How to get over jealousy?
April 30, 2009 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me tame the green eyed monster.

So, for about 6 months, I've been in a relationship with a really caring, fun, and sweet guy. We love each other, and spend a lot, if not most, of our free time with one another. He is trustworthy, honest, and just one of the most decent people I've met.

With that in mind, why is it that I'm in constant fear of losing him, of being traded in for someone more attractive, more intelligent, more worthwhile? It seems that the longer he stays with me, the more scared I am. He has done absolutely nothing to warrant any of this. Of that, I am absolutely sure.

Because of all of this, I have become (internally), extremely needy, and struggle with jealousy. I can't bear even the thought of him talking to other women (don't worry, I've never expressed this to him), yet alone finding other women attractive (more attractive than me, at least). Even the most innocent facebook comments from other women makes me feel nauseated.

I know this is all irrational, and I would really like some advice on how to deal with this, especially from people who have experienced, and found a way to move past, these feelings. Perhaps some men could give insight into how they view women other than their girlfriends/wives? When you meet a charming, attractive, and intelligent woman, do you compare her to your SO? Do you think of jumping into bed with her?

Thank you, all.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you may have had some security problems before you were ever in a relationship.

Be proud of yourself. Love who you are. You are fun, beautiful and intelligent. This is the person that your guy loves.

You can't love others if you can't love yourself first.
posted by nikkorizz at 2:20 PM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

I don't know what others will say, but I don't find myself rating my girlfriend with other women. Sure I will look at women and think "they are attractive" or "not so much" but it really never is any direct comparison in my mind.
posted by Carillon at 2:27 PM on April 30, 2009

Perhaps some men could give insight into how they view women other than their girlfriends/wives? When you meet a charming, attractive, and intelligent woman, do you compare her to your SO? Do you think of jumping into bed with her?

I think you could also ask yourself this. How do you view other men? When they're charming, attractive, and intelligent? Do you compare them to your boyfriend? Do you think of jumping into bed with him?

People in healthy, happy relationships don't do that. They can feel attracted to someone but it's not a threat to their relationship.

Jealousy is a troubling emotion. In my last two relationships, I was plagued with jealousy and fear that my boyfriends would leave me for someone else. In both situations, they hadn't done anything "officially" wrong to deserve this, but after the relationships were over I realized that they DID encourage these feelings by walking a fine line. I was threatened by their past relationships because they weren't over those relationships. I was threatened by other women because they were looking at other women in a way that men in relationships shouldn't be looking. None of that happens in my current relationship, which says a lot about my boyfriend but probably also has a lot to do with the fact that I got into therapy to stop being attracted to people who made me jealous. Just something to think about.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:29 PM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

It sounds like mentally you're on the right track. You're aware of what the problem is and what you want to change. That's a big part of the battle. The other part of the battle is really working on your self worth. It's not just about affirming who you are as a person--it's also about knowing, deep down that even if something happened and you were no longer with this guy you could still find a way to be happy and move on.

While I wasn't necessarily jealous in relationships, I spent a lot of time wondering when the other shoe was going to drop and the relationship would be over. It wasn't until I *knew* that I could be with someone or without someone and still be happy and take care of myself and find someone else and not *need* to be with someone that I was secure in relationships.

You asked for advice from men about how they view other women, but I don't think that will help much. You already know he's honest and trustworthy. You're not going to find reassurance that is centered around what he is or is not thinking about other women. You will only find assurance and comfort from feeling secure in yourself and your place in the relationship.

That doesn't mean you won't break up ever--things happen. But when you trust and feel secure in yourself, you can move on and grow when things happen and you'll feel less panicked about the big "what if" that comes with all relationships.

You may want to consider therapy, self-help, or some spiritual guidance to help you get these issues. I've found that the support of friends will make a difference even.
posted by Kimberly at 2:29 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

It would be interesting and enlightening to know if you display this pattern of behaviour, or at least thoughts, with other guys you've been in a relationship with (if you've had a relationship before), or people you've been close to in general.
posted by bjrn at 2:31 PM on April 30, 2009

Every person has a personal dream of life and it is completely different from anyone else's dream. In a relationship we can pretend to be the same, but there just isn't any way that can happen. There are two dreamers with two dreams. Everyone is going to dream their own way. That is why we need to accept the differences that exist between each other; we need to respect each other's dreams.

