You don’t need to make yourself dishonest to prove someone else is, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith – wanting to leave is reason enough
My boyfriend is addicted to his phone. He chats with his ex-girlfriends constantly. It irritates me to no end. When I said something about it, he said I am being negative and said I complain too much.
I am contemplating getting spy software just to be absolutely sure that he is cheating, before I end my relationship. What do you think I should do?
Eleanor says: Something weird can happen in the thicket of a bad relationship: we get so tangled up in questions about how to leave, when exactly we’ve earned the right to, who was right about the details of that last fight, and we lose sight of the most obvious question, which is: why am I doing this at all? Why, now, today, is this still a part of my life?
I don’t know this guy’s name, or what he does for work, or the first thing about him – the only things I know are what you’ve told me, and already I know that you don’t want to be with him and he doesn’t make you feel loved. So why is he still part of your life?
Sometimes the answer is that we’re waiting for permission to leave. Things might feel bad most of the time, but for reasons transparent only to us that doesn’t feel like it’s quite enough to license a breakup. So we wait to the pinpoint one big infraction that would purchase the right to say “enough”.
But you don’t need any more license to leave than the fact that you want to. You don’t need to wait around for proof of anything, you don’t need to persuade him that your decision is just and righteous – you just need to know that you want out.
So don’t get spy software. It could well be illegal. Abusive partners use it. You don’t need to make yourself dishonest and boundary-crossing in order to prove that he is. In the event that you don’t find anything; would that change your estimation of whether you want to stay? Getting proof doesn’t change the emotional scoreboard here.
Instead, now that you know you want to leave, try to leave quickly. The experience of being treated badly can become a kind of fascination, so that instead of exiting swiftly and closing the door, we linger over it, analyse it, spend mental time with it.
Another person’s unreasonableness can be endlessly interesting – try not get suckered in by this. It will only undo your mental health, inflate his sense of importance, and bore your friends and family. Try to treat the process of leaving more like the process of getting away from a bad smell: there’s nothing interesting to be found by lingering in its company, you just want to get away and wash it off you as quickly as you can.
And if weeks or months or years from now you still feel angry with this guy and like you want to have a confrontation, try to keep that same thought in mind, then, too: the environment that made you feel hurt very rarely has the tools to repair the wound.
If there is a changeable relationship in your life that routinely makes you feel unhappy and under-appreciated, leave it: there are no more questions to be asked.