Love, thou know'st, is full of jealousy
August 11, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with these feelings of jealousy towards my boyfriend's female friend?

Hi hive mind,

I'm in a relationship with (if I do say so myself) the most wonderful boy in the world. After being long-distance for a year, I have moved to his city to begin grad school. Things are still going pretty well so far.

He has lots of very close female friends, most of whom I know or am friendly with too. I have ex-boyfriends with whom I'm still friendly, and he knows most of them too. (It's just kind of a small, incestuous little circle we travel in. Oops.) We have both been very open about these friendships and telling each other when we're going to spend time with an ex. I am not especially jealous of any of these other girls, and I trust my bf.

The female friend in my question is someone I know too, who also recently moved to our city. I'm not sure what it is about her, but she just raises my spidey-senses. She seems quite eager to corner my bf and try to be alone with him while we're in group settings. They have a lot of common interests and are involved in an organization together, so they will almost certainly be spending time together this year. She keeps suggesting that they hang out together one-on-one, though I don't think he has really taken her up on it or initiated any get-togethers. They have a lot of things in common and frequently get drawn into long conversations about topics they seem to agree on. There have been times when the two of them seem more simpatico about certain things than the two of us do.

Truly, he seems mostly oblivious and has really not done anything at all to make me feel insecure. Now that I've moved here, she is definitely making more of an effort to be more friendly to me too, which I appreciate and am trying to reciprocate. But still ... my gut says something is off here.

Now, hivemind, I recognize that a lot of this comes from my own insecurities (I have been cheated on before) and my own nervousness about where our relationship is going. (Is it really serious? Will it last when we're in the same place? Will we end up living together? Etc.) I realize that these questions have nothing at all to do with her. But I'm having trouble shaking my anxiety.

My question: How can I try to lessen my insecurities about her? Try to become friendlier with her? My inclination is NOT to say anything to the bf about my feelings, since there has not been one incident in particular to pinpoint and since I really do want to think the best of them both. (I don't want to be THAT girl, the controlling, nagging one.) Again, I don't mind that he has close female friends with whom he spends one-on-one time ... it's just this particular one. But I've learned from experience that the gut is usually right.

Thanks, y'all. :)
posted by bookgirl18 to Human Relations (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know, dude. I've met a lot of girls like this, and regardless of how much you trust your boyfriend, it's still irritating to have someone always hanging around trying to connect with your BF in ways that are exclusive of you.

Are you sure you can't just say something to your boyfriend about this? Something like, "It seems like Melissa tries to get you one-on-one a lot, and sometimes I feel weird about that." Then just let him reply.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:06 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

"he seems mostly oblivious"

"My inclination is NOT to say anything to the bf about my feelings"

I think this is wrong, but that you should talk to him about how you feel. The answer to most relationship problems is usually more communication, not less.

You don't have to be nagging and insecure about it, but you can talk to him like an adult.

"Hey BF, I get weird vibes from Jane. I think she is into you. You know I have been burned before, so maybe I'm just being skittish now, but I could use some reassurance that you aren't into her, and that our relationship together is still what you want."
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:06 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I....may have been this friend. But -- it depends on one thing which I don't know. And the way you'd find out may be a way to say something to your boyfriend (which I do think you should do, but I understand that you're not comfortable without a concrete example).

What I'm wondering is: did she ever date him, or did she ever WANT to date him. And maybe that's all you need to ask him -- is, did she ever date him, or want to date him? You can tell him that you've noticed that she seems a little...possessive, or it's just a "vibe" you get. It's possible that he'll say, "what, me and SHEILA? God no, didn't I tell you she has a boyfriend?" Or that he'll say that she asked him but he thought she smelled like turnips or something, or that he'll say she's a lesbian, or that he'll say something that will make you realize that it's REALLY not in the cards and that will help. But it will also let him know that you've picked up on a "vibe," and he'll be aware of it.

You do have the right to say this isn't making you comfortable, even though you feel like there isn't any one instance you can point to ("remember when she tried to sit on your lap" or whatever). But if you still want to test the waters first, this may be a way to find out what's going on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Try to become friendlier with her? My inclination is NOT to say anything to the bf about my feelings, since there has not been one incident in particular to pinpoint and since I really do want to think the best of them both. (I don't want to be THAT girl, the controlling, nagging one.)

