Don't it make your brown eyes green?
December 30, 2005 11:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I reign in my unfounded jealousy? Am I crazy? How can I just calm down and let it go?

I'm in a heterosexual relationship (we've been together nearly 3 years). I trust my SO. I know, in my heart, that he would never, ever cheat on me. I would also never, ever cheat on him. It's a line that both of us (we've discussed it) would not cross.

So why do I feel like crying when he says he's spent time with X female friend? It's irrational and unbelievably distracting. I hate it, and I can't seem to make it go away.

Other pertinent info: He is a very attractive man, and has, on more than one occasion, had a co-worker/female friend turn into Obsessed Stalker. This makes me nervous. I am an attractive woman, and I have several close male friends. My SO has struggled with jealousy, but has let it go. He doesn't have many friends, and the majority of them are male. The female friends he has are not mutual friends, but friends he had at the outset of our relationship, or friends he's made at work.

Did I just answer my own question? Am I jealous because I don't know the women? My SO and I have had many talks (and fights) over our time together about how I feel he has a tendancy to 'exclude' me from parts of his life (as in, the GF is for sleeping over and watching cartoons with, the friends are for playing pool with). Is my jealousy over X female friend a function of that percieved 'exclusion'?

Regardless, how can I help myself? I don't want to freak out every time he spends time with his female friends. It almost feels like an automatic response, getting all worked up (I have had my trust broken in big ways in previous relationships). So now, even though I believe he won't stray, I'm conditioned to worry.

I've tried matras. I've tried distracting myself. I have a healthy social life outside of my relationship, and I have fun with my friends (male and female) while I'm out. But when I come home and hear "Yeah, I was just at X's new place, she wanted to show it off" I get anxious and weepy.

How can I overcome this?
posted by inging to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How can you be jealous of him when you just said you have fun with your friends? Learn empathy and put yourself in his shoes, because you're certainly doing just the same things with different people.

Is there another reason you don't trust him? Because, if that's your response, you don't.

It's fine that friends and girlfriends are kept separate, as long as he doesn't actively try to keep you apart. When everyone becomes one big family it becomes incredibly annoying to escape the relationship (or the friends) and that is a perfectly normal, necessary, healthy need. If everyone spends all their time together, or rather, if you're with him 24/7 when he's with his friends and not, you will get sick of each other and quite bored.

Let it go. Grow up. This is a perfectly normal relationship as you've described it. I don't know how to help you do that other than to say a little doubt here and there may be understandable, but crying and obsession about it may just mean you need more hobbies or things to involve yourself in apart from him and his life.
posted by kcm at 12:03 PM on December 30, 2005

I would suggest a therapist (for you individually, and perhaps for the two of you together as well). This isn't going to be answered well in a couple of paragraphs here at mefi.

I would suspect that there are some underlying issues that you need to deal with. I would also suspect that there are some differences between the two of you as to how you view the relationship at this point, and how you view it progressing.

And none of that is going to be answered here.

But... don't ignore this, it will eventually come between you.
posted by HuronBob at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2005

I know it seems like a glib catch-all phrase that people just throw out there because they can't be bothered to think of anything more helpful to say, but...Therapy. And possibly thnk about (meaning, talk to a doctor about) anti-anxiety meds. "Anxious and weepy" is no way to live, regardless of whatever seems to be triggering it.
posted by Gator at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2005

Other pertinent info: He is a very attractive man

Jealousy comes from low self esteem - you don't think you're as pretty as that whore from marketing that keeps eyeing your man, so you fume late into the night while he's on someone else's mind.

I just accept that if my 'SO' wants to move on, its my fault for not being cooler, richer, healthier, etc. So I keep trying to better myself so that will never happen. And if it does, so what, IT'S HER FUCKING LIFE. In other words, jealousy is for the weak and controlling, and you need to let it go.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:06 PM on December 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

An addendum.. it sounds like you're validating yourself on him and who he chooses to spend time with. You'll always lose in the end if you don't validate your life based on you. Be happy with yourself and what you like doing and what you've accomplished, not to mention the fact that your handsome boyfriend not only has good friendships with both sexes, but he also does not take the opporitunities when presented with obsessed females.

