Tell Me About It: Girlfriend worries spur e-mail snoop

Question: I recently snooped in my girlfriend's e-mail and discovered she has contacted an ex-boyfriend who is a known sore spot in our relationship.

It didn't amount to much, and I don't think she is trying to rekindle anything, but I don't understand why she would write to him, even in a non-romantic way, when she knows the damage it could cause our relationship.

Also, I am reluctant to say anything, in part because of my own illicit action, but more so because I don't know that it will do any good. As odd as this sounds, I do trust her. I also have no doubt she loves me. I just don't want her talking to this guy.

So what should I do? And, what am I doing wrong? Thanks.

Answer: Snooping, obviously. Serious boundary violation - which you must confess.

What else depends on your reason for drawing an I-don't-want-you-contacting-him line where a pragmatic soul - and one who has any business saying "I do trust her" - would stand back and let trust do its job.

It's like not airbrushing a photograph; the result isn't as tidy, but you see what you're getting. When you do that, of course, you then get to decide whether you stay with her based on what you see.

You didn't choose that path; you're trying to wipe out blotches. So I ask again, why?

Whatever it is, you need to know your motives. No rationalizing.

Then you need to be sure you actually have standing to draw lines. Does your interest in keeping this man out of your orbit trump her right to associate with anyone she pleases?

Even if your reason is among those few valid, noncontrolling ones, there's still this: People show their affection most persuasively when you let them choose how to show it.

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