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Unjustified Jealousy - Two Problems

Karla wrote:

I am seeing this guy I really like but he always gets jealous. Even if I'm talking to a guy I don't even like as a person, he gets all worked up. He realizes that its a bad thing and it is holding both of back but he can't seem to control it.

He told me he has low confidence and self esteem and we are thinking that it has something to do with that. He asked me for help with this problem. I can tell he really wants to get over this but I don't know how to help him. do you have any ideas?

And Moira wrote:

I have been seeing by boyfriend for about a year and a couple of months. He has recently realized that he is in love with me and might want to spend the rest of his life with me.

Because of this he wants to know everything about me, especially the past. Questions like, how many people I've been, did I enjoy it, how many times....questions like that.

I asked him if he wanted me to be honest and he said yes but didn't like the answers. Now we are stuck in this on-going argument about this.

How can I help him get over this? He says he is jealous, but he is the only one for me. How do I get this through his head?

Dear Moira and Karla

First, remember that jealousy is not a rational thing; it can easily destroy relationships, but it is not a deliberate act - no-one chooses to be jealous.

That doesn't mean nothing can be done, but it does mean that you may fail, and in some cases, it is so, so, irrational that professional help is the only hope.

Enough doom and gloom! There are simple acts that can help, and usually do.

First is to be sure you are being entirely honest, and there is no foundation; never confuse irrational jealousy with genuine dishonesty; it can be extremely dangerous.

Second is to be entirely honest anyway. Jealousy is about difficulty in trusting others, so reinforce - by behaviour - the fact of your trustworthiness.

Third is to remember that jealousy forms a vicious circle, feeding on itself; your challenge is to break that circle. As it is an irrational emotion, rational argument is futile, and simply tends to remind and reinforce. Resist arguing about it; try to reist even talking about it - not by refusing or sulking, but by gently reminding him that it's old ground, you've been through it, let's discuss something else.

Fourth, if it's appropriate (it usually is) develop a 'reassurance touch' that is shorthand for 'let's change the subject'; for example, when you've been talking to another man (or there's been a reminder about the past) take his hand and squeeze it lightly, and briefly; at first, reinforce that with words "I'm here for you" "Don't worry" ... whatever, but general 'between the two of you' comments, not directly relating to 'the problem' - so you are acknowledging that there is a problem, but not letting it take over

Fifth, be consistent, gentle, firm but consistent.

Finally, when you do discuss it, remember that its not 'other men' or 'the past' that's the problem, it's jealousy that's the problem. And from time you you can say "How's the jealousy thing going, do you want to talk about it?"

It's not easy, it's never easy. But you both say you men recognise the problem; be sure they accept that it's their problem - but also, be sure they realise the effort you are investing in helping them.

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