“Help: My boyfriend looks at sexy pictures on Instagram and it’s making me crazy”

Dear Sarah,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 10 months and everything has been great! We are very supportive and honest to each other. We make each other laugh, we take care of each other, and we make an effort hang out whenever we can since we are both very busy people.  I have a good feeling about this relationship and I am excited to see where it goes! (This goes both ways.) We almost never fight and because he is super calm about everything and doesn’t get mad easily. I have to admit I’m the total opposite of that, I’m emotional and get upset very easily….

Recently, I was browsing through Instagram and noticed he liked some photos of girls in provocative poses. I decided to ask him about it, he seemed uncomfortable and wanted to avoid answering the question. However, he eventually replied, “The reason I like those photos is because they are provocative but you have nothing to worry about. I love you not them.”

I let it go but since then I have found myself looking to see what type of pictures he likes. Most of the time I don’t even look for his name, it just pops up on my following feed. Minutes after we finish having a conversation on the phone or after I would come back from his house, I’ve noticed he often likes pictures of the same girls he found provocative and sexy.

I feel super guilty for snooping but it also makes me feel like crap. I decided to bring up the subject again and this time I told him how it made me feel because I didn’t want to keep it bottled up. He said “Do you want me to unfollow them to make you happy?” Of course I don’t want to be “that controlling girlfriend.” I feel like this proves I don’t trust him but I really want to! People have hurt me in the past and I’ve had my fair share of trust issues. I don’t want this to ruin my relationship with him.  Am I over thinking the pictures? Is it bad to be too honest with my boyfriend—should I just keep everything to myself?

Please help,

Suffering in SoCal

Dear Suffering,

If my boyfriend were looking at and liking sexy pictures, it would probably bother me too. But let’s put jealousy aside for a second and be analytical about who he’s really harming.

Are the pictures exploitative or do these girls seem to be posting them because they want the attention and exposure? If so, the girls aren’t being harmed. If he were looking at the kind of pornography that appeared to demean women all the time, that would be a different story, but checking out girls on Instagram seems pretty innocent. As for him hurting you, ask yourself, “Have I ever thought another guy aside from my boyfriend is hot?” Maybe a movie or TV star, an athlete, or a pop star? Thinking other people are sexy is normal, acting on that is what causes harm. You are in love and have a great relationship and he’s listened to your concerns and even offered to stop looking at the pictures. He’s doing and saying all the right things. It’s worth figuring this out in a way that is going to help you feel safe but respect his privacy and autonomy.

Here’s an idea: how about he can follow and look at whomever he wants (again, as long as it’s not obsessive, doesn’t hurt anybody, and doesn’t effect your IRL relationship) but doesn’t “like” the images. Even with a stranger, “liking” is actually engaging and interacting with them on some level. It’s not completely passive like going to a movie and drooling over Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling or whomever is the latest hottie. Maybe that’s what feels so unsettling about it.

Try to put your trust issues aside—he isn’t that guy— and see if a compromise feels OK.

Love, Sarah

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(Image via Anapurra Pictures)

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