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March 6, 2000   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Allow me to weigh these two options in front of you and let me know if you see the scales tipping one way or another because I am sick of watching them go up and down.

1) My boyfriend is a truly wonderful, generous, and caring person. He is loving, mostly mature, smart, and honest -- trust me on this one, the picture I am about to paint is of his worst side.

2) My boyfriend is the single most insecure -- ergo jealous -- person on the face of the planet.

Now, I know there's jealous and then there's JEALOUS. We have both had our minor difficulties with the little j "jealous" -- this is my first really long-term relationship (the others lasted under two years) and his second; we've both gone overboard on the flirting-with-others thing and ended up hurting the other person. There have been some issues of faithfulness in our past, but we have tried very hard to work past them and to date, we've done pretty well.


He gets jealous of every boy I meet. Always has. Sometimes it's not annoyingly severe. I feel relieved to get a "you don't like that guy, do you?" and a soppy self-deprecating smile after I meet someone a guy my boyfriend can tell I think is interesting or attractive. Then sometimes I get the storm-cloud-overhead boyfriend who won't really talk about what's on his mind, but he only acts this way when he thinks I have found someone attractive.

I feel forced to hide my normal, natural attraction to other people. I mean, sure, if I were walking over to every man I found attractive and pinching his bum, I'd be mad at me, too. But I don't. Nor do I come home from an evening out and talk about all the attractive people I saw there. And yes, I do find other people attractive ... but that doesn't mean I am chasing them. It means, "Wow, someone attractive. How 'bout that?"

My boyfriend gets jealous over guys I am attracted to whom I don't even know, like famous actors and musicians. He was in a pissy mood all last night because I wanted to go see my favorite band at a small enough venue where I might actually be able to walk backstage and meet them. Is he afraid I am going to run off with the drummer whom I think is hot? Last time we saw them together, he was upset for weeks because I had broken off from him and his friends to get closer to the stage. It was my idea to go to the show in the first place and, in my mind, my night. As in for me.

Um, I'm 25 years old; I am in a relatively stable relationship; and I have spent years building a foundation upon which to love and grow with my partner. I doubt the rocker-nookie would be so good that it'd warrant my throwing that all away, and I have told him so. But he actually gets himself into a frenzy about this stuff. He goes over in his mind the possibility that said drummer may become besotted with me within seconds, and I'll leave him (my boyfriend) behind like a nasty ol' pair of shoes. It gets to the point sometimes where I feel guilty about finding someone attractive onscreen or off. How embarrassing to admit to myself that I have lied to my boyfriend about finding, say, someone on must-see TV good-looking. But if I don't, then I'll get "cute" designed-to-get-under-my-skin comments for the next few weeks. Like, said actor comes on TV and I'll hear, "Look, honey, there's that guy you love." ARGH!

What can I do? We have these utterly normal conversations where we talk about this stuff -- jealousy, insecurity, attraction, flirting -- and we both understand that what we feel outside of us is normal and not dangerous and that if it were anything more, then we'd discuss it and work through it as best we could. He and I are absolutely on the same page about this! Then, all of a sudden, he turns in the Incredible Sulk: his jealousy-green muscles pop through his thick skull and talking to him is like yammering at an echoing, fathomless vault filled with mules. I will admit, it's gotten more marked since we've both had our slip-ups within this relationship, but it's always been there in some capacity. You know the whole "you tell someone s/he's stupid/ugly/untalented enough times and s/he's going to believe it" thing? Sometimes I wonder if I didn't take my flirting over the top in the past because he expected me to.

On one hand, he swears up and down that he trusts me and on the other, I get the feeling he's snooping, just looking for stuff to bust me on. He thinks he can sense when something's not right with us. Now, that intuition IS helpful, and I am happy to know he's that in synch even with what's unspoken. And he is often correct about his feelings, but it's not an excuse to go looking for evidence that I am cheating.

I can't live like this; I need to help him understand that I'm not going anywhere with anyone. He knows it's his insecurity, and I have done everything I feel I can to let him know he's my one and only. And at the same time, I don't want to stop looking at other people for the sheer joy of fantasy. I don't want to feel guilty for thinking Edward Norton is a hottie. I don't want to feel bad about drooling over this band I want to go see in concert. I don't want to feel bad when I talk to other real life men -- and I do. Please BG, tell me what you think I can do. Is there any getting through to him?

--Juliet (Some Days Romeo Can Bite Me)

Dear Juliet,

No one should ever feel guilty for thinking that Ed Norton is a hottie, okay? But seriously. I bit my tongue about Benazir Bhutto; various boyfriends have borne the burden of knowledge that they were mere placeholders (pending proposal of David Duchovny, Marc Anthony, Joseph Fiennes, et. al.). (My future stepdad, Denzel -- as Breakup Dad also well knows -- will no doubt introduce me to at least one of them.) Joking aside: yes, boyfriend should lighten up about your imaginary friends.

And about the other boys milling around, well heck: I've read that sometimes -- green glass half full -- men get a little, like, off on the attention other guys might pay to their girlfriends. Because they're the ones who, at the end of the night, get to say, "Yes, she is cool/hot, isn't she? And she's with me."

Still, this one's tricky. Your mention of the band, plus Dr. Buss' theory, reminded me of a pivotal event on Buffy. Willow was right. She saw Oz get all weird and googly over sexy band girl, she got jealous, and again: she had just cause. I'm not saying you have particular designs on a particular someone (or are a werewolf); I'm just saying: could the trail that boyfriend is sniffing actually lead somewhere?

Look, I don't mean to excuse how supremely annoying -- and yes, over the line --  his petulant badgering might be. But is it also shining a hot light on something you (still, or should) feel guilty about? I really don't know. It's just that your remark about his jealousy triggering F-You Flirting in the past seems pretty apt -- are you back on that brink again? Is there a little itch that should be telling you something more than "humans are not naturally monogamous?" I don't mean to suggest that you're, well, a werewolf who can't change her "faithfulness issues stripes." But are you genuinely restless…and letting it show rather than having a talk?

In any case, the jealousy thing has already become a massive power struggle that demands much more halfway-meeting. No fair for him to respond only with "Know you love me, but can't help it" shrugs. Never mind all the lovely stuff about how he's your one and only, tell him it's really not okay for him to bug you about other guys, celebrity or otherwise him. Tell him to bite his green tongue about the dumbass stuff so that if something's truly bothering him, you will actually have the grace and patience to hear him out. Heck, talking to a pro about shoring up his security wouldn't hurt. And again, if you've got a bigger "I want out -- or at least space" issue here, then address that. But no matter what, you, personally, can't fix his deep -- and larger-than-this-relationship -- insecurity. But you can help by making sure your imaginary friends are an issue only in his imagination.

Breakup Girl



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