How to deal with a jealous boyfriend

Lauren Gray

*This blog was originally posted in February 2014. It has been edited and updated.*

Dear Lauren, 
Two months into my relationship, my boyfriend looked through all my text messages while I was sleeping. He found an old one from my ex. Three months later he went through all my emails and found a few from male friends. I have an extremely suspicious boyfriend. I have explained everything to him but he calls me deceitful, a liar, and untrustworthy.

I was outside at a party with a bunch of people and I put my arm around my friend’s husband. My boyfriend saw us. I didn’t think anything of it. Then three days later he told me I had humiliated him in front of all those people!  Is it me?  Am I wrong?  Is it unacceptable behavior to hug another person? I really like this guy. What do I do? 
Hi Madeline,
What is appropriate behavior?
It’s easy to start doubting yourself in the face of a partner’s jealousy and upset. I get it. You start asking yourself, “Am I wrong? Is it me? Am I crazy?”
You’re not. It is completely appropriate behavior to hug another person in a friendly (no-pelvis-touching) way. In fact, if you ask me, the world needs a little more hugging. ;-)
If a certain behavior is in question, check in with yourself and trust your gut: Do you feel guilty in any way? Would you do it again if you knew your partner was right next to you?
Let these questions guide your inner knowing. Don’t base your truth on his reaction. His reaction may not be appropriate behavior!
The 2 Types of Jealous Men
So your boyfriend is snooping around your text messages, huh? Jealous where other men are concerned? Angry at you for your “inappropriate” behavior?
Sounds like a real Prince Charming.
Many people would probably tell you to run the other direction (and they might not be wrong!)
But I believe that advice is pre-mature. We simply don’t have enough information yet. You see, there are TWO types of jealous men:
#1. The Insecure Control Freak
#2. The Bull in a China Shop

Before I can give you my recommendation on what to do, we need to determine what type of jealous man your boyfriend is.
Jealous Type #1: The Insecure Control Freak
Some men (and women) are so insecure that rather than appreciating and trusting their partner, they become overly possessive and suspicious.
Often these men and women have experienced betrayal in a past relationship where their partner has cheated on them. This gives them “a rational reason” for being paranoid.
It also gives them tunnel vision. They don’t want the wool pulled over their eyes again so instead they’re constantly looking for what they don’t want to find.
If this person is so insecure that they do not feel they deserve love and loyalty, than they will always assume the worst.
How to deal with Jealous Type #1.
The tendency of the Insecure Control Freak to not trust you will ultimately escalate to him trying to control you. This is where things get dysfunctional.
In every monogamous relationship, your partner holds some control over you. This is why we don’t sleep around when we've promised monogamy. But in this case, I’m talking about unreasonable control. Like the crazy kind you see on those Lifetime original movies.
It starts small and unassuming. He may start by asking you where you’re going out to and then ask if you would stay home instead. When you choose to leave, he may get angry with you, try to make you feel guilty or say hurtful things to punish and manipulate you. He may not let you leave the house if you're wearing something he doesn’t approve of.
At first you may go along with this. After all it’s not a big deal. You’re happy to do something nice for the man you love…
Then bang!
Before you know it, you’re tangled up in an abusive relationship. Insecure Control Freaks are impossible to live happily ever after with.
So how do you deal with Jealous Type #1? Walk away before it gets nasty.
Jealous Type #2: The Bull in a China Shop
Some jealous, snooping, suspicious men aren’t control freaks at all! Sometimes they’re just a Bull in a china shop. They’ll cause a whole bunch of damage, have big heated reactions, say mean things, UNLESS you corral them by establishing clear boundaries.
When this type of jealous man is confronted with clear boundaries shared in a loving and direct way, he’ll often (metaphorically) kick a few times and then settle down and get used to it.
Over time, through hearing your boundaries, he learns what is an appropriate expression of his love and what is controlling and inappropriate.
The difference between type #1 and type #2 is that the Bull in a china shop can become a great and supportive partner to you. With the right kind of communication, he’s a keeper.
The Ultimate Test: How to tell what “type” of jealous man you’re with
At this point you might be wondering how to tell whether you’re with an Insecure Control Freak or you’re with the Bull.
Great question! And the answer can be found with some simple experimentation.
Play detective. With trial and error setting your limits and outlining your boundaries, his true identity will reveal itself.
If he responds by respecting your boundaries, congratulations! He’s a keeper!
If he continues to push past your boundaries, you have your answer. This controlling behavior will only escalate into something truly dysfunctional. Walk away.

