By Hara Estroff Marano published February 7, 2020 - last reviewed on March 3, 2020
I’m a widowed woman seeing a married man who has made clear that he is not leaving his wife. I have also been casually dating (but not intimate with) others, which didn’t bother him until recently. He confronted me, and I lied about texting another man. I agreed to cease seeing others. But my friend now wants all of my phone and text records and has gone through my phone. Is his request rational? I feel he will use it all as ammunition and the battle will continue. He says full disclosure is necessary to repair what we’ve had together. I feel this is retaliation for an experience years ago, when his wife caught him cheating and humiliated him. I would be devastated to lose him, but can he ever be satisfied that I am trustworthy?
The short answer is, not likely. The real problem in this bad-faith relationship is not your trustworthiness but his abuse. Your “friend” is, in essence, gaslighting you, warping your reality so that you believe you’re doing something wrong when in fact he is assuming control over you and your life. On the surface, the exclusivity he demands of you (but not of himself) may feel good, as if it’s a measure of his desire; in fact, it’s a sign of his insecurity, manifesting in possessiveness. You seem to know that he has crossed a line, even if you’re not sure which one.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and it seems to have been missing from the start. You in fact precluded it when you began disgorging personal information about your social life, with unreciprocated disclosure—pawning off all your power as a person. Why didn’t you respect yourself enough to remember that trust is a two-way street, and it gets paved step by reciprocal step? A person of character might have taken in the information you overshared without necessarily enjoying it, but your friend has turned it into a weapon of control; it has become, as you say, ammunition for him to get what he wants. At the very least, why aren’t you choking on the irony of his coerced demand for your fidelity while he is violating his marriage?
When confronted about other men, you lied; you sensed he was transgressing. Instead of speaking up, you let him push you into a corner. His demand did not merit an answer. Or you could have said, I care deeply for you, but I need to maintain friendships just as you do.
The relationship has no room for your feelings or interests; it is built around his insecurity, manifesting as control and manipulation. In other words, there isn’t much of a relationship, just an arrangement for his convenience. Does it matter what his abuse is retaliation for—isn’t the abuse enough of a sign of disrespect? There are clearly other men out there. Choose one whose response to his own fears is not to imprison you in them.