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Ex girlfriends & irrational jealousy

(49 Posts)
knitknack Fri 04-Feb-11 17:57:09

I've been with my DH for 14 months now, and we've been married for 3. He's wonderful, the love of my life, the husband of my dreams that I never imagined I'd actually meet. He's a loving, supportive husband and a fabulous step-father to my dcs, I should be (and at times am) delirious with happiness!

Instead, however, I'm suffering from completely irrational fear/jealousy/pain over his ex-girlfriends I just don't understand myself and it frustrates me SO much - life is so short and I'm well aware that I should be making the most of every lovely minute of it... but the pain and sadness that i feel when I think of them is very real, despite all of this.

I don't really mention it, (and if I ever do he's totally supportive) so it's not that I'm niggling on at him and endangering our relationship. But I AM suffering on a regular basis and I'm really getting quite sick of it now! I know I should really get some CBT, but it's not easy to get time to do that with my job (I'm a teacher). And I know that my probs are most likely linked to growing up in an unintentionally emotionally abusive household (my dad had then-undiagnosed aspergers)...

DH has a lots of photos of his exes, he's passionate about photographing his life, then and now, and has said before how important his photographs are to him. I've SO stupidly sneaked a quick look in the past and now those images haunt me - and yes, I've reminded myself that people generally tend to photograph the good times and not the bad... but how do I erase those images (sometimes of fairly intimate moments!) from my mind? More importantly, how do I rid myself of this 'condition' (whatever it is)... gosh I sound like such a nutter! arghhhh

I'd love to hear some words of wisdom, I just don't understand myself!

OP’s posts: |
malinkey Fri 04-Feb-11 18:29:59

Well, at least you know it's irrational! I bet CBT would help. Why does being a teacher mean you can't get time to go to counselling? I'm sure you could go in the evening if that suits you better. And it's got to be worth trying - if a course of six sessions could help you get over this then it's well worth it.

Good luck.

CrawlingInMySkin Fri 04-Feb-11 18:52:13

I dont think this is about your issues with his exs but with yourself, you sound like you maybe have low confidance.

waterrat Fri 04-Feb-11 19:17:28

I had to comment here as I used to suffer exactly the same problem. I honestly thought it was a character flaw in myself that I could never get rid of - i really do understand the twin mind in which you can be sick with jealousy and at the same time know it's awful and irrational and wish you could get rid of it.

I thought it was a condition too - but I have some very good news for you - it's not.

It is based completely on things that happened to you in your childhood/ how you grew up/ the relationship you had with your family - and you can change it.

Your mind - on a deep level that rational thought can't get to - believes that you need to be what therapists call 'hyper vigilant' - watching obsessively for signs that you are going to be hurt or betrayed or let down. It has absolutely no relation to what is really happening around you - your mind is trying to protect you.. This mind of constant hyper vigilance was formed in your childhood.

1. find a good therapist - please dont say you cant afford it - you cant afford not to do it, I promise. And PLEASE DO NOT HAVE CBT!

Cbt is great - it's a tool for dealing with negative thoughts - it does not look at why you have those thoughts. it is absolutely useless for this - in fact CBT therapists are trained not to dwell on the past. You need to dwell/ dig deep into your past over a decent period of time.

2. read Oliver James's book 'they fuck you up' about how family life creates your emotional response to life.

your mind - on a subconscious level - thinks this constant fear is rational. It believes that these thought patterns are useful - on a really really deep level your mind is using jealousy to 'protect' you - thinking that if you worry about what might happen/ about all the threats around you - you will be 'safe'. however - unfortunately the opposite is true - you will actually live in constant misery (as you know) and you may well drive away those who love you through paranoia.

Well done for seeing that it is hurting you - that is the first step.

You need to completely unravel how your brain reached this state of constant fear and vigilance.

It will be painful and difficult picking apart your thinking and seeing how hurt you were as a child - and how sad it is that you have created this defensive anxious mind...but believe me - freedom from this is waiting for you!

I was the most jealous person in the world - it burned inside me - it destroyed my sanity - I honestly thought it would ruin my life.

But I had therapy for a year - proper psychotherapy - and it has gone. GONE! I promise you! I would not have believed it could be.

