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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Fear/Jealousy

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Author Topic: Fear/Jealousy
concerned404
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So I've been dating a guy I met around 8 months ago for the last 5 months. We go to the same college and have overlapping circles of friends.

Just before I started dating him he had been "chasing after" another girl who I had known for a few years,and one of the major reasons why we became close in the first place was because he was talking with me (I was pretty much his only female friend at the time) about her, and that acted as a springboard to all kinds of other emotionally intimate conversations. Anyway, long story short, she rejected him, and a little while later we started dating.

Our mutual friends were relieved, because the general consensus was that it was NOT a good idea for him to get into a relationship with the other girl, who was emotionally insecure and who had previously dated one of our close friends. He had also previously had a string of immature/insecure girlfriends, and doesn't have very much relationship experience in general.

Our relationship has gone really well. We make each other really happy, and he has said that he feels more connected to me than he has to anyone else.

So here's the issue: he frequently brings up this other girl. We'll be doing something, like playing a game, and he'll bring up some random time that the other girl yelled at him or disparaged him in some way (not all of their interactions were like this...she's moody, but not malicious). He has incredibly low self esteem and has expressed multiple times how upset he feels when friends jokingly insult him. And yet, when he brings up this other girl being mean to him, he let's it go...he brings it up like it's a fond memory out of the blue. Whenever we talk about her, he is always making excuses for her behavior (not just toward him, but in general). I'm acquaintances with this girl, and while I don't actively dislike her, she has never particularly impressed me. She comes from a privileged background and left school because she has an idealized notion of what college should be like and nearly flunked out. She's a year below us (that's probably not relevant).

My boyfriend also brings up how she looks a lot, and I know he's attracted to her, that's not what I care about. What I do care about is that I think (and this would be consistent with the kinds of things we talked about when he was "chasing" her) he's idealizing what a relationship with her would be like and putting her up on a pedestal.

I just don't know what to do about it, because I know he has such low self esteem that he wouldn't leave me for her (I wish he would if he felt strongly enough about it), and he has said that he is no longer interested in a relationship with her, and that he just doesn't know how he feels.

Part of me wants to let go of him and give him a chance to explore how he feels a bit more. I'm good friends with all of my ex's and there's no reason to believe that things would be different him. I could always come back to him if things don't work out with other girls.

Anyway, so, the fear part: I don't want to stay in a relationship if he has this imaginary portrait of this other fantasy relationship in his head, for both my sake and his. However, chances are high that this is what will happen.

Advice?

Posts: 17 | From: New York | Registered: Sep 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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It sounds to me like a few things need to happen here that should get you both to a better place:

1. He may just need some more time. If this was only half a year ago AND you were the primary person he processed these feelings with in the first place (which is likely a big part of why he still feels comfortable doing so: after all, you two set that precedent) AND his self-esteem is pretty low, he just may need more time to get over this. And five months into a relationship is still a very new relationship.

2. You just need to set some boundaries. You can say that this level of talking about her is making you feel uncomfortable, and that while you know you two used to talk about her a lot like this, your level of comfort about it has changed. So, you then just ask him to bear that in mind and try to talk to you a bit less about her, and seek out someone who isn't you to talk to if he needs to talk about her more than that.

3. I think you need to check in with yourself and make sure it's not you putting you in her shadow, if you know what I mean. Partners are going to talk about ex-partners or people they had feelings for in the past: it's part of who we are.

You suggest he see other girls, but I don't hear him asking for that at all, nor have you said he wants to see THIS girl. I'm confused about why that came into your head here.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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concerned404
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So, I agree with your first point, and the second. Although, I don't like the idea of putting boundaries on what we can and can't talk about freely. I'd rather be open, even if things like this bother me.

On the third point, I've been in several long-term relationships and I've not had jealousy problems with partners talking about their ex's and former love interests. What's bothering me now is that I feel like he has an unrealistic idea of who this girl is (he didn't even know her as well as I did), and I don't think that it's healthy for him to idealize/obsess over her like that. It might be a continual problem for him in future relationships, if not with this girl alone then perhaps with the tendency to repeat the same kind of idealizing in general.

Why I think he might benefit from seeing either this/other girls: he's only had really drama-filled, chaotic relationships, and even then, a limited number of them overall. I feel like the only way for him to move on from his idealized perception of this girl is to get to know her as well as me and our (as in, all three of us) mutual friends do...so that he has a more realistic perspective.

Even if he doesn't end up dating her, at the very least maybe going through the process of building up someone else and then discovering that his idealizations of others are not realistic, he'll stop falling into this kind of thing in the future.

