How can I help my girlfriend to 'get over it'?
June 27, 2007 12:06 PM   Subscribe

How can I help my girlfriend to 'get over it' beyond being the good person I am to her? ('it' being my past, her crazy conspiracy theories, etc.)

My lovely girlfriend has this odd habit of thinking that she is the butt of some huge joke. For instance, I dated an Asian girl ~3 years ago for a few months (we are still friendly - I'll hear from her via email once in a blue moon). My current girlfriend knows this because we've openly talked about some of our past relationships.

So about 3 months ago I moved to the Bay Area for a job opportunity, and of course (duh) it is predominately Asian here. She uprooted and moved with me. She's awesome and I love her. But she's astoundingly insecure at times. A few times since our relocation she has brought up my Asian ex-girlfriend and how I must prefer that because I chose to move to this area by choice (I was unemployed for 4 months and didn't HAVE much of a choice!). When we've been out and about, she's made negative self-conscious comments about herself and all the 'skinny beautiful Asian girls' and how she feels inadequate etc.

These are all just coincidences! I feel like a broken record telling her this. I think our relationship has been great, we've had our little spats now and then, but we have a strong bond. We're both sweet, caring etc. etc. all the good stuff to each other.

Today was the kicker - I bought her a cool vintage radio off eBay not too long ago for listening to tunes while we cook/clean in the kitchen. I saved one of the pictures off the auction for her at her request. Apparently in the picture, the radio station is set to the Asian language station. So of course she mentions this to me - I didn't know whether to scream at her or laugh my ass off!

'Yes, honey, before the seller even posted his radio on eBay, I contacted him via ESP and made sure he had the Asian language radio station tuned in before taking the pics for his auction!!! muahahahaha!'

Oh, man.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How long have you been dating, and has she always been like this, or did it just start around the time the uprooting began?
posted by canine epigram at 12:08 PM on June 27, 2007

Like canine epigram, I'd also like to know when it started. I know that I was hugely insecure in my appearance for the first few months I lived in San Francisco. Everyone here seemed so effortlessly beautiful and cool, and I felt stodgy and dumpy and boring. (And I've not historically been insecure about my appearance.) It took a good while to get over that bit of culture shock.
posted by occhiblu at 12:14 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

A personality tic of mine is that I tease people close to me; sometimes I don't realize that it's a tender spot I'm prodding. Make sure she's not joking at times. I can see the radio thing being a funny coincidence.
posted by sian at 12:16 PM on June 27, 2007

She isn't looking for proof that you didn't relocate to get better access to sexy Asian girls, which she knows is not true. She's looking for you to reiterate that you find her better and more beautiful than all the girls, probably to assuage the sense of insecurity that she made a major life transition in order to follow you rather than on her own initiative. Provide this reinforcement and don't worry so much about whether it makes sense. Most of us fish for reinforcement from our loved ones in one way or another, although this way does seem a little more obtuse than average... maybe due to culture shock issues as occhiblu suggests.
posted by nanojath at 12:22 PM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

We first met and dated about 2 years ago for a few months, broke up, remained really good friends, and got back together in Dec. 2006. Somewhere in the ballpark of 7-8+ months.

And nope, she is NOT joking.
posted by kilohertz at 12:23 PM on June 27, 2007

Just keep saying: "I love YOU. I am not interested in anybody else".

Moving itself is hard, you leave all of your combined context behind. Add to that that life in the Bay Area can be especially competitive and alienating. It could be that with your new job and this new place she's feeling anxious that you'll find a new girl too. I suggest making discovering the Bay Area a project you two do together, that way it will feel like "your" place.

Good luck!
posted by MiffyCLB at 12:25 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you given any thought that she might suffer from paranoid schitzofrenia?

