Hey, Jealousy

“My boyfriend left the house and I don’t when he’s coming back,” Jenny told me the other day on the phone. I listened sympathetically while she sobbed, relaying the whole story. A year ago in her single days, she’d had a few too many at the bar while out with friends.  She ended up going home with one of her guy friends. Their friendship crossed the line quickly, but stopped after a heavy make out session when they had sobered up enough to realize that where they were going wasn’t somewhere they’d want to be in the morning. They stopped it short and promised to never speak of it again.

Several months later, Jenny’s new boyfriend asked her about her past relationship with this friend, and true to their agreement, Jenny denied that anything had ever happened. It was when she was still single, and she decided that telling him would only make him uncomfortable as they were all mutual friends. And mostly, she knew that he would be pissed that she had hooked up with a friend of theirs.  Keeping mum about the situation was the only thing she could think of doing. 

But as time wore on, Jenny felt guilty about lying. So she fessed up. What resulted was a yelling match, a slammed door, and Jenny on the other line with me sobbing into the phone. And as she wondered what she was going to do, I couldn’t help but feel my anger seethe at how the blame was being placed entirely on her.

Jealousy doesn’t feel good.  I’m not sure who those people out there are that claim a little bit of jealousy keeps the interest going in a relationship, but I don’t believe it for a second.  Having been a part of a jealous relationship, I can honestly say that it is not healthy, and it’s totally unnecessary. Sure, we all have been hurt in the past, and it’s a natural impulse to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in the present (even when we know that if it’s going to happen, it will with or without us monitoring the situation). And it’s true that there are many situations when jealousy is warranted because someone is truly untrustworthy. But in other times, jealousy has nothing to do with the accused, and everything to do with the accuser. It’s their issue, stemming all the way back to a time when someone did them wrong. In the past, I’ve been yelled at because a guy so much as looked at me, and I’ve been called horrible names if my eyes ever met another male’s gaze. And then there’s the questioning about past relationships before the current beau was even in the picture. Curiosity is one thing. It’s ok to know about the person you love before they knew you, and what their past relationships were like. It gives glimpses into your loved one’s past that explain a bit about who they are today. And if honest curiosity is all it is, then by all means, ask away. But when past behaviors are held against someone who has moved on from it, that’s when it gets hairy. I’m sorry to say that I have divulged too much information in the past when put under the bright lights and interrogated. I did it in the name of trust, to show that person that I had nothing to hide. Let me be the first to tell you, it doesn’t work. If someone is so adamant that they are going to catch you in something, and you placate this little fantasy by giving them everything they think they need, it won’t stop. No matter how many times I gave away the farm when it came to my own personal past life, nothing was ever good enough. My life before them was consistently held against me. And the questioning continued until the relationship inevitably died.

What I came to realize years later was that, while I had felt like I was in the wrong, it was actually my significant other who should have been in the hot seat. They had no right to be asking me about things from my past when they only chose to use it against me. I, like Jenny, and like many of you out there, am not a saint. I have done things I regret, but have learned lessons from these blemishes. They have helped me to grow in many areas as a result. While I wish I had the wisdom then not to make some of the mistakes I did, I wouldn’t take them away. I am the person I am today because of them. And I’ll be damned to make the same mistake twice.

Hearing Jenny go on and on about how she was 100% in the wrong, and wondering how she could ever regain her boyfriend’s trust again, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“Jenny, have you ever wondered about WHY you lied in the first place?” I asked her.

“Because he would have been mad at me and at our friend for having kissed,” she told me.

“Besides the fact that kissing him was not wrong, have you ever thought that maybe you lied because it wasn’t safe for you to tell the truth?” I asked her. She murmured in agreement. “Jenny, I can’t help but feel pissed that this guy is even bringing up the past. He has made it an unsafe place for you to even tell him about your past, and yet he still expects you to answer him honestly when he asks you questions that don’t have anything to do with him. He has no right interrogating you when he knows how he’ll react if you confirm his suspicions. He really needs to grow up in the jealousy department. And instead of getting mad at you, maybe he should be mad at himself for making it impossible to be honest with him over these hard issues.”

She didn’t take this so well, and the conversation almost ended. I’d gone a little farther than I knew I should. But I was really angry at this guy, who I usually think highly of, but who was also making my friend’s life miserable in this moment.  Not to mention that he was being a complete jackass.

“This is fixable,” I said, softening the blow a little. “The black and white of this situation is that you lied to him. And now he feels like he can’t trust you. But the gray part is the reason that you lied in the first place. That’s the part of this conflict that needs to be addressed so that you two can grow from this. It’s just going to take some communication. Good news is that when stuff like this arises, it gives opportunity for growth and can actually strengthen your relationship. A successful relationship must be worked on every day.”

“Well, right now he doesn’t even want to talk about it, or to me. I’m not sure what to do except to just give him his space.”

“That’s all you can do,” I told her. “Wait until you two can talk rationally before you try and work it out.”

Jenny wasn’t totally convinced with what I had to say, and is still taking a big brunt of this on her shoulders. And I wonder…

Am I wrong?

Should she have told him the truth upfront since they are in a committed relationship?
Is there a line in relationships where honesty is not the best policy, or should honesty be adhered to at all times? 
Did her lie make her untrustworthy and guilty of withholding information?
Or am I right in thinking that he shares a large part of the blame here for her lie?

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9 thoughts on “Hey, Jealousy”

  1. Maybe Jenny’s boyfriend has a different side to the story….there are two sides to every story. This “jackass” may have a reason why he doesn’t trust her….maybe this isn’t the first time?

