At first, it seems fairly innocuous. You’ve just started dating. You love each other’s company. You want to spend every moment together. It’s mutual. It’s normal. You feel so special, because your new guy wants to spend all of his time with you.
Then it starts.
Relationship Jealousy: The Red Flags
You notice that he seems a little too downhearted when you go to visit your family. He seems a little too disappointed when you want to spend time with friends. He seems a little too surprised that you want some time to yourself instead of spending it with him. He seems a little too upset that you need to study. He seems a little too worried that you’re home from work five minutes late. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you start to notice that your relationships with other people are more strained. You begin to feel more distant from other people and the hobbies you once enjoyed. It’s more difficult to block out some quality time to yourself. You feel as though you have to constantly placate and reassure him, justifying everything you do just so he doesn’t feel left out.
Being cut off from other people or activities is a big relationship red flag. You don’t notice this in the early stages of a relationship because the desire to spend as much time as possible together is mutual. This is called the honeymoon phase. It’s an important part of any relationship, but it doesn’t – and shouldn’t – last forever. During this phase of the relationship, you’re far more likely to ignore danger signs that you’d usually be wary of. You put your partner on a pedestal, and convince yourself that you’re over-reacting.
A partner who wants to spend a healthy amount of time with you whilst maintaining other important relationships and activities is sweet. A partner who wants to spend every moment together to the exclusion of everyone and everything else who becomes sullen if you do something without him is not. A partner who wants you “all to himself” is not romantic – it’s dangerous.
All to himself, by definition, means devoid of anyone else. No friends. No family. No colleagues. No random talking to strangers.
All to himself is code for “I don’t trust you enough to have anything to do with other men.”
All to himself is code for “I don’t want you speaking to your friends or family about me, because they know the way I treat you isn’t normal, and they’ll convince you to leave me.”
All to himself is code for “I’m scared that if you spend time with other people, then you’ll have less time for me.”
All to himself is code for “I don’t want you to experience any more than what you already know. If you experience more and discover that it’s better than me, you’ll leave.”
All to himself is code for “I’m terrified I’ll lose you, so I have to know and control your every move to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Wanting to keep someone all to yourself is a sign of massive insecurity. Don’t mistake his over-protectiveness for him caring about you. To him, this isn’t about love. This is a game of power and control. Once you submit to placating your overly jealous partner, you’ve relinquished your power in the relationship. Having to justify yourself becomes a tiring daily normality. While the occasional reassurance is fine, being required to explain your every move to an overly-paranoid partner is not. Tread carefully if you choose to stay. His level of insecurity can propel you headlong into the cycle of emotional abuse. Don’t think that it won’t and can’t happen to you – it can.
By not spending time with other people, you lose the basis of normality against which to compare your relationship. In order to spend an ever-increasing amount of time with your partner, you have to take that time from somewhere else. That place is usually your other relationships. The less time you spend maintaining your other relationships, the weaker the connections become. When you spend most of your time focussing on pleasing your partner at any cost, a dangerous emotional dependence forms. Once this emotional dependence is established, it’s easy for him to start abusing you.
Don’t lose yourself in your relationship. You may think that you’re being the good girlfriend by trying to keep your partner happy, but you’re digging your own grave.
What If I’m Jealous of My Boyfriend?
What happens to fire when it doesn’t have enough oxygen? The flame gets weaker. The more you restrict the oxygen, the weaker the flame becomes. Eventually, the lack of oxygen will smother the fire, and it will die out completely.
Your relationship fire and your boyfriend’s desire for you will suffer the same fate if you don’t chill out and give him some space. You need to realise that while he loves spending time with you, he also loves to spend time with his family, time with his friends, and time to do his own thing. He needs other people, other perspectives, other experiences – just like you do. As much as you may want to provide all of these things for your partner, you can’t provide them all of the time.
Spending time apart is healthy for your relationship. It gives you the chance to miss and appreciate one another more. Like the fire, your relationship needs to breathe to survive. Give it what it needs if you want your relationship fire to keep burning strong.
Readers – what are your tips on dealing with jealousy in a relationship? What helps you to keep the green-eyed monster in check if you are the jealous partner?
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