Tell him about unwarranted jealousy?
October 21, 2009 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Do you tell your boyfriend about (unjustified) feelings of jealousy, or just get over them on your own?

I have a great boyfriend with a guy I've been dating since high school. He is a couple years my junior, and we go to the same university. Recently, he as made a new friend at our university, a girl we both had met before through volunteer work. She is a nice, funny, pretty girl, although not insanely attractive (I'd say we're about equal).

He recently had lunch with her, which I had no problem with. He has always had an easier time making female friends than male ones, and has confided in me that he is embarrassed of this. After the lunch, he texted me with "She's so cool!", which I agree, she is. Later he mentioned something funny that she said. This is all that has happened.

I'm not asking if I should feel jealous. I shouldn't. I know he loves me, I feel good about myself, solid in the relationship. But I do feel jealous. The question is, should I tell him? I normally tell him pretty much everything I think and feel, and him likewise. We have a very loving, supportive relationship. My concern in telling him is that he might a) think I'm being crazy b) block the girl out of his life to avoid upsetting me.

I'm mostly worried about b. This girl is cool, funny, nice, a perfect friend for him. Likewise, I have many male friends, even friendships with ex-boyfriends, and he has never said a word about jealousy. I don't want to upset anything going on between them, although in the back of my mind I'm worried it might develop into more. I also worry that telling him would actually weaken our relationship because it might seem I'm trying to shut other people out of his life. So what do you think?
posted by BusyBusyBusy to Human Relations (33 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Tell him how you feel. Almost anybody would feel some pangs of jealousy when they hear their partner enjoys someone else's company, no matter how innocently. You probably have nothing to worry about, but it's only going to sit and fester in your brain until it's become something so much bigger than it originally was... if you don't tell him.
posted by katillathehun at 1:55 PM on October 21, 2009

I think you keep it to yourself until there's more to it, and for the reasons you mention. You will probably find the jealous feeling goes away a bit when you let some time go by, unless something happens to exacerbate it. If it does, then mention it, but only in the context of 'when I hear that, it makes me a bit jealous,' not 'I'm jealous of X.
posted by Pragmatica at 1:56 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

My usual approach is mention it in a totally neutral way and move on. It might lead to a decent discussion of "what is and isn't okay as far as close relationships with the opposite sex" or it might just be a mention and then nothing. If there's a way you think you could mention it without it being an "I'm upset" or "you did something wrong" or "This is going to be a thing, moving forward" situation then I don't think it's problematic to mention it if it's affecting the way you're feeling. Some people have more jealous feelings than others and sometimes it's good for each of you to get an idea of where the other falls on the spectrum just so you can sort of adjust to meet each other somewhat.
posted by jessamyn at 1:56 PM on October 21, 2009

there is also: c) he continues to be friends with her but doesn't tell you. Which if that happens leads to a whole cycle of mistrust and bad feelings.

As long as you are fully in the loop things are good. If you are all those things you state in the question and there is indeed nothing to worry about, I, honestly would not tell him. I think it would bring unneeded friction into the relationship.

Others may disagree
posted by edgeways at 1:58 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Considering you have friendships with exes and he hasn't said anything to you, I think you should keep this to yourself. He's shown you trust...time to return the favor.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:59 PM on October 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I would disagree with teg4rvn that discussing feelings of jealousy is the same as not trusting your boyfriend. It is definitely possible to feel pangs of jealousy while being quite certain that your boyfriend is being faithful. It just comes from desire to be the best, most important, person in your significant other's life, the one held in the highest esteem. Whether you should mention it or not, I am not sure, but it doesn't mean you don't trust him.
posted by teragram at 2:06 PM on October 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

The overarching aesthetic of "cool" tells us that somehow we aren't supposed to have or display emotions, especially negative ones. This is unhealthy, because, like it or not, emotions such as jealousy come as pre-loaded software. We can't uninstall them, either.