I wont go on as I really could write an essay on this - but please believe its not a 'condition' - it's conditioning. google 'hyper vigilance / jealousy' ...

realrabbit Fri 04-Feb-11 19:34:06

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waterrat Fri 04-Feb-11 19:44:05

thank you! is a subject close to my heart...

chosenonesparklyglitterybow Fri 04-Feb-11 19:50:45

Wow interesting stuff... I'm similar and have let the thoughts of ex's (even just one night stands not girlfriends) pray on my mind and affect my mood then lead me to be 'off' with DP. He has constantly reassured me and is very focused on the here and now and the future. One technique I read about and am trying is when the negative thoughts come into my head instead of inviting them in, dwelling on them and winding myself up like a spring I visualise the word Stop and push them out of my mind and distract myself. Other people say give yourself 5 mins a day or what ever to think/worry then move on, I prefer to not indulge my own inner wind up merchant, its difficult, very difficult.

knitknack Fri 04-Feb-11 20:17:44

wow - thank you so much for your replies, I can't tell you what a relief it is to finally 'talk' about it and get 'it' outside of me... My lovely DH just read your replies as well and is equally moved.

malinkey: you're totally right, I don't know why I've always told myself that i couldn't possibly find the time for help - as DH just said, school finishes at 3! I think this has to do with my general mindset itself, so thank you for 'waking me up'to this!

CrawlingInMySkin: again, spot on! I know you're right, I've always known that... it's the fact that I can't seem to do anything about it (plus the fact that even talking about it seems so self-indulgent!)

waterrat: Thank you, just.. thank you! You've articulated everything that I've ever wanted to explain to DH and have never really been able to - your description of being 'vigilant' is just so spot on - and it's TIRING, really bloody tiring! The irony is that I bought 'they f*** you up' years ago but i gave it to someone who I felt really needed it before I could properly read it! Your post made me cry, I can't tell you how much it meant to me that you took the time to write that - to be able to feel not alone, to be able to show it to my DH and say 'this, this!' and most importantly to hear that you CAN make a difference... This is why I was reaching out on this board, thank you so much!

chosenonesparklyglitterybow: I love that 'your own inner wind-up merchant'!! That's it exactly isn't it?! I'd be really, really happy if it wasn't for.... ME! shakes head

Thank you, all

OP’s posts: |
zippyandgeorge Fri 04-Feb-11 22:26:49

knitknack-thank you for this post. I have exactly the same feelings as you describe. I've never really discussed it with anyone ie friends as like you I know it is irrational and I feel so silly for feeling like this.
waterrat- your post is really interesting about looking at ones past. I grew up with a violent, adulterous father and am sure this has contributed to my irrational jealousy. How did you go about finding a Psychotherapist?

knitknack Sat 05-Feb-11 07:39:35

zippyandgeorge: I know! You just don't feel that you can really talk about it do you - or in my case even articulate it! My father was violent too - in a really irrational way (ie you'd be sat reading or something and suddenly find yourself belted across a room!) I've been thinking about that a lot since reading Waterrat's post... I'd love to know how to go about finding one too.

OP’s posts: |
NoNamesNoPackDrill Sat 05-Feb-11 08:02:12

try googling "BCAP psychotherapy" for your area. Different problem but for me it has transformed my life and is worth every pound.

Great thread, very informative and life enhancing!

NoNamesNoPackDrill Sat 05-Feb-11 08:02:25

Sorry BACP !

waterrat Sat 05-Feb-11 09:28:10

Hello ...knitknack I'm so glad it was helpful! I also felt really ashamed of my feelings of jealousy - people - even friends tend to say 'oh god you're just being mental again' when you talk about it..and think it's childish. Which it is - in that it's a feeling that makes you vulnerable.

I was also going to say BACP - there are often centres which offer cheaper therapy - mine was £45 a week - honestly the best money I ever spent. I had a year - and every time I wondered about the money, I thought, I don't want to still have these anxieties in ten years time.

My father wasn't violent - but he was completely uncommitted to every woman he ever met - and that was always seen as a real joke ie made him the life and soul of the party - so I really took that on board as normal.

The therapist was a safe space I could pour out all my anxieties - I would collect my mad thoughts and take them to her each week!

