Dear Dr. NerdLove:
My first two marriages ended badly, with my first being abusive and the second him being unfaithful. I’ve been with my current partner a few years now, but we got off to a rough start – long story short when we got together he had a drug issue that I wasn’t aware of. I found out when he tried to quit cold turkey and nearly died. I chose to give him an opportunity to enter a treatment program, and have no reason to believe he hasn’t been 100% compliant, but I still struggle with trust.
He has also remained close with many of his exes, which in general I think is a positive. There are times where it makes me a little insecure (like him keeping a pic of him and an ex on his nightstand, or him making slightly over the top comments on his exes Facebook posts) but haven’t considered it a big deal, and I don’t want to ask him to change if that’s just who he is.
A few weeks ago, something happened that made me nervous about his past drug issue. I was freaking out a little and I looked at his phone for the first time in over a year (he provided me the passcode towards the start of his recovery as a sign of trust, but did not give me explicit permission to look at that moment). Good news was no sign of a relapse, the bad was that a message caught my eye while scrolling through that contained graphic sexual content. I opened the convo – it was between him and an ex and was along the lines of them hashing out a sexual issue they had while they were together years earlier.
I then opened a couple of other convos between him and exes (I know, I know). While I found nothing that indicated there was any current activity or plans in that direction, there were things that made me uncomfortable. Examples include references to things he and an ex did sexually while they were together, comments about how beautiful and sexy they were/are, and in one case a description to the ex of a sex dream that he’d recently had about her.
I tried to bring the issue up in vague terms and he acted confused. I don’t know if I can trust my own judgement here – I am prone to making excuses for others and deciding that if something bothers me it’s my fault. Also, I don’t think a little flirting is necessarily a problem in an otherwise healthy relationship, I just think some of what I saw crosses a line. I don’t even know if confronting him would make me feel better, I don’t want to constantly police his phone, but at the same time I don’t know if I can 100% trust him and with my past, I don’t want to go back to a situation where there are gut feelings I’m ignoring. On the other hand, though, I am generally happy in this relationship and part of me thinks this is just something he doesn’t see the same way I do as I am definitely more sexual conservative.
Another note is that he referenced me frequently (and in positive terms) with all of these same exes, so I know he’s not being dishonest about our status together, and many of them are in committed and seemingly happy relationships as well. Do you think there is a possibility that this is just a difference in boundaries and comfort levels? Is there a possibility that he would find it genuinely surprising that something like this would bother me and if I brought it up as an issue he’d just be more careful? Am I making too much of this or am I, once again, ignoring a huge red flag?
Lines Lines Everywhere A Line