So the first thing is to accept that you are human being and that you will have emotions that aren't all warm and fuzzy. Second, you should also realize that these emotions are (1) not predictive of the future; and (2) are not a mind-reading apparatus which tells us what is in the mind of our partners.

In other words, it is normal to be "curious" about the interactions of a mate with people who are of the class of persons they are usually intersted in. But acknowledging the passing nature of those feelings and their disconnection from reality. (those feelings themselves are not facts and tell you nothing).

Then go ahead! Tell him jokingly that "this girl felt a flash of jealousy." The less serious and the more out in the open your feelings about this are, the better. Knowing exactly what this is--just a feeling--will give it a lot less power and make it a lot less disruptive.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:07 PM on October 21, 2009 [13 favorites]

Say nothing while the feelings are the result of your own internal processes and not based on anything genuinely amiss in his behaviour. If he crosses the line into behaviour you do think is problematic, that would be the time to speak as it's something requiring him to deal with as well.
Though if you find you're behaving differently towards him because of the jealous feelings and he asks what's up, obviously you'd mention it then.
posted by Abiezer at 2:10 PM on October 21, 2009

Eh. Have you ever texted him after lunch with one of your guy friends to exclaim: "He's so cool!"

That's really the only part of this that rubs me the wrong way. My platonic friends ARE "so cool!" but I don't know if I've ever felt the need to text my boyfriend after a fun lunch with any of them, male or female.

I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I've always thought it was weird for guys in relationships (or girls in relationships) to go out with JUST a member of the opposite sex who isn't their partner OR, like, a really, really old friend. Were you invited to join them?
posted by dumbledore69 at 2:11 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Personally, I'd rather know if a partner is jealous so that I can do option c), keep everything safely above the table so there is nothing to worry about.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:20 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could tell him in a joking way.
posted by ishotjr at 2:24 PM on October 21, 2009

Re: my advice, I'd make it clear that you do trust him, and that you are just sharing a bunch of your regular human emotions you feel. No need for a huge long discussion, just being honest helps.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:29 PM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well, look over all the previous askmes about relationships ruined by jealousy. I'm not convinced it's an emotion that has much practical benefit, compared to the downsides. On the other hand, I think people should be honest with each other. You might want to tell him, but if you do be sure he knows you don't mean for him to change his behavior.

Honestly though, I think you might as well keep it to yourself. I mean, what good would it do to tell him? he'll just feel guilty for hanging out with her, or he might resent it. Who knows.

In one of my psych classes in college the lecture talked about how women are more jealous of their men having "supportive" relationships with women, whereas men are more likely to be jealous of their women having sexual relationships with other men. Statistically you're more likely to be bothered by him hanging out with and being close with platonic female friends then he is with you hanging out with non-sexual male friends.

(She brought up some evolutionary psychology nonsense to explain it, I'm not a big fan of evo-psych but the hypothesis was that women evolved to care about getting 'resources' to help raise children, so if a man has a supportive emotional relationship with another women, he will help her out. On the other hand, men are worried about raising other men's children, which could happen if their wives were sleeping around. I don't know if that's BS or not, but the basic result is real)

Anyway, Like I said I don't think jealousy is a socially helpful emotion in most cases these days. On the other hand it is theoretically possible that he might dump you and start dating her. It's impossible to tell the future, but would you rather have more tension and drama in your relationship in exchange for more security. It's never possible to quantify the true trade-offs, but I don't think it's a good idea.
posted by delmoi at 2:38 PM on October 21, 2009

As an example, this one time I spent an afternoon helping a friend and client with a technical computer issue at her house. The entire process went on for significantly longer than I had anticipated, and my partner was semi-irrationally jealous over it. (On the one hand, I have no interest in cheating or opening up the relationship. On the other hand, if I did, my behavior would have been justifiably suspicious.)

