Dear Wendy: “Does Porn Preference Indicate Real Life Preference?”

I’ve known my boyfriend for four years and we’ve been dating for the past year. We moved in together about three months ago and things are going great — he works hard, is wonderful to me, and I love our life together. He is on a business trip this week and I was looking through our movie pile and found three Asian pornos. To be clear, any porn would upset me a little. I was sexually assaulted a few years ago and since then I can’t watch it because it feels like a flashback and I was never much of a fan anyway. My boyfriend has had several Asian girlfriends/friends-with-benefits (mostly FWB situations I think) in the years that I have known him, and I guess I am wondering if I’m really what he wants. I have blue eyes, blond hair, and am of Germanic descent. Does a guy’s porn preference indicate what he really wants? Should I ask him about it when he gets home? He is 40, and I am 27; maybe his preference has been the reason he is still single after so many years? I really do care for him and he has indicated he wants a future together, so how do I shake this nagging feeling that there is something wrong? — Not Asian

While I understand your anxiety, NA, I hope what you’re looking for here is for validation to what you’re already aware of: people’s porn preferences rarely indicate what “they really want.” Porn is fantasy. It’s a way for people to escape the responsibilities of their realities and to spice up their sex lives. Plenty of couples have sexual fantasies that don’t involve their significant others. It doesn’t mean they all have a desire to act on those fantasies or that their significant others fall short in any way.

That your boyfriend enjoys fantasizing about women who don’t look like you does NOT mean he prefers those women over you and it most certainly doesn’t mean he isn’t sexually attracted to you. It also doesn’t explain why he’s “still single after so many years.” These topics are only related in the anxiety they create for you — nothing more. Obviously, since you’re concerned about your boyfriend’s porn habits as well as why he’s 40 and still single, talk to him about these things. Him leaving the porn out where you could easily find it, may be an indication that it’s something he wants to discuss with you. Or, maybe it was simply an accident. But you know what you know now and the only person who can put your mind at ease as to what it means is your boyfriend. So talk to him. Until then, try not to worry about it too much. Your boyfriend is with you because you’re the person he wants to be with. At 40, if he were only attracted to a specific type, he wouldn’t be wasting his time with someone who didn’t fit that role.

I’m in a long distance relationship, and on my last visit to see my boyfriend, I discovered e-evidence that he had cheated on me a few months prior. When I confronted him, he confessed. When the cheating occurred, we were in the middle of a fight, and while he was home visiting his parents, he had a one-night stand with one of his friends. At the time of our fight, he called me crying, told me he was wrong about our argument and that he didn’t deserve me. When I later learned about the cheating and confronted him about it, he said he realized it was the biggest mistake of his life and immediately regretted it, and that he felt guilty but was afraid of telling me so he resolved to never mention it and make amends. I told him that if we continued this relationship we’d have to completely start from (less than) scratch in rebuilding trust between us. He said that he would do anything I asked of him if it meant that we could keep our relationship going. My gut tells me that he might actually be honest, but at the same time I feel like if my friends knew I’d be judged for accepting him back. I know people say that sometimes a relationship can continue through cheating depending on the circumstances. I told myself I would never forgive someone who cheated on me but … I don’t know. Do you think we can work through this? — Cheated on

Look, people make mistakes, and you have to decide for yourself what kind of mistake is too much for you to forgive and what you’re willing to work through. This isn’t about your friends or about society or even about how you always imagined you’d react in a situation like this. The truth is, every relationship is different, and every mistake made within a relationship has varying levels of intensity. What may be forgivable in a different relationship may not be forgivable in yours and vice versa. But what you need to focus on here in YOUR relationship — what you’ve invested in it, what you’ve lost, and what you think you might be able to gain back. In short, you have to decide what the value on this relationship is to you. And to figure that out, it might take some time.

The short answer to your question about whether you can work through your boyfriend’s infidelity is: I don’t know. What I do know is if you’re going to try, it’s going to take commitment on both your parts. If your boyfriend says he’s willing to do whatever it takes to earn back your trust, let him try. Tell him what you need from him. I don’t know what that would be. You have to decide for yourself and then let him know. If he’s unwilling to “play by your rules,” he’s not truly committed to earning back your trust and you need to move on. Likewise, if you can’t really think of a single thing he can do to earn your trust, you aren’t really committed to working things out either, and you need to be honest about that and let him know. If, after you’ve tried to work things out — you’ve told him what you need from him and he’s given it to you — and you find you still can’t trust your boyfriend, it’s only fair to let him go. Yes, he’s made a mistake, but if you’re intent on making him pay for it forever, that’s not going to make for a very happy relationship. At some point, you have to accept that penance has been made and move on. If you can’t, it’s really just not meant to be.

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