Cheating with porn?

My one long-term relationship ended bitterly when my then-boyfriend cheated. Since then, I have dated cautiously, so I am surprised that I met the man of my dreams. On Valentine’s Day, he asked me to be his boyfriend. He said that I would be the only man in his life and that once he makes a commitment, he sticks to it. I shared my belief in monogamy, and he said he would practice it because that was what I wanted. A few days ago, I pulled up the history folder on his computer to look for a site I had visited. I found erotic story sites and a site where local men post their nude photos. Erotic stories are pure fantasy, but his viewing nude men shook me. I have not told anyone; my friends believe he is into me. Is this a false alarm set off by years of bad dates and one bad boyfriend? My past experiences say that where there is smoke, there is fire.

Before we call a full alarm, let’s investigate. Monogamy keeps emotional and physical intimacy issues simple. However, your man’s response—he would practice monogamy because that is what you wanted—is noteworthy. Monogamy may be a new experience for him. If so, he may not understand that it is a range of commitments.

A conscious, monogamous couple is dedicated to loving each other through the natural ups and downs of relationship. Their commitment includes sexual exclusivity and emotional fidelity. They understand sex as a delicious experience of union. The use of pornography (or sexualized behavior, such as flirting outside of the primary relationship) contradicts monogamy. In monogamy, the primary relationship is the main repository for two people to share experiences, emotions, dreams, ideas and themselves. Your partner becomes your best friend and lover. No other human relationship takes precedence. Of course, this reality may take years to create. The first step is to tell your boyfriend how you stumbled upon the Web sites. Don’t be angry; this is the learning curve of relationship. Have another conversation about monogamy and try again. With effort, this situation can deepen your bond.

In your archived columns, the importance of helping others emerges repeatedly. You seem to see this as a moral and therapeutic imperative. The idea that an altruistic outlook is prerequisite to one’s psycho-spiritual health interests me. It rings true, but only intuitionally. Could you elaborate? If true, there are certainly a lot of sick puppies in the world (me included).

As a Christian, I can explain it like this: We are one body, the body of Christ. If a thumb imagined that it only worked for itself and was not required to work with the rest of the hand, it would be of little use to the body. And so it is with each of us. Buddhists, Hindus and physicists agree: We are one.

Sadly, Americans enjoy verbally repeating such wisdom but loathe living it. We are so wealthy that even our poorest live better than those in many areas of the world, and yet we’re stubbornly selfish and self-centered. We focus heartily on ourselves without thought to those suffering as a result of our consumer choices. Likewise, those Americans who opt to fast from “bad” news are feeding their denial of reality. These behaviors breed neurotic, inflated egos rife with beliefs in entitlement. In the symbolic language of Catholicism, most Americans are “Romans,” people who enslave others in order to perpetuate their own lifestyle. We heal from this madness when we tithe (give 10 percent or more of our income to charity), serve (give of our gifts and time in direct, unpaid service to the poor) and donate (give away our personal surplus, asking nothing in return).

Meditation of the Week

I gave my high-school theology students an extra-credit assignment: See the movie <i>Hotel Rwanda</i> with a parent and write a reflection paper describing what God expects you to do in the face of such tragedies. They asked if they had to take a parent. “Yes,” I said. “Your parents must see this movie.” They went. They cried, and they said it changed their lives. Now their prayers are full of concern for Africa. I give you the same assignment: See <i>Hotel Rwanda</i> with a teenager. If it’s not at a theater near you, rent it when it comes out on DVD. (You’ll get your extra credit in heaven.)