So the way we dealt with it, was to set some reasonable limits: no more house calls, everything at the office or in public with an open-door policy, keep the appointments on-schedule, and making a point of calling if they did go over schedule. Everyone was pretty much satisfied.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:49 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think if it's becoming a thing with you that's nagging at you, you may want to just mention that "I'm just sussing out some stuff, you're doing everything right, I just had stuff stirred up in me". Sometimes people close to us can sense if something's wrong with us, and if we don't tell them what's up, they may leap to alternate conclusions -- if you're sitting there thinking "I feel jealous, but I know I have no reason to," he may be sitting there thinking, "wow, she seems kind of not-herself, is she mad at me for something?"

But that's only if this is the kind of thing that is just stuck in your craw for a while and you know it's going to be something you're wrestling with. If, instead, you have a feeling that this'll just pass in a few days, I'd vent to a friend instead.

But it sounds like maybe this has stirred up some stuff in you that flashed you back to another relationship, maybe, and that's what's going on -- if you think it's getting noticable, giving him a heads-up that "I'm just in a mood because of some past baggage, I'll be fine" will be fair to him.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:49 PM on October 21, 2009

Oh, and don't beat yourself up for whether you "should" feel jealous or not. You feel what you feel. The better question is, is this jealousy related to what HE did, or whether it's triggered something else (maybe another old boyfriend did something similar before breaking up with you, maybe one of your best friends in kindergarten did something like that, etc.) and you just need to figure out what. Odds are, when you figure out, "Oh, wait, THAT'S why I'm freaking out, because this is reminding me of when Lena Worshawsky stole my best friend in sixth grade", you'll feel better and you'll be able to put everything in perspective because "this is not Lena Worshawsky, this is my boyfriend, therefore this situation is different, and now I get that."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:52 PM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've had an ex tell me "she's so cool!" about a new girl friend he made. 2 months later he was dating her. Sure, the guy and I haven't been dating since HS but only for a year and a half, but still he decided he wanted to see what it was like dating other people.

I'm not saying this is what's gonna happen. I would casually mention the slight jealousy since it's bad to hold feelings inside. Maybe say it in a joking way like people suggested, but so he knows, but keep your eyes and ears open.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 2:56 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's much more useful to state what you want rather than just what you feel.

"I understand this is not rational and I'm trying to get over it, but I realised I was a little jealous after your lunch with Cool Girl, and I just need you to reassure me."

Assuming your boyfriend isn't a twat about this, which he shouldn't be... job done.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:56 PM on October 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

How will either of you benefit by him knowing?

You said yourself that this feeling of jealousy is unwarranted. Talking your baseless jealousy doesn't really help anyone. He's going to be paranoid about mentioning female friends to you, or even scared to have them. That means he either loses his friends, or lies by omission. Do you want to be in that kind of relationship?

You'll probably feel better for telling him, but he will probably feel worse. Your issues with him having female friends are your own, not his. Don't dump them in his lap.
posted by Solomon at 3:02 PM on October 21, 2009

Don't tell him. He's either going to be walking on eggshells after you do or get pissed off.
posted by spaltavian at 3:03 PM on October 21, 2009

The easiest way for you to deal with this is, the next time you're going out somewhere with a group, ask him to invite her along. Get to know her a little more. That will help you learn to think of her as a friend instead of an opponent, without having to seek reassurance from your boyfriend.

Outright mentioning this is fine, too, except that you're asking him to take steps to fix what is, as you acknowledge, your inappropriate feelings. Better to work at the root cause instead of seeking a band-aid, I think.
posted by davejay at 3:04 PM on October 21, 2009

I don't think its necessary to tell him but also you shouldn't have hide it. By that I mean its not necessary to 'have a talk' with him about it or just come out with it out of the blue because that can totally come across as "I'm jealous of your platonic friendship with this girl and want you to stop seeing her... even though I'm still friends with my exes" etc. but you shouldn't need to bite your tongue if the subject comes up naturally in the course of conversation.

