Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I'm having a problem with my boyfriend. He doesn't trust me. He constantly thinks I'm cheating. He insists on reading my text messages, and he wants to know my passwords to my Facebook and email accounts. Sometimes guy friends of mine have disappeared from my friend list and I'm pretty sure it's because my boyfriend deleted them.
I can be kind of flirty with guys when I'm texting them or chatting with them, so I think these texts and messages could give my boyfriend the wrong idea. I really don't want him checking my stuff, but he says if I have nothing to hide it shouldn't be an issue. We are fighting about this a lot. Am I wrong to want a little privacy?
Whoa, so many red flags flying in my face, I can't see straight. Where to begin?
First, yes, you have a right to privacy. Everyone does. Of course, when you're in a relationship, you have a little less of it. Certain concessions are made and you're expected to have a level of openness now that you're sharing your life with someone else.
There are limitations to that, though. You still have a right to personal conversations, correspondence and friendship that is independent of your relationship with your partner. Clearly your boyfriend is suspicious of just what these personal relationships entail, and he wants to keep very close tabs on you. Whether his behavior is OK is one question to ask -- and I'll get to that in a minute.
It's worth figuring out why he's behaving this way. Does he have reason to mistrust you? Do you have a track record of infidelity that's left him insecure? Or is he a chronic cheater? Maybe he's been betrayed before and is hypersensitive. Whatever the reason, if this relationship has any hope of balance and trust, you need to talk about where his doubts are coming from.
That said, are your relationships so innocent? Flirtatious banter is fine when you're single. Once you're coupled up, you should be careful that your connections with others remain platonic and you tone down the innuendo and charm that might give others the wrong idea. There's nothing wrong with maintaining male friendships. Just ensure the tone is that: friendly. When you're talking to other guys, you should never say anything you wouldn't say in front of your man.
But all of these issues - your flirtations, his trust, the lacking communication - does not give him license to go through your personal texts and messages. He's exercising an over-aggressive monitoring that is, frankly, alarming. If he is asking for your passwords now, I'd be concerned about how this controlling behavior could escalate. What next? He decides who you talk to on the phone? Who you go out with for lunch or drinks?
Wanda and I often point out that solid relationships are built on trust and communication. Your relationship is built on mistrust and flirty communication with others. This is a train wreck waiting to happen. Heck, this is a train wreck in progress!
You have every right to privacy. We all do. And your controlling boyfriend has no right to dig into your phone or laptop for info.
But if you want your boyfriend -- or any guy in what I'm guessing will be a long series of boyfriends ahead -- to trust you, stop giving them reasons to wonder if you really are trustworthy.
We can easily point to his insecurity as the reason this is falling apart, but I'm going to ask if you're so insecure that you have to seek flirtatious attention from men constantly even when you're already in a relationship?
This relationship is deeply damaged and I think you both need a fresh start. But no matter how you move forward, I want you to be mindful of your interactions with other men and consider how you would feel if your significant other interacted with other women in that way. Let that emotion guide your actions.
• Wanda is a wise woman who has loved, lusted and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.