Don't be a psycho bitch that always has to have something to obsess over. Be happy. Happiness goes away sometimes and you'll be sad when you squandered it.

I pull no punches in my Internet therapy, sorry..
posted by kcm at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's totally natural, but not healthy, for you to be jealous of your boyfriend's female friends. Women tend to be jealous of their men having 'supporting relationships' with other women, rather then just sleeping with them.

And while it might be hard, it should be possible to put this out of your mind. You just have to 'recondition' yourself. Part of the problem, obviously, is that you've been cheated on before and so the natural distrust has been accentuated.

Why don't you get your boyfriend to introduce you to these other girls and get to know them? It might help if you can put a human face on these "other" girls.

I would also add that whenever you get upset or whatever, you should immediately try to put your mind on other things, and not dwell.
posted by delmoi at 12:13 PM on December 30, 2005

Jealousy is a perfectly respectable human failing that dates back to Zeus and great works of art -- I'm saddened to see it disparaged in our nebbishy age as an issue of low self-esteem or "psycho bitchiness." And far from it being irrational, you've provided us with a perfectly rational reason for having a response learned from past hurt.

You say you've discussed an exclusion issue with him, but maybe you haven't talked about this in the right, rational, cool-headed manner that could help resolve it -- have you been skirting around it?
posted by johngoren at 12:16 PM on December 30, 2005

Right, as delmoi says, it can be natural but unhealthy -- I'd start by accepting the premise it makes sense to have these feelings, and that it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you.
posted by johngoren at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2005

If you take away his outlets for complaining, ranting, or commiserating (yes, about you), it will likely lead to worse problems than having a wonderful boyfriend that's handsome, has good friends, and that you can watch cartoons with.

Let the man have a little life of his own, please. I swear it's good for you.
posted by kcm at 12:19 PM on December 30, 2005

I know, in my heart, that he would never, ever cheat on me. I would also never, ever cheat on him. It's a line that both of us (we've discussed it) would not cross.

This really sounds like you're trying to convince yourself, and the rest of your post sounds like you're suspecting him of exactly that. Sounds like it's a deeper issue with your (and maybe his) ability to trust.
posted by xmutex at 12:27 PM on December 30, 2005

Therapy could be useful for this, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy -- it helps precisely in this arena of giving you the tools to interrupt irrational thoughts that are triggering such awful feelings. The Feeling Good Handbook is an excellent place to start if for whatever reasons you can't find a cognitive therapist right away. It's long and sometimes seems a little complicated (there's all these charts you have to fill out!), but give it a try -- there's lots of fantastic advice in there about improving communication in relationships, too.

And I urge you to ignore the personal attacks that are being thrown in this thread. You're not a psycho bitch (as far as I can tell!); you're just feeling unhappy because you're in the grips of (habitual) irrational thinking. Good luck.
posted by scody at 12:35 PM on December 30, 2005

Throw a party. Bring all of his friends and your friends into your home and cook something delicious, serve great drinks. Introduce these girl friends of his to guy friends of yours. You don't have to totally break down the wall between your social lives, but let the worlds collide a bit, and I bet the results will be to your satisfaction. Plus no one ever seems to give MLK Day the rollicking good party it deserves.
posted by Sara Anne at 12:37 PM on December 30, 2005

Borrowing xmutex's quote, I might go so far as to say you are jealous because you put the rigid, uncrossable barriers in place. That's like saying "If, God forbid, you have sex with another woman, we are done forever, and therefore, if that happens, you must withhold that information from me, and therefore, I cannot trust you because I know that you will not tell me if you have had said sex." What if you told him it's OK to have relationships with other women? (and quid pro quo, in the interest of fairness) Then he wouldn't ever have anything to hide from you.

Life happens, and honesty and relationships are more important than who people have sex with.
posted by trevyn at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2005

Did I just answer my own question? Am I jealous because I don't know the women?

Personally, I think this is it. He doesn't have to hang out with you 24/7. He doesn't have to include you in all of his plans with friends, women or men. It's healthy to do things apart from each other. However, if my SO had friends that he spent a lot of time with who I had never met (women OR men), I would feel extremely hurt and confused.

