Dear Dr. Darcy:
My girlfriend is a very well-known promoter in the [San-Francisco] Bay area. Although I love her, recently I’ve begun questioning our relationship. I’m not a jealous person but she’s recognized everywhere we go. I’m finding myself feeling competitive with other women. I was a women’s studies major in college and I’m committed to supporting other women, however, when I see the constant attention and admiration she gets from strangers I feel myself becoming catty and turning into someone I don’t like. I’m all for this relationship if it helps me become a better person, but if it’s turning me into a negative person maybe it’s time to get out.
The thing about relationships is that they don’t turn us into anything that isn’t (perhaps dormant) in us. It would be very convenient to identify our partners as the problem because the solution would be simple. If our problems were the result of others we’d be fairly powerless to improve any aspects of our lives. Fortunately, the flip side is that you are almost always able to improve your life because most of what needs fixing is, well, You.
I’m not hearing evidence that she’s doing anything to legitimately provoke insecurity in you. And believe it or not, if your relationship is kicking up some issues in you, it’s a good thing. I believe relationships act as mirrors, reflecting our issues and magnifying them until they are so big they can’t be ignored. It may be that you always had some jealousy inside you, and your education made it too difficult to face those feelings, so you detached from them. And I’m sure that they pre-date your celesbian girlfriend.
Ask yourself how comfortable you are being the ‘supportive’ partner, rather than the one in the limelight. It may be that your discomfort has little to do with feeling threatened by other women, rather, feeling overshadowed by your girlfriend’s professional success. I haven’t heard anything about your profession or the extent to which you may or may not be satisfied with your level of success.
Here’s one of my tricks for managing my own relationship: When I’m hyper-focused on what she’s doing wrong or on negative feelings she’s bringing up in me, I ask myself In what ways do I make her feel this way, and I usually realize that I’m seeing in her characteristics of myself that I’m hesitant to own. So do not ditch the girlfriend, because if you do you’ll find yourself with your baggage intact and with no compelling reason to work through it.