I am jealous of my boyfriend's past interest in other women. Please give me new perspective.
December 4, 2009 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I am jealous of my boyfriend's past interest in other women. Please give me new perspective.

I would like to know why I should not be jealous of my boyfriend's past interest in other women (besides the fact that it is emotionally taxing, destructive, and painful.)

On a logical level, I just don't see why I shouldn't be. I feel as if they are my competition, that they will take him away from me, that they are better than me in some way or another, that really, he should be with them because I can't compare. All of those things, I think, make jealousy a reasonable, rational response. If I were not jealous, that would mean I don't care if they are better than me and that they are going to take my boyfriend away from me. Of course I care!

As a sidenote, my boyfriend is a very decent person and that he loves me so so much. He has spent hours reassuring me and hasn't given me any reason to doubt him. I know nothing would happen. He doesn't even talk to these women anymore...but when he does run into them IRL or online through a random facebook comment here and there I go in crazypanicmode and I feel like throwing up and have the whole butterflies-can't-sleep-thing that I really really thought would go away with age. I am in my mid 20s if that is relevant.

Has anyone else dealt with this and gotten past it? Please convince me that I shouldn't be feeling like this.

Thank you :)

And yeah, I know I probably need therapy.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
How about this: would you really want to date a person who had never ever had any interest whatsoever in anyone at all prior to meeting you?
posted by Aquaman at 10:39 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

As I see it, this has nothing to do with your boyfriend, but everything to do with you and what's going on between your ears. Take a look at this list of thinking fallacies (cognitive distortions) and see which one(s) might apply to you:

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

Perhaps seeing the type of thinking you're engaging in written down and defined might help you be a bit more Spock about the whole thing and a lot less Kirk :)

Perhaps even going over the list and doing some journal writing might help clear the clutter.

Good luck and hang in there!
posted by willmize at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2009 [27 favorites]

I feel as if they are my competition, that they will take him away from me, that they are better than me in some way or another, that really, he should be with them because I can't compare. All of those things, I think, make jealousy a reasonable, rational response. If I were not jealous, that would mean I don't care if they are better than me and that they are going to take my boyfriend away from me. Of course I care!

This isn't about other women, it's about allowing your insecurity to rationalize deeply irrational (but understandable, human) reactions. You have no evidence that points to your alleged inferiority, and you're ignoring the obvious points to the contrary: your boyfriend is no longer with these women, he's with you. He picked you, he loves you, he reassures you.

The problem is that you look past this, and I don't think any rational testimony from online strangers is going to suddenly illuminate you to the errors of your ways. Everyone gets jealous and territorial from time to time, but when you can't even abide the fact that your boyfriend must co-exist with his exes, then logic isn't going to rescue you.

You're like Gatsby knocking over the clock on the mantel, wanting Daisy to say she never loved Tom, had always and only loved him. Gatsby loses Daisy partly because he can't sync up his demands to the reality of his beloved loving someone else, ever. You can't ask the same of your boyfriend.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:43 AM on December 4, 2009 [8 favorites]

Here's a few things to ponder:

-Relationships are all about making another feel good. These woman made your man feel good in the past, and you make him feel good now. If anything, you're on the same team. :)

-Each relationship is an opportunity for learning and growth. These women gave him practice being a good boyfriend/lover/companion, that you might reap the benefits. In a way, you owe some of his man-quality to them being around.

-That he is still friendly with them should be seen as encouraging: it means that he is a decent guy who tends not to burn bridges and is capable of ending a relationship with grace.

Lastly, each past girlfriend not only makes your man more desirable; it makes YOU more desirable. After all, he chose you.
posted by dualityofmind at 10:43 AM on December 4, 2009 [13 favorites]

Those relationships ultimately didn't work out for him.
posted by availablelight at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Haven't you been interested in other men in your life? And it doesn't affect how you feel about your boyfriend, does it?
posted by something something at 10:49 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Therapy, yes.

