Fiancé doesn't understand boundaries

Dear Counsellor,

My fiancé cloned my phone and found messages between myself and an ex, and now he's threatening not to marry me. While I admit that the messages were inappropriate, I only entertained my ex because I was lonely and bored, and my fiancé is very laid back and not one to show emotions or care. I am, on the other hand, a very loving person, and my love language is acts of affection. Anyway, he's now making these threats, while I'm more concerned with how violated I feel that he cloned my phone and was reading my messages for weeks. Should I marry a man like this, who obviously doesn't understand boundaries?

Thanks for joining in on The Couch. It certainly doesn't sound like a good start to things between you both. I'd hope you have been to some premarital counselling? If you are still in premarital sessions, please raise these very serious issues with your counsellor. If you have already completed your sessions, call the counsellor for an urgent return visit. I can't overemphasise the importance of premarital sessions; it is critical for unearthing tendencies and discussing concerns and desires like you have mentioned. Cloning your phone without your knowledge or approval is really quite sinister and serious. He apparently didn't trust you, and now he'll feel justified.

While I do think an open access policy regarding phones is important, in most relationships, cloning to spy on or hiding to investigate what's on your partner's phone is not a good practice at all. Secrecy and spying are red flags. Hiding to take and make calls, send texts, scroll social media are also red flags. Despite the jokes on social media about these things, it's quite serious. When these things are present in a relationship, it's a clear sign that this is not a healthy situation. Any form of deception undermines genuine intimacy and a shot at a healthy marriage. Intimacy is an imperative for a wonderful marriage. Intimacy only works through openness and honesty. Starting with distrust and deception says there's a big problem here.

My advice to you:

Confront your fiancé: Confront him about his misdeed. Let him know how you're disappointed by what he has done. Let him know you'll require going into counselling together before you are open to go any further with the wedding plans. And that's if you still think this relationship is what you want.

Apologise to him: It may be hard, but be the bigger person on this. You realise that you've messed up and your messages were inappropriate. It seems you both struggle to understand boundaries. He is also quite justified to think twice about going forward with a wedding. A secret intimate relationship is a big deal. Marriage is serious business requiring serious commitment because of the demands and investments it calls for. A pause to analyse the relationship is a smart move.

Check yourself: You've said you entertained your ex because you were "lonely and bored". When you're married there will be instances of loneliness and boredom too. Self-discipline and loyalty can't wane because you're lonely and bored. You've also mentioned that your fiancé is "very laid back". If you're not absolutely confident that he is for you, then you should also be pressing the brakes on the marriage. If you don't perceive he'll meet your attention and affection needs, then halt. You can go back into counselling to discuss this, or else head for the hills. Call it off, and maybe pursue your ex. It seems you haven't quite got over that relationship. You really can't move forward with emotional clutter either.

Relationships are under tremendous pressure these days. It may be due to cellphones, social media, new demands on men and women, etc. To have a "happily ever after" with a spouse requires smart work. I pray you'll display prudence and wisdom.

Get on The Counsellor's Couch with Rev Christopher Brodber, who is a counsellor and minister of religion. E-mail questions to

Christopher BRODBER

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