth -- sometimes involving photos -- with a (presumably) real woman.

Now, guys, first things first. Let’s follow a few simple rules.

First, don’t ever ever leave your email applications open. And don’t give her your password. Ever. If you’re the type who has something to hide every once in a while and you give it to her in an emergency -- “Hey, baby. I’m on the road and need you to check something” -- change it as soon as you can. Because she will remember. She will use it. She can’t help herself. And if you’re using web-based mail and have something to hide, sign out when you’re done.

Second, don’t have something to hide. (Maybe that should be first). If you have a porn habit that you just can’t give up, scratch that itch in an appropriate place -- like work.

“Oh, but I can’t do it at work. I’ll get caught. Then I’ll get fired.”

Ya think? And you think your girlfriend is actually dumber about computers than the geniuses in your tech department? You think you’re fooling anyone -- especially her -- by erasing your bookmarks every night? (Because, you know, that doesn’t look suspicious at all.) You think you’re being sneaky by creating multiple email accounts? No. You’re not fooling anyone, smart guy.

Better yet, keep your porn to the old fashioned media of print and TV. Part of the fun of porn is the whole seedy challenge of it all. You’re SUPPOSED to feel a little dirty about it. You’re supposed to have to go to a magazine or video store wearing a ball cap and sun glasses. How can you enjoy it, if you haven’t earned it?

Web porn is just too easy. And because of that ease, it can become highly addictive. And soon enough, the only thing that will be able to tent your sticky underwear will be that one specific freakish niche you’ve discovered on the web: whether it be barely legals, MILFs, greased-up grannies, lactating ladies or illegal immigrants forced to give head to avoid being reported to the INS.

I’m only going to assume that you’re REAL girlfriend -- the one who’s usually happy to give you a happy ending -- is none of those things.

But I’m not here to lecture you about porn. If that’s your thing and you view it every once in a while, you’re not going broke pursuing this fantasy, you realize you’re going to burn in hell and you realize you’re going to get caught, I say break out the Vaseline and Kleenex and go for it.

But this other thing. This emailing other chicks and having hot one-on-one IM sex or email sex?

That’s cheating, bub. No two ways about it. Even if you pay for it.

The difference between web porn and these other things is the difference between going to a strip club and hooking up with a coworker -- or a hooker.

And you know it’s cheating, too. How do you know?

Because you’re doing your best to hide it.

You feel no guilt saying, “Hey, babe. You mind not yakking so much while I try to set up my Fantasy Football League team.” But you’d never think of saying, “Hey, keep it down, would you. I’m telling that hot intern at work about my fantasy involving her and two gallons of Liquid Paper. … What? You’re getting all worked up? It’s just pretend! It’s not like I’m really banging her.”

So you hide your dirty little affairs. And you’ll never hide it well enough.

Because sooner or later she’s going to find out. Either because you’re a bonehead and you leave evidence just hanging about the place. Or, more likely, because you’re giving off those little wavy lines that tell a woman you’re up to something, that cause her to distrust you, that drive her crazy and, eventually, inspire her to become a Level 6 Web Wizard, capable of tracking your emails, your IMs, your cookies, your every virtual move.

And when she finds out?

Well, women, back to you. Because what do you do after you bust your boyfriend in this underhanded manner. It’s not like you were the NSA looking for Al-Qaeda intercepts.

In each case, my friends all called me with the same question. It wasn’t so much “What should I do?” but more “How do I confront him without telling him I went through his email?”

Answer? You can’t. And, at this point in the game, you shouldn’t bother trying.

“But then he’ll think I don’t trust him,” you might whine.

“Uhhh, and it’s precisely because you trusted him you went digging about in his email, isn’t it.”
Here’s the deal. As I said before, if you find yourself digging through the boy’s email, you already don’t trust him. And, in cases where you find super-duper pervo porn and evidence of cyber cheating, you might as well have it all out in the open. Keeping it to yourself is only going to drive you batshit crazy until YOU sabotage the relationship in some other way and YOU come off looking like a psycho who drove him to porn. And trying to trick him into fessing up in some other sneaky way isn’t going to work. He might be stupid, but he’s not that stupid.

You might as well call him out. If he calls you out for snooping, get all Samuel L. Jackson on him: “Of course I snooped. And I hope you burn in hell!”

Or some such.

Either way, it won’t hurt things anymore to open the floodgates and have a knock-down, drag-out.

But because you’re obviously both in a position where rebuilding trust is going to be hard (and he’s a sick perv spreading his filth all over the web and your house and possibly your children and definitely the dog), what you should do is this: Call him out and kick him to the curb.

But you’re not going to do that, are you? Because you’re the type who likes to get screwed in the end.


  • You left your deaf/amputee porn sites bookmarked, didn't you? Freak.

    By Blogger Ari, at 10:55 PM  

  • Excellent points. I totally agree with you. I have only one thing to add: This kind of relationship-killing paranoia also applies to gay relationships ... It REALLY applies.

    When you find yourself looking through his email, thumbing through the stack of store receipts he laid next to his keys, reading his day planner (which was RIGHT there and left open), or peeking inside the glove box of his Mazda while he's in the gas station -- then you've got to dump his ass.

    By Blogger M, at 7:41 AM  

  • Ari,
    Nah. I like my amputees able to hear me when I call 'em stubby.

