Q. I am dating a really wonderful guy Josh, who is sweet, adorable and loving for the past 3 months. Recently his roommate moved to another city and he was looking for a new one. I thought he would ask me to be his roommate, but I didn’t propose that because we have been dating for only 3 months.
He finally found a roommate and she is a woman. What’s more she is physically very attractive and single and this makes me nervous. I have met her personally and talked to her a couple of times. She has a lot of interests that are closely aligned with Josh. They both love photography (I don’t), they both are very interested in politics and world affairs (I am not) and they both have an interest in learning foreign languages (I don’t) and all these makes me more nervous.
I am generally not jealous or suspicious of people, but I am just not comfortable with Josh having a female roommate. I am sure if I bring this up with him, I will come across as someone insecure and paranoid. I think a part of my fear is because I have been cheated in the past and I feel that may repeat again even though I know it’s unfair to compare him with my ex.
Do you have any advice on how I can better deal with my situation?
A. Before I jump into giving advice, first I want to normalize this situation for you.
I think it is a very common experience many people have when their partner lives with the opposite sex. I applaud your insight and self-awareness in recognizing feelings of jealousy and/or suspicion as you have articulated.
It makes perfect sense to me that if you have been cheated on in the past, you may be hypervigilant to potential infidelity.
I also applaud your awareness that is it unfair for you to compare your present boyfriend to your ex-boyfriend. I think it is important for you to have an open and honest conversation with your boyfriend in which you express you concerns, while I also agree that it is equally important to deliver the message in the way you intend for it to be perceived (sans insecurity and paranoia).
The key take-home point in effective communication is first learning how your partner feels, rather than why s/he feels that way. When you are able to reflect how your partner feels and empathize with that feeling, you create an atmosphere within the dyadic interaction that feels safe and thus, will not generate contempt or defensiveness.
Therefore, begin this conversation with understanding and empathy
– “I want to talk to you about your roommate, and I know this may make you feel _____, that is certainly not my intention, so please let me know if you do feel that way and I will try my best to change my (wording, tone, body language, etc.)” Then progress to telling him your honest fears and worries – tell him you are scared because you have been cheated on in the past and it hurt you very much.
I think it also important to acknowledge to him that you are not trying to compare him to your ex-boyfriend, nor do you assume he will behave in the same way, however, it is a fear and you would like to talk to him about it so that he can help you feel safe and secure in your relationship.
Often times, we have these fears and anxieties in our relationships and we do not share them with our partner for precisely the reason you have mentioned, which is we are afraid we will be perceived as insecure or paranoid.
The problem is, when we don’t express these fears or anxieties and work together to resolve them, they do not go way…in fact they may increase or intensify. It sounds to me like you acknowledge that this is a conversation you need to have and I agree with you whole-heartedly.
Remember, you and him are in this together as a team, not against one another.
If you treat this conversation as two people working together to try to navigate a tricky situation in a way that is most fair to both partners, rather than an attack of one partner on the other, I believe you will only grow stronger and closer as a couple!