I have recently started a relationship with a new man. The issue is this: his secretary, my best friend, is absolutely gorgeous. They are both flirts in general (as am I) but she is married and swears there is nothing behind their flirtation (I believe her). I respect him and don't think he would violate their work relationship but I feel jealous nonetheless. I fear that he would prefer to be with her and that he's settling for me because of the situation.
We have all known each other the same length of time but they, because of their work relationship, spend much more time together than do he and I (he's extremely busy and devoted to his work). I'm trying to be rational about this and have said as little as possible to both of them about my feelings (though I did let them both know I feel some jealousy -- I didn't point fingers but blamed myself for being irrational). I am generally fairly confident about my appearance (though I haven't always been that way) when I'm with a new man I get insecure about that and about my personality because I tend towards shyness with a new man. We've known each other 6 months, been dating about 2 months.
Should I be as upset by this as I am (it gnaws at me but I haven't lost too much sleep over it)? What can I do to resolve my feelings without jeopardizing my relationship with my friend and with my man? Rationally I think I'm being silly but this is a gut level reaction -- I'm always jealous of my man -- how do I get to be less jealous?
Junebug, 30-year-old woman
Hello. Thanks for writing.
You say, "I'm always jealous of my man," which certainly shows interesting phrasing. First, there's the word "always," which implies a fixed pattern of behavior and attitude. It might be notable that, even though you are only just beginning to get to know this man, you know how you will act and feel in this relationship, because you are "always" jealous.
I'm suggesting that there may be some unconscious purpose which is being served by always reacting the same way to different men, persons, situations, interactions, etc. What would "always" responding the same way do for you, psychologically?
"Always" being a set way might, for instance, give you some measure of control when you feel vulnerable or insecure. One of the main reasons folks "always" do a specific behavior is to control their environment and to control others. Think about that a minute. How would it feel for you to not have a set pattern of emotions and reactions in a relationship? What would it be like to not "always" repeat what you have done or felt before?
Then there is the word "jealous." It sounds like you have good insight and awareness about this feeling - how it is anchored in low self-worth and fear. What might be the (unconscious) reason you'd choose to visit and revisit these low self-esteem feelings again and again? What is accomplished by doing this to you? I'm suggesting that you might have some early abandonment and rejection issues which have never been resolved, and which keep resurfacing in your love relationships. Most interesting, though, is the phrase "my man," because you state that you have only known this person for two months. I think your use of these words is meant to romantically suggest commitment, sexual monogamy, and union - relationship states which a two month-old dating relationship could not possibly attain.
What would be the purpose of attaching long term (and unrealistic) relationship standards to a new romance? What would be the psychological purpose of making that leap - the one which is implied by referring to a new love interest as "my man"?
"My man" also implies ownership or possession.
What might feeling possessive be about? What impact could that feeling have on the way you feel about yourself in this new relationship? My guess is that you might want to own, and thus, control the person you feel attracted to so that you can control the hurt and insecurity (jealousy) you "always" feel.
Your possessive feelings, like your jealousy, act as damage-control devices. Because you cannot ever "own" another person, your possessive feelings allow you to feel suspicious and demanding and rejected. Likewise, your jealousy allows you to determine just how hurt you will become and to control and limit your vulnerability.
The fact that you have not lost too much sleep over how jealous you feel probably says how effectively the possessiveness and the jealousy are limiting your involvement. In my opinion, you will not make changes (to be less jealous) until you see how counterproductive this is to intimacy, commitment, honesty, caring and real love.
Any psychotherapist can work with you to uncover the sources of your low self-worth which are at the root of these coping mechanisms (which serve to "protect" you from intimacy).
But first, you have to realize that you are worthy of love and acceptance.
Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT