I’ve been with my boyfriend for four months and he’s been acting more and more jealous. At first, I found it sweet, but this weekend he snooped through my phone and accused me of talking to other men.
I can tell you with complete honesty that I haven’t talked to any other guys… the thought doesn’t even cross my mind. I kept telling my boyfriend that I’m only interested in him, but he seems cold and withdrawn now. It’s like I’m being punished for a crime I didn’t commit.
Is this normal jealousy or is this something beyond? Can you tell me what to do when a guy is jealous?
Some jealousy in a relationship can be fine. You could even go so far as to call jealousy a good sign in certain contexts.
The question is: When is jealousy appropriate, how much, and when is it a good sign?
One of the greatest gifts we get from being in a relationship is that it encourages us to grow in ways that we may not have grown if we were single.
Letting go of my own jealousy issues, insecurities, and fears was part of my own growth in relationships. In my early twenties, the thought of being cheated on was a nightmare scenario for me.
Obviously I wouldn’t be happy with being cheated on if it happened to me now, but I wouldn’t take it personally. I wouldn’t interpret it as meaning something about me, like I was less of a man, a fool, or a chump. It isn’t a worry or fear that keeps me up at night.
Part of my own growth was realizing (really realizing) that the actions of someone else have nothing to do with me… and no impact on my ability to experience happiness, peace or fulfillment.
As with all things in relationships, the most painful areas are the ones where we feel like another person’s actions mean something about us.
These days I have a motto about people and relationships: People will always do whatever they want.
MORE – Ask a Guy: Why Did He Cheat?
Sure, they might feel bad about it afterwards. Sure, they will have some elaborate rationalization for why they did what they did.
Regardless of how they feel afterwards or what they say to explain themselves, the fact remains true for all humans: People will always do whatever they want.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because, before I came to this realization myself, it would have been impossible for me to think about my jealousy rationally.
It is nearly every man’s worst fear to be the chump of a situation.
Sure, it’s true for all people, but it’s the deepest kind of pain for a man when he’s played for a fool, taken advantage of, or gives his heart to someone who toys with it. Most men would rather be single forever than be played as a fool by a woman.
I would even go so far as to say it’s biological.
In psychology studies, it’s been shown that men are most jealous when they believe there’s some physical connection between the woman they’re with and some other man. This could be triggered by that man touching her in some way or giving her a hug.
Women are most jealous when they perceive some sort of emotional connection between the man she’s with and another woman. This could be triggered by him worrying about the other woman’s feelings, him taking care of the other woman in some loving way, or saying something to the other woman in an affectionate manner.
Jealousy is biologically ingrained in us, but that does not absolve anyone from being completely responsible for their emotions and how they act on their feelings.
It is worth pointing out why jealousy is part of our emotional makeup…
Biologically speaking, a man wouldn’t want to fall in love with a woman who cheats on him and is impregnated by another man, and then raise a child or children that are not his genetic seed.
From the perspective of evolution, that man’s genes become extinct from the gene pool. Genetically speaking, this is death – his genes do not pass on, he is weeded out from a future genetic legacy.
Similarly, a woman does not want to be impregnated by a man who then runs off with another woman, leaving her to raise the child on her own. In today’s world, this would be highly inconvenient. Hundreds or thousands of years ago, this was a guaranteed death sentence.
While these scenarios might seem dramatic and extreme in today’s world, jealousy was designed as a guard against the very harsh realities of yesterday’s world.
Most women reading about the scenario of being impregnated and then abandoned would have some powerful emotional reaction to that thought. Maybe anger, maybe horror, maybe despair. In that same way, a man is equally horrified by the thought of raising some other man’s genetic seed.
Bottom line: Jealousy is programmed into us biologically.
At the same time, we learn as children that we can’t throw temper tantrums. We learn how to control our impulsive emotional reactions and respond to things effectively as adults.
In a relationship, it’s our greatest service to one another to compassionately guide our partner through this growth… and to allow them to guide us.
Ultimately, all of us must grow out of, and transcend, our impulsive jealous reactions. However, we might not be there yet… and our partner might not either. Being able to accept your partner where they are in their own growth is a huge part of having a successful relationship.