One of the first things the therapist will tell you is to monitor your "self-talk" - the inner monologue that goes on in your brain. Actively thwart negative thoughts. Actively encourage positive ones. Make positive thinking a habit. Visualize negative thoughts being put into a trash can, or exploding, or whatever. Make it a habit to watch what you think all day long. Don't indulge in fantasies of bad things happening, avoid morbid thoughts, steer yourself away from imaginary arguments.

The therapist may also tell you that you need to improve your sense of self: self-love, security, self-esteem, self-worth.

You can do this by doing things that make you feel good about yourself.
1, Exercise with a goal in mind.
2. Volunteer work.
3. Art.
4. Self improvement, such as reading, taking a class. Language. Theatre. Dance class. Yoga. Music. Knitting.
5. Clean your house or apartment. Paint a room. Make a window box to plant something in the spring.
6. Meditate or take a mental break every day for a few minutes. Monitor your breathing. Relax.
7. Deal with things you don't want to deal with. Immediately, as they occur. Stop procrastinating.
8. Take care of your hygiene, your hair, and pay attention to what you wear. No more sloppy casual clothes.

Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep. Limit the TV you watch, the coffee you drink, the alcohol. These things will help keep your mind busy, your body active, and help you build your sense of self.

Soon you won't care so much what your boyfriend does. Maybe he'll need to worry about you, expanding your world and becoming the beautiful, confident person you already are.
posted by Xoebe at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2009 [27 favorites]

I can relate to this. This is insecurity, whether it's with yourself or in your relationship. Jealousy is never rational - unless you're given a REASON (if you don't trust him or he's cheated on you, for example...) But that doesn't seem to be the case. He's with YOU, isn't he? If he wanted to be with them, he'd pursue THEM.

I assume you had past romantic interests before him. Should it freak HIM out if you saw one of them at a party, or if one of them innocuously commented on something on Facebook? No. And if it did, you'd be here complaining about how your boyfriend is an unreasonably possessive nutso.

You can get past this. Here is some advice I received on this very site that I keep with me every day: THINGS ARE ALWAYS WORSE IN YOUR HEAD. You are catastrophizing, making these girls into a threat to your relationship, because you feel inferior to him, or perhaps not worthy of your boyfriend. Talking to someone to explore why that is would be beneficial to you and your relationship. No one can convince you that you shouldn't feel this way. I think you rationally understand that this is a problem (otherwise you wouldn't be here, would you?) - which is a great first step. But I CAN tell you that if you don't work on resolving the deeper issues you have with yourself, which will actually enable you to convince YOURSELF that you're being unreasonable, you will push. him. away.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well, the trouble with your logic is that it's not logical. It sounds more like rationalization to me, which amounts to talking yourself into justifying your irrational thoughts.
Try thinking of it this way: Are the men you've been interested in the past still his competition?
To take another tack, many a dude has been driven away by too many hours spent reassuring an otherwise awesome partner who claims to trust him, but goes into crazypanicmode every time he encounters a woman he was ever interested in. Do you want to drive him away?
Therapy sounds like a good idea; if not for your own good, for the longevity of your relationship.
posted by willpie at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2009

You mentioned something twice in your post: the idea of these other women "taking" your boyfriend. Nobody gets "taken"; people go willingly.

The core of the issue is that you don't trust your boyfriend. You are redirecting your mistrust onto these other women so that you don't have to do the uncomfortable thing and admit to your boyfriend that you don't trust him.

As you said: therapy.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Haven't you been interested in other people in the past? Didn't you have crushes before you went out with (or even met) your current boyfriend? Didn't have you have previous relationships before the one you're in now? Don't you occasionally meet people nowadays whom you find attractive and might, if you were single, pursue romantically? And yet, right now, you're in a relationship with your boyfriend. You're not going to leave him for any of those hypothetical people I mentioned, are you? Then why would he?

