“I’m jealous and insecure. Can you help me?”

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

“Who’s this?” I ask him, hand shaking as I hold the phone, complete with text that I definitely wish I hadn’t read. It’s the first time in my life that I realise I’m jealous. Until then I had never expected to be. He shakes his head in reply, mumbles, and tells me that he fucked her.

Years later, I ask a different someone “Who’s she?”

She is outgoing. Loud, funny, brash, filthy: she’s his friend. I’m jealous, but I won’t let it get to me, because although we fuck and laugh and love, he is definitely not my boyfriend, and I’m not allowed to pry.

Later, when I speak to her, she tells me he’s a great kisser, and I smile and pretend it doesn’t hurt.

__

One Monday morning, I return from a weekend away. A guy who was almost my boyfriend has a girlfriend now. I try not to think about the sex we’ll have to stop having: instead I run through all the things he used to whisper to me in the middle of the night. Read old texts in which he told me he missed me, and wonder how I could have judged this one so wrong.

__

I leave the pub to go for a cigarette, and someone else steps out to join me. When we return, he’s there – with a different her. They are leaning over the table, hands clasped together, sharing an intimate kiss.

On the way home he laughs at me, and ruffles my hair: “Why do you have to be so jealous?”

__

Fast forward, then, through more events like this. Pause at a time when I am constantly on edge.

I’m jealous, and this is a permanent state. It’s a part of who I am now. Ugly and weird and corrosive. His love of secrets pours oil onto the troubled waters of my own anxious insecurity, and these things combine to make me monstrous. Boring. Repetitive.

On a weekly basis I whine to him “Who’s she?” and then wish I could cut out my own tongue.

__

The man who tells me he loves me tells his friends he’s never been in love. But is it any wonder he doesn’t love me? I’m jealous and insecure.

__

“Can I come along?” I ask him, as he gets dressed for a night on the town.

“No,” he explains, with a hint of exasperation. “These are my outside friends. I want to keep them separate. You know that.”

I don’t say “I’m jealous and insecure, can you help me?” because he knows that I am, and he won’t.

“I’m jealous and insecure. Help me?”

In between each of these incidents, with each different guy, I come up with rituals and plans to try and stave off the way that I feel. I remind myself that they love me, if they do. I make plans with my best friend, who can always be relied on to distract me with cider and dancing and flirting and joy that is almost enough to wrench my mind away from images of him fucking her. Whoever each of them may be at the time.

I don’t tell you these stories to solicit pity or kindness: I don’t deserve any. I have lied and I have cheated and I have done bad bad things behind the backs of men who loved me. I’ve read emails and texts. I’ve bitched about good men. I’ve wept on friends when I knew things were mostly my fault.

I’m jealous and insecure, and I don’t know how to deal with it.

One more story. A new someone.

He’s told me something that triggers all my jealous instincts. My stomach churns and I bite my lip and I do everything I can to hold back the voice that wants to scream “Who’s she?”

I block out the images that hurt me. Not ones of them fucking – I’ve learned quite well how to deal with those, twisting them into stories that allow the hotness to shine through, and the pain to recede to almost nothing. No, not pictures of them fucking, but pictures of them talking. Without me. Sharing secrets I will never be a part of, and laughing that I will never be inside their special, secret group.

Him texting her things that would make him mumble awkwardly if I happened to glance at the screen of his phone. Him sneaking a kiss in the pub while I have a quick smoke outside. Him telling me she’s an outside friend, and I won’t be joining them for drinks.

Telling her he doesn’t know what it feels like to be in love.

And I don’t say “Who’s she?” because I know. I don’t say “stop seeing her” because that would be monstrous. My instincts, which used to be fresh and innocent and laissez-faire, have become warped and ugly and poisonous. So I take a deep breath and try to banish the jealous twenty-four-year-old who lives inside my head. I hail the rational thirty-four-year-old that he’s helped me to nurture. And instead of “Who’s she?” I say this:

“I’m jealous and insecure. Can you help me?”