I can't make a call from this small amount of information about your ability to trust. I dated a guy seriously for a year who had a friendship with his sister's friend. We had mutual friends, he met my family, I met his brother. I was told that she was a lost, unfortunate soul who looked up to him as a big brother and he would occasionally hang out with her to give her support and guidance. We spent a lot of time together and we both traveled, so trust was key. Our friends considered us to be a great couple. At around month nine, I was a bit puzzled by the fact that, although she hung out with him often, I had STILL never met her. Accidentally, I found out that she was not his sister's friend...she was his other g-friend. And that he had a whole OTHER set of friends. Basically, a whole other life. I had questioned not meeting her and everyone told me I was crazy, he would never cheat on me, look how devoted, don't be jealous, etc. I dumped him and never looked back...I also never questioned my intuition again.

I'm not saying that this is happening in your case. I am saying that, sometimes, you need to respect your own needs and feelings. As others have said, a therapist could help you determine what healthy/unhealthy boundaries in a relationship are. But the bottom line is, you are feeling this way. That's important. And you shouldn't discount your own feelings casually.
posted by jeanmari at 12:44 PM on December 30, 2005

I didn't call her a psycho bitch, I said not to be one. I know it's hard to pass up the opporitunity to snub others, but not necessary here.
posted by kcm at 12:48 PM on December 30, 2005

Listen, as a guy's close female friend, all i can say is that it makes me incredibly sad that i'm losing one of my best male friends to a girlfriend who seems irrationally jealous like you. she doesn't know me or anything about me, so how can she hate me? so please try to get to know your boyfriend's female friends before you start ruining his friendships. otherwise, he will resent you for it.
posted by echo0720 at 12:50 PM on December 30, 2005

okay, i just realized that came across as kind of harsh - all i'm trying to say is before you become jealous of a woman, try to get to know her and her intentions first. most likely she IS just a friend, and she'll want to be yours, too.
posted by echo0720 at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2005

I've been on your boyfriend's side of this, and it is no fun at all. If counseling might help you get a grip on free-floating anxieties about other women, then get some.

On the other hand, I too thought that my boyfriend would never, ever cheat on me and thus kept my jealousy of the time he spent with a certain female friend on a tight leash. After all, I had plenty of platonic male friends. I did this even though I knew she wanted him and knew that they spent a lot of time sitting on couches in dark rooms together, because I trusted him not to cheat. And you know what? He cheated. So if you have specifically based feelings of jealousy about certain women, don't ignore your spider sense. (On preview, what jeanmari said.)
posted by amber_dale at 12:54 PM on December 30, 2005

she doesn't know me or anything about me

And maybe that is the issue in these types of situations.

My spouse had a few very close friends who were women before we married. I met them. He did stuff with them AND we all did stuff together. We got to know each other. I encouraged him to include them in our wedding party (my side, his side, I didn't care...where ever they were comfortable) and we had a heck of a lot of fun. If he wanted to travel out of town to visit them in another city, I'd let him hop a plane in a minute. Why? Because I was allowed to get to know them. They are still HIS friends...I didn't require them to have the same level of friendship with me in order to keep a connection to him. And I think they are pretty cool with the whole situation as well.
posted by jeanmari at 12:57 PM on December 30, 2005

You've been together for three years and haven't met all his friends?

In my best case scenario relationship my boyfriend would be excited to have his friends meet me. If that sounds good to you, I think you should aim for that. It's not unreasonable, even if he's mostly going to be spending one-on-one time with them.

Some attached men do have weird quasi-flirty "emotional affair" type relationships with female friends which they want to keep their girlfriends totally out of. Sometimes they use it for bitching about their girlfriends, sometimes as a back-burner type thing to assure themselves that they could still get laid. Other times it's innocent. Not uncommon. My point is, I don't think it's weird to be jealous if he hasn't introduced you in three years to a friend whose apartment he's visited. After three years, a non-introduction seems kind of pointed. A good friend is a friend of the relationship, right?