My boyfriend and I sometimes discuss interesting metafilter questions we've read and the subject of jealousy comes up quite often. Under those circumstances I've mentioned my irrational jealousies (and definitely in the context of irrational jealousy) and that's fine. He knows I don't expect him to change his behaviour because of it.
posted by missmagenta at 3:05 PM on October 21, 2009

I had a boyfriend in high school who made a new friend at university. He talked constantly about her coolness. Every time we hung out, he recapped the last time he hung out with her. Fun! Anyway, by the time we broke up a couple of months later, I had already known for a while that I didn't stand a chance. On preview, KateHasQuestions knows where I'm coming from, as do hundreds of millions others I'm sure.

Don't worry yourself too much, but be observant. If all the signs are there, the gut knows. As for right now, just relax. When he's talking about her all the time, hanging out with her without you, and not telling you about it, then it's time to worry. Right now you have an awesome boyfriend and it's natural to have a reaction to your boyfriend having a connection with another female. Who knows, you might get a cool new friend out of it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 3:07 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here is the (in my experience) 100% effective way to deal with this: "Hey honey, I know that this is irrational, but I get a silly jealous feeling about your friendship with her". Don't make it about his actions, or the possibility that there is anything to be jealous of. Humans have feelings, feelings often are not rational. It is still healthy and reasonable to talk about those unreasonable feelings.

If you make it clear what your feelings are and at the same time let him know that none of his behaviors need to change, he can stop worrying about any signals you may be inadvertently giving off about the situation. Letting a partner know about a petty jealousy while acknowledging that it is petty and their behavior need not change is a sign of trust, not a sign of distrust.
posted by idiopath at 3:15 PM on October 21, 2009

Then go ahead! Tell him jokingly that "this girl felt a flash of jealousy." The less serious and the more out in the open your feelings about this are, the better. Knowing exactly what this is--just a feeling--will give it a lot less power and make it a lot less disruptive.

This. I've had a lot of problems with jealousy in the past and kept it to myself. It only resulted in me getting more upset and feeling like it was a burden I had to bear on my own when that just isn't true. Just because he can respect your platonic relationships without the need to be vocal doesn't mean you need to be. You're not the same person. There is nothing wrong with that.

I joke around with my guy and any girl he talks to on a regular basis that I may not know or see as much as he does -- hell I even do it with his guy friends. If he notices that I've made a new friend (opposite sex or not) he'll make some comments as well. It lets us both know that we're comfortable with each other while at the same time letting them know we've noticed someone new is in the picture, someone that is actually probably pretty interesting to both of us.

Keep in mind sometimes this isn't the right approach. One ex in particular saw it as me trying to use humor to justify some sort sting operation. Then again this guy ended up cheating on me three times under this anti-cheater radar of mine, so, take that as you will.
posted by june made him a gemini at 4:01 PM on October 21, 2009

emotions such as jealousy come as pre-loaded software. We can't uninstall them, either.

Yes we can. You will learn that when you get older.

What will happen if you show him you're jealous will be a negative thing. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that. If you start acting jealous he will feel like he is being controlled.

And saying "I'm jealous of her" in a "joking way" is preposterous. As if joking about it erases the controlling nature of it. It's juvenile, is what it is. Life isn't a sitcom.
posted by Zambrano at 5:09 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Denying the fact that you are feeling these emotions is foolish. What makes emotions a problem is when one does not accept them for what they are--momentary passing experiences. It is when we mistake them for something they are not--a prophecy, a window into other's people's minds, a thing that can hurt us beyond the few moments of experiencing them--that we run into trouble.

The idea that one can "get rid" of an emotion is not helpful. Perhaps by disconnecting an entire section of the brain and removing all emotions entirely. But focusing on "getting rid" of an emotion, or calling it, as you do, "unwarrented" leads to the type of avoidance behaviors which are actually damaging, substance abuse, sexual addiction, you name it. I think it is important to understand that an emotion is never warranted or unwarrented--it is only a chemical/electric reaction in one's brain, no more, no less. It is a reaction, not an indicator of the future or a mind-reading device.

