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March 2012

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  Ask Our Coaches:
Help! My Boyfriend Can't Stop Looking at …

"Why is my boyfriend obsessed with looking at p.orn?"

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches,

Why is my boyfriend obsessed with looking at p.orn? I think we have a good sex life, but apparently he must be dissatisfied. And when I catch him, he lies about it. I think that I'm attractive and we do have a great relationship. I just don't understand this. Why is this happening and what can I do about it?


Nina responds …

Don't make it about you and your attractiveness -- it's not! If you start second guessing yourself, you may drive him away with your insecurity. What does he like about it? Try surprising him by asking to join in. Healthy couples sometimes use photos and stories for variety to enhance their love making.

If he wants sex more often than you, he may be using the photos to keep himself satisfied without pressuring you into more frequency. It may be his way of ensuring fidelity. Have a positive, open discussion about his needs using the RCI Communications Map available from one of our coaches.

The bigger concern here is the word "obsession" and his lies about it when you confront him. A frank discussion about how often and necessary these photos are will clarify if it's occasional or addictive behavior. You may not agree on what is obsessive but you need to decide what you will tolerate. If open and honest communication is a relationship requirement for you and if it's a deal-breaker if missing, you may have a partner who can't fulfill your requirements and you need to move on. Unmet requirements eventually result in failure of the relationship anyway.

Nina Potter | | 1.651.773.0732

Bill responds …

It's risky to assume that he must be dissatisfied with you based on his described activities. It seems you have not discussed this thoroughly enough to get to the bottom line. He obviously seems open in a way since he is not blocking you from "catching him." He is apparently an adult who has his own preferences and innate freedom to spend his time the way he chooses without having to explain his actions especially if you haven't a mutual agreement that this is out of bounds in your relationship.

This could be a catalyst to come together regarding your relationship agreements and provide the platform and structure where this and other important values can be discussed and addressed. Regarding the "lying," perhaps he does not think you are open at all based on your reaction and thus attempts to bypass the situation. What is obvious is that lying is another of your high values.

I suggest that you get into dialogue with him and get these and other important values out in the open so that you can live together in harmony. This is advisable as the premise to a healthy relationship now and in the future.

Bill Paglia-Scheff |

Jianny responds …

It sounds like your boyfriend may be addicted to p.orn. The addiction has nothing to do with you and it would occur whether or not you are in his life. One of the problems with addiction is that the addiction is in control -- not the individual. He or she becomes dependent on something to cope with daily life causing them to hide the truth and not live authentically.

The first step to recovery from an addiction is acceptance. Until then, you cannot help. Another problem with addictions is that the addicted individual will have feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, despair, failure, rejection, anxiety and/or humiliation that he or she cannot own and will therefore deflect and defend against. Many times it is their partner who feels the hopelessness and despair of the situation making for a very unhealthy relationship -- toxic.

If your boyfriend is not willing to acknowledge and get help for his addiction and you desire to have a relationship based on honesty, openness and fidelity, it would be wise to seek counseling or coaching for yourself. Discover what you require from a relationship to feel loved and cherished and prepare to attract someone who exceeds your expectations.

Jianny Adamo | | 1.954.495.4566

Udall responds …

P.orn is available instantly, easily accessible, provides variety and fantasy. Men are interested in p.orn for various reasons and many men can compartmentalize sex (p.orn) from love. Thus, quite a few men (and women) enjoy p.orn and have a satisfying sex life with their partners. Some couples even include it in their sex life.

Examine your perspective on p.orn. What are your issues with it? Female objectification? Morality? Nudity? Adultery? Religious? Competition? Once clear on your perspective, have an open and honest conversation with your boyfriend without being accusatory and judgmental.

Together, examine his reasons, your concern and its impact. Your boyfriend should examine how often he looks at p.orn—hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and address several questions. Does it interfere with his relationship with you? What does it give him? Is it a substitute for something? Why does he lie about it? Can he stop looking at it?

