Dear Dr. Brian:
I have broken up with my boyfriend due to his internet porn hook-ups. But I still love him and wish we could be together. It seems like all he wants from me is sex, but I know deep-down he wants more from our relationship but doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for me with his self-esteem issues and problems going on in his life. I need to be on my own now, but is it wrong for me to be yearning for him?
As difficult as it was to put some closure to the conflictual relationship you were having with your boyfriend, I applaud you for setting some boundaries and doing what you needed to do to protect yourself. Being involved with someone with internet porn addiction is a very challenging, painful, and hurtful position to be in as you can constantly feel in competition with the pornography and know that you’re not completely the priority in your partner’s life that you want to be. In most cases, the origins behind the porn addiction have nothing to do with you as the partner and can be symbolic of some unmet needs, psychological wounds, or unfinished business from his past that impair daily functioning, especially relationships. Also, in most cases, the individual struggling with the addiction needs to have some degree of stabilization and “sobriety” from the compulsive behavior before any real progress and improvement can occur in a relationship that’s struggling because it’s such a distraction and powerful force in his life that takes energy away from the relationship.
Of course it’s ok for you to still be yearning for him! You’d invested your heart into a relationship with him and those feelings don’t just go away because you’re no longer together. It’s perfectly normal to be feeling that way too even with the recognition that it wasn’t a healthy situation for you to remain in for yourself. You’ll experience a bit of a grieving process for awhile with a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from despair and questioning whether you’ve done the right thing leaving him to positive anticipation of a better future. Be open and receptive to everything you’re feeling; it’s important to not stuff your emotions. Stay busy, connect with your support system, and begin the process of defining a new identity as a single person.
You seem like a passionate guy, and as such, you deserve to be involved with someone who can reciprocate the love, attention, and excitement you share for being part of a couple. During this transition time as you fly it solo, it will be important for you to reflect on your prior relationship. What lessons can you take from your involvement with him that can be applied for future dating relationships? What are some “red flags” that you can now be mindful of moving forward in your screening of dating prospects? What did you learn about yourself in how you’d conducted yourself in the relationship? What worked? What were your regrets? What role did you play in challenges? What would you do differently? By thinking about how you can grow from the experience and crafting a revised set of personal requirements for an ideal partner and relationship, you’ll be making optimal use of your new independence to prepare for more successful dating when you’re ready. Take your time, take good care of yourself, and I’m sending you many well wishes on your journey forward!
All my best!