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Ask Lynn-I’m Insecure About My Body


One woman's insecurity about her weight is triggered by her boyfriend's comments about finding one of her friends attractive. How should she react? Is it just jealousy — or a relationship red flag? Read on…

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
Yesterday my boyfriend mentioned that he remembered meeting a friend of mine at a big party we both attended prior to getting together. He mentioned that he remembered being "too scared to talk to her" that night — meaning that he was interested in her and found her attractive. I spoke with him briefly
Envy takes many forms — some destructive, some useful, some simply all too human.
at the same party, but he didn't flirt with me. We ended up attending another party several months later, were introduced to each other there, and started dating shortly afterward.

By the time that second party rolled around, I had lost over 30 pounds (though I was still not as thin as my friend). Over the three years that my boyfriend and I have been together, I've managed to put all that weight back on. I am feeling insecure about myself right now, and when he told me about his initial attraction to my friend before we met, it made me feel jealous and hurt my feelings.

Now obviously, we didn't know each other when he met my friend, and it is only reasonable to assume that he may find a wide variety of people attractive… not to mention the fact that, in the end, he fell in love with me. Right?

My issue is that my only other relationship of significance before this one ended because my then-fiancé cheated on me with my best friend at the time. I am extremely insecure at the idea of my boyfriend finding my friend attractive. I don't know how to process this or how to talk to him about it. I don't want to be dismissed as being insecure. Was he wrong to have mentioned this to me?

How does one deal with jealousy?
– Jealous Girl

Dear Jealous Girl,
It may feel like you have no answers right now, but you are asking all the right questions. Let's tackle them in order. Firstly, yes — it is correct, sensible and perhaps helpful for you to note that you're feeling jealous about someone your boyfriend met before you — and that (bonus!) you are the one he ended up with, not her. And, I might add, that this man has stayed with you for three years, and yes, he is going to find other people attractive (at least, in an abstract, idle way); after all, he isn't made of wood. Moving on!

Was he wrong to have mentioned this to you? Well, there is the chance that you heard him wrong, or misunderstood; is it possible that he — after randomly being reminded of that night — described feeling "scared to talk to her" because she was, I don't know, threatening (loudly and plausibly) to kill some guy for spilling his drink on her outfit just then? Maybe. But you know him well, so let's assume your interpretation was correct. While it's possible that he meant nothing whatsoever by it, it's still an odd thing to say… perhaps even meant to be provocative in a passive-aggressive way. I mean, you could loosely translate it as: "Remember that time I thought your friend was hot?" It's not exactly whispering sweet nothings in your ear. So, just like you, I have to wonder what he was getting at — and why he couldn't find a more mature,
It sounds like you might feel insecure no matter what your boyfriend said or actually meant.
productive way to bring it up in conversation. Before analyzing those particulars, let's address your last question: how does one deal with jealousy? It depends on how jealousy is dealing with you. Envy takes many forms — some destructive, some useful, some simply all too human. Who among us hasn't felt an irrational twinge of jealousy over someone that has nothing to do with us, much like in your case here? (Disclosure: I used to be madly jealous of an old boyfriend's crush on the late Benazir Bhutto.) But jealousy also serves as an indispensable alarm system for our hearts, and sometimes it gets triggered when we know something is off — and that's a good thing. Jealousy only does damage when it makes us possessive, or when it makes us needlessly miserable. So, is your case of envy a green-eyed monster… or essential red flag? How can you tell?

In a way, it's both. Given your past history and concerns about your weight (plus, it should be noted, our society's ongoing obsession with body image issues), it sounds like you might feel insecure no matter what your boyfriend said or actually meant. But he did say something triggering, so it's not just you.

What could he have hoped to accomplish by mentioning this stuff to you? It's not likely he's connecting all the dots, somehow implying that he would have gone for your friend if he'd known that you'd gain the weight back after he started seeing you. But he could be testing you, prodding you, trying to say something about the doubts he's having in your relationship. He may be (passive-aggressively or, at least, subconsciously) trying to get you to initiate a Big Relationship Talk so that he won't have to do it himself.

I'm afraid you're going to have to take that bait. You could say, "Hey, honey, I'm still kind of confused about why you brought up that whole thing about meeting Lulu at that party. Can you spell that out for me? What I mean by that is, was there anything you want to discuss with me regarding our relationship?" See what he says to you then — and whether he's patient, respectful and willing to engage in a dialogue in the first place, because that's the bare minimum you should expect from a long-term boyfriend.

Bottom line, JG, it's not someone else's job to make you feel secure about yourself and your body. You've got to find that confidence from within. But it is someone else's job to make you feel that you'll be loved through thick and thin — thighs included. If you determine through your discussion that he's not doing that for you anymore in this relationship, it's your job to find someone who will.


Lynn Harris (www.lynnharris.net) is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (www.chriskalb.com), of the award-winning website BreakupGirl.net — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via bg@breakupgirl.net. Your question may be answered in a future column.
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