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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Loving Yourself First

Red carnation flower isolated on white background

Loving Yourself First

In high school, the student council had a fund-raiser where we could buy a flower for someone special and have it delivered to them on Valentine’s Day morning in their first-period class.

That year, I sent out three carnations to three unsuspecting girls. I figured there might be a chance to attract at least one of them. Besides, if any one of them had sent me a flower and I didn’t send them one in return, it would be over before it began. A carnation went out to Melanie, Susie and Jenny (Jenny was the long shot). The whole week, I anticipated who might send me some carnations. My friend Brian sent one to his girlfriend. Stephanie sent one to Jason, a guy she had a crush on all semester. My friend Lisa sent one to her good friend Tracy just for fun. That entire week a list of girls ran through my mind. I wondered who would be the one to try to win me over. I had two potentials in mind, but I was more than ready to be completely surprised by any random girl out there for me.

Finally, the morning of February 14 arrived. After thirty minutes of math class, I spotted the student council flower delivery person outside the classroom in the hallway. She entered the room carrying a massive bouquet of flowers for distribution in Mr. Aaron’s math class. Mr. Aaron reluctantly stopped his class and organized the flowers. As he shuffled through the thick stack of cards, the room filled with anticipation. At long last, Mr. Aaron finally had our undivided attention. He asked for a helper and started handing out the flowers. He announced the names on the cards as he delivered the goods. “Neil, Brian, Jennifer, Scott, Chad, Anne, Amy . . .” The list went on for a good ten minutes. Flowers began sprouting up on desktops all around me. Some guys were already on their second and third flowers. One guy even scored a good half-dozen. Even though it was public knowledge that he had a girlfriend, the reality was that he already had six times as many flowers as me.

The list was now coming to an end and there was still a good six or seven of us in the room left holding nothing but a pencil. We had no flowers, no cards, only a small bit of hope that one of the remaining flowers would be for us. Mr. Aaron read out the last couple names, “Two more for Neil and, oh good, one for Harlan.” Yes! There was one for me! Total relief.

I had a pretty good idea who had sent it to me. I looked down at the card and it confirmed exactly what I expected. It wasn’t from Melanie, it wasn’t from Susie, and it definitely wasn’t from Jenny. The card simply read,

“Happy Valentine’s Day

Love,

Harlan.”

My friends asked me who sent it. I told them it was someone very special, and left it at that. They never knew. They didn’t need to know.

Harlan Cohen
Chicken Soup for The Teenage Soul III

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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When he doesn’t message you back, don’t look back

Social Media ApplicationsDear Harlan,  I had a crush on a guy when I was in the United States.  After following your advice, I decided to make a change for my life and messaged him. It wasn’t easy at all. He replied to me the first time, but never replied to me the second time. It was a normal conversation, so I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe you would understand the situation? I need your help, Harlan! – Experimenting

Dear Experimenting,  When a man doesn’t return a text or message, it’s time to find a new man. You can spend your time wondering what you did right or wrong, or you can spend your time finding Mr. Right.  There are 3,477,829,638 males in the world. Use your international savvy to find one of the millions who will not ignore you.  As a rule, when you have to guess what a man is thinking, think about finding a man who can tell you what he’s thinking.   Oh, and when you do meet another man, that’s when the man from the past will message you back.  Count on it.

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Getting Hurt is Part of Falling in Love

Honeymoon couple romantic in love at beach sunset. Newlywed happDear Harlan, As a girl with major trust issues due to past relationships, how do I know if someone is being genuine? What can I do to protect myself from getting screwed over again by another guy? — Trust

Dear Trust, Here’s how love works: We fall in love. We get hurt. We fall in love again. We get hurt again. In between falling in love and getting hurt, some people do the work to tolerate the hurt and love again; others don’t. You didn’t do the stuff between the love and the hurt that enables you to trust again. That’s why you have trust issues. I had trust issues. I stopped trusting. Then I worked on me. I surrounded myself with different people. I found places where I could do things I loved. I changed the dynamics in my life so I could be happy without being in love. You need to work to become a strong, independent and comfortable woman who can handle whatever happens next. Men will come and men will go, but you need to do the work on yourself. In order to trust men, you have to trust that no matter who comes and goes, you will be OK. When you approach relationships from a place of strength, abundance and faith, you can be vulnerable and build a deep connection. You can ask questions, set boundaries and open up. When you approach a relationship from a place of fear, scarcity and suspicion, you put up walls. You live your life waiting for the pain — it’s not fun. To get to a better place, work to create a life that fills you up. Find people who fill your world with light. Find places where you can find community and connection. Become a passionate, healthier and happier version of you. When you have people, places and passion, you can trust again.

