My girlfriend and I are mostly happy together, but we have this ongoing fight where she accuses me of wanting to cheat whenever I so much as glance at a woman she perceives to be my “type” (any woman roughly her age and ethnicity). Even flipping through a magazine that shows a woman in an ad is enough to set her off. She says I need to eliminate all contact with other women, or I’m being unfaithful. But I don’t see how I can stop doing things like talking to the checker at the supermarket or looking at someone crossing the street. –Blamed
It’s normal for a girlfriend to expect her boyfriend to “keep it in his pants.” Only yours wants your eyeballs in there, too, as she considers crossing the street with your eyes open a form of cheating.
When you love somebody, it isn’t exactly outrageous to fear losing them. And the suspicion that a partner is cheating can often be an instinctive response to subtle signs that they are. But such signs include flimsy excuses for working late or ducking into the hall closet to take phone calls – not merely daring to open a magazine that includes pictures of females who lack beaks, paws and tails.
There’s a good chance your girlfriend behaves this way because she has a giant crater where her self-worth is supposed to be. As for her paranoia, to be human is to have a tendency toward ridiculous, overblown fears, but we also have the capacity – gone unused in your girlfriend – to follow them up with a chaser of reason. The sad thing is, you might have compelled her to work on changing if only you’d told her “enough is enough” instead of just wagging your tail while she tightened your choke collar.
Thanks to your enabling, there are now 300 of you in the relationship – you, your girlfriend, and her 298 fears. If you’d like to change that, wait for a moment when you aren’t being prosecuted for something and ask to talk about the relationship. Explain that you love her and want to be with her but that she’s increasingly pushing you away with her irrational (and, frankly, insulting) accusations and behavior. Tell her that she’ll need to see a therapist and show meaningful improvement if she wants to keep you around. (Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people use reason to solve emotional problems, is probably the best bet.)
Give yourself a deadline, and reassess – maybe at the three-month mark – so you don’t keep getting used to crazy little by little until crazy becomes the new normal. That’s how a guy ends up being the one apologizing when he comes home to a bonfire of his clothes, computer and Xbox after his girlfriend catches him in the act – smiling and thanking the supermarket checkout lady instead of staring at his shoes and wordlessly extending his palm for his change.
© 2014, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).