And therapy can also work miracles if you want it.
posted by Marnie at 12:59 PM on December 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

It may be that your spidey sense is tingling, but not because he's cheating. In another twist on jeanmari's story, my now-husband had a "friend" that I hadn't met. She lived on the other coast, and whenever she was in town for business they would get together for a drink. I always trusted him, but my spidey sense tingled because she was the only person of all his friends that I'd never met, and I'd noticed he never named me on the phone when she called- instead of "ambrosia and I are doing XYZ" it was suddenly "I'm doing XYZ with a friend". It bugged me a bit, but I trusted him, so I didn't make a big deal about it. It turns out that this woman was carrying a torch for him, and he knew it, but had turned her down because he wasn't interested in a long-distance relationship thing. He never introduced her to me because he wanted to spare her feelings; he felt that introducing us, or naming me on the phone would be somehow rubbing her nose in it. As a result, even though she knew he was dating someone (me) she never really got a sense of how serious it was becoming, and she clung to a hope that someday they would get together. Fast forward to when we got engaged, and he had to tell her he was getting married, she flipped out and turned into Obsessive Stalker. In retrospect, it would have been better for him to have tiptoed less around her feelings earlier on.

Like jeanmari, I'm not saying that this is happening in your case. But listen to your intuition, and if something isn't sitting right with you, respect that, and figure it out. It may be that "jealousy" isn't the right word. As others have suggested, maybe throwing a big dinner party for all your friends and doing some cross-pollinating would ease your unease.
posted by ambrosia at 1:04 PM on December 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Honestly it sounds like your SO has got over his jealousy problem by having some harmless fun (and maybe a little light flirting) with other attractive women. This makes him feel good about himself and he can come home to you having done nothing wrong. It makes you feel good to be noticed by other men, right? And it doesn't mean that you're going to cheat, right? Maybe it would help to flirt a bit more yourself, not to "get him back" but just to enjoy it and remind yourself that it doesn't mean that you love your SO any less.
posted by teleskiving at 1:05 PM on December 30, 2005

I would add, though, that women jump to the Obsessive Stalker comments too quickly, and men jump to the Psycho Bitch comments too quickly.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:07 PM on December 30, 2005

I second Sara Anne's suggestion and points -- it me it seems weird that he has friends you've never even met. If he's resistant to the party idea, then I think something's wrong. If he's not, and it goes well, then you'll be in a position to rethink your jealousy issues further, and perhaps get some therapeutical help.
posted by JanetLand at 1:17 PM on December 30, 2005

The best way to overcome your jealous is by transforming. You won't be able to suppress it.

If you are obsessing about your boyfriend, trying to focus on being happy for him, rather than being jealous. This is called "compersion." It is the opposite of jealousy, but it also has something in common with jealousy: it keeps you connected to your boyfriend through your thoughts and feelings. The difference is that they are happy and generous thoughts and feelings, rather than destructive ones.

How would you feel if your boyfriend got a big promotion at work, or if something else really positive happened to him in some part of his life that was connected to you? Would you be happy? Or would you be jealous because you didn't bring this thing to him. Focus on this happiness.

To feel compersion, you also have to trust that you will get as much of your boyfriend as he wants to give, based on his feelings. You can't get more than that, and this has nothing to do with the other people in his life. So if he is off being happy, doing something fun, that should make you happy.

OK, I'm rambling, but I hope this helps. Two other quick tips: keep yourself busy and happy whenever he is doing his thing, and also make an effort to know his friends.

Good luck!
posted by alms at 1:21 PM on December 30, 2005

a fair amount of jealousy is a healthy sign that you like the person you are with and you hope to continue the relationship with the person. it becomes a problem when the jealousy becomes an obsession. jealousy is a sign that you want him to be yours forever but you see a small sign that it may not be the case. you get upset over the fact that he is with you but he isn't yours permanently.

funny thing about obsessive jealousy is that it actually ends up sabotaging the relationship - if you continue to feel excessive amount of jealousy, he'll feel trapped and may end up feeling confused about why you feel the relationship to be so unstable.

you said you tried to distract yourself but i don't see it helping the situation. you are jealous, and that's okay. you should actually admit that you are jealous - but make sure that won't end up making him feel possessed or trapped. the unfortunate fact of truth is that nothing is ever permanent, but you should cherish what you have while you have it.

also be happy that the attractive man who makes other women go "awww" is your boyfriend!