I'm told I'm pretty paranoid at times by my wife, but making such far-fetched inferences like she does definitely surpasses my insecurities by far.
posted by spacefire at 12:25 PM on June 27, 2007

And thanks everyone...I think occhiblu and nanojath are right about the culture shock thing. I'll keep being the good person I am to her and reinforce the good vibes, but if her behavior doesn't taper off at all, I feel my patience is going to run out!
posted by kilohertz at 12:26 PM on June 27, 2007

My guess is that she's always been a bit of a compliment fisher (but correct me if i'm wrong), and the new situation requires from her alot more reassurance. Deal with it for as long as you can, but if it doesn't slowly taper off, you may have to have a confrontation about it. This behavior gets old very quickly.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:31 PM on June 27, 2007

I was going to say she must be joking because my wife -- who happens to be a 'skinny beautiful Asian girl' so I hope that doesn't get you in trouble somehow -- often jokes about the girl I dated just before her.

But if you say she is not joking, and she honestly thinks you moved to be near Asian girls and you bought the radio because it was tuned to an Asian radio station (was the seller even in you radio market?) than that is just plain crazy.
posted by probablysteve at 12:32 PM on June 27, 2007

Yeah, watch to see if this gets better, or if she's willing to address it, before making any serious committment to her like marriage. A friend of mine and his wife have a beutiful two year old daughter, but they're in the process of divorcing because the wife made little jabs like this about *every single woman* that her husband came in contact with. Like, she'd see a high school picture of him that had girls in it and she'd berate him for still holding on to the picture (which had been in a folder of stuff he hadn't gone through since high school), because it *obviously* meant he didn't love her. The straw that broke the camel's back was her complete unwillingness to address the way this paranoia was affecting their marriage and seek counseling for it. So it doesn't always get better.
posted by MsMolly at 12:35 PM on June 27, 2007

Your specific question: You can help her by suggesting counseling, even if you have to set it up for both of you. She has a definite problem, which may or may not be an illness. At the least, it is an unhealthy obsession.

You didn't ask, but I will be so bold anyway: If you don't address this, it may mean a hellish existence which will only get worse. Unreasonable jealousy, by definition, can not be reasoned with. (Speaking from experience.)

Good luck!
posted by The Deej at 12:39 PM on June 27, 2007

How much have you spoken to her about this? I don't really have any new theories -- occhiblu and nanojath seem to have hit the nail on the head. However, it could probably be worth it to find out how aware she is over her own issues. She might not be aware of just how unwarranted some of her conclusions are, or she might be far more aware of it than you are and able to help you understand what's going on. Either way, I've always found that just getting a glimpse into the other person's thought process helps me be more patient with them. Even if she just gives you all the reasoning that has been given above in this thread, hearing it from her will probably help you get your stores of compassionate patience built back up.

And, on the other hand, if she looks at you as if you're insane and goes on to insist that she has been wholly reasonable throughout it all, then that'll be a good sign that she could probably use a visit to a psychologist.
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2007

I would guess that being uprooted is feeding her anxiety -- she wants to be able to count on being "at home" in your relationship but is afraid that it will be uprooted as well, so she never can let herself fully relax into it.

I think reinforcing the good vibes is a good idea, but I also don't think it's unreasonable to let her know that this is really bugging you, especially if your patience really is running out.

I'm a pretty anxious person myself, and I sometimes drive my partner crazy by obsessing over his well-being. It actually helps me break out of the cycle to have him tell me, "Look, you're really going overboard with this, and it's getting to me." It's never a pleasant thing to hear, but sometimes it's what I need to hear to realize that I really am being far more unreasonable than I think I am.
posted by treepour at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2007

Sing "Three Times A Lady" to her in public, loudly and often, until she gets the picture and tells you to stop.
posted by rhizome at 12:52 PM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

You know, paranoia is one of the signs of depression/anxiety. It could be that she's naturally anxious, and moving + culture shock just sent her over the edge a little bit.

When I moved here (Oregon => Texas... culture shock!) I thought the rednecks were out to get me.
posted by SpecialK at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2007

Someone is sure to show up and tell you to DUMP THE CRAZY BITCH AND RUN (MeFites clearly have really solid relationship skills), but this doesn't sound like jealousy to me so much as it sounds like a big heap of insecurity on her part.

The good news is that she can slowly get over that. The bad news is, it's her problem to deal with.

