JealousyFilter. Am I Doomed?
October 28, 2008 9:44 PM   Subscribe

I know how these relationship posts can drone on and on, so I'll cut to the meat of the situation. I'm dating a girl who is 27 and has a daughter who is almost two. I'll be 30 in December. She still lives with her ex (the father) because she can't afford to move out yet, and I've been very understanding of that. We've been dating for three months, the first of which was conflict free (as most new relationships are).

The problems began when I introduced her to a couple of my friends who happen to be attractive girls, neither of which I have ever dated. In the first instance we got in a fight because I had a very sincere conversation with one of the aforementioned girls who's father is ill. I hugged the girl and told her to keep in good spirits. I then got a prompt WTF from my girlfriend who seemed to interpret my sympathy as an affront on our relationship (because I hugged her for too long). I explained the situation and eventually my girlfriend simmered down. That same night we go to a bar where my other "attractive" friend works. Again, I hug my friend as I have done for the five years we have been friends. I get another WTF from my girlfriend. At this point I'm livid. I'm feeling that her reactions are a bit overzealous to the reality of the situation. I try and tell her that these people are my friends and she has nothing to worry about because I love her. The next day I get an apology from my girlfriend saying that she overreacted and she is sorry for being jealous. Fine, all is forgiven.

Ever since that night the mere mention of this girl (the one at the bar) meets me with a guaranteed fight with my girlfriend. I've told her countless times that I've been friends with this girl for five years and she really has nothing to worry about, but I am still grilled and put on the defensive to the point that I have no idea what to say anymore. I love my girlfriend, but her jealousy and doubt is KILLING me! It has gotten to the point that every time I tell her I love her I get a "really?" back in return. I do love this girl, but I feel like there is nothing I can do to convince her of that, despite all my efforts. I've been very understanding about this whole situation, I've dealt with the fact that she still lives with her ex. I adore her daughter. I'm just concerned that this doubt in me is never going to extinguish, that this jealousy is going to mean that I have to give up my friends. In short, I just don't know what to do. This jealousy and doubt in me has come up enough for me to see it as a pattern, and that scares me.

Any words of advice for a confused man?
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb to Human Relations (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You must choose: friends (who you've known for years) or girlfriend (who you've known for months, and is still living with her ex).
posted by zippy at 9:53 PM on October 28, 2008

She's being really unreasonable. She sounds clingy, immature, and frankly, like she's not much of a catch. Move on, dude.
posted by jayder at 9:56 PM on October 28, 2008

I think it's bothering me that she's rejecting your expressions of love that way. Also how can you love her when it's only been three months?
posted by chickaboo at 9:59 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If I had a dollar for every time I overlooked early warning signs and ended up in a mess with a jerk, I'd have five or six dollars. In my experience, this kind of thing doesn't usually get better. It just goes on and on until you get so sick of it you break things off. The question is: how much of your life do you want to waste with this woman?
posted by not that girl at 10:01 PM on October 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: chickaboo,

There is a lot about this girl that I do love. I've been through a lot of relationships, so I feel like I know when I have genuine feelings for someone. I am just trying to figure out why she can't accept that I do. That is what I am most concerned about.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 10:04 PM on October 28, 2008

I do love this girl, but I feel like there is nothing I can do to convince her of that, despite all my efforts.

That's how the trick works. You say, I love you. She says, No you don't. You work your butt off to "prove your love" until you're exhausted and you just want out, but then you can't get out because you think, oh man, if I leave, then she's right and I've let her down. You cannot win at this game, so back away from the board. You two need to have a serious conversation- you need to lay out to her how things are going to be, and if she doesn't like it, then too bad, guess it's not going to work out.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:05 PM on October 28, 2008 [14 favorites]

The one word all this brings to my mind is "dump".

Maybe that's a bit harsh, but really . . . it's either that or plan on this pattern repeating every time you have an interaction with another woman, for as long as you're with this woman you're dating.

If you're cool with that, then OK. But she's having a deep-seated reaction to something about that situation and that's not the type of thing you can realistically expect to change. For some reason, this reaction part of her personality. Personality can change, but it's not a matter of days or weeks to change, but more like years, decades--or perhaps never.