Oooh, bookgirl18, I'm sorry but I suspect your inclination is the wrong one.

The healthiest thing to do for your relationship would be to really honestly lay things out, calmly and rationally, as you have here. Every couple--and every individual--has different boundaries about what sort of friendships are appropriate in a relationship, which depend on a lot of intangible factors that we really can't pin down as impartial outsiders. For example, my husband is really bad at laying down boundaries in conversations with certain flirty acquaintances, because he "feels bad" about it, so because of that he knows to include me when he hangs out with them, as to not give them the wrong idea--I'm also prone to being a touch more territorial/insecure, and this helps to reassure me (we're not talking about, "You can't have female friends"--we're talking "This one girl makes me uneasy for reasons I can't quite articulate so can you be mindful of that? Cool!"). I'm a boundary queen, and he has not a jealous or insecure bone in his body so generally he's cool with things, though we have had conversations about boys we suspected were crushing on me--it's a good neutralizer and reiterates the primacy of our relationship for both of us.

Point being--communicate! I think there is a lot of pressure for women in relationships to ignore their instincts in order to seem "not crazy" and "cool" and "not that girl," but I don't really think that sets healthy relationship patterns and I actually think it feeds jealousy, insecurity, and tacit competition between women when you stifle your feelings about these things. And he is, as you say, oblivious, so it can't hurt to bring it to his attention. Talk openly with him about it during a calm, neutral time (so, not right after she touches his arm in a way that makes you feel mega uncomfortable at a party or whatever). I'm sure he doesn't want you feeling marginalized, but neither of you can really do anything about it unless you talk.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

maybe I'm just being skittish now, but I could use some reassurance that you aren't into her, and that our relationship together is still what you want.

I kinda disagree with this, because it sounds like the problem isn't his behavior, and his behavior isn't making you insecure. It sounds like the problem is her behavior, since it's a little weird and edging towards disrespectful. So, I'd probably keep the focus on that.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now that I've moved here, she is definitely making more of an effort to be more friendly to me too...Try to become friendlier with her?

Might work. If she has a lot in common with the BF, she probably has some of the traits you look for in a confidante. You might get to a place where she wants to spend time alone with you, and with you and the BF together.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:10 AM on August 11, 2011

My inclination is NOT to say anything to the bf about my feelings, since there has not been one incident in particular to pinpoint and since I really do want to think the best of them both. (I don't want to be THAT girl, the controlling, nagging one.)

I do not think it is either controlling or nagging to say that you have a gut feeling that you know is irrational, and that you want some assurance. It should be a quick conversation, the main point not being about his friend but in resettling the boundaries of the relationship. Remind him that if anyone seems to be trying to seduce him he needs to talk to you about it. Hold on to that promise whenever you start to feel like someone is getting too close to him.

On a side note, this is one of the situations that Polyamory, or consensual non-monogamy, can often handle gracefully. I'm not saying you necessarily need to open your relationship, but that in my experience with Poly that it generally works best when everyone is clear on exactly where things stand. Within your "small, incestuous little circle" the same kind of methods should work well.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:11 AM on August 11, 2011

"hey BF, I totally trust you and love you to bits, but there is something that makes me feel uncomfortable about That Girl. Blame it on me having a little crazy brain thing going on, but could you do me a solid and have me come along when you guys hang out?"

Going along with them helps you get to know her better and will you either find her trustworthy or have better evidence to 86 her.
posted by Blisterlips at 11:12 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The line that stood out the most to me was this:

She seems quite eager to corner my bf and try to be alone with him while we're in group settings

If this is actually what's happening, then that's not OK and she needs to know that. But that's assuming that she's doing it intentionally. In any case, I'm with everyone saying to talk with your BF about both how it makes you feel and if there's any previous history, mutual or not.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:16 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try making friends with her! I of been this girl, in that I've had a crush (that I had no intention of acting on or mentioning) on someone unavailable, and through my lack of social skills it turned out that this was a bit more visible than I would have liked it to be. There's a possibility that this girl has a crush but isn't looking to mess with your relationship, and in that case being friends with you will help her to dial it back a little bit.
posted by Frowner at 11:17 AM on August 11, 2011

The thing about things you think you see after your hackles have already been raised by someone is that you're seeing them through that filter. So though all of the things you list in your third paragraph could be something, they could also be totally innocent.