He also idealizes others in other contexts, eg. work and college ("everyone else knows what they're doing, why don't I?" and such).

I can help out in work/college cases, but when it's another person who isn't even around at the moment, I don't know what I can possibly do to help him recognize not just intellectually but also emotionally that he's idealizing people/situations.

I think he knows intellectually that being in a relationship with her would not be good for him, considering several of his close friends have expressed as much, and I think that's why he's not "asking" so to speak to see other girls; he knows that the relationship that he and I have is really good. He has already suffered a lot emotionally from previously dating emotionally unstable girls, and doesn't need another one. But, consistent with what he and I had discussed before, he tends to think that he can "fix" people and situations. I think he thinks that even though she has problems, he could overcome them and have an amazing relationship with her (this is what he thought when he was "chasing" her). When he was still actively pursuing her, I expressed my doubts about that but encouraged him to give it a shot if he really thought he could make things work. Even though things didn't work out with her for him, I think he still hangs onto that idea.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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What I'd suggest is that you focus on your needs more than your idea of what his are.

In other words, I hear you saying you don't feel how he's thinking/feeling is healthy for him, or best for him, but the thing is...well, to be frank, a partner is different than a therapist, you know? He's the one who needs to be figuring out what's best for him: this stuff just isn't yours to manage, it's his. And you worrying about his future relationships is projecting pretty far: it's THIS one that should be your primary concern. Because you're not his parent, either.

What YOU can do is take care of your own needs, though, and do your part to make this a healthy relationship that's best for both of you. YOU express being bothered by the level of talk about her: that's making YOU uncomfortable. So, you set some limits. And setting those limits doesn't have to be like tape on someone's mouth: in partnerships, now and then we're going to ask for certain concessions to be made for our comfort, and there's nothing wrong with that. As well, a LOT of talk about an ex or someone else a partner may have had feelings with can become too much sometimes.

Back in '89, as an example, I was still getting over the violent death of my partner in high school, and at a certain point, my partner in college let me know he felt sometimes like he was with a widow and it made him feel uncomfortable, and also like he couldn't possibly compete with a dead person.

Now, he was aware there was no competition, and acknowledged those were simply his feelings, and the truth was, I DID need to move forward more if I was going to be involved with someone else. So, I made that adjustment for both of our sakes, and also made a point of finding other friends I could unload that stuff with when I needed to so it wasn't all going on one person. And that was an adjustment that was best for us both, ultimately: he was more comfortable, I made some steps I needed to make to move forward, but all of that arose out of making an adjustment for my partner's comfort. See what I mean?

I realy hear you psychoanalyzing him a lot, and I just don't think that's the best route here. Again, you're not his counselor, nor are you the person to be determining what's best for him: that person is him. But you can determine what's best for you, and what you think is best for the relationship, which also may well result in what's best for him, too.

Lastly, I do think you need to think about if this person's esteem is high enough for him to be in an intimate relationship right now. if you feel like you have to kind of parent him, or do a LOT of work counseling him with this stuff, then either a) your best bet may be to suggest he seeks out counseling for himself so he can get it from a better source (partners are better for support than counseling, just because of bias), or b) it may be that his esteem just isn't at a level that works for you.

Please know I get that a lot of what you're saying about him comes out of care. It's just that I also think some of it comes out of what YOU want and need, which is the best place to put your focus, especially in a relationship of equals, you know?

[ 09-25-2009, 01:45 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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concerned404
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Yeah, that all makes a lot of sense.

He actually does have regular counseling sessions with a psychiatrist, but the sessions are short and haven't really seemed to do much as of yet.

But yeah, sometimes I really do feel more like a counselor than a partner...maybe I have, ironically enough, the same problem that he does with feeling like I can help "fix" (although I really don't like putting it that way) other people more than I actually can.

I'll bring up the fact that talking about her so much makes me uncomfortable, and take it from there I guess.

I have a lot to think about; thank you for your advice...I really appreciate it a lot. [Smile]

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Well, I also think sometimes it can be pretty easy to focus on what we think someone else needs to fix or do differently than to look at ourselves. [Smile] It can even be easier to make changes that are about making things better for others rather than ourselves, especially if you have the idea -- or others around you do -- that addressing your own needs is selfish (which it isn't).

I think it can be helpful to recognize that you don't even have to go to the place of thinking about if you CAN "fix" him. Rather, even if you could, it's just not your place, nor would you making changes for him, rather than him making them for himself, be a sound route to anyone being happier and feeling better about themselves as an adult. Know what I mean?

And you're welcome. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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