Jealous Boyfriend: What’s Normal vs. What’s Unhealthy

A man who is a jealous boyfriend hugging his girlfriend tight as they laugh together.

If Disney gave us unrealistic expectations for finding true love, Hollywood gave us unrealistic expectations for what a healthy relationship looks like.

Unfortunately, tons of movies and TV shows portray boyfriends acting in obsessive, controlling, or borderline stalker-ish ways as a sign that they really care about their female partner (or crush).

Growing up with these influences can make it easy for women to confuse warning signs as simply a signal that their boyfriend truly loves them—and unfortunately, this can be dangerous.  

If you’re wondering if your boyfriend’s jealous behavior is normal vs. something to be concerned about, here are some guidelines.

Normal: Wanting to hear about your day.

Not Normal: Asking a slew of questions about your day that seem more about gathering information than interest in your life.

There’s a fine line between a guy who wants to hear about your day, and a guy who sounds like he’s interrogating you. A nice, “what did you get up to today?” can be great. On the other hand, when you go out one night and have to deal with your boyfriend asking who was there, how drunk you got, and if you did any dancing, it feels a bit off.

A good rule of thumb is that if it feels wrong, it probably is. Another way to gauge it is: does it feel like he keeps asking unnecessary follow-up questions that are fact-based? If he’s asking something subjective (eg: “did you have a good time?”) it’s normal, whereas something objective (eg: “what did you wear?”) is a sign of unhealthy jealousy.

Normal: Making a teasing comment about that sexy selfie you posted on Instagram

Not Normal: Telling you that he doesn’t approve of you posting such revealing photos on social media.

As much as I wish it wasn’t, it’s pretty normal for guys to get jealous when their girlfriend posts something sexy on the ‘gram. Unfortunately, this is because of the way society treats men to see their female partners, so it’s not totally your man’s fault.

A teasing comment, like, “damn you must have been feeling yourself today,” is somewhat normal (although still not ideal).

However, when your boyfriend tries to control or have a say in what you post on your social media, that’s when it starts charting into extremely unhealthy territory.

If he communicates openly about his jealousy when you post certain things, talk to him about where the root of that jealousy comes from instead of simply acquiescing to his wishes. Chances are, once he tries to articulate the reason for his jealousy, both of you will realize that he has some things to work through on his own and that it’s not really about you.

Normal: Wanting to meet your friends.

Not Normal: Always finding a reason to tag along when you have plans with friends—and seemingly never giving you time alone with your friends.

A tell-tale sign of a possessive partner is one that doesn’t allow his partner to have alone time with her friends (or even with her family).

At the beginning of a relationship, it can seem like a great sign that your new boo wants to meet your friends and family. But if you notice that you seemingly haven’t had any alone time with your BFF since dating your new boyfriend, it might be a sign that he’s trying to isolate you from your support system.

Same goes for a boyfriend that wants to spend every waking moment with you—it may seem Romeo & Juliet-like, but it’s actually a waving red flag that he’s a controlling partner.

Normal: Asking you about your ex.  

Not Normal: Asking you to block or unfriend your ex—or any other male friends, coworkers, etc.

If it was up to me, we’d all talk about our exes on the first date (and usually, I do). Someone’s relationship with their ex and they way they talk about it can be a great way to learn what kind of partner they are.

Just like a guy saying, “all my exes are crazy” is a red flag, so is any guy who asks you to block all communication with your ex. Even more so, any guy who wants you to stop communicating with your male friends, coworkers, or other guys in your life.

A healthy partner will support your friendships—even if they’re with ex boyfriends. A healthy partner will also trust you to communicate with members of the opposite sex without assuming the worst. After all, if he doesn’t trust you, why is he dating you?

Normal: Asking you who keeps blowing you up on Snapchat.

Not Normal: Asking if he can look through your Snapchat messages.

Unfortunately, while it seems like many of us have had a partner look through our phones, this is still certainly not healthy behavior. Jealousy is natural, and so is the curiosity that arises when our partner’s phone keeps vibrating in the late hours of the evening.

While asking who keeps blowing you up on Snapchat is still certainly the ugly green monster rearing its head, it’s a natural and normal form of jealousy that your partner can learn to improve.

Asking to look through your phone—or worse, going through it while you’re in the shower—is an invasion of privacy and a sign that your partner is not ready to be in a relationship.

If you’ve noticed that you’ve been putting up with an unhealthily jealous or controlling partner, don’t beat yourself up—it’s not your fault.

The way our culture portrays “romantic love” on the silver screen can be seriously problematic and confusing. Sometimes we like someone so much that we want to believe that the things they’re doing come from a good place, even when deep down we know it doesn’t.

However, there’s no time like the present to stand your ground and/or remove yourself from an unhealthy relationship. Even if you feel like you’ve been isolated from your friends and family, they’ll be willing to step in and help you when you need it—all you have to do is say the word.

Ashley Uzer

Ashley Uzer is a freelance writer who specializes in sex and dating. She has written for many international outlets including Bustle, VICE, & Galore. She’s currently doing the whole digital nomad thing, but you can find her in Washington D.C. or NYC every once in a while. Follow along with her adventures on TwitterInstagram, or on her blog.

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