In today’s video, I’m going to talk about a social trend, a unique challenge among male retroactive jealousy sufferers, which is only getting worse.
So: what is this problem among male retroactive jealousy sufferers?
Zachary Stockill: I often get asked about the differences between male retroactive jealousy sufferers and female retroactive jealousy sufferers. What are the common trends? What are the common problems? And what are the common distinctions between the sexes?
There are certainly challenges that I find more common between the sexes.
There is far more overlap, more commonalities than there are differences between the typical woman’s experience of retroactive jealousy and the typical man’s experience. However, there are some important differences, or some important trends that I’ve noticed over my eight years working on this issue.
One trend that I have noticed among the guys struggling with this problem is loneliness. And when I say loneliness, many guys struggling with retroactive jealousy don’t seem to have a broad support network. They don’t have a lot of friends; some of them don’t have any friends. Now, this can be heartbreaking for me to hear, especially if I establish a longer coaching relationship with one of my clients, where you find out that he’s really got no “sounding board” in his life, other than his significant other. That’s a serious problem when you’re depending on one person to represent your entire social support network.
Whether you’re male or female, it is dangerous when you’re depending on one person to fulfill all of your social needs; to be your parent, and your co-parent, your sexual co-adventurer, etc. When you’re putting “all of your social eggs in one basket,” this can exacerbate underlying tensions in the relationship, which isn’t good. And it often puts a tremendous amount of pressure on that relationship that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
Obviously, putting all this extra pressure on the relationship can inspire or exacerbate all kinds of problems, such as retroactive jealousy.
To be absolutely clear, I am not saying that, “If you don’t have any friends, you will have retroactive jealousy.” No, that’s not what I’m suggesting. However, I do believe that for many people, it is absolutely a contributing factor. Because the anxiety, the tension, the fear of loss surrounding your relationship will, no doubt, be much worse, much higher.
The more you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, the more you’re putting pressure on one person.
This was a lesson that I learned in my mid-20s, because in my first serious relationship, I made all the classic mistakes. I really “overvalued” my partner in the sense that I elevated her to be something that she wasn’t, and could never be. I was so head over heels in love, I was doing the whole “pedestalizing” thing, which is a big mistake. And I was neglecting my friends; I wouldn’t go get a beer and watch the game with my buddies anymore. I’d make excuses to not go out and meet new people and expand my social network. I was putting all of my social eggs in one basket, which created all kinds of problems in the relationship, which is no good for anyone: wasn’t good for me, and wasn’t good for my partner.
In a sense, it created a fertile landscape for retroactive jealousy to grow, because when we talk about retroactive jealousy, we’re talking about feelings of anger, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, tension, fear, etc. Obviously, when you’re elevating someone unduly in your life, when you are putting all of your social eggs in one basket, you’re creating an environment for all these fears, anxieties, all this worry to be much, much worse.
And frequently, I find that many of my male coaching clients don’t have good friends, because sometimes I’ll be in a coaching call and the client will tell me some mundane detail about his relationship…
He’ll share something that isn’t particularly provocative or noteworthy. And then he’ll say, “I’ve never told and shared this with anyone. I don’t have anybody I can talk to about this stuff. I can’t talk to my wife about this. I’ve got no one in my life as a sounding board. I have no friends in my life who can fill that role.”
Male loneliness is a trend that is not limited to retroactive jealousy sufferers. There are all kinds of data and research out there that proves, in general, that men are lonelier than women. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general, women are usually a little better at maintaining their social connections, broadening their base of support, building new social networks, maintaining and nurturing long-standing friendships.
Research indicates that women are at least slightly better than men at this over long periods of time.
Look at the suicide rate: men kill themselves at a far higher rate than women. There are certain problems and trends that, in general, men struggle with more than women. Although of course, I’ve spoken to several female retroactive jealousy sufferers who speak about a similar sense of loneliness, a similar sense of isolation, of not really having anyone in their life they can talk to, to share the details about their life that would be useful to share, to get some feedback, to get some clarity and, crucially, to get some perspective.
Now to be absolutely clear, I love filling this role in men’s lives. I love being the sounding board and I love what I do. But at the same time, I want my male clients as well as anyone watching this video to expand their social network, maintain those old friendships. Seek out new friendships, seek out a broader base for support and have some of your social needs met by people who are not your partner.
I’m an introvert. I love my alone time, that’s very important. But, at the same time, I know that I need social connections.
I need to cultivate and build new friendships. I need to actively play a part in expanding my social network.
Just yesterday, I had a full schedule, I’ve got all kinds of stuff to do, but I pushed myself to have lunch with a close friend of mine because it’s been a while. And I know that in general, this is a good thing for me, this is good for my mental health. Because I’m maintaining a social life distinct from my partner, I’m taking some of the “pressure” off of my partner to represent my entire social life.
So what’s the takeaway from this video? Seek out a broader base of support, seek out a social network, maintain your friendships, particularly your older friendships. Cultivate new friendships. Don’t get lazy in your relationship, and think that you “don’t need to socialize.”
And again, it’s so tempting because when you meet this incredible person, it’s very easy to neglect your social life because you feel like you’re getting so many of your social needs met by just one person. That’s a beautiful thing, but it also represents a danger. It represents a danger if you’re at all on the “retroactive jealousy spectrum.” You don’t want to create an environment where those thoughts can take over and fester and become much worse. Because there’s this underlying tension, this underlying fear of loss and anxiety about losing your entire social network if your relationship were to not work out.
Another thing I’ve noticed: a lot of guys, the friends they think have, aren’t really their friends.
This is heartbreaking to hear because you speak to these guys, and sometimes they’ll open up their friendships and stuff and you realize the friends they think they have aren’t real friends. And in terms of how to know if someone’s really your friend, the psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Jordan Peterson put this best:
“Seek out people who genuinely want the best for you.”
Are they happy for you when you accomplish something? Are they happy for you when you’re happy? Or, are they always trying to make sure you don’t rise too far above your designated station in their eyes? Do they seem glad, on some level, when things aren’t going so well in your life?
Seek out people who want the best for you. And unfortunately, sometimes you have to cut some people loose.
I’ve had to do this a couple of times in my own life, where I had a friend who, it turned out, wasn’t my friend. Every time I was happy, it seemed like he wasn’t entirely happy for my happiness. And this was a trend I realized pretty shortly. “This is a deeply miserable, unhappy person who would be best to cut out from my life.”
So seek out friendships, build new friendships, cultivate close friendships, and don’t put all of your social eggs in one basket. Don’t make your partner the center of your entire social life. Don’t neglect to broaden your base of support.