Ask A Woman: “Oooohhhh, jealousy…”
If you’ve got a question that needs the female treatment, chances are you’re not the only one who wants to ask it. Beth is our source for the answers. From opinions on men’s style to decoding the sometimes mysterious ways of women, she’ll take on a different question every Thursday. She also might provide an answer without waiting to be asked. That happens from time to time too. Click here to get to know Beth, then get in touch with her by sending your question to: email@example.com .
I’ve been in a relationship for 4 years with the same girl since the middle of high school. I have a level of comfort with her that I don’t have with too many other people, and she with me. Despite all this though, she’s always struggled with her confidence and self-worth. I’ve tried to make her feel beautiful and loved, but it doesn’t ever seem to get through to her. Because of this, she has a serious problem with jealousy.
She gets upset when I’ve got more female contacts in my phone list than she would prefer, too many female friends on Facebook and Instagram, or most recently, when I tried to catch up with an old female friend.
I cherish our relationship, but this jealousy of hers is really pushing a wedge between us. This isn’t something that I want to deal with my entire life. I’m faithful, and always have been. There is no reasonable basis for her jealously, yet it continues to come up. How should I handle this?
So I’m guessing you’re about 20 years old? Maybe 21? What you’re describing is very normal (though irritating) behavior for a young woman–or man–of 20ish years. Although at that age it does feel like you’ve had a lot of life experience, you really haven’t. And because this is the first serious relationship for both of you, you’re going to be making a lot of mistakes as you figure out how commitment works. This is one of the chief reasons that high school romances often don’t survive long past high school. There is so much growing and learning that you do during this time, it’s just hard to become an adult and not submarine your relationship in the process.
“Jealousy, turning saints into the sea…”
When I was in my teens and then early twenties, I too felt a lot of jealousy and insecurity in my relationships. Why was my boyfriend talking to Kristina during my track meet instead of watching me run the 100 meter hurdles? Was he being honest about being at Lauren’s party for only a half hour and not talking to anyone but his guy friends? Did he think Katie was prettier than me? Ugh, if you think dating an 18 year old girl is a drag, try having been one. I can hardly stand the memory of it.
So I really don’t think your girlfriend’s behavior is a reflection on you or on how solid your connection is, it’s just your age. Sometimes when people write in with a problem, I see a clear path towards resolution, or a change they need to make. But just as often, what the person wants help with is changing the behavior of another person. And that’s just not possible. You have told your girlfriend she’s beautiful and cherished; you’ve been honest and faithful. She still doesn’t trust you. There’s nothing more you can do. You aren’t responsible for her hang-ups.
It doesn’t get more paranoid than thinking your boyfriend and therapist are flirting.
I’m sure there are a bunch of happily committed childhood sweethearts out there shaking their finger at me, but what I’ve experienced in my own life, and what I’ve seen in the lives of friends and family is this. Once you start down the road of jealousy, insecurity, need for constant reassurance…it’s really, really difficult to back up. A pattern is established, a routine of interacting, of accusations and reassurances, fights and make ups, that is hard to break. Some young relationships do evolve successfully into healthy, functioning, permanent relationships. But they are rare. More often, the relationships end. And if the people in it are smart, they take some time before jumping into the next one to think about what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully they begin new, healthier patterns of interacting with their next partner. Eventually, you figure out how to trust the person you’re with, how to earn that person’s trust, how to communicate, argue, and compromise in an effective manner, and all the other skills you need to make a life with someone.
You sound like you’re really in love with your girlfriend. I hope it does work out between you. But if she doesn’t stop with the jealous behavior, and you decide you can’t live with it, then you have a difficult decision to make.
Got something brewing in your life? Send me an email–style, etiquette, relationships–I answer it all:firstname.lastname@example.org