Love and relationships aren't about systematically comparing your current partner's traits with others' traits to make sure you have the best possible partner.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't mean to snark, but "going into crazypanicmode" is not logical in the slightest. It's a perfectly natural response, but it's an emotional one, not a rational one.

The most important word in your question is past. If he has no interest in any of these women, you have nothing to worry about. Of course, that in itself won't stop you from worrying. The brain has this really odd capacity to get something from literally nothing.

What I would suggest is calmly and logically writing down what it is that you're jealous of. I'd hazard a guess that it's not the fact that your boyfriend knows these girls, but that they have something you want (looks, fame, power, whatever). I could well be wrong, but that's where I would start, if I were in your shoes. Write down what it is you feel and when, and then take a step back and read what you've written. Think about it. Analyse it. Use your rational brain rather than your emotional mind. Look within what you've written and see what it is that's actually upsetting you. Once you know what that is, apply some logic to it. Also, think about the Serenity Prayer. You cannot change what these other women have, but you can change your own attitudes.

You might find it useful as well to think back on previous relationships and look for similarities between them and the current one and your emotional state.

I get the impression from your post that you think that these women are somehow "better" than you - "I can't compare", "if they are better than me", etc. Everyone has their strengths and everyone has their weaknesses. But you know what? Your boyfriend is with you, not them. What they have is immaterial, because he picked the one he wanted most.
posted by Solomon at 10:58 AM on December 4, 2009

He HAD a PAST interest in other women. He HAS a CURRENT interest in you. Jealousy is counter-productive to that current interest. That's logic, rather than rationalization.

Does being jealous mean you care about your boyfriend? It's really more about caring about those women, or your own self-interest, isn't it? Wouldn't caring about your boyfriend mean sparing him dramatic altercations where he has to spend hours reassuring you?

If he really is a great guy who loves you, maybe you need to learn to see yourself as someone lovable. Look at your own past to see why you are so hung up on this. Been cheated on? Abandonment issues? Again, those are more about *you* than *him*.

So, yes, therapy is definitely called for.
posted by misha at 11:00 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I feel as if they are my competition ...

Except they aren't, since he isn't with them anymore because he wants to be with you. The rest of your rationale is equally crazy. I don't think there is anything wrong with being jealous, but pretending it's some sort of rational way to behave is silly. More so, so long as you think it's a reasonable way to behave, you probably won't move past it. Anyway, I suspect this is something that will pass the longer you are with your boyfriend.
posted by chunking express at 11:09 AM on December 4, 2009

--Are they your competition? In an abstract way, yes, in the sense that everyone in the world could theoretically bag your boyfriend. Just like theoretically everyone could contract polio or eat yogurt. What are the chances? No one knows, but the reality is that they already tried him out and it didn't work. Did they dump him, making you nervous that they'll change their minds and scoop him back up? Have you been dumped? If that guy tried to get back with you right now, wouldn't you be like hell no, I got a man who is hot and who didn't dump me? Yeah, you would. Relationships and feelings aren't static and someone who your boyfriend wanted in situation A is not the same person now, nor are they in the same situation. There is also a good chance that the sex was awful but he's too much of a gentleman to say so.

--Are they better than you? Maybe. Doesn't matter. People everywhere are better than you. You live your life no matter what life other people live. Your life includes enjoying your boyfriend, or it will if you let it. I guess you could try to make them worse by like, murdering their dog and making them cynical, or convincing them to become cokeheads, but what's the point? Maybe it would make you less jealous. But it would be logistically complicated and rude.

--Should he be with someone else because you aren't good enough for him? Let me answer your question with a question. He's smart, capable, and able to make good decisions for himself (he dresses himself in the morning, goes to work, doesn't freebase meth, etc), right? How likely is it that he is completely blind to a better relationship that is right in front of him posting on his facebook page? You do not have more insight into his needs than he does. He's evaluated what his life is like with you and what it might be without you and made a decision. Of course, if you don't trust his judgment, that's another problem.

