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Ask Bish Jealous of Partner’s Friends

my boyfriend met some female friends a few months ago at work and they hang out weekly. it makes me jealous.
I know I should trust him, but I feel so insecure about it. he’s offered to not hang out with them anymore, but then I feel guilty. what do I do?


Thanks for your question.

Jealousy is an issue which happens in most relationships and I think that most people would find it raises difficult feelings for them. I’m not going to sit here and simply tell you not to be jealous or insecure: cos that won’t work. You’ve acknowledged that you are feeling jealous and insecure, I think it’s important that you address it and try to work through and with it rather than see it as a relationship breaker.

People often get jealous because they feel that someone (or something) else is giving their partner (or friend) something that they can’t give or aren’t giving at that moment. Examples: people get jealous of someone’s devotion to a football team or their favourite musicians, people get jealous laughing at their favourite comedian, people get jealous of a friend who gives great advice, people get jealous of film stars or models that someone has a fantasy about.

I think it’s important that you get this point. No matter how amazing a girlfriend you are, you aren’t going to be able to provide your boyfriend with everything in his life that he needs and wants. In my view a romantic relationship can not, and should not, be expected to give us everything we want and need in life (even in monogamous romantic relationships). It’s important to see the ‘you’ as well as the ‘you both’.

These friends of your boyfriend are giving him something that he wants or needs. If the relationship he is having with them is something which you consider to be more than friendship, you should talk. If he’s spending loads of time with them and you feel that you aren’t getting enough time together, you should talk. If he’s spending loads of cash with them and not with you, you should talk. If he’s regularly worse for wear after seeing them, you should talk. You can agree boundaries, which might help with specific fears you have about his friendships. However we all need friends, both in and out of relationships.

This is possibly also a good time to think about you and your friends. Are you keeping up with your friends? Friendships are like any relationship, they need work and maintenance and time: you need to keep putting the time in even when you’re head over heels with someone. Also think about you a bit. How are you feeling about yourself? What kind of wants and needs do you have and who can provide them. What does your boyfriend get from you and what does he get from other people? What do you get from your boyfriend and what can you get from other people.

You mentioned trust. Trust is massive in relationships, but what does that mean and what does it mean for you? I think trust comes from how people behave with each other and it’s a gradual thing that builds up the more we spend time with someone and the more relationships (not just sexual or romantic) we have with other people. It’s a learned behaviour.

For instance, my friends trust me to turn up on time (roughly) when we agree to meet, that’s because I’ve met with them several times and they know that I’m usually punctual and if I’m going to be late I’ll text them. However when I meet someone for the first time they might not trust that I will turn up on time, or that I will turn up at all, but they will use their experience of other people turning up on time to trust that I will too. Then when I do they will trust that I will turn up on time in the future.

So when you’re thinking about trust and your boyfriend you need to think about the whole picture. Do you trust him to turn up on time, do you trust him tell you the truth, do you trust him not to deliberately hurt you? Also think about your experience with trust in the past. Think about where you felt trust with others only for it not to be returned. Has that happened?

A really good way to deal with it is to have a conversation with him about it (which you might have, if he’s offered to not hang out with them any more). It’s important that you make time for this conversation and tell him exactly what it is you fear from him seeing these female friends of these. Try to be specific. What is it that you fear? Work it through for yourself first. Is it that he might find them more attractive than you?

It’s great that you’ve recognised your difficult emotions and that you’ve thought about how to make things better. Certainly spend some time thinking about where they are coming from and try to work through them, but don’t be dragged down by them. Try not to give yourself a hard time about having difficult emotions. Sometimes we just need to see these feelings, give it a nod of recognition and then get on with our day. I’m a firm believer in doing to change what we feel and think.

© Justin Hancock, 2012

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