You each have to decide whether p.orn is something you can accept in your relationship. Is it possible to integrate it into your sex life? If you cannot find a p.orn solution you are willing to live with then consider whether it is a "relationship breaker" for you.

Udall DeOleo |

Dr. Dar responds …

Women are programmed to think that p.orn is unhealthy -- thinking they are doing something wrong or there is something wrong with them if their partner enjoys it. Nothing can be further from the truth. There is nothing wrong with you or your relationship.

I suggest that you support your partner in his desire to look at p.orn, and create a safe place so that he no longer feels wrong or feels the need to lie to you. Lying could indicate that he has shame about this and your support will help him open up and no longer be ashamed by it. By supporting him, perhaps even offering to spend some time understanding what he gets out of it from his perspective, you will deepen and strengthen your relationship.

Remember, his desire for p.orn has nothing to do with you and is all about him. You can both get closer with the help of a sex therapist/coach in understanding his need, what drives it, what he gets out of it, and how to partner with you so that he can learn, heal, and grow with you by his side with LOVE!

Dr. Dar Hawks | | 1.704.651.8568

Doris responds …

Your partner's preoccupation with p.ornography probably has nothing to do with whether or not you are attractive. An obsession with p.ornography isn't about sex. It's an attempt to meet hidden needs.

People who perpetually immerse themselves in p.orn are seeking affirmation and acceptance. Through video, books or magazines, a voluptuous figure craves the viewer's attention without rules, requirements or needs. This fantasy partner is always available and easy to please. Gratification is instant.

Your boyfriend may be avoiding the challenges of true intimacy. Sex with you requires vulnerability far beyond taking off his clothes. True intimacy can be a sincere challenge. Voices of inner doubt lurk beneath the bed sheets, "Am I good enough? Is it safe for you to see who I really am?"

The p.orn industry offers a lure far beyond sexual seduction. Vulnerable individuals try to escape fears associated with depending on a real-live partner for acceptance, validation, emotional release and nurturing. P.ornography-susceptible people feel more in control than when they explore intimacy with a real partner.

A qualified relationship coach can help your partner accept and affirm himself so the two of you can explore how to gain the loving, supporting relationship you want.

Dr. Doris | | 1.360.748.4365

Denise responds …

The lure of p.orn can be highly addictive. When a man enjoys p.orn he activates the pleasure centers of the brain and releases dopamine. Overindulging in any pleasurable behavior, such as overeating, alcohol use, drug use, or p.ornography, at some point, is no longer an act of the will, but becomes a dependence.

You are not responsible for your boyfriend's behaviors. Only he has control over if and when he stops. You do, however, have control over yourself and your own needs. Is this a deal breaker for you? If so, you need to let go of the relationship and move on.

If his behavior is hurtful to you, but not a deal breaker, then consider two things.

1. Ask him what is missing in your sex life that he would like.
2. Ask him what need of his is being fulfilled when he views p.orn. Control? Acceptance? Masculinity?

I did a study last year and found that seventy-five percent of men, who engaged in p.orn use on a daily basis, did so for variety. Most of those men did not believe in monogamy, and were not honest about it with their partner. Ask him if he values monogamy.

Denise Wade Ph.D. | | 1.610.639.6627

Feature Article:
Protect Your Partnership From Relationship Busters: Don't let family and friends burst your relationship bliss

by Doris Helge, Ph.D.

Although we don't always choose our in-laws or the gender of our stepchildren, we have the power to recognize who is supporting and who is draining the health of our relationship. We're all smart enough to decipher when the presence or advice of friends, family and coworkers deflate us like nails pounded into a tire. We know when unsolicited comments create anger, fear or suspicion that drives a wedge between us and our partner.

Why are we so influenced by the opinions of other people?

Because we are hardwired to live in community, we strive for supportive, fulfilling relationships. Most of us first learn what safety, security, love and comfort mean through interactions with our nuclear families. In partnership, when both families are healthy and love unconditionally, we double the potential to feel loved and supported.

