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About the relationship

My girlfriend and I have been together for 5 years now and we have lived together for 2. We are both introverts, and we had some trust issues over two years ago, admittedly my fault (watching p*rn videos if useful to know). This is my first relationship, and it's her second (the first has gone bad, since the other guy fell in love with another girl, and they broke up the very next day).

The problem

Similar to How to tell my girlfriend I'm uncomfortable with her getting jealous when I look at other people?, so I'll try to add more details as possible.

It's related to bumping up into other girls when hanging around. Example: in summer it's fairly common to see girls wearing (or "not wearing" as she used to say) shorts/hotpants. In winter pantyhose/leggings are addressed.

No matter where I look or what I do, I get accused of staring or wanting to leave her for "one of those". She becomes REALLY aggressive sometimes, shouting and insulting for a while, pretending that I had to keep my eyes closed, or walk behind her (my gf), and such. The really frustrating part is that I can literally stick my eyes to the ground but she insists that I'm giving nasty looks at the girls.

This is really affecting our relationship and our lives, since she doesn't trust me to go alone to the supermarket anymore.

It might be addressed as jealousy, but since I have no female friend (only acquaintances) I can't tell that. My real concern is related to her very low self-esteem, maybe because of her previous relationship, or the continuous "appearence competition" with other girls. (she's following a strict diet to lose weight but does't succeed IMHO because of too much stress, and that is really causing her more frustration)

How I tried to manage the situation

Badly. I already tried to discuss the matter with her by:

  1. Trying to explain that I am not interested in other women. Furthermore I'm only sick of such random encounter which create unnecessary fights.

  2. Trying to compare our behaviour with our friend/acquaintances in a relationship.

  3. Asked to propose some solutions that would satisfy her but the answers where unfeasible. Example of proposed solution: "stop where you are when you see one and turn the other direction".

To make everything worse each confrontation we have on the matter could easily escalate into verbal and physical violence, so upon the next encounter I become visibly stressed, and her interpretation is that I'm trying my best to not fall for the other girl.

Question

Sorry If I complicated too much the explanation, if needed I will add/remove details. Now the question (edited to just one):

How can I tackle the situation, possibly by making her understand that I'm not interested or attracted by other women just because of their appearence?

Thank you.

  • Hey mate! As for Stack Exchange writing etiquette, in good faith we all asume to be grateful with one another. For reading purposes you can remove "Thank you" text. Also you can erase my comment after edit. All best!! – nilon Dec 15 '18 at 14:47
  • Do you love her? If so, make it clear and all else could be moving smoother. Do you not love her? Maybe that also set the path clear, but in opposite direction. Have you been physically violent? That sets a whole other amount of possible futures. – nilon Dec 15 '18 at 14:52
  • What is her sense of humour like? Does she enjoy irony and satire? or would she get defensive if you used satire to communicate your point? – Jesse Dec 19 '18 at 0:49
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her being on very low self-esteem

That's the heart of the problem. It's not that she doesn't trust you to stay with her, it's that she doesn't trust herself that she's as good as anyone else, including any other scantly-clad women. I'm pretty sure she would behave the same if her boyfriend was someone else than you.

Considering this, all your proposed solutions were doomed to fail, as none of them address the core of the issue, only the consequences of it.

She needs to get better with herself, maybe with professionnal help. Have her tell you about why she doesn't like you looking at other women (even if you're not - remember, you're not at fault here (even for watching porn, in my book)), why she thinks you'd want to dump her, etc.

The goal is to make her realise why she's feeling insecure, and work on that insecurity. Reassure her that your intentions are not to blame her, but to find a long-term solution for the both of you.

You may want to check out this question as well : How to help my girlfriend get her confidence back?

  • 16
    I like this answer of the GF working on her issues, but it doesn't go quite far enough. The OP needs to make it clear that her behavior (shouting, aggression, insisting that the OP walk behind her, etc) is unacceptable, and that these are HER issues that she needs to work on. – DaveG Dec 13 '18 at 15:34
  • @DaveG, after reading the proposed solution I guess (hope) that after working out the self-esteem issues, the violence (that IMHO come out of frustration) will cease – Anon Dec 13 '18 at 15:50
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    @Anon That's a dangerous and unfounded assumption. People who resort to domestic violence in one case very well may do so in another (and perhaps any other) case. Violence such as you describe needs to be addressed directly and immediately. Assuming it will just stop at some unknown point in the future is dangerous to both of you. – Upper_Case Dec 13 '18 at 19:13
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    Agreed with both DaveG and @Upper_Case : her behaviour IS unacceptable (think reverse-Taliban where you're not allowed to simply look around), and the physical violence issue must be adressed IMMEDIATLY. – breversa Dec 14 '18 at 9:14
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We have often heard of the gender-reversed situation- a man telling a woman where she can look, what she can do, and where she can go so long as it's with him because he "doesn't trust her". What you've described is controlling-behavior and it's not part of a healthy relationship.

