Dear Harlan,

My boyfriend is a recovering sex and love addict with about a year of sobriety over his porn and fantasy addiction. He’s very loving toward me; I love him very much and believe in him. A few days ago, he accidentally left his email signed in on my computer. When I opened my browser, staring me in the face was a VERY long list of emails to one woman who wasn’t me. For my own safety, I decided to read the emails. It confirmed at least a monthlong emotional affair, not a physical one — although he did attend a party at her place. In the most nondramatic and nonblaming way, I confessed to him that I’d seen the emails and that I will be focusing on my own self-care and won’t try to manage and control him and his sobriety. He assured me that he met her a month ago and it is nothing. The emails indicate otherwise, with comments like “I run around excited when you call,” and “Please share this photo with your mother.” I feel betrayed, enraged and very sad to be lied to after investing a lot of care into the relationship. The belief that “It isn’t an addict’s fault — it’s a disease” is a hard pill to swallow. How do people handle the stress of loving an addict knowing this can happen?

Standing By My Man — For Now

Dear Standing,

Lying is not OK. Acting out and exposing you to something dangerous is not OK. Addiction doesn’t make it OK to hurt you. It explains why it’s happening, but it doesn’t make the behavior excusable. Here’s what you need — a therapist, an addiction support group and possibly a new boyfriend. While he might be a loving man, he might not be equipped to love you or anyone at this moment in his life. Better to know this now. Imagine what would happen if you got married and had a family. You don’t owe him a relationship. Not everyone can be in a relationship with an addict. Not all addicts can be in relationships.

Hi Harlan,

I’m getting over a recent breakup. We were dating for a year and half, and he was a year younger than I. This is my first year away at school, and he decided one day to tell me that this is done and he had fallen out of love with me. Just like that. I definitely don’t think that I’m unattractive. I’m a signed model and I have confidence, but I’m not cocky. I know that I have to accept being rejected, but is there any easy way to move on? To find someone new? Someone who suits me better, anyway?

Still Breaking

Dear Breaking,

No man instantly falls out of love. He just never told you. You’re both so new at love. He did it wrong and hurt you in the worst way. This can be part of dating. Part of moving on is feeling the pain. Acknowledge how much this hurts. Feel it. Blame the breakup on the dating process. Make it less about you. As time passes, you’ll be able to date again and learn from the loss. The next time you fall for a guy, you’ll make sure he can express himself before you allow yourself to fall too hard too fast. That’s called wisdom. And it takes the pain and hurt following a breakup to have it.

Write Harlan at [email protected] Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Suite 223, Chicago, IL 60614.

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