When a brawny stranger asked if my friend Stephanie was single, I didn’t know what to say.
Should I say yes to encourage him? Or warn this love-struck man that she’s notorious for being a jealous partner?
One time, Stephanie’s boyfriend went on a company trip. It wasn’t a big deal, but she made a huge fuss about it.
She texted him non-stop. Then, she forced him to send a picture of the hotel room.
“What if he’s not on a company trip? What if he’s secretly on a holiday with someone else?” she said.
I never understood why people would assume the worst about their partner. Is it difficult to trust their significant other?
That bothered me. Then, I found out that my boyfriend cheated on me with multiple women (you know Jack, right?).
Without warning, I became a jealous partner. If Tinder had a review section, Jack would describe me as ‘an irrationally needy and insecure girlfriend’.
Frankly speaking, nobody wants to be the jealous partner in a relationship. From the compulsive stalking to texting wars, it’s exhausting.
However, for every action, there’s a reason.
Regardless of what our exes might say about us, we’re not as crazy as you think.
Behaviour 1: We stalk you on Facebook
After Stephanie turned down the brawny stranger, we continued our chat.
Still upset, she wanted to vent out her feelings about her boyfriend’s company trip. So she showed ‘new evidence’ found on his Facebook.
It was a normal group picture except her boyfriend’s hand was on a female colleague’s waist.
“So how? Do you think he’s cheating on me?”
A hand on someone’s waist could mean anything or nothing at all. I comforted her by saying it was a friendly gesture. After all, she shouldn’t accuse him based on a single photo.
“But an article said it’s a sign that a man is into you. I think he’s cheating on me!”
It was annoying, but I finally knew how Stephanie felt when I faced a similar situation with my ex, Jack. Once, I found a picture of him, with his hand resting on another woman’s thigh. I was furious.
Despite the countless apologies, I continued stalking him on Facebook. Why?
Because I didn’t believe him.
I hate to admit it, but social media stalking is a sign of obsessive behaviour. For a jealous partner, it was a method of reaffirming if what our partner said or promised were true.
If we discovered nothing on social media, that’s great. If we found another picture that raises suspicion, we’ll confront them about it.
Sadly for me, this behaviour went on for years. It was difficult to stop because I kept discovering more pictures and profiles that I didn’t know about. Over time, it became a thrill and an unhealthy obsession of mine.
Before I knew it, I wasn’t just a jealous partner. I was a stalker too.
Behaviour 2: We check your phone
When Khairul first stepped into a relationship with Jeslin, he was a confident partner. Even with his girlfriend’s penchant for clubbing and late-night partying, he trusted her to return safely every night.
It all changed when one night, she didn’t come home at all.
No messages, no phone calls. Khairul was worried sick.
Eventually, Jeslin returned the morning after. When he discovered that she spent the night out with her guy friend, it ruined their trust.
“For me, not coming home at all without notice and partying with just one guy, however close, was a line that I wasn’t comfortable with,” Khairul explained. “She claimed he was just a friend, but it felt different. I knew there was something more.”
That suspicion drove Khairul to check his girlfriend’s phone and went through her messages. “She caught me one time and after that, she set a password,” he said.
When he found out that Jeslin spent the night out with the same guy again (without informing him), their relationship ended soon after.
Behaviour 3: We want to regain control
When my ex-colleague Suraya caught her fiancé texting flirtatiously with someone, she was upset. “He said it was just for fun and nothing serious,” she confided, but it wasn’t enough to restore her trust.
So Suraya made him text all day. Wherever she went, her phone never left her. During lunch, it pinged and buzzed so much, it bothered me. Out of annoyance, I asked if the all-day texting was necessary.
The new relationship rule was made purely out of insecurity, she said. If there’s a pause between their text exchanges, she would suspect that her fiancé is chatting with that WeChat bitch again.
