Dear Dr. Wallace:

My boyfriend and I were talking about a girl we both know the other day, and he casually mentioned that he thinks she is pretty. This comment instantly made me jealous and furious. My boyfriend apologized and tried to calm me down by saying that he finds many girls to be pretty but that I am especially beautiful and the only one he loves.

While I know that he intended to make me feel better by saying this, I was not comforted by his words. How can I feel at ease in our relationship knowing that my boyfriend is attracted to other girls?

— Green with envy, via email

Dear Green With Envy: While I understand that certain comments can be hard to hear, it is inevitable that your boyfriend finds other girls to be pretty, just as you probably find other guys to be handsome. Dating and committing to someone does not shut off our natural tendency as a human to notice someone who is good-looking or in some way particularly attractive. Just because an attractive individual may catch your attention, it does not mean that you suddenly love your partner less or are ready to leave your relationship and chase someone else. It is merely an observation, and an appreciation of someone else’s beauty or charm.

I would also like to point out that your boyfriend said he finds many girls to be pretty, not that he is attracted to other girls. Attraction is a force that draws someone to someone else. Your boyfriend has chosen to date you; therefore, he is attracted to you. He may find other girls to be attractive, but he is drawn to you and chooses to be in a relationship with you, and therefore, you are the recipient of his attraction, and far more importantly, the recipient of his love.

Feelings of envy and jealousy can be dangerous and toxic in a relationship, and I encourage you to reflect on why these feelings came up so strongly for you in response to what your boyfriend said. While I agree that it was unnecessary for your boyfriend to tell you that he finds a particular girl to be pretty, it sounds like he is aware that bringing it up was a mistake and hurtful to you. If you trust your boyfriend and his intentions, and recognize your own self-worth, you should have no reason to be jealous and envious of other girls. They are but a fleeting thought in your boyfriend’s mind, while you, to use his own words, “are the only one he loves.” Focus on how he regularly demonstrates exactly that to you on an ongoing basis.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.

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