A few minutes later I’m in the hotel room, sitting silently by the window as Zoe sobs. After a while she starts apologizing for how horrible she’s been.
She tells me how I’m the most important thing in her life.
How she’ll never ever lie to me again.
How she promises it’s all in the past.
How she’ll understand if I don’t trust her for a while.
How she’s willing to do anything to earn my trust.
Really earn it this time.
Not just demand it.
I melt, and we start talking things through.
We discuss a bunch of options, and I remember a time I searched my inbox for the word “love” in front of her and at her request, and I ask her to return the favor (by allowing me to search her inbox for other words that might imply infidelity). It seems to me a sufficiently difficult step that it would show me she’s serious, and it’d allow me to verify that the people she mentioned were the only people she had cheated on me with.
She tells me this is wrong. That it’s a violation of the privacy of the people she’s been messaging.
This is a sound ethical principle, but seems to be a somewhat manipulative strong principled stance given that the day before I’d been reconfiguring my wireless card, and remarked to Zoe that if I were to run a packet sniffer at that point, we’d be able to read in real time any unencrypted chat sessions from people connected to the same router. Zoe was really excited about this and encouraged me to do it (relax, I didn’t). So it was apparently okay to violate the privacy of the people in the hotel, but not that of the people in her inbox. And never mind, of course, that she had no issue reading through my own inbox a few months back.
I give her a “you’re joking.” look, and she asks me for some time to think on it. I tell her she can have some, but I need to go to a friend’s in an hour or so to do some work and make up for missed deadlines. By the time I need to leave she still hasn’t decided, and I tell her she can have more time to think, but she needs to promise me she won’t delete anything. I tell her I’m taking the first step in rebuilding trust here by giving her some. And I tell her that I really can’t keep doing this — if she violates it, it’s over.
With tears in her eyes she grabs me and hugs me and promises that all of the lying and dishonesty is over, she promises she won’t do anything to break this because it’s too important to her.
I make her give me one more promise — that she won’t hurt herself while I’m out, and that she’ll call someone to come watch her if she starts feeling like she wants to. She says she promises, and I leave.
It had, of course, occurred to me that I’d likely have no way of knowing if she deleted messages while I was out, but not knowing if she deleted anything wouldn’t put us in a worse situation. In the case that she fairly clearly didn’t (that is, the case where I find a bunch of flirting / solicitation), it would establish she’s serious, and we could try to find some way to make this work. And in the — at the time, unfathomable to me — case that she clearly did delete messages, it would blatantly show that this was the same sort of remorse she displayed when she claimed Nathan was the only transgression, in which case I could and should get away from all of this.
As far as I was concerned, one of the possibilities would leave things neutral, and two of the possibilities would make things better — albeit in different directions.
I manage to get very little work done at my friend’s house, and around 3am I head back to the hotel.
Act 2 TL;DR: Act 2 TL;DR: Act 2 TL;DR: Act 2 TL;DR: Act 2 TL;DR: Act 2 TL;DR: Act 2 TL;DR:
Zoe says she’s willing to do anything to really earn my trust back, not just demand it. So I ask her to let me run a search on her facebook messages (which is at minimum a gesture, and at maximum either a condemnation or validation), and after giving another principled but hypocritical reason for her discomfort with the idea, she asks for some time to think on it. I head out and tell her I’m trusting her not to delete anything, and she says she promises that sort of behavior is behind her, and she promises she won’t do anything to jeopardize the trust she’s trying to earn. She says this relationship is too important to her.
I stay at a friend’s for six hours or so. And then head back to the hotel.