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Reader question #103: I have forbidden internet knowledge about my boyfriend’s past and what I think are his “real” feelings.

Ianto Jones

Some information about exes is important, like when they are evil robots you are keeping in the basement.

Hi Captain,

I’m a ygm (young gay male) from Melbourne Australia. I have an issue which I would love to have your opinion. It regards my boyfriend but I pray you won’t post it on Twitter as my bf is on it and might see that and get angry.

I have been with my special guy for about 3 months. I feel that he loves me a lot and I do him too. We’ve talked about our exes but not too much in depth and I just know that he had 4 of them. Quite recently, I stumbled upon his blog by accident of his Twitter account. He had quite some time ago posted on the relationship of his love life each and every one in detail, and it had shocked me. I expected normal relationships but found painful stories including friends with benefits, threesomes that nearly ended in major disaster and one that cheated him of thousands of hard earn money and ruining his dreams…. The thing is I believed he is faithful to me, but I am shocked about his past and as of now am unsure of how to talk to him about it.

I still love him him after reading all that shit and I want to show him that I’m not like those others who have turned his life and squeezed every last drop of blood. And then I read the latest post, he mentioned that he was going out with me, and that he ought to be happy. But he felt afraid of being in a relationship he so desperately wants and feels very uneasy. That post was 3 weeks ago and until today, he has never treated me any less, always being there, hugging, loving the shit out of me. I don’t really know how I could tear down the walls that he’s built up. Maybe I’m not the one he really wants and that’s why he’s hesitating? The guys he’s dated are all confident smart and capable which are the things

I lack which is probably why he is unsure of me? Not saying I’m useless because I know parts of myself that he loves like my unwavering love and gentleness to him. I’m just not one of the social butterflies that he’s used to. Racking my brains thinking of what to say.

Confused Butterfly

Dear Butterfly:

I’m sorry that this has brought you so much anxiety in what should be a happy time in your new relationship.

First, both you and your boyfriend need a brief lesson on Twitter and The Internet, in which I remind you that everything you post there is public and visible by everyone unless you “lock” your posts by using privacy settings. By emailing me a question, you are giving me permission to answer it on the public Internet.  This is important to say because usual advice-columnist questions about snooping involve one partner hacking (or coming across “accidentally”) some private information.  In this case it was all hanging out out there (as this answer will be).

Jack Harkness from Torchwood

The hot guy. He has exes. Do you really want to know about all of them?

Let’s start with this sentence:  “I expected normal relationships but found painful stories…”

I’ve posted before about how you don’t own your partner’s past love life.  It’s not that you shouldn’t ever want to know about it, or that early in a relationship if you hear about patterns that you don’t like and see manifesting in your relationship, maybe think twice about whether you want to commit to a person. For example, a guy who whips out 10 colorful stories about “crazy” exes on the first date is really telling you “I love drama! The common element in all of these stories is me!”

However, your partner is not required to build a time machine and make his past relationships conform to your expectations of “normality.”  Your partner’s past love life is not about you.  It’s not a performance for you.  He went through some painful stuff and some sexy experimenting, and it made him the person that you fell in love with.  So before you start any conversation with your partner about this, you need to cleanse yourself of judgment for things he did or feeling “lied to” because he didn’t tell you this stuff or has a more colorful past than you (or than you expected).  He doesn’t owe you confessions or explanations – this is an issue created entirely by your expectations.  Understood?

James Marsters as Captain John Hart

Sometimes we've dated really embarrassing people. Don't hold it against us.

Now let’s talk about the blog and about your current relationship and his anxieties therein.

What you know is:  1) He loves you and treats you very well. 2) He has some anxieties because he wants the relationship to work very badly.

What you’ve taken away from it are these questions:

1) Maybe I’m not the one he really wants and that’s why he’s hesitating?

2) The guys he’s dated are all confident smart and capable which are the things I lack which is probably why he is unsure of me? 

These are YOUR projections and YOUR insecurities, Young Butterfly.  He may feel angsty about your relationship (and you’re pretty angsty yourself right now), but to automatically translate his feelings into ones that strike right at the heart of your own insecurities is presumptuous. Comparing yourself to his past lovers and looking for the ways that he might find you wanting and doesn’t “really” love you is in your head, and it’s relationship sabotage wrought by your own insecure little heart.  It would not be a good idea to dump these on your partner at this time and try to make him answer for them.

