Carolyn Hax: She's jealous of her boyfriend's ex - and he's not helping

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2D

DEAR CAROLYN: I am dating this guy and I'm in love with him and I know he loves me back.

But I can't, I absolutely can't, stop getting jealous of his ex-girlfriend. He still talks to her, because she has problems and he helps her through them.

I know why I'm jealous … it's the stop-being-jealous that's hard for me. I'm jealous because she met him first, she always gets his attention when she's in distress, and she's Asian and she's pretty.

We plan to spend our lives together, and to move back to her city. Once we do, I'm scared she'll go after him; he told me she's one to start fires. Meaning, she'll try to take him back at the first opportunity.

I don't know what to do if that happens, nor do I know how to get over this jealousy, which will last until he proposes. What do I do?

– Keep Getting Jealous

DEAR JEALOUS: Do I even need to say that proposals don't magically render couples impervious to outside attractions? And, jealousy isn't some unpleasant virus that will go away with rest and orange juice.

If you're jealous of any attractive woman within 10 feet of your husband, your trigger problem is your own profound insecurity.

If you're not otherwise jealous, then please respect your warning system enough to consider that she does pose a threat.

Why? You listed reasons, but with apologies to William Peter Blatty, there is only one: She always gets his attention when she's in distress. Meaning, she's in control.

If your boyfriend were resistant to her appeal, she could try to "start" all the "fires" she wanted to and it wouldn't matter. And, too, if they were actually friends, giving and taking, and including you in their friendship, then you'd have nothing to fear from her.

But you're talking about puppetry: There is no reason your boyfriend has to coach his ex, except as a means for her to tug the string. She knows it, your jealousy mechanism knows it, everyone reading your letter knows it, and so what are the chances your boyfriend doesn't know it?

Please operate on the assumption that he consents to remain strung, and point this out to him, gently. As in: "I think we both realize your ex has plenty of places she can go with her problems, and that her choosing you is a form of manipulation – an effective one at that, since you're complying."

Then you must listen carefully to the way he responds since you're presenting him with a clear choice: your truth or her fiction. If he gets defensive or angry or tries to turn it on you, then don't lie to yourself that he has your back, on this or much else.

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