When Porn Threatens

Dear Harlan: Please help me. My girlfriend caught me using online porn. She found some videos on my phone. We have talked about porn in the past, and I know she is against it. She believes it’s degrading to women and it is no different than cheating. We have a healthy sex life and an honest relationship, but she is talking about breaking up with me. I betrayed her trust and I feel awful about it, but I don’t understand why she can’t forgive me. I’m faithful and will do anything for her. She knows it, but the porn has made her doubt our three years of dating. Is there anything I can do to convince her that she can trust me? I don’t want to lose her over something so insignificant in my life.

— Messed Up Again

Dear Man:  STAY AWAY FROM PORN. When porn is costing you your relationship, it’s significant. If you want to stay together, you’ll have to figure out how to stay away from porn. You can start by apologizing and explaining to her how you view porn – not to change her mind, but to reassure her that you are loving, committed and working to fix this problem. One solution can be to install a program that will monitor your online activity. Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com) is a place to start. This program monitors the websites you visit, the search terms used and the YouTube videos watched, and lists them in a report. This monitoring tool is used by people who need another layer of accountability. In addition to Covenant Eyes, you can start going to Sex Addicts Anonymous (saa-recovery.org) meetings, and find a therapist to help guide you. When you are lying, sneaking around and hurting someone you love, it’s time to address the problem and get help. If you don’t think it’s a problem, find a partner who is more tolerant of porn.

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Never Regret Telling the Truth About Sex

Dear Harlan: I’m having relationship regrets. I told my boyfriend that I wanted to wait to have sex. That is what you suggested. He said he was OK with this and would go at my pace. The next week, he broke up with me. He’s already dating someone else. I asked him if it was about not having sex with him. He said it had nothing to do with it. I’m having regrets. Did I make a mistake?

— Regrets

Dear Regrets:  He’s a loser. You are lucky he’s not your boyfriend. The only regret you should have is wasting time thinking about him. He gave you the greatest gift in the world. He removed himself from your life. Your boyfriend wasn’t interested in dating you. He was only interested in having sex with you. And let me tell you one more thing that makes me feel disgusted: If breaking up with you had NOTHING to do with sex (and I don’t believe it for one second), clearly he was having doubts. Be grateful you didn’t sleep with someone who was already planning to end the relationship. Clearly, there were problems. You must have sensed it. The best way to avoid getting used by a jerk is time. Be proud of yourself. You did everything right. You set a clear boundary and discovered the truth. Yes, it’s painful to break up, but it’s more painful to have someone break up with you after using you. You have nothing to regret – be grateful

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Help Me! Harlan: Closure is a process, not a destination

Highway Car RoadDear Harlan: I was dating a guy for nine months, and for most of that time, he was away in the military. His parents and I grew close while he was gone. Long story short, the guy and I didn’t work out, but his parents want to maintain contact, go to dinner, etc. I kindly told them that since their son and I are no longer talking, it is not OK for us to have such a relationship.  His mother told me Christmas Eve that she feels sorry for him because he doesn’t know what he lost. I said he is a grown man and left their house. How do I get closure?– Not Closed

Dear Not Closed: Closure isn’t a place. It’s a new path. It’s an unexpected route to another destination, a much better one.  Think of it as lane closure on a fast-moving highway. It’s surprising, aggravating, slow, frustrating and annoying — but then you break free. Closure is rarely clean. It’s upsetting, confusing and takes faith to get where you want to go. Do you have faith? Do you believe you are going to a better place? If the answer is no — you will get stuck. Getting stuck and standing still doesn’t help you find closure. The answer is to ALWAYS keep moving — even if it’s a slow go. One way to keep moving is to give people permission to not give you want you want. Respect their feelings, take the experiences and make them part of a bigger plan that will lead to a better place. Then, keep moving. Recognize that you always have options. There are thousands of men who will want to love you and appreciate you. Put yourself in places with people who are looking to move forward in love and life. Surround yourself with people who share your passions, interests and love of life. Find new friends who keep moving. Give men access to attractive, interesting and busy you. Use online dating, get set up and hang out with new friends and travel in new circles. Then, keep moving. Explore your options. If moving is too hard or you find yourself stalling, find a therapist who can ride with you and help you move forward. Look back, but not for too long. Focus your energy in front of you. Remember, closure isn’t about clean endings. It’s about a new path to get what you want. Keep it moving and you will find closure.

