As much as you want to be the chilled out girlfriend, chances are you’ve felt a pang of jealousy related to your BF at least once.
Take me for example. I like to think I’m pretty laid back. But a few weeks ago, I saw a photo of my boyfriend kissing another girl on Facebook from eight years ago, flipped out, and made him delete it. That was pretty nuts! What a crazy day, huh?
Looking back on it, I get that I did this out of insecurity. I didn’t actually think my boyfriend was secretly looking back at that old photo every day, pining to get back with the person he dated like 10 girlfriends ago. But I was in a touchy mood, I guess, and my insecurity got the better of me.
After that, I wanted to learn more about the roots of relationship jealousy and how to overcome it. So I talked to relationship expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein for some pointers. Here’s what she said.
1. Understand jealousy comes from insecurity.
Like so many other relationship problems, jealousy stems from good, old-fashioned insecurity. You might be feeling bad about yourself or your relationship — or even fearful of losing your partner.
“The first thing is to work out where that insecurity’s coming from,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Maybe you’re not feeling good about your body at the moment. You’re feeling down — ‘oh, he must be flirting with someone because I’m not good enough.’”
The issue could also come from a worry that he’s not into the relationship the way you are. Maybe his lack of PDA is making you worried, so seeing him pay attention to another girl triggers a fear that he isn’t interested.
“If you’re looking at your partner right in front of you putting his hand on another girl’s back, you will get jealous because all of a sudden you have a fear of losing something,” Dr. Goldstein said.
2. Separate your anger and frustration from what’s causing the jealousy.
So your boyfriend’s female friend texted him something flirty, and you saw it and flipped out. Your anger and frustration are totally normal in this situation — but immediately acting on those feelings probably won’t solve anything.
“Anger and frustration can be very confronting emotions for the person on the receiving end,” Dr. Goldstein said. “When someone’s angry at you or acts out at you, the first thing someone will do is get defensive or withdraw. And that’s only going to fuel the fire.”
Before you know it, it’s turned into a blowout fight and no one’s going to come out of it without hurt feelings.
So a better approach is to take a deep breath and figure out the reason why you’re feeling insecure about the text message, or whatever’s prompting the issue. Easier said than done, of course, but if you can keep yourself from defaulting to anger and frustration, you’ll end up having a productive conversation about your relationship instead of a shouting match.
3. If you need to, walk away and do something else before having the talk.
Even if you catch your boo in the sack with someone else, Dr. Goldstein says anger isn’t the wisest course of action. Instead, go talk to a friend or spend some time alone to assess exactly how you feel about the situation.
“That quick anger/frustration response will be at the top of your brain, and you’re acting on a really basic emotion so you may end up doing something that can come back to bite you,” Dr. Goldstein said.
For example, if you’re really in a rage, you might end up saying something nasty about whatever girl has inspired your jealousy — which will only make you feel worse in the long run and could even come back and bite you in the ass.
Avoid this by approaching the situation with a clear head, as hard as that may sound.
4. Know that even if you can approach the situation maturely, your boyfriend might not.
I mean, this isn’t really news to anyone. But a lot of guys can shut down when they feel attacked. There’s a chance your boyfriend will react with anger and frustration, even if you’re being calm.
With this in mind, Dr. Goldstein suggests making sure the time is right for your partner to talk about the situation, too. So if you’re feeling totally zen and ready to have an honest convo about your relationship, and your boyfriend just got home from the worst work day of his life, maybe you should wait a few before confronting him about that comment he made about your friend’s appearance the other day.
5. Think back to similar past situations.
Maybe last month you watched your boyfriend getting friendly with someone at after-work drinks and you didn’t care, but this month he did the same thing and it bothered you.
What’s the difference? Maybe this month you’re not feeling as secure about the relationship for whatever reason. Maybe you just had a bad day so you were extra sensitive. Maybe he did something that reminded you of a past boyfriend who wasn’t faithful.
Or maybe he was being inappropriate and crossing a boundary you’d established. Whatever the case, the more soul-searching you do on this before talking to him about it, the more productive your talk will be.
Speaking of boundaries, that brings us to our next point…
6. Establish boundaries ahead of time.
If you’re not cool with your boyfriend hanging out with other girls one-on-one, but he’s used to hanging out with female friends, he really has no way of knowing that that’s an issue for you. So you two need to establish whether it’s okay for him to continue doing that now that you’re an item.
Similarly, if you’re used to having guys like and comment on your Instagram posts and he’s never been with a girl who kills it on social media before, he’s going to want to talk to you about what it means and whether he should be worried.