Look, relationships aren't based on logic, but on mutual compatibility, weird brain things, your dad, alcohol, and various other chemicals and sciency stuff. Most people don't end up with the best person in the world, they end up with someone similar to them in personality, close to them geographically, and about equally physically attractive. If they went on a rollercoaster or survived bootcamp together, all the better.

So yeah, your relationship is some sort of lucky, unideal, illogical, nonsensical, subconscious, brain chemical nonsense that could have easily gone another way. Perhaps in some alternate "more perfect" reality your boyfriend could be with to his ex or Michelle Obama or whoever. Well, you're in this reality. In this reality you get to have fun, loving times with someone who loves you back. And that is awesome.

So stop giving yourself permission to wallow in negativity and enjoy one of the great gifts that luck and our ridiculous bodies give us: love.
posted by kathrineg at 11:17 AM on December 4, 2009 [21 favorites]

It's definitely insecurity. It's also definitely human nature, so you're not some kind of freak, here. But you have to keep it in its place, instead of letting it take over your brain like a fire.

There's already lots of good advice above, but there's also this: You may rationalize it as some kind of "proof" that you want him. But it's just as likely a "proof" that you have no faith in your relationship. Is your relationshop so flimsy that it can be threatened by something so minor, so easily? Probably not. Now, do you want it to be so delicate?

And of course, jealousy is one of the least attractive qualities in a person.

Try to be bigger than that.
posted by rokusan at 11:27 AM on December 4, 2009

He has spent hours reassuring me....

It's good you're trying to help yourself here, because eventually, this will start to grate on him.
posted by rokusan at 11:28 AM on December 4, 2009 [13 favorites]

n-thing, respectfully, that you need to talk to a professional about the way you talk to yourself. Your self-talk impacts the way you feel, and you should know that some of your self-talk is not rational at all.

Ask for a therapist or counselor who has experience with the cognitive-behavioral approach to therapy. It will be helpful. You will learn how to challenge your irrational notions - and, amazingly, your feelings will follow.

I'm not saying you're crazy or anything, just to be clear - everyone needs help with various things. You obviously know this is a problem or you wouldn't have invited us all to comment on it. A good therapist can help you solve this problem.
posted by crapples at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2009

Because the more jealous crazy-pants you are, the more likely it is that your relationship will fail.
posted by yarly at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

Would you WANT to be his first? He'd be a terrible kisser, a lousy lover, wouldn't know how to let a fight go, and would leave the toilet seat up. :)

I'm just kidding. But look, everyone has a past -- including you. As you get older, you will have more past. You will make new friends and forge new relationships. You will be marked. In both good ways and bad, but you will be marked. Part of growing up is learning to accept that other people have pasts, and scars, and memories of their own. You are not his first, but you can be his center.
posted by kestrel251 at 11:33 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

He's with you now. That's his choice. That's why he hasn't gone/looked back.

I was previously married. Mrs. Plinth feels vaguely threatened by my ex-wife, especially since we're on good terms, but there's a reason why she's my ex-wife and Mrs. Plinth is my wife.
posted by plinth at 11:35 AM on December 4, 2009

A lot of answers are neglecting the possibility that his old girlfriends could have broken up with him, such that the OP is being settled for.
posted by gensubuser at 11:42 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

>I would like to know why I should not be jealous of my boyfriend's past interest in other women (besides the fact that it is emotionally taxing, destructive, and painful.)

WHOA! You are jealous of women he liked before he even met you? As has already been noted, this is a completely irrational, emotional response.

Try this on for size: You may be justifiably jealous if your boyfriend is interested in other women now that you two are dating. You have NO right to feel jealously towards any woman he may have had an interest in prior to you two becoming exclusive to one another. None. Zip. Nada. As far as your relationship is concerned, any previous interest in any other woman is prehistory, and occurred BC (Before Commitment to you). HE IS WITH YOU NOW. HE IS NOT WITH THEM.