Makin’ it work with Jealous Type #2
By setting your limits and outlining your boundaries you teach him what is appropriate and what is not.
Ex: When he looks through your email, let him know in a neutral tone of voice (NOT angry) that, in your book, it is not okay behavior to look through your stuff. Everyone deserves privacy. He needs to trust you and respect your boundary in order for this relationship to work.
Ex: Next time he gets his panties in a bundle over you hugging a friend, matter-of-factly inform him that there is a big difference between inappropriate flirting and just being friendly. You know the difference and your behavior with friends is appropriate and always honors your partner and your relationship. He needs to trust you and respect you for this relationship to work.
If you catch him snooping again or if he overreacts to you hugging someone again, then you have your answer. He is the Insecure Control Freak. Walk away.

With love,

Now I want to hear from you!
Is there an appropriate place for jealousy in a relationship? Or does it always cause problems?
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read more blog posts from Lauren Gray
  • Aprilbaby
     10/31/2015 8:59:32 AM
    Ok so I have been with my boyfriend a year and 4 months and he tries to act like he is not jealous but OMG...... He accuses me of everything, he goes through my Facebook messages, and text messages. If he see that a man or unfamiliar women have messaged me he don't say anything rite than. He waits for like a week and get very angry. We are always arguing about the same thing.... If I go to the store for too long he thinks I met someone at the store, If im in the restroom with my phone he swear I'm whispering to someone. If I go out with my sisters and dont ask him do he wanna go he thinks Im out with someone. He looks so deep into a innocent comment. I try to reassure him everyday that its nothing with anyone else. My intentions are to make him feel like he is the only man in the world for me but somehow he dont see it...... HELP..........
  • Adele
     10/27/2015 12:31:18 PM
    Hi, what do I do if I have been married to the #1 time for almost 20 years. I have had enough, but have 3 beautiful children(7 and 10) to which he is a very good dad. Please help?.....
  • Lauren Gray
     9/22/2015 1:34:34 PM
    Nenorra, oh my goodness Thank YOU for your sweet message! It is my absolute pleasure to help you grow in love on your journey. :-)
  • Lauren Gray
     9/22/2015 1:32:14 PM
    Elizabeth, Thanks for sharing what works for you and your partner. Co-created agreements are great for relationships!
  • Lauren Gray
     9/22/2015 1:30:35 PM
    Jennifer, So glad you liked the blog! Thanks for sharing your example of sending a STRONG message and having success.
  • Nenorra
     9/22/2015 9:07:54 AM
    Hi Lauren, Thank you for all your hard work and efforts to help us in our journey!
  • Goldshe510
     9/21/2015 12:23:53 AM
    Hi Lauren. I think a small amount of jealousy is healthy in a relationship, at least it shows they care. If my partner is ever feeling suspicious or jealous, then I just hand him my phone and let him look through my messages and emails. As I have nothing to hide, I don't have any concerns about privacy. He does the same for me if I am ever in doubt. We are now in our 7th year together and I must say that by being "open books" to one another we have great trust in one another and very rarely have any feelings of jealousy - Elizabeth....
  • Guest_644D8217-2
     9/20/2015 12:02:43 PM
    Hi Lauren, I really liked your blog today (and the new look!). I loved the advice to observe, test and observe some more how the guy reacts, especially when there are differing ideas on things really important to me. I have found that sending a STRONG message that something doesn't work for me is sometimes the only way. I listen to my inner voice - which one time said to send a FU text, so I did. It caused quite an eruption, then with compassion but firmness I later explained what set me off. That sent a clear message and it shifted the relationship to a level of greater honesty and naturalness. Jennifer...

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