Today I was helping my boyfriend of 3 years move some stuff out of his old house and into his new one, and I was in charge of this massive pile of junk that needed to be sorted into what to keep and what to throw out. Since we differ on what we think is trash (I would’ve thrown most of the paper stuff away that he wanted to keep) I ended up having to look at through each item and ask him if he wanted it thrown away or not. I stumbled across old journal entries he had written about his exes and old notes he kept from his exes. I admit I was bad and ended up reading them instead of just glancing at them and asking if he wanted to keep them, but my curiosity got the better of me on this one. Now, I’m not mad that he kept them (not too mad anyways) seeing as he probably just forgot that he had them. What bothered me was that I noticed, 1. Everything romantic he’s said to me were things that he had said about all his exes as well, i.e., each of us conformed to his body so perfectly, like we were made to fit in his arms. (Kinda takes the magic and thoughtfulness out of the statement if he’s said it to everyone.) And 2. I’m not the first person he has seriously talked about marriage to. Talking about marriage isn’t bad, but he wanted every girlfriend he ever had to be his wife. Seemed a little extreme to me.
So what I’m wondering is, is it just a guy thing to “reuse” romantic sayings so often like that? Does it not occur to a guy that that might be a just a little bit…scuzzy? (Can’t think of a better word right now.)
Also, if he’s wanted to marry EVERY girlfriend he’s ever had, could that be a kinda of red flag regarding whether he ACTUALLY wants to marry because he loves me, or just wants someone to be with because of insecurity and being scared of being alone?
Your input is greatly valued.
I love questions like this, although most women rarely enjoy my answers. 🙂
My calculus as a dating coach is really quite simple. When you complain about a man’s behavior, I ask myself, “Would I do that? And if so, how would I be able to explain it?” Given that I am an educated, ethical, sensitive, monogamous, married man who exalts his wife and prioritizes his family, I have to think there are some other guys like me out there who may be similarly misunderstood.
Instead of making him wrong, how about you attempt to understand how this could have happened.
But before I go defending your boyfriend, I want to try a different tack, Heather: try switching the roles in your letter. Your boyfriend writes to me. After three years together, he was helping you move and found a pile of junk. He happened to look through your junk and happened to “stumble” on a series of open pages that show that not only do you have a bunch of ex-boyfriend memorabilia, but, sure enough, you used some of the same catchphrases in correspondence with said ex-boyfriends. What does it all mean?
Well, if you did that really quickly, you’d probably realize:
- 1. If you’ve been his girlfriend for three years and are helping him move, he probably has a LOT more invested in you than he does this box of memories.
2. It’s not very cool for your boyfriend to snoop on your private stuff.
3. It’s definitely not very cool for him to read your private stuff in detail.
4. It’s completely unacceptable for him to pick a fight about something he shouldn’t have been reading based on his own insecurity.
In other words, the best way to avoid conflict, in general, is empathy. Instead of making him wrong, how about you attempt to understand how this could have happened. This is where I will insert myself.
I have a box in my office closet with virtually every letter I’ve ever received (including love letters). Yeah, I’m nostalgic. Yeah, I’m a hoarder. But really, what I am is a writer. I like to save my memories, even if I never know when I’m going to dredge them up again. I have a folder in my email with all my online dating correspondence. I have a Word document with a list of everyone I’ve kissed. My wife knows all of this and is not threatened by it. Why should she be? She’s my WIFE.
As far as the actual phraseology that he used in his letters, I think you’re being willfully blind about the nature of passion and the “in love” feeling. Put it this way, I probably said more over-the-top romantic things to my girlfriend at age 16 than I ever have to my wife. That doesn’t diminish my current relationship; it just means that when you’re an insecure, lustful, inexperience bundle of emotions who is in love for the first time, you’re probably going to lay it on very thick.
And, in fact, every time you feel that “in love” feeling (which always seems to end or disappoint) you’re going to lay it on thick again.
You’re not dating a guy who is going to spend an excess amount of time trying to reinvent his catchphrases on your behalf — particularly because you should have no right to know what he said to women in his past.
And, just as certain novelists have repetitive phrasing (See E.L. James in 50 Shades of Grey: “Oh crap” or “My inner goddess”), doesn’t it stand to reason that men might return to the same verbiage when they’re in the midst of a potentially life-changing relationship? Doesn’t it stand to reason that, in that moment, he’ll also want to talk about marriage? Doesn’t it stand to reason that he’ll still trot out the same moves in bed that worked for the last girlfriend?
So, let’s not be too precious here.
You’re not dating a blank slate. You’re not dating a virgin. You’re not dating a guy who is going to spend an excess amount of time trying to reinvent his catchphrases on your behalf — particularly because you should have no right to know what he said to women in his past.
In short, this is much ado about nothing. If I were you, I’d let it go without a mention, because if anyone has a right to get angry, it’s your boyfriend, for having a girlfriend who reads his private journals.