Working With Jealousy
I have a wonderful girlfriend, “Katrina”. We’ve been together for three years’ now and we’re very happy. There’s just one problem: I am a beautiful, smart 29-year-old woman who is incredibly jealous. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this jealousy problem with a girlfriend. My jealousy is driving her crazy and I’m afraid I’ll push her away if I don’t change. Help!
Driving Her Crazy
Dear Ms. Driving:
Jealousy seems to be a hot topic lately. So let’s address it. First off, is there any basis for your jealousy? There’s a big difference between being neurotic and being naïve. If you have reason not to trust Katrina, that’s one thing. But your email indicates that you have had this problem with other relationships, so it is likely your problem, not Katrina’s.
You’re right about pushing her away: imagine what it’s like for Katrina to be continually mistrusted and questioned. It would drive anyone away, given enough time, frustration and invalidation. In fact, some people even rationalize, “Well, she thinks I’m having an affair no matter what I tell her, so why not just go have one then. She’ll never believe I’m faithful, so why not?”
Jealousy can be a kind of self-sabotage: some people can’t accept a great partner. Because they don’t think they deserve one, they subconsciously push their partner away.
Jealousy can also manifest in issues of control. What some people call “love” is actually “control”. While it’s popular to label someone you don’t like a “control queen”, the truth is that we’re all control queens. What matters is the degree to which we need to control other people. Most people need to control because they’ve been in past situations where they had little or no control. So they overreact and want total control in the present. This makes other people crazy.
People may tell you to “back off” on your controlling behavior, it’s easy to say but not so easy to do. It’s important that you get to the source of your need to control your partner. If you lived through a very out-of-control time, particularly as a child, it may seem normal to want to control everything and everyone around you.
Another possibility is that you aren’t comfortable being alone and desperately have to be with someone. You can’t handle the idea that your partner would ever leave you, so you cling to her so desperately and create the very thing you fear.
It’s your responsibility to find a way to live with yourself, regardless of what happens with Katrina (or any other woman). Desperation is not a friend, it whispers neurotic thoughts in your mind and tells you to send crazy, tearful 2AM texts that you’re likely to regret the next day.
I have worked with clients who smothered their partners, making their partner’s life miserable. One client wouldn’t give his partner any room to breathe, move, or have a life of his own. When his partner wanted to have dinner with a friend, my client took it personally and felt rejected. My client couldn’t reign in his paranoid thoughts; he would imagine his partner flirting with every man in sight, and then he’d call his partner later that night and grill him like an investigator on “CSI”.
Yikes! What to do?
I helped my client to control this kind of self-destructive behavior and get a grip on his paranoid/jealous feelings. Today my client and his partner are happy (yes, they’re still together). Jealousy still rears its head now and then, but now my client has a repertoire of skills to keep that nasty ole demon under control.
…and so can you Ms. Driving. No one enjoys being jealous, neurotic, controlling or smothering, and it may seem like we can’t help it. But we can. Please use the information in this column as a starting point to find the root of your jealousy. If you need help, get yourself to a good psychotherapist. Stop diving her crazy and letting your jealousy push her away.
Begin to change your thoughts and your behavior will follow. You can do it.