Expert advice

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey: Sexologist

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey has been a sexologist — sexuality educator, sex therapist and sex researcher — since 1990. She is also the author a number of successful books.

I feel betrayed by my boyfriend's pictures of other women.

Monday, February 9, 2009
If I were to assume, I'd assume that there was a fairly lengthy period of time during which you were both very satisfied with your love life, which is partly motivating you to continue to work through...

Whenever I find that my boyfriend has saved a picture of another woman (often times a famous woman but not always) onto his computer, it makes me angry. I want to close off my affections for him because I feel betrayed. Most times the pictures are not nude pictures, just provocative, but it still hurts me.

When I am in a relationship, I make it a point not to save provocative pictures of other men or woman out of respect for my partner and my relationship. I know most men are not that way, and that most men are into porn. So how do I deal with that? How can I keep from feeling hurt every time I know my boyfriend is looking at someone else with lust?

I know he's just looking, and "at least he's not out there having sex with someone else" but I'm sure he is in his mind and really, how much different is that from actually physically going through with it. Mind you, he doesn't do it often, and he doesn't have a lot of pictures of other women on his computer. It's just one here and there, every now and again, but it still hurts me. Should I seek therapy?

To answer your most direct question — should you seek therapy — well, only you can decide that, but even asking the question indicates that you might benefit from it. One of the great things about therapy is that it can help you to cope with your own issues, triggers and reactions in a relationship. You don't always have to go to couples therapy when you are in a relationship.

Individual therapy can be immensely helpful in some instances too. So while I think some open communication might be the answer for you both, if you feel you need some therapy to help you understand your situation and what's so upsetting about it, then by all means, go for at least a few sessions to enhance your understanding and coping skills.

Whether you decide to go to counselling or not, some open communication would absolutely help this situation. Your response to shut down your affection for your partner when you feel hurt is a natural one. However, it's not healthy to be in a relationship in which you feel hurt and betrayed and so therefore close your heart off to him. This cycle can be stopped with some heart-to-heart dialogue so you both understand each other better.

Sure, to some degree, you are right. Many men like to keep or view a variety of sexual stimuli for fantasy purposes and it doesn't mean they are cheaters or are planning to go out to cheat, or have any other wish fulfillment other than you. The fact is also many women do the same thing. This issue here is that you two are partners, and you each clearly have a different viewpoint.

So rather than stew about it, and shut down, it would be much better for your relationship and your emotions, if you talked about it. Have you told your boyfriend how you feel? Does he know how much it bothers you and that the consequence is that you close yourself off to him and disconnect?

Have you asked him how important it is to him and if he would stop it for you since it hurts you so much? Have you even asked him if he "looks at these women with lust" or if that's just your assumption? It's a fairly safe assumption, but it's still important to get clarity about why he does it so you can better understand your differences and learn to communicate effectively.

Be open with your feelings in a direct and honest way, calmly and without accusation, and once he knows how you feel, if he cares for you, he will stop it, curb it, or discuss compromises about your needs with you. Certainly a talk like this calmly, will bring you closer. And if you want to delve deeper into the issue or find the two of you can't find a solution on your own, by all means, therapy is a great answer for you as well. For more information please see Dr Gabrielle's website or visit her consultancy website Bananas and Melons.

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