For Suraya, it was her method of regaining control before it was too late. She and her fiancé were months away from getting married. The last thing she wanted was losing her man to someone else. Despite how exhausting the controlling behaviour was, it continued until she left the company.
Whether the controlling behaviour worked in her favour, I wasn’t sure. But judging from the smiles in their wedding solemnisation, maybe it did.
Behaviour 4: We want constant disclosure
Another common behaviour of a jealous partner is the need for constant disclosure. We need to know everything. Not a single detail spared. If we were the last to know about something, prepare to face our wrath.
Where are you going? Who are you going out with? Are you going to text me later?
Those were the questions that I shot my ex, Jack, with before he goes anywhere (disclaimer: he did the same to me).
Back then, I wasn’t ashamed of being the controlling girlfriend. I felt my action was reasonable since he was a serial cheater.
We even took it to the next level.
If he was resting at home, he would send a picture of him chilling on the couch. If he was hanging out with his guy friends, he would send a picture of them in a mamak.
It was his way of regaining my trust.
Over time, I became accustomed to the constant disclosure. I depended on it to keep my mind from imagining the worst. Without it, I would make false accusations or jump into conclusions that hurt our relationship further.
It was tiring to keep up. However, receiving these pictures felt reassuring. It reassured me that if two partners can commit to it, whatever trust that was lost can find its way back into a relationship.
It might take pictures after pictures to get there. Seeing Jack committing to it made me believe that our relationship had a fighting chance.
Behaviour 5: When you praise others, our self-worth suffers
Jack had a habit of asking about my girlfriends whenever we hung out. It could sound as harmless as “how’s she doing?” but it was enough for me to feel threatened.
It happened because I never felt good enough for Jack.
Here’s the thing about insecurity. When it crept up on us and silenced our voice of reason, we are capable of saying the meanest things.
When Jack continued to ask about my girlfriends, I’d shut him down by saying, “Why do you always ask about her? Are you in love with her or something? Am I not good enough for you?”
The assumption that he would two-time me with a close friend hurt his feelings. Unbeknown to me, it drew us further apart.
Behaviour 6: We blame you for everything
Jealousy is a devil’s work.
That’s why it’s difficult for anyone to admit that they’re a jealous partner. It’s an admission that you’re obsessive, insecure and a stalker. It’s also an acknowledgement that you’re the root of the problem.
During the final stages of our relationship, Jack pinned our downfall on my jealous behaviour. When he blamed it on me, I was angry.
Jealousy doesn’t happen overnight, I shouted back.
You made me this way. You hurt me first. You were to blame for everything.
Blaming him felt convenient. That time, I refused to admit that my jealous behaviour was part of the problem.
Looking back, I blamed him because self-reflection was the last thing I wanted to do. Possessive, controlling, insecure – these traits don’t represent my true self at all (even though it did).
So when a jealous partner was accused of something untrue, we became defensive. Instead of fixing our behaviours and facing the consequences, we shifted the blame back at our partners. In other words, it was a convenient form of self-denial.
At the end of the day
If there’s one thing that Stephanie, Suraya and Khairul had shown me, every jealous behaviour has its reasons.
Most of the time, it was insecurity triggered by a third party. Other times, it was a personal battle with our feelings of self-worth.
Before we pinned a failed relationship on a jealous partner, it’s important for us to reflect on why they behave a certain way.
Khairul says it best. “When someone does cheat, it’s important to get to the root of why he or she cheated. Same goes for jealousy,” he discussed.
“Most of us are quick to point fingers and just assume someone is a cheating slut or asshole, or an over-possessive girlfriend or boyfriend.
“The root of it all is insecurity. It’s a reflection of who they are rather than the relationship itself.”
Whether you’re a jealous partner or not, ask yourself, what does your reflection say about you?
When you realised who you’re truly up against, you can easily take the green-eyed monster by its horns.
For more articles by Cheryl, read What It’s like to Date a Workaholic, and Here’s What Women Are Really Saying When We Ghost on Guys.