When it comes to my relationship, I am a bit territorial. When I witness my partner getting more attention from someone who is not me or notice him enjoying the company of someone else, a familiar burning sensation starts to settle in my chest and in my stomach. It’s jealousy.
In my heterosexual relationship, my partner happens to have many friends who are of the opposite gender — which, objectively, is not a problem at all. Yet at times, I do have my moments of insecurity. It could be something as simple as an affectionate hug or a picture on social media of him with another girl, along with some sort of caption detailing their fun night out or a clever inside joke I’m not privy to. These small instances often tug at my heart.
I do trust my partner wholeheartedly. I know he would never do anything to hurt me intentionally, but I’ve definitely been inadvertently hurt by his friendships with other girls. Although it’s selfish and petty, these friendships have made me feel expendable. Often, I’d think maybe there was something lacking within me that he could find within his friendships with other girls. It was a self-pity fest for sure. I found myself sinking into a deeply grumpy mood that I refused to climb out of.
One of the most crucial parts to learning how to be an adult is — surprise, surprise — communication. In other words, I learned quickly that I couldn’t just sulk in a corner, complain and make people feel sorry for me. Although I realized that clear communication with my significant other was the easiest way to alleviate my jealousy, all I wanted to do was throw out snarky, passive aggressive one-liners and expect him to read my mind.
I soon reached a breaking point. He had so many more friends of the opposite gender than I did, and I decided to ask him about it.
I was thoroughly surprised by his answer. He had noticed the general ratio of his friend group as well — a realization I had not given him any credit for, since I was convinced he was acting cluelessly and selfishly. He explained that the general reasoning for his choice in friends was the conversation quality, which is not a ridiculous reason. He genuinely felt his conversations with female friends were more enjoyable than the ones he had with his male friends.
He explained all of this to me, earnestly saying how he loved to talk about so many different subjects — from politics and religion to social trends, pop culture and relationships. With his male friends, he often felt the conversations focused on sports, academics and maybe some gossip here and there. He also added how his male friends disliked being embarrassed or made fun of. They refuse to act “silly” or carefree and instead always feel like they have to present themselves a certain way.
Of course, how could I dispute such a sound reason? I couldn’t just tell him to stop being friends with people who added so much value to his life just because I felt jealous and threatened.
This does not mean all males are self-conscious and enjoy talking about sports. But it made sense that my partner would want to seek out friends — regardless of gender — who offer him a strong sense of belonging and enjoyment.
I understood my partner much more after that conversation. It certainly opened my eyes to the larger picture of how sometimes gender norms can inhibit one from being as expressive and sensitive as one wants to be. It was clear I was part of the problem because I was upset with him for having female friends. However, everyone should be free to have friends of other genders, as long as such friends are positive influences. I was confining him from being able to form meaningful relationships due to my preconceived notion of social norms, in which males stick with males and girls stick with girls.
In the end, I am glad my partner has the friends he has, and he is able to express himself the way he wants to. In this case, I have no issues hearing that notorious exclamation of “just friends!” from him. I know his relationship with other girls is not something meant to threaten me. Rather, these are friendships he cherishes and deserves — and jealousy should not stand in the way of that.
Shree Baphna is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.