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Originally published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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Committed relationships don’t live in a vacuum

Carolyn Hax sees a deeper issue in a question about a boyfriend’s Playboy magazine subscription.

Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from recent online discussions.

DEAR CAROLYN: I do not know why I am so perturbed by my boyfriend’s subscription to Playboy magazine — bought before he met me. We are not young; we’re in our late 50s. He has volunteered to throw away issues that will still be coming. I am happy about that. If he no longer wants the magazine because he has me, then we are in a good place.

But I have a few reservations about what the man’s mindset is, and I do not know how to analyze the situation. I will not badger him, or be controlling. I just want to have confidence that he is not interested sexually in other women. Words of wisdom, please?

— Anonymous

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Playboy. Almost quaint.

Every sexually interested soul on earth is interested sexually in people besides their mates.

Also, the connection between “wants the magazine” and “he has me” is more imagined than real. It’s not as if people gawk only when they’re between sex partners; it’s a source of pleasure independent of sex. If he’s not compulsive and can do without the mags because you don’t like them, then that’s about as good an offer as he’s in a position to make.

That applies as a larger point, too: The only assurance available to you, or anyone, is that the person you love won’t act on outside sexual interests — and that’s not an assurance you can simply demand of someone or receive through a commitment or a canceled subscription. That assurance is available in one form only: by choosing someone who shares your belief in monogamy, and who has both integrity and impulse control.

Again — you can’t assume blinders go on just because you’re committed to each other.

Also know that, in this particular case, you and he differ on values in a way that can be minor or serious, depending on the intensity of each of your beliefs: He has no problem with sexy images and the buzz he gets from them, and you do.

People on both sides of the issue can probably agree that you both have to make peace with the other’s beliefs for this relationship to work, because even if he shreds his girlie mags, he’ll still be a guy who doesn’t think they’re wrong to have around.

DEAR CAROLYN: Would you attend a wedding with no alcohol? Would it matter if the couple were in recovery, versus trying to save money?

— No Alcohol

DEAR NO ALCOHOL: Of course I’d attend, and have. I go for the couple, not the menu or the rationale behind it.

DEAR CAROLYN: How late do you think is too late to send a contribution to the identified charity in honor of, say, a friend’s parent? I’m good about sending sympathy cards and being supportive, but I have a knack for forgetting to make a contribution until so much time (sometimes years) has passed it seems worse to do it than to just let it go. Any thoughts?

— Memorial Contributor

DEAR MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTOR: There’s no point at which it’s “worse to do it than to just let it go.” If anything, a belated contribution sends the important message that the loved one is still on your mind — possibly just as your friend was thinking everyone had moved on.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

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