So you either have to accept this as a facet of her personality that you'll just have to work around, perhaps for a very, very long time, or move along to greener pastures.
posted by flug at 10:08 PM on October 28, 2008

situation smacks of immaturity and insecurity...

so you can do other things to make her feel secure in the relationship or end things now that you've started to see the crazier side of her personality.

i once had an ex who was so jealous and secure of an ex-gf who happened to be east indian that she would make a show of tearing up restaurant menus from indian restaurants ( lol ) and then later displayed marked racists attitudes towards east indians ( not so lol )...

i say end it now, especially as there is a kid involved...
posted by dawdle at 10:08 PM on October 28, 2008

every time I tell her I love her I get a "really?" back in return.

this, right here, is such a fucking passive-aggressive bullshit move that i want to vomit. ugh.

look, i've been in your shoes before. even posted a very similar askme about it. do yourself a favor and move on before you invest too much. this jealousy is, in fact, going to mean that you have to give up your female friends. i'm sorry. but that's how it's going to play out. they say trust is earned, but sometimes you just can't earn fast or hard enough to satisfy some people. you have to decide what kind of relationship you want. i know, you love her. really bad. i did too. but this one, it sounds like, is going to be a constant struggle to "prove" yourself. and the goalposts will never stop moving.

(though, for the love of christ, if you do decide to try to make it work, don't make the mistake of pointing out that the friends she gets upset over are the attractive ones. that doesn't go over real well, ok?)
posted by sergeant sandwich at 10:11 PM on October 28, 2008

Let's see: She began a relationship with you while still living with her ex, which means she's not financially stable. She got upset with you for comforting a female friend, which means she's not emotionally stable. She has no problem being passive/aggressive with you when you attempt to prove your love, which means she's immature and emotionally manipulative. What exactly is there to love about someone like this? Move. On.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:20 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Run. Don't walk. If you stick with this, 'confused' is going to be your high-water mark, and 'livid' will be the default mode.
posted by pompomtom at 10:32 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

At three months? I'm sure she's a delight, but this will get worse far before it will get better.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:36 PM on October 28, 2008

Best answer:
Your love shouldn't ask you to give up your community of support. They should not try to isolate you, they should not try to limit you to protect their insecurities, and they should not try to manipulate you. In short, they should try their darndest not to lay their baggage on you.

Your girlfriend is kind of falling short on all counts. You could try to figure out why, but unless she's willing to do something about it, there is nothing to be done. Because she needs to own her own shit. She's not.

But like flug says, you might have to figure out if you can live with the fact that she's okay with falling short on all those counts. Personally, I think there are dealbreakers in this world even when dealing with people we love because we have to love and respect ourselves, and surround ourselves with people who love respect and trust us as well.

Tell her what you are thinking and feeling, and invite her to take responsibility for her behavior, like she did the day after the previous incident. If she does, you might have a chance. If she doesn't she might just not be ready to stretch herself to be in a healthy relationship with a man who treats her with dignity and love. And that's always sad. I'm sorry if that ends up being the case.
posted by anitanita at 10:37 PM on October 28, 2008 [8 favorites]

I've been through a lot of relationships, so I feel like I know when I have genuine feelings for someone. I am just trying to figure out why she can't accept that I do.

I'm young, but I've done my time in The Land Of Relationship Mistakes. Having feelings for someone does NOT guarantee it would be a good idea to be together. Been there, fallen for unstable people, been the unstable person, bad idea from both ends. Really.
posted by mismatched at 10:48 PM on October 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here's how it's gonna go. She will give you SO much shit about these girls if you ever so much as think about them, that you will decide to dump your friends for her. They aren't giving you nookie, plenty of jealous girls demand this every day, you'll give in for the sake of the relationship, right?

Then she will be jealous of the girls at your work. You know, the ones you can't avoid working with. Even the 50-year-old grandmother will probably have something about her that brings out the OMG SO JEALOUS!!!11!!! reaction. You will be all, "they're married, and ugly, and I can't avoid them," and she will bitch anyway.

She will also be jealous of say, any hot cousins or siblings or aunts you might have. Basically, she'll act like a dog pissing on you to mark her territory, and bark like hell if anyone else with a vagina gets near you. You will be fighting the OMG SO JEALOUS!!1111!! monster all the damn time, knowing all the while you have not done a damn thing to make her jealous. You will turn yourself inside out trying to show her you are innocent. If she hires a PI to prove that you are guilty and s/he comes up with no evidence of cheating, she'll just hire another PI.

Get the picture? It's not you, it's her. She's got a broken jealousy button. And while yes, pot shouldn't be calling the kettle black, clearly LOGIC AND REASON are not her friends when it comes to this issue.

