My boyfriend danced dirty to make me jealous

I asked him why he was doing the bump and grind with a woman, and he said he thought it would get him laid.

Published February 20, 2008 11:20AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm one of those people who tend to analyze things. That has caused a problem with my boyfriend and me recently. I'm analyzing my own words even as I type this, questioning whether I should sum up the whole history of our relationship. OK, the summary of my relationship with my boyfriend is the following: We were married for several years, had kids together, divorced, dated around, got back together and have been living with each other in a monogamous relationship for almost two years now.

We went out dancing recently and ran into a friend of his and his girlfriend. I have met and been around her a few times but never had a one-on-one conversation with her and don't know much about her. When we weren't dancing we were hanging out with them, talking with some other people we know, having a good time.

Later in the evening my guy and the girlfriend were dancing; that was not a problem, since I had been dancing with several other people. I noticed the girlfriend was being rather sexy with my guy, running her hands over his upper torso as she was shakin' her thang. I wasn't bothered by the physical factor of the dance and only later mentioned to him that I noticed they were doing the bump and grind because he doesn't usually dance in that fashion. Fast-forward to almost a week later and a question popped into my head ... why would she dance with my boyfriend in such a seductive way?

I brought it up to him and he said she approached him, saying, "Let's make your girlfriend jealous," and he agreed.

I feel I was disrespected in so many ways! This immature 23-year-old girl, who doesn't know anything about me, thought it would amusing to incite jealousy, and my guy went along with it. My friends witnessed it and pointed it out; otherwise I would've missed the whole thing. But I'm glad I know the intent behind the situation. That's what has me so livid: the intent. He said he only went along with it thinking he would get laid. Am I really supposed to believe that? Sounds like bullshit to me, or are guys just that dumb? Or do they just pretend to be dumb when they know they screwed up?

I have made it very clear that I was disrespected in so many ways and he acknowledges it, but the acknowledgment seems more like an "Oh my God, would you please shut up about this" rather than true remorse for blatant disrespect.

How can he admit I was disrespected and then say I'm blowing the whole thing out of proportion? I'm deeply disturbed that he would allow someone to try to fuck with my head. Knowing that she said the words, "Let's make your girlfriend jealous," and that he agreed speaks volumes to me. What do you think?


Dear Analyst,

I think the most likely explanation for what happened between you is that you are both, in the language of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, thinking types. That would explain why it took you a week to gain access to your feelings about this incident. And it would explain why your boyfriend said such an emotionally tone-deaf thing.

In this case, your head told you that there was nothing wrong with him dancing with someone else, since you had danced with others. You made a thinking judgment based on rules of fairness. It may have bothered you but you discounted your own discomfort in favor of the view that what is OK for one person is OK for another. When you saw the young woman touching your boyfriend's chest, you noted her behavior with what seemed to me like clinical detachment. You wondered why she was doing it. I think you knew why she was doing it. She was exulting in her erotic power over your boyfriend. And she was exercising power over you as well, through your boyfriend. I believe you had a gut reaction of jealousy, anger and fear. Being a thinking type, however, you gave these emotional reactions low priority. They were not fully available to you right away. You thought they would go away once you came to see the incident clearly.

Your emotions kept coming up, though, for a whole week. The incident would not subside. Your attempts at analysis could not make it go away because it was not a matter for analysis. You had been insulted or, as you say, disrespected. That is a feeling. Your feelings presented themselves in the form of thinking, but they were feelings. What you felt was jealousy, anger and fear. But you did not express these feelings directly. Instead, you tried to analyze them: Why would your boyfriend do that? Why would she do that?

It didn't really matter why he would do it. What mattered was that it happened, and that you felt a certain way about it. Sometimes our attempts to analyze feelings can be more like an attempt to murder them; we seek to put them in our analytical framework, and if they do not fit, we try to discard them. But in this case, your feelings would not go away. They would neither fit in your analytical frame nor diminish in intensity. And behind this analytical maneuvering was a troubling truth.

The troubling truth was that your boyfriend did this to hurt you, diminish you and gain power over you. No amount of explaining would change that. He had done something to "put you down" and "show you up." (Phrases that imply vertical relationships seem to speak to the unconscious of hierarchy.) He was threatening your place in the hierarchy. He was threatening you with symbolic displacement.

You fought your feelings for over a week. By the time you asked your boyfriend about it, you had been stewing in it. And yet still you did not level with him at first. You did not simply say that you were very hurt and disturbed by what you witnessed. Instead you "brought it up to him," looking for some explanation.

There was nothing to explain. The only thing for him to do was apologize and try to make things right with you. And yet he, being also a thinking type, chose an explanation that had a superficially rational structure and yet was the worst possible thing he could say. He chose, at this crucial moment, to make things worse. He chose to hurt you further, and further erode your confidence about your place in his heart. He cast you as a sexual service provider who could be manipulated into providing services. He cast his own interest in getting laid as more important than your feelings of security and pride. And he did this openly, to your face. He might as well have slapped you.

Now, being a thinking type has advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is that we are often blind to what we are feeling. An advantage, though, is that we can keep our heads through emotional scenes of catastrophic, relationship-ending intensity. We can distance ourselves from our emotions of the moment, weigh the priorities and see, well, yes, my partner is deeply flawed in this area, but we have kids together and we are trying to make a relationship work, and maybe there is a rational response to this.

And there is. A rational response would be to enter couples therapy with someone who understands personality type. In fact, personality type itself is a sort of thinking person's route to the emotional life. Thanks to the deeply intuitive insights of Carl Jung, it has a symmetry and complexity that seduces the intellect into divulging rich emotional treasure.

But whether you work with a couples therapist or not, I would suggest the following:

Ask for 15 minutes of your boyfriend's undivided attention.

Do not insist that he understand and agree with you. Just ask for 15 minutes of time and attention.

Both of you sit down somewhere quiet. Tell him that you were hurt by what he did. Don't try to make him understand why you were hurt. Just allow your feelings to surface. There may be anger, fear, grief, sadness, outrage, confusion. Let them surface. Be in the room with him and your feelings.

You can't undo what's done. You can't change your boyfriend's emotional makeup. But you can have the satisfaction of being heard.

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