lastly, stop competing with other women, that's an endless battle you can never win. (you may feel you're not competitive, but the fact that other women's presense makes you anxious, you're comparing yourself to others). feel confident, and know that he chose you out of hundreds and thousands of other women out there. he shares that special something with you, and you should feel lucky that you have that with him.

i know all of this is easier said than done, but just have a little awareness each time you get jealous that what you are feeling may not lead to a healthy relationship with him.
posted by grafholic at 1:42 PM on December 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Part of the solution could be getting acquainted with his friends so that it's more clear that they're nothing to be feared. If they were closer to mutual friends then there'd be less of a problem.
posted by abcde at 3:01 PM on December 30, 2005

Were you cheated on, or did you cheat on someone, in a past relationship? Do you think this could be coloring your current situation?

(If no, ignore this comment.)
posted by speicus at 3:25 PM on December 30, 2005

Yes, I was cheated on, and yes, it's certainly coloring my behaviors. I'm trying to move past the mistrust and really put my faith in what I believe, but I sometimes have a hard time.

I really appreciate everyone's comments so far, thank you.
posted by inging at 3:52 PM on December 30, 2005

If you don't get control of this at some point, you're going to drive him away.

All men are not cheaters. Some people who have your trust will betray it. Women too.

Puts on a therapist's hat (not a therapist) is your relationship with your father? your brother's? Do you feel that you can confide + trust them? Or do you, at a certain level feel betrayed (and expect him to fufil this?)

Part of this is control too, you perhaps want to know/control what he's doing, who he's spending his time with, as if you're trying to catch him in a lie.

Look, either he's honest, or he's not. Either you're honest, or you're not. But realistically, you can't change the way he behaves (and you should never be in a relationship to 'change' someone else.) Accept him or not.

Remember, all men/women get older, and attractiveness (beauty) fades, where relationships deepen.
posted by filmgeek at 4:16 PM on December 30, 2005

Warning - this is he answer you don't want to hear. It will probably make you feel worse:

I think your instincts can be very powerful.

Every time I thought my ex girlfriend was cheating on me and got all worked up and jealous - I found out that she was indeed cheating on me. With a guy from the internet, and eventually with my best friend.

Of course finding out just reinforced my jealously and mistrust.

From what you've said it seems you talked to your boyfriend about feeling left out and nothing has changed. If you've told him something is hurting you and he hasn't stopped doing it - what does that tell you?

Your body and your mind are screaming out "we're not happy, this isn't fun". Is that really how you want to spend your life?
posted by cornflake at 4:23 PM on December 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

It could simply be that your BF has grown too comfortable with a buffer zone between different circles of friends. He may fear losing something if they intersect. But there should not be a wall between an S.O. and another part of one's social life. Cross-socializing as suggested above might shed some light on this.

Now, if you have your own circle of friends that gather together in groups, while he has female friends that he spends lots of quality one-on-one time with, that would bring to mind S.C.'s comment from this thread:

Emotional infidelity is every bit as real as physical infidelity -- perhaps even moreso. Coming from somebody who (to his shame) has committed both, I can tell you right now that opening your heart to another woman is as insidiously damaging to your marriage as opening your pants.

He may think it's all okay because they're not making out. Or he may think you can't complain because he doesn't "cross the line" that you both agreed on. But both body and mind are involved in a relationship, and you might both benefit from visualizing not a distinct line separating good from bad, but a grey and slippery slope.

Often when there's smoke, there turns out to be fire. But freaking out over the smoke is like pouring gas on the situation. Expressed jealousy will drive the other person away.

If -- big speculative "if" -- he's seeking something from others because he's not getting what he needs/wants from you, it's probably not anxious weeping.

This may be a time to improve your relationship by focusing on yourself. It's the only thing you have control over. Be the magnetic, busy, social, adventurous, funny person that he's drawn to. Let him decide that he wants to spend more time with you than with others. And definitely let go of the jealousy, because even if it's justified, it cannot possibly help anything.

There's training for "letting go" of unproductive thoughts and habits called the Sedona Method. There are books, and you can order a free intro CD & DVD. I don't know a lot about it but there are many testimonials as to its effectiveness.
posted by Tubes at 5:04 PM on December 30, 2005

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