I've gone through each of your points, and while I found them very accommodating on your part- none of them addressed her behavior. All solutions addressed how you should respond to her controlling behavior. You have to address her behavior and set boundaries. I like scohe001's answer to "Set Boundaries". It's good to have boundaries, and I would add- have consequences if those boundaries are broken.

each confrontation we have on the matter could easily escalate into verbal and physical violence

I think the physical violence part is unacceptable. If you seek mutual-respect then neither of you should control or hit the other.

You can easily google "mutual respect in relationships" and research how important this is in relationships. Here is one definition from www.centersforfamilychange.com/relationship_problems_respect.htm:

Mutual respect is a very simple concept. It means that you treat your spouse or partner in a thoughtful and courteous way. It means that you avoid treating each other in rude and disrespectful ways, e.g., you do not engage in name calling, and do not insult or demean your spouse or partner.

That doesn't sound anything like what you described here unfortunately.

I would set a boundary that mutual respect is given and received- and apply it to your relationship. You can tell her directly or let her look up the definition herself. If mutual respect (the boundary) is broken- let there be a consequence (you decide what that is).

4

You've tried to have a conversation about each other's feelings. She's tried to make you understand how she feels about these other girls and you've tried to make her understand that you're not interested in them. However, it sounds like you still may not fully understand each other and you both have less patience every time this subject comes up.

In a case like this, I'd agree to disagree. Accept that the way you view these interactions will not be the same, regardless of how you talk about it1.

So if you know that you can't agree on this point, how can you continue to be in a happy trusting relationship?

Set boundaries.

Sit down together and get out a piece of paper and write down a list of boundaries. These boundaries should be created such that if you follow them all to the letter, she can trust that there's no funny business happening and you still have as much freedom as you'd like.

Maybe this list includes "No co-ed hangouts after XX:XX pm," or "Hangouts with the opposite sex must be in a public place," etc... but it can also include boundaries for her: "No shouting when upset about girls," "Nothing physical when upset," etc...

If you're out with friends and you girlfriend gets upset about a girl you're with, despite you following the boundaries, it means you've both found out that your boundaries don't correctly express what she wants. Don't panic or devolve into an argument. Give her time to cool off and then have a conversation about how to update the boundaries to prevent this from happening again.

The boundaries will never be perfect--a list of rules simply can't properly express someone's feelings. However, the boundaries will act as a foundation of trust and a promise of conversations with a clear purpose and goal in the future when she gets upset about this again.

Best of luck!

PS: You say "each confrontation we have on the matter could easily escalate into verbal and physical violence." If there is any chance of physical violence, I would strongly suggest seeking professional help as this has some of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. However, being random internet humans, we're not in a position to judge or diagnose which is why, again, I'd suggest seeing a professional.


1. This may be possible if you're willing to seek professional help (ie: relationship counseling or some other form of therapy), but I'm addressing your private conversations between each other.

4

Wow. She's telling you what you're thinking, and punishing you for it. That's pretty much a definition of abuse, and when you add,

To make everything worse each confrontation we have on the matter could easily escalate into verbal and physical violence, so upon the next encounter I become visibly stressed, and her interpretation is that I'm trying my best to not fall for the other girl.

that clinches it. The dynamic for abusive relationships is bilateral low self-esteem. One partner copes by abusing, the other by accepting abuse.

Every time this happens, ask yourself, "How long will it go on like this??" (Try it, right now.)

"How long will it go on like this??"

"How long will it go on like this??"

You cannot solve this on your own. Read stuff on the Gottman institute, but RUN, do not walk, to INDIVIDUAL therapy. Couples therapy in most abusive relationships just gets taken over by the abuser.

Once you understand your own role in this, you can think about couples therapy and whether this relationship can be salvaged. If you stay without fixing it, you will have a lifetime of useless misery.

Good luck, Jim.

