Q: Dear Meredith and LL commenters,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for nearly a year. We met in college almost 10 years ago (we're now both in our late 20s) but we were just friends and dating other people. We eventually realized that we wanted our relationship to go to the next level and started dating. I have always found him very attractive, fun, and one of the nicest guys I know. I have since fallen very deeply in love. After knowing him so for long and now so intimately, I have seriously started to picture a future with him. I know from what he says and how he behaves that he loves me, enjoys spending his time with me, and also has thoughts about the future. We've both been very happy.
So here's my problem. The other night I was at his condo sitting next to him as he worked on his computer. As he closed down some browsers there was a picture of a teeny-waisted, large-busted female in her underwear -- clearly from the internet, not someone we know. I immediately got very upset in a pathetic and crying, not angry, sort of way.
I know that men do this all the time but I never thought about him doing it (because, of course, I naively thought he was perfect). I know that other people would have handled this better than I did.
I consider myself a sexual person but only with the person I'm with. We're intimate most days that we see each other (about 4 times a week) and I know he's satisfied (he re-stated this after the incident). But I've never watched videos or looked at pictures or even imagined doing anything with anyone else. I was in shock and greatly hurt. I hate thinking about him wanting someone else -- even just a woman in a picture -- who was not me. Additionally, it made me feel really insecure because I do not look like her. I have an athletic build and will never have those Barbie dimensions. He was clearly very sorry that I was hurt, told me how much he loved me, and that he would never, ever cheat on me. He spent a lot of time just holding me and trying to make me feel better and reminded me that I am the person with whom he wants to experience life. But he never uttered a single thing about stopping what he was doing.
My questions are: Why do people do this? How do I get over it? Will I ever understand where he's coming from? How can I move forward? Every day I picture him thinking about this anonymous girl and it breaks my heart. I would appreciate any insight or advice, and someone to talk some sense into me.
– Only Have Eyes for Him, MA
A: I'm so glad that he didn't make empty promises about the pictures. He soothed you and made you feel better without lying. He was a good friend -- and a good boyfriend.
I can't get into the psychology of why people like these pictures, but I can tell you that you're going to have to become more empathetic about your boyfriend's fantasy life. He doesn't really want to be with anyone else. Trust me, if Barbie came up to him in real life -- with her un-photoshopped face and body -- I'm sure that your boyfriend would run away.
Think of these pictures as a good movie or book. They bring him to another place -- and then he returns to his happy reality.
I have to admit that I'm a bit like you. When I'm in a great relationship, the love of my life is generally the center of my fantasy world. That said, I still thumb through celebrity magazines and gawk. I still imagine getting into bed with this -- the equivalent of a Barbie model, at least compared to my old boyfriends. I think about the Barbie ... and then I choose the real world and have a fantasy about what might happen in my actual apartment.
Your guy isn't cheating. He isn't looking at pictures of women you both know. He wants to be with you almost every night of the week.
He sounds pretty great to me. He just needs to learn how to close out of windows on his computer.
Readers? Can someone explain these pictures? Can someone make the letter writer feel better about the fact that the Barbie didn't look like her? Will she ever have fantasies of her own? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.