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I Stumbled Upon My Girlfriend's Journal ... and Couldn't Stop Reading


Published September 3, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Dear Athena,

I was home sick with a nasty cold recently, bored and not thinking, and I stumbled upon my girlfriend's journal. I started to flip through it, and then I just couldn't stop reading. I read the whole thing. And now I'm pissed off. In it she mentions how she has a crush on some other girl from work, and how she thinks of this woman while she's masturbating. She mentions other little crushes, too. She even talks about her ex and things she misses about her. She also wrote things about me I wish I hadn't read, like ways I annoy her. What do I do? I'm really upset about what she wrote, especially about this other woman, whom I know!


Privately Pissed Off

Dear Privately,

Aw man! Why couldn't you just keep your sick little fingers off her journal? You'd be blissfully unaware, sniffling on the couch and enjoying Netflix marathons and chicken soup. Instead, you're sick with jealousy and anger, Ugh. I feel for you, and I don't.

I understand feeling upset. You learned some truths you didn't expect, and you're privy to information that was never meant for you to know. The truth hurts. She has a crush on someone else. She misses her ex. She finds you annoying sometimes.

Then again, you deserve the feelings you're having right now. You knowingly invaded your girlfriend's privacy. Everyone knows a journal is meant for the writer's eyes only. It was her sanctuary, and you greedily devoured every word. Now you're taking her words personally. Hey, if you eat all the cookies in the cookie jar, you're bound to get a bellyache.

You have two choices. You can tell her and talk about it. Face the music and potentially feel even more hurt when she expresses hers. Or you can forget it and move on.

If you confront her, your girlfriend is bound to feel angry — as she should. You crossed a boundary and violated her trust. She also will be embarrassed. A diary is filled with fantasy, exaggerations, unbridled emotion, and unedited intimacy and drama. It was a place for her to let it all out so she could close the book and cope a little easier with everyday stresses, worries or overwhelming ideas that float around in her head. She will feel betrayed. Be prepared for that. But, if your relationship is solid, she'll probably forgive you in time.

If you really feel like her crush on her colleague is inappropriate or threatening, though, you should talk about it. Give your girlfriend time to express her anger about you reading her journal. Then and only then, ask her to explain how she really feels about this other woman. It could be just an innocent crush, or maybe you'll be giving her the opportunity to share some painful truths. In which case, reading her diary might have been an "accident" that needed to happen. Not that it was good for you to do it!

If you decide to bury this thing and move on, fine. But first stop and ask yourself what your diary would say if you had one. Can you honestly say there isn't anyone you don't sometimes fantasize about? Do you never imagine what it might be like to reconnect with an ex? Does your girlfriend not do anything that drives you crazy? You'd be a robot if you couldn't relate to any of this.

Everyone needs an outlet, a way to process thoughts and emotions. Maybe your way is to take a brisk walk alone. For your girlfriend, it's a journal. A private journal.