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I found nude pictures of my boyfriend's ex on his phone. What should I do?
By Cait Robinson
Have a question? Email email@example.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.
Dear Miss Information,
My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year now, and I am four months pregnant with our baby. We're both in our late twenties, and we recently moved in together. We have a very physical relationship, are both very much in love with each other, and are thrilled to be starting a family. There's only one little flaw in all this beautiful love: when we met, he was living with a girlfriend he had been with off and on for about six years. Once things started happening with us, he needed space to figure it out. During this time, he went on a long vacation with the girlfriend. (To be fair, had already been booked before anything happened between us.) While he was gone, he wrote to me all the time, and ended the relationship definitely when they got back.
Anyway, a few days ago he asked me to send something from his phone while he was out drinking with some friends. I, feeling bored and pregnancy-inflated home alone, decided to look at the pictures we had taken together. As I scrolled to the pictures from the beginning of our relationship, I noticed two thumbnails of a naked woman taken in a hotel shower, and I quickly realized they were of his ex-girlfriend, taken during that last trip. I was shocked at my own stupidity but also taken aback: for some reason I figured that at this point he had been fixated only on me sexually. I guess I was wrong, and I wish I were mature enough to just handle it — it's not like I have never been attracted to anyone else before him or even after I met him. But I can't get these images out of my mind: I find it hard to accept that apparently he still has a thing for his ex, even just physically. I feel really jealous and I want to put some distance between us, and this embarasses me. To exacerbate the situation, I am having considerable trouble coming to terms with the changes in my own body. I don't really feel too desirable, and the idea of him being turned on by somebody else is driving me crazy. Please help.
— Don't Look Back in Anger
Before I get to your question, let me start with the lurking variables: that you're feeling "pregnancy-inflated" and "undesirable," home and bored while your boyfriend is out with friends. That's rough! But understandable. Anyone who waxes poetic about how beautiful pregnancy is probably owns Anne Geddes coffee table books and is worth avoiding at cocktail parties. Don't get me wrong: there is plenty of beauty to be found in pregnancy, but there is also day-to-day indignity and suffering along the lines of "seriously, body? Puking, again?" or "I spent the last hour crying at a Home Depot commercial. It's just that that belt sander was so efficient!" The thing is, DLBiA, you are by no means alone in feeling lost in your own body, and it sounds to me like you could use a solid female support network. Seek out friends, mothers, aunts, online communities for young moms — anything that gives you the perspective that your discomfort is temporary, completely normal, and ultimately worthwhile.
But to your boyfriend: it's really his support that you want, isn't it? It's hard for me to tell from your letter whether this is a long-running trend or not, but if he's making a habit out of raging with his friends while you're home feeling like a beached whale, there's something wrong. Once you commit to have a kid, you're a unit, and neither partner can act entirely in his or her own self-interest anymore. This isn't to say that he should be handcuffed to the bassinet, but it is to say that he should be making your comfort a priority. Somehow, between "I feel bloated and disgusting" and "I was bored at home," I imagine this isn't happening.
So, now, two paragraphs later, to the photos: I think they're kind of a red herring. I understand that they're wildly upsetting, but, as troubling as they are, I don't think they're necessarily proof of any big betrayal. I doubt he has a thing for his ex — more likely he's a dude, he likes naked chicks, and he's slow to delete things. You can only know if you bring it up. More broadly, though, I think you're overdue (pun intended?) for a talk about the shifting tides of your relationship: about your pregnancy, your body, your insecurities, and what you need to feel more stable.
Dear Miss Information,
So I just moved to Boston for graduate school (which, for reasons having nothing to do with dating, may or may not have been all that wise), but shortly before I left (tuition paid, lease signed, job quit), I met and hit it off with someone really great
I find this frustrating. We didn't have enough time to make each other any promises, but I find that I'm thinking about her a great deal. I really like her. Is it insane to want something with someone who lives a thousand miles away? Is it possible to cultivate a relationship at this distance? A few months have passed, and I think she may be seeing someone else, and all I can think are variations on "why me?
I've been playing it cool, but I don't really know what to do, especially since by "playing it cool," I mean merely attempting to appear as though I'm playing it cool. "Cool" is not what I feel here.
— Long Distance Aspirations
Dear Long Distance Aspirations,
When you're feeling unsettled and uprooted, it's easy to find and cling to an Ideal Unattainable. And any relationship that starts and ends in a seventy-two-hour period is going to be more ideal than a real relationship, with its flaws and growing pains and "You just joined the NRA? Are you shitting me?" moments. Is it possible that your love for this girl is more a function of your loneliness than your unimpeachable compatibility? I don't say this to undermine your experience — I'm sure she's awesome and you had a great time together. But I think you'd be better served spending time and energy making friends in Boston, making your grad program work for you, and finding extra-curricular activities that fulfill you, rather than trying to chase someone long-distance — especially if she may be seeing someone else. As long as you're unsettled in your life, you're going pine for a time when things seemed easier.
To answer your question, though, you are not insane, merely human. We all go through it at some point. The key is just to commit wholly to where you are, and make the best of your situation. Pro tip: awesome girls are drawn to happy dudes like moths to a flame. It's true! Test it out.
A holiday love letter to my readers:
First, a heartfelt thanks for your patience and support while I've been finding my sea legs on this column. You guys are the best, and I am reminded of it on a near-daily basis.
I wish all of you positive, warm, totally functional times with your loved ones and/or families. Norman Rockwell scenes, all around! But should things go south, slap-fights erupt, and things get said that can not be taken back (I'm looking at you, Andrew Robinson), I'm here for you. My inbox is always open: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the words of that literary embodiment of holiday manipulation, Tiny Tim: "God bless us, every one."