I'm 30 and I've been living with my boyfriend for over a year. We've known each other for about three years. I've been through three major relationships and many, many insignificant ones. I'm absolutely certain that I will spend the rest of my life with this man and I can honestly say that I am a better person because of him. He is working his tail off so I can finish school, he constantly surprises me with small but overwhelmingly thoughtful gestures, and he has cheerfully put up with a female problem of mine which has resulted in horrific mood swings and medical complications. What's the problem? Here goes:
He has been burned in the past...bad. He's stable, 40, mature enough not to obsess about infidelity but I know that he does not yet completely trust me. He inquires about wrong numbers and credit card charges that he doesn't recognize to the point where I start feeling like I have to watch how I respond, lest he start suspecting something. This, however, is not the problem as it has been diminishing slowly and I am confident that one day he will finally reach the point of absolute trust. The problem is that I have begun to distrust him. I know that I have nothing to fear, but if he's late I irrationally suspect he's out with a woman. He works in the restaurant industry and has been hit on many times (since I've known him) by some very pretty women. But I'm not an insecure person! I consider myself to be pretty, very smart, funny, etc. I've never ever had jealousy issues in any relationship I've ever been in (as an adult).
What is wrong with me? I thought maybe it was because the more he worried about me, the more tangible the possibility of cheating became. Does this sound logical? Should I discuss this with him or will I be taking the chance of arousing his own distrustful nature? He picked up the term "Projecting" from when he was in therapy and whenever I ask him a personal/emotional question he suggests that perhaps I'm trying to "project" my own feelings onto him. I don't want this to happen if I tell him about my fears of his infidelity (irrational or not). Help.
You're feeling jealous and your boyfriend is too. He's making inquiries about what you do, leaving you feeling careful about how you respond. Currently you distrust him and he distrusts you. And you're wondering whether to discuss these jealousy issues with him.
I'm wondering why you're wondering. And I wonder what your relationship is like. All relationships have rules, and the participants often aren't aware of the rules. What do you talk about freely? What subjects besides jealousy do you not discuss?
What happens when he questions wrong numbers and credit card charges? Why would you not say anything to him if you feel suspicious? You're "absolutely certain" you'll spend the rest of your life with this man. He does kind things for you. Yet in this aspect of intimacy -- jealousy -- you don't yet have a framework in which to talk and even joke. Humor has disappeared from the topic of jealousy. And feelings of suspicion bubble up in each of you. Each of you are alone with your jealousy and suspicions.
I suggest you do make an agreement with each other and set a time to talk about you feelings. If you find you get stuck or just accuse each other of projecting, you can go to a family therapist for a few sessions. I don't know how your boyfriend was burned in the past and whether he has identified his part in that breakdown. It's possible he's repeating a pattern that didn't work out well in that relationship. It's possible your expectations and his from the families you each grew up in are different, and so you behave in ways that the other one misunderstands. It seems important to me, if you want to spend your lives together to open feelings around jealousy into the mix of your intimacy stew.
All the best,
Leya Aum, MA, MFCC
This question was answered by Leya Aum. She is California licensed marriage, family, child counselor certified in clinical hypnosis. She teaches Feldenkrais Method® of Neuromuscular Relearning, is practitioner of the Bowen Technique and Jin Shin Jyutsu®. She is also human resources consultant, writer and editor.