Is My Boyfriend A Virtual Cheater?

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I am a 26 year old woman and I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 6 years, living together for the past year. Last year we were both stressed out with several family problems. But our relationship was good at that time – until I found that he was watching videos of semi-naked girls on webcams, dancing, stripping etc. I was shocked. I confronted him, he was sorry and said it’s not going to happen again. He said the reason why he did it was due to the stress we were going through at the time. Last week while I was using the computer, I found out again that he watched just one other video. Should I be worried? I don’t know how to handle this. I don’t want to be the ‘super strict’ girlfriend, but it’s hurting me knowing that he is watching and desiring other girls. PLEASE HELP.

Dear Elisa,

Views on pornography differs from person to person, depending also on the type and frequency of pornography use and what levels one is comfortable with. Some (‘some’ as in versus many) couples find their sexual satisfaction is actually enhanced by watching pornography together. Like you, many women in committed relationships resent that their partner is being sexually aroused by other women and see it as a form of virtual cheating. When this is the case, it is having a negative impact on your relationship, especially if it effects sexual satisfaction and emotional closeness between you.

Should you be worried? Only you know what type and level, if at all, of pornography use you are comfortable with your partner watching. And there is a difference between occasional use and frequent use or obsession/addiction, when he can’t be aroused unless watching porn; or if he forms an attachment of sorts with the girls on webcam – which is not the same as a magazine spread, which is more passive. An addiction, like any other, will effect the addict’s life and of those around him, in which case he may need a therapist’s help, although from what you’ve said this is unlikely.

It is not about being a strict girlfriend – you are not his mother – it is about what is and what is not acceptable to you and your partner respecting that. What matters here is that this is distressful to you. Your feelings matter. You were shocked – decreasing the trust within the relationship when you found out your partner had been dishonest and deceived you about his porn use.

It seems that your partner has been using it as a form of escapism during stressful times but he prioritised and agreed to quit when you talked to him about how it hurts you. It’s up to you whether you decide to see this as a let-boys-be-boys situation, or whether you’d rather find out why he’s been using pornography again and what is so hard about doing without it. Perhaps finding the middle ground would work for you, but again, it depends on how this is effecting you and your relationship. An other option is to ignore the issue for a while and simply claim your power by approaching this issue from an other angle – like, if you feel like it, surprising your partner by kindling some adventure and excitement within the relationship, within boundaries though, don’t upset the boat too much.

Keeping communication open between you is important. It might resolve some issue in your relationship that you were unaware of, or perhaps it will lead to new ways of approaching intimacy, but most importantly it is about being committed to working together to have a trusting, connected, healthy relationship. Good luck!

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