We can have thousands of relationships at the same time, but every one is between two people, and no more than two. I have a relationship with each of my friends, and it is just between each of us two. According to the way any two people dream, they create the direction of that dream we call a relationship. Every relationship we have — with Mom, with Dad, brothers and sisters, with friends — is unique because we dream a small dream together.

Dreams are made by emotions. There are two main sources of emotion: fear and love. Unfortunately most relationships are majority fear based. To succeed in our relationships and ultimately our dreams, hopefully we can turn that around and approach each relationship more with love. I learned a lot about fear and love when I read a book titled The Mastery of Love by don Miguel Ruiz. You may find answers to some of your questions there.

Perhaps some men could give insight into how they view women other than their girlfriends/wives? When you meet a charming, attractive, and intelligent woman, do you compare her to your SO?

Compare? No. As I mentioned above, each relationship we have with any other is different from all other relationships. When I was married, there was no comparison to my wife. She was who she was, and everyone else was who they were.
posted by netbros at 2:37 PM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

why is it that I'm in constant fear of losing him, of being traded in for someone more attractive, more intelligent, more worthwhile?

First, how is your own self-esteem? If you feel like this guy is "too good for you" then that can cause you to worry endless about him meeting someone better than you. Lots of ways to work on that - dig through the ask-mefi archives.

Second, beware! This type of jealousy (or fear) can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you begin to slip and let the guy how insecure you really are, he may find that unattractive.

Master your emotions, discover new confidence in yourself.

Mostly, STOP defining yourself by your relationship with this man. Be your own person, confident and secure whether you're with him or not... to many men that's very attractive.
posted by wfrgms at 2:37 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

When you meet a charming, attractive, and intelligent woman, do you compare her to your SO? Do you think of jumping into bed with her?

1. These are loaded questions, where if the guy doesn't answer right, it'll feed your insecurity and irrational fear, while not ignoring a central point: you're more than just bits and pieces, tits and ass, you are the sum of many, many parts and that's what your boyfriend likes. Look, there is probably a woman out there who has better X than you, but that's not who your BF loves. Whatever thoughts may run through his head, he's with you, so quit stressing about something you have no control over.

2. It doesn't matter how any guy here answers the questions, what matters is how your guy behaves. Seriously, you can talk about this all day long, a hundred guys could give you the best answers possible, but that irrational fear is still going to be there. You need to deal with that, either through therapy or talking things over with him or some other way.

3. This is pretty common in both men and women, so there's nothing wrong with you or bad with ya, there are just issues you need address and resolve.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:39 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The paradox here is when you are more independent, the guy you want hangs around. And even if he doesn't, you won't get crushed by it.

It's win-win.
posted by Zambrano at 2:59 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The paradox here is when you are more independent, the guy you want hangs around. And even if he doesn't, you won't get crushed by it.

It's win-win.

Of course the question is how.

the answer is usually therapy to learn why you are so afraid of being abandoned. I'd also suggest a book, Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns. It does more than tell you what, it tells you how. Amazon tells me you have 20 minutes to order to get it by tomorrow.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:09 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

This kind of insecurity when you are very young, or in a new relationship, or both, is pretty common and tends to go away as the relationship strengthens. If you've been burned before, though--maybe you were with someone who cheated on you, or who broke up with you and you never really got that closure and always wondered why it happened, then I could see the insecurity creeping in to future relationships, too.

One way to grow more confident is to continue to foster other interests and relationships besides your romantic one. Too often, women neglect their friends when they become involved with a new guy, but their support and companionship is just what you need to keep you centered. And having interests that are not always centered around your boyfriend keeps you from becoming that clingy, needy girlfriend that needs constant reassurance.

Lastly, just remember that he chose you to begin with, and he clearly wants to be with you. Even with all this jealousy you're feeling, you are absolutely certain he has not shown any interest in another woman. Sounds like the two of you have a good thing going here. Don't over-think it.
posted by misha at 3:21 PM on April 30, 2009

You're trying to deal with an irrational fear by using reason. This does not work.

What has worked for me: Meditation. Focusing on things that make me happy. Assuming the best. (he called 2 hours late? Assuming he forgot/lost his phone/mom called will make you much happier in the long run. If he's a liar or a cheater, you will find out anyway.)

