Ask Wendy

My Boyfriend Makes Me Feel Bad When He Looks at Women & Porn

Friday, June 8, 2018
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woman covering man's eyes
Hey Wendy,

I’ve had numerous issues with boyfriends in the past that my current boyfriend knows about. I shared these things and he seems to be using them against me.

For example, he will make me feel bad when I confront him about constantly looking at other women. He will make me feel bad when I confront him about watching porn whilst I’m gone for a couple of hours. He will make me feel bad when I tell him how bad he is making me feel. Can you help?

Ellie.

Hey Ellie,

I’m sorry your boyfriend is triggering hurt feelings in you; the situation sounds combative and painful, and I’m truly sorry about that.

If looking at other women and porn are deal-breakers for you, you could definitely find a new boyfriend who doesn’t do either of those things. But you are not going to change your guy. Not with niceness, not with directness, not with a new shade of lipstick.

Why?

Looking at other women: Most men who are attracted to women look at women. Now, most of them work really hard at and gain mad skills in not getting busted doing so, but it’s natural, it’s normal, and it’s not personal.

You get tripped by the beauty around you, don’t you? He does, too. He’s only enjoying the view—it doesn’t actually mean anything about you. You’re not in competition with the women he’s checking out, just like he’s not in competition with that shiny bracelet in the window of a designer store, that sweeping vista from your recent road trip, or hey, that super-fine guy on the subway you locked eyes with the other day. The only time this becomes a problem is if he’s also planning on acting on his appreciation, or if he already has (and you two don’t have an open-relationship agreement going on).

Here’s a hot tip: Since it’s not going to stop, and it’s negatively affecting you, try saying, “Dude! You have got to get a whole lot better at not getting caught looking at other women. I find it rude, and they might find it creepy—work it out.” See if that helps.

Porn: Also probably not going to stop. I’ve been at this relationship gig for sixteen years, and I don’t know of a single woman who has ever successfully made her husband/boyfriend stop watching porn. I know of plenty who have scared men into lying about it, but quitting? Nope. Our private lives are just that: private. What he does in the privacy of his own home and presumably on his own device when you are not there is none of your business. It’s not cheating on you any more than you watching a romantic comedy is cheating on him. If you need more before you can get past this, read this:

“He makes me feel bad”: Girl, no he doesn’t. You and you alone own your feelings! Your feelings are yours as much as your toenails are yours—he can’t make you feel anything. Something happens (or doesn’t happen), you react to that something a certain way, and that leads to whatever feelings that reaction brings up.

Here’s an example: Your boyfriend says, “I’m going out with the guys on Saturday. We’re going to ride our bikes 100 miles.”

You could think: “Awesome for him! My butt would be so sore after just five, so I’m glad I’m not going. Bro bonding on bikes sounds like a fun activity for him, though.” You could decide to be happy for him that he has fresh air, good weather, and hang-time with his friends. You could also be happy for you because Saturday just became your spa-and-movie day.

Or, you could think: “Ugh! Saturday was the only day we could have had to ourselves. How selfish that he’d rather be with his buddies instead of being with me.” You could decide to be upset/hurt/resentful for your lack of alone time with him.

Can you see that he didn’t do anything other than update you on weekend plans here? And how you control how you feel? Sure, there might be extenuating circumstances at play here, like maybe he’s been spending all his free time with his friends and your relationship is suffering because of it, and that merits a conversation. But again, his actions alone don’t dictate how you feel—you do that. And you decide what you’re going to do about it. Any time we say that someone else made us feel anything, we are giving all our power away.

You don’t like what’s happening or the feelings that you’re feeling? Make another choice. And the first step to doing that is setting boundaries around what you need.

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