January 22, 2015

Ask Me Anything: How Technology Undermines Relationships. {Weekly Advice Column}

Gary Knight/Flickr

Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected] or private message me on Facebook.

I look forward to hearing from you!

~ Erica

Dear Erica,

I have been dating this guy for two years now and everything seems to be going great.

This guy is a personal trainer and in the beginning of our realtionship, he was extremely open and honest. He would tell me everything and show me everything, whether it be on his phone, computer, letters, or whatever. But the last two months, he’s been really secretive. And he is constantly on his phone.

One day I went on to his instagram page and saw that he has been direct messaging three girls, two of whom rejected him and posted a picture of him and a girl co worker. One happens to be his ex. Although in the conversation he did remind her that he is still with me, he proceeded to call her beautiful and tell her about his day.

I don’t know whether or not I should be worried. I’ve talked to him about it and he hasn’t been on his phone as much which is great, but I’m not sure if I still should worry. He hasn’t spoken to his ex since that conversation, but I think I’m starting to question what he is doing when he’s not with me and lose trust in the relationship.

Am I being ridiculous? Please answer.



Dear Confused,

Technology has helped make what were formerly normal relationship anxieties into full blown pathologies.

I receive letters from readers constantly asking questions similar to yours (just read the following letter to realize you are not alone).

But, you can deal with this anxiety causing situation the same way you’d deal with any other—take a step back and break it down.

At first, your guy was open and honest. Then his behavior changed. You decided to go on his Instagram page instead of talking to him first, which would have been the more mature and productive option. Now you are both being secretive and untrustworthy.

Despite that, you pulled yourself together and talked to him about your feelings. His response was to stop talking to his ex and stop being on his phone so much. You couldn’t really ask him to do much more than that—but you still don’t trust him.

The problem with behaving in untrustworthy ways is that we begin to assume everyone is doing the same thing, despite evidence otherwise.

From now on, vow to keep technology out of it and listen to and use your voice instead. If you are really with a good guy he will do the same, and over time you won’t need to worry about what he is or isn’t doing on social media.

Dear Erica,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year. He is my first love.

We had been friends for many years before we took the steps to become a couple. He has supported me through every achievement and every failure. He makes me feel beautiful, completely comfortable and happier than I have ever been. I have never laughed with someone as much as I do with him. I have no doubt that he  does love me.

With that being said, I do have a few concerns. I have been cheated on several times by past boyfriends, and have some issues with my father and males in general, so it is hard for me to fully trust a man, although I try my hardest to not let the past affect my present, and I do (for the most part) trust my boyfriend.

I had an opportunity recently to snoop through my boyfriends phone, and I took it. I feel so guilty about it and I am not even sure why I did it in the first place. The main point is that I did find some red flags. There was a message to a girl he saw at a party I did not attend with him, where he came off  (to me at least) flirty and gave her his number. I also found an email in his sent file where it appears he responded to a personal ad on craigslist for a women seeking a man. He only responded with his age, and no other emails were sent between them. The ad itself has been deleted, so I don’t know what it actually said. Both of these occurrences happened several months ago, not long after we began dating. There were no messages, texts, pictures, phone calls or anything else that raised any more flags.

Should I be re-evaluating my relationship? Should I keep proceeding, but with caution? Should I let it go? I have no clue what to do now with the information that I found. I am a firm believer in a woman’s natural instinct and I believe in my heart that he loves me, wants to be with me and that he has not cheated on me, and nothing I found is conclusive that he has been unfaithful.

What would make a man who is happy and seemingly satisfied with his relationship do those kinds of things though? How can I address the situation without coming right out and saying I was snooping through his things?

I feel bad enough that I went through his phone, and I would prefer not to have him find out.

~ Snooping

Dear Snooping,

You are acting in a way—with insecurity and deception—that is sure to backfire on you sooner rather than later.

The two things you uncovered by allowing yourself the liberty of snooping through your boyfriend’s phone were one text to a girl which may or may not have been “flirty” and a single email to a deleted ad on Craiglist for men seeking women. These don’t come under the heading of red flags.

Keep proceeding, with caution if that’s what instinct dictates, but cut your guy a break. Yes, you’ve been cheated on in the past—but don’t make you boyfriend pay for the sins of others.

When we skulk and sneak around in other people’s private business, whatever our reasons may be—whether they are boyfriends, friends, parents or co-workers—we undermine our sense of honor. In doing so, we become suspicious of everything, because we are behaving suspiciously. This is a vicious cycle that can only be stopped by you.

From now on, let the Golden Rule be your guideline; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you do, you will be coming from a position of moral clarity and strength, and will have a much greater chance of realizing the fullest potential of this, and every other relationship in your life.




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Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Gary Knight/Flickr

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