What to do when your relationship is faithful but disrespectful.

Yara asks:

            I have been in a long distance relationship with a guy for about one and half years. I am constantly feeling confused with my relationship, for while it is the most relaxing time to be with him, at the same time there are a lot of questions beating my head. We do fight a tad more than normal because I expect some things from him and he sometimes fails to do them. And recently I found that he is following a girl on Instagram from his past who he had a fling with. When I confronted him, he said I am not giving him any privacy, that I’m spying on him and my asking about it shows I don’t trust him. It’s not that I don’t trust him, but I feel uncomfortable that he follows her. At the end of the day I always end up feeling like I shouldn’t have asked this and that, because I don’t trust him. And he keeps saying that it is my insecurity that I ask this from him He shouldn’t have pinned it on my insecurity.  I am torn between whether it is my fault, that I shouldn’t have made it an issue. I am on the brink of breaking up. I love him a lot ,but why is it always my fault? I want a relationship with understanding and love with him. Am I fooling myself and being blind to the truth because of the love I have for him?

Hi Yara –

            I often talk with humans about how different I am from you guys, but in this case you and I are a lot alike.  My human friend Handsome is my favorite thing in the world, and I’m his.  But he of course is very fond of all other dogs as well, and loves to pet them and cuddle them and play with them and let them lick and chew on him and… you get the idea.

            Well, if he does this when he’s away from me, and he comes back with their smell on him, I have to admit, I love it!  I’m excited to sniff him all over like crazy.  I love his smell normally, but with them added he’s so much more interesting!

            But if we’re “in-person,” it’s another story.  He’ll see some puppy and pet it and tell it how cute it is, and I get furious.  Not at him (who probably deserves it more), but at the dog!  I’ll run up and bark and snarl and almost attack the poor pooch, letting it know “That Man is MINE!” 

            So what did the dog do to deserve this?  Nothing.  And why is it okay when Handsome does it away from me but not where I can see it?  Because of my pride.

            I feel completely disrespected.  Dishonored.

            Now I’m not here to say whether or not your boyfriend ought to be following his ex on Instagram.  Maybe it’s fine (Handsome stays in touch with lots of his exes, completely innocently), or maybe it’s suspicious.  But that’s up to you to decide.

            But it sounds like you already have decided.  You trust him.  You fully believe that his following her on Instagram is harmless and does not imply that he’s doing anything remotely wrong with her.

            But you don’t like it!

            And I’m thinking that the reason you don’t is because it’s so public, so “in your face.”  And just like me when Handsome pets some cute pup, your emotions get triggered.  And then you want to lash out, but, again like me, there’s no correct target for it!  In my case, I jump on some innocent pooch.  And in yours, you “confront” him about it.

            So it makes sense that he’s confused.  If you do trust him, then what’s so bad about his following her?  Right?

            What’s missing is that you’re not telling him about the disrespect you feel.  That he’s making a public showing of his interest in her, that all your friends can see, and that feels bad to you.

            Now if you do talk with him about it, that conversation can lead many ways.  Maybe he agrees to stop following her.  But maybe instead he agrees to post more pictures of the two of you together on Instagram, making it clear that you two are a couple, and he makes any comments about her photos include the word “friend.”  Like “This is hilarious!  I’m so glad we’re friends!” or “Hey pal, that’s a great photo!”

            Do you see where I’m going? 

            Trust is one thing.  I know Handsome’s not going to take me back to the pound and exchange me for another dog.  But respect is another – and is way subtler.

            So if I’m right, let him know what’s up, and see if the two of you can work something out about it.  Again, it sounds like neither of you is doing anything wrong; you just want to find out how to make each other feel as good as possible – for him to maintain his friendship, and for you to feel honored.

            I think you two deserve it!

            Good Luck!


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