This is the bestest comment ever on trust.
posted by desjardins at 3:21 PM on April 30, 2009

Even the most innocent facebook comments from other women makes me feel nauseated.

posted by desjardins at 3:23 PM on April 30, 2009

Here's the second bestest comment ever on trust.
posted by desjardins at 3:44 PM on April 30, 2009

I apologize for taking up space here since I don't actually have an answer for you, but I wanted to thank you for posting this. I've been in the same situation you're in, except that I'm a guy, but I know exactly what that feels like. wfrgms made an excellent point about insecurity; I didn't even realize it until reading it just now but it was probably a big part of why the last relationship I was in didn't work out.
posted by Venadium at 3:53 PM on April 30, 2009

When I was married, there was no comparison to my wife. She was who she was, and everyone else was who they were.

Right on, Netbros. While committed men appreciate the qualities of other women besides their SO, it's not in a "she's prettier/smarter/funnier than my girlfriend/wife/etc" kind of way. Your girl is just better, and that's why you're with her, and that's that.

Trying to rationalize how he could possibly like you better than them is counterproductive. He just does. He has what you need and you have what he needs and it just works.

On a slightly different note, have you had problems with trusting your partner in the past? It's difficult to let down your guard again after you've been hurt. It sounds like you're protecting yourself, but it's really hurting you instead.

If this is the case, I would recommend talking about it with him. Ease him into it, but let him know the gist of what's going on. I think a little communication goes a long way in cases like this. And do it in a way that illustrates that you do trust him, and you feel silly/neurotic in feeling this way. Telling him is a good way of starting to let that guard down.
posted by JauntyFedora at 4:24 PM on April 30, 2009

I have experienced this type of jealousy once. It's awful, it consumes your whole life, makes you anxious and it's a miserable way to live.

While Facebook isn't the cause, it certainly exasperates the situation, and you can be constantly checking for new instances online to fuel the jealousy, looking for reasons to make yourself feel more insecure.

In my case, I was in a long-term relationship where I wasn't getting what I wanted. At the time I thought I was a lot more into him than he was into me. He was aloof, independent, and didn't seem to 'need' anyone like I did. I was completely miserable and allowed myself to get consumed by jealousy over an ex-girlfriend - gleaning 'clues' from Facebook and the internet -- 'she's prettier than me, she's interested in different things, she knew him at a younger, more fun part of his life' whatever. I kept it all inside, torturing myself and trying to remain cool, deal with it myself, wondering why I had these issues.

In retrospect, I think the reason I was so jealous was a combination of the fact that it wasn't a good relationship for me, as well as the fact that the rest of my life wasn't going very well either. I was working two jobs, was stressed, didn't have many friends (hung around his friends all the time) and my life wasn't going anywhere. I was too dependent on him to make my life work. I desperately craved someone I could connect with, talk about all kinds of things with, experience joy and life with.

It wasn't him.

Life has been so much better now that I'm out of that relationship. I have wonderful friends, closer than I ever thought friends could be. I was recently in a relationship with no jealousy and I wondered why I stayed so long in a pit of miserable jealousy.

Are you getting what you want from this relationship? Does he make you feel loved? Does he think you're great or is he sort of 'meh' over you? Are you happy when you're with him or is your mind riddled with insecurity and doubt?

Life can be so good. I don't want to be in any relationship that isn't great. I don't ever want to waste another second with irrational jealousy.

I don't know if this answer is helpful or not, but this is my experience. I don't think the primary problem was so much that I had jealousy issues, or that I was insecure, but that I had a shitty life and a shitty relationship and I didn't have enough life experience to know how good it could be.

With that in mind, why is it that I'm in constant fear of losing him, of being traded in for someone more attractive, more intelligent, more worthwhile? If you lose him, so what? You'll be OK. You don't want to be with someone like that anyway.

I think it's like that saying: if you love someone, let them go. If they come back, you know they really love you. If not, you never had them to begin with.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 4:25 PM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'm tame! I got married last summer!

(seriously, though there's nothing like therapy to help with self-esteem issues, and nothing like having self-esteem to help with jealousy)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:26 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I basically have no answers whatsoever for you and furthermore I'm not in a relationship right now and not looking for one at the moment due to aggravation with dating, so this may be the aggravation or pessimism speaking on my part right now, but this is what I thought while reading the OP:

Implicit in what you have said seems to be an idea that if your guy is decent, you are attractive, and you love each other, the relationship will never end. But this does not seem to be true to me; the nature of human relationships appears to me such that your guy could be the most decent person ever, you could be the most attractive woman in the world, and you could have the greatest love for each other, but still one of you or both of you might some day decide that the relationship should end.