This kind of thinking is incredibly corrosive to your well being and spirit and should be addressed via therapy promptly, before it undermines what sounds like an otherwise wonderful relationship. You will doom this relationship if you keep thinking this way. You cannot erase his past, and you do not have the right to. Unless he is somehow expressing or indicating that he would rather be with one of these women, this is truly none of your business. Any threat that this represents is only a threat because it is making you crazy, not because he has any real interest in going back to a previous partner.

Find a therapist and deal with this. It is completely irrational.
posted by mosk at 11:44 AM on December 4, 2009 [6 favorites]

I am in my mid 20s if that is relevant.

Yes, it is.

I think it's pretty common for women in their 20s to deal with insecurity issues in relationships -- not all women, of course -- but a lot, myself included. That doesn't mean it's not a problem, though, and it won't go away without you addressing it, using some of the excellent tips you're getting here. But by no means should you heap on more trouble by beating yourself up for thinking like this; it's a common problem.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 11:46 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't it be great to be with a guy who no woman before has found attractive... ever?

Imagine how secure you'd feel, having a guy that no other woman has ever found desirable.

I had a friend whose roommate had a boyfriend who loved The Simpsons.

He really, really loved The Simpsons.

Every single day, after waking up, or after getting home from classes, he'd watch four to six episodes of The Simpsons.

My friend was a bit curious as to why her roommate, a very attractive woman, dated this guy. Her roommate conceded that the guy was somewhat dull to be around... and certainly wasn't good-looking... and wasn't particularly affectionate or even ambitious.

She confessed that as she really thought about it, the only reason she had him as a boyfriend was that she thought no other woman could find him attractive, and therefore no other woman would find him worth stealing.

Wouldn't you rather have a boyfriend like that?
posted by darth_tedious at 11:46 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

The man you describe here is a decent, respectful person who deserves your trust. And for you to have this unreasonable jealousy and suspicion is, in turn, not very respectful of him. Both of you have to choose to be together, and it sounds to me like he's the only one who has really made the choice. Meanwhile, you're still looking for reasons why it shouldn't work out.

My sister used to be like that about every single boyfriend she had since high school. With her current boyfriend, whom she loved for being a genuinely nice and caring guy, her jealousy still wasn't going away. I eventually said, "If he cheats on you, he's not the man you thought he was." That clicked something for her, and she's not been jealous since. Hopefully, someone here has already said something that'll click for you as well. It'd be a shame for a relationship to end over an affair that hasn't happened.
posted by zerbinetta at 12:02 PM on December 4, 2009

I know I'm just reiterating points others have made, but ... ask yourself:

1. Have you ever been romantically and/or sexually interested in other people before your boyfriend? Assuming the answer is yes, do you think this would be good reason for your boyfriend to be obsessively jealous of those people, or to go into "panic" mode anytime you have some incidental communication with any of those people? (Your post is somewhat asymmetrical in that you never mention this.)

2. Would your ideal relationship be with a guy who's at least, say, 25 years old (my guesstimate of your preferred age range) who, until he entered a relationship with you, was asexual and had no relationship experience, so that there would be no chance that any of his past sexual/romantic interests might re-enter the picture (since they wouldn't exist)?

If -- and only if -- the answer to those questions is yes, then you can truly say that the thoughts you've described in this post are "rational." I doubt it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:03 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I feel as if they are my competition, that they will take him away from me, that they are better than me in some way or another, that really, he should be with them because I can't compare. All of those things, I think, make jealousy a reasonable, rational response.

What you're saying here is , "These women are better than me; I know that. Therefore, it would be logical for my boyfriend to want them and not me. Therefore, it's logical for me to be jealous."

This is not logical at all.

1) The women are not "better" than you. Maybe some of them have qualities that you wish you had -- but that doesn't make them intrinsically better. This is where therapy comes in. You are a lovable, worthy person. I promise.

