Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I'm an anxious lover and am very insecure about my lack of feminine body attributes.

I have a huge problem with my boyfriend looking at naked/half-naked women on the internet. It's not that he does it regularly; it’s mostly that his friends send him naked ladies, and sometimes he Googles someone he saw on an (adult) magazine cover in the store, but it stills hurts me. He generally likes big boobies (which is definitely not me), and it makes me feel like not enough, and it affects my already poor self-image. He loves me, and he constantly tells me how gorgeous I am to him, but I still don't see myself as such, especially with this behavior. He says he's free to Google whatever he wants, which is true, but I just can't find a way to cope with this.

I suppose that's a typically male behavior, so how do I (or we) make it more okay for me? Any advice?

Signed, Insecure Mess

Dear, Insecure Mess

Two important things came up for me when I read your question. The first is a boundaries issue. The second is your body insecurities. But let me be clear: the latter has nothing to do with the former.

No, it’s not a typical “male” thing to disrespect your partner’s boundaries. You have every right to feel uncomfortable about your boyfriend looking at and searching for naked photos. Sure, you may feel insecure about your body. But even  secure women might find this behavior unacceptable.

And look, I’m not saying that every guy in a relationship should stop liking bikini models on Instagram. If their partner doesn’t care, then it’s okay. But when you get into a relationship with someone, part of the work that’s required is respecting their boundaries, even if you disagree with them.

Take my relationship, for example. My boyfriend isn’t on social media. He hasn't posted on his Instagram in years. At first, his boundary that he didn’t want me posting funny pics of him and me together bothered me. But just because I was upset with it doesn’t mean I should've posted photos anyways. It’s his boundary; I had to respect it if I wanted to be in a relationship with him.

The same goes for your boyfriend liking and Googling photos of women. Your boundary is that you’re uncomfortable with it. If your partner loves and cares for you, he’d be willing to give up an action that probably only takes up 20 minutes of his day, tops. You’re not asking for much here.

Men don’t get an automatic pass to make their girlfriends feel uncomfortable just because they grew up in a society that promoted the idea “men will be men.” I won’t get all feminist here, but that kind of thinking doesn’t foster a healthy relationship. You don’t need to change your beliefs to fit his actions. His actions are what need changing.

With that said, I’d have another conversation with him. Tell your boyfriend that liking those kinds of photos still makes you uncomfortable and that you’d like him to stop. Explain that this is your non-negotiable boundary. If he continues, you need to decide if you want to be in a relationship with someone who can’t even compromise on something as minuscule as this.

Now, onto your insecurities. I’m sorry that you feel this way about yourself. It’s not fair that people made you feel like your body isn’t beautiful. Hopefully these tips will help:

The first is to only find validation about your body from yourself. Don’t seek it from your boyfriend, especially if he accidentally makes you feel worse about it.

Also, unfollow any social media accounts of women with whom you compare your body. You don’t need any more reason to unfollow them other than they make you feel bad about yourself. While you're at it, replace any negative thoughts you have about your body with positive ones. I promise that, over time, you’ll start to believe those thoughts.

I want to emphasize, though, that when your partner makes you feel bad about your body and doesn’t respect your boundaries, it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship. You need to feel secure and supported. Anyone who makes you feel less than and doesn't care to fix things should be an automatic removal.

So please remember that when you make choice on what to do next and have a talk with your partner. Your feelings deserve respect. Don't think "love" is worth giving that up for.

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