Mailbag: On jealousy, possessiveness, and how not to be needy

Looks like it’s been a while since I put up some letters on the blog. There have been some good ones recently, so let’s dive right in:

Hello Dr. Ali! I love your book!

I’m writing you today with a question about love. I’ve had a male best friend for the past 4 years. We do everything together. I know he loves and adores me, but he won’t be my boyfriend because I slept with one of his high school buddies a long time ago. Almost 10 years before meeting my best friend.This old high school buddy lives on the other side of the country now, and we both haven’t talked to him in 3 years. My best friend still won’t get over what happened. I love him so much and want to be with him. I know he loves me too and doesn’t want to lose me in his life. What can I do to change his mind, forgive me of my past, and give me a chance?

Thank you, Dr. Ali!

Sincerely, Mona

Mona —

Thanks for a great letter! And love the fact that you love my book. But do you really love my book, or are you just saying it to get an answer to your letter? I see how it is…

But I digress. As for your boy: sounds like he’s being an idiot.

However, you’re also doing some strange things, too — like thinking you’re somehow guilty of something: ‘forgive me of my past and give me a chance’, as you put it. Seriously? Umm, let’s not buy into his twisted view of the world. Even if he had some weird justification for his juvenile behavior — hello, it’s been 10 years. Time to grow up.

If he wants you, he should come and get you. In the meantime, you should be going out with other fabulous men — and telling him all about it. You’re best friends, right? This is what best friends can talk about, right? Awesome! If he’s actually into you, he won’t be able to stand it, and he’d be a fool not to make a move. And if he doesn’t make a move, that means he’s either a fool and/or not into you. And would you want to date a fool who’s not into you? Hell no. And you are free to move on.

Also, be aware that even the so-called best-case scenario — that he responds affirmatively and you two get together in front of an oceanfront vista with sweeping violin crescendos and champagne — may not turn out well. You’ve never been in a real relationship together, and if he’s being vaguely possessive and weird now, it should be interesting to see how he behaves once he has some kind of claim on you.

Let me know how it goes!

And, speaking of being possessive, here’s a good one:

Dr. Ali,

I wanted to thank you for the email you sent [about short- and long-term relationships]. I enjoyed reading it and thought it was very insightful. So much so, that I forwarded it to my boyfriend. BIG mistake! We’ve been fighting all day because of it.

We’ve only been dating 6 months, but are completely head over heels for each other! We have so much fun together and the passion between us is beyond amazing. We literally can not keep our hands off each other! He is loving and supportive, BUT he has one serious flaw…he is soooo jealous! I feel like I can’t even mention another man’s name without getting the, “third degree” over it.

In his defense, when we started dating I admitted to talking to a few male friends. One of whom was my ex-fiancée, and shared some dating stories that I thought were pretty funny.  What I have since learned is that this REALLY bothered my boyfriend. I have vowed to NEVER do this again and out of respect for my boyfriend and our relationship I agreed to stop speaking with my ex.  In hindsight, I think this was probably a good idea anyway.

Although I can understand his concern related to a prior relationship. I don’t understand or appreciate the constant inquiries about every man I mention, even you, Dr. Ali!

I have been told that I am, honest to a fault and one of the most trustworthy people my friends know. Maybe he just hasn’t discovered this yet? Maybe he’s just being protective? Or perhaps this is MY issue? I’m just not sure. What I do know is that I want my boyfriend to be my best friend, and I want to be able to tell my best friend anything. Am I wrong? Or am I being insensitive to his needs? Any help would be appreciated!

Your Friend, Andrea

Andrea —

First of all, what you have described to me sounds like an acute drug addiction. Psychologists would call it limerence. Others call it infatuation or a crush.

I call it a prelude to disaster.

It lasts on average 18 months. Enjoy it while it lasts, but please do not mistake it for real love. Lasting love starts small and grows over time; infatuation starts big and diminishes over time.

Second, unless your boy decides to grow up real fast, the jealousy thing is going to be a dealbreaker. Sounds like he’s got issues that he needs to handle before he can be this close to someone, and this is not your lesson to teach. If this is what he’s like in the honeymoon period, can you imagine how psycho possessive he’ll be once the relationship gets more serious? Unless you were planning on signing up for a lifetime of walking around eggshells, beware, Andrea dear. Possession is not the same as love. When we truly love someone, we want her to be free to flourish, even if it’s not exactly to our pleasing.

