Guilty of Jealousy


Guilty of Jealousy


your avatar   21-year-old woman

I don't know where this story will fit and if my problem can be helped. My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for over three years. He has done nothing to show me that he would ever cheat on me. But I get so jealous if he was to even talk to a girl. It gets us in fights and I always feel so guilty afterwards because I know that he wasn't doing anything wrong, but I just blurt out stupid comments when it is not needed.

I need some advice on how to try and control my jealousy. I can't lose a good thing because of this problem.


    Margaret Burr, MA, MFT

Smart woman! It's great that, at 21, you're done with blaming others for your problems. You sound mature and intelligent. Ok, let's get to work...

Your irrational jealousy ("he's done nothing") says you are insecure - is that news to you? Maybe you experienced hurts - like disappointment, betrayal or abandonment in your childhood, because clearly you learned that it isn't ok to trust. Now, you recognize how hurtful your reactions (to past experiences, most likely) are to your present-day relationship. Basically, you'd like to increase your impulse control so that you don't, "blurt out stupid comments".

Do you do other things, impulsively, such as sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc? The presence of these self-destructive practices would indicate that addiction treatment is necessary, and my responsibility to you includes mentioning that here.

Since your impulsivity seems to be limited to panicked jealous reactions, what (psychological) purpose might be served by your lack of impulse control regarding your hurtful jealous comments? Clearly, these comments lead you to feel guilt. So, it might be (unconsciously) necessary for you to feel guilty. Another person might feel sad, embarrassed, angry, or many other feelings. Now, what is it about you and guilt? What did you ever do that was so bad that you need to constantly re-experience guilt?

Here's my guess and this is a big leap, so stay with me. One of the pitfalls of on-line counseling is the limited communication. Ordinarily, I'd make an interpretation like this after gathering a lot more information. But, here goes... The thing that happened in your childhood which made you feel insecure (abandonment, rejection, loss, for instance) was something for which you felt responsible. Now, this is a fairly safe guess for me to make, because kids feel responsible (at some level) for everything. Developmentally, children lack the capacity to appreciate the effectiveness of others, due to their egocentric childhood view. So, if something traumatic DID occur in your childhood or infancy, it's likely that you did feel responsible for it.

And you still do. Now, what does that do to your gut? I mean, look at how long you have been punishing you for something you didn't do! My hope is that this letter stirs up something inside you, so that you can now re-organize and make sense of some of these feelings. You might want to use the opportunity that the jealous feelings give you (the near constant reminders, I bet) to examine this bond between insecurity and guilt. You just might begin to feel other feelings for the innocent little girl you were.

Understanding your jealousy for what it is (a means for you to continue to punish yourself) will probably improve all of your interactions with others - not just your relationship with your boyfriend. It hasn't been easy for you to trust anybody! This work might be easier for you to do with the help of a counselor or a support group, such as CODA. (What you, basically, will be doing is using your present-day jealousy to identify the childhood feelings and then, lovingly accepting yourself.) You might be helped by many books available at your library or bookstore. (Just look at the books and allow the "child" in you to select one.) Try not to get discouraged if the "green monster" continues to show her head for a while. Look for progress, not perfection. She's been with you for a long time!

Good luck!

Margaret "Peg" Burr

This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit:


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