I’ve been with my fiancé for almost four years now, living together for three. For the first and a half, he was sexting other women. When I finally found out about it six months into the relationship, I confronted him and he swore up and down that he would stop, that he never did anything physical with any of them, and that it was because he was afraid of being in such a committed relationship. I even found the nude photos saved to his phone, and he tried to tell me that his phone "automatically saved" all incoming pictures. I'm not dumb enough to believe that, but I brushed it off. He finally stopped after a while, and I began to trust him again. We got engaged a year and a half ago and things have been good. About a month ago, we got into a fight and the next day I logged into his Facebook and found messages between him and a girl he went to high school with. He initiated the conversation, asking how she was and if she was still with her fiancé. After finding out that she was single, he proceeded to say a few inappropriate things. He gave her his number and asked for a "special" picture of herself. That was the last message in the thread. I confronted him, and of course he got mad because I went through his stuff, but swore that he never got a picture. He even said that he’d felt so bad about it that he told her that he was sorry for leading her on, but that nothing could happen and they couldn't talk anymore. However, he has her number saved in his phone. He is smart enough to erase any messages or pictures he gets now, but I am finding it hard to trust that he has really stopped. I am completely hurt, because I trusted him not to do it anymore. I just don't know what to do.
He Said: First of all, spying on your fiancé via cell phone and FB is a very bad way to begin a marriage. It is far more grievous breach of trust than what you are alleging (being human enough to want some kind of connection with more than one woman). The evidence gleaned from this invasion of his privacy is strictly inadmissible in your conversations, so you must strive to leave it alone, and let your fiancé off the hook on what is most likely a trivial matter—harmless flirting.
However, since you did learn a lot about his fantasy life from your snooping, I'll entertain the hypothetical you present. We get variations of this question over and over again: How do I control the (sexting, messaging, flirting, possibly cheating) behavior of my loved one? The answer, my dear, is that you simply can't. There is no way on earth to make your partner do exactly what you want him to do, and by trying to force the issue you simply make the matter worse. Controlling behavior usually just makes the other person’s desire to act out erotically even stronger. Hence the FB excursion after your last fight. Even if he stops the behavior out of the fear you are desperately instilling in him, it will increasingly become the stuff of his fantasy life. If your partner does not organically desire to be on the same romantic page, you can't force him to. You must either seeks some perspective, and give him a little latitude (are you telling me you never want flirt with another person ever again?), or you should move on to someone who is more enthusiastic about the strict kind of monogamy and commitment you obviously seek. But I warn you: Even with another man, the ego-driven desire to control is likely to return in a new, pernicious form.
She Said: I’m not sure if it’s because he’s a man or because he is surrounded by polyamory-friendly gay culture, but I completely and respectfully disagree with He Said on this one. Four years in and with a ring on your finger, your boyfriend should not be sexting anyone at anytime for any reason whatsoever. How about when you’re days away from your wedding and he’s hammered with a stripper in his lap at his bachelor party? If he can’t resist texting strangers now, will he be able to resist a blowjob then? What about when you’re pregnant and can’t have sex for the last month or so and all the stress of new fatherhood falls on his shoulders? Does he also get a pass then to “live out his fantasies” with pathetic threads on Facebook to his old high-school classmates? You were wrong to delve into his phone and FB, yes, but let’s not go overboard and say that your immoral spying methods make your boyfriend’s behavior right. It isn’t right. And you cannot ignore it at this point because it’s too late for that. I'm afraid my advice is to break up with him, before you invest any more time or emotional energy into a commitment your partner does not share. There is absolutely nothing wrong with “wanting connection with more than one woman.” But a man who actively entertains that desire is not a man who should be engaged to be married to a woman who believes in monogamy. He Said is right about one thing: Find a guy who has the same definition of “marriage” as you do, one that involves controlling, not indulging, his desires for sexual connection with others.
Confused? Curious? Heartbroken? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org