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.

Ask Harlan | → Read More Advice

Dream School Meets the Real World

Dear Harlan: I’m a senior in high school, graduating this fall. I finally decided that I want to go into animation rather than architecture. However, as the end of senior year draws near, I keep having doubts about whether I should attend community college or the university that I have chosen. I earned a scholarship that will allow me to go to this community college for free! All I would have to do is buy some books and go five minutes away to complete the required credits before transferring to my dream school two years later. It sounds obvious that I should take this opportunity, but the reason I am having doubts is because I am having family issues that cause me to feel stressed out and unproductive. I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand living at home for as long as I have to. It’s a great community college, but animation is most likely not a big part of their programs. I can still learn the essentials, but it probably won’t compare to going to an actual art school. Basically, I’m stuck. If I go to community college, I can get a job while finishing my credits and save my family (and myself) a ton of money. I also can go to an actual art school afterward by saving the money from what we should have been paying if it weren’t for the scholarship. On the other hand, if I go to the university, I can have a good college experience and have some space. This way I can make new friends and gain some independence, but it would take a lot of money. So, what advice do you have for me?

— Stuck

Dear Stuck:  Graduate with $120,000 in debt, and you’ll really be stuck at home. Here are my suggestions: (1) Celebrate that you have a scholarship and a plan to attend your dream school in two years or sooner. (2) Call the university that accepted you and speak to a financial-aid counselor. Let this adviser know you have a scholarship at your local community college, and share any award letters you’ve received. See if they have more money for you (it can happen). (3) Talk to career services at the community college and at your dream school. Explain your interest in animation and identify part-time jobs. Work as an undergrad doing work you love. You can work on campus and in the community. Start working NOW. (3) Plan on going to the community college, and have an alternative living plan if your home life gets bad again. You can stay with a friend, other family members or rent a room. (5) While in community college, identify other colleges where you can pursue animation. Once you identify more schools, use financial-aid services to explore scholarships, grants and work-study programs. To sum it up: Plan to work in animation NOW. Plan on going to community college (if you can’t get more money). Plan to move out if things get rough. Plan to identify at least three other dream schools. Plan to talk to people at the schools you want to attend and find out how they paid for it. Find your people. Find your places. Create a plan. This is how you get wherever you want to go.

Ask Harlan | → Read More Advice

Committed Relationship Doesn’t Mean Rejection Stops

Dear Harlan: How do I handle rejection in a committed relationship? I’ve been with my partner for the past two years, and I still struggle when she isn’t interested in being intimate. What does normal rejection in a committed relationship typically look like, and how do you handle it?

— Struggling

Dear Struggling:  My wife rejects me all the time. It hurts, but I don’t resent her. People think that once they fall in love, commit and get married the rejection doesn’t stop. Nope. It never stops. You can’t hide from it. The only way to handle it is to accept The Universal Rejection Truth of Relationships. The URT states that your partner will not always say or do what you want. And you won’t always say or do what your partner wants. It’s the undeniable truth. When we accept the truth, we don’t spend all of our time hating, hiding or attacking. Instead we can look inward and outward, and move forward. Looking inward means getting comfortable enough in your own skin to listen, even if the words aren’t what you want to hear. Looking outward means working to understand how someone feels, even if it hurts, without trying to change them. Moving forward means expressing how you feel, being heard and giving someone permission to respond freely. It takes people who are willing to embrace the truth and to grow together.

People who fight the URT grow apart. Intimacy is getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, finding comfort when being heard and listening – even if it’s not what we want to hear or be told.

Ask Harlan | → Read More Advice

Having Sex Too Soon Complicates Relationship Too Soon

Upset young couple having problems with sex.

Dear Harlan: I’m in a relationship that has become physical too fast. I don’t want to turn him away, but I’m not comfortable with sex being so important so soon in the relationship. How do I transition my relationship away from just having sex all the time? – Slow Down

Dear Slow Down: You’re having sex; this means you should be able to talk about anything. I mean anything… religion, politics, bad breathe, body odor, birth control, pants that are too tight, and sex that happens too fast.  If it makes you uncomfortable, talk about it. Have this conversation while sober, during daylight hours (or before it gets too late). Do it face-to-face (no texting). Make this about you and your feelings, not him or what he’s doing wrong. Remind him that you’re incredibly attracted to him (if you are) and absolutely love spending time with him (if you do), and then explain why you need to slow down the sex. Help him understand why (this means you need to understand it yourself and put it into words). If he listens to you and respects your boundaries, you’ll grow closer. If putting the brakes on sex ends the relationship, he’s not the right guy for you, which probably is what you fear and are afraid to figure out.

 → Write Harlan |  → Read More Advice

Poor sex life is sign of poor communication

Unhappy couple not talking after an argument in bed at homeDear Harlan: I’m in a committed relationship (over two years), and lately our sex life has pretty much died. It started off great, but now it’s like I have to beg and nag, which I’m not comfortable doing. When I question why he has been so distant, my boyfriend spews excuse after excuse, like joint pain, back pain and headaches. I feel like the man in the relationship. I have gained a few pounds, but nothing noticeable. So, what is with the cold shoulder all of a sudden? This has been going on for more than a year, and I’m not sure what to do next. I do not want to break up with him, but it’s getting to the point where that seems like the only option. I receive absolutely no affection, and it’s tearing me apart. He claims that he gives me affection, but he doesn’t.

Missing Something

Dear Missing Something:   I know why you’re so afraid to face the truth. The truth might leave you single. And being single terrifies you. Here’s what must happen next: Either make things better, or upgrade and find someone better. But you have to be committed to upgrading. Before approaching him, realize this isn’t about weight, back pain or excuses. It’s about honest communication and the brutal truth. Have a plan to move on. Know that you have other options (i.e., other men). Don’t make this about sex. Make it about the relationship and what you’re feeling.Explain that you need help feeling connected. Again, don’t make it about sex — make it about communicating. Ask if there’s something happening in his life that you don’t know about. See if he’s willing to share more when you try this approach. Ask him if he’s willing to see a therapist with you. If he’s willing to open up, you’ll find out what’s really happening. If not, you’ll find someone else.

Ask Harlan For Advice