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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Woman's Jealous Obsession

A Woman's Jealous Obsession 

April 9, 2002

Dear Doc,

I have found unbelievable comfort in My Story: A Woman's Realization: I Abused The Man I Love. This is exactly like me but only worse.

I am currently in a relationship that is 1 year and 7 months long. My boyfriend and I are deeply in-love. He is an extremely sensitive, understanding, and such a patient boyfriend, and I love him dearly. But, this obsession that I have with “other women” is driving us both insane. We fight constantly (5 out of the 6 times a week that we see each other) and our personalities have altered due to this fighting. I have become such an angry, resentful, condescending, and cold person to him. This fighting has made him so defensive that he overreacts to things that I tell him. This obsession that I have is destroying our relationship and we both want to identify the problem that I am having with a clinical professional name and how can I cure this obsession. Accurate online diagnosis is very risky, if at all possible. There are too many factors that get in the way. You need to be seen by a licensed or certified professional in your area. At best I can suggest a direction for you and some diagnostic possibilities. Breaking up is not an option for either of us. We have discussed this and he is willing to stick by me through thick and thin; I feel that I don’t deserve him but am thankful that he is by my side.

I have this obsession over him looking at other women on the sidewalk, on TV, in a movie, in a magazine, anywhere. I will go to extreme lengths to prevent him from noticing another girl.  We can be getting along great and be watching a movie if a naked women appears in a scene then everything goes cold and awkward. I feel that he enjoyed that part of the movie more than the rest. We don’t go to clubs or parties anymore. I have pushed all my friends away in fear that he will be attracted to them. I fear that if he looks at a girl and thinks to himself that girl is attractive or has a great body, I get raged and start this ridiculous fight. I just can’t help this jealous feeling that overcomes me. I have tried to reason with myself saying that he loves me and only me but, my insecurities always get the best of me. I have tried to forget about it and not let things with this matter bother me, but I can’t. He tells me that I am the only girl for him and that he doesn’t want anybody else, and I can’t believe him. When we are in a similar situation my paranoia overpowers my rational thoughts and I get angry and can’t believe that he isn’t doing what I say.

When we are out in public he says that he feels so much tension and pressure that he doesn’t even want to look up, that he will stare at the ground when walking with me. I always find myself looking at his eyes to see what he is looking at and if it is a girl, this feeling overcomes me and I am convinced that he is being unfaithful to me. 

I question things that he does. If he tells me I am beautiful, he thought about me all day, or he couldn’t wait to talk to me, I think he doesn’t mean it. I think that he just says that, or that he is lying to me and I just say ok sure. If he tells me that he was busy all day and that he didn’t have a chance to call me to later that night, this makes me feel so unimportant to him, that everything else in his life is so much more of importance. He says that I don’t like it if he goes out without me (which is hardly ever). Whenever he does, it is when I go home to see my family.

This obsession makes me want him to tell me everything that happened whenever we aren’t together. If weeks or months go by and we are out with his friends and they happen to mention something that he “forgot” to tell me about one of those nights that we weren’t together, I get enraged and feel betrayed. He lies to me about things that he knows that I will get upset at to prevent a fight. He says he tries his hardest to remember everything and that he tells me every little detail he can think of. Then he says he feels like I am interrogating him. He tells me such stupid meaningless things that I’ll think he is being sarcastic. Then I get mad at him for doing that. All this combined makes him say that I don’t trust him.

I act in deceitful ways that were once unimaginable to me. I am ashamed at some of things that I do to prevent him from looking at other women. But just the simple thought of him looking at an attractive women’s body makes me mad at him and starts a fight between us.

I have tried to take Jeanine's advice (from Woman's Realization) and just give in to love but my feelings on this matter grow everyday and become more intense. I don’t know how to stop these feeling and get our relationship back on a healthy path.      Gail

Dear Gail,

Beauty is more than skin deep. Good thing too since no matter how pretty you are, there will always be someone prettier, younger, richer and more whatever you are afraid of than you. Always!  And to make matters worse, the older you get, the prettier, younger, more shapely, etc. "the competition" gets!

Physical attraction is important, but only goes so far.  Social psychology research has shown that physical attraction facilitates the initial connection. What’s inside develops more slowly and is far more meaningful, more lasting.

Keep in mind that no matter how wonderful Gabriel is, he is human. Any healthy, normal male will be attracted to an attractive woman (or guy, if that’s how it goes). That’s normal! Healthy! He will no longer be attracted - not when he is married  -  but when he is dead!   It’s what he does with his attraction that matters. Does he simply enjoy the moment, flirt, throw it in your face? In a healthy relationship, a man (or woman) is likely to unobtrusively look at a good looking person, without being obvious or disrespectful to his (or her) partner. You make things worse for both of you if you insist he look away because he is likely to rebel and possibly go into passive-aggressive mode. Yuk! 