There is no free lunch, ever. Only by accepting the pain one does feel without reacting to it can we have freedom.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:28 PM on October 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Seconding Ironmouth on all counts.

Disagree with Zambrano - life is a sitcom. Joking about it may not erase the controlling nature of jealousy, but it allows you to vent appropriately, and if done correctly, will come across as less "controlling" and more "probing"

That being said - if you didn't address it with a casual, offhand remark AS SOON AS HE MENTIONED IT - then forget it. Jealousy really, really, really is a self-fulfilling prophecy so in most cases it is best to fortify your own self image in such a way that other individuals don't threaten you as much.

Furthermore, by worrying about this "other person" you give them value. Don't do that.

My approach in action:

If a girlfriend mentions that "X boy is just SO cool and SO interesting" I would usually respond with something like "Whew, thank GOD I don't have to be your boyfriend anymore...when is he coming to pick you up?" Delivered with a SMILE in a TEASING way. I would then change the subject and the issue would NEVER be mentioned again.

I am naturally playful by nature so this hardly comes off as controlling or incongruent with my normal behavior...but it addresses, in a light-hearted way, my own concerns and allows me to vent without giving this other person too much credence and without seeming too controlling.

Jealousy is a suck bath - when you feel it...remind yourself why your SO is so lucky to be with someone as awesome and dynamic as you...and that if they made the mistake of leaving you for someone else, you'd have ease finding someone as wonderful (or more wonderful) than they are. Once you realize understand that if they leave you, they were probably wrong for you anyhow - and if they don't then they really are as great as you'd hoped.
posted by jnnla at 6:36 PM on October 21, 2009

You should try to make friends with the girl too. If you know her better you are less likely to feel jealous.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:56 PM on October 21, 2009

Joking about it may not erase the controlling nature of jealousy, but it allows you to vent appropriately, and if done correctly, will come across as less "controlling" and more "probing"

You come off even more insecure and manipulative by "joking about it". People are not dopes. They can read between the lines when you "joke" about being jealous.

Here is all you need yo know about this: skip the "being jealous" part and go right to "being a secure, mature, independent person that doesn't manipulate, control or play games".
posted by Zambrano at 7:57 AM on October 22, 2009

Zambrano: wouldn't part of being a person who doesn't "manipulate, control, or play games" mean that you communicate openly with someone about what you're feeling, rather than trying to "skip" what you're feeling?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here is all you need yo know about this: skip the "being jealous" part and go right to "being a secure, mature, independent person that doesn't manipulate, control or play games".

We are human beings. We have emotions we don't like. We have emotions which affect our relationship for good or for ill. Manipulation is conscious/subconscious use of those negative emotions as a tool to influence the behavior of another.

Indeed, declaring emotions our partner has to be wrong or bad is the definition of manipulation. Declaring a whole set of emotions experienced by the vast majority of makind to be not part of what is acceptable in a relationship is manipulation par excellence. It is normal to occasionally be afraid that our situation with a lover might change. This is the human condition. These emotions were written into our genes so that we might reproduce with our chosen mate and reduce the chance that our chosen mate would reproduce with another.

The key is to understand these emotions for what they are--just reactions. They do not represent evidence of infidelity or the future course of a relationship. And there is nothing wrong with having them. It is when we make them into something they are not--mandates for behavior on our part--mandates that we should accuse a partner or spy on them that they become troublesome.

Perhaps in a fantasy world we can all become "secure, mature, independent persons" that don't manipulate, control or play games. To do so usually requires a oath of celibacy, because our equipment says otherwise. I think it best to work with the so-called "bad" parts of ourselves, to acknowledge that they are a part of our inheritance, instead of wishfully thinking them away.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:42 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: few comments removed - answers directed only at other commenters should go to email or memail.
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