  • That website looks helpful, but is there a particular page/source to back up what you're talking about here, so readers can go straight to the relevant section? For instance, the statement "the dynamic for abusive relationships is bilateral low self-esteem" and "Couples therapy in most abusive relationships just gets taken over by the abuser." strike me as needing some backup. (I know I've read something like that before from a different source and would be happy to find it again if you like, but maybe you already have a source?). – Em C Jan 4 at 22:37
  • Those are basic, general knowledge in Family Therapy. Like saying bigger vehicles and driving faster tend to use more fuel, or asking what happens if you throw kerosene on a fire. Why do abused people stay with or go back to their abusers? The Gottman site is more focused on "do this" rather than teaching people therapist-level family dynamics theory. The main point is, someone in an abusive relationship needs a lot of individual guidance and teaching before they'll be ready to leave. Otherwise, they just go back. He's not even recognizing this as abusive yet. – VWFeature May 17 at 6:12
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    We now have a meta post which explains the citation expectations for answers here. "Basic knowledge in family therapy" is not something that you can expect all readers to be familiar with - let alone someone who is being abused and doesn't realize it - which is why we ask for references. – Em C May 17 at 14:07
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I'm just giving my personal story and what I did.

Problem: I had a immature girlfriend who constantly needed to be reassured she was the only one for me and like yours she would sometimes escalate things with shouting or hitting. This relationship only lasted a few months but I don't think this changes anything. No amount of reason or conversation worked and would cause an escalation or for her to ignore me.

Solution: Relationship was toxic so I called it off.

There is nothing you can do. She needs professional help to get over this self-esteem hurtle. You should not have someone who verbally and physically abuses you in your life and please don't use the length of relationship as an excuse.

You need to take care of you.

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I want to add to breversa's answer that you don't have to hope the problem will resolve itself somehow and suffer her outbursts in the meantime. You can diffuse a situation by adressing her insecurities directly.

You can tell her that her accusations are unwarranted:

(She) Don't look at that girl!
(You) Huh? Which girl?
(She) The one you've been staring at who doesn't wear pants.
(You) Why would I look at her? I don't even like how she looks.
(She) You've been staring at her *ss.
(You) No, I've been staring at the dog behind her that I find rather cute.

You can reassure her that you aren't interested in these women:

(She) You'll leave me for one of those.
(You) But I don't want to leave you. I love you, not some superficial pretty face.
(She) I can't compete in this continuous "appearence competition" with other girls.
(You) You don't have to. I love you for your pretty smiles and big heart (or whatever you really love on her. Be honest here!)
(She) I don't believe you!
(You) I also love how you make me feel special / make me laugh / make me feel at home (again, be honest. Talk about your feelings towards her). No playboy poster girl could ever make me feel that way. You're the only one I feel this way with.

If everything else fails, a good strategy is to ask questions instead of declaring your innocense.

(She) You'll leave me for one of those.
(You) Why would I do that?
(She) because she's prettier than I am.
(You) Why do you think I would want to leave you for someone else?
(She) Because that's always how it goes.
(You) We've been in love for 5 years. Why do you assume I would run off with the first woman I see on the street?

That forces her to actually think about her feelings and reasons for her outbursts instead of just replaying the same old record again.

If you simply say "No I didn't look at any woman" she can just as simply declare that she doesn't believe you or that you lie. If you ask her instead why she thinks that you stared at anyone, she has to come up with a reason or at least a presumption. She might realize that there is no reason for her fear or she might confess her fears to you and then you can adress them directly and reassure her of your feelings for her.

  • Hi Elmy, we prefer answers on this site to include some backup - has this worked for you in the past? OP said they have already tried explaining that they are not interested in other women, so how does this improve on that approach? – Em C Jan 4 at 20:10
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This is really affecting our relationship and our lives, since she doesn't trust me to go alone to the supermarket anymore.

That is absurd. There likely is no way you can reason with someone who is so far gone she won't let you run ordinary errands. Unless she's willing to stop her accusations cold turkey, or get counseling to help her stop, this will not get better. Break up. In 6 months, you will wonder how you ever put up with someone who thought you were a filthy and disgusting wanna-be cheat for as long as you did.

To make everything worse each confrontation we have on the matter could easily escalate into verbal and physical violence,

I don't know how to get across to you how completely unacceptable that is. You cannot share your life with someone you sincerely think is going to be violent.

by making her understand that I'm not interested or attracted by other women

You cannot "make people understand" things like that. What you can do is, with your actions, show that you absolutely refuse to be treated like a cheating pile of garbage.

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