Dear Carolyn • I recently snooped in my girlfriend's email and discovered she has, on at least one occasion, contacted an ex-boyfriend who is a known sore spot in our relationship. What contact there was doesn't really amount to much, and I don't think she is trying to rekindle anything. I am at a loss, though, to understand why she would write to him, even in a non-romantic way, when she knows the hurt it could cause me and the damage it could cause our relationship. Also, I am reluctant to say anything to her, in part because of my own illicit action, but more so because I don't know that it will do any good. As odd as this sounds in light of both of our recent actions, I do trust her. I also have no doubt she loves me. I just don't want her talking to this guy on any level. So what, if anything, should I do? And, what am I doing wrong? Thanks.
Dear Snoop • Snooping, obviously. Serious boundary violation which you must confess, yes? What else you're "doing wrong" depends on your reason for drawing an I-don't-want-you-contacting-him line where a pragmatic soul would stand back and let trust do its job. It's like not airbrushing a photograph; the result isn't as tidy, but you see what you're getting. When you do that, of course, you then get to decide whether you stay with her based on what you see. You didn't choose that path, obviously; you're trying to wipe out blotches. So I ask again, why? Whatever it is, you need to know your motives. No rationalizing. Then you need to be sure you actually have standing to draw lines. By that I mean, does your interest in keeping this man out of your orbit do your feelings trump her right to associate with anyone she pleases? . I spell this out even though I'm at a loss, too to understand why you're so exercised by this guy, and why banishing him has become your preferred measure of your girlfriend's affection for you, a measure you'll trash your integrity to take. Even if your reason is among those few valid, non-controlling ones, there's still this: People show their affection most persuasively when you let them choose how to show it.