crazy jealous person seeks reassurance
May 18, 2009 7:05 AM   Subscribe

How can I overcome my intense irrational jealousy and anxiety?

I am in a very good relationship with an awesome guy. We have been dating for a little over a year. This is my second relationship. My first relationship was three years. Both men and both relationships have been very, very different--except the part where I get intensely insecure and jealous. I always start out by feeling confident and happy with myself. At the beginning, I understand that there are many other amazing women in the world, but also realize that this relationship is about me and the other person. The further the relationship progresses, the more and more I worry that there is some other person that the man would rather be with. As time continues, this becomes more and more of an issue.

Little things will set me off--a facebook comment, a photo, even just a sentence or two. In my first relationship, the person was very abusive and I thought that it was just a way to react to his behavior. I expressed my insecurities to him and began to abuse him with questions, accusations, and emotions in general. In this relationship, I know that it isn't the case. Neither of us are perfect, but the relationship is healthy and we respect each other. He has given me no reason to be jealous and I know that he loves me. I don't want to do this to him. The problem must lie with me.

I don't know how to fix it. I'm worried that my insecurities will tear apart this relationship. I don't want to obsess over some girl he slept with a few times when he was 19. I don't want to worry that he has a highschool sweetheart that will always have his heart. I know that these thoughts don't make any sense whatsoever. The thoughts invade my brain and make me panic--they aren't normal. I know that he would never, ever cheat on me. I know that this man loves me with all of his heart. I'm not even worried about physical infidelity. It is also very easy to separate out 'normal' jealousy[which fades quickly and is more 'angry' than panicky] and this jealousy--which ends in OCD-like behaviors[such as checking facebook constantly, being frozen with fear by thoughts running through my head, and biting my nails down until they bleed].

I have never been jealous of something that would actually be real--just imaginary beings that are somehow less flawed than I am. In my mind, there is a woman out there who will fulfill him and make him happy and be everything that he could ever need. In my mind, I am not this person and he is only still with me because he _______[who knows]. I had a pretty bad childhood, and I'm sure that these are lingering daddy issues. How do I get rid of them? I have not mentioned this to him yet. I don't want him to know how messed up I am. What do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think you recognize that the issues are not coming from the current guy, but are lingering from your previous relationship and childhood. The best answer really is therapy. A professional psychologist can help you identify the source of your relationship anxiety and figure out ways to help you avoid triggers and work through it when it does occur. If you've never had therapy before, don't be scared. It is immensely therapeutic and while there may be moments when you have to face uncomfortable truths, you will come out a stronger more happier person.
posted by arcolz at 7:11 AM on May 18, 2009

Well I would suggest talking to a shrink. You seem to have abandonment issues. This is why you always assume he is going to find someone better and leave you. If this guy has never given you a reason to doubt him then you shouldn't. Of course your train of thought won't allow you to do this so talk to someone who is trained and can help you get through this. Hive mind can only do so much
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:12 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing therapy. This isn't about your relationship or even your interaction with your boyfriend. This is a problem embedded deep within your psyche, maybe from those lingering daddy issues, maybe from a rocky childhood in general, that latches on to normal doubts and makes you feel like someone unworthy of love. While you crave reassurance, reassurance just eases the symptoms and won't ultimately cure your anxieties. You need to attend to a deep-rooted insecurity that has metastasized into this almost unmanageable terror.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:21 AM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

It will probably be a relief to start therapy. After struggling alone with something like this, imagine how great it would be to have professional help.
posted by salvia at 7:26 AM on May 18, 2009

You won't be able to work this out on your own, or with your bf's help alone, because you can't trust yourself, and at your worst moments, you don't trust him. You need to discuss this, often and at length, with a professional whom you trust.
posted by hermitosis at 7:27 AM on May 18, 2009

Are you sure you're not the girlfriend referred to in this question? If not, there's the possibility you're going to turn into her... and no-one wants that.

What's the solution? Self-confidence. The knowledge that your boyfriend is with you because of you, for qualities that are an integral part of yourself. Yes, therapy will help. So will talking to your boyfriend ("I get into these moods sometimes that I'm terrified you're going to leave me for another woman. I know its not rational - I'm working on it - but if you could give me a little assurance and maybe a few kudos when I start to feel that way, that could help.")

Hiding this is, likely, only going to make it worse. Talk to your boyfriend. Talk to a therapist. Most of all, believe that you are worth being with. Even if you can't quite believe it, act as if you are. Work to make that belief a reality, and the anxiety will diminish.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 7:27 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Therapy is a great solution. I was like this too--paranoid and really, really jealous. I found out, in therapy, a bunch of stuff about myself and my family, and I saw that it was inevitable that I was paranoid and jealous. Most people who lived in my family would be.