The more your family and friends support your relationship, the easier it is to thrive in partnership. On the other hand, the more your family and friends openly question or nitpick your partner, the more stress you'll feel. Young partners are particularly sensitive to external criticism about their mates.

Most of us feel crushed when important people in our lives disapprove of our choice of a partner or our partnership patterns. Conflicts about family and friends are so stressful that they are one of the most common reasons couples dissolve. In fact, problems with in-laws contribute to at least 40 percent of all divorces.

If you or your partner has children, the effects of conflicts with family and friends are usually more complicated. Because most parents sometimes need assistance with child-rearing or financial assistance, adult children often feel pressed to relate in a positive way with parents, siblings and friends, even if these individuals behave in unhealthy ways.

Children from dysfunctional families often do their best to resolve issues with their parents, even if their parents admit no responsibility for their inappropriate behavior. These adult children take the high road (Forgiveness Lane) because they are focused on what's best for their children. They want their children to enjoy a better childhood than they endured. They want to give their children the benefits of positive interactions with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

Dream Builders and Dream Breakers

Your family and friends can play critical roles that contribute to building or breaking your relationship dream. The effect of their impact on your life depends on your needs, self-awareness and the strength of your relationship. Clients often come to relationship coaching complaining, "My partner's family is so enmeshed. Co-dependent parents expect to be involved in everything, from our decision-making to our vacations. I made a commitment to my partner, not to the needs and expectations of my partner's parents!"

The focus of other clients is intimacy, "When we make love, I feel like my partner's parents are lurking beneath the sheets. You can almost hear them chanting do's and don'ts. Our intimate moments are severely compromised."

In blended families, challenges include "My partner's children always come first. I respect and expect that. However, once the children's needs are met, I want some alone time, but we never get to enjoy quality we-time. The kids are so jealous that I'm getting some of my partner's attention that they constantly interrupt us in unnecessary ways."

The list of your potential dream breakers may be quite long. Old friends may expect you to honor established patterns, wailing, "But we've always gone out together on Friday nights. Don't you value our friendship anymore?" Siblings who cherish your time add another voice that tugs at your heart, "I've always been there for you. Now, I feel like a rejected lover." In many partnerships, exes also gain entrance to a couple's we-time with frantic phone calls like, "Our child just clued me in about a big problem. You've got to help me right now!"

If you're feeling smug because you're in a relationship where your partner's children are adults, please pay attention to this news break: Adult children often return to their nuclear family nest. Most of these young people unconsciously expect that certain familiar patterns with their parent (your partner) will magically reappear.

Because adult children usually return home when they feel dependent on a parent, they can present a host of couple's challenges, ranging from unresolved emotional issues to financial and space usage issues.

Plot Your Partnership Status

Let's do a check to determine how troubled or untroubled your relationship is regarding family or friends who could become dream breakers.

1. Draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. Place the word "Me" in the center of the circle.

2. Draw an intersecting circle and label it "My partner."

3. Shade the portion of the circle that intersects. Label this "We-ness."

4. Very thoughtfully look at the shaded part of the circle. How accurately does it represent the percentage of your relationship that is so secure and united that other people's opinions or manipulations could never separate you? Most people need to re-draw the diagram to make it more accurate.

5. Using a scale of 1-10, where 1 is "We have no we-ness" and 10 is "We enjoy an ideal partnership", rank the health of your relationship. Please note: This ranking is very subjective. Some happy couples desire a lot of we-ness. Other contented couples require very little. Since partners often differ regarding the ideal amount of togetherness, ask your partner to also complete this exercise so you can enjoy an enlightening discussion about your different perceptions, desires, needs and expectations.

6. With your partner's participation, on a different piece of paper, draw a diagram that illustrates the amount of we-ness your ideal relationship would include. This time, when you shade the part of the circle that intersects, label it "The Sacred Untouchable We."

