Why am I jealous of everyone else's drama?
September 2, 2012 4:40 PM   Subscribe

I have a happy, stable, and supportive marriage. Why am I jealous of everyone else's relationship drama and general craziness/fun?

I'm a male, 28, happily married for 3 years (together for 6). My wife is the same age. We were best friends in college, hooked up at the right time, happy as clams, got married, and we're still awesome together. The sex life is good to great (depending on my depression/anxiety levels), and we have a good, supportive relationship.

If I have all of this stability, happiness, and support, why am I jealous of other people's drama/crazy?

We have a few friends who are going through some epic upheavals in their lives right now, and I get to hear about it. One woman was in my graduate program, our age, and married to an older man. She moved away right as she began her dissertation because her husband got a new job. A few months later, she was cheating on him with another girl, ready to divorce, running around in hotel rooms, and, outwardly, brimming with happiness. She's now got a happy new girlfriend and is planning to ditch her career to open a bakery in Portland (or something like that).

I was jealous. Of what, I'm not sure. Jealous of the newness? Jealous of changes when my life has a rut to it?

I have another friend (new to my program) that my wife and I have been hanging out with. She's sexually open and fun; she talks openly (to us) about her craigslist hookups with older doms, her kinky past, and a lot of the stuff she does. It's fun, and it's nice to talk to someone about that, because my wife and I are in a conservative area. Even though we're only slightly kinky, we do enjoy chatting about sex, and she's a great outlet.

Again, I'm jealous. I'm not sure of what. Jealous of doing all of those things, or jealous that I'm not doing all of them right now.

So here's my question - I'm having jealousy pangs through all of this. I can't tell if I'm jealous of people who have relationship conflict in their lives (when I have so little), or if it's because they're getting to have new sex with new people in new situations. Or maybe I'm just jealous of things I don't have. I've always been a person that wants more, and a person that never seems to be content with what's in front of him. I want more, better, other, etc. I've talked to my wife about this, and she's completely understanding; she tends to be the type of person that is content with what she has.

What can I do to get over this, or at least deal with this more positively than jealousy? Is this a case of "the grass is always greener," or am I going nuts because I'm missing something? I don't think I want the relationship drama or other stuff, but hearing about them just hits that jealousy bit, and I'm not sure how to handle it.
posted by A Special Kind of Weird to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why? Because you're 28 so you're questioning, probably for the first time, the path you've taken as an adult.

What to do? Realize this is super normal and use this realization as a starting point to shake up your life in new, not self/relationship destructive ways. Just because you're happy doesn't mean you can't be happier; however, that's no reason to sabotage what's working. Don't confuse wanting excitement with wanting drama.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:49 PM on September 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

The late twenties are a weird time - it's a time of transition as you face up to the fact that childhood and goofing around are over, and adult commitments like marriage and babies and mortgages and car payments await.

So there may be some of that going on.

Plus, looking back, it seems to me that people in their twenties have different levels of emotional maturity. I did a second degree - a teach degree - in my mid-to-late twenties, after I was married. It was a very strange social atmosphere at school, even with people my own age, with people acting unpredictably and childishly (at least to me).
posted by KokuRyu at 4:51 PM on September 2, 2012

I think you're bored. I don't think you're necessarily bored with your marriage, I think you're maybe bored with your life and just want to do something other than what you're doing now. You should try to do some new things in your life - pick up a new hobby or take classes in a subject you've never studied before or travel to a city you've never heard of. A lot of these are things you can do together with your wife (you can even ask her about new activities she might like to try) and it can strengthen your relationship so that you don't start to associate boredom with your marriage or blame it on her.
posted by capricorn at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree this sounds like boredom talking. I think it's pointless to analyze why you're jealous of something you're not sure how to define except for knowing it's not something you want. Instead try to think about what you do want and go after that. Maybe you're not happy in your conservative area? Get a dog? Think about having kids? Learn pottery? Do something with all this excess energy you're directing in the wrong places.
posted by bleep at 5:04 PM on September 2, 2012

Not to be glib, but I guess you've never had to pick up the pieces when a good friend is howling and wailing and breaking things and feeling self-loathing in the aftermath of doing something particularly 'adventurous'?

I don't quite know how you can get over feeling you're missing something, apart from assuring you that time and experience will certainly change your perspective on this.

If you want something more you have to take responsibility for finding out what it may be, not just giving in to unfocused yearning. If you're in a solid partnership you have to take responsibility for @ half your partner's well being and happiness and not act like a jerk towards her. And if you can explore your future possibilities while holding fast to just these two rules, then you may be able to change both your lives....but you have to value her happiness the same as your own, I think. Talk to her about what's missing from her life also - you may be surprised.

