A friend took me out for my birthday, and it turned into a breakup. Not between us, of course, because we aren’t dating each other!
My friend had a new flirt thing going with a guy from a dating app. This is great fun for me, because I’ve been out of the game for nearly fifteen years and it can be really entertaining to learn about app life from someone else. Vicarious thrills and all that.
We were sitting on the beach under the moonlight, eating strawberry ice cream, when her phone lit up. She lit up, too, thinking of her crush and how much she liked him.
Her face fell as she read through the rapid-fire barrage of texts.
Her crush was accusing her of being out with someone else, because all she supposedly wanted was to date a younger guy.
What the heck, man??
She didn’t reply until later, after we said goodnight, but they had a fight and she blocked him. Honestly, who needs that kind of energy?
I couldn’t really get over it. I might be a lot of things, but a younger guy I am not!
Almost everything we were doing, my friend and I, would definitely come across as cheating if we were in a romantic context. In fact I picked up a phrase that another friend of mine coined. Ro-tic.
It’s “romantic” without the “man.”
This is what’s so messed up about jealousy and why it has to be a dealbreaker. This guy was so fixated on the idea that someone would want to cheat on him that he blew up a new romance over it.
I have a unique perspective on the situation because I was there, and I know myself to be a monogamously married heterosexual middle-aged woman. Totally not a single bachelor in his thirties or twenties. I know my friend wasn’t out cheating with a younger guy because I’m her alibi, and a pretty boring one at that.
What were we talking about, while this delusional man was fuming over his suspicions?
Soup. Vision boards. How to give feedback to our direct reports. Interior design. Dog breeds. Book clubs.
The thing about jealousy is that it turns a living, breathing person into an object. Rather than a woman, my friend is suddenly a cardboard cutout representing Cheatin’ Females.
About 20% of people cheat. That’s one in five. Those people believe in their hearts that everyone does it. People will do whatever they want based on the stories they tell themselves, and some tell themselves a story that involves romantic involvement with more than one person at a time. Sometimes they are willing to be honest about this and sometimes they are not. But it’s only one in five.
There are people who find themselves cheated on more than once. Sure, of course. One in five is reasonable probability, and I’d probably buy a lottery ticket based on 1:5 odds!
There are two things that happen. Either the person isn’t asking the right questions or setting the right boundaries, or their behavior instigates cheating in a person who otherwise never would have done it.
Actually there’s probably something else, which is when a person is attracted to the operatic style of relationship. That’s the one where the couple believe they have massive physical chemistry or some sort of fate has driven them together, and then they have huge fights but make up afterward. Barf me out the door. But some people like it. They can’t believe they are loved or wanted without high drama and explosive emotional outbursts.
What a jealous person probably wants, after throwing a jealous tantrum, is that the recipient replies poetically. “I love you the most, there’s nobody else for me, you are the grand passion of my life,” mwah. I actually walked my friend through this as a strategy and offered to talk to the dude on the phone, assuring him that I am not in fact a younger guy. Boring old lady talking about soup recipes.
Fortunately my friend has no need of a jealous boyfriend. Who does, really? It hadn’t occurred to her that there was a formula she could follow to keep this guy, because once he revealed this icky jealous side, she was done.
If it happens once, it will happen again.
She’ll sit next to a man on a plane, or her male boss will call her one evening, or a male person will happen to live within a mile of her, and the jealous guy will get jealous, suspicious ideas. More and more of her emotional energy will be burned up trying to explain reality to a walking delusion. The more she explains, the guiltier she will look.
Not only is it better to date among the 80% of reality-based, non-jealous people... It’s better to be alone.
Better to live amongst friends, neighbors, and colleagues who take you at your word.
Better to associate with people who trust you and accept that you are implicitly trustworthy, which of course you are.
The reason jealousy causes cheating is that when someone is constantly under suspicion, they’re forced into this defensive, negative posture through no fault of their own. The very first time that someone else comes along who treats them normally, without this constant criticism and judgment, they will remember what it’s like in Realityville. They’ll turn for comfort to the only person who is offering it. It’s impossible to love a scornful face.
I feel bad for the jealous guy, because he had everything going for him. Successful in his career, interesting, funny, physically attractive, well-dressed. “Gee, why are you single?” Until he can get over his fixation that every woman wants to cheat on him, nobody will ever love him. He’ll create his own lack of love until he is no longer funny, interesting, or attractive.
The real irony of this situation is that there is not a younger guy in this story, and never will be. One of the things my friend and I were talking about was what it would take for her to settle down and get married. We both agreed that younger guys are fun, but too much hassle, and no longer worth our time due to where we are in life.
My own husband happened to be out of town on business. (This evening wasn’t my actual birth date). He didn’t spend any time worrying about what I was doing, eating strawberry ice cream on the beach under the moonlight. He knows that I chose him, that I’d sworn off younger guys before we even started dating. There’s not a younger guy on earth who could give me what I have, either a mature husband or a fun female friendship.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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