Bringing it up when there is nothing there can very easily create something -- an awkwardness between the three of you, a feeling that your boyfriend must choose between the two of you, a creation of a filter where he doesn't mention her around you, lots of other not-relationship-ending-but-still-ick stuff. It be nice if you could work this out with your boyfriend by telling him how you feel -- but if you decided to do this, be aware that you may be creating a solid something out of a not-nothing-but-still-not-solid-thing that may make you feel worse than better.

That said, of course, you deserve to not feel insecure and as soon as there is a "something" that is more solid, I think you can say that it makes you feel weird. But if you get to that point, I'd advise against listing every other thing currently on your list.

All of that said, you could still be totally right about this girl's motivations. But even so, that doesn't mean she's malicious or actively trying to steal your man. (I'm sorry - I can't avoid using that turn of phrase, despite how ridiculous it sounds.) Often people act in territorial ways that seem inappropriate to others without realizing the implication (for example, lots of people feel more comfortable one on one with someone rather than larger groups without it meaning they are trying something on) The most promising thing in your entire message is that she is making more of an effort to be friendly to you -- run towards that rather than treating her as the enemy and you'll all 3 be better off in the long run.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:18 AM on August 11, 2011

Maybe I'm way off, because I've never actually been in this situation, but I wouldn't talk to your BF. His behavior seems fine, you seem to trust his intentions, and displays of insecurity have never been known to be particularly attractive to men. If I did anything, I would say something to her. I think your instincts are probably exactly right; you don't sound like a generally paranoid or overly jealous person. I would let her know that I know exactly what she's doing and have my eye on her. I'm not sure how I'd say it, but I think it could be done sort of politely and still get the message across. I think we have this female thing of thinking we need to be friendly to everyone, but it's not always the case. (Don't you think a guy, if another guy was constantly monopolizing his GF, would suggest that the other dude back off?) I'm not saying to start a fight or anything, just don't let her think you can be fooled. If I am way off, I'm sure others will say so.

On preview, I think it could even be communicated subtly, in case she's realy just clueless. But I doubt she is.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:28 AM on August 11, 2011

I would let her know that I know exactly what she's doing and have my eye on her.

Sorry, DestinationUnknown, but this sounds insanely jealous and paranoid. And when it comes down to it, feelings of security within a relationship are between the people in the relationship, not interlopers--confronting her directly sounds like a great way to start drama in a small, tight-knit group of friends. If you're right about her intentions, she's likely to either not care, or to use the confrontation as some sort of justification for making a move ("his girlfriend is crazy; I'd be a better match!"). If you're wrong, you're forcing your relationship issues on an uninvolved third party. Healthy longterm relationships aren't necessarily about doing what's "attractive" but rather about behaving in ways both partners can live with.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:34 AM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

I agree with phoBWan. Any kind of going-straight-to-the-girlfriend will come across as even more insecure than just speaking to the boyfriend directly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on August 11, 2011

There's nothing inherently "crazy" or "nagging" about expressing discomfort at a situation provided you do it in a calm, non-judgmental way.

This is really a good time to practice "nonviolent communication": open with an objective description of what you're seeing, describe how it makes you feel, ask what he's thinking, ask for a specific change in behavior.

For example:
1. Dude, I see HER trying to spend a lot of private time with you, such as when she corners you in the shrubbery to talk Free the Whales on Friday.
2. I know you're keen to Free the Whales and that's cool but Even though I love and trust you, seeing the two of you behave tht way makes me nervous that you might be more into her than me
3. Do you think she might be into you?
4. Could you try to include me in your Free the Whales convo with HER for the next while until she and I become closer friends?

