“Help: I think my boyfriend is obsessed with another woman”

Dear Sarah,

I’ve been in a relationship for two and a half years, and we bought a house together a year ago. Everything was fine and happy until he started a new job in January. That’s when went the relationship went majorly downhill. We haven’t had sex for months. I constantly try to reach out—I have bought sexy outfits, candles, and make the first move—only to be pushed away. When he goes out, I try to kiss him goodbye and he turns his head away and gives me a hug. He never wants to spend time with me, and he’s always out doing things with his friends. He snaps at me if house is a little bit messy. When I try to speak to him about it, he says to stop whining.

And there’s more: we share a laptop and a few weeks ago, I checked for a recipe on our history and I kept seeing this woman’s name come up. I clicked the links, and he’s been looking at her photos. Turns out she works in HR at his new job. Anyway, I know it’s bad, but I’ve been feeling so insecure and unloved lately that I started checking his history regularly—and every single day he looks at one particular photo of her. EVERYDAY at least twice a day!! She’s older than him and is blonde and pretty and thin—something I’m not. I don’t think he’s cheated, because I’ve been through his emails and Facebook and phone and there isn’t any communication—but he’s constantly looking at her Facebook profile. It also makes me really uncomfortable that he sees her everyday at work.

I don’t know if I should be worried or if it’s me being completely paranoid. But he shows me no affection, rarely talks to me, and rarely asks me to go out on a date. Everything was fine until he took this job and started obsessing over this girl. I don’t know what to do. I can’t say anything as he’ll be angry with me for snooping and I don’t want to break up….

Help!!! What does this all mean?

Freaking Out in Wales

Dear Freaking Out,

I understand that you are super anxious that confronting your partner about his coldness (and this other girl) might precipitate a break-up, but what kind of relationship do you actually have right now? This isn’t some bad dream you jolt up from sweaty and shaken but relieved that it’s morning and the sun is shining and all is right with the world. Take out a calendar and circle a Saturday. Early that day, preferably after a strong cup of coffee or tea and some breakfast, you are going to sit your boyfriend down and start getting to the bottom of what’s going on. It may take all weekend and it may be hard, but it’s time to get real.

Snooping around and frantically speculating about why he is looking at his colleague’s photo all the time and—more importantly, mistreating you—is not doing a thing to improve your relationship. If you have read previous columns, you know I don’t advocate prying into someone’s cell phone or computer, but that’s really a side issue here. His rebuffing you romantically, yelling at you for letting the house get messy (umm…doesn’t he know how to use a broom or wash dishes?), spending all his time with his friends—that’s what you really need to discuss. His apparent interest in may feel sickeningly painful, but the worst thing is that he’s acting like a jerk to you.

Before the “big talk,” make sure you have a support system in place—girlfriends, sisters, your real mom, whomever you can trust to take care of you and be there for you in case you need to have a cry, vent, or just gain a little perspective. Plan out the issues you want to bring up and provide clear examples. “When you do X, it makes me feel like Y,” is a good way to start. He may get angry or defensive and shift the blame to you for invading his privacy. Sure, you should take responsibility for that but, it’s is a diversion. Hold steady, be brave, and keep focused on your ultimate goal—finding out what’s at the heart of his chilly, unloving conduct and seeing if you can work TOGETHER to get the relationship back on track.

You deserve to be cherished. Don’t forget that.

Love, Sarah

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