Not worth it, bud.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:49 PM on October 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: anitanita,

Thank you. That makes a lot of sense to me. This is the first time I've ever considered breaking up with a person that I genuinely care for in so many ways. It really is a hard thing to cope with, but in the end I do agree with you. A relationship needs trust. Despite all the other wonderful things, trust is something missing from this relationship. That makes me very sad. I thank all of you for your input, it means a lot to me.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 10:54 PM on October 28, 2008

Best answer: Oh wait. I didn't answer your question. Why do people act this way?

I think because they are terribly, terribly frightened that they aren't 'good enough'. Because they don't realize that part of fidelity in love isn't that beautiful people don't cross your path, but about a conscious choice where you choose not to swap body fluids with those other people you find attractive because you've made a deal with them. Because they think that love is something they can 'control' with simple illogical stuff like: if he doesn't see her, he'll never leave me, or 'if I get him to choose me over something else that he values, he's proving to me that he loves me.' Because they are angry that there seem to be other people in the world who seem shiny-er, happier, prettier than they are. Because they might have been hurt before and are terrified of being hurt again. Because they are in toxic relationships themselves, and want to be in healthier relationships, but sabotage themselves by doing something stupid - like snooping in email, trying to limit their love's circle of friends, starting stupid arguments, and so on.

In short, because they are afraid of losing something important to them and haven't yet mastered how to acknowledge/accept/deal with/master/overcome that fear.

And if they own it, well, then I think it can be short circuited. But if they don't - if they let out their fear as aggression all over you, there is no hope. As for what you can do because she's hurting herself, you and your relationship: I think about that little parable about the scorpion that bit the frog that was ferrying him on his back to the other side of the river, drowning them both because it was 'in the scorpion's nature to do so'....well, sometimes people can both love you and be lovable and still poison and destroy the best thing in their world and themselves because they haven't yet figured out that regardless of nature or learned behavior, they always have a choice in how they react to their feelings and respond to the world. And it's not how we feel, but how we choose to act in the face of our fears, that sets us apart and makes us worthy of those we claim to love.

Best of luck to you.
posted by anitanita at 11:02 PM on October 28, 2008 [26 favorites]

Before you DTMF...

Instead of arguing with her, try asking her to pick up some responsibility for the situation. "I get that you're feeling insecure even though there is no threat here. What can I do to make you feel secure enough that this stops being an issue?"

TBH however, I think there's a basic positioning problem here. Some people walk into relationships with the attitude of "you need to earn my trust." Other walk in with the "I trust you by default until given reason to feel other wise." If your girlfriend is an earner and not a truster, three months may not be long enough for her to get past this issue that is going to break you up.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:06 PM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

What can I do to make you feel secure enough that this stops being an issue?

I think that this will make the problem worse, rather than better, as it puts the responsibility on the poster to make the girlfriend feel secure, when the girlfriend's insecurity is irrational.

To put it another way, life shouldn't be about walking on eggshells.
posted by zippy at 11:31 PM on October 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

Combine the advice of anitanita, DarlingBri, and zippy - identify if she's an earner or truster (ask her directly); ask her what would be necessary on each of your parts to get over any irrational behaviours or trust issues, if possible; evaluate if you think it's worth it (e.g. thoughts put forth by anitanita), and make your decision. Then tell her very soon after so that you guys can move on in whatever direction makes the most sense for keeping you both happy, healthy, and safe.
posted by batmonkey at 1:04 AM on October 29, 2008

My totally obnoxious guess is that she's still sleeping with her ex, and figures that since she's cheating, you must be, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:44 AM on October 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

This level of jealousy points at trouble ahead. I was in a similar situation a few years back.

My GF at the time and I were talking one night. I was in SF, waiting for my pals to get back from the Alcatraz tour. I began describing the ridiculous things the tourists were wearing. The moment I mentioned a girl, my GF went bonkers. It was not pleasant.

Point is, you need to sit down and think whether this girl is worth the drama. You also might want to sit her down and talk to her. Let her know that your friends are your friends and you won't leave them behind for her. The worst thing you can do is be manipulated into dropping some of your pals. This will only engender resentment in you towards your GF.

Good luck!
posted by reenum at 6:50 AM on October 29, 2008

This isn't all that complicated. It really boils down to one question:

Is this the kind of relationship you want?

If not, you'd better go get another one. Unless you are willing to put in a few DECADES of effort.

There are signs of maturity and promise. You can train yourself to recognize them and look for them in potential mates.