I don't mean to sound callous. But you literally cannot help a woman who is secretly or not-so-secretly convinced that you find other women more attractive, because it has nothing to do with you. Or the "other women". It's just a track in her brain, constantly telling her that things are wrong with her, and that it's unlikely that a man will stick with her.

It makes total sense to me that this would get worse when she's been uprooted. You're her whole world right now, so her self-worth feels merged with how highly you value her. (That is of course a false issue, but... try convincing your brain on overdrive.)

I think all you can do is calmly reiterate that you like her best of all, and... this might sound odd, but try to compliment her more about non-physical/non-sexual things you like about her. Telling a girl that her ass is PERFECTLY ADEQUATE is sometimes less reassuring than telling her that she has the greatest sense of humor of anyone you know, etc. etc.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with all that's been said above about insecurity and culture shock.

I would like to add:

The trend in our culture, or parts of it, to place Asian women at the top of the heap for attractiveness is maddening and frightening to some women, myself included. I had a romantic interest once out and out claim that he was really only attracted to Asian girls, "10 to 1" he said, and though that's fair I suppose, I can't begrudge a bigot his honesty, but coming from a white dude with a lot in common with me, it was unsettling. Worse, I can't totally disagree. Women and men view the same beauty-defining media, you know. As a bisexual woman, I get what's so attractive about the highly manufactured, and sometimes orientalist, essentialist, and infantilized view of Asian women. This product sells, even to me. I'm educated about why it's HORRIBLE, but there's such a thing as guilty pleasure, after all.

So, your lady might be only overreacting to a need for reassurance from you, but also consider that it might be a bandaid for a bigger culturally motivated identity or sexuality issue. In other words, maybe she believes Asian women are the hottest. Maybe she feels inadequate without regard to you at all, or maybe she can't reconcile her attraction to some women. I wouldn't rule that out.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:10 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sit her down. TV off. Computer off.

"Honey, either you understand I love you, or you don't. What do you think."

She'll talk about her insecurities, etc.

"Do you think it's an accident, I'm seeing you? Don't you think I made this choice?"

Again, a bit of oscillation should be expected.

"I'm not going anywhere, this is where I want to be. We may even argue sometimes, but this is what I want."

"Next time, you feel insecure, and feel upset, I'm going to mention this conversation. I want you to understand that I do love you and do care. Don't be surprised when I mention this.

She's clearly not feeling like she is secure (with herself, with the relationship.) This is how you foster/build that trust.

Oh yeah, don't cheat on her or anything. ;D
posted by filmgeek at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2007

I'll third what thehmsbeagle said. Your girlfriend sounds HIGHLY insecure, and quite possibly depressed... unfortunately, beyond your being a good person, there's not really much you can do to bolster her low self-esteem. Are you being totally open and honest, yet tactful? Are you being affectionate and romantic? Have you tried talking to her about how much her insecurities/paranoia place undue stress on the relationship? Ultimately, the change has to come from within HER, and therapy seems like a good place to start. It sounds like she's got a lot more and/or deeper issues than just a little jealousy over an ex.
posted by tugena13 at 1:51 PM on June 27, 2007

I think you've gotten some really good, sensitive advice, kilohertz. The one thing that worries me a bit, though, is the tone of mockery that comes across in your post and follow-ups. It sort of reads like, "Dear AskMe: My silly lil' puppy keeps peeing on the carpet!! I can't take much more of these wacky antics!!"

I don't doubt that you love your girlfriend a lot. The situation might seem totally absurd, but it really isn't funny. She's alone in a big city full of beautiful people with only you to rely on. Exacerbated by natural anxiety, that can be a really scary situation.

Do your best to be loving and supportive and give her time to grow back some spine, but please try not to lose respect for her. She's a fundamentally intelligent, rational person, and she loves you, even if she acts stupidly sometimes.
posted by miagaille at 2:04 PM on June 27, 2007

Someone is sure to show up and tell you to DUMP THE CRAZY BITCH AND RUN (MeFites clearly have really solid relationship skills), but this doesn't sound like jealousy to me so much as it sounds like a big heap of insecurity on her part.