  2. The boyfriend has every right to be upset. She had no right to bring him into that fold of people and ask him to accept them as her friends while hiding the fact that she had “hooked up” with one of them. Boyfriend has every right to know those details and certainly has a right to not hang out with “other guy”. By not saying anything she’s put “boyfriend” into a very awkward position. If she mentioned it right away this wouldn’t be an issue. The deception is the real kicker.

  3. Hey, Integrity!

    I went through the same situation. My ex lied. I suspected it. It ate away at me until I called her on it. Months of horrible suffering, for nothing. I loved her. She left me wondering if I got a small glimpse of an even larger integrity problem.

    Lies are a slippery slope. If you’re capable of lying just because you can get away with it…where are you going to end up? 4 marriages & 10 male role models later, you’re going to wonder why your kids don’t respect you.

    I find that I’m more comfortable with women who have come to terms with their sexuality. If you don’t want to get into details about your sexual history, it’s easy enough to say. Either define some boundaries, or be open about it. Get some backbone, get some integrity & you might just find a lasting relationship. Guys appreciate those qualities!

    IMHO, you need to reevaluate how you treat people, and what you’re advocating in your blog. Sometimes I groove with what you’re saying. Other times I’ve thought you’re a cheerleader for man haters.

    PS> You have no idea if your friend had sex, or just kissed the other guy. You also have no idea whether she is still getting some on the side. She’s a liar, so taking her word at face value is out of the question for most rational people.

  4. Not a man hater, I promise. Hey, I love you guys! I admit that I was harsher on Jen’s boyfriend than I was on Jen about lying to her boyfriend. And I agree that her lie was a really immature way to handle a sticky topic that she should have fessed up about in the first place. But in this issue, I really do believe that the reason for the lie needs to be addressed.

    At any rate, not to totally plug my own blog, but there will be more on Honesty and Trust coming up soon. 🙂

  5. Ok, so I have to say,..I see the point all the boys are making. And would the boyfriend even had brought this up if there wasn’t some “leftover” chemistry there that he noticed?
    On the other hand, she should have set firmer boundaries. Don’t ask, don’t tell, so to speak. And the “coming clean”? She should have kept it to herself if it really wasn’t such a big deal. That truth telling was only to make her feel better. And look what it got her.
    Theres nothing wrong (but nothing too right, either) with making out with a friend when you are both single. Just decide that its no ones buisness but your own. Period.

  6. Okay, because this blog keeps ‘reloading’ on me, I wasn’t going to comment due to the shear frustration I’ve been experiencing…but there seems to be some serious controversy going on here, so I’ve decided (as usual) to contribute.

    I don’t support lying — I feel that, in general, honesty is really the basis of a stable relationship…however, I have had boyfriends myself that get jealous if another guy so much as looks at me. Sometimes you feel like you can’t share certain things without starting a fight, and she had a pre-existing promise to consider as well.

    I suppose the crux of what I want to say is…just because you are in a relationship, that doesn’t make you the other person’s property. You have the right to share as little or as much as you feel comfortable sharing…if you don’t open up, the relationship might not gain the depth that a good relationship should have…but a person’s partner shouldn’t have the right to demand to know everything about their SO’s past. There are some things that one doesn’t want to go into early on in a relationship. Some people are more private people or take longer to trust. Given time, and a solid foundation, these things can be discussed, and should be accepted and shared as a part of the past — not the basis for a blow-up. There are certainly things I wouldn’t share with someone I had just started dating…but might, once the person had become a more permanent and important fixture in my life.

  7. Yes, yes, yes and no, not really. Men are territorial. While no man has any business holding it against another man for having a relationship with his current SO, that man probably does anyway; that the man in question is likely in the past and not around as a reminder, is the only thing that saves the day. However, if that other man is part of the friendship circle, then the BF not only has to be constantly reminded of the potential relationship that occurred, but he has to worry, with every hug, every smile, every gesture of closeness, however innocent it may (or may not) be, about being replaced. I’ll give you an example; I dated a girl who, after a week or so, confessed to me as to having made out with a man she barely knew while out drinking in the city one night. This was after she and I met but before our relationship crossed over into the intimacy stage. I didn’t know the dude, wasn’t likely to meet him, and besides, she confessed of her own volition, so I figured it all meant greater integrity on her part. Gave me pause, but I didn’t hold it against her. Another example; my wife once, before we met, went on a date with her brother-in-law’s brother. They didn’t hit it off. As such, I shouldn’t care. But doggone it, I do. Every family gathering, when they hug in greeting, I want to use the guy’s face as a scouring pad to clean that grease spot in my garage. He’s an okay guy, I guess, but that doesn’t change the fact that he once had an idea in his head to lay an intimate hand on my wife. As for your friend, I’m not trying to judge her. No one can be as naïve as to imagine their SO hasn’t had flings in their past. God knows, I’m no saint in that regard. But not only did she lie when confronted, but there must have been something he saw between them that aroused his suspicions enough to enquire in the first place. She had her chance at that time to come clean, and offer any reassurances she could about the “done-ness” of the encounter. Then it’s his choice, and on him if he chooses not to trust. Furthermore, the whole “we stopped before we went too far” thing is an iffy assertion at best, especially when alcohol is involved. If they did go all the way, she’s being dishonest about that, too, and now she’s just trying to soften the blow. Because he’s being bombarded with all these red flags, and the dishonesty crosses into the realm of what did or did not happen, I feel he has every right to be pissed, and hold her and the relationship seriously in question. And he can’t really take anything she says from here on out as truth, either. Sure, he could be more understanding, know his self-worth and be secure in himself, realize she’s not his “property,” blah blah blah. None of that matters when a person feels betrayed.

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