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I have been in a relationship for 2 years and for the most part I am very happy. My boyfriend, lets call him Max, is a very sweet and thoughtful person and we get along very well. However there’s been one point of tension in our relationship. Lets call her Stephanie.

When Max and I started dating, he was best friends with Stephanie. He talked about her all the time and it spiked my insecurities. Stephanie made it worse because she frequently got very personal with him(hugged him constantly, played with his hair, ate off his plate without asking, comment on his physical strength or appearance, monopolized his attention). It really made me feel uncomfortable.

I mentioned how I was feeling jealous to Max and at first he got very defensive. He assured me that they were just friends. As we talked about how we felt, I think we began to understand each other. And since then I think he has been more sensitive to how I am feeling when the three of us are hanging out. Like I said, he is awesome. She, however, still seems to flirt with him a lot.

That was two years ago. Since then Stephanie got herself a boyfriend and Max and Stephanie grew apart. They still hang out occasionally but not as much as they used to.

Here is the current situation. Max’s company just offered a new position. He told me about it and it sounded amazing but I couldn’t quit my current job. Stephanie found out about it and she applied. Now Max is helping her prep for the interview and I think she is going to get the job.

This really upset me. It upset me much more than it should have. I trust Max completely and I respect his friendship with Stephanie but the idea of them spending all day everyday together at work makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t like it. The thing is I have no idea what I can do to make myself more okay with the situation.

My Question:

I have always felt that being direct and communicating how I feel is the best approach. How can I communicate to either Max or Stephanie so that they know how I feel, with the expectation that they tone down the flirtatious behavior?

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    Your question has two big problems - we aren't going to tell you what to do, that's not what we're here for. Also, your asking for tips for how to deal with jealousy in general is way too broad. So you might want to try focusing on a specific interpersonal aspect you want to address. – Ash May 10 '18 at 22:09
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    Why would you have to quit? – paparazzo May 10 '18 at 22:48
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    I edited the question so that it fit a more precise model. Hopefully I managed to capture your intentions. I completely deleted the part about dealing with jealousy (sorry, we can't help you with internal emotions, this website is for interpersonal skills). Please correct me if I'm wrong. – Clay07g May 10 '18 at 23:47
  • The edit certainly helps :) Although, it raises a new question. If you feel being direct and communicating how you feel is best, that is great and all but what is the problem? You still need to better identify specifically what you are having trouble with in trying to communicate this. – Jesse May 11 '18 at 0:58
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    If I may be direct, jealousy is a tricky thing. If you expect them to tone down the flirtatious behavior, are you going to believe them when they say they aren't doing it when you aren't around? Are you putting them in a position where they cannot possibly win? Myself, I find these sorts of emotional situations are easier to resolve when you reframe the issue around yourself rather than them. If I suggest a reframing from "I want them to stop behaving a certain way" to "I want to be comfortable with their interactions," does that seem reasonable to you? It opens a lot of doors. – Cort Ammon May 11 '18 at 2:29
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Let's analyse the situation for a second.

You have a problem with Stephanie's behavior towards Max. After some discussion, Max seems to understand your point of view. However, you are afraid of the behavior continuing given the new opportunity for it to be present.

Here are two options, in priority order:

1. Talk to Max (again)

This is a serious matter if it affects your relationship. You need to make him understand that you feel uncomfortable with Stephanie's behavior and that it will affect your relationship.

How?

Start slow. Don't make accusations. And most importantly, focus on Stephanie's behavior, not Max's. Otherwise, he will get defensive. When someone gets defensive, they stop being reasonable.

Say something like:

Max, I trust you completely. I even trust Stephanie. But no matter how much I know that there is nothing going on, I find her behavior uncomfortable. It upsets me, because I consider her behavior flirtatious, even if you nor her don't. I really wish you would set some boundaries with Stephanie, if only to make me more comfortable. You can be friends, but let's talk about some behaviors that you shouldn't encourage.

Then you can go on to list some behaviors:

  • Hugging: Acceptable in moderation.
  • Playing with his hair: Too flirty.
  • Eating off his plate: Acceptable if she asks.
  • Compliments: Acceptable.

Those are just my opinions. Obviously substitute those with how you feel. And try to reach common ground, making sure you acknowledge his point of view. Once you do, tell him to enforce those boundaries.

It's his body, make him stand up for himself. Stephanie is not entitled to play with someone's hair if they don't want her to.

And importantly, tell him that. Max needs to know that if he lets the behavior happen, he is accepting it. Being taken, he needs to shut down flirtatious behavior early.

You can give him tips, such as:

  • Never reciprocate when being flirted with.
  • Awkwardly move away when being touched (body-language rejection)
  • Say something when the boundaries are violated

It's honestly possible Max is just too nice to shut down Stephanie's behavior. Even so, he must do it.

2. Talk to Stephanie

Don't do this. Seriously. Only if your relationship with Max is hanging on an incredibly thin thread will you resort to this.

Why?

  1. Changing someone's behavior like this is extremely difficult.
  2. Doing this will make you look like "the jealous girlfriend", and will cause fights. With Max, with Stephanie, etc. It could even bring them closer together if you are their common enemy.
  3. Even if this works, Max will still be accepting of flirty behavior in the future, and this could happen all over again when someone flirts with him and he refuses to set boundaries.

