Can You Lessen That Jealous Feeling?

Hi Lorelei, I’m a female in a longterm, serious, 7 year relationship with my boyfriend. Throughout our relationship he has never had a close female friendship up until this past year. I have also never experienced real jealously within our relationship until their friendship became close. My boyfriend is incredibly loyal, honest, and faithful, and I know any jealous feelings I experience is my own thing, and nothing to do with his intent or actions. They hang out alone regularly, typically at bars. I have always been clued in on every aspect of their friendship, and have tagged along with them a few times, when my work schedule permits. His female friend respects our relationship and we genuinely like each other, but the friendship between my boyfriend and her is close, whereas her and I are not close friends. I know their relationship is fully platonic but I still experience frequent, small surges of jealously. When I have these feelings of jealously they are very short lived, and I am typically able to be rational and counter my irrational feelings. For example, when they tell each other “I love you,” I’ll remind myself its completely in a platonic context, even though it feels icky to know they say that to each other. What makes me feel uneasy is the level of an emotional bond they share, although I know my boyfriend’s emotional attachment to me, and what he shares with me, is certainly more and different than what he experiences with her. 
I recently told my boyfriend that I have been experiencing jealously of his relationship with his friend, although this is something I have kept mostly to myself, because I know my feelings are irrational. But I thought he should know how I was feeling, as he would want to know. He started by saying something to confirm my irrationality, insinuating that they weren’t that close. He also mentioned that I only feel this way because she was female and it shouldn’t matter about her gender, which I agree. I then said “I think what makes me feel jealous is that you guys have an intimate relationship.” And he responded “Well yeah, you’re not always fully present when we’re talking.” This really hurt, him insinuating an emotional need was being met by her that I wasn’t meeting. As hurtful as this was to hear, it is now something I can work on. My boyfriend has had several close male friends screw him over in the past, as he gives his all to his friendships, as he understands the value of close friendships, but his past friends have not. Overall, despite my jealously, I am happy he has her as a friend (which I’ve told him), because she reciprocates the value of their friendship unlike his male friendships of the past. I was hoping from some input from you on how to lessen these feelings of jealously, because although I can mostly talk them down, I’m tired of experiencing these feelings so frequently. If I know rationally and truly that there’s nothing to be concerned with their friendship, why can’t I stop experiencing these feelings so often? Unfortunately I can’t talk to my best friend about this for her support because she is more jealous of a person than I am, and would likely not allow, for lack of a better term, her husband to ever have a close female friend. So I don’t think she could give me objective feedback and would likely make me more anxious and jealous than actually help. Is jealously a feeling you can lesson its frequency?

You said “I know” throughout your question quite a few times, and I think it’s important:

  • I know any jealous feelings I experience is my own thing
  • I know their relationship is fully platonic
  • I know my boyfriend’s emotional attachment to me
  • I know rationally and truly that there’s nothing to be concerned with their friendship

I’m not sure you know these things, reader. I think you are looking for relief in them. Your boyfriend isn’t just insinuating that his emotional needs are being met elsewhere. He’s spelling it out for you by saying that “you are not fully present” and (so) he’s seeking out that emotional support elsewhere.

It’s a poor excuse to minimize your very real feelings of concern here. When we lack something in our relationship, when our emotional needs aren’t being fully met, we should come to our partners and find ways to meet those needs together. I think what you’re doing, and what others may try to excuse, is the fact that in monogamous relationships it’s perfectly acceptable and important to have good, strong friendships. Even friendships that satisfy some emotional needs that your relationship doesn’t fulfill. But it should be fairly clear when that friendship crosses the line and it seems to me like this one did a while ago.

He might not even fully recognize this himself, but I’d trust your instinct. If he’s going to her for emotional support and telling her that he loves her and you’re feeling a distance in your relationship, that’s not okay. He should validate your concerns. I would hazard a guess that there is an emotional bond forming there in place of him doing the hard work of repairing whatever it is that has prevented him from being able to talk to you. Instead of confronting that, he’s putting it on you. You’re not always fully present relieves any responsibility on him to share those difficult feelings.

It’s hard to tell our partners difficult things. Often times that moment slips by when we first feel it. She’s not as attentive as she used to be, but that’s okay. She’s a little distant lately, but that’s okay. She doesn’t seem to care as much as she used to, but that’s okay. Then we normalize. We weren’t getting exactly what we needed but it feels normal now. Maybe he needed something specific and it felt too late to explain to you what exactly that was. Maybe he didn’t even know what it was. Maybe he said hello one night to his friend and she said exactly the one thing he’d been waiting to hear and it just felt like applying a cold pack to a hot burn. And so he went back again, and again, and again, looking for that relief, because it was easier than figuring out why he couldn’t talk to you anymore.

In ethically non-monogamous relationships we might go deeper into themes of compersion. Compersion is sometimes referred to as the opposite of jealousy. A warm, happy feeling you get when your partner is happy even if you aren’t the one making them happy. It’s seeing your partner with their other girlfriend and feeling contented that they are in love with someone else because it makes them happy. A lot of people in non-monogamous relationships strive for this feeling of compersion because they, like you, realistically understand that jealousy is a normal emotion. They want to move past that jealousy and seek peace. That’s not always realistic, and in monogamous relationships, the bonds that are acceptable are different than the bonds in non-monogamous relationships.

Finally I’d consider (and this is also often a topic in ethical non-monogamy) the possibility that he’s experiencing some NRE (New Relationship Energy.) Sex & Love writers talk a lot about how NRE is experienced in romantic relationships. Sometimes it’s experienced in new friendships too. It’s that burst of energy and excitement you feel when you meet someone new and you really really click with them. It’s that feeling in the honeymoon period, that rush of hormones, that feel-good feeling. If your partner is feeling that with this girl, romantically or otherwise, it could be pulling his attention away from you.

Maybe he really is just friends with her. Maybe she just gives him a little extra of whatever he’s missing right now. Maybe it’s not romantic in nature. Maybe their love is platonic. But the way it’s making you feel, and his flippant reaction that makes you feel to blame, isn’t okay.

Move the conversation away from his friend and the jealousy you feel. These are symptoms of something bigger. It’s time to sit down and talk to your boyfriend about how your relationship is changing and how you can get back on the same page again.

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