I think that's a great idea. Life is too short to deal with this kind of irrational bullshit, especially when you have a choice in the matter.
posted by fusinski at 2:25 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seriously, she yelled at you -- like for real yelled at you -- about the radio station? That's way less "insecure young woman" and more like "crazy, needy, dependent, prone to wild imaginings". Those are not good signs.

Look, every woman has her moments of insecurity, especially when young and suddenly thrust into a new environment (be it geographical or emotional). It can make you feel awful and unsteady and sad and nervous. Even if intellectually you know perfectly there's no reason in the world to feel insecure, it's hard to argue with your own self-doubts, the little voice in your head that says you don't measure up.

But some of us also grow the fuck up, realize our self-esteem is our issue to deal with, and certainly don't turn on our partner and accuse him of truly insane bullshit like radio station fetishism just to reassure our own egos.

Your girlfreind needs to gain some maturity, or this behavior is going to get real old real fast. You shouldn't have to feel so defensive all the time around her just to avoid upsetting her fragile widdle self-worth over her imaginary slights.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:18 PM on June 27, 2007

Usually this sort of girl pattern is rooted either in genuine insecurity or plain old attention seeking. From what you're describing I'm assuming it's the former. And if she is really that insecure, you have a lot more power over her than you probably realize or even want. Filmgeek has the right idea. You said you're "being a good person" to her and certainly, the radio is a very thoughtful gift. But are you being completely explicit and direct about the many and varied ways that you think she's awesome and which are the foundation for you choosing HER? It may sound silly but she clearly needs to hear it. Badly. I also think that she could probably stand to have you or someone work on her self image with her if that is faultering a little bit. Join a gym, get her some new clothes, whatever - I don't know what her specific issues are. But don't begrudge her, by "running out of patience", this period of time when she needs you to just be supportive. If she uprooted her life to be with you, especially if you two have broken up in the past, she's probably doubting a lot of things about your relationship and channeling most of into your purported "asian fetish". She'll hopefully come around soon and once she does, you'll be glad you weren't more harsh with her when what she really needed was for you to just be exceedingly nice and caring.
posted by smallstatic at 3:21 PM on June 27, 2007

I'm going to have to diagree with thehmsbeagle's assessment that you cannot help with your girlfriend's insecurities. You can't solve them 100% on your own, but what you do does matter. I have finally gotten over some fairly deep insecurities after spending significant time in a relationship with a man who obviously adores me. Here's my advice:

Tell her the things you love about her.

Say, "I love your sense of adventure" or "Your passion for music really amazes me" or "It's incredible how you always put the people around you at ease" or even "Wow, you're so sexy. I love the way you walk." Let your feelings show in your voice. And when she argues with you that she's really nothing special, hold your ground: she's amazing. You're just telling the truth, after all. If you can point out real, attractive things about her, she might even start to notice her own good qualities and finally believe that yes, you could sanely find her more attractive than all those other women out there.
posted by Lady Li at 3:24 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think your girlfriend needs to be able to relax in the relationship, and I understand completely where she's coming from.

I can totally identify with why she feels insecure compared to Asian women. The majority of them are considered as the stereotype goes: thin, beautiful, well educated. My boyfriend is Asian, and part of me dreads meeting his (lovely sounding) family at Christmas, as this is everything I'm not and I'm so afraid of disappointing them. I'm not thin (US size 12), I'm not beautiful, and I dropped out of school when I was 17. Whenever I go to Asian supermarkets, I'm surrounded by a lot of women that make me feel like a clumsy fat oaf.

And! I have the added bonus of being in a long distance relationship, which makes it fairly easy to come across insecurity on a day to day basis. I mentally freeze every time the Boyfriend talks about women, because I can't be there as often as some of them are (especially work colleagues), and very often I feel like I'm missing out on experiencing what it's like to be around his awesomeness.

I think the difference between myself and your girlfriend is that I've learned to check that mental freeze at the door before I open my mouth. It's all down to me, it's nothing anyone else can help.

Your girlfriend can't help the way Asian women are perceived (certainly not their fault either), she can't help the fact that these women are around on a daily basis, and on a temporary basis she can't help feeling insecure about things.