But if you must, you can say something like:

Stephanie, I doubt this is your intention, but you're behavior around Max has made our relationship a lot more tense. It makes me feel uncomfortable as I don't normally see friends behave this way, especially when they are not single. Please, as a favor to me, lay off some of the more flirty behaviors when you're with Max. It's fine to hang out with him, but please respect some boundaries.

This is a slim chance at working, unless Stephanie isn't prone to getting defensive. The less accusing you are, the better chance you'll have.

  • Stephanie is not entitled to play with someone's hair if they don't want her to. Conversely, though, I would also argue that Max isn't required to prevent Stephanie from doing so because OP expects him to. It's Max' decision, not OP's. Note that that does not mean that it gives Max a free pass, he still suffers the consequences from his decision (e.g. OP breaking off the relationship, as an extreme example). – Flater May 16 '18 at 8:25
  • "tell him how to enforce his boundaries" should be rephrased to "tell him how to enforce your boundaries" – Callum Bradbury May 16 '18 at 8:43
  • @CallumBradbury If Max's boundaries aren't appropriate then there is larger problem going on. It should be his boundaries. – Clay07g May 16 '18 at 12:23
  • @Clay07g But it is not his boundaries, it is hers. Your opinion that it should be his boundaries is irrelevant to the point being made. – Callum Bradbury May 16 '18 at 12:39
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Make your perceived enemy your best ally.

You seem to have a great relationship, don't spoil that. Instead, get closer to Stephanie, she loves your boyfriend most likely in a platonic manner since she already has a boyfriend herself, she could be Max's best ally on work and together they could make much progress inside the labor environment if they keep that strong bond/alliance.

Stephanie could end up becoming your new best pal (or close enough, be a sincere friend), and when you feel there's enough rapport among the two of you, you could have a conversation about the jealousy without her thinking you made a scene or made it a big deal, she will understand because she will care about your feelings too.

Don't fail at recognizing the opportunity this presents.

Being a good friend, she will also keep an eye on Max for you, remaining close with her will deter any intention to betray your trust because she'll think lying to you or keeping secrets from you would be nearly impossible because you two will now hang out very often.

Just don't go bananas and pushy on the strategy to make her your friend, you want to be subtle, find something you can do together without Max, girl specific stuff or things Max is not interested in, like going to the salon or similar (unless Max is the kind of man who likes dying his hair by a professional or having pedicure, I don't know him, you do, so I'm sure you'll think of something).

Oh, and definitely prepare Max, so he doesn't react suspicious, be sincere but don't ask for permission:

I think I misread things the other time, I want to be friend's with Stephanie, she seems cool

He will most likely agree, if he goes beyond agreeing and he gets enthusiastic, awesome. First make sure she keeps going home, if you have made her think she's not welcomed they might already be meeting in a safe environment to discuss work related things. You can't know if this is the case, so get Max to bring her

I'll be nicer to her next time she comes home

And when she does, let them go about their business but find a moment to hoard her time and attention for yourself and get to know her better, you'll eventually find a way to take that friendship out from the Max exclusivity setup

If he protests, that's another thing, then I would worry because he's already getting slightly territorial/possessive of her or showing he doesn't trust you, or he's simply displaying natural insecurities, you can defuse his insecurities. Your intentions could be obvious and you don't have to feel guilty about it because you are not acting against anyone's interests, you are a couple and she's a friend.

But please, don't ask about confidential stuff they might already have established unless she, Stephanie, takes the first step, if she is a talker and she trusts you that's awesome, if she's the more suspicious type of person, she might just play along to your friendship endeavors for a long while before you develop a real friendship and she gets to trust you.

I can't stress this enough, be a real friend and a real friend will look out for your interests, in this case, including your relationship with Max, as a natural response.

Best of luck.

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A way to get the feelings you have across to him is to give him examples with you instead of him: what if you had a male coworker that constantly flirts with you and fondles with your hair and hugs you? Would he have a good feeling about that? That might make him think about it from your point of view.

I am not sure if you tried it already, but asking him if he notices that she flirts with him is also a good start. Sometimes people don't notice such things while it's obvious for bystanders. It's important to note the things she does only with him, or if she hangs around the necks of more people like that and it's her idea of a friendship.

He seems to get easily offended/defensive. You can point out to him that you don't mean to attack him but that you want to get this all worked out so you can feel comfortable about their friendship.

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    If you go with this path, be ready for the possibility of it backfiring. Different people have different opinions regarding what is acceptable for a SO to do with others. – Cort Ammon May 11 '18 at 2:25
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My Question:

I have always felt that being direct and communicating how I feel is the best approach. How can I communicate to either Max or Stephanie so that they know how I feel, with the expectation that they tone down the flirtatious behavior?

Part of respecting personal boundaries is allowing others to set expectations for their own behavior. I recommend you communicate your feelings to Max without trying to set expectations for his behavior. He is responsible for his actions, but not for your feelings. Putting that responsibility on him only builds emotional debt and toxicity.

Here is the current situation. Max’s company just offered a new position. He told me about it and it sounded amazing but I couldn’t quit my current job. Stephanie found out about it and she applied. Now Max is helping her prep for the interview and I think she is going to get the job.

This really upset me. It upset me much more than it should have. I trust Max completely and I respect his friendship with Stephanie but the idea of them spending all day everyday together at work makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t like it. The thing is I have no idea what I can do to make myself more okay with the situation.

I recommend figuring out specifically what parts of the situation give you the unease. The only part that has to do with you specifically is that you could not quit your current job to take the new one, so I recommend evaluating your feelings on that.

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