7. Identify and list every person, responsibility and factor (parents, friends, coworkers, siblings, children, stepchildren, exes, occupational duties, etc.) that dilutes the we-ness in your relationship.

8. Place "U" by every uncontrollable factor that currently depletes the health of your relationship. Example: When your partner's children need him/her for legitimate reasons.

9. Place a "C" by every potential relationship diluter that you can control to some degree. Example: You can reduce the frequency of times that parents, friends or siblings drop by unexpectedly.

10. Design an action plan for addressing your "C" items. Take your time with this process. You'll be uncovering diamonds disguised as lumps of coal.

11. Reach agreement about which of you will follow through and when.

12. Celebrate taking your first step toward transforming your current relationship into your ideal relationship, a partnership that nurtures The Sacred Untouchable We.

Own Your Power to Create a Powerful Partnership

Each of the couples described in this article used this proven process (the exercise above) during relationship coaching to gain their ideal partnership. They took full advantage of every opportunity to discover hidden distortions, co-dependencies and conflicts. During your own process, set the intention to be grateful for every challenge that arises. Resolving the issues you discover will be a gold mine for you'e the success of your relationship.

The resources you require to rebalance your relationship reside within you and your partner. This means you possess innate partnership power, even if your original relationship ranking indicates that your partnership is on the brink of sinking. When you make thoughtful, positive changes, you gain priceless, new relationship skills. Eventually, you create the peaceful, passionate, powerful partnership you want.

Most dream breakers are unconsciously, not intentionally, stomping on your vision of a perfect life. Some people have given up on the possibility of enjoying their own image of relationship bliss. It's important not to let someone who won't reach for the stars short-circuit your ability to thrive.

Friends and family can only be intrusive if you are indecisive about your relationship goals, distrust your own opinions, fear setting boundaries or try to be a people-pleaser. It's time for you and your partner to clarify your relationship vision so you can set boundaries and stop dangerous intrusions.

Express your goals and vision to trusted supporters. Nurture your support network while minimizing your association with negative people. Light a positive feedback fire by surrounding yourself with positive role models who hold similar values and are also concerned with the greater good.

Are you experiencing a relationship challenge?

The proven exercise in this article is just one example of hundreds of ways a qualified relationship coach can help you strengthen the vulnerable spots in your relationship so your partnership becomes a primary source of stability and joy in your life.

© 2012. Excerpted with permission from "Transform Your Painful Relationship Into a Powerful Partnership" by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Used with permission.

Dr. Doris HelgeWith over 20 years of experience, #1 Bestselling Author, Dr. Doris has a proven track record of helping singles and couples like you turn painful relationships into powerful partnerships.

Bonus Article:
Mindfulness for Couples: A Primer

by Tara Kachaturoff

Living in the moment. Stopping to smell the roses. What do these two things have in common? The present. You're not thinking back to the past and you're not projecting into the future.

Observe. Notice. Allow the mind to settle. This is mindfulness in a nutshell.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a medical doctor who runs a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."

Mindfulness is not about blissing out or allowing your imagination to run wild. Instead, you're snuggling into the now to be with whatever you're observing. You're engaging all your senses, including your intuition to gently take notice and allow heartfelt acceptance of whatever you're observing.

It's a way to help you enjoy more of life, to savor each day. It's about experiencing life's deep richness in a way that engages your heart and emotions. It's a true coming together of mind, body and spirit.

So how can you enrich your relationship by practicing mindfulness with your life partner?

A Simple Guide to Practicing Mindfulness with Your Mate

Time. Set aside some time with your mate. It can be a few minutes or an hour or longer. Starting with 15 or 20 minutes is a good starting point as it will allow you to relax into the moment and start to realize the benefits of a mindfulness practice.

Environment. Make sure you're comfortable. You can be laying together on a bed or someplace comfortable or you can be sitting on a couch or across from each other in chairs. It's best if you can see each other comfortably. If you're lying down, make sure you can move easily so you can gaze upon their face and body. You may want to have blankets, low lights or gentle flickering candles to enhance the ambiance of the moment.

