Boyfriend repeatedly transgressed student-teacher boundary

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    Posting in case anyone has any insight because I feel very concerned and upset.

    I have been dating someone I love, care about and respect for about 10 months now.  I met him on a dating app, and even though I didn’t expect anything to develop (considering we were in the middle of a pandemic) things quickly blossomed and I found myself falling in love.  We have the type of relationship I’ve always found so elusive in the past–one where there’s a lot of chemistry, a lot of romance, but also a solid foundation of friendship and trust. He’s someone I’ve come to admire very deeply.  He’s an immigrant from Europe who has no family in the U.S., but has pursued and built an education and career here and is very balanced in a lot of ways–funny, kind, loving, smart, wise.  I don’t feel like I have rose-colored glasses with him like I’ve had with past men; he has his flaws as well, but nothing that I thought, until now, has impacted our relationship.  Everything has been going very well, for the most part.  For the first time ever, I actually see myself potentially having a future and marrying him, which is a first for me (particularly considering my history of dating avoidant men).

    However, for the past month or so, things have not been quite as smooth sailing as they have been.  I’m someone who’s very, very in my head and can be overly analytical, and I’ve found myself questioning if the honeymoon period is over.  There’s nothing concrete about his behavior per se that has nagged at me, but we had briefly talked about the idea of moving in together a few months ago and, now that my lease on my apartment is up, I’ve sensed that he’s not as excited as I would have expected him to be to actually pursue the move.  He still says he wants to move in together (I would move in with him when my lease is up in June, and then we’ve move to another apartment when his lease expires in October) but he’s not really talking logistics and we’ve barely discussed where we actually want to move in October, whether we’d stay in our current neighborhood, and so forth.  I’ve commented on his lack of excitement to him and he’s just shrugged it off and said that “of course” he wants to move, that it was his idea.  He has an ex-fiancee that he lived with for a couple of years, so I’m not sure if it’s just not a big deal to him, but for me it is.

    Recently, he also adopted a cat and now I find myself constantly having to go to his place instead of him coming to mine.  I don’t know if that’s impacted things too (I love cats but it is somewhat annoying to me that I now I always have to make the effort to visit him) but…he’s just been less romantic.  He used to come over to my place, bring wine and flowers, and we’d watch movies or cook dinner together.  Now it feels like we’re more of a married couple–me going to his place constantly, no flowers, less excitement in the bedroom, etc.

    None of that really excuses what I did, but yesterday I gave into the temptation to look at his iMessages on his laptop while he was at work and I was working at his place.  He changed the password of his laptop to one we both knew in case I needed to use it for work, which I found to be nice of him, and even though I’ve resisted looking at anything personal of his before, yesterday I was really stressed and anxious from work and looking for….an escape, a distraction, something to fight about, I’m not really sure.  In any case, I ended up reading his messages (which I’m all to aware was a huge invasion of privacy on my part) and wasn’t quite prepared for what I found.

    My boyfriend is an assistant clinical professor, and he teaches a specialty program to students–graduates who are looking to specialize further in his field.  He teaches at a prestigious university, and I’m not going to lie–there’s always been a part of me that’s been a little jealous that he’s hanging with hot, young graduate students all day while I’m sitting at home, not interacting with any of my colleagues or clients in person and fatigued from constant Zoom calls.  However, I’ve always quashed my jealousy and focused on the fact that he’s a very trustworthy person and has never given me a reason to be jealous.  Towards the beginning of our relationship, I do remember flat-out asking him whether he’d ever dated any of his students, and he responded that he hadn’t and that doing so would have been wrong.