What can be helped is how it's dealt with - not constantly freaking out every time a trigger happens (eg: Asian stuff being on a radio), talking about how you feel without expecting the other person to solve the problem/any negative consequences, doing your best to let it all slide past you without it having an impact. For me, it's a lot about discipline and addressing my fears without dramatic emotion, and not much about involving other people. Especially not involving the Boyfriend.

And on preview: also what nanojath said.
posted by saturnine at 3:30 PM on June 27, 2007

therapy. she was obviously insecure about herself before and now that she's out of her comfortable environment, she's doubly worried that you'll leave her for the new and better.

therapy's the way to go. go together, if you like.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:54 PM on June 27, 2007

Something that helped me work through my insecurity was my fiance's light joking about attractive guys. For example, Mr. Six-Pack Abs would walk by us while we were in the park. My fiance would make some joke about how my eyes popped out of my head. Or we'll be watching Man vs. Wild together and he'll joke about how I only watch it because Bear Grylls is going to take his shirt off at some point.

The point that got across to me is that hey, sometimes I find other guys pleasing to look at, but I know I have no intention of cheating on him or leaving him, so if he finds other women pleasing to look at, that doesn't mean he's going to cheat on or leave me.

Right now, this is of grave importance to her, even though it seems silly to you. You can make her see the silliness in it. (Lightly) joke about how she might leave you for Mr. Six-Pack Abs, and let her reassure you that she isn't. Somewhere in her reassuring, she might understand how foolish and unnecessary all this is.
posted by desjardins at 4:23 PM on June 27, 2007

desjardins beat me to it -- I was just writing to suggest lightly joking about it. Eg, "No, I really bought it for you [because I thought it'd make you think I was as sexy as that DJ you once dated] [so you'd dance with me more] [because I heard music was the way to a woman's heart - it's all part of my plan to woo you]." "No, I moved to San Francisco [because it's so chilly here all the time, you'd have to cuddle up with me to stay warm] [so I'd be one of the few straight guys around] [hoping to get you away from that ice cream store clerk you were flirting with]." The point of the jokes, besides making her smile and relax, is to subtly say "hey, maybe I'M the one desperately trying to hang on to YOU."

Moving somewhere new with someone is a real head trip. There's a sense of powerlessness and dependency. Doubly so if her alternative to moving was basically to lose you. If so, her insecurity is based in some reality (ie, you were going to leave her for SF, if not the actual Asian girls here) (I'm not blaming you, just saying it could affect how she feels).

I'd try to cut her some slack and find a way to be patient about it. Why is it so maddening for you?
posted by salvia at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2007

Where'd the "she yelled at him" thing come from, Asparagirl? If I missed it, I change my answer.
posted by salvia at 5:52 PM on June 27, 2007

Another thing to consider is she might feel horribly out of place in the Bay Area. When she relocated, perhaps she found that the women in San Francisco wear very different fashions, hairstyles, make up. Maybe she just feels dumpy, unfashionable and unattractive. In the Bay Area, there are a lot of very fashionable women and some of the younger Asian women are especially trendy.

For men, the differences in fashion seem to less overwhelming. For women, it can be a huge appearance overhaul.
posted by 26.2 at 7:58 PM on June 27, 2007

Insecure people are often insecure because Bad Things have happened to them in the past. It takes a very very very long time for that to wear off.

If your beloved needs to hear you tell her, over and over and over again like a broken record, that she is the one you want to be with and that you're not going to run off with somebody else, then you should simply accept that this is what she needs for the time being. Don't try to "fix" her, or have The Final Conversation On This Topic, or let it drive you nuts. Just think of your repeated reassurances the same way you'd think about foot rubs. They're something nice you can do for her, they cost you very little effort, and they strengthen your relationship.

Keep in mind that this is her internal injury, and doesn't reflect anything wrong with you; don't get any of that insecurity on ya! That is, don't take what looks like continued suspicion on her part as any kind of slight to your good character. She's not telling you she's afraid you're a sleaze - she's asking you for the reassurance she needs. If she did think you were a sleaze, she'd have been out of there months ago.

