I realised I had a problem when I found myself counting how many pictures of my boyfriend’s exes he had put on the internet when they’d been dating for roughly the same time as we had. The stats didn’t look good for me, so I stopped giving him blowjobs.
It’s become an obsession - piecing together his life before we met and wondering if he was happier then. I can’t say exactly when it all started - probably around the same time I realised I was falling in love with him and everything started to feel like it was slipping out of my control.
I’ve gone to great lengths to seek out all his ex-girlfriends and build up a comprehensive picture of their lives. I could go up to these people in the street and enquire after their parents by name. I know who designed the wedding dresses of those who’ve since married. Long-sleeved - such prudes!
I can’t explain how good it felt when we recently moved house and I found a payslip belonging to his first girlfriend lurking in a box he used as a filing system. What a breakthrough! After years of unsuccessful trawling - I had her last name. This must be how they felt at Bletchley Park.
What stings the most is pictures of him with someone else in the same pubs he visits with me, drinking the same pints and playing the same boardgames. I find myself thinking: did you have more fun with Ms Five-Foot-Eleven and her student modelling career? Ms Works-for-Facebook-albeit-in-a-very-boring capacity? Or most threatening of all: Ms Tiny Hot Blonde?
My stalking isn’t limited to girlfriends he’s been in a relationship with either: people he’s slept with aren’t off limits. When we first started dating and drank lots of wine and swapped salacious stories, he told me about a threesome that plagued me at night. I’ve always considered getting one person to have sex with me at a time quite the achievement.
He considers it a funny silly story from the past and to his credit has never requested a repeat performance. But I couldn’t let it slip. Under the pretence of idle curiosity I asked another question, and then another one so I could know every detail of what happened.
Of course, I then found the participants online. It’s amazing what you can piece together if you cling onto every little nugget of information. I tortured myself with how good looking and successful they are. It’s like picking a scab, I can’t help myself.
I check on his Instagram profile probably six or seven times a day. I know exactly how many people he follows so I can see when the number twitches up or down – a signal for me to investigate. Did you know that if you look at someone’s Following list on a computer rather than your phone - they show up in order, most recent first? I wish I didn’t know that.
I’ve gotten quite brazen and sometimes won’t even wait until he’s asleep or at work. When we’re lying in bed together I find myself typing in these names. It’s almost like muscle memory. Checking their tagged pictures, checking his tagged pictures. Trawling back through the years to find something - anything - I had previously skimmed over.
I’ve made a comprehensive list of girls he follows that are too pretty and I’d rather he didn’t look at. One night, I went onto his phone - just to check he wasn’t talking to any of them and found myself unfollowing the most threatening ones. If he noticed he had the good sense not to bring it up with me.
I have no idea if he’s aware of what I’m up to. I’ve made the occasional slip-up - referencing a holiday or a friend he’d never told me about. I try to brush it off casually, while berating myself. If he ever found out - embarrassment doesn’t even start to cover it. I’m deeply and darkly ashamed and I wouldn’t blame him if he ran a mile.
Every time I put my phone down I tell myself that’s it. Enough now. But there’s always another name, another female friend, another doubt that reels me back in. And sometimes I tinker with the idea of just going off-line altogether but I know I could never summon the willpower. I’ll probably just do this forever.
A few weeks ago I was walking down a nearby street and my heart stopped when I saw someone I instantly recognised: his most recent ex who punctured his heart. He couldn’t even talk about her until we’d been together for over a year. It felt like my chest and throat suddenly filled with stones.
I was startled by how familiar I found her face - like a strange old friend. But there wasn’t even a flicker of recognition on her part. Nothing to indicate she had any idea who this person staring open-mouthed and profusely sweating at her was. Had she never felt threatened enough or even interested enough to look me up? It must be because he doesn’t put enough pictures of me online! Or had she just moved on with her life and chosen to leave the past where it belongs. Is it just me who can’t?
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