    All very interesting, because from perusing his texts, it turns out that in around 2019, after he broke up with his fiancee, he pursued flirtations and flings with several of his students (4 to be exact).  The texts I saw suggested that it was mutual and consensual, but it also seemed to me (based on the messages I saw, which of course may not have presented the full picture) that he was the pursuer and the one pushing for things to progress to a romantic level.  One of the girls talked about how they had “broken the graduation rule,” and in another conversation he talks about how he wished he could get to know the girl better beyond a group setting and how beautiful she was and how much he wanted to kiss her, yadda yadda yadda.  He also asked another girl for her address, and she responded “why,” to which he apologized and said that he was drunk when he sent the message.  He also clearly developed strong romantic feelings for one of them and wrote her what was essentially a love note, in which he referred to the girl wanting to wait to develop things until after she graduated.  It was all very disturbing to read and yet I couldn’t stop myself, like a bad movie.

    After work, I asked him to come over and confronted him about everything.  I was livid.  I’m a lawyer, and get very confrontational and heated and argumentative when I’m angry, and I completely unleashed on him.  I told him that he was clearly someone that lacked professional judgment and was willing to repeatedly transgress student-teacher boundaries, and even though that all happened in the past (there was nothing to suggest that he has talked to his students in a romantic way since dating me), what he did could easily come back to bite him in the ass, since it was a clear violation of his university’s ethics code.  He fueled my anger further by coming up with excuse after excuse after excuse–it wasn’t a “traditional student/teacher relationship” because he wasn’t grading them, so it wasn’t the same power dynamics that would usually be at play.  He’s close in age to them, it’s not like they’re undergrads.  He knew a couple of them even before he became their teacher.  He was sad and lonely and single at the time all this happened, because he had just been cheated on by his ex-fiancee.  Yadda yadda yadda.

    I was angry that he was attempting to downplay the whole thing and not just own up to the fact that he messed up.  He eventually did and tried to label it a “mistake,” and I was like, it was many mistakes.  Mistakes that could have cost you YOUR CAREER.  He was pretty blasé about it and was like “it was a risk I willing to take,” which made me furious.  Pursuing STUDENTS HE TAUGHT at his job was a “risk he was willing to take.”  And one of the girls (the one he told he was falling in love with, essentially) was someone he messaged just a couple of months before he met me.  That person is still his student.  I was also angry that he lied to me about never having dated his students, and he replied that he only lied because I asked early on the relationship, and he knew it was a “big deal.”  According to him if I had asked today, he would have been honest.

    I don’t know what to think or feel, I just feel angry and disturbed and so, so sad because things had been going so well.  I feel like if he had a flirtation/fling with one student, that might have been different (still disturbing), but 4 is ….a pattern.  I’m not sure if it’s the student-teacher thing that gets him off, or the fact that they’re younger, very attractive women, or what, but I don’t know that I can have the same level of trust that I used to have in–particularly since he’s around them everyday.  He’s a good-looking, nice, charismatic person with an accent, whose clearly demonstrated, again and again and again, a willingness to cross a line with his students.  I’m scared that this is not something I’m going to be able to easily let go of, and even though he wants to “sort things out” and go back to where we were (he cried yesterday, and I just shut down because that’s what I do when I feel emotional) I don’t know how I can see him with the same eyes that I used to.  Also, I’m scared that now he thinks I’m the “jealous type” who goes through his phone and is going to question him every time he hangs out with his coworkers.  This is going to affect our relationship in ways I’m not quite prepared for, and I’m not sure how to go from here, other than just try to latch onto the good again and remember that none of that happened while we were together.



    Dear Lena:

    I am sorry, what a shame. You had great hopes and your hopes were dashed. I can almost feel your pain. When I read that you betrayed his trust and looked through his computer record, I thought of it as you doing something terrible. When I read what you found out, looking at his record, I figure it was a good thing, after all, that you did what you did. You found out something about him that you were not aware of, at least not adequately, in the ten months you dated him. If you didn’t look into his records, you would have remained unaware, maybe for too long.

    Now that you know what you know, you can’t un-know it. I was going to re-read your previous thread of September 2019, but there is no need, in term of understanding your current situation: his behavior during his transgressions with his graduate students and his reactions to you confronting him with  the information, leave no room for any other interpretation than his character being deeply flawed, too flawed to make trust in him possible. And without trust, in the context of an intimate relationship, you have nothing to look forward to except for pain.


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