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Boyfriend’s dream life barely includes long-distance girlfriend

woman was late for a plane at the airportDear Harlan: I’m in a long-distance relationship. We dated last year and then he had to move away for his job. I visited over winter break, and we reconnected and decided to start dating long-distance. We’re great together, but he’s shared with me that he doesn’t want us to get too serious, but he doesn’t want to break up. He’s thinking about moving to another country, once again for his job, and I still have two more years of school left. Should we just break up? – Uncertain

Dear Uncertain: Your boyfriend is quite the romantic. Let me clear this up: What do you want? Forget about him. He’s doing whatever he wants to do. Nothing is holding him back. He wants a standby girlfriend — she stands by while he does whatever he wants.  If this is the kind of relationship you want, then you got it. But if you want to have something deeper, more serious and committed, you have the wrong man. Here’s what scares you — once you set boundaries and tell him what you want, you’ll be alone. No one wants to be alone. But the way things are set up, you’re already going to be alone.  So, focus on what you want. If he can’t give it to you, then find someone who can. Who knows? After he experiences life without you, maybe he’ll realize he can’t be without you.

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Walking with a limp makes it even harder to approach women

CourageDear Harlan, I have confidence issues. It is really difficult for me to walk up to a female I like because of my disability. It makes me walk with a mild limp, and my muscles in half of my body are constantly tense. I always feel like women will judge me before I even approach them. How should I go about approaching women? – Kid With a Limp

Dear Kid With a Limp, I have big-time confidence issues, too. I’m losing my hair, I struggle with my weight, my ears still stick out, I’m shorter than most men and sometimes my personality can bother people. I constantly beat myself up and question whether I’m good enough. That’s on a bad day. On a good day, I forget that I’m losing my hair, my height and weight don’t matter, my personality makes people light up and my ears separate me from the flat-eared men of the world. The secret? Most days are good days. Turn that limp and tensing into a small part of you – not all of you. The more you focus on your best qualities, the less other people will notice the other qualities. Give women permission to judge you, because you know that you’re interesting, attractive and worth getting to know. Let them see your beautiful smile and hear your kind voice, and listen to them with rapt attention. Play to your strengths. Meet women doing things you love to do. Approach women looking to uncover common interests. Use your strengths to overpower your fears. When you have a bad day, surround yourself with people like me. Find friends who have overcome physical, emotional and social obstacles and have found love. Let the people around you remind you that you’re interesting, attractive and more than good enough. Give it time, and work to be so great at life that you forget about your disability until the love of your life asks you about it after falling in love.

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No One Owes You a Relationship

Handsome Thinking Man In Shirt Sitting In CafeDear Harlan: I am an 18-year-old guy who has never gone on a date, held hands, been kissed or had sex. And I masturbate daily, sometimes even four times a day. I have terrible social skills, and a so-so, “meh” appearance. The loneliness and “late bloomer” stigma are causing me a lot of frustration and angst. I know you said being a virgin is a choice, but I’m not a virgin because I choose to say “no” — it’s because no one ever talks to me. Sometimes I feel like hooking up with someone just so I don’t have to feel lonely, but I don’t know if that’s the best idea. And just in case you need to know: My sexual orientation is all over the place. I just want to not be lonely anymore and feel some kind of sexual stimulation from another human being. I’m a straightforward and “real” kind of guy, so I appreciate advice and honesty. Thanks for taking the time to read this. – Straightforward

Dear Straightforward:  I’m sorry you’re in so much pain. But can we be real? No one owes you a relationship. You need to work to create one. Hiding your feelings by blaming, hating and masturbating isn’t going to get you a relationship. It just puts up more walls. The truth? You’re too afraid to have a relationship. And I get it. I’ve been scared, hurt, and lonely too.  People have hurt you most of your life. It’s easier to avoid and blame. Want to change? Pick one thing you don’t love about yourself. Make a commitment to change it or learn to tolerate it. Find five people in your corner who can help you make these changes (therapist, medical professionals, leaders, adults, former men who have been there, etc.). Put yourself in places where you can get the help you need. Then give it time. You will not be alone for long.  Once you start loving yourself, the “meh” will turn to “yeah,” and good things will happen.

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She hates that her best friend hates her boyfriend

Woman-With-Fingers-in-EarsDear Harlan, My best friend hates my boyfriend and is really rude to him, it puts stress on my relationship with both of them. How do I handle it? – Angry Friend

Dear Angry, Your best friend hates your boyfriend for a good reason. Find out the reason. She probably thinks he’s creep. Maybe he tried to kiss her.  Maybe she’s just jealous because he’s monopolizing your time.  If you can’t handle her opinion, it’s because you don’t want to face the truth. Acknowledging the truth would force you to deal with the situation. And that might mean breaking up and being single again. Therefore, it’s easier to hate your best friend than it is to face the truth.

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