Additionally, you could talk to her about how excellent it is that both you and your honey have so many M&F friends; and has she met Hot Single Boy who is into Free the Whales?

Note that I am not usually machiiavellian or maliciously manipulative. However, I know I am confused by friendliness from men other than my husband; she may be too.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 11:41 AM on August 11, 2011

Nthing "talk to your boyfriend" about it. There is good advice here.

Also, I figured I'd post this, though I imagine any self-respecting MeFite already knows not to trust Cosmo & its cohorts. :)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:44 AM on August 11, 2011

Ah, OK. I would think jealous and paranoid would be suspecting all their female friends, not just this one. For me, that instinctual feeling of someone being up to something underhanded has always proven to be true, and from her description, it sounds like bookgirl18 has good instincts usually. And I personally wouldn't want to put my own problem with the behavior of a mutual friend onto my BF, if I didn't feel he'd done anything inapporpriate. Never mind, that's why I'm single, I guess:-)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:55 AM on August 11, 2011

It is good your "insecurity" isn't coming from your boyfriend. That indicates he is open to your discussions about his "friend" and her "friendliness". Mr. BuffaloChickenWing and I have at separate times requested the other to be mindful of a member of the opposite sex who at first guises themselves as "friendly". Turns out - we are always right...they were interested in more.

Trust your instinct.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 11:56 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Trust your instincts. There are a lot of women that haven't been taught to respect relationship boundaries regardless of their real intent. Observe how she treats men that aren't your boyfriend and observe how she treats other women (not in a creepy way, just the next time you're at a party!). When you talk to your boyfriend, you'll be able to say "I know that _________ acts this way around lots of guys, but it makes me a little uncomfortable" or "I see _________ act really differently around you than other men, and it makes me uncomfortable" or "________ is really rude to a lot of my female friends, but is always really nice to the guys". Go from there. If he tries to blow it off, that's when you know you have an issue.

If you doubt yourself, ask yourself if you would ever behave in a manner similar to that woman. Unless I really dislike the girlfriend (even then, I'd probably put up with her) or I'm really really really really good friends with the guy, I'd always make an effort to include the girlfriend in plans. This girl is creating drama for some reason, and that's annoying at the very least.
posted by 200burritos at 12:14 PM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Thanks, all. I didn't expect to get so many "talk to him" responses! I definitely won't be confronting the girl about it - I think that could backfire hugely. BF and I have been so thoughtful and considerate of each other's platonic relationships that I don't want to do anything to wreck it if I don't have to. But he probably has no idea that I'm at all concerned.

I should also mention that an ex of mine also had a crush on this girl while we were dating (again, small little circle!), though she had NOTHING at all whatsoever to do with why it ended and did not behave then the way she is now. But it also means that she may bring up some bad memories for me (that ex ended up cheating on me with other people and generally being a jerk in other ways). I told the BF a little bit about this, when it became clear that we were all going to be seeing each other often. The BF has also said that he thinks she's "a little too perky" so maybe that's a little reassuring, a la EmpressCallipygos's response above?

We're all supposed to hang out again in a big group tonight, so I'll see how that goes. Thanks again. :)
posted by bookgirl18 at 12:21 PM on August 11, 2011

Tell your boyfriend! say something along the lines of this:

"GirlX makes me a bit uncomfortable, thought you should know. I think it's how she seems to want to single you out for socializing, seems unusually flirty to me. But hey, I like that you have female friends, and I don't want this to be a problem. In fact I think it would be a good idea if we hung out with her together, so she can also get to know me and we can become better friends too.

I can understand she's new to the city and might not feel as comfortable around other people yet, so she wants to just spend time with you. But I think we should make an effort to help her socialize, what do you say?"
posted by lizbunny at 12:26 PM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

In a previous MeFi thread about something similar I used the following verbage to illustrate how I'd tell my boyfriend that his friend's behavior made me uncomfortable. Modified to fit your context:

"Hey, you may not be aware of this, but I've noticed that Suzanne has been very particular about getting you alone lately whenever we go out as a group, and it makes me really uncomfortable. I have noticed your connection before, and whether you mean to or not, the interactions I observe between the two of you communicate a level of attraction that makes me worried. I feel like she's encroaching on our relationship, and that you're letting her out of habit and affection. I would like you to please consider my feelings and set some boundaries between you and S. I recognize that this is a big request, and I am working to reconcile my reaction to seeing you two together with emotions that are fair, but I really need this from you."