But I worked it out. Here is the thing--- it wasn't fast and it wasn't easy. I did it because I was sick of myself and the way I was making choices and I wanted a healthy relationship. At the end of the therapy I didn't notice much change at first. As time went on, I started to make progress and today, although I would never say I am completely better, I do not do this anymore. And I have a good marraige.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:41 AM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

I really, really, really get this. Perhaps this previous post will be of some help.
posted by DeltaForce at 7:49 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing therapy.

I wouldn't say that these urges are healthy or rational, but they're certainly normal (if you take normal as common).

I really, really encourage you to try therapy.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:58 AM on May 18, 2009

Two things.

One. If you don’t love you, like you, why the hell should someone else see something that you don’t? (source, highly recommended). This is your major tool to self-sabotage yourself.

Two. Do not work under assumption that it is only your problem.

Attraction is a very complex phenomenon, and there is a reason why two specific people end together in a toxic atmosphere. If you have been in abusive environment before, should it be previous relationship or your childhood, it is highly likely you have a lot work to do to set boundaries that a healthy relationship needs. 'Abuse' has a very wide spectrum, and healing from it often consists of series of relationships (not only romantic, but also professional, friendships, etc.) that fall so that one experiences the whole range of abuse: from explicit, openly physical/verbal to very sophisticated and hardly visible emotional, with abuser himself oftentimes ignorant of toxic dynamic. Not saying that the current guy is a monster of sorts, but do look as deep as you can if there are red flags, discrepancies between his words and actions, promises not carried through, or passivity.
posted by Jurate at 8:01 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, in regards to what Bora Horza said upthread, if you do decide to talk to your boyfriend about this, make sure that it doesn't turn into what happened in your previous relationship. While you may feel the need to be honest with him about your feelings, Zoomorphic got it right; this isn't really about your boyfriend, so talking about it with him will not solve the problem. Initially you will be comforted by his reassurance, but it will fade, and quickly, and soon you're always in a state of insecurity, no matter what he says. And, add on the fact that you're now insecure about how he perceives you.

Thus, this is something that I think you should, for the most part, not involve your boyfriend in. Keep the relationship healthy and let him see the wonderful, attractive, and confident person that he fell in love with, the person who you really are, underneath this temporary state that can, and will, be overcome.

Good luck to you.
posted by DeltaForce at 8:03 AM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

keep a journal for a very specific purpose.

every time you are thinking something good and suneshine-y about him, your relationship, or yourself, write it down. it doesn't matter how small or big. this can be the way you feel when he touches your hand. it can be the way he smiles when you have to tiptoe to reach something on the top shelf. it can be how good he looks first thing in the morning. it can be how good you felt when a coworker said she liked your shoes. start recording your happy moments.

then, when you start to feel the tiniest inkling of doubt, read back over some of the pages - maybe mark some that seemed to really help. little by little i think your confidence will grow. i know from experience that when the brain wants to be crazy, trying to rationalize with it in that moment is futile - so bring another moment. you'll also talk about happy things more positively when you're happy than you will when you're down. they're just more convincing that way.

other things - you know when you're feeling off or vulnerable to being upset by things you'd like to not be jealous over, try to get up and do something in those moments, go for a jog, paint ceramics, put on the silliest album you have and dance around with pigtails, do anything but find things to upset you. if you're already feeling badly, seeking things out to make you feel worse, well - you already know how counter productive it is. the trick is to not just resolve yourself to stay offline, but to have activities that you enjoy that you will do. sometimes in my deepest depressions, if i just fake it 'til i make it for 30 minutes, the next two hours pass like a breeze. i have playlists of different silly moods so i can, as i call it, shake my tail feathers, to get the cobwebs away.

i've also learned that the quickest and worst way to get over this is to date someone who has those issues. don't wait until this destroys your relationship. you deserve someone who loves you and treats you well. now you just have to convince yourself of that.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 AM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

The fact that you're suspecting that "maybe this is in my own head after all" is a huge advantage. Be proud of yourself for that.

A lot of people are suggesting therapy, and I'd agree -- nothing elaborate, just someone you talk to to help you sort out "why do I feel this way sometimes". The point of therapy isn't necessarily to make those jealous feelings go away -- it's more about how to recognize them when they pop up, and how to cope with them ("....Oh, wait, that's right, this is about my own issues, this isn't about how Sweetie smiled at the waitress. Okay, I won't nag him about that, then, I'll do something else to calm myself down."). The great part is, those jealous feelings also come around a lot less often and become less intense when you can recognize "oh, no, wait, this is about my own issues", and also when you've successfully coped with them a few times. You're basically re-learning new behavior patterns, and like any behavior pattern it gets easier with practice.

