My Dilemma: I'm currently going through some anxiety in my relationship right now. My partner has a jealous streak and is paranoid. He went through my snapchat and found that I sent some pictures to some old male friends before we confirmed we were in a relationship 2 years ago. Now he is convinced I have been unfaithful for the duration of the relationship. How can I get him to see sense? Is it worth hanging on or should I walk away from someone that doesn't believe me?
The first thing that comes to mind when reading your message is your use of the word ‘currently’. You say that you are ‘currently going through some anxiety in your relationship’, but how often does your partner’s jealousy and paranoia impact on your relationship? Is this the first time it has happened, or the first of many? How do you handle it if it has happened before? Have you tackled it head on, or have you been brushing it under the carpet?
I often use an analogy in my practice which relates to emotions and feelings being ‘brushed under the carpet’. If you brush something under the carpet, initially it doesn’t affect you because you can barely see what is being hidden, but if you continue to do this, the mess will become a hump which you have to skirt around to avoid. Eventually this hump can become so big that it consumes the whole room with nowhere to escape, leading feelings to become overwhelming and even unmanageable. This is something we need to avoid, and it explains why it is important to address issues head on.
You ask if it is ‘worth hanging on’ or whether you should ‘walk away from someone who doesn’t believe you’. I am interested in your words ‘hanging on’ because the thought of someone literally hanging on to something does not appear comfortable or positive. Visualise what it feels like to hang on to something for a moment, and all the energy and resources this takes. Does this feel like a comfortable and stable position for you to be in? Does it look like the final straw? Can the energy and resources that you’re using to hang on to this relationship be used or focused elsewhere? Perhaps on yourself?
Change the perspective by asking yourself what you are hanging on for. What are you hoping for in this relationship? What do you want the outcome of this relationship to be? It is difficult to change those around us, but we have the power to decide what we want for ourselves. Think about what you want from your relationship and how to get this, and then consider how you can communicate this to your partner.
While walking away, instead of hanging on, will always seem easier in the literal sense, we must also consider all the time and energy you have invested in this relationship. You say you have been with your partner for two years, which means walking away won’t be as easy as it sounds. Reflect over the two years you have been together. How have they been for you? Have you been happy for all this time, or have you had similar issues in the past? Do you feel you have been hanging on for these two years?
It may also be helpful for you to externalise this issue by imagining your friend coming to you with the very same problem. This allows us to see scenarios more factually rather than emotionally. What advice would you give to this friend? Would you tell them to stick around, or walk away?
Indeed, you ask how to get your partner to ‘see sense’ but are you aware of the legalities involved in looking through someone’s phone? Have you had a discussion around this? This may help bring to light the severity of the situation for you. When having this discussion, be careful about putting blame or shame on your partner. People who have underlying issues around jealousy feel shame quickly, causing them to become defensive which can hinder the productivity of a conversation. Stick to the point that you are trying to make. Focus on the behaviour you are unhappy with (i.e. your partner going through your phone) and the emotions this made you feel because of it. Enter the conversation without expectations and be conscious that it may take time for him to digest your point of view.
Reflect inwards and focus on yourself for a moment. Your message gives the impression that you are focusing far too much on your partner and not enough on yourself. Reach out for your own self and think about what you need. Do you need support from other people? You could also benefit from speaking to a professional mediator through individual or couples therapy sessions. It will allow you and your partner to express your feelings in a neutral space, where you can both hear one another and get to the root of this issue.
Answer provided by Nicola Vanlint, BACP-Accredited Psychotherapist, specialising in anxiety, confidence, growth mindset and performance. Find more about Nicola on her website: www.nvtherapy.co.uk
Want to speak to someone about your mental health, day to day concerns or reach a specific life goal? Follow the link below to find thousands of BACP registered and accredited counsellors like Nicola who specialise in a whole host of therapeutic disciplines and mental health issues: www.bacp.co.uk/search/Therapists