Here we go.
I love my boyfriend: He’s kind, devoted, helpful, thoughtful and supportive. Met the parents. We’re a newish couple, and I would love to see where this relationship goes. I really love him, but I am struggling, feeling “stuck” in some jealousy issues I can’t seem to move away from.
As with most people, especially “das IT volk,” my boyfriend has his smartphone with him all the time — all the damn time. When I leave the room, he immediately gravitates to it, and regularly checks his Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter accounts.
Lately I’ve been consumed by the worries about his going online and following a work colleague of his on Twitter. The only other people he follows from work are his bosses. She was the first person he immediately began following, although they do not have a Facebook friendship.
At first he told me her tweets were techie (work)-based. They aren’t. It’s basically a lot of personal “banter” (a word he uses to describe their relationship as having) and flirty talk with friends and other people in her industry. And also? She can get kinda spicy.
She’s mentioned going to party cities, crashing parties and made sexual references. I don’t think she’s married (despite my boyfriend’s “70-80 percent certainty” that she was – not that this even makes much of a difference, but I think a single person may flirt differently with the universe than a married person, who might have some ‘splaining to do, Lucy).
I don’t know if these details make a difference, but they help to explain why I’m feeling so wonkly about the whole business of him following her.
My boyfriend and I had the come-to-Jesus talk, where we used humor and warmth and candor; we said we loved each other, but I said that I’m uncertain (insecure) why he follows another girl, especially as much time as he spends online.
What other kind of banter do they exchange on other, private platforms? When I asked him about following the Twitter account, he was calm, denied anything beyond a healthy interest in her and that she’s amusing, so he enjoys following her. “That’s the nature of our industry; a blur in personal and professional,” he said: I will need to get over it. He’s not doing anything wrong.
Did I mention he’s recently working longer hours, too? Boo.
He’s “favorited” a lot of her tweets and (to me) it feels like he’s trying to please and assure her of his interest — to my knowledge, she doesn’t respond publicly to his tweets, but I understand that they have a “fun banter” at work that I am not privy to.
Honestly, in the past, I’ve been in these kinds of work-flirt relationships before that have gone south. So, I have to be careful to identify what is my projection and what is real.
Bottom line: It really rankles me — makes me boil, in fact, as I stroke the lock of his hair and the Cajun voodoo chicken foot I’s been fixin’ to use on him — that he’s spending his private time thinking about somebody he already works with 40 hours a week (we don’t live together), that he is trying to please someone else.
Cary, I know I’m not the only person struggling with “online relationship” jealousy. And, in fact, I have a very real history of jealousy, one I’m working on in group and individual therapy. At one point this weekend he even said when I oh-so-casually questioned him out of the clear blue, “Listen, I don’t want to talk about her anymore.” I love my boyfriend, I so don’t want to mess this up, but I need to move past my funk over this, since he (admirably) stuck to his guns and doesn’t plan to change.
I love this boy, he tells me I’m “the one,” but I need some help identifying skillful ways to move beyond what makes me feel unhappy about a third party, without making him “pay” in the meantime and potentially losing a wonderful boyfriend.
Yuck (but no judgment, right?)
You have a jealousy problem. You’re working on your jealousy problem. That’s great. It’s great that you acknowledge your jealousy problem. Also, you’re not alone with your jealousy problem. Lots of people experience the same thing so you are doing everyone a service by sharing it.
When I say you have a jealousy problem I’m not trying to minimize it or make fun of you, though it may sound like it; sometimes it feels like when we name something we diminish it but I don’t mean to do that. I just mean to indicate that it is a specific thing, with its own boundaries and definition.
It has real physical symptoms — the raised heartbeat, the sweat, the sleeplessness and restlessness, the tension in the body. But it also contains elements of illusion and fantasy. For instance, you may feel that if he were to cheat on you the world would fall apart, or that if this relationship ended then you would be worthless, or some such nonsense. So by naming it I just want to put it on an even footing with all the other phenomena that surround us.
Your feelings are real. So let’s try to simplify it and face some facts: Whenever you are in a relationship there is the risk of infidelity. Your boyfriend might sleep with this woman. Probably not. But he might.
If he did then you might break up or you might stay together. Either way it would not be the end of the world.
Even if he is unwilling to change his behavior to suit you, it is in his power to at least hear you out and show respect for your feelings. At least he can recognize that you have this jealousy thing, you’re working on it, and you’re sharing it with him. It sounds like he has done that, to some degree. Likewise, you can recognize that he is enjoying following this woman’s tweets and doesn’t want to give it up right now. It doesn’t mean he’s going to cheat on you.
People do cheat on their girlfriends. People screw suddenly and without warning and they do it in secret. That’s why towns have motels.
There’s not going to be any immediate fix to this. If this woman took all her clothes off and stood before your boyfriend in a bedroom with the windows open and a nice warm breeze coming in off the bay, where there are sailboats gently rocking, he just might go for it.
But he’s not likely to find himself in a room with her where the windows are open and there is a nice breeze because he’s not the alpha coder. He’s following her, not the other way around.
So keep working on your jealousy issues and try to have a big heart and a sense of humor, and recognize that while no one is safe, and no one is in control, and anything can happen, some calamities are more likely than others.