I don't know about you - but one real issue for me was for example at parties - I would look at my partner at the time across a room talking to another woman and it would make me feel absolutely sick with fear/ anxiety ....I feel embarrased even writing it! It's so ridiculous - but it was how I felt.

I realised that having to have your partner right next to you to be certain they are still committed is a result of having no belief whatsoever in the notion of commitment - because when somebody commits to you that is an active decision - not a momentary feeling.

I remember wanting to have a husband who had a job that didn't involve meeting people - I thought maybe a gardener! Because I was so anxious that he would cheat on me at work.

I told the therapist 'I imagine work is a hotbed of sexual activity'....!! that was just my fevered brain!

anyway - I have a partner now who works in a busy office, with lots of people - and I never worry about it - it's like I've changed the pattern of my brain. The therapist helped me unravel each anxious thought - find the deeper belief that lay underneath it.

ie. all men cheat/ all men are like my father....and then build up a new thought...

re. violence from your father - I believe if you read oliver james - he says this creates a real pattern of anxiety because your cortisol (stress hormone) levels are raised to an unusual level as a child - and you live on a constant state of alert.....

It actually changes your brain and makes you expect bad things to happen....

knitknack Sun 06-Feb-11 18:40:08

Oh gosh I recognise SO many things in your posts Waterrat (I read your replies on the other thread too)... My DH works at home but will occasionally have to go away and work with lots of people (he's a scriptwriter) the thought of how I will feel during that period is terrifying! (not that I'd burden him with that).

Anyway, thank you, again. And to NoNamesNoPackDrill. I looked up the BACP site and I've found someone really close to us and the cost achievable (and my dear, dear dh says we'll pay whatever it takes...) and I feel a million times better than I did on Friday I mean, the pain and irrationality is still there, but I feel that a) other people understand and b) that maybe I can do something about this!

THANK YOU!

OP’s posts: |
zippyandgeorge Sun 06-Feb-11 20:56:59

Thankyou so much for the information about BACP. I'm planning to contact someone next week. I'm scared, especially about talking about the past but really need to do this as at times feel my jealousy is taking over my life and eating me up inside.

Good Luck Knitknack!

knitknack Sun 06-Feb-11 21:06:04

And good luck zippyandgeorge! Don't be scared, we'll be doing it together - let me know how you get on!

OP’s posts: |
NorthernComfort Sun 06-Feb-11 22:26:54

hello. I was exactly the same, and it really fucked up my first serious relationship. I used to actually imagine them together sexually, almost like a film in now head and it made me feel physically sick. Same with my second relationship and I made then both get rid of anything to do with the exes. Didn't help that the first one wasn't entirely honest with me and the second one cheated on me. Waterrat's post is fantastic and actually it's one to read this a I thought it was just me who thought like this. I too had a crappy childhood which I have no doubt is to blame. I seem to be much better now i'm marriede to di who is so stable and fantastic and has always been so supportive of me no matter what. I'm not sure wat made it go away, and don't get me wrong, I still hate thinking about him with anyone else but it's not somethin I tend to do often anymore. But I don.t know why or how it stopped. Maybe I just feel secure for the first time in my life. Maybe it comes with time? I hope you can get on top of this, definitely check out the counselling, I'm sure it will put it all into perspective for you and help you to move on. X

NorthernComfort Sun 06-Feb-11 22:28:46

sorry if my post is a bit scrambled- am having to type this on my phone and it's a painful procedure!

conquita Mon 07-Feb-11 00:37:00

I can't believe this, I am exactly the same.

My ex spent years lieing to me about having affairs, we were living in an Asian country at the time and I felt massive compared with the tiny Asian women he was working with. My self asteem just plummeted. The relationship ended and he ended up marrying the woman [his secretary] I knew he was having the affair with. I then met an old friend and we ended up getting together, but I have always felt insecure because his ex was from Brasil. I know Brasilian women are meant to be amazing and I feel so 'normal' compared to how she must have looked and to be around.
Whenever we went out together I would watch how he acted with other women and read so much into the looks he gave them etc. I better now with this though. I think.

After 4 years the ex is still an issue though, only the other night we watched a Brasilian film and I asked him if he wanted to watch it because of his ex. How embarrassed I am to have even let this out of my mouth. He said I was being ridiculous. I am, I know it. I just wish I could accept that I am good enough for him.