I know that saying such a thing is hard, so good luck. On your side.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:26 PM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

BF and I have been so thoughtful and considerate of each other's platonic relationships that I don't want to do anything to wreck it if I don't have to. But he probably has no idea that I'm at all concerned.

All the more reason why you may want to tell him. And you're not telling him to "never see her at all again omigod," all you have to say is "when she gets you into a one-on-one huddle, that....feels a little weird to see that." If you feel better chalking it up to having been cheated on, and saying that this is just a particular sore spot for you, that may also help -- we all have things that just rub us the wrong way, and this just happens to be yours.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're just going to have to trust him, assuming he is behaving innocently. If he starts acting flirty with her, focus on what he is doing and how it makes you feel, and leave her out of the conversation.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:49 PM on August 11, 2011

You can bring it up once, I think, but then if you trust him you should leave it alone. Having been sort of "the other girl" in these situations twice (and yes, I had zero interest in their boyfriends, it was entirely platonic, I just considered them really good friends) you should really just trust him unless something actually untoward happens. From your description, he's not showing any reciprication, so you have nothing to worry about. However, I think it's a good idea to bring up any specific behaviour of HIS you want to modify, like "it makes me uncomfortable when you hang out with her for most of the night, when that happens I'd like to be included."

Then again, I am a very relaxed girlfriend who finds other women hitting on my bf absolutely hilarious.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:58 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't get why you are dumping on yourself!!

She's flirty. You've noticed. BF has commented on it, too. So why is stating the obvious (that this girl is inappropriately friendly towards a guy in a committed relationship) going to make you the bad guy here??

I think you are too invested in stereotypes and this is you undermining yourself in romantic relationships.

The solution?

Give yourself permission to speak up! No one is a mindreader, even a significant other. Plus, any partner who wouldn't want to talk with you about this isn't worth staying with. Luckily, your guy seems to be on the same page with you about her. No worries.

You're not weak or insecure for noticing a female friend has been flirting with your BF. And she may be totally unaware of how she is behaving and/or not have a crush on your guy. But the behavior has been objectively observed and noted. You are not jealous for needing to talk to your BF about her behavior. OK? Good.
posted by jbenben at 1:26 PM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

I may be in left field but befriend her and find her a different boy to pay attention to? (I'm non-confrontational.)
posted by ibakecake at 8:50 PM on August 11, 2011

She seems quite eager to corner my bf and try to be alone with him while we're in group settings

Wait, what does that mean? That the two of them get to talking to just each other and not the group, or that she's dragging him off to the shrubbery out of sight?

I'm not saying that your spidey-sense is absolutely wrong, but please also consider that her overt attempts to be friendly to you could be her actively trying to be a good, respectable .platonic friend to your boyfriend by trying to get to know his girl.
posted by desuetude at 10:23 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Update: We all went out right after I posted this, and it was a mixed bag. On the one hand, she is definitely trying to be friendlier to me. On the other, she definitely kept touching my BF's knee (we were sitting outside on the ground, at an outdoor performance) and trying to talk to him alone. It was tres awkward.
The next day, I decided to bite the bullet and talk to him about it. He said he understood what I was talking about but that I have nothing to worry about and that he would try to be a bit more wary around her - as I suspected, he had no idea that I was feeling uncomfortable. He said I should always tell him if there is something specific about his behavior that I think he should work on or if I am still feeling insecure about her. So I think that's probably the best way the conversation could have gone.
In fact, she just emailed me (not him) to help with something in the organization they are a part of. Unless it's part of a devious Machiavellian breakup scheme, this seems to me to be a good sign.
So thanks, Metafilter, for giving me the solid advice to communicate clearly and honestly. Seems like a no-brainer in retrospect. :)
posted by bookgirl18 at 10:38 AM on August 16, 2011

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