Time for another #AskDanAnything question.
This one comes from a guy named Pete and it’s about jealousy:
“I get obsessively jealous about my girlfriend’s sexual past imagining scenarios and situations from her past for example, and making mental movies. I completely understand why this is wrong and illogical and even hypocritical but no matter how much I think this through I still can’t shake the feeling of resentment and judgment it drives me crazy. I was wondering if you had any steps or practical things that I could do to combat this problem”
This is a really common one that comes up the a lot. Different forms of jealousy come up a lot in my work but particularly this one about the threat around somebody’s sexual history.
Pete goes on to say: “Part of me feels that if I become single and get more experience with women this will solve the problem and help me to understand the sexuality of women, more to the point where I lose this irrational judgment and jealousy. But I like the relationship I’m in and I think there must be a different way to solve this problem”
Pete, you’re absolutely right! There is a different way to solve this problem and your initial impulse to solve the problem by leaving the relationship and hooking up with other girls speaks to me a little bit about where this jealousy is coming from.
Let’s start with jealousy in general. (I’ve already made a video about jealousy).
What is Jealousy?
Essentially jealousy – particularly retroactive jealousy – shows us that we feel threatened, specifically we feel threatened to lose something. Therefore we are possessive.
Jealousy tells that you that you’re possessive about your patner. Part of you is trying to keep her to yourself, and so you see her previous experience as a threat to that possession. We could extrapolate this out and see that some part of you believes that her previous sexual history somehow indicates that she could be perhaps more interested in other men than you, and therefore be stolen away at some point, or it could simply mean that her history somehow makes her enjoyment of you less and therefore is a threat to the relationship.
Understand that this neediness is why you feel threatened. If you’re trying to keep and possess her it shows that part of your connection here is probably unhealthy, because you believe that you own her, that she is something that can be taken away.
Partners aren’t possessions
Your partner is just a unique person who you have experiences with, and you choose to call those experiences a relationship. When you see it this way, then nothing can be taken away; you’re just connecting with her until you’re no longer connecting with her.
If she’s a bad fit for you, then maybe she’ll cheat on you and leave you, but you’ll be glad that that happens in the end because you don’t want to keep someone who is going to do that in your life.
Trying very hard to keep her makes these jealousy fantasies arise. They are expressing the neediness to keep her.
The other thing I see is the darker truth to your jealousy: it’s an excuse to escape.
When you talk about how “part of me feels that if I was to become single and get more experience this will solve the problem,” your solution to solve the problem of your jealousy with your girlfriend is to leave her, and this tells me that this jealousy is actually your fear trying to get you to leave her. And I don’t believe this is a healthy reason to end the relationship.
This fear is represented by those mental movies that your fear is projecting into your mind (remember anything fictional and scary in your mind must be fear-based because fear is a fiction). It’s making these movies and horrifying you and scaring you and then part of your brain comes up with idea of leaving her as a solution.
In simple terms, your jealousy represents your fear about staying with her.
There’s something about your commitment in this relationship that you find uncomfortable. For some people, it’s trust issues. For others, it’s fear of sexual performance anxiety. And for some, we actually fear love itself.
Sometimes there’s something about the connection with her that’s deep and vulnerable and you’re scared. So your brain uses these fantasies or these nightmares of her being satisfied by other men to try and convince you to leave her, and get back to your comfort zone.
If this is the case, that tells me this is probably a good relationship for you to be in!
She represents growth for you. She’s taking you out of your comfort zone and this jealousy reaction proves it.
Jealousy is… good?
Jealousy can be evidence of a vulnerable connection. It’s SO good that your brain is actually scared.
I’m willing to guess that you are not being open and honest with her about this jealousy, and that’s why you’re ruminating on it.
It’s circling around your head and punishing you, like somebody who’s fallen into the ocean and getting smashed against the rocks by wave after wave, because it’s not getting out. There’s no discussion with her to explore this jealousy, to see her side of the story, to come to agreements on what this means and how to manage it. You’re keeping it all to yourself trying to deal with it in your head with no assistance.
What I love about jealousy the most is that it can be one of the most powerful ways to connect with a partner. Not through trying to manipulate their behavior, just through merely expressing it.
Get it out of your head!
My suggestion, Pete, is to go to her and tell her about these jealousy thoughts and fantasies that you’re having.
Show her that you’re so scared of losing her, that your brain is coming up with these horror stories and it’s worried about losing her, that you care about it so much that your brain is actually terrified of losing her.
You wouldn’t be worried about her past unless you cared about her, or at least unless you cared about keeping this relationship. And this is one of the things that you’ll have to figure out for yourself: are you having these fantasies because her she is important to you, or are you just obsessed with being in a relationship?
Given everything you’ve written Pete, I think this you seeing her sexual past as a threat is merely a representation of how strongly you want to be with her, and also how terrified you are of staying with her. That conflict in your head is being represented by these movies, and the solution is to share these movies with her, to tell her about how her past makes you insecure and scared of losing her.
Honesty will solve most of it
If she’s a good fit for you, this will bond you closer together. If she’s a bad fit for you, it may end up breaking you up, but hey! that was your strategy anyway.
You can’t really lose by sharing this.
Some people have written to me saying that sharing hasn’t made things better. This means either your communication was not done well (most likely), or that jealousy is actually a front for a bigger and deeper issue.
If talking through jealousy rationally and compassionately doesn’t make this feel better, you need to dive deeper and try to figure out what the real problem is. Insecurity about sex in general? Trust issues? Looking for an excuse to leave someone you’ve lost interest in? Control issues?
When in doubt, be more honest. It’s my solution to everything! If you’re not sure what the right way forward is, be honest about how you feel unsure. Be honest about what’s happening inside your head and let the two of you work on it together like a project.
The last thing I’ll say on this is the same advice I give for anything to do with painful, repetitive, OCD-type thinking: it’s practice “defusion.” I’ve already written a post about defusing from negative thoughts and that will help you to deal with this.
But I think the most important thing is to express it. If you express it, you automatically make it something real that the two of you can talk about, rather than just a revolving, adapting, mutating fantasy inside your head.
I hope that helps! Jealousy is one of those things where you won’t believe that it will build the connection until you try doing it. Expressing jealousy will seem like the worst idea until you do it and express it in terms of how you feel (not what you want her to do differently or that you blame her for a past). Show that you’re afraid and insecure and see what happens.