Practice. An easy way to enter into a state of mindfulness is to first slow down your mind. Our thoughts are said to ride on the breath. So, that being said, if we can slow down our breath, we can slow down our thoughts and allow them to settle naturally.

Take a deep breath in for a count of 4, hold it a second or two, and then exhale for a count of 4. Do this for 2 minutes or until you begin to see that you start to relax and your thoughts subside. Don't try to stop thinking – just allow the thoughts to be -- without attaching or engaging with them.

Gaze at your partner. Do not speak. Remain silent for the duration of the practice. Notice their eyes, face, body, and clothing. Sense their energy. Look into their eyes as they look into yours. Just be with them. Avoid the pull of your mind to start thinking about what to cook for dinner or the enticement of making a mental To Do List to tackle tomorrow. Keep bringing your thoughts and attention back to the moment – back to your partner. Notice everything about your partner that your senses are taking in – including your sense of intuition. Try to mentally record how this all feels so that you can bring back some of these memories to enjoy in the future.

Re-integration. Kiss and/or embrace at the end of this of your time together. You may want to take a moment or two to share with each other what you felt or realized as a result of spending this time together. These are where our memories are made so make this time as special as you can. Slowly re-integrate into the regular activities of your day allowing the memories of this special time to remain for both of you.

Create the space to practice mindfulness moments with your partner on a regular basis. It's quality time that will enhance your relationship on an entirely new level.

How can practicing mindfulness help your relationship?

#1 It creates the space to reconnect. Life is busy. Sometimes it's hard to find moments to spend quality time with our partner and even more so if you have children because they come first. So when you do have the time, you may want to use it to practice mindfulness together.

Mindfulness creates the space for you to have full and complete quality time with your partner – even for just a few minutes. Sitting in silence and enjoying each other, fully, will trump a mindless, busy, distracted evening anytime. Why? Because the focus is on each other – something we generally don't do no matter what activity we're sharing together.

#2 Being in the moment helps you appreciate your partner's essence. Mindfulness allows the noise of life to settle so that you can enjoy the energy of your partner. It's not about talking or thinking. It's about being with your loved one – fully and on purpose. It's about allowing your energy to be fully present with theirs.

#3 Mindfulness connects you at a soulful level. No marriage certificate, commitment ceremony, ring, or joint bank account will ever connect you to the level you'll achieve by regularly practicing mindfulness with your life partner. It's a time where "on-purpose attention" is at its peak. It's when you're appreciating their naked essence of who they really are.

How to Get Started with Mindfulness

If you're unsure of how to get started with this practice, start by yourself with everyday things. For example, if you're driving in your car, notice the other cars as you drive – their colors and speeds, the glare of the sun on the car windows, as well as the trees and homes you pass. Notice the feel of the steering wheel as your fingers grip it, the texture of the road as your tires rumble over it and the comfort of your seat.

If you're at home, you might notice the entire process of drinking water – the sound of filling the glass with water, the sound of ice cubes gently bobbing against the sides of the cool, smooth glass. And notice the texture of the water as it passes your lips and slides across your tongue, the temperature of the water as it moves down your throat and so on.

With just a little practice you'll learn how to enjoy the deliciousness and richness of everyday life. Your senses will become more heightened as you hone your ability to be mindful of the moment. Then, when you do this with your mate, you'll really appreciate and enjoy their presence in your life all the more!

To being mindful with your mate!

Excerpted from Mindfulness Essentials by Tara Kachaturoff. Copyright © 2012 by Tara Kachaturoff. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

Tara KachaturoffTara teaches meditation, mindfulness and other stress management techniques to those who want more out of life! Since 2003, she has coached hundreds of singles to create better dating relationships. A Master Certified Coach for Singles, Tara is also the newsletter editor for the Relationship Coaching Institute (RCI).

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