Getting over irrational jealousy/inferiority complex of other lady
November 11, 2014 8:08 PM   Subscribe

My excellent partner was once in love for years with a lovely lady and dear friend of his who is gorgeous, elegant, accomplished, well known and admired in her line of work. It's in the past but it bothers me. This is my issue alone. Help me get past my feelings.

He and I have been together a while now and are expecting a child, and things are excellent. I'm sure part of this hang up is due to me being whale-like and pregnant, but in the past I've always found it hard to manage my feelings anyway. I feel dorky and frumpy next to her. Inferior. He rarely sees her (maybe a few times a year). They are well and truly past his old (unrequited) feelings for her, and she is a genuine, lovely person. I encourage him to catch up with her more than he does, but I think he doesn't in part because he knows I've felt so inferior in the past. I don't want this for him. But when I do see her I JUST FEEL SO INFERIOR. I saw her recently and we had a nice chat but I couldn't think of much more to say to her. I'm sure part of the reason for this is that I'm intimidated by her, for no other reason than I perceive her to be exponentially hotter and more desirable than me (objectively she is so). But she's a sweetheart.

How can I get past this? This is no one's problem but mine. I would like to be comfortable with her, get to know her better, but I'm stuck on the inferiority thing in the times I do see her. I don't want to spoil his friendship with her. Help?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't want to seem obvious, but did he have a baby with this other woman? My husband's ex was accomplished; she was a fitness instructor and yoga teacher, etc. But she was extremely cold and ditched him for an old fella who was obviously wealthy (and in an unkind way, "I have to go take care of my mother", and then she never came home and suddenly was engaged to him).

Guys are funny like that. They tend to love the woman they are with and are having a baby with, and since he has been sensitive to your issues, well... maybe he loves you? And not her?

I was very uncomfortable with my husband being friends with his ex and I made it clear, and he no longer has contact with her. Maybe your guy could cool it for a while? And focus on the two of you and your growing family? I don't think that's outside of the realm of good taste. It really did affront me that my husband was palsy with this other woman and he said, "honey, I love you, and no one else," and then he cut it off with her. He was just kind of clueless on that front, not trying to play us or something, just dumb that she was still trying to be in contact with him because she knew he would eventually inherit from his father. So if I were you, I would put it in terms of being uncomfortable with him still being friends with her and see how he reacts. Nothing wrong with that!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:45 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

" I encourage him to catch up with her more than he does,"

Stop doing this. He can tell that this is just your subconscious dredging up drama. You obviously do not want him catching up with her anymore and there's no reason for him to do so for the most part.

I never understood women thinking of themselves as fat during pregnancy. You are not a whale- You are pregnant. Thinking of yourself as fat is basically thinking of your baby as a huge tumor of fat. It's a human being. Be proud.

She was obviously not very in love with him and he is now with you. Focus on that. This stress is not good for your baby either. And yes, I realize all this is way easier said than done, especially with hormones of pregnancy. It's obvious your partner knows about your feelings of inadequacy in regards to her so I hope he doesn't try to make you feel jealous by seeing her or talking about her when he's feeling upset or down to give himself an ego boost. Watch out for that and if so, don't fall prey to it. If he does this it does not mean he's a bad person, but it does mean that he has his own issues of feeling inadequate that you can help him with if he'll let you.

" I don't want to spoil his friendship with her." Just don't talk about her and don't think about her. If you continue this line of speech and thinking you're unworthy your partner may very well start believing in it too. Negative thoughts can be contagious.

Whenever I get hooked on a negative thought patterns, I listen to the audiobook "The Power of Now". I listen to it whenever I do chores around the house. I have a lot of anger in me due to childhood issues and I get caught in thoughts of unworthiness from time to time. The audiobook really helps especially when listening to it repeatedly and applying the techniques to your life. I also read "The Depression Cure" and it's recommendation of taking high EPA fish oil every day has done wonders for my bouts of depression and anxiety. I'm still a work in progress. I have the flu now and it's brought out some negative moods for me so even now I'm being challenged. The important thing is not to let the moments of challenge go to waste.
posted by rancher at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think your instinct that you don't want to ruin his friendship with her is a good one.
It sounds as if she has many excellent qualities, and you do seems to admire her, even if she unknowingly rattles your self esteem.
I would suggest you try to befriend her yourself, and learn what you can about this lovely lady. I know I learn a lot when I meet a new person, especially one so accomplished. Befriending her will probably help you see her as more of a human and less of the myth you have made of her.
Always try to keep, and grow, fruitful relationships. This one sounds promising for you all. I think you will grow from her friendship.
Pregnancy might not be the time to take on new endeavors. Your emotions are all over the board. Give her a call when the baby is sleeping through the night and schedule a girls lunch.
posted by littlewater at 9:03 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Drop it.