More: You are describing an obsession (the thought) and a compulsion (the act). This is basically an anxiety disorder. The more you give into your obsession/compulsion, the more it will take over your life. While it will likely be uncomfortable to STOP engaging, you have no other sane choice. You will benefit from professional help, which is likely to include psychotropic medication. Try to find a behaviorally-oriented clinician. A competent clinician will also be able to determine whether or not this condition is isolated or co-exists with other stuff, which may also require treatment.

Dear Gabriel,

I know you love this lady, but why are you allowing yourself to become subservient to her? You can’t calm her anxieties. Only Gail can do that! But you are setting yourself up for lots of anger and resentment down the line. All you can do is care for your own Self and insist that Gail take care of Gail. Take a look at some of the codependency books out there. You don't have to come from a disturbed home to become co-dependent. 

Dr. Irene

I felt I was missing something and emailed Gail with a couple questions. She wrote back:  


If an attractive women with a great body walks by in front of Gabriel, I do think that he will notice the way she looks and her body.  I know that if I question him on that matter, he will deny it to me because of my obsession and not want to hurt my feelings.  Sure! Just tonight the truth was admitted in the process of writing this email, Gabriel did reveal to me that he does as I say in the first sentence, find other women good looking.  Good for him, having the courage to be more honest with you!  I immediately became overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal and jealously.  Of course, I said that was wrong and we fought, and he walked out of my apartment with all of his belonging saying that this relationship is over and it is my entire fault. You must learn to deal with your anxiety and your insecurity. I'd also give Gabriel space to get angry; he's allowed.

In a case like this, I think to myself, “If he loved me he would not find other women attractive because he would be satisfied with me.  He would not need or want to look at other women.  I don’t know if that is wrong and not realistic to the human race and my standards are set to high.  But, truthfully I don’t look at other men and think they are attractive.  So, I claim that if I don’t then it is possible.  Irrational. Just because you think a particular way doesn’t mean other people do!

             When this obsession comes up, I feel so terrible about myself and assume that he wants someone better than me, and it tears me up inside. I understand.  It drives me mad thinking that he might find other women attractive, or have seen a women nude in a movie or whatnot.   I do realize that this is kind of ridiculous and irrational and I try to reason with myself but I am very unsuccessful at it.  You need professional help! If you could have fixed this one, you already would have.

            I strongly believe that a part of my obsession is right and these things like that shouldn’t happen in a strong loving relationship. Other times, I feel the outline of it is important in a serious relationship and I take the examples too far. In other word, I feel that my obsession is essential in a faithful relationship but what I think encompasses this obsession is irrational.  For example, If Gabriel see a nude women is a movie I shouldn’t be upset, but if he thinks to himself that she had a great body, then I feel that is wrong.   It’s OK for him to think to himself she has a great body. It is not OK that you try to control not only his behavior, but his thoughts! You simply can't! (Plus his thoughts are his thoughts, and they're OK thoughts.)

             I have a terrible case of laziness and I think that I have a learning disability so it takes extreme effort for me to do my work. When I do, I always concentrate on my handwriting and the neatness.  I worry about how it looks rather than the core of my work, sometimes I will go though 10 pages just writing the first sentence making sure that my handwriting is neat.  By the time I finish concentrating on my handwriting and worry about what I’m doing, I get confused and doing my project and it becomes blurry to me.  So, I make a list of things that on my agenda, and I will spend hours thinking of what needs to be done and what dates they all are due.  This give me some feeling of accomplishment, but hardly any.  Then I will go and spend hours cleaning my apartment and cleaning out the drawers, putting off what is important to me.  I never seem to be able to focus.  I do feel that I am depressed occasionally.  It comes and goes.  I think about things that I can’t change and things that I can and do nothing about, I think of my work situation and this obsession, my family problems, and the weigh that I have gained, etc… as a result I will sleep all day until 4 or 5, wake up for an hour or so then sleep the rest of the night, putting off all that is important to me.  Sometimes, I just will lie in bed thinking of things of the fore mentioned and not sleep at all.

Thanks again, 

Gail, this last paragraph is very important. You may be suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and/or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder in addition to a clinical depression that certainly needs attention. The weight gain / sleep problems / early awakenings are classic signs of a significant “atypical” depression, probably a Major Depression. Again, I cannot make an online diagnosis, but I’ve heard enough to urge you to immediately seek medical help. There are medications that can right much of this, and psychological treatment that will help you lead a more productive life.  You can’t fix this one alone.

 My very best wishes to both of you,  Dr. Irene 

Readers: Any comments for Gail or Gabriel?

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