2) Who people love/want is not logical. Haven't you ever met someone who seems like they'd be perfect on paper but just isn't right for you for whatever reason? I know I have. Therefore, even if YOU think these other women would be a better match for him, there's nothing that says that your boyfriend "should" want them instead.

3) In fact, your boyfriend is with YOU. He wants YOU. Have you heard of Occam's razor? When there are two explanations for something, you should choose the simplest one. Sure, it COULD be that he secretly would prefer to be with these other women but for some complicated reason is instead with you and lying to you about what he wants... or it could be that he prefers to be with you. The second explanation is simplest. Go with that one.

4) Therefore, it's not logical to be jealous. It's human nature, like others have said, but that doesn't mean you should wallow in it and call it logic.

Please do get therapy. I think it will help.
posted by cider at 12:06 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I dunno, I'm a little worried for your boyfriend. He doesn't even talk to former love interests, and when he comes across one of them on the street or on Facebook, you go into crazypanicmode? He has to spend hours reassuring you that he's not going to cheat?

You sound controlling, maybe even emotionally abusive. Stop rationalizing your behavior and get help.
posted by palliser at 12:16 PM on December 4, 2009 [8 favorites]

Your boyfriend is surely not weak-willed enough to be "taken away" from you. Think about the disservice that your jealousy is doing your boyfriend. You are essentially admitting that you think he has no agency. Do you really think so little of him?
posted by gaspode at 12:17 PM on December 4, 2009

I've felt like this in that past, and I have anxiety in other areas of my life which seems to make it worse, so I understand where you're coming from. In my last relationship, no amount of his reassuring me helped, and I think part of the reason we broke up was because of my insecurity. Don't let that be the case for you.

BUT, what has helped me in my current relationship is exactly what others have mentioned before. I remind myself that even though I have past romantic interests in other men, it absolutely does not change my love for my boyfriend. I can even look back on the good times of my past relationships and remember them fondly, but it does not mean I want to go back with them. In fact, I am so glad I am not with them anymore.

So every time I feel insecure about who my current BF dated before me, I just go over that sentiment in my head.
posted by too bad you're not me at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2009

Fundamentally, if you want all this to work out, you need to trust him not just in your conscious mind, but in your heart. Your first reaction MUST be the belief that he would not cheat on you. Presently, it is not. Why isn't it?

Trust takes time to build. You should talk to him about this frequently (especially the part where you want to get past feeling this way), and lay out those building blocks in yourself.

Try turning this situation around. If he was interested in them, and chose you, then the upper hand is on the other foot - you took HIM away from THEM. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, and realize that they aren't a threat to you. You were the threat to them. And, they didn't even know it. Bask in your accomplishment - the game is over, and you beat them all.

Last thing I want to mention is this: Men are VERY resentful of their g/f giving them a problem about who they choose to be friends with, be it men or women. If you make him uncomfortable about who he chooses to associate with, that could very well be the undoing of your relationship. In other words, the jealousy itself is a far worse threat to your relationship than any of the women he liked in the past.
posted by Citrus at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2009

i've been the reassurer to a crazy jealous ex. he was kind, smart, funny, nerdy, attractive - but any story about my past, any friend that i was close to, any mention that i wasn't a pure soul placed on earth for him and him alone would cause him to go nuts. i spent hours, days, weeks reassuring him. i pulled away from my friendships because even enjoying a conversation at a party with a mutual friend would be a night of fighting.

do you notice how i called him my ex? it wasn't the only problem between us, but on my side, it was the biggest one. i wasn't allowed to be me. i lost basically every single one of my friends.

if you really love your boyfriend, you won't put him through this. you will find a way to fix yourself so he can have a secure and emotionally stable girlfriend. if you don't, it won't be casually talking to other women that'll take your boyfriend away, it'll be you and your unfair standards. there is nothing logical in the way you're treating him. it's hurtful and borders on abusive, even if you don't mean for it to.
posted by nadawi at 12:35 PM on December 4, 2009 [10 favorites]

Holy cow this distorted thinking list is useful.