Sometimes people need to vent about their feelings – in journals, online to their friends, over drinks, etc..  You can really love someone and have a lot of worries and anxieties or anger about something they’ve done and need to rant about it for a bit and then get it out of your system or process it so that you figure out what’s fair and what you really need to talk about and how you want to handle it.  Some of my own relationship conflicts have been handled by 3000 word (locked!) LiveJournal entries that sum up as “GRAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!” followed by measured conversations with my partner about what’s bothering me (Or, if we’re being honest here, totally avoiding the issue until it comes to a head in some other way or resolves itself.) The danger of snooping around too much in someone’s e-life is coming across those momentary bursts of sadness or anger and mistaking them for The Truth.  The truth is in the day-to-day, ok?

So it’s time to have a talk with your partner.  Here is my 6-step plan for making this right:

Jack and Ianto kissing on Torchwood

Focus on the good stuff.

1.  Tell him you found his blog, and because you can see that he uses it as an outlet for really personal stuff, you wanted him to know that you found it and that you’re reading.  If he needs a space to vent about relationships, this lets him choose a more easily-locked medium (LiveJournal).

2.  Tell him you love him and all the ways he makes you happy. Ask him if there’s anything he needs from you in order to be happy.

3.  Shut up and listen for a good long while.

4.  Maybe talk some more.

5.  Make out.

6.  Brunch.

Enjoy this time of being newly in love and figuring things out with your partner.  Hold these days like honey in your mouth.

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7 comments
  1. RQbrain said:

    The most adorable letter EVARS. Let me resummarize what I read.

    “I love my boyfriend a lot so I’m afraid I’ll screw things up somehow”
    “My boyfriend loves me a lot so he’s afraid he’ll screw things up somehow”
    Captain Awkward: “Actually, things are pretty ok. Use your words and kiss”
    [Cute kissing picture]

    • You forgot, “and then have brunch.” Probably my favorite part :)

      • RQbrain said:

        Got distracted by all the kissing. I like kissing

    • robiewankenobie said:

      this.

      (only it’s a hot kissing picture. the end.)

      • RQbrain said:

        I agree, hot kissing picture. But cute is also hot for me :-)

  2. superglucose said:

    I’m in a writing class and I anticipate writing a lot about the anxieties and concerns I have about the relationship I’m entering.

    I also anticipate that when we meet up after the semester’s over, I will be handing her the completed journal and ask her to read it.

    I really, really, really, really love that she and I can talk about just about anything <3

  3. Rinna2412 said:

    A lot of time, love is more in the actions than in anything else. I struggled for a long time while dating someone to really get over a past relationship–my ex had left me a mess. And yet, while I was this mess (and to be honest, probably shouldn’t have been in a relationship at all), I also really cared about my S.O. I didn’t tell him about my fears and my baggage, because I knew that it’d just be telling him something that would hurt him without it being his fault. I showed him affection and was supportive, not because I was faking, but because those actions were a reflection of my feelings for him. And because I knew my problems were about *me*.

    There have been other times when my depression has reared its ugly head and I’ve raged against every choice I’ve made–and even then, when I’d beat myself up and tear myself down over, say, choosing to stay with my S.O rather than try to move elsewhere, I loved him (and will love him when it happens again). And I didn’t say to him the specifics that would only hurt him unnecessarily–like I’d tell him that I was having a bad night and kicking myself for stuff, and just not mention that specific thing.

    Which sounds like I don’t tell him anything at all. I can and do talk with him–I feel safer and more comfortable talking with him than with my therapist. It’s just…we all have a lot of baggage in our heads, and sometimes, it’s stuff we don’t want to unload on people whom we care for, whom we love. I’m guessing your S.O.’s blogging is that. He cares a lot for you, and he doesn’t want you hurt you with problems that you didn’t cause and that you can’t fix.

    So, in short, don’t worry too much about actively proving that you’re not like people who have hurt your S.O. in the past. Just keep on being considerate and kind and loving and genuine, and your actions will show him over time. And watch him–if he continues to be kind and caring and supportive, then he’s *acting* on his affection for you, not on his fears. And that’s a good thing.

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