I firmly believe in karma when it comes to relationships - the rewards from acting ethically and with empathy and consideration (mixed with a certain amount of self-preservation) are much greater and longer-lasting than being heedless of other people's feelings.

To sum up - you feel something is missing - take that feeling as an indication that you should seek to change something about your life (lives); but if you carelessly hurt or disrespect your chosen life-partner....well, you'll be hurting your own self more in the long run.
posted by glasseyes at 5:05 PM on September 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

Remember not to compare your insides to other peoples' outsides. That's the big one.

Remember that for every story of fun, exciting, new-person sex you do hear, you're not hearing about what it was like to come home to an empty apartment and realize that if the date had turned out tragic, nobody would even have known for a while. For every "wooo! I had so much fun at that show/date/sex club!!!" that you envy, you aren't hearing about how it felt to fill out an "emergency contact" form at the doctor's with your parents' info because you don't have a partner.

And don't ascribe too much importance to the envy. It happens, it's natural, stuff like Facebook encourages us to see what other people want to brag about and to compare ourselves. Don't let it make you think that you're missing something by being in your happy marriage. Try to remember that you are very, very lucky.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:34 PM on September 2, 2012 [27 favorites]

Talk to your wife more about this. Tell her you're jealous of the drama and the excitement and you want to figure out a way to work through it in a healthy way. What about seeing if your wife would be open to doing some exploring, both sexually and not? Maybe you guys could schedule a backpacking trip where you'd have to think on your feet a little, or bring toys into the bedroom and just get silly again. You have something that a lot of these folks don't , and that's stability, and though it doesn't seem like it initially, stability and trust and love are incredibly wonderful foundations for adding some kink and excitement to one's life because you've got a partner in crime to explore with.

For me, I can say that after getting out of a recent relationship I got a little reckless and slept with someone new without really thinking about it. My last bf was totally drama ridden and I missed it because it was all I knew. As such, it was validating to have someone new to be with just for sex, but you know what? I spent the next week in urgent care because we hadn't used protection, he revealed later that he'd lied about his STD status and drug usage, and I had to deal with the drama and repercussions of seeking out this old pattern of behavior and interaction when really all I wanted was what you have.
posted by Hello Darling at 5:40 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

PS: The way others tell stories about themselves and their lives is highly suspect because they're editing it for mass consumption. Don't think they're not glossing over the super awful parts in favor of highlighting the sexy fun times.
posted by Hello Darling at 5:41 PM on September 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

Grass is greener. I bet at least some of your adventurous friends would give their eye teeth to have what you have. There are definitely moments that I would. At 31, I'm pretty untethered and sometimes I kick myself for not settling down when I had the chance in my mid-twenties.

Everyone takes a different path. You'll miss all the awesome things on your own path if you spend too much time watching where other people are going.
posted by peacrow at 5:44 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't quite know how you can get over feeling you're missing something, apart from assuring you that time and experience will certainly change your perspective on this.

I actually don't agree with this.

I'm not suggesting you destroy what you have, but for some people (like me), change is a necessary and stimulating part of their lives, not a phase or longing that you'll 'get over' one day. The trick is to find the ways to get that stimulation that don't jeopardize the good things in your life. Whether it's finding a new job, a great volunteer gig, travelling a bit (if that's feasible) or picking up a new hobby, I think you do need to find a way to add something new to your life.

In short - I agree with those that say it's boredom, but to assume that boredom or crisis are the only two options is misguided. Find something to be excited about that doesn't necessarily put everything you've worked to build at risk.
posted by scrute at 5:47 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

You're facing the dilemma of pretty much all long term relationships. I can be 42 kinds of awesome in the sack but the one thing I cannot be for my husband after seven years or nine years or whatever it's been is new. With all the anticipation and desire we can muster, we cannot generate the particular flavour of excitement that comes from the unknowns of a practically unknown partner. There are totally trade-offs for this, including a different kind of sex you cannot achieve in brand-new coupling, but there isn't really any point in pretending that it isn't the same as new.

You can suck it up, or cheat, or have emotional affairs online. I don't recommend any of those. You can also explore non-monogamy with your spouse, or really learn to value what you have. I do recommend those options.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:51 PM on September 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

Remember not to compare your insides to other peoples' outsides. That's the big one.

I swear every year that I'm going to take a month-long vacation from Facebook, but never manage it. Maybe it's time to do that.

Thanks for all of the advice, everyone - I have talked to my wife about a lot of this, and I pointed her towards this thread (she's a MeFi member and knows my sock account, so she would have seen this eventually).

