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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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.

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You Need Love – With or Without a Significant Other

 

 

Dear Harlan: I’m in my first relationship. I’ve wanted a boyfriend for a while, and now that I have one, I’m anxious and scared. I’m feeling all these emotions that I’ve never felt before. I’m afraid that it all will end, and life will be back to how it was. It’s as if I’m waiting for the bottom to drop. How can I be in a relationship and relax without obsessing about it ending?

— Obsessing

Dear Obsessing:  Have a life you love inside and outside of your new relationship. Make sure you have friends in your life in addition to your significant other. Spend time with family members who fill you up with happiness. Do things that make you happy independent of your significant other. Make sure you have a life that isn’t dependent on someone else for all of your happiness. When you have balance, interests and love in your life, you’ll know that you will always be OK. Be grateful for the new relationship, and at the same time, know that you will always be OK, no matter what. This is how you ensure that you always have love in your life. This is how you can enjoy the moment and how you can demand and command respect inside the relationship. Yes, it’s scary to be happy, but it’s not as scary when you know you’ll always have love in your life – with or without a boyfriend.

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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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First Year A Rough Start; Stick It Out or Move On?

sad depressed lonely adolescent teen boy

Dear Harlan: My son is a freshman in college. He has had a rough semester. His roommate was a nightmare. The roommate drank at all hours and brought home overnight guests. He had no regard for my son or his early-A.M. classes. My son’s grades have suffered; he used to be in the top of his class. He has made some friends, but not close friends. He wants to transfer to an out-of-state school that is far less competitive but closer to his friends and girlfriend. We want him to stick it out at his current school for at least a year. How hard should we push for him to stick it out? He is so unsure of himself. We want him to be strong, but we don’t want him to give up. He worked so hard to get into his current school. What should we do to support him?

— Another Mom

Dear Another Mom:  Listen. Parents forget to listen. Some students need a break. It can be mentally, physically and emotionally grueling to go from being a straight-A high school student to being average at a highly competitive college. It’s even harder without a support system in place. Sure, I like experiencing a full year to work through the uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s too much. Have him talk to a counselor at school, and a therapist. Encourage him to speak to upperclassmen, too. Suggest that he put together a plan of what will be different at the next school. The transfer plan should include places where he’ll find connections, people he will connect with, and a timeline. His girlfriend can be one of his people, but he needs to have at least four other people. Once he has a transition plan in place, he can start to practice some of the steps at his current school. Maybe he can finish out the year. There’s nothing to gain from being miserable and alone at an ultra-competitive school versus thriving at a school where he has passion and a plan. Let him know that whatever he decides, you will always support him.

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She’s too busy for a date… He’s crushed, confused, and still waiting

Flirting After SchoolDear Harlan: I like this girl, but every time I ask her out, she is busy (legitimately). She sends me mixed signals and sometimes I really think she likes me, but then I sometimes think she’s just leading me on. How do I know the difference? — Led on

Dear Led on: You need more crushes in your life.  Listen to me man… If you had five more women in your life who interested you, this one would be a distant thought. You wouldn’t feel led on because you’d have moved on a long time ago. Interestingly, when you move on, women find you much more attractive. It’s not attractive to sit around waiting for someone to decide that she has enough time for you. Moving on makes you appear to not need anyone. That makes you more wanted. You’ve done everything you need to do. You’ve asked her out. She knows how you feel. Now you can let her know that when she’s available, if you’re not seeing someone, she can let you know about that date. Make it about the timing. Then, spend your time on women who are available.

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The Only Expectations Are The Ones You Create

Dear Harlan:  In high school, I never really talked to boys or dated them, and I know in college guys have a lot of expectations for girls. How can I keep away from those expectations without being a prude about it? — Uneasy Expectations

Dear Uneasy:  The only expectations are the ones you create. Guys will either meet you where you’re comfortable, or not.  But give them a chance. You’ll be surprised to learn that a lot of men respect women who set clear boundaries and share what they want.  You just need to tell them.  The biggest problem is that everyone is so busy assuming that very few people are actually communicating.   It’s just easier to assume. Making sweeping generalizations is an easy excuse to avoid dating. If you assume all men want something that you can’t give them, you can avoid all men. It’s easier to blame and assume than to share the truth.  Practice.  Then get back to me.