    Thanks for the comment. That makes sense as guys--straight or gay--tend to know all the foolish shit another guy can get up to (and in to).

    By Blogger Ken Wheaton, at 10:56 AM  

  • Oh Snaps (it's the one year anniversary of Snaps' - were you aware???). I loved your response!! We'll have a fiesta in hell when the day of reckoning.

    By Blogger Ari, at 3:31 PM  

  • I would venture to guess that most women would agree that that these things do constitute cheating, but good luck finding another (straight) man to agree.

    By Anonymous W, at 8:17 AM  

  • W,
    I'd venture that there are plenty of straight guys who would agree ... because there are plenty of straight women (namely those who engage in this sort of thing) who would say it's not cheating. Remember, it doesn't have to be explicitly sexual. If I can get a show of hands, how many women carry on deeply emotional email discussions with a "best guy friend" (aka Emergency Cock) who isn't your boyfriend?
    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    By Blogger Ken Wheaton, at 10:22 AM  

  • This was awesome, SO TRUE. Seriously! people should look at things from the out of the box perspective. The blinders really hamper growth ;) Thank you for this enjoyable read!

    I'm off to read the rest now :D

    By Blogger The Muse, at 1:40 PM  

  • Good post.

    I caught my ex doing just this, which is precisely why he's my EX. The sad thing took me more than once to kick his sorry ass to the curb. i'm not sure what is sadder, that he cared so little that he was sloppy enough that i caught him more than once OR that i put up with it more than once. Both probably are equally sad.

    By Blogger Spill The Beans, at 3:01 PM  

  • Cheating or not cheating, who cares? There's only two kinds of shit in a relationship --- shit you're willing to put up with, and shit you're not. If it makes me feel bad that my guy is doing this, then: (a) he should stop; (b) I should leave him; or (c) I should examine myself and see if it's something I can live with/not feel bad about. If it doesn't make me feel bad, should I, just because someone else defines it as cheating?

    Mostly, I agree with you Ken: if you feel the need to keep it a secret, then you probably shouldn't be doing it.

    By Blogger pearatty, at 6:35 PM  

  • Oh, and looking at his email if he leaves it open on a common computer, totally OK. Using his password to break in, probably not.

    By Blogger pearatty, at 6:38 PM  

  • That was pretty funny.

    I have to add that if people were just more honest about things, there wouldn't be reason to mistrust!!!

    With the guy I date, he tells me he looks at porn and when I inquire about it, he tells me anything I want to know. He has let me browse his computer (in front of him) so I could see what he was looking at.

    Once I knew and saw what he was looking at, I felt better about it. I think most women feel betrayed but if explained to them in the first place why and how it makes the guy feel, I think the women will feel better about it.

    In fact, when I come across a nasty picture, I now send it to my guy. ;)

    He says I'm the breast! eer.. best.

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 12:48 PM  

  • I have a side point to your post. Sometimes it isn't even about the other person. In my last relationship I was the one looking at his e-mail and checking up on him. But, it was because I have trust issues. My father cheated on my mother and I caught him. I began to think that was just how all guys are. So, it was mostly my problem (even if I did find out he was cheating on me with two other girls).

    By Blogger Alexia, at 12:08 PM  

  • Well I just went through this same situation...
    His email was open and there was an email from "Romantic Girl"--I DEFY ANY PERSON WHO CLAIMS THEY WOULD NOT OPEN THAT!!!!!
    Anyone would have opened that, I never snooped before and never snooped after....
    BUT we did have a conversation about it because I found that he gave his phone number out to her!!!
    Anyway long story short, I beleive the following to be true..
    1. I have nothing to hide and my bf can look at any journal, book, calendar, email, phone message, text, msn instant message history, or anything else that he wants to cause I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE!!!!
    2. If someone in a relationship does...then there is something going on there.
    3. Honesty is important
    4. The whole situation sucks cause now I will always wonder if he has something on the side.

    By Blogger JewishShiksa, at 12:14 PM  

  • oh and p.s.
    I didn't just roll over and take it, I actaully beleive that the entire incident opened up some communication and some unspoken issues that ended up getting resolved and made our relationship better in the end.

    By Blogger JewishShiksa, at 4:04 PM  

  • I live in hope that there are more guys out there who share your onbiously very strong views on porn Ken.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:59 AM  

  • Wearing a "Ball Cap." Heh. (Yes, Beavis and Butthead are alive and well and living inside my skull.)

    First anniversary of Snaps, and of my never seeing Ken again. Poetic.

    By Blogger Esther Kustanowitz, at 6:33 PM  

  • I have been going through this and ahsamidly was the guilty party opening email - and yes heineously with a password. Things have just been so different with my boyfriend that my intuition was going crazy, I even asked him about it casually after I had the worst nightmare and he said no. I got myself in check for a bit because he had never given me reason to mistrust him and I love him but based on my past (not his fault) I know the feeling and I snooped, and I found something. I Apologized, confronted him with what I found and he swears he not cheating the I love you today from a woman who has a crush on him was just her thank you and he responded Ditto. Not a smoking gun but it bothered me. He is so furious at me, he feels I betrayed his trust and he doesn't know if we can ever get over this and trust me again.
    The short of this is don't do it. I am most likely going to lose the best relationship I ever had because I was afraid of being hurt instead of trusting that this man who never lied to me before would start now.

    By Anonymous Jean, at 5:56 PM  

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