You can't fix this for her. But you can, and should, provide the safe and loving environment in which it will heal itself.

If you love this woman enough to want to fix this for her, the best you can do is make an internal commitment to staying with her for the rest of your life, and just handle the "peep! peep! peep!" bird-noises of insecurity until they go away - which they will, but on their own schedule, not yours.
posted by flabdablet at 8:23 PM on June 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

I may be at odds with the crowd, but I don't think you should reassure her when she demands it like this. I don't think she's evil, but she's manipulating you. And you are rewarding her every time, because that seems like the right thing to do. Don't do it anymore.

Now I'm not saying you should suddenly become an asshole.
posted by O9scar at 10:22 PM on June 27, 2007

My boyfriend dated a couple of Japanese women before dating me, and was flirting online with another one right before he and I got together (he chose me instead of her - yay!).

I was wondering whether he was attracted to Asian women more than to white women like me. Then, one day, we decided it would be fun to look at some porn together as part of our very open-to-different-experiences sex life. I asked him to show me some of the videos he likes. The videos he showed me starred white women who happened to look quite like me (except with bigger breasts and younger - of course). This reassured me a lot - he clearly doesn't have an Asian fetish if he's looking at white women in his pornography. So, can you break out your video collection? This might bring out other insecurities as some women can't handle their men looking at porn, but if she's just focused on this one issue, and if you don't look at only Asian women in your videos, maybe this could help? Or maybe this is a crazy idea - only you can know, in the context of your relationship, whether this could be helpful or harmful.

I agree that moving to be with you is a huge upheavel and would cause insecurities in even the most self-confident of women. This is most likely a phase she's going through, and if you reassure her and tell her how beautiful you think she is over and over, she should be able to get past it, and these bad feelings will fade.
posted by hazyjane at 10:36 PM on June 27, 2007

Call me part of the problem, but I would be quite tempted to write a standard, kind, and reassuring response, including something indicating I'm-here-for-you, etc, and print it out like a stack of business cards, which you secretly carry with you.
When the topic comes up, card her (with a smile) instead of replying.

It might make things worse1, it might make things better. Or it might make no difference. But looking back from the future, it will have been an interesting thing to have done. And she gets to keep a little memento that proclaims you care about her. Lots of mementos. As many as she wants in fact.
1. If she really likes the cards... she might deliberately provoke cardings. But at least then it's deliberate behaviour that she can associate with warm fuzzies instead of insecurity.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:46 PM on June 27, 2007

The other advantage of the cards is that, when the asian topic comes up, instead of you feeling all crappy and "oh no, here we go again...", you'll feel all excited and "yipee! At last I get to use my cards!".
It will show in the smile :)

posted by -harlequin- at 11:54 PM on June 27, 2007

here's a completely different idea: do y'all have many friends in town?

somebody mentioned that you're likely the only person she has to rely on and so forth. Having other good friends is likely to be highly beneficial to her self-esteem in general. . . .
posted by FlyingMonkey at 7:05 AM on June 28, 2007

therapy. because there is only so far constantly having to tell her how wonderful and beautiful, etc etc she is will go. self-esteem and confidence needs to come from a place where she likes herself, no matter how much you or anyone else does.

not to mention, if you start feeling like it is some sort of obligation that you have to keep constantly complimenting her so that she will feel better about herself rather than it coming from a natural place, that can quickly become really tiresome.
posted by violetk at 11:17 AM on June 28, 2007

I'm Asian, for the record, and I can get this crazy. My boy and I are on a break (long story) but we're still friends. I'm on therapy for depression - the break is related, but there's more underlying issues and I've been dealing with depression long before I've even heard of my boy. One time I freaked out over his password. Yes, crazy. Made sense to me at the time, but crazy nonetheless.

It is insecurity, and I'd venture a guess that it's depression. I'm highly insecure and being depressed really doesn't help. It also makes me wonder if she has had past experiences with boyfriends dumping her for Asian women. Surely this sort of thing can't have come out of nowhere...
posted by divabat at 6:09 AM on June 29, 2007

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