Make It Stop: “I Can’t Stop Being Jealous Of My Boyfriend’s Ex”

My boyfriend, Sven (not his real name), and I have been together for about seven months. And while he’s incredible, there’s just one thing that makes me uncomfortable. My BF is very close with his ex-girlfriend Veronica (not her real name either). They hang out with each other one-on-one, share a circle of friends and common interests, they dated through college and even lived together.

I like this girl, and I want to be capable of forming a friendship with her, for both my boyfriend’s happiness and my own peace of mind. But every time I am put in a social situation with her, I freeze up, internally panic, and start comparing myself to her. Veronica is pretty, funny, and I can totally envision her and my boyfriend as having been/being a couple. I think she picks up on this vibe, which I find completely mortifying.

Early on in the relationship, in an effort to be honest, I told Sven about my apprehensions, but that I did not expect or want him to change his friendship with her. But this did not alleviate my discomfort as I hoped it would.

I trust my boyfriend, I even admire his ability to remain friends with an ex, but what can I do about this unwanted jealousy?

Right off the bat, you should shift your goal from becoming friends with her to just supporting her friendship with Sven as best as you can. Don’t expect to have a friendship with her. You can be cordial, sure, but don’t put that pressure on yourself. She’s been in his life for years; you’ve been in his life for a few months. Of course that’s going to feel intimidating for you and threatening for her.

There’s a shift happening; you’re becoming Sven’s main squeeze while she’s becoming more of a supporting player. And the truth is, the longer you’re with him, the less important she will be in his life. Believe me, she knows that. Your task is to help him make this transition from besties to good friends with her as gracefully as you can.

As for what you can do to slay the green monster, I’m going to let you in on a secret: You kill jealousy with gratitude. Yes, gratitude.

Say the following out loud: Thank you, Veronica, for being a support system for Sven. Thank you for teaching him how to be a great boyfriend. You’ve helped shape him into the man I love today and for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And thank you for illuminating what issues I need work on in my own life so that I can a more confident woman and the best girlfriend to Sven as possible.

Your jealousy is a gift. It’s a sign from the universe that you should be investing in some serious self-care. Pay attention to what exactly you’re jealous of. If it’s her beauty, get a nice haircut and invest in some quality makeup. If it’s her smarts, then read some books to broaden your mind. If you’re jealous of her closeness with Sven, then commit to being the best girlfriend for him that you can be. Get yourself to a place where you won’t feel threatened by anyone. Now you have a goal, thanks to Veronica.

I don’t know if you feel comfortable doing this, but you might consider having a heart-to-heart with Sven where you acknowledge that after doing some soul searching, you now realize that you were operating from a place of fear and insecurity before. Furthermore, you’re grateful to Veronica that she’s been such a good friend to him and that she’s helped shaped him into the wonderful person you get to date today. Even just saying that out loud might make you feel better.

I know this relationship stuff — jealousy, exes, articulating emotions — isn’t easy. But, you are growing as a person because of it. You’re confronting your fears, which is commendable. Most importantly, you’re learning how to kill jealousy dead in its tracks, which, no exaggeration, is a skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

If it makes you feel any better, in my experience, the more serious you and your boyfriend get, the less time he’ll have for these casual friend hangs. In fact, if you play your cards right and give them space to navigate their friendship on their own terms, she might be so impressed by the respectful way you honored their friendship—assuming she’s not a nut job, I don’t know the woman—she might even be your ally down the road. Just having her say, “I really like your girlfriend. She’s a keeper,” would mean a lot to Sven, which in turn would bode well for your future with him. Hey, it could happen.

For now, your only job is to keep strengthening your bond with Sven and to build your confidence up.  And once you slay that green monster, you will truly be able to enjoy the wonderful path you’re on with him.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.