How do I overcome jealousy and lack of trust in my relationship?
January 25, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Before my now-boyfriend and I decided to go exclusive, we had a long uncommitted period where we were just besties who had great sex. At the time, his other flings and involvements didn't bother me. Now that we're actually together, I am retrospectively jealous. Very jealous. How do I overcome my jealousy and lack of trust?

I think part of it might be coming from some shade some of the other girls have cast in my direction, even though we don't really know each other. Their jealousy and competitiveness is kinda infectious. It makes me wonder what he told them, how they perceived what transpired between them and between us, and makes me feel like one in a crowd.

I selfishly want to revise that time and wish he had been pining after me, completely uninterested in other people. I can't seem to wrap my mind around the idea that things changed slowly for him, that we fell in love slowly and decided to be with each other when we both decided that that's what we wanted. I keep thinking about him having sex with those other girls during the time he was having sex with me and it disgusts me. Sex between us wasn't as meaningful then, but now it is, and I keep retroactively applying the value system of our relationship on the pre-relationship era.

Also, he underplayed some of the interactions, making them sound less extensive than they were, and in one case, was borderline deceptive. Before we officially went exclusive, we were unofficially not seeing other people. He slept with one person during this liminal time, and even though it's not technically, it feels like he cheated on me.

We sort of had a don't-ask-don't tell policy at that point, and we were not in a relationship. I too was seeing and sleeping with other people, and I too have censored a lot of those details from him. Now that we're together, I firmly believe that he is faithful and honest. We've both been around the block, but this reduces me to the insecurity and madness of a teenager. Is this part of the downside of limmerance? I really don't know what my problem is.

I want to stop. Besides this, I am completely in love and haven't been happier. I want to figure out how to cope with this irrational jealousy before it sabotages my relationship.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to your boyfriend about these feelings. Make it clear that you realize these thoughts are irrational and that you wish you didn't have them, and that he didn't do anything wrong (except when he slept with someone while you were 'unofficially exclusive'. What does that even mean? A piece of unsolicited advice, it might be best to avoid such nebulous distinctions in the future). Tell him that you need him to accept these parts of you and that you need his reassurance, love, empathy, and support.
posted by sid at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, I don't know if this will be helpful, but what's irrational about what you're thinking? Your boyfriend is capable of being attracted to and interested in other people other than you, even with you there as an option. I mean, those are just the facts. And it's likely that even though you are in love and have chosen to be together, and he will be faithful and honest, it's still the case. I say this because maybe it will help if you approach this from the standpoint of being okay with the facts that you know to be true, rather than trying to convince yourself that they are not true. I think this situation is probably the reality in most relationships.

I also think your boyfriend should be making it clear to his female friends that "casting shade" in your direction isn't okay.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I also don't think it's irrational to be insecure when someone has been less-than-honest with you/has underplayed things. The only way to build trust, IMO, is observing a person's behavior over a long period of time. So I think that insecurity will go away the longer you are together and he is fully honest with you about everything important.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:56 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sid has it. Talk about it together til you're blue in the face. If you quietly resent him, this jealousy will become toxic. If you talk about it now, it will be a small bump in the road that you can overcome together.
posted by Lieber Frau at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

In my limited experience, it helps to really dig deep and find out why you're jealous. You've already said that your jealousy is irrational; you were sleeping with other people during the same times, and both of you censored details, so everything is fair until this point. You said that you trust him, so it can't be that you're afraid of losing him.

I'm not making a statement about you in particular, but I've always found that most people misidentify feelings of powerlessness as feelings of jealousy. A lot of folks in your situation are actually resentful that their partner could have completely satisfying sex and companionship without them. Folks like to believe that their partner would be helpless and frustrated without them, while they themselves could have any number of equal or better partners at any time they chose. It's tough not being on top of the power dynamic, and the frustration starts manifesting as hate for their previous trysts and disgust at the partner's past activities - even if you've done those exact same things.

Again, I'm not saying that this applies to you. I'm just saying that it's something that a lot of people overlook when they're trying to figure out why their own past was okay while their partner's similar past was not.
posted by Willie0248 at 12:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [11 favorites]

I really don't know what my problem is.

Well, don't take it out on him or hold him accountable for solutions until you do know, or at least have much better idea, or else you are going to just run each other around in painful circles.