Third, any time you find yourself making excuses for a guy, it’s a sure sign the relationship is in trouble. Why defend him unless you know there’s a justified attack coming at him? So relinquish your need to be right (i.e. saying to yourself “I’m going to make this work”), and instead look at the relationship and ask yourself: is this what fulfills me? Fulfillment is a feeling, not a person. And if someone’s making you feel guilty and dishonest, you’ve got to ask yourself if that’s how you want to feel in the long run.

Dear Dr Ali,
I have written to you before and I know you can’t answer everyone and I know that everyone feels that their relationship problems are life and death. I have read your book cover to cover many times and it certainly has improved my self esteem a hundred fold which has made me believe in abundance. Now I don’t feel as desperate and men are coming out of the walls.

However there is one very special man. A GOOD man that met 6 months ago. My problem is that I didn’t get your book until after I met him. Long story but I really messed up with my neediness. So despite our connection in all 3 chakras, he wound up breaking it off with me. Devastated. As I mentioned in a previous e mail that I hope you read, I wrote to him and explained that I have sought help and THANKED him for giving me the chance to grow and become a better person. Bear with me almost done. Three months ago he took his yearly vacation to Italy and took a train around Europe. I decided it was time enough to make contact. I asked if when he got back we could try to see each other again and see what happens.

Miraculously he wrote back immediately THAT Would be great !! And THANKED me! He comes home Sunday and I am shaking in my boots that I will do something wrong again and lose him forever. For instance I don’t know what to do if he doesn’t call me within a few days. Should I call him, and how long should I wait?

Thank you for everything, Summer

Summer —
It’s past Sunday, so by now you have either already screwed it up completely or you’re already off to the races. Either way, I’m going to point out some things here for the next time you come across a situation like this.
Kudos to you for getting in the abundance mindset and having guys come out of the woodworks. Kudos to you also for recognizing that you may have screwed it up with this guy with your neediness.
However, now that you have that excellent diagnosis, I don’t understand why you think that the same neediness will work to get him back. You’re afraid that you’ll do something wrong? That you’ll lose him again? What to do if he doesn’t call?
First of all, I’d like you to focus on what you want, not what you don’t. If you drive down the highway thinking “I don’t want to crash, I don’t want to crash”, chances are you’re gonna crash. So focus on what you want: having a great time with him so you get to know him better.
Second, is he really a good guy? Do you know that for sure 100%? I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve hankered for a woman — “Omigod, she soooo amaaaazing” — and then, once I got more information, changed my mind rapidly and irreversibly. This is called projection: we’re seeing the beloved as some idealized thing in our head, vs who he or she really is.
So what I would suggest is to go easy on this. Stop thinking that he’s the greatest thing since warm banana bread pudding (oh my). Instead, focus on spending quality time with him to evaluate him and find out if he’s a good fit for you. Be the buyer, always.
Third, you can’t lose what you don’t have. You’ve already lost him once! So there’s only potential for upside here — you can’t re-lose him. So be bold. Take risks. And quit acting like a potted plant who has to ask for permission to call a boy, because you’re not one. You are woman, dammit. Let’s hear you roar already.
And finally, an actual useful technique, in case you’re hell-bent on getting this guy. Is there some guy amongst the many in the woodwork who’s into you more than you’re into him? Or some guy at any point in your life who fits that bill? Yes?
Good. Imagine how you dealt with that guy. How eager were you to return his phone calls? How badly did you want to hang out with him? How muted was your enthusiasm? Well, that’s how you should treat this guy if you want him back. Be flirtatious but coy. Be enthusiastic about talking to him, but ultimately too busy to hang out with him (for now). Even better, date two other guys (remember the Three Man Plan from The Tao of Dating?). Make him work for it, dammit. There is no other way to get the result you want.
That’s all for now. If you have a question and you want me to answer it, make it brief (200 words or less — no novellas, please), make sure there’s a question in there, put ‘QUESTION’ in the subject line, and zap it to me at DrAli(at)
Go forth and conquer
Dr  Ali B
PS: I love it when you express your effusive appreciation of the book in a private note to me. I’m absolutely ecstatic when you put it up as a review on Amazon. Thanks for your support so far.
Categories: Dating for Women