Boyfriend needs to repair his leaking emotions

Published 11:30 am Saturday, May 3, 2014

Question: I love my boyfriend very much, but his jealousy worries me. He even gets extremely agitated any time I greet a member of the opposite sex. He openly criticizes my friendliness and my already conservative clothing. He always accuses me of “checking out” other men.” Some insignificant situations have been known to completely set him off. He admits he has a problem but how can I deal with his problem better?

Answer: Michael awakes to the sound of his alarm. Still partially asleep he slumbers into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. Suddenly his bare feet, along with the bottom edge of his pajama bottoms, encounter standing water. Out of anger and frustration, he kicks the bottom drawer of his range, busts his big toe open, and proceeds to put every expletive learned throughout his entire life to impeccable use.

Michael begins to dread the nagging waiting to exude from the mouth of his still sleeping wife. “I told you the dishwasher was leaking and to shut off its valve before you came to bed.” Actually, Michael had checked his tool box only to discover he lacked the appropriate tool he needed. Unable to fulfill his wife’s specific request, he tried to cancel the automatically timed overnight cycle instead. Obviously his attempt had failed.

The pipe carrying water to Michael’s dishwasher is used to represent the pipe carrying jealousy to your boyfriend’s heart. Psychologically speaking, all emotions, including jealousy, are piped to flow within the complex emotional systems we each have been given in order to separate us from the animal kingdom. As long as we are able to close off the appropriate valve when a leak within one of the pipes is detected, the system remains healthy. The problem comes when a person lacks the tool he needs to shut off a valve. To better understand this analogy consider the following.

Suppose your boyfriend accuses you of checking out a good-looking man across from you at a restaurant. His naturally piped jealousy says to him, “What does she see in him?” Perhaps because he was unjustly yet convincingly degraded or ignored by someone close to him as a child, he became conditioned to feel bad about himself, grew accustomed to internalizing his pain, and his pipe of jealousy springs a leak.

Because he never acquired the tool of self-confidence he could use to cut off his jealousy pipe valve, the leak continues and unhealthily seeps into his mind and actions. He begins to think “He is better looking than I am or he has more money than I do” and overreact to relatively insignificant situations.

Leaking jealousy is one of the common driving forces behind psychological, verbal and even physical abuse. Over time it can escalate and turn into violent eruptions of anger.

Even though the potential harm these violent eruptions can inflict upon others must not be underestimated, this anger is not insurmountable once the tools needed to shut off the leaking pipe of an emotion’s valve are acquired.

Acquisition of these tools, however, requires significant measures on the part of the one with the leak to challenge his self-condemning inner voice and on those around him to support and be patient with him as he goes through this process.

Before going further, take time to assess your boyfriend’s willingness to work with you on such an initiative by opening discussions with him about his jealousy at a time when he is not already aggravated or otherwise distracted.

Be sure to suggest he seek a therapist and explain your willingness to go with him and support him should decide to go. Based upon his reaction to your communicative attempts, you will be able to gauge his willingness to work on repairing his pipe and his relationship with you.

If he appears receptive to you, start working with him immediately to establish ground rules for your relationship upon which you both comfortably agree. Remember, being in a relationship does not grant one ownership of another nor permission to act as if one is still single.

If on the other hand he shows any lack of receptivity to you or to working with you, you must decide between staying with him, risking exposing yourself to potentially escalating emotional and or physical abuse, and leaving him to protect yourself from the same. You must also make this decision if he appears initially receptive to you yet later becomes hesitant or otherwise unwilling.

No amount of encouragement, effort or love to come from outside himself can or will deliver the tool your boyfriend needs to shut of the valve attached to his leaking pipe of jealousy. Any amount of encouragement, effort or love to come from himself can and will, however, expedite delivery of this lifetime warrantied, money-back guaranteed tool.

ABBIE-FOX WORRELL is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to