We make a lot of decisions pretty optimistically -- we make the decision that we'd like to think the person we wish we were would make, regardless (and probably ignorant) of our real life limitations. You helped define the rules that governed his behavior, you don't ultimately think anything either of you did was particularly out of line, but now you find you'd prefer to have a romantic backstory to match the bliss you're currently experiencing.

I regret to inform you that you can't have it all. You need to focus on what you do have in the present, and when you catch yourself getting sucked back into thinking about all that previous stuff, you need to stop what you're doing -- as in physically -- and take a moment to count your blessings. Write them down, if necessary.
posted by hermitosis at 12:18 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Before we officially went exclusive, we were unofficially not seeing other people.

Also, if I'm confused by this, then I imagine it must have seemed pretty blurry to him too.
posted by hermitosis at 12:23 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

What Sid said.
posted by Silvertree at 12:48 PM on January 25, 2010

It infuriates me when I have these messy human emotions.

The emotions themselves don't bother me. I'm mostly bothered by the fact that I can't logic myself out of them. And then I sit down with a therapist and they look me squarely in the face and they say, "That sounds like a very valid response." And it just makes me furious.

Great. It's a valid response. Wonderful. What the fuck do I do with a valid response when it cripples me and turns me into a total mess inside? And what do I do when it is eating me alive and eroding my ability to connect with someone else.

Well, the above posters have it. You have to talk about it. And you have to phrase it in a way that your boyfriend can understand it. You can't apologize for how you feel - to him or to yourself. (That is a method we use to dismiss rather than deal with feelings. "Hey honey, I'm crazy!" isn't going to cut it here.) And you can't ask him to aid and abet you in stifling those emotions. You and he, as a team, need to confront those emotions and accept them.

You know why. Because if you don't, he'll smile at someone else and you'll freak out. Or he'll go for coffee with one of those women, and you'll blow a gasket. Or worse, you'll internalize the anxiety and pain, and your pain will turn to fear, will turn to anger... and we know where that goes. *heavy Sith breathing*

The good news? This issue comes with really romantic packaging that can help you both deal with it. You're going crazy because you care deeply for your boyfriend. And that is the bottom line you need to focus on. If he cares for you - and it sounds like he does - he'll know what the right response is. Which is to show you that you're important to him too and help convince you of this. As he does this, your irrationality will pass and your relationship will be stronger for it.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:55 PM on January 25, 2010 [9 favorites]

Jealousy is feeling crappy about you compared to someone else. It is about you, not him. I have had this same problem, and it used to always be an issue, until I understood that I was generating it, by comparing myself to other people.

Let it go. Don't let it become a habit to focus on this. Concentrate on what makes you cool, why you are happy with him, why things are great. Jealousy is a long road to self destruction. Read that quote from Othello: "Beware my Lord of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds on." or something like that.
posted by chocolatetiara at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2010

when you start obsessing about the other girls, remember the guys you were sleeping with during this period. ask yourself - do you love your boyfriend any less because when you weren't going out you went down on someone else? i'm guessing the answer to that is no. try to integrate that realization to your jealousy.
posted by nadawi at 1:17 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think looking at this a different way will help. He was sleeping with a bunch of people before, and so were you. Then he chose you and you chose him, even though he probably could have chosen anyone else. But he chose you for a reason. The other girls' jealousy are THEIR problems, not yours. Let them be jealous. You don't owe them anything.

I selfishly want to revise that time and wish he had been pining after me, completely uninterested in other people. I can't seem to wrap my mind around the idea that things changed slowly for him, that we fell in love slowly and decided to be with each other when we both decided that that's what we wanted. I keep thinking about him having sex with those other girls during the time he was having sex with me and it disgusts me.

Yeah, these are definitely complicated emotions. I could probably say something about them, but it's going to end up sounding like a very rambly and long-winded version of what Willie0248 said.
posted by foxjacket at 8:31 PM on January 25, 2010

Its interesting that you have what you want right this minute. But you would rather revisit your past?!? What purpose does that possibly serve in the present?

Don't ruin your today for yesterday.
posted by xm at 9:51 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

« Older Looking for macabre comedy sketch   |   [Job Filter] How can I interview with another... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.