There are a lot of great suggestions here, but I think one that is hitting closest to home is coming to terms with the fact that I like change and new things. I always saw this as a detriment; good people were happy with what they have, and that if you keep wanting newer, better things and experiences, you're a bad person. Now, I understand that there's something to be said for enjoying what you have. I think that being OK with that desire, though, may help me a lot, be it sexual, social, or whatever.
posted by A Special Kind of Weird at 7:23 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm in the middle of taking a month long facebook break because I've gone through the second of two traumatic breakups since this time last year (and the first one was a long-term, 3-year-long relationship, the second a miraculously well-timed rebound that seemed meant to be until it crashed and burned six months in). Even though my exes were no longer my "friends" on there, I still felt like watching other people's lives unfold around me in that way was starting to make me a little crazy, jealous, needy, and perhaps even self-loathing. I've decided to take some time to rekindle email/phone/face to face contact with friends and immerse myself in the life that's in front of my face. I am also someone who needs lots of variety and change like you, and the change of being out in the world doing things instead of glued to a screen experiencing other people doing things has been overwhelmingly positive. I encourage you to do this.
posted by araisingirl at 7:30 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always saw this as a detriment; good people were happy with what they have, and that if you keep wanting newer, better things and experiences, you're a bad person.

Not a bad person, no. But like DarlingBri says, there are positive and negative ways of responding to your (normal, adult, non-evil) desire for novelty. Try to say and do productive things, carefully, honestly and without needlessly hurting those who depend on you.
posted by ead at 8:00 PM on September 2, 2012

you have a wonderful, happy, stable home life. you can either sit there maintaining it, or you can throw it away. actually, both of those choices suck (the latter more than the former)...the thing you really should be doing is maintaining your awesome life while pursuing fun, healthy, novel things (and encouraging your wife to do the same.)
posted by davejay at 10:10 PM on September 2, 2012

Are you still in graduate school? Postgraduate eduction is such a grind, of course you're bored. So's everyone else after a year or so of that crap. I spent the whole middle of my PhD dreaming about running away from my now-husband and starting fresh, and I only stopped because I was too damn tired for dreaming at the end. If nothing else, you're tied there for a set amount of time and it's often more time than you'd spend doing the same thing in excruciating detail given the choice, then add the stress and hard work and of course you're jealous of people who get to run around mixing shit up and having fun. Personally I'd never had a job for more than 18 months and I like to move around to staying put for 4.5 years to do my PhD was so dull (and I travelled extensively through my project).

Part of graduate school is a test of endurance. You do just kind of need to gut it out (I moved across the world after I was done so it pays off). Setting up both short and long term milestones really helps (so you get a sense of achievement and moving forwards), as does keeping your eye on that end point when it's done enough for you to cut loose and move on.

But also you need some kind of work/life balance so find other - healthy - ways you can mix up your life. I agree with all the ideas here, new hobby, trip somewhere, efforts to change up your sexy time, etc. Maybe getting out and meeting new people will help too. You're not a bad person for liking change, you just need to incorporate it into your life in the right way. In particular, make sure you take your wife along for the ride because new things are so much more fun together.
posted by shelleycat at 12:14 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can be grateful and happy for what you have AND crave change. If your partner is open to this (and it seems like she is) this can be a fantastic thing. It doesn't have to be a change sexually/relationship-wise, but if you think perhaps that is what you crave, and your partner is up for it as well, why not agree to search out something different, with parameters you both agree to? That really is broad I know, but there is nothing wrong with tipping your toe in the water of say, the local kink scene or poly-scene, and making a decision if it feels good for you both or not.

People change. Situations change. Clinging and trying to avoid change is what brings much unhappiness to many lives. Being able to identify that you feel you might want something a bit different is a pretty good thing, and you seem to be considerate of your partner while doing it. I am no expert on relationships (not by a long shot!) but after happily being with the same guy for 13 years, 13 years involving a LOT of change, my big part of advice is to always communicate and try not to assume. And have fun.
posted by Megami at 12:56 AM on September 3, 2012

I, like you, am 28, depressed, and tend to compare my very happy marriage to other people's adventures. For a period of time I envied their freedom and their independence, too; although in my case it was more geared to their professional adventures.

I do recommend axing Facebook. I killed my account about a year ago, and haven't looked back. I keep meaningful contact (other than "poke") with good friends. We talk on the phone/write if they are far, or we see each other more often if we aren't. If you go to therapy, you could also discuss strategies to avoid gloomy or unhelpful lines of thought.

If you decide to nuke your account, do it the right way, so you can't go back to it too easily. Un-friend everyone, delete all pictures, change your name to something nonsensical, set your privacy settings so no one but friends can find you (and since you have no friends, that means "no one" or maybe just your SO), leave all your groups, unlike all your likes, delete all info. Only then deactivate your account. If not, you will be able to go back to it by clicking a button and everything will be the same again!

