Dear Maria,

Help! My boyfriend is a jealous son-of-a-gun. He gets impatient and doesn’t trust some of the guys I hang out with. We usually end up fighting. He has trust issues from past relationships, and I don’t know how to get him to trust me. What’s your advice?


Guy Troubles

Dear Guy Troubles,

In the movie When Harry Met Sally, they argue the question of whether or not a man and a woman can be friends:

Sally says, “Yes.” Harry says, “No. Because,” he explains, “the sex part always gets in the way.” Not that sex is the issue in your case, but Harry’s defense of the male perspective is a clue into your boyfriend’s feelings. You’re not having sex with these other guys, but your boyfriend is afraid you might, or might want to someday, or you’ll fall for one of these guys and leave him behind. AND, he’s aware of what these other guys might be thinking. Because maybe he has the same thoughts. So, your boyfriend is experiencing a lot of pre-anxiety over things that may never happen. Many of us are guilty of this in life: anticipating and fretting, instead of calmly assessing the circumstances.

If you’ve explained to him that he has nothing to fear, and you have been upfront about the time you spend with these guys, then I’m not sure what more you can do to shore up his trust. You can’t get in his brain and redirect his thoughts; only he can do that. I don’t know how long you’ve been dating, or if you’ve discussed being in an exclusive relationship? If you’re already fighting about this, that’s not a good sign. He may be a “jealous type,” indicating an attempt at emotional control that’s not healthy. Or, he may just be a guy who’s scared he’ll lose someone he likes a lot.

You’re smart to pay attention to how you respond to his jealousy. (Take a look at these insights from Psychology Today magazine.) If you’re feeling trapped by it, and like you’re in a no-win situation, then you may need to cool it with him. If he’s making a genuine effort to understand and accept that you have a wide circle of friends and intend to keep it that way, that’s a good sign. How about inviting him along on some of these get-togethers? If you don’t want to, that’s something you need to be honest about with yourself. In other words, if you don’t feel you can be yourself, or are afraid he’ll see something that he won’t approve of, then maybe you’re not comfortable with him as your significant other. Or with having a significant other at this time.

My husband and I can tell you, after nearly 25 years of marriage, that you’ll still be attracted to other people even if you’re in a committed relationship. It’s how you handle those feelings that matters. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid doing or saying anything that your spouse or significant other couldn’t see or hear. But, you’re not at that level of commitment with your boyfriend. You’re enjoying spending time with and getting to know many people. What you both want are good things. It’s possible you do not want the same thing at the same time. Here’s a song that ponders bad timing and jealousy:

Above all, it’s imperative you take care of yourself in this situation. If you find his reactions escalating into violence or emotional abuse, seek help immediately. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 or visit them online for these tips on Safely Reaching Out for Support.