I would also clue him in that this is something you're wrestling with -- not that you have to spell out every last thing if you're not comfortable doing so, but just a heads-up that "I've realized I've got some stuff I'm sorting out, and it just may make me act funny now and then." A guy worth his salt will hear that and remember it, and will be a little more patient with whatever flashes of jealousy you get afterward. He may also try to be a little more careful of what he does as well (my ex and I had to have a similar talk once, where I tipped him off to "um, I just have some...issues", and it helped a lot).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Like others have mentioned, therapy would be the way to go if its an option for you.

I had a girlfriend just like you. In the beginning she was fantastic but towards the end she did exactly what you describe doing.

She would always tell me that one day I'd find someone better looking or that had more in common with me. Unfortunately, that turns your jealousy and anxiety into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes it will happen, but you'd only have yourself to blame.

Here's the thing, what you need to do is focus on yourself. I would suggest some time alone as a person. Not sure how independent you are, but if you're a co-dependent kind of person then alone time is certainly the best thing. You need to learn how to appreciate yourself better. What do you have to offer as a person? Why should a man be grateful to be with you? What are your qualities? Your goals and aspirations?

See, once you've become content with yourself, then and only then can you make someone else happy. It's not your boyfriends job to fix you, its your job. Take the initiative. You've already identified your problem, so you're on the right track.

Once you've gotten yourself together, you'll realize that you'll be able to let the things that truly don't matter just slide. A confident woman is very attractive and believe me there will always be a guy just around the corner interested in you if you believe in yourself.
posted by salsa buena at 8:13 AM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Here's the thing, what you need to do is focus on yourself. I would suggest some time alone as a person. Not sure how independent you are, but if you're a co-dependent kind of person then alone time is certainly the best thing. You need to learn how to appreciate yourself better. What do you have to offer as a person? Why should a man be grateful to be with you? What are your qualities? Your goals and aspirations?


You are your solid place to stand. You can never be absolutely 100% sure that something won't happen, and the more effort you put into locking stuff down, the more finely tuned your early warning system will get, until you're looking 20, 30 moves ahead for possible triggers that might start a cascading series of events that might eventually lead to his straying.

I know the idea of being totally dependent on and infatuated with someone might seem perversely romantic, and that it can sound cold and horrible at first to suggest you should work on being happy in and of yourself. Remember that nobody is suggesting it would be abnormal for you to feel sad if the two of you broke up, or that you are wrong to feel glad and lucky to be with him.

Getting to grips with some basic CBT, so you can start to recognise and challenge your irrational thought patterns should provide some blessed relief. I know how knackering the whole process can feel, and one way or another, you'll end up letting go of it, if only from sheer exhaustion.
posted by RokkitNite at 8:36 AM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yes, therapy. Good idea!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2009

I know how you feel. I used to suffer from this same phenomenon. I think, in some ways, it relates to needing complete control over any given situation - at least it does for me.
You're sure to get a lot of advice suggesting that you develop hobbies and interests of your own to keep your mind off of obsessing over this man. I agree with that advice, but know that it's easier said than done.
What it all basically boils down to is being truly happy with yourself. You must be able to exist without him before you can truly be happy in a relationship with him - if that makes sense.
Also, your comments regarding your certainty that he will never hurt you, cheat on you, etc. are quite telling. It's more like you are reassuring yourself of these very things by typing them out here. However, there's absolutely nothing you can do to control anyone else in your life - except yourself, of course. Being fundamentally okay with the concept that others can and will do whatever they wish is paramount to being happy in a relationship - and it life generally. Rather than look at it like, "Oh, he would never do THAT to me", it's probably better to be able to say, "Well, he very well could do THAT to me; if he does, though, I would survive. I will continue being the best person I can be, regardless of his actions - good or bad".
posted by meggie78 at 9:58 AM on May 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

Nt'hing Therapy once again. When you described the following, it sounds amazingly similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:

I know that these thoughts don't make any sense whatsoever. The thoughts invade my brain and make me panic--they aren't normal... ends in OCD-like behaviors[such as checking facebook constantly, being frozen with fear by thoughts running through my head, and biting my nails down until they bleed].

Whether or not it actually is, who cares. If it's bothering you enough that you're posting a MeFi question, it's probably worth getting checked out. Try finding a CBT therapist; cognitive behavioural therapy is a
posted by HabeasCorpus at 11:57 AM on May 18, 2009

^cognitivie behavioural therapy is a particularly effective form of therapy, when it comes to anxiety issues.

Sorry for the split post.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 11:58 AM on May 18, 2009

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