Furthermore, in my article about toxic relationship signs, I talk about the concept of emotional responsibility. In the article, I state that the only person who can be responsible for their emotions, actions, and reactions is that person and that person alone… nobody else.
So while I’m saying here that a good partnership involves having acceptance and compassion for where their partner is on the growth continuum of embracing complete emotional responsibility, in no way am I saying that their current inability to take total emotional responsibility somehow absolves them of the consequences.
Like I say time and time again, the real world is the greatest teacher of all. Life has a way of teaching you that when you don’t take 100% responsibility for your emotions, actions, and reactions, you end up suffering… and when you do take 100% responsibility for your emotions, you open the path towards ending any and all self-induced suffering… this is true for every human on the planet, including your currently-jealous partner.
Next… you had asked if this is normal jealousy or something more. So let’s talk about signs a guy is jealous and what is and isn’t normal jealousy, as well as where the line is between what’s healthy and unhealthy in a relationship.
In most cases, if a guy is going to show his jealousy, he’ll show it by making some sarcastic comment about another guy or “joking” about you hooking up with that other guy. Some guys will just have the jealous thought internally and then, as a reaction to their jealous thoughts, they go cold to you emotionally. You also might notice his demeanor and actions have a hostile or attacking quality towards you when he’s jealous.
(Note: I’m not saying these common expressions of jealousy are right or wrong… deserved or undeserved… justified or unjustified… I’m just pointing out how it typically shows up so we can talk about it.)
The question is: When is his jealousy going too far? The answer is, when he tries to control you.
Men (or women for that matter) become controlling when they’re afraid of something happening. A guy might be afraid that you’ll cheat on him with a guy friend of yours… so he forbids you from talking to that guy. He might be afraid that guys are chatting with you on Facebook… so he forces you to constantly announce your relationship status on Facebook. He threatens one of your guy friends because he’s afraid you might be attracted to that guy.
Relationships are about guidance, not control. The moment that someone invades your privacy or threatens you with a punishment if you don’t do what they want you to, then they’re no longer a guiding companion in a relationship with you – they are allowing their out-of-control emotions to rule them and, by extension, rule you.
Their emotions are their responsibility. It can’t be any other way.
If you do give in to their demands, you’ll end up losing a part of yourself. They will have effectively taken color out of your world and, as a result, color out of you.
You’ll lose a part of yourself (quite likely the part that attracted them in the first place) and, in an ultimate irony, they’ll end up feeling less attracted to you.
Additionally, you’ll resent them for controlling you, limiting you, and taking away something or someone that you enjoy in your life. That resentment will poison the relationship to some degree . The more control and limitation they successfully impose on you, the more you’ll resent them.
So really, allowing a jealous man to control you isn’t just a bad idea… it ceases to be a relationship at that point.
A relationship is only a relationship when both people realize that they themselves are responsible for their own emotions… and that no amount of control over another person could ever put out the flames of raw, burning, unconscious emotions. The only solution to put out that fire is to shine the line of consciousness onto their own emotional restlessness… and make peace with it.
Relationships require that both people really are ready to have a relationship. It isn’t easy, but refusing to be controlled is actually what’s best for the relationship.
A child might whine and beg for their parent to give them candy all the time… but that’s not what’s best for the child. Sometimes denying what the other person wants is what’s best for the relationship. However, it’s certainly not the easiest choice.
The best choice is to continue being as you are. It’s best to be open to your relationship partner as much as you can be, but in the cases where they want to control you or change you, your best option is to see it as an opportunity to learn how to love and accept you as you are.
If they don’t want to lose you, they’ll grow. If they don’t care if they lose you and would prefer to cling to their emotional reactions/fears/worries, well, then you will have identified that they are not ready for a relationship with you.
Sure, you might have titles, celebrate anniversaries, and buy each other gifts on your birthdays, but those are just surface-level wrapping paper. True relationships require both people to be ready and to have the capacity to compassionately guide one another to grow… not to give into one another’s fear-based demands.
My central point is that you can’t allow controlling behavior into your relationship or it will very quickly lead your relationship into disaster.
When it comes to jealousy, it can be a huge warning sign when