Everyone has pretty much said everything I'd say. I'd just like to reinforce the idea that being jealous has nothing to do with caring about your boyfriend. It's selfish.
posted by ServSci at 1:00 PM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

Just a quick note to say that I'd be careful from turning what is at essence your issue into his issue. You said he doesn't talk to any of these people anymore. I wonder whether this is at all related to the panicking you go through. I'd just be careful about accidentally isolating him from people who may be artifacts of his past, but might also play a different and important role in his circle of friends and acquaintances now. That'd be destructive to him and probably would not really help you feel better.
posted by lorrer at 1:16 PM on December 4, 2009

Oh, and hey--fake it 'till you make it. The hours of reassurance will grate on him, so don't ask that of him anymore, even if you feel like shit. It's not pleasant, and it obviously doesn't help. Eventually, it will cause him to become somewhat secretive about his life (inner and outer) because he fears how you will respond to the truth. You don't want that, and neither does he.

Do what you need to do to make yourself feel better. But don't keep putting such a heavy burden on him.
posted by kathrineg at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

All of those things, I think, make jealousy a reasonable, rational response.

No, not they don't. Most of those things make the assumption that your boyfriend is like a pile of money left on the doorstep for anyone walking by to take. Nobody can "take" him away from you; he can merely choose to go.

You have two simple problems: you're massively insecure, and you don't trust your boyfriend. Take the time and energy you're spending on jealousy and go get therapy. Also stop leaning on your boyfriend to be your therapist; he can only spend so much time reassuring you that, no, you're not worthless and, yes, he is loyal to you before he realizes that he's spending the better part of his life trying to stop you from sabotaging a perfectly good relationship, and gets fed up.
posted by davejay at 1:51 PM on December 4, 2009

Since you're concerned with what's "logical," it's worthwhile to consider that, logically speaking, if you are really worried about staying competitive with the other women in your boyfriend's life, you need to eliminate the "jealous freak" factor.

Otherwise, he will be sitting around one day, and make the "logical" decision to dump you.

Keep in mind that a little jealousy can be nice. Personally, I like it. It's a reminder that I'm with someone who cares. You just don't want to cross the line into ridiculousness.

Remember that your jealousy is not what's going to keep him in your life. It's being a good girlfriend. There may be competition for him, but you are the winner. Don't be like the United States government, and start making up new enemies just so you have something to do with your military. Invest in domestic issues, and adopt a friendlier foreign policy. Make it less likely that you will have to deal with terrorist attacks simply by not being the kind of willfully antagonistic country that makes terrorists want to attack it.
posted by bingo at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Wonderful advice above, and I want to reiterate what a few others have touched on. It is emotional abuse for you to go off and have your boyfriend reassuring you for hours. I have also had exes do this to me, and it is the reason they are exes.

You are fine just the way you are, please believe me, and remember you can't steal what doesn't want to be stolen.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 2:43 PM on December 4, 2009

Believing that the women your boyfriend knew in the past are your competition isn't logical; it's the exact opposite.

You want to snap yourself out of it with some cold logic? Consider this: your real potential competition is some woman he will meet in the future who does not demand constant reassurance in a fruitless attempt to fill some bottomless void of insecurity. Because after too many months or years of reassuring you without it making any difference, that's who he's ultimately going to want to be with. You can become that woman, or another woman can be that woman. The choice is yours.
posted by scody at 2:56 PM on December 4, 2009 [11 favorites]

Well, maybe something to keep in mind:

If he leaves you for an ex, it wasn't meant to be, and you can move on with your life. You were cool with things before, probably sad now, but ready to get up and start seeing someone new. You will recover. At least you didn't waste supposed-to-be-fun-and-awesome-relationship-time being psycho and jealous.

If he doesn't leave your for an ex, and stays with you, you won't waste supposed-to-be-fun-and-awesome-relationship-time being psycho and jealous.