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What’s the deal with unfriending an ex on Facebook?

romantic couple kissing at sunset in front of santa monica ferriDear Harlan: Is it immature of me to unfriend an ex on Facebook? We said we’d be friends, and I know that a lot of couples who break up say that to each other, but I don’t know if it’s something that could ever work. The breakup didn’t happen because of anything terrible either of us did. We both just had different views on life and couldn’t figure out a way to work it out. I still love him, but if he doesn’t feel the same way, I have to accept that. So I’m really trying to get over it, and I feel like unfriending him would be one more step to deleting his existence. What do you think? I don’t want to be mean or immature. — Unfriendly

Dear Unfriendly: Do you really need to see selfies of your ex kissing his new girlfriend in front of a Ferris wheel?  Vomit.  It’s not mean or immature. It’s called taking care of you.  That’s mature and kind. Removing him from your Facebook feed will mean no longer getting that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach every time you see a status update with his name on it. It will mean spending less time checking up on him, looking through his pictures, and reading his wall.  It will mean spending less time and energy on him and more on other deserving men. If you don’t want to unfriend him, you can hide his status and restrict his access to your sensitive info. But I wouldn’t worry about being mean or immature.  Be kind to you and do whatever helps you to move on and find balance.

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First comes doubt, then comes the breakup

conflict and emotional stress in young people couple relationshiDear Harlan: I’ve been in a serious relationship for a year, but I’m having doubts. How do I know when it’s the right time to break up? – Doubting

Dear Doubting: When you have to ask the question, “How do I know it’s the right time to break up?” it’s pretty close to the time you need to break up. Before you do break up, make sure you have people and places outside the relationship. Places will give you things to do independent of your relationship. People will give you a support system. When you have a life that’s interesting, supportive and loving outside of a relationship, you don’t have to be in one. You can work on the issues that make you uncomfortable inside the relationship without the fear of being alone. If the issues can’t be resolved, then you know the relationship is broken.  And then, you can break up.

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Mom can’t stand seeing daughter’s heart broken… again

Couple of teenagers lying in street togetherDear Harlan: My daughter, 19, recently gave her ex-boyfriend, 18, a second chance. Their relationship ended because of his lack of consideration. He wanted to act single with his friends and committed while with her. At this age, do you believe that people can change and mature, or is she destined for more heartache and heartbreak?  – Fool Me Once

Dear Fool Me Once: Of course he’s going to break her heart again. That’s what 18-year-olds do. As long as your daughter sets clear boundaries and has a plan should he relapse, she can take away an invaluable life lesson. Women with options who set strong boundaries can move on. Encourage her to always do things she loves to do with interesting people. This way, when he breaks her heart, she can pick up the pieces faster because she’ll be surrounded by other guys who can give her what she wants and deserves.

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Want drama? Get Netflix and get rid of friend with benefits

LOS ANGELES - MAR 14:  Kate Mulgrew, Taylor Schilling, Laura PreDear Harlan: I’ve been friends with this guy for about two years now. At first, he liked me and wanted to be with me, but I was taken. When my relationship ended, he was there for me, and said he would wait for me until I was ready to date again. Once I was ready, he had gotten into a relationship and told me he didn’t know I liked him, even though I remember telling him that I did. We stopped talking for a couple of weeks, and I was totally fine without him. He came back into my life and did the same thing two more times before saying he didn’t have feelings for me anymore. My feelings disappeared when I noticed his obsession with ponies and how he would take his anger out on me. I’m finally at the point where I’m ready to end things once and for all, but I can’t seem to work up the courage to tell him I don’t want to be his friend anymore. He gets mad over everything, and if I’m mad at him, he will get mad at me for being mad at him. Can you please help me? – Angry

Dear Angry: Want drama? Watch the second season of “Orange Is the New Black.” That’s all the drama you need. You don’t care about ponies or anger – you’re afraid of losing his attention. You must be bored. On some level, you like the back and forth. Once you admit it, you can quietly distance yourself from him. Blame the distance on personal issues, family problems or something that you aren’t comfortable sharing. Don’t worry about getting him mad. You just need to get him out of your life. But that means having a life that is still filled with attention and drama – get Netflix or join an online dating site. That’ll do it.