I don’t ask because I’m wise now, and I’ve got everything sorted. I ask because I’ve worked hard to teach myself the right question, and I’m finally at the point where I can say it without stumbling.

More importantly, I ask because I know he won’t mock me or tell me off, or treat me like my feelings don’t matter. He won’t sigh or roll his eyes or ruffle my hair and make me feel silly.

He shuffles position so he can look directly into my eyes, places his hands on my shoulders and takes a deep breath. He tells me he loves me. He looks worried and pale. He strokes me and holds me and he pours out all his feelings.

He says “I love you. I. Love. You.

“You aren’t mad or wrong to feel this way, and I’m glad you told me – thank you. Let’s see what we can do to make this better…”

 

I’m jealous and I’m insecure, but I think I’m in safe hands – his and mine.

19 Comments

  • fuzzy says:

    I thank the small gods that I have lived long enough to be like the him at the end, because I have loved my secrets and while it would be a lie to say that I’ve never ever been jealous, most often I’m simply envious and my jealous bone is small and gets triggered about as often as my funny bone.

    But the greatest accomplishment is to be able to say it when you hurt, to be vulnerable and honest, “I’m jealous and insecure. Can you help me?” Because while I’m almost never jealous, insecurity is my frequent companion and admitting it is hard.

  • Golden Hare says:

    That’s beautiful.

  • Elphaba says:

    Good love is secure. What a horrible man.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Who’s horrible? I’m a bit worried because I don’t want to portray any of the men I have been with as terrible people. The dudes I wrote about at the start both made mistakes, as I’ve made loads of mistakes across all my relationships. Maybe I should have made that clearer in the piece- the main thing I wanted to highlight was how I think (hope) both I and the guy I’m with today have learned better ways to deal with some of the situations we get into and the emotions that arise from them.

  • J says:

    Great piece. What would you have adviced to your 24 year old self now?

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hmmmm that’s a really good question. It’s hard to work out what I’d have told her, because I suspect she wouldn’t have listened to me, but I reckon I’d probably go with some boring-but-obvious cliches: that the guy she was into was fun, but that he wasn’t the only possibility in her life. That she should work out what actually made *her* happy as an individual, rather than pinning all her happiness on one other person – I suspect one of the reasons that particular relationship didn’t work out was because she imbued it with so much pressure. Having decided that this guy was ‘the one’, she ended up forcing the relationship into places that made her unhappy, as she clung on to something that didn’t quite fit.

      Here’s an extract from a blog post I wrote *ages* ago giving advice to my teenage self, and I think this section would probably have been useful to my 24-year-old self. It was written when I was 27, so I was probably a little closer to that nervous and insecure girl, and maybe better able to address what she was feeling …

      “5. There is more than one love of your life
      That guy you’re head over heels for? He’ll go. Then there’ll be another, and he’ll go too. Then there’ll be more who – you guessed it – will go. And each and every time it’ll feel unjust and impossible. You’ll want to scream and cry and tear the world apart because you just loved them so much and you’ll never find someone like that again and oh God how can you survive this pain? This misery feels utterly unbearable.

      But don’t worry: you’ll bear it.”

      https://www.girlonthenet.com/2013/09/04/on-tweetyourteenageself/

  • I love it when my partners ask for reassurance – I don’t love that they’re feeling insecure, obviously, but I feel so proud of them for articulating it to me and it’s a sign that I’m being open and trustworthy and they know that I want them to be happy. Also, I’m shit at picking up nonverbal cues, so being told directly how I can help them feel better is a relief.
    This might have been scary to post, but I’m so glad you did. You are very brave and doing incredibly valuable work with everything you say online and I imagine offline too <3

  • L says:

