The other day my boyfriend and I were hanging out, and I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone when I saw a picture of a former classmate with a 43 pound bass he had caught. “Look at this!” I exclaimed to my boyfriend. He didn’t seem impressed with the catch, but instead was preoccupied by the guy. “Who is that?” he asked. “A guy I went to school with,” I said. “Sure…” He looked skeptical.
We started teasing each other about our Facebook friends, saying that we couldn’t “stalk” each other’s Facebook pages because it makes us too jealous to see members of the opposite sex “liking” or commenting on pictures or posts. It may sound silly, but the truth is that we both get a little paranoid about Facebook, because we’ve both been cheated on.
A few years ago, I went to work as usual, but I got off early. I came home and saw a friend’s car in the driveway. I walked in on my boyfriend and my friend putting their clothes back on in a hurry.
That experience alone was enough to make me struggle with jealousy in the relationships I’ve had since then. I have such a vivid imagination of what could go wrong and that’s often what keeps playing in my head. If I’m at work and I know that my boyfriend’s ex is dropping their son off or picking him up, that’s what I’m thinking—that she better not be in his house, or in his bed.
It’s not that my boyfriend has done anything in particular to make me lose trust. But my past relationships haunt me and make me worry, even when there are no warning signs.
So what can my boyfriend and I do to stop feeling jealous and instead feel more secure in our relationship? I came up with three ideas.
1.) Know that it takes time and teamwork.
I thought that last month’s post by Julia on “What To Do When Trust Is Broken?” was really helpful. It reminded me that rebuilding trust takes time—it’s not an overnight thing. So I shouldn’t be discouraged when it seems like I’m not making that much progress. I can be patient instead of expecting complete trust right away. I also liked that Julia wrote about how “it takes two,” because you can’t have one person doing everything and the other person not doing anything. Working through trust issues is a team effort.
2.) Use common-sense and keep boundaries.
With my current relationship I am trying to think about him, not just myself. This means that I won’t do anything that I wouldn’t want my boyfriend to do to me. For example, I wouldn’t like it if a girl stopped by to hang out with my boyfriend while I was at work. So I wouldn’t do that to him. In order to respect each other, neither of us hangs out with people from the opposite sex without the other being there. On Facebook, if a guy messages me, I let my boyfriend know. I don’t want to keep it from him, because I don’t want him to think that I’m hiding something from him when I’m not. If someone keeps commenting or messaging and seems interested in you, make it clear that you are taken and don’t keep messaging back and forth if you notice that things are more than platonic. It sounds simple, but setting up these little boundaries can help us to slowly overcome our trust issues.
3.) Take a break from technology.
Instead of scrolling through your news feed and facing the temptation to compare yourself to everyone else, turn off your phones and just be with each other.
The other day my mom babysat my kids so that my boyfriend and I could go fishing, just the two of us. On the way I had a lot going on in my head. I told him about how I was feeling jealous. I was trying not to, but the past was rearing its ugly head. It upset him that I felt that way, but he tried to reassure me and to understand. When we got to the river it was too high because of recent rain so we weren’t actually able to fish (sorry, no 43 pound bass for us!). But we made the best of it and went to the swimming pool instead.
We didn’t resolve our jealousy overnight, but by talking about the problem together and spending time together doing something fun, I know that we took a step in the right direction. And we will continue to take those little steps in order to overcome jealousy and build trust.