You've got little to gain by being psycho and jealous with your boyfriend. Other than some illusion that he and fate can be controlled. You have a lot more to gain by being chill, having fun, and loving each other.

Imagine both scenarios playing out: your worst fears and your greatest hopes. And surviving and being cool with it either way. I don't mean being emotionally dead. I mean feeling what you need to feel, but then brushing yourself off and moving ahead, no matter what happens.

(Unless you find being psycho and jealous fun, like some people do...in which case, time to see the doctor.)
posted by thisperon at 3:14 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd say your problem is not that your BF encounters ex-GF's occasionally. Nor is it the jealous twinge you feel when this happens. Jealousy is a normal biologically driven reaction. I've felt it and most people have in one form or another.
Your problem is that your jealous feeling escalates and basically hijacks your brain. There's hardware in your brain looking for threats and once identified sets your reactive systems on alert. On this particular trigger, your system is set to full red-alarm.
You could talk to a therapist but I would wonder if continually focusing on the problem is going to resolve it in any way. Another way to look at it would be how to retrain your brain away from this behavior. Focusing on it only strengthens the wrong pathway in your brain, the jealousy overreaction.
You could try this method.
While it's about healing panic and anxiety, I think your jealousy is in some sense exactly that, an over-reaction to a perceived threat.
posted by diode at 3:17 PM on December 4, 2009

I can only offer an aphorism from Stendhal's treatise On Love:

“You forget that in love possession is nothing, only enjoyment matters.

posted by koeselitz at 8:09 PM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Did you completely stop being at all attracted to everyone else once you started dating your current boyfriend? Do you still have feelings for people you had interest in or were involved with in the past? Part of human nature is to be attracted to other people. Being in a relationship doesn't completely end that fact of biology. Nor does it erase past history. But if he felt that he had more reason to be with any other woman, because of the qualities you listed, then he wouldn't have chosen to be with you. Being in a relationship means understanding that you are committing to another human being, and that people are fallible. It also means trusting that they chose to be with you because they care for you and want to be with you. I think a lot of these jealous, paranoid thoughts come from a lack of trust and self-confidence on your part. I have definitely experienced this in the past, and know how hard it can be. But at some point you have to realize that the other person in the relationship sees you differently than you see yourself, and you have to learn how to feel more confident in yourself, to see and appreciate yourself independently, and know that you are worthy of your partner's affection.
posted by Amaranta at 2:06 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I do not agree with this: "The core of the issue is that you don't trust your boyfriend." I go through this quite a bit in my (very) (very) secure relationship of 5 years. We have bought a house and cars together and are very much in love. He is on decent terms with his most recent ex and early in our relationship they talked pretty regularly on the phone. It drove me insane - and made me feel sick, made me worry if he was going to leave me, etc.

I absolutely trust him and don't think that he would do anything to hurt me or us. However, when the ex (or another female friend of his) is calling a lot or in his life more than normal, I feel intensely threatened. It is not because of him or anything he has done. It's because (as others have said above) I feel "less than" and that they will take him away from me somehow (or lure him away somehow). It is all my lack of self-esteem and nothing that he has ever done to make this an issue. He has thankfully not got tired of dealing with my panic/anxiety over these issues yet, but I have to wonder if/when he will.

I am reading books to help with my lack of self-esteem. From Panic to Power so far has been helpful. I am trying to change my negative dialog that runs through my head every day as a start. If this is an issue for you, OP, give that book a shot.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:41 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can totally relate to what you're feeling. I've had this with every guy I've ever dated, or even been interested in. My personal opinion is that it's totally not responsive to logic or reason -- it seems to be sort of a primal thing. The only thing I can say is that in my experience, it went away with time. That is, the longer my boyfriend (now husband) and I have been together, the more these feelings eased, to the point where it doesn't bother me at all anymore. One day I just realized that I was no longer 'jealous', and that felt good. So, ride it out, try not to let it get to you and I think you'll feel better in time.
posted by statolith at 8:59 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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