    Oh my god I feel this. I’ve only ever had “relationships” that have left me feeling sad and insecure. I’ve never been a girlfriend. It happens again and again, I meet a lovely man but unfortunately he doesn’t want a relationship (not right now, not at all or not with me) but the sex is incredible and I’m weird in a good way so would I like to be his fuck buddy… I always go along with it even though I hate it, I have no self control and I enjoy sex too much. This goes on until he wants to find a nice girlfriend to settle down with and I am dismissed. I don’t trust myself to make the right decisions for myself so I try not to have sex with anyone more than once.
    Weirdly though I only want sex when I’m having it on the regular. When there’s no one, I forget it exists and it doesn’t bother me to go months without it. But then I meet someone wonderful and weird like me and it feels really satisfying, like when you put two jigsaw pieces together… but he only wants to be fuck buddies. I’m 32 and the only thing I want is to be able to feel feelings and not be made to feel like that’s an inconvenience or a downright nuisance. I really don’t think I’ll be able to ask for what I need and say what I really want to say, because I know what the answer’s going to be. I’ll just go along with it because the sex is incredible.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I feel a lot of this. I once had a specific conversation with a guy about why he would call other women his girlfriend but not me – why I was always the person ‘on the side’ who he would not acknowledge was important. It was properly gutting, and I think laid some of the foundations (not all of them – I don’t want to sound like I am blaming him for my entire personality because there are lots of complex factors etc) for me being the jealous and insecure person I talk about in this post. It’s horrible, and I sympathise, and I am angry with the people who have made you feel this way.

      “the only thing I want is to be able to feel feelings and not be made to feel like that’s an inconvenience or a downright nuisance.”

      Amen to this, I hope you meet someone who is mature enough to be able to discuss feelings and accept you for who you are rather than diminishing you. <3

  • Phillip says:

    This deserves more space than a comment. Perhaps that guest blog I have been feeling inadequate about. I once had a fuck buddy and I got exactly what I deserved.

    Phillip

  • Electric War Panda says:

    This was so good to read because I have a difficult time articulating how my jealousy makes me feel, sometimes. I am new to an open relationship and I am discovering the little green anxiety ferrets are persistent little brats in my brain. I am constantly comparing myself to the “her” and coming up short – she’s smarter, prettier, more talented (we both work in theatre), more experienced, etc.

    I read somewhere that someone’s love is like sunlight on a field of flowers. That just because their light (love) falls on one flower next to you, it doesn’t diminish the light you’re getting. I don’t always believe it, but it’s helpful for me. *shrug* either way, thank you for this.

    • Girl on the net says:

      That’s a really nice way of putting it! I think it’s a really tricky thing to internalise, and I always want to remind myself that no matter how much I try to feel this way, I’m essentially battling a lot of stuff (some learned, some potentially just innate and immutable) that means brushing aside jealousy may never fully work. But it’s much easier to do in a situation where partners are able to listen and discuss insecurities/jealousy rather than rolling their eyes or making you feel silly/terrible for feeling those things in the first place.

  • Sebastian says:

    It’s delightful to see such positive growth into healthier ways of dealing with jealousy. Although I’m in an open relationship, it’s been years since either of my serious partners had other partners of their own, and I’m slightly nervous that when it happens I’m going to get quite jealous and insecure because I’m not used to it any more.

    One thing that I found to help immeasurably is when my partners make a point of saying and doing things that demonstrate how much they like me and enjoy spending time with me, but doing so spontaneously, not just in response to me saying that I’m feeling insecure.

  • This was a fantastic read. Real, raw, and vulnerable. We’ve all felt these things, and figuring out the right question is more than half the battle.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Lexy says:

    Brilliant writing.

  • Winslow says:

    I can totally relate to this. I was involved with a poly guy for the first time and for a several months he wasn’t seeing anyone else but his wife. Then I found out he’d exchanged numbers with a girl at a sex party we recently attended – it wasn’t one of the things we’d agreed to in advance so I was devastated! All of my insecurities flooded out (I’m 37ys old FFS!?) and after some heated conversations, I eventually ended up asking/pleading him to help me (as he was starting to date the girl from the sex party)….a week later he dumped me over the phone, saying he just couldn’t handle my “drama”. It’s been a few days since..and it still hurts. I keep telling myself that’s it’s better/braver to have emotions than suppress feelings, as that’s what makes us better human beings.

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