Is He Wrong to Be Jealous?

Q: My girlfriend spends what I consider a great deal of time with another guy. She hangs out with him three or so nights per week, they go out to dinner and movies, they rent movies and watch them at each other's apartment, go out to bars, etc. To me, these are dates. He and my girlfriend work together and only met about four weeks ago. My girlfriend and I live about an hour apart and she says that she has no other friends and likes to have someone to hang out with.

I think that her behavior with this other guy is completely inappropriate, even if there is nothing physical going on between them. I appreciate that she's honest about the situation and I don't think she is physically cheating on me. However, I do feel betrayed and disrespected. Am I being overly jealous? Perhaps my negative reactions to this situation are inappropriate, but regardless, I'm very upset about this. -- Lance, 26

Dr. Susan: Even if you know your girlfriend well enough to trust her under the most trying of circumstances, I wouldn't be comfortable with her spending that much leisure time (drinking! in bars! sitting on sofas together!) with a young man who is a complete stranger to you. The essential point here, though, is that you feel extremely unhappy with what she's doing, and apparently her only reason is that she can't occupy herself more meaningfully every night of the week than by "hanging out" with another man. Why doesn't she have any other friends? Has she tried to make any or is she so wrapped up in this guy that she'll never have a chance to make new friends?

I suggest you let her know that, first of all, it's crucial for you to meet this guy and to hang out with him and her for an evening. Not to "check him out," but to better share in her life and see why he's such fun, since she spends so much time with him. If she baulks at that, be suspicious. Be very suspicious. Next, ask her to go a little further with her honesty by answering this: "Is there any sexual tension between the two of you?" If there is (and I'd be very surprised if there weren't), then let her know she's doing something that endangers your relationship and, as you care so much about her, you wish she'd think seriously about changing her behavior. Don't pressure her. And if she denies the slightest sexual attraction on her part, tell her that it's a rare guy who could resist her charms for very long, and that worries you.

In the final analysis, of course, it's up to her to decide how she spends her time, and if your misery becomes too great and she doesn't care, you may have to move on.

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