I'm going to totally geek out and mention a Star Trek The Next Generation episode, one that evoked the style of classic Trek and employed the pre-special-effects purpose of science fiction as a device for expressing ideas that would be less easily conveyed in a realistic setting or a story with real-world assumptions. (Youtube 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) The character Data, who for the purposes of this discussion we'll call a perfectionist, becomes fascinated with playing a game that is something like chess. But he meets an opponent whom he cannot beat no matter how hard he tries. The moral of the episode is that you can be perfect in every action you take and still meet with failure. (Not sure it's applicable but the resolution of the story is that Data adopted the strategy of intentionally playing for a stalemate rather than playing to win and was thus able to frustrate the undefeatable opponent into giving up and running away.)

So anyways, maybe the real problem is that you are aware of this possibility on some level and that's what is causing you to fret and struggle with your thoughts and emotions.

If this is the actual problem it seems to me like you have two basic options: if he's the sort of the person who would be into it and is at the right stage in his life you could try to move the relationship to the point where you can ask him to make an oath and promise to formalize your relationship as an inviolate and inalienable part of both your lives. This is monogamous marriage obviously, which is designed to provide its partners with security of that sort. But there are no guarantees there and the relationship could still end - not even through divorce, might die before his time from accident or illness, or you might die before your time and you'd even want him to find someone else in that situation.

Or, you could try to achieve an inner state of mind that accepts the possibility of the relationship ending. There seem to be an uncountable number of ways of pursuing that but most of them involve some kind of religion.

I honestly can't tell you which of those you ought to pursue; that seems to be the question of the ages, whether to work your will upon the world despite it being a Sisyphean labor or whether to adopt some kind of fatalism and/or transcendence of what is worldly. And perhaps there is no answer and life is a cruel trick or a trap of an uncaring universe, or perhaps there's a solution in some middle road, I don't know.

But it definitely isn't just a matter of youth or inexperience or a pathology on your part. And it is not even irrational I don't think, it is an unavoidable problem of the human condition. Maybe older or more world-weary people stop banging their heads against the same walls at some point but that's not necessarily because they've found a solution.

One of the most beautiful articulations of this part of life that exists is in stanzas LIX through LXVI of this edition of the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a modern compilation of the work of an 11th century Iranian poet.

Upon reflection, the fact that I'm willing to invoke Star Trek references in the discussion of relationships seems like even more of a reason to take anything I've said with a grain of salt, and perhaps may even be related to why I'm not in a relationship right now... hmm...
posted by XMLicious at 4:27 PM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

BTW: this Leonard Lopate podcast episode called Please Explain: Jealousy gives some insight into the evolutionary and psychological roots of this basic human emotion.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 4:33 PM on April 30, 2009

I'd chalk it up to anxiety. What nikkorizz is true. I recommend therapy. I get like this a lot when I have a boyfriend, and I completely understand. Therapy helps me re-evaluate and kind of learn to live with the anxiety a bit, as well as loving myself a bit more. He sounds great! Best of luck.
posted by cachondeo45 at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2009

Me and the green eyed monster are old pals. First off, therapy is a beautiful thing. Next, when I broke off my engagement with my boyfriend of 7 years, I had a really enlightening conversation with my mom. I had trust issues and he was a flirt which was a tough match, then he did cheat on me and I felt weirdly justified, which I told her. I told her I should have seen it coming. I should have had a Plan B. My mom told me, "That's not the way to love somebody. You can't have a Plan B." I'm married now and I understand that what will be, will be. You driving yourself crazy worrying won't do one damn bit of good. Even with rings on, your partner could still find someone else. It's the trust that they won't act on it.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:04 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Holy smokes, I could have written this.

I also have no reason to be jealous, have never been cheated on, and don't in any way suspect my partner of doing anything wrong behind my back.

But these sorts of feelings can't be reasoned away.

My way of fighting them is to recommit to things I would like to improve about myself...not just physical, obviously, but that's part of it. Any time I feel that someone else is "better" I think, well, why don't I just make the most of what *I* have? Then all you can say about these "other" women is that they are just that: other, not better.

So I read more, exercise more, have more fun with friends...and that seems to keep the monster at bay.
posted by Pomo at 6:06 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

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