About three months ago, I confessed to my best friend, and we started dating. This is honestly the best relationship I’ve ever been in. Every minute I spend with her is so much fun, and I love her so much, both as a friend and as a partner. There’s just one problem — I’m ridiculously insecure.
This girl is (objectively) WAY out of my league. She’s gorgeous and talented and smart, and I’m… not so much. Which gives me kind of a complex, but I’ll get more into that later. My girlfriend (who will henceforth be known as Em) has a friend, Vee. Em and Vee have been best friends for years now, and they have a great relationship. I’m really happy for Em that she has such great friends like Vee, but whenever I see them interacting, especially on twitter, I get really jealous. I’m honestly so disgusted at myself for feeling like this, but they’re so close, and whenever I see them talk, I can’t help but wish that Em and I had that kind of relationship. I realize that a close friendship like that takes time, and Em and I have only known each other for a little over a year, but still… They consistently make giant threads talking about how much they love each other and send each other gift art and stuff, but she always seems kind of hesitant to be even half as affectionate with me, HER LITERAL GIRLFRIEND, which leaves me feeling kind of neglected. On top of that, I’m constantly scared that one day Em is gonna realize that she can do better than me and just leave. It’s pretty obvious that Vee has a massive crush on M, and considering how close the two of them are, I unconsciously see Vee as a threat, as much as I don’t want to. However, the rational part of me knows that I’m being totally ridiculous. Emis allowed to have other friends who she’s close to and shares a bond with.
I don’t want to tell her to be less affectionate with Vee because I know it’s not my place to police her relationships. I also know that a close relationship like that takes time to develop. However, when I see Em write a 20+ tweet thread for Vee’s birthday about how she loves her so much when she didn’t give me even one tweet, I start to feel kind of threatened (THAT SOUNDS SO PETTY but I hope you can understand where I’m coming from.) I’d really like to feel more secure in this relationship, but I don’t know how to express that to Em without making it seem like I want her to stop talking to Vee, which I don’t. Help?
Before we go any further, Sparkler, let me just get this out of the way: what I’m about to suggest is probably going to sound completely insane to you, because I am approximately one hundred thousand years old, and my relationship with the internet is therefore different from yours in some pretty fundamental ways (i.e. it has not always been there for me, i.e. when I was in high school people still had pagers. Do you know what those are? Never mind. The point is, your Auntie is OLD AS DUST.) But crazy as it may seem, here is my immediate reaction upon reading your letter:
This is what the mute button is for.
And here’s why: for you, watching your girlfriend and her BFF interact on Twitter is more or less the digital equivalent of following them around and hiding in the bushes and eavesdropping on their every conversation — not in the sense that you’re a creepy pervy peeping tom who’s engaged in socially-unacceptable stalking (you’re not!), but in the sense that even a platonic close relationship can make you feel really lonely when you’re watching it from the outside. And if you weren’t insecure to begin with, then all this comparing of your very new romance against the longtime comfort and intimacy of their multi-year friendship would certainly get you there.
The thing is, just because the Emm & Vee Show is airing right in your face every damn day, and just because social media has turned so many people’s relationships from a private affair into a public performance, that doesn’t mean you have to watch it. Especially when watching it makes you feel bad! And since dealing with your insecurities is paramount, here — because you’re right, you can’t police her relationships, and trying will only make you feel (and look) like the Queen of the Jealous Control Freaks — I think there’s a strong argument to be made for removing from your daily life the one thing that constantly and reliably triggers you in a really unhealthy way.
Hence, the mute button. (Or you could get off Twitter entirely, but I realize that this suggestion may well cross the line between a crazy idea and an impossible one.) Just try it. Humor me. See how much better you feel when you don’t have to see Em and Vee fawning all over each other on an endless scroll every day. And if muting your own girlfriend is too complicated (although it sounds like you guys don’t really interact much on Twitter, so maybe not?), there are other ways to tweak your timeline so that you’re not seeing things that upset you. Even if you can’t filter out all of it, you can certainly make it better.
And once you’ve done that, you can get to work on the part where you make peace with the existence of your girlfriend’s other friendships, as well as with the fact that yeah, she could someday decide that she’s not feeling it anymore and just leave — as could you! That’s the terrible and wonderful thing about your (and any) relationship: you’re both choosing to be in it, despite all the many alternatives available. The way you continue to choose each other, day after day, is what makes it romantic. But dude, even if the worst comes to pass, and Em breaks up with you? It will not hurt less because you spent all your time pre-breakup monitoring her other relationships, comparing them to your own, and tormenting yourself that it might not last. All you’re doing right now is ruining your own good time, and if something bad happens, I promise you, there’s not going to be any satisfaction in being able to say you saw it coming.
For the record, letting go like this is not easy, especially when you’re in the habit of poking at your own soft targets all the time (see: watching the Em & Vee Show on Twitter.) You’re going to have to grit your teeth and resist the urge to monitor, to compare, to obsess over all the ways your own relationship with Em seems less than her relationship with Vee. But if you can find the strength to break out of that unhealthy cycle once, it will get progressively easier to do it again, until one morning you’ll wake up and realize that you didn’t even look at their feeds the previous day. Plus, the less you obsess about this, the more bandwidth you’ll have available to appreciate your own relationship with Em — which might be newer and not as marked by performative public shows of affection, but which must have its own superior qualities that make it unique and special, particularly when it comes to the kind of interactions that take place in person rather than in the Twitter public square. You’d know better than me what those qualities are, of course… but for one, I bet there’s a lot more kissing involved.
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