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Help Me, Harlan!: She’s shook up by the hook up

Dear Harlan: My boyfriend and I recently broke up. He said he didn’t want to be in a relationship. He still wants to hook up, but doesn’t want to be committed. We still spend time together, but we’re no longer a couple. I want to be with him, but this isn’t working. — Broken

Dear Broken: Of course it’s not working. You want to date someone who wants to hook up with you. See the disconnect here?  You absolutely know what you want, but you’re too scared to express it. You must set firm boundaries. If he wants to hook up with you, he needs to date you. If he doesn’t like you enough to date you or isn’t ready to commit, he can hook up with someone else. Hanging out with him will just give him another reason to NEVER NEVER NEVER date you. The only way you can get what you want is by telling him what you want and being committed to moving on if he can’t respect your boundaries. I know this scares you. It might mean being alone or not having him as a friend. But that’s part of setting boundaries. It’s how you demand and command respect. Men respect women who set boundaries and stick to them. While it’s painful, this is all part of building a healthy relationship. The hardest part of setting boundaries is sticking to them. Make sure you have interests, friends, and a life that fills you up with happiness with or without him.

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Future coed doesn’t want to look like a prude

woman with an unwanted boyfriend - isolated over a white background

Dear Harlan:

I’m going to college next year. In high school, I never really talked to boys or dated them. I’m very inexperienced. I know that in college, guys have a lot of sexual expectations of girls. How can I handle these expectations without being a prude?

– Not a Prude

Dear Not a Prude:

WHAT ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS (sorry to shout)? It all starts with you.  Here’s how I see it: You are a strong, interesting, attractive, dynamic and intelligent woman whom anyone would be lucky to date. A guy who wants to kiss you and get close to you should be expected to ask YOU what feels comfortable for YOU.  Or you can just tell him.  He should be expected to respect your boundaries, move at a comfortable pace and NEVER pressure you. If a man expects more than you are comfortable sharing, he can stop, slow down or go somewhere else to get it. There are more than enough men in the world, and more than enough who will be happy to go at your pace. You DO NOT need to worry about pleasing a man or rising to the level of his expectations.  That was 1950. We’ve moved on.

I want to tell you a BIG secret: A guy who likes you will ALWAYS respect you. A guy who wants to be with you (and not use you) will ALWAYS listen when you tell him how you feel. A guy who is interested in you will find your directness, values and virtues attractive.

One more piece of advice: Focus less on what college men want and more on what you want.  Make dating less about being interesting and more about being interested. It’s about what YOU want. When you know what you want, you can say what you want and express how you feel. Your partner can do the same. And then you can build a relationship with intimacy and trust. But to do this, you need to believe, with absolute certainty, that anyone who gets an invitation to participate in your life is the luckiest person in the world.  I know you’ve never been kissed and never been in love, but it doesn’t make you less kissable or lovable. It just means you have more kisses and more love to give.

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Rules for Dating Older Men (when you’re a teenager)

Man Hand writing What are your Rules for Dating? with black marker on visual screen. Business, technology, internet concept.

Dear Harlan,

I’m 19 and my boyfriend is 24 years old. People already judge me about my boyfriend being five years older than me, and it makes it hard to focus on my relationship. I’m too distracted by what everyone thinks about this age difference. What do I do?

Younger Woman

Dear Younger Woman,

Make me a promise. Don’t marry him until you’re at least 25. I’ll even go as low as 24 years old if you follow these guidelines:

  1. You must create a life that fills you with happiness that doesn’t depend on your boyfriend. This means doing things you love with friends and without your boyfriend.
  2. You must work to be independently happy while being in a loving relationship.  Being happy while you’re not together is a sign that you’re a happy person.
  3. You must always command and demand respect. If he can’t respect you and your boundaries, then you must promise to move on.

The biggest mistake younger partners make in relationships is not having a life, being dependent on a partner and making excuses when boundaries are violated. If people judge you because of the age difference, instead of getting defensive, ask them what makes them uncomfortable about your relationship. Listen, thank them, and decide if they’re right or wrong. If you can’t listen to their feedback, then it tells me you know there’s a problem. This means you should find someone else – not because of the age difference, but because you realize there is something fundamentally wrong with this relationship.

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