And stop encouraging him to see her. That's kinda boundary pushing.

Maybe she is a sweetheart. Maybe she is fake towards both of you.

Just drop it and let it fade. There is ZERO reason to keep this woman relevant unless you are starstruck by fame.

Pretend she is a stranger until she is one. It really sounds like the only keeping this going is you.

Therapy. Because undermining yourself isn't healthy. NTHING you should feel proud as a pregnant lady!!
posted by jbenben at 9:12 PM on November 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

Gee, the way you describe her - "gorgeous, elegant, accomplished", etc - it sounds like you're in love with her.

Naw, not really - but it seems like sometime in the past, you bought into how awesome this woman is, and that she's somehow "superior". Maybe you were just trying to be nice.

My advice for you is to grab your mental sledgehammer and knock this woman off of the pedestal you seem to have her standing upon. Let me spell this out for you: you don't have to like your husband's ex. I think you're trying to be nice and understanding, and that would be fine except that it's causing you problems. So ... stop it. She's some woman your husband had a crush on years ago, that's all.

Speaking on behalf of the Internet, I give you permission to avoid this woman, and to dislike her, and also for you to get pissy if your husband wants to get together with her for a drink or something. You don't have to hate her with the intensity of 10,000 suns - just: she's not your pal, she's not your buddy, and you aren't comfortable around her. And that's all the detail you need to provide.

Last thing: it's an old, trite saying, but I promise you it is 100% true: "no matter how beautiful (or gorgeous etc) she is, someone somewhere is tired of her shit."
posted by doctor tough love at 9:14 PM on November 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

I don't have any advice for feeling inferior to this woman. You say she's objectively hot, and also a sweet person, and hey, what can you do? Some people are hotter than us or nicer than us. That's life. But you've found someone who loves you, so I'd say you're ahead of the game.

What I really don't get though is why you want to be friends with her, and why you are encouraging your husband to hang out with her. You really to knock that off because it certainly doesn't seem like the answer. In fact, it seems like your jealousy is what is driving this behavior and it just exacerbates the whole situation. Like, if only you could be friends with her and feel like you're accepted by her, that would somehow make you feel better. But that's never going to happen because it simply isn't normal for someone to befriend their current partner's ex-girlfriend. You and his ex-girlfriend are never going to become BFFs. And stop pushing your partner to hang out with her. It's awkward for him to hang out with her, and it's awkward for you to be the one pushing for him to do it. It almost seems like it's your insecurity saying, "Hey, I don't want to deprive you of seeing your hot, nice ex-girlfriend!"

He is your man. He loves you. He has a family with you. Focus on those things and stop thinking about his ex-girlfriend. She does not need to be part of your life with him.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:27 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

You know what this is really about? I think it has something to do with the lede you buried towards the middle of your question: the bit about this woman being the object of unrequited love on the part of your partner. That's the real issue here, and to me, it's something that both you and your partner need to tackle as a team, rather than you just moshing through it alone.

If you agree and if this isn't me just interpreting stuff on the internet, here's what I'd do. Tonight or tomorrow sit down with your partner and be honest with him about the fact that you feel inferior (use those words, because I think they're authentic and that matters right now) when you spend time with his ex, no matter how much you've rationalized through the whole thing. Tell him that while a part of you respects his desire to maintain a friendship with her, you can't help but be bothered by the unrequited love aspect of it all, and you are having a hard time connecting with her because of it. Then see what he says. He may start trying to say stuff like, "oh, that's in the past, don't worry" etc etc, and just push back. Say something like, "I really mean this. I want to feel better about this but it can't just involve me sucking it up and dealing with it. I need your help on this one." or whatever feels right for you. I bet your partner is going to want to make this right so you don't have to keep feeling this way.

Good luck. I've been you, and I've been your partner. This can get fixed. :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:37 PM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

One last thing...

If this woman had been right for your partner, she would have loved him back. But she doesn't, likely never did, and won't. You love him, though, and he loves you in return. That's what's important. I bet she looks at you and thinks, "Man, he really lucked out in finding someone as excellent as she is." So there's that at least, if it makes you feel any better.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:40 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Am I understanding you correctly, your husband once had the hots for a woman who did not return his feelings? Is this the source of your agony? Would it bother you had he not been interested in her at all? Would you still be jealous or feel inferior? Is it just the husband angle here? Understanding this might help clear out what is really bothering you.