If you and your partner can establish what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable within your relationship, it’ll be way easier to sort through your feelings later on when you feel jealous, Dr. Goldstein points out.
For example, maybe you’ve told him that you don’t like him texting other girls and he has accepted that and told you he won’t carry on text conversations with other girls. If he then goes and texts some other girl while you two are together, he’s clearly crossed a boundary. At that point, it’s not an issue of jealousy — it’s an issue of him violating a rule that the two of you had previously agreed on.
That’s way easier to troubleshoot than a vague “I’m mad, WTF is wrong with you?”
7. Explain your feelings in specific terms.
Once you’ve determined the right time and gotten yourself in the right headspace to talk about what’s bugging you, be as specific as possible about what you’re feeling and why you think you’re feeling it.
Don’t say “you’re making me jealous,” Dr. Goldstein said. Say, “I saw you getting friendly with someone else and it’s not making me feel good.”
“Especially when talking to a male, sentences like that are easy understand and they won’t [react] as defensively if you phrase it like that,” Dr. Goldstein said. “It’s not saying you should be blaming yourself for the jealousy, but more understanding where it’s coming from.”
8. Be prepared to put your feelings into context.
As I pointed out to Dr. Goldstein, many guys’ go-to response to a conversation about jealousy will be “you’re crazy.” It’s fucked up, it’s not fair, and it’s often rooted in sexist attitudes (even though in our opinion dudes can be way crazier than girls). But it happens.
The best comeback to a garden variety “you’re crazy” accusation is context. Explain to him the facts behind your feelings. If he’s been acting weird, or spending a lot of time with another girl, or not being as affectionate with you as he used to be, you’re not crazy for wanting to understand what’s going on.
Most of all, though, know that you’re not crazy, he’s just being a baby and trying to deflect blame. And the best way to counteract that is with reason.
9. If he says everything’s cool and you still can’t shake the feeling, do more self-exploration.
As mentioned in the first point, jealousy usually comes from some other insecurity.
“A lot of women might feel insecure about their body or not happy in life and they act out in a secondary way,” Dr. Goldstein said. “They don’t feel pretty or sexy or happy in their relationship and will cope with that in another way.”
For that reason, Dr. Goldstein suggests you ask yourself questions like, “How am I feeling about this relationship? How do I feel about myself?How do I feel about my relationship? Do I feel supported in this relationship?”
If you’re not happy with yourself or in your relationship, then that’s the issue — not jealousy or a flirty text.
10. Be careful about taking advice from others.
I know, that’s pretty ironic in an article that’s built on advice for getting over jealousy.
But none of your friends will understand what’s going on in your relationship, and they especially don’t know your innermost insecurities.
Take what your friends say into account since they know you best, but trust your own instincts when it comes to diagnosing your own relationship. Everyone has different boundaries and rules for what’s acceptable. Honor yours, not someone else’s.
11. If you still can’t get over it, it might be time to call it quits.
If after looking deep within yourself and talking to your partner you really can’t shake feelings of jealousy, maybe something’s really wrong.
Maybe his relationships with other girls really are inappropriate and he refuses to change his ways. Or maybe you know intellectually that he’s not doing anything wrong, but you still fly into a jealous rage whenever you see another girl look at him.
“If you’re sitting there and jealous about his relationship with a coworker, it’s only going to get worse and worse and worse,” Dr. Goldstein said.
Do something before you react in a secondary way, like flirting with someone in front of him or snapping at him.
Or if it keeps happening, figure out if you want to stick around or not.
“If you have no motivation to work this out and can’t get over [your jealousy], that’s when you need to question why you’re in this relationship,” Dr. Goldstein said.
12. Know that your jealousy isn’t going to keep your boyfriend from cheating on you.
It’s hard to trust someone in a relationship. It really is. But here’s the thing: your jealousy has no bearing on whether your boyfriend will cheat on you. If he’s gonna cheat, he’s gonna cheat, and no amount of freaking out on your end will prevent it.
Looking over your boyfriend’s shoulder at every text won’t make his female contacts disappear. Questioning him about his coworkers won’t make them flirt with him less. Obsessing over his female friends won’t keep them from developing feelings for each other.
At the end of the day, a cheater is a cheater and a good guy is a good guy. Your jealousy has no bearing on whether or not your boyfriend’s going to cheat on you — obsessing over whether he’s being faithful is only going to drive you nuts. So if you’ve taken all of this advice and you still can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong, get out of there and find a guy you can trust.