I have had therapy to deal with my ex and the trust issues with that, but regarding the Brasilian woman, I just can't let it go. It sounds really really stupid. I know.

Madwithjealousy Mon 07-Feb-11 01:10:31

This has raised some really interesting points and don't you feel better just knowing you're not alone? Thanks for raising it knitknack.

I have (as my name suggests) driven myself mad over the years with every partner I've cared about.

The photos of exes were imprinted in my mind, to be played like some tortuous slide-show. I convinced myself I was losing my hair because one ex had extremely thick hair ! I even went for a consultation where the specialist looked at me as if I was mad (which I suppose I was) blush

I would hate anyone with the same name as the ex, and the name would jump out at me from TV credits etc. I didn't want to even consider using a name with the same initial for my first child. Crazy I know.

Your post rings so true conquita. I really feel your pain, I know exactly what you're going through.

My dad wasn't exactly abusive but he did have a problem with alcohol and he could wither me with a stern word.

I think I might look into the therapy suggested for my own peace of mind. Thank you for your great replies too waterrat smile

NorthernComfort Mon 07-Feb-11 08:13:01

Madwith - the names jumping out of the credits, oh my god, I did this too! Or if I saw the letters on a car reg plate or on a billboard it would put me on a downer for the rest of the day. I've since realised that I can be a bit obsessive... hmm

Really reassuring to see this, I always thought I was quietly mental all by myself...

usedtobeyoung Mon 07-Feb-11 09:13:31

Thank you so much for this thread knitknack. It is so close to home.

I can be so consumed by my jealousy. I have been putting off therapy for the longest time but know it is what I need to sort my head out.

It can be so scary when these thoughts and feelings seem to take over.

Interestingly my father was like waterrats totally uncommitted to his relationships and I was actually the result of an affair.

Waterrat your posts were so enlightening perhaps the most powerful posts I have read on MN in relation to my own life, thank you.

I hope knitknack that you get it sorted as its a crap way to live.

waterrat Mon 07-Feb-11 09:29:15

http://the-iacp.com/cbtjealousyleahytirch2008.pdf

This is a really interesting link - I read this and completely identified with it. Actually after saying CBT isn't useful - this is a CBT link - but I do think that you need proper therapy in order to get to the bottom of why you have certain responses.

One of the things mentioned in this research is that jealous people have the belief that 'because I am afraid, then it is dangerous' ie. seeing emotional intensity as evidence that something in the real world is actually a threat.

An important part of getting over jealousy (which would be better categorised as fear/ anxiety really...) is seeing that the response in your mind is not actually connected to the real world.

A shameful tale - I once became absolutely convinced that my current partner fancied a woman at a party - I thought they were communicating with their eyes! And even though her boyfriend was there, I thought he was in on the whole thing and laughing at me. jesus, I was nuts.

Anyway - the therapist helped me see that I I had such a strong fear inside of me of something like this happening - that I was projecting it onto the outside world and seeing it there....

That was one of the first times I actually clicked that all of this originated in my mind - wheras before I had thought it was a matter of 'overreaction' to things that were happening...if that makes sense?

One other useful thing I would say to people suffering from this at any level - is to remember that part of it is your mind trying to anticipate betrayal or threat - but you have to embrace uncertainty in life. Knowing you can never be completely certain - and allowing your mind to relax into trust - it's one of the things they try to teach you to recover from this....

and of course self confidence is important too - particularly in regard to exes...just believing and accepting that you are enough for your partner....and are all they need.

Madwithjealousy Mon 07-Feb-11 09:35:25

NorthernComfort yes, I did the car numberplate thing too. It's all-consuming isn't it? Like a constant niggle in the back of your mind.

And obsessing about any club, restaurant, holiday destination, shop, ANYTHING basically that had ever been connected to an ex.

I would even be jealous of crushes they'd had when they were 9 years old.

And of strangers that I knew would be their 'type'.

Do you find it is helping to even just admit to this madness?!

I agree with the comments about Waterrat's posts; I thought it was just something I'd have to live with but to know there could be an end to it is really inspiring.

Madwithjealousy Mon 07-Feb-11 10:20:49

Just another point. All my long-term partners have suffered from similar levels of jealousy/insecurity.

Have I chosen these partners for this very reason ?

Are your partners equally jealous ?

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