I'm sure he was # 1000 in line for this woman.

I would date Brad Pitt too, if Angelina hadn't gotten to him first.

(What I mean is, don't hold it against your partner - or against yourself - for him having been attracted to her. People like attractive nice people.)

My aunt said the most insecure she'd ever felt was when she was pregnant; she was terrified that her hubby would change his mind about her & the baby and she felt so vulnerable. The hormones didn't help.

Make sure your husband isn't still stoking your insecurity by mentioning ye old attractione to you. (Since nothing happened between them, I'm surprised he mentioned it in the first place.) I am attracted to people sometimes but I don't mention it to my partner, because what for? And yes I agree with others, no need to push him on her. That is a kind of overcompensation. I mean, I get it, but I don't think it's healthy.

Since you're asking for advice, one avenue is to mentally bring yourself up to her level (what you imagine her level to be). Picture yourself as already her equal. Radically let go of the fear of loss, sit in that discomfort and realize that this woman is nowhere near the threat that you think she is. You are terrified of your imagination. It will increase your confidence. Be just as nice to her as she is to you, and soon you will be the classy lady that you imagine she is! I bet your skills and talents will shine through but you don't see them as such.

If you are into meditation, you can do a breathing exercise on this fear to re-train your mind on how to react. Sit down and picture your future self talking to this woman. Breath in your future self's fear and insecurity. Hold it in your heart, let the strength of your heart burn the fear up in a fiery crucible, transforming it into peace. Exhale out relaxed confidence that your future self absorbs in her heart and feels. Breath in the fear. Transform it. Exhale out the confidence. Repeat for the length of the meditation. At the end of the meditation, picture both your future self and this woman feeling friendly and confident.

Also remember she sits down to take a shit like everyone else.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:54 PM on November 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

You need to love yourself more. Don't depend on the validation of others to feel amazing. See here.
posted by kinoeye at 11:38 PM on November 11, 2014

Nthing talking to your husband and explaining pretty much what you explained here - feeling inferior, "whale-like", unattractive - and nthing not actively encouraging them to hang out more often. But I definitely don't think I'd sit him down and outright forbid him from seeing her ever again. Obviously I have no idea how your particular relationship works, but forbidding him from seeing her seems like it could backfire (e.g., if he values her as a friend, it's possible he could end up resenting your edict and maybe, by extension, you - which would be more harm than good). I'd make it about you and how you're feeling (and let him work with you to find solutions), rather than telling him what he's not allowed to do.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 1:40 AM on November 12, 2014

I think this is eating away at you because you aren't being your authentic self. You're putting on a cool girl facade, for your husband and probably to try to be a "better" person.

"Oh, she's so great, and wonderful, and we should be really great friends, and you should call her a lot more, husband!" And then you feel worse about yourself because you're saying the things you think you should, but not truly feeling them.

Give yourself permission to stop trying to like her so much. I think it's caused you to build her up in your head, turn her into something amazing, when she's just another rando person. Take some quiet time giving yourself permission to be not like her, to be resentful of your husband's previous feelings, to consider not pushing him to maintain the friendship. I'm not saying you should act on these feelings, but you should give yourself permission to feel your authentic feelings. I think you'll find she loses a lot of her power once you've stopped forcing yourself to be cool about it.

And then I'd suggest having a nice chat with your husband. Not to make him change any behavior, or ban any contact, not to have a big drama scene. But just to tell him your authentic feelings - get them out there. Be yourself with him. Not keeping these feelings as a shameful* secret will really be a relief.

*I don't think they're shameful, but you seem to.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:16 AM on November 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Keep in mind that you know nothing about what is going on with this woman's private life. When you are getting envious of someone, realize that you are feeling envy toward a fictional character. The public face this lady presents to the world is a role consciously or subconsciously played every day carefully curated to hide insecurities and personal pains. Same with any person.

When you see her in public or on Facebook, you are comparing your whole story, warts and all, to her highlight reel.
posted by Willie0248 at 6:38 AM on November 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Three options:
1) Stop thinking about her entirely. My trick for stopping the habit of dwelling on particular things is to decide what I’m going to think about instead of a thought pops into my head. For example, I got over an ex-boyfriend by switching to thinking about my garden whenever he crossed my mind; this had the added benefit of generating exciting new plans for my garden.
2) Spend MORE time with her and get to know her better, assuming she’s interested and available. If you hang out with her a lot you’ll know her more as a person than as a distant goddess.
3) Spend a bunch of time working out why you feel this way with yourself, your husband, and you therapist. I personally don’t find that kind of thing productive, but some people find self-examination leads to growth and healthier brains and all that.
posted by metasarah at 8:17 AM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely remember that you are comparing your insides to her outsides. When I'm having issues where I think someone is so much more awesome than me, and then start feeling bad, I remind myself that I am comparing my insides to their outsides, but I have no idea what their insides are like. She probably sees herself in a completely different light and would be surprised to hear herself described in these terms.
posted by RogueTech at 8:47 AM on November 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was going to say what RogueTech just beat me too. I'd bet that this woman doesn't think of herself the way you think of her, she'll have her own insecurities and fears and worries and hangups. You have no idea how insecure and anxious she may be feeling under her facade. As I suspect she has no idea how insecure and anxious you feel (i.e. you probably look a lot more calm cool and collected then you think).