Why do you choose who you choose? Why do people choose you? These are two very interesting and compelling questions that should occupy a good part of your self-analysis time.
posted by FauxScot at 7:25 AM on October 29, 2008

I was this girl, minus the two year old and the ex-husband. My ex-boyfriend cheated on me, and my next boyfriend got the brunt of my insecurities (which pre-existed the cheating, but that had only exacerbated them). That boyfriend, who is now my husband, is an absolute saint for sticking around. I'm able to keep my jealousy in check better than your gf is, but I still feel twinges on occasion. I've just learned that it's my problem, not his, and I don't express it to him. My point is that this is going to be a long, long process, and there is really nothing you can do or say to prove to her that she is worthy of love if she doesn't believe it. She has to come to that conclusion on her own, and your repeated attempts to prove it will paradoxically make her more afraid of losing you.

If I were in her shoes, it would make me feel better if you took me out to dinner with your hot friends in order to humanize them so they're people, not threats. Avoid in-jokes and references to things that happened before your gf came into the picture. Show your gf as much affection as appropriate while you're out with these women (e.g., hold hands under the table). Pay more attention to your gf than them. Talk up your gf to them in front of her (e.g., "Alice is going back to school for her Master's degree and I'm so proud of her!" or "She has fascinating stories about her trip to Morocco!"). But be sincere about it. Make them her friends as well. If they have boyfriends, definitely invite them to dinner as well. Even gay male friends of theirs would help. If your friends feel comfortable, ask them (beforehand) to hug your gf as well as you at an appropriate time (hello & goodbye).

The dinner scenario is not to prove your love for her; it's to challenge the irrational fears she has by presenting your friends in a realistic light.
posted by desjardins at 7:43 AM on October 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

First of all. These are just horrifying times to be a single mother. How can all of you judge this woman? Have you been a single parent in an economic death spiral? What if she puts all her eggs in your basket and you turn out to be a creep and she is now even more deeply in debt? For example, what if she moves in with you and you somehow use her credit card or get her to sign a lease beyond her income and then you jump ship for the bartender. Do you know the only way out of a situation like that for a woman who is all alone in the world? It is suicide and hoping your child will be adopted by a wealthy family. Sorry to lay this out so harsh but jeez.

I am not saying this is all economic.

Emotional aspects: You should NOT BE SLEEPING WITH HER. Or spending time with her child yet. Do not get too entwined too soon. Do not make this all emotional so soon. But stop testing her. Try dating her without sleeping with her, spending time with her child (it's too soon!) or testing her for another 6 months and see how things go.

Encourage her in every way to become independent. Help her get back in school if that's what she needs to do. Have one date be visiting a college campus.

She should not have let you meet her child so soon but these are not normal times. Sounds to me like she took a leap of faith. And what does she find? That you hug too long attractive "friends". You should not have done that. You should have patted your friend on the shoulder at the same time you introduced your girlfriend at the most. No groping hugs. Why did you have to test this new girlfriend like that? Are women supposed to be made of steel now? Can you understand that this woman's future and very life and that of her child pivots on the choices she makes now?

Was your friend warm to the girlfriend after the hug? Did she say something like "Joe told me about you, you're right Joe she has really beautiful eyes (or something like that)"? Or did she turn her shoulder away from the girlfriend, lean into you and say something too personal like "wasn't that a great party at Jane's house the other night - you were so drunk and funny! (or something like that)? I would like to know because that would tell me everything.

If I just met a new man and instead of him trying to win my affections he tests me on how much he can grope other women I would read that as: He thinks I'm ugly and therefore he will expect me to put up with anything in our relationship because i will be so lucky to have a man, any man, considering I "am not much of a catch".

In a perfect world she would own a house of her own and have a great income so she doesn't have to be insecure. I guess she wasn't born into a rich family. Is that a reason to dump her? She would not have let you meet her child so soon because she has a unemployed and rich family that can watch her child at any time. Or a staff of nannies. She doesn't have that set up? Maybe you should only date rich women.

Sometimes I get the impression that most of the people on me-fi are trust fund babies and don't have a clue what the other 80% of the world has to lie awake worrying about at night.
posted by cda at 7:50 AM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Been there. Done that.

posted by eas98 at 8:10 AM on October 29, 2008

I'm have been in the situation of the girl in your situation. Partner had lots of friends of the opposite sex and I found it hard to deal with. The situation isn't hopeless.

What you have to do is decide how you are willing to compromise and find out what she needs to feel secure. She has to give you clear guidelines. I know that jealousy isn't rational and it's hard to pinpoint it. (Personally, I like to know everything, I want to know the friends, I want to know when they are meeting. I don't want any surprises. This worked in this situation)

If she can't give you an idea of what is acceptable and that you can live with, then I can't see much of a future for you.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:25 AM on October 29, 2008

There are things you can try to salvage this situation, but they probably wont work.