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End friendship with ex and stop the pain

ExSecrets-Tweet2Dear Harlan, How do I maintain a deep friendship that involved several discussions about very emotional, closely-held issues after the relationship ends? We both agreed I was more emotionally vested and the one in love, and she elected to end the romantic relationship because she doesn’t see herself falling in love with me. But she still wants the friendship. This all went down this past Wednesday, and I’m not comfortable dealing with the romantic rejection while maintaining the friendship we had. I don’t know how to say that without coming off as immature or resentful about the hurt I’m dealing with. Help. Still Hurting

Dear Still Hurting,  Immature would be tweeting your ex’s most embarrassing secrets under the user name @ExSecrets while acting like she’s your best friend. Mature would be admitting that you’re hurt, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and expressing the truth. It’s hard to hate or attack a man who is willing to be vulnerable and speak the truth. Tell her that it’s just too painful for you to be friends with her at this point in your life. There might be a time in the future, but for now, you need to regain a sense of self and independence. Explain that having her in your life keeps you looking in the past — and that’s not you want for your future. Call it self-care. If she gets upset, hateful or resentful, appreciate that it’s because she doesn’t want to lose you. But she knows how to get you back — she can date you.

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Live-in boyfriend shuts down, shuts up, and shuts out girlfriend

Young man and woman angry and conflictingDear Harlan: My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years. We’ve been living together for a while now, and he has changed. At first he was affectionate and clingy, now he hardly wants to spend any time with me. He says I smother him when I barely even give him attention. Our roommates have noticed he has been cold with me. He won’t talk to me. He just shuts down on me. I don’t know what to do anymore. – Barely Together

Dear Barely Together: Your boyfriend says you smother him. You say you don’t. I say you’re not listening.  HE FEELS SMOTHERED!  When he tells you how he feels, you want him to feel and tell you something else. That can cause a man to shut down.  Do yourself a favor and pick up the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.5-love-languages2 This book helped me understand myself and my wife so much better. It should be required reading for all couples.  Chapman’s approach will help you understand how to connect with your boyfriend in his love language and help him to understand you and your love language.  If your man is more interested in shutting you out than working things out, it’s time to move on and move out.

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Heartbroken man in pain and looking for cure

Sad young man hiding his face and crying with a stormy clouds baDear Harlan: My ex and I were dating for about two years, and we moved in together a few months ago. She is my first and only (so far) serious relationship. We both recently started changing a lot, and we thought that at the end of the school year, we should go our separate ways. Once we decided to split up, we still were living together for about two weeks, and those were the worst two weeks of my life. She would be out with guys every night doing who knows what – it was so much easier for her to move on. We used to be so crazy about each other. We were supposed to get married and everything. We both used to be so happy. The truth is that I miss her. She moved five hours away, and I am now living in the same house with my best friend. This house just feels like an empty shell. What was once filled with memories of us is now so much different without her living here. I miss her smile, her kisses, her hugs and everything else. I also miss all of our crazy adventures. It almost feels like she died, but worse. We went from being crazy about each other to absolutely nothing. It’s taken everything in my power to not text her or call her, and that has only happened once. I’ve been really sad the past few days since she’s moved out. Do you know of a better way to cope with this? I am so miserable and I want her back, but I know that won’t happen. I’m going to live on the East Coast for seven months, and she’s going to go to beauty school and do her own thing. Am I wrong for feeling this down and dejected about everything? – Grieving

Dear Grieving: I want to hug you, man. Breaking up sucks. I felt this same pain. Thanks for showing the world that a man can be vulnerable, get hurt and still respect women. You’re feeling it. You’re talking about it. You’re working through it. It’s grieving because it’s a devastating loss. There’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Continue to feel it all. Avoid hating, blaming or trying to convince her to change. Over time, you’ll begin to create a life where you can do things you love to do without her. Until then, talk about it, think about it, write about it, work out, go out, try new things out, cry, celebrate, create, cope and grow. It will get better – you just need to feel it all.  Feeling it is healing it.

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