But really I think regardless the best scenario is to let this friendship run it's natural course, and sort of fade away. I think this is pretty common, and very understandable, with relationships where there was a sexual element. You really don't need to be friends with her, and don't need to encourage your husband. It seems appropriate for him to let it fade, let him do that.

(And yes, you shouldn't feel fat when your pregnant, but I totally did too for a while there. Even without wacky hormones, seeing your body change shape can mess with your image of yourself. Just remember that it's temporary, and oh so worth it : )
posted by pennypiper at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2014

You spend a lot of time saying you're irrational, it's your problem alone, etc., but I'm wondering exactly how much he brings this woman up?

You have such an idealized image of her, and while I'm sure you'll say that's all your fault, too, I wonder: how much of that is coming from him?

We all idealize That One, the really hot one, the outwardly-impressive one who didn't like us back, but most of us know better than to lay this on our partners. It's an unfair burden, because what real person can live up to that?

If he is burdening you in this way, I'd say you're well within your rights as his wife, the mother of his baby, and a human person to tell him to cool it.
posted by kapers at 10:19 AM on November 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I reread it and, maybe it's my terrible eyesight, but I did not see the word husband used in your ask. If you are having a baby out of wedlock with this guy, maybe that's part of why you are feeling insecure?

I perceive her to be exponentially hotter and more desirable than me (objectively she is so).

Sorry, I don't really buy that. What does that even mean? Some men like women with big boobs and some men like women with long hair and some men are hot for someone who is their intellectual equal and don't much care how she looks. There is no such thing as "objectively hotter." Attraction is not an objective thing at all. It is extremely subjective, not objective.

And your guy had the hots for her and apparently has done nothing at all to make you feel like, no, really, YOU are the woman of his dreams, not her. I don't think this is "just you." My ex did essentially the same thing to me. I never got over feeling like he truly loved his first girlfriend and I was the also ran that he settled for after she dumped him and he thus couldn't have her.

I have been in relationships where I felt cherished and treasured and all that. And I was not thin or the time. Having that feeling is about how you get treated by your man, not what the mirror shows you.

But, yeah, quit encouraging him to catch up with her or whatever. What on earth are you thinking? Is this some misguided ideal? She never reciprocated his feelings, you are jealous, what is to be gained from trying to have more contact with this woman? Do you think her stardust will brush off on the two of you and you can feel special and starlike by association? If so, just stop. Go become star of your own show, so to speak. Go do things that matter to you and get respect for your accomplishments and so forth.

The other thing I will suggest, having done the full time mom thing for a long time, is that you may be mourning what you are giving up by having a baby. Babies tend to cost women a lot more than they do men. We give them our time and our lives and it often means not having the same kind of public accomplishments as men or childless women. They get those careers by putting a lot of time into them and you are about to give birth to a little person who will take up a lot of your time for at least the next two decades. So you may be having a sad over the fact that you are probably going to not have big public accomplishments for the foreseeable future.

As a former mom who actually kind of rankles at feeling like my mind is inadequately respected and I get too little recognition and yadda, let me say this: So what?

If I had a time machine and could go back and make other choices and not have kids and, instead, have more of a career, more "accomplishments" and more public accolades, I wouldn't do it. If I am to have public accolades, they will have to happen in the future or not at all. I think having a private life that doesn't make you miserable is more important than public accolades. I like my kids. I think I made the choices that made sense for me. Even on days, like today, when I am highly crabby about some of the details of my life, I think, no, the path not taken would not have made me happier. It would not have improved anything. It would not have been more satisfying.

You might try having some ice cream (with pickles, if you like) and watching a tear jerk movie and wallowing in being all hormonal and emotional and whatever. In short, revel in the choice you made and the place you find yourself. And, as others have said, don't compare your insides to her outsides. It's entirely possible she is simply miserable and you just do not know it.
posted by Michele in California at 11:26 AM on November 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

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