So save yourself some time and a lot of hassle and DUMP DUMP DUMP.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:59 AM on October 29, 2008

If cda is remotely close to correct and this woman lies awake at night worrying about whether you will be her financial salvation and will commit suicide if the two of you get more serious and later break up, by all means, dump her now, before she empties your bank account or kills herself and leaves you with the guilt. I don't think you need to have a trust fund to recognize that someone who is so incredibly needy and dependent is a bad relationship risk.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:15 AM on October 29, 2008

i can't imagine what it would do to a person's self worth to do through a divorce still living with your ex because you can't afford not to. i also suspect that she's been cheated on since she's looking so hard to figure out how she's going to be hurt next.

like everyone's saying above, this is her problem and something she has to be willing to work on, but if you choose to stay with her, you can help enormously by just being patient -- also desjardins advice on confronting her irrational fears with the reality of your friendships is really, really good.
posted by argylekneesocks at 9:20 AM on October 29, 2008

I've been through a lot of relationships, so I feel like I know when I have genuine feelings for someone. I am just trying to figure out why she can't accept that I do.

Sadly, it doesn't matter why. It only matters that her self-esteem is so damaged that she challenges your assertions of love and freaks out when you hug a friend. I

For example, what if she moves in with you and you somehow use her credit card or get her to sign a lease beyond her income and then you jump ship for the bartender.

What a nightmarishly contrived situation that has no bearing on the present problem. The girl is living at home with her ex. Moving in isn't even on the radar, let alone assuming fraudulent intent right off the bat. But it does provide a window into the possible mindset of someone (the girlfriend) whose ideas about trust and fidelity have been badly damaged by her experiences.

If cda's mindset of friendly hug = grope are at all indicative of your girlfriend's mindset, you'll have an impossible task, because she's virtually equating simple touch with infidelity.

Unfortunately, just because we love someone doesn't mean it is good for us - or for them. Unless you can open an honest dialogue about what's going on, and she's open to examining the root of these reactions and working on trusting you, there's nothing to save.

posted by canine epigram at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2008

Can you understand that this woman's future and very life and that of her child pivots on the choices she makes now?

I'm not a trust-fund baby and far from financially stable, but honestly, at three months into a relationship this shouldn't be the responsibility of the OP. It's great that he's happy with the istuation, and as my sister's a single parent I can imagine how much more it complicates everything. But, really, she absolutely should not be going out with a man mostly because she has a mouth to feed.

I have lots of male friends. My boyfriend has lots of female friends. It's the same with most people in my social circle - casual sex that turned into friendships, ex-lovers, completely and utterly platonic. Even though I'm insecure, the teasing I do that my boy will trade me in for a midlife crisis model when he turns thirty is purely that - I've been in enough bad relationships to recognise someone who feels that lying to me is lying to himself. Perhaps she's not got to that place in her head yet. Perhaps she never will, or she will with someone else.
posted by mippy at 10:52 AM on October 29, 2008

I don't think it's right to expect a romantic partner to justify his/her friendships with people of his/her gender of attraction. It's a red flag for me. YMMV.
posted by catlet at 2:11 PM on October 29, 2008

was cda reading the same question as everyone else?
posted by violetk at 3:45 PM on October 29, 2008

cda's reading makes sense if you completely discount every second of every minute of every hour that the OP and this women spent together in three months, and realize that two events that total maybe five minutes - at the outside - are all that matters.

I'm wondering what aggressive victimhood this woman is using to stay with the ex. Blackmail by child is at the top of my list.

There are some lovely single mothers in my neighborhood. Date them!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:35 PM on October 29, 2008

Not gonna disagree with the "maybe you're better off without this relationship" crowd, just wanted to add that this situation is complicated by the fact that she has a kid, and it's to her benefit to do whatever she can to keep you from 'abandoning' her and her daughter, especially since you say you get along so well. Just because its irrational behavior doesn't mean there isn't a well-meaning reason behind it.
posted by softlord at 2:31 AM on October 31, 2008

All I have to add to the mix is compassion... this woman clearly has trust issues, and it's probably because she's been cheated on in the past.

However, she's not going to change unless she recognizes the problem and wants to change. The OP can help her along with this by being patient and compassionate and doing his best to prove that he's trustworthy, but really, in the end, it's her problem and only she can fix it. Maybe he can help her see that it is a problem though, and that it's going to have to be fixed before she can ever have a true trusting and loving relationship.
posted by thejrae at 1:30 PM on November 3, 2008

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