In this week’s Ask Sally Column, Emily from Birmingham, 36 says she gets so jealous when her boyfriend goes out or away it’s almost broken up their relationship
My problem is I’m very, very jealous when my husband goes out without me. We recently got married and he got divorced two years and a half ago. I’m 36 and he is 40, with two young kids who are adorable. Our relationship as a family is great, we all get along, ex-wife included. What scares me is my jealousy. It makes me panic. He is going on a stag weekend soon and I feel scared that he will flirt with other women or cheat on me. We have argued about this in the past and it almost ended our relationship. So I put myself together and started working on it and it worked very well, until now. I feel like this time I can’t pass it. I’m scared so much I cry. I haven’t told my husband how I feel because I don’t want him to go out and think of me panicking at home while he’s out. I really need help. I really do.
Yes, you do really need help Emily but first of all I would like to acknowledge the gutsy and the emotionally smart way in which you are facing up to this destructive element of your personality, and working hard at reducing its influence on your life. There are few more toxic emotions than jealousy. For the jealous person, it can cause untold amounts of distress, hijacking normal thoughts and emotions to the extent that at times, functioning in every day life becomes a struggle.
There are few more toxic emotions than jealousy – and it’s a myth that it’s flattering
And it’s a myth that jealousy is ‘flattering’ for the person on the receiving end. When someone feels jealous of you, they’re actually thinking the worst of you, by insinuating that you are weak-willed, easily led, untrustworthy or liable to lie. Jealousy can slowly poison even the healthiest of relationships.
You say you’ve managed to successfully ‘work on’ your jealousy until it raised its ugly head again at the prospect of that modern monstrosity, the stag weekend. It’s a mystery how in the past decade, the stag do has mutated from a few pints in the pub the night before the wedding to a full-blown, alcohol-soaked weekend bonanza, often in another country. Very few women gleefully wave their partners off to a weekend that involves huge amounts of booze, potentially scantily-clad women and a pack mentality that brings out their inner teenager. But I have yet to meet a man who actually enjoys these events. Chances are by Sunday night, he’ll be limping home with a crippling hangover, appalled at how much money the whole miserable event cost, and desperate to see you and get back to the family life that you have described as ‘great’.
by Sunday night, he’ll be limping home with a crippling hangover, appalled at how much money the whole miserable event cost, and desperate to see you and get back to the family
But let’s look at two ways this weekend could pan out for you. In scenario one, as the weekend approaches, you become more and more tense and upset, and express your disapproval through frosty silences or irritability. By the time your husband goes away, you’re barely on speaking terms. You spend the whole weekend torturing yourself with fantasies of what he may be up to, moping around the house, seething with a mix of resentment, misery and fear. When your husband arrives home, tired and looking forward to seeing you, he’s met with a wall of hostility and rejection which inevitably ends in an argument. It creates a rift between you which takes weeks to fully repair.
Here’s another way this scenario could play out. As the weekend approaches, you make a conscious effort to think the best of your husband. You treat him as a person you trust 100 per cent. You remind yourself that he loves you, because you’re a fantastic, extremely lovable person that he is lucky to have married. You think about what a great team you make and how you have managed to create a happy family together and – no mean feat – even get on with his ex-wife.
Then you decide what you’re going to do with your free weekend and plan lots of fun, sociable activities, like catching up with a great friend you don’t see enough of, treating your mum or granny for afternoon tea, or inviting a group of girlfriends round for dinner. You relish the idea of a weekend to yourself, to do your favourite exercise class, read a book, go shopping, catch up on Netflix or have a pedicure. You chat about what you’ve got planned with your husband and ask him about the plans for his weekend, keeping it light and laughing about how the best man has designed naff group T-shirts, or your man has to share a room with the snorer of the group.
Then, while your partner’s away, you focus on immersing yourself in your weekend, and do not allow yourself to conjure up fantasies about what your husband may or may not be up to. When he arrives home, you’re relaxed, happy and pleased to see him. When he tells you how much he missed you, you believe him and tell him how much you missed him too. He is reminded of the warm, vibrant, grounded woman he fell in love with and how lucky he is to have married you.
while your partner’s away, you focus on immersing yourself in your weekend, and do not allow yourself to conjure up fantasies about what your husband may or may not be up to
Hard as it may be to believe right now Emily, you can choose scenario two, even if at times, it may feel a bit fake. That’s OK – recent research has shown that you really can ‘fake it till you make it’; if we act self-confident and happy, we will eventually feel that way, as our brains hate ‘cognitive dissonance’ and will produce emotions that match our actions.
In the longer term, keep ‘working on’ those jealous feelings. You don’t say how you’ve been doing that, but I hope that means boosting your self-esteem, so that you can believe that you are worthy of this man’s undivided love and fidelity. Here are some good self-esteem boosters – be as kind to yourself as you are to other people; do something you enjoy at least once a day; spend time with people who make you laugh; get fit; think about what really matters to you in life and how much of your day-to-day routine reflects that; find something that challenges you, like a new sport or hobby.
working on’ those jealous feelings means boosting your self-esteem, so that you can believe that you are worthy of this man’s undivided love and fidelity
I want to leave you with a thought – what if you made a decision today to start treating your husband with 100 per cent trust? It’s not being naïve or a mug. It’s about setting the standard for your relationship. You can’t control how another person behaves but you can communicate what you expect from them, and what you’ll give in return.
what if you made a decision today to start treating your husband with 100 per cent trust?
At the moment, by acting jealously, you’re communicating, ‘I expect you to flirt and potentially be unfaithful the first chance you get.’ It may seem counter-intuitive, but by acting as if you trust your husband 100 per cent, you’re communicating, ‘I trust you implicitly because I expect you to be 100 per cent faithful and committed to you.’ One of the most wonderful things about a healthy marriage is that it motivates us to be the best person we can for our partner. But your husband must feel like there’s little point in that, because you’ll think the worst of him no matter what he does. Isn’t it time you gave him the chance to be the best for you.
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Sally Brown, is Healthista’s resident therapist and agony aunt. She loves finding out what makes people tick and will winkle out your life story if you sit next to her at a dinner party. She feels lucky to make a living from hearing those stories, and helping people make sense of their lives and reach their true potential. Registered with the British Association of Counselors and Psychotherapists, which means she has the qualifications and experience to work safely and effectively, she also writes about emotional and psychological health for the national press. Find out more at therapythatworks.co.uk.