Johanna DeKoning MS is the Clinical Director of NCS Counseling Center. She trained in the Netherlands and Australia.
Jealous girlfriend driving me crazy
I AM in a big disagreement with my girlfriend and it is causing a lot of stress.
We’ve been in a relationship for two years now, but last month she got hold of my phone and found some videos and pictures of other girls on it.
She reacted very emotionally by screaming and yelling that I don’t love her. And she is still very upset about it. I really do not get it, what is her problem?
Since then she has become extremely controlling and jealous. If I even happen to look in the direction of another woman she thinks I’m going to leave her or I don’t love her.
She wants to know every move I make, ask where I am and messages or phones me all the time. If I don’t pick up the phone, sure enough I will be faced with an upset and crying woman when I get home.
I love my girlfriend and I think she is the most beautiful person in this world, but I don’t agree with her that me watching other girls or videos is harming our relationship. All guys do that, so what is her problem?
I don’t understand her and her control drives
me crazy. Is our relationship doomed?
Guillaume, 31, from Belgium
The problem you are raising here is one we encounter a lot in the counseling room.
How to deal with it depends on the agreement you and your girlfriend have about the boundaries and commitment within your relationship and your values about intimate relationships.
You write “what is her problem?” and “all guys do this.” It sounds as if you are defending yourself and it also sounds as if you are not taking her emotional outcry seriously.
How important is this relationship for you? What are you willing to ‘give’ in order to make her happy and secure? Is having your pictures and videos more important to you than the mutual love?
To understand your girlfriend you need to know what is bothering her so much, what feelings it creates within her and where they come from.
Women in general often compare themselves with pictures (or videos) of other women and feel they don’t measure up. Also, underneath all the emotion, there may be a hidden fear that one day you will leave her for a nicer looking/better woman. Maybe she feels that you need to watch other girls because, somehow, she is not “enough for you” and this triggers her low self esteem. The emotional outcry is often a cry for reassurance and affirmation, but many times produces the opposite result, as a man withdraws and feels judged.
I think you and your girlfriend need to sit down and talk about this issue openly.
But you also need to ask yourself questions like ‘what is it within me that wants to have these pictures and videos? What do they give me? Why is it more important for me to have the right to do ‘what all guys do’ than to make my girlfriend feel secure and happy?’
You wrote that it does not harm your relationship but actually it does. It has pushed your girlfriend to become a control freak. In turn, you are resenting the control, and you have started to wonder whether the relationship will be doomed. The two of you also need to discuss the amount of personal space you each need and how to respect this.
For her to phone and text you during work hours is disruptive, and likewise your claiming your ‘right of all guys’ does not build trust between the two of you.
So a calm dialogue about what your values, boundaries and agreements are can set your relationship back on track to trust and appreciate one another and make each other happy.
Anette Pollner Adv. Dipl. Couns., is one of seven international counsellors at NCS Counseling Center in Saphan Kwai. She trained in London and the US and worked as a staff counsellor at Bart’s Hospital in London.
Lonely in Bangkok
I’VE been in Bangkok for a while now, and I’m getting desperate: I can’t seem to fit in.
Neither at my work place nor in the clubs I have joined. Most people I’ve met have a completely different outlook on life, with different values, and even a different sense of humour! They are not the kind of people who were my friends at home.
If I follow my own nature, I am afraid of becoming very isolated. If I desperately try to fit in, I get very uneasy and, in a way,
I feel lonely too…
Is there anything I can do?
Kristina, 42, from Sweden
Your letter reminded me a little bit of everyone I’ve known here, but it also reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons – and of course the heroine is Lisa Simpson, the eight year old girl who is already an independent individual. In the episode, she is trying to prepare for meeting a new group of girls and she is desperate to fit in. Her mother tells her “just be yourself.” Lisa looks at her scornfully and says: “I tried that for eight years, and it didn’t work.” She then employs the opposite strategy, dresses and talks like her target group, and makes a lot of friends! (only to be tripped up later, I think, by an incident that brings out her true convictions).
The reason I am mentioning this is not because I don’t take your problem seriously – on the contrary, the fact that it crops up in The Simpsons shows that it is pretty important, and pretty much global.
Beyond the sadness of feeling lonely and not finding friends who deeply resonate with us, our need to fit in is a survival need, and our fear of exclusion comes from not being able to survive without the tribe on a hostile Savannah. The tigers will eat us.
This is why our feelings are so strong, and so desperate. On the other hand, being ourselves is also about survival, but in a different way. If we have to pretend, if we have to hide who we really are, it puts a lot of pressure on the cohesion of our self, our identity. We are in danger of disintegrating, and we can develop emotional and mental health symptoms. We will be torn apart inside.
So, this looks pretty bleak, doesn’t it?
Well, the good news is that you are not in a Stone Age tribe, and that you are not an eight year old girl in an American cartoon. You live in Bangkok, one of the planet’s mega-cities. This means that you can, if you want, pursue both strategies at once.
Strategy 1: Fit in
If you already have a social circle here but feel constricted by their conventions, you could, as an experiment, try to find out if there is anything in you that actually can relate to and enjoy something, anything, really, about that group of people. You could try to focus on that, and see where it gets you. It might be quite interesting, and you might find, as many people do here, that you can expand your horizons and discover aspects of yourself you didn’t even know were there.
Strategy 2: Be yourself
There are literally hundreds of different interest groups in Bangkok, and many more opportunities to meet people by joining activities of your choice. Again, as many people find here, the effort is well worth it. It can be an exciting journey all in itself, and there will be a little tribe that will welcome you just as you are. If you really don’t find it among the hundreds of options, there is even Strategy 3.
Strategy 3: Make your own
You can always start your own group, many people do. Others will now try to fit in with you.
In conclusion I would say that, in Bangkok, both Lisa Simpson and her mother are right: you have a very big playing field for your identity, both to confirm it and to expand it.
Although it feels like it, and the feeling is very real, your life is actually not in danger.