Now that you have new free time that you used to devote to Facebook, make a list of things your would like to do. Yeah, taking karate lessons is not quite going to Narnia or having sex with 10 people every week, but you will get rid of the boredom and the sense of being eternally static by trying new things and developing new skills. Learn a new language, practice playing the guitar. Plan trips or maybe even consider moving to a new city!(if your wife would like to, of course) All these things will help you get rid of the depression, too. Stepping out of your comfort zone in a healthy way will have a positive effect on your self esteem.
posted by Tarumba at 4:14 AM on September 3, 2012

depending on my depression/anxiety levels

Are you in therapy? taking medication? Both could help you.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:50 AM on September 3, 2012

Are you in therapy? taking medication? Both could help you.

Yes to medication, no to therapy at the moment (waiting to see what my schedule looks like this semester before I contact the counseling center at my university).

The medication helps a bunch - I'm on Welbutrin, Buspar, and Ritalin LA, for those of you that are interested. My ADHD is probably my biggest issue, combined with depression wrapped up in perfectionism. I've worked through some of it, but I still deal with a lot daily.
posted by A Special Kind of Weird at 8:47 AM on September 3, 2012

My husband of 6 years and I recently sort of re-defined the boundaries of our marriage... It has been awesome so far and though challenging at times, it has only brought us closer and increased our intimacy. Jealousy sex is HOT. Just saying.
posted by saturn~jupiter at 11:54 AM on September 3, 2012

I've always been a person that wants more, and a person that never seems to be content with what's in front of him. I want more, better, other, etc.

It's possible to be jealous of... anything. When I was going to college, I was jealous of my friends who weren't going to college. When I was poor, I was jealous of my friends who had money. When I had money, I was jealous of my friends who were poor. Everyone else just seemed to be "getting it," "really living" in a way that I wasn't. Their lives were full and/or gritty and/or poetic and/or meaningful and mine was contingent and drab. It wasn't until I started realizing what a rich experience of my own life I had (and learned how to communicate it to others, learned to value my experiences and talk about them) that I cooled down and began to feel proud of myself and comfortable in my life.

I think a big part of this was doing what I felt like I needed at the time. I dated an older guy for awhile, I nearly got married at age 18, I nearly dropped out of college, I became a waitress, I considered other, crazier things. Some of the things I did were really worth it (waitressing, taking school less seriously for awhile, breaking up with my fiance who I did not love for an older guy I thought I might), some were not (engagement, probably actually dating an older guy, some of the crazier stuff). If you really are happy and confident in your marriage, you can do plenty of other things in life to sate your appetite for adventure, while having your wife in your life to love and support/love and support you. A lot of the people I know who do crazy things (world travel, open a brewery) actually have very stable, happy personal relationships. You can make your own destiny in this way.

It sounds like you and your wife are really honest with each other, and that's actually quite adventurous in itself. Good luck to you both!
posted by stoneandstar at 1:57 PM on September 3, 2012

Oh, seeing your update, I agree-- wanting more, better is not necessarily a bad thing. It makes you push forward. For me, I did a lot of pushing until I found things I could be truly content with. Maybe I changed, or maybe I just found the right things, I don't know. I'm sure I'll go through the same thing many times. But it's possible to identify one thing you definitely want and have (your relationship with your wife) and another thing you want and don't have (traveling Eastern Europe solo) and seeing how those things might fit together. Maybe you can have both. Maybe not. Then you make choices. But if you have a happy, honest, flexible relationship, it's possible to not feel tied down. (Plus, being single is an adventure, but it can be a really lonely one. Being married is also an adventure-- seriously, an interesting one-- but without a lot of the bad. Even Ms. Bakery Drop Out was happy to find a new relationship, she wouldn't throw that away for the sake of being single.)
posted by stoneandstar at 2:00 PM on September 3, 2012

Did it occur to you that the very people who seem so "happy" on the outside and who you feel jealous of, may be inwardly totally jealous of YOUR happy marriage and the fact that you have someone to come home to? Don't ever throw away stability and a happy marriage for the unstable seemingly blistful free spirited life. Remember there are things you can do to spice up your marriage and your life, but there's not much they can do in the now to have what you have. It takes time to even find a good mate and many who brag about their single life, do so because they can't or haven't yet found that right someone.

So try not to let the "grass on the other side" which seems so much greener, make you lose focus of how great yours is and the fact that all it needs is a little water to make it just as green or greener.
posted by IceCream at 11:25 AM on September 8, 2012

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