Dear Dr. Romance:
My boyfriend and I have been having problems in our relationship lately because of of the time I spend in chat rooms. I estimate that in a 48 hour period I spend 8 hours chatting with my friends. He estimates that I spend 15 hours there. One of his biggest problems is that the chat rooms are adult-xxx rooms, but for the most part I don't do the XXX stuff. Only when we both agree do we get intimate. He has caught me doing it without him on occasion when I promised not to, and this is a big part of the problem.
My position that he is the one who introduced me to this scene and now that I love it he wants me to quit. He feels that I am ignoring him in favor of these other people and that he can't trust me anymore. He says that I am cheating on him, but I don't feel that way. I am just having fun with this. I am popular here and get a lot of attention. It is a ego boost.
The whole issue goes way beyond what I've mentioned here. It is the whole progression of the situation. In the two months that I've been doing this, he feels that I have elevated my chat friends to the same level that he has been for these last twelve years.
What do you think we should do? There must be a compromise that can be reached.
Well, telling him you wouldn't, and then doing it, is a big problem, isn't it? Breaking the trust in your relationship creates a lot of problems. I know how easy it is to spend lots of time online, but even 8 out of 48 hours sounds like too much to me. It makes me think that the rest of your life lacks enough contact with real time friends. Yes, the ego boost does feel good, but it won't replace your relationship if you lose it, so you need to put everything in perspective. It sounds like you two used to do this chatting together, and now you don't. That's a big change in your agreement. The first thing I'd suggest is that you do a lot of the chatting together. That way, no one has to worry about trust, because both of you will know what's going on. Also, you need to reach some mutual agreements about what you're doing.
If you're using the chat rooms to avoid problems in your relationship, you'll just make things worse. "Better Intimacy, Better Sex" will help you heal your sexual relationship. "Couples Can Cooperate for Success" will help you work out a new agreement that you can both be happy with. If he's acting like a policeman, and you're feeling that you have to hide out from him, that won't work either.
You must stop focusing on who's right or wrong, and start focusing on what will fix the problem between you. How to Be a Happy Couple: Working it Out Together will teach you the skills you need to know for learning to negotiate agreements like this. If you can't learn to work together, use "Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely" and go for marriage counseling with a sex-positive counselor who can understand the issues.
For low-cost counseling, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.
Dr. Tessina, is CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for LoveForever.com, a website designed to strengthen relationships and guide couples through the various stages of their relationship with personalized tips, courses, and online couples counseling. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC News.