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December 4, 2000   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

The last time I wrote to you, I was having all kinds of doubts about living with my boyfriend in the house we bought together. I have since realized that all is well, and -- thanks to your encouragement -- have let the doubts come in, but they stay in my guest room. I confessed that I had a problem with my boyfriend's Internet porn-site stuff. Bottom line: I'm a snoop.

It got so bad that I was checking the computer to see where he'd been while I was away, and this is where the real problem began. Over the summer, my boyfriend and I had a huge fight which resulted in my leaving for a few days. I didn't leave to teach him a lesson, I just really believed it was never going to work. He tracked me down and begged me to come back home, and made all sorts of promises and statements that I never imagined he would make. I came home, not believing that things would really be different, but it turns out that they are. He's wonderful. He's thoughtful. I never knew this side of him. Frankly, now that he's showing this side, I don't know what I saw in him before! I thought the change would be temporary, but this is the real thing. (Even as I write this, he's at work sending me e-mails with different kinds of smiley faces... see what I mean?)

Anyway. During that "trial period," (when I was back home but still believing it was temporary), my snooping behavior continued. I soon found out that I wasn't going to uncover anything horrible. But I couldn't stop. There was nothing for me to find, but I kept getting into things that were on his computer. For example, his eBay account. We both enjoy bidding on items, and have a sort of competition to see who gets more positive feedback at the end of each month. I happen to know his password (he wanted me to bid on a couple of items under his name while he was out of town), so, once in a while, I get on the computer to see what he's bidding on, "just out of curiosity."

Okay, so this is why I'm Ashamed. He's been great, like I said. I'm happy. I intend to stay with him. We've been talking about our future together -- his post-doc in Germany and my teaching career, when we can plan to have a baby, etc. I got on eBay one day, and saw that he had bid on an antique engagement ring! He knows I love antiques. Gah! I didn't want to know this!

I didn't want to spoil the whole thing by knowing in advance that there was a proposal coming! I feel awful! I can't tell him, but I don't know how to deal with this. I'm so ashamed, but at the same time, I'm wondering what I'll say when it does happen. We've been together for two years, and I have no intention of leaving, but that doesn't sound like a good enough reason to say yes. And what if I say yes, and for the rest of my life with him I feel so guilty about knowing about the whole thing in advance?

If I didn't know about this ahead of time, and he proposed, I don't know what I would say. Really. I didn't expect that he would be at this point for another couple of years. But, "Hey, I know I'm not going anywhere...why not?" just doesn't seem like a good enough reason to accept. Then again, we already own a house together, and talk about having kids and places we want to live, so really the only difference between us and a married couple is a ring and a marriage certificate.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this?

-- Ashamed

Dear Ashamed,

Right, see, this is why snooping -- while an understandable human urge -- is rarely advised. It's bad even when you find out something, like, good!

Now. If your problem was simply, "Rats! I spoiled my pretty, shiny surprise!" I'd say, "Oh, well!" That's your punishment. (You'd get little sympathy from those of us who would dearly love to know -- clairvoyantly, not snoopingly -- that there was a ring in the works from someone.)

But yes, there's more to it. Your doubts are way less intrusive, but you can still hear their footsteps in the guest room. Just when you thought you'd answered all the questions you needed to for now, here -- ostensibly -- comes The Question. Eeek, right?! Even though it was, in your first letter -- Ahem! Careful what you wish/snoop for! -- the question you really wanted to hear, hey, it's never not a slightly scary prospect.

So, now that you've got it, you might as well take it as news you can use. Use -- again -- this bright trinket to shine light on those doubts. Yeah, what is that big ditch between all the plans you have made...and this one? (Might help to review my comments about the roller coaster relationship between cohab and marriage, here, here, and here.) And by the way, I'm delighted that he's been coming though for you. So about those cute e-mails, well, yay! What's the problem? I mean, you shouldn't be considering spending your life with someone -- under any law/roof -- who doesn't do that (at least in his own way).

Also, remember that somewhere between "yes" and "no" lies "Maybe." Thing is, in order to resolve the latter -- before or after he asks -- you do have to decide what doubts you can live with / can live with you. You will never have none. Much of this must be judged on faith. Which, if you think about it, is the opposite of snooping.

And finally, keep in mind that just because you found the ring at the e-auction doesn't mean he's staying, staying, stayed. He's been flighty before; a bid is not a buy. Lots could happen between now and "it;" who knows exactly what's on his mind. So the worst part for you will be worrying what you'll say when he asks, and wondering what gives as long as he doesn't.

Breakup Girl

"How long do I wait for her to be over him?"


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