During my weird on-off somethingship with my ex, Jason (name changed), the most common thought in my head was, “Is he trying to make me jealous?” To call it complicated would be an understatement. He was the kind who knew what buttons to push and when. I was the kind who let him push those buttons. When it was good, it was great. When it was bad, it was hell.
Not only was it annoying to second-guess his behavior all the time, but it was exhausting to keep up with thoughts like, “If he doesn’t want me then why is he trying to make me jealous?” Five years and a lot of introspection later, I find myself in a better position to acknowledge the signs I happily ignored earlier. The lesson I learned is that jealousy is not a ploy to attract someone, it’s a ploy to reassure yourself. Let’s unpack this.
What Does It Mean When A Guy Tries To Make You Jealous?
Popular culture has depicted binaries about jealousy in a relationship. Either it is something cute and romantic so the guy could win over the girl, or something unhinged, resulting in a massacre. But feeling jealousy in relationships is pretty common. It’s human, and can’t be controlled. However, ‘making’ someone jealous is another story altogether. So read on if you too are thinking, “Is he trying to make me jealous or not interested in me at all?”
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1. He thinks YOU are trying to make him jealous
I would often find Jason trying to make me jealous by talking to another girl flirtatiously. And of course, I would feel jealous because I felt threatened. But such incidents happened mostly after he would see me talking to other men. Now that I think of it, I conclude his behavior was a reaction to him feeling threatened by my popularity among men.
Research suggests that people often behave with others the same way they think others behave with them. Men often try to make their partners jealous out of insecurity. It’s not a reflection of you not being good enough for them. Sometimes, they’re just immature, and arousing jealousy is the only defense they know. They’re trying to minimize the possibility of rejection by signaling to you that you’re not the only one who is attractive.
2. He is trying to make you feel worthless by praising someone else
Triangulation is an emotional abuse tactic when your partner uses another person to devalue you while idealizing them. The triangulated people rarely realize they’re being manipulated and fight for their partner’s attention. It’s a common trait in a toxic relationship between an empath and a narcissist. Narcissists often use such traits to get under your skin. They think of it as a way to control you or to punish you if you don’t toe your ‘limits’.
3. He gets a kick out of your reaction
Insecure people often derive validation from the reactions of other people. It gives them a sense of control. By making it appear that you’re jealous of their popularity, they’re assuring themselves that you are still in love with them. For them, it’s similar to making a statement that they still have the upper hand in the relationship.
4. Is he trying to make me jealous or has he moved on? — He is not trying to make you jealous
It’s possible that he’s not trying to make you jealous at all. It’s possible that he genuinely liked the outfit of the person he complimented. Or that he has a lot of work for which he has to call his colleague repeatedly. If you’ve just broken up, it’s also possible that he is trying to distract himself through a rebound. You can only be sure that he is trying to make you jealous if his actions are targeted at you.
13 Possible Signs He Is Trying To Make You Jealous
Researchers have observed an increase in testosterone among women in situations that invoked their jealousy. This led to a suggestion that jealousy is comparable to the feeling of competition. When I was with Jason, I often wondered, “If he doesn’t want me then why is he trying to make me jealous?” I thought it was a game for him to make me jealous on social media. In hindsight, it was a game for me too. I was trying to win his affection and making me jealous was his way to ensure I stayed in the game. So to make sure you’re not being played, take note of the following signs:
1. He flirts with others
You notice him talking with other potential romantic interests, but it doesn’t look like platonic, non-committal, harmless flirting. His shoulders are leaning toward them, and feet are pointed at this person. There is a great deal of lingering eye contact. There is some touching too. You’ll find him doing small favors for them as he’s trying to make a good impression. When you confront him, he’ll either say it was a normal conversation or that person was hitting on him.
2. His ex is back in town
Whenever Jason and I had a tussle, his ex would miraculously conjure herself back in our lives. He’d start talking about his previous relationships, sometimes comparing me to his exes while saying that I “shouldn’t think of it as a comparison”. He’d go out with her for a “drink with an old friend”, or would get calls in the middle of the night. Keep a track of how fast this ex appears out of their hibernation when you have an argument. This will help you when you’re thinking, “Is he trying to make me jealous by talking to another girl/boy?”
3. He keeps talking about another attractive person
Talking of comparisons, do you notice that he starts to talk about this person, especially if you’re having an argument? He may start by saying how good, ambitious, or hardworking they are, putting you into a comparison trap. He may even compliment others in front of you, for the things you do as well. It’s a tactic to undermine your effort by shining a light on someone else.
4. He posts touchy-feely pictures with others on social media
Jason would try to make me jealous on social media whenever I moved out after a fight. Most of this included posting photos with colleagues or exes. And I would fall for it, mostly. No doubt, he uses this technique on other women now, since I see an ancient picture of us surfacing on his Instagram sometimes. In short, take notice of how often he posts and what his posting style is. If he posts very infrequently and is not fond of posing with everyone on his Instagram, then it’s likely that any new pictures with other dates or exes were meant only for your eyes.
5. He acts hot and cold
It’s impossible to gauge his mood. One moment he’s all sweet, the next he’s distant. Apart from it being a manipulation tactic, it also keeps you wondering, “Is he trying to make me jealous or not interested in me at all? Is he now interested in someone else?” His motive is to make you insecure, not make you leave, so this is the best strategy for him. If you confront him, he will accuse you of being jealous. If you don’t, he’ll keep making you exasperated. As I said, hot and cold at the same time.
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6. He exiles you from the group
Because Jason was the most successful in our friend circle, he was the unofficial leader. And that meant if he didn’t like something I said or did, I wouldn’t get invited to coffee or lunch. Everyone would say that it was a boys-only thing or that it was very last-minute, but I knew the truth. If your partner can control your social life, then he can not only make you jealous of other women/men, but also of your so-called friends.
7. He exaggerates his past love life
He’ll exaggerate his achievements or the number of people he has slept with. He’ll show you past screenshots of his conversations on Tinder. Or some other proof of him being considered favorable by others, like gifts. This will be accompanied by tall tales of his caliber and desirability. It’s one of the things toxic partners often say. Most of these tales would be fabrications and will crumble the moment you start asking a few thorough questions.
8. All of a sudden, he’s super busy
All of a sudden, he declares that he has no time for you. He either refuses to make plans or cancels the plans you had. Sometimes, he ignores you altogether. However, this doesn’t prevent him from playing on his PS or going drinking with his friends. He’ll provide excuses for this citing work or other projects. But he will never accept that his behavior is caused by the argument you had the previous night. He’ll make you think he’s seeing someone behind your back.
9. He’s hyper-aware of your reaction
Research suggests that jealousy in a relationship is most often an indication of commitment. Aleida, a bartender from Kansas, shares, “I was seeing this really strange guy recently. I could never figure out what he wanted from me. I would see him with other girls openly flirting away, and think, is he trying to make me jealous or has he moved on from me?”
Aleida, if he has moved on, he won’t care if you witness him with another girl. But if he is doing it deliberately, he will ensure you’re in the vicinity when he flirts with someone. If you ignore it, he will double his effort. And beware, it can be highly emotionally abusive and manipulative.
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10. He keeps pushing you into uncomfortable territory
He tells you things about his past relationships you didn’t ask about, making it too detailed to be comfortable. He’ll be boastful to the extent of being flimsy but wouldn’t stop. He’ll show you pictures or texts you didn’t ask for. It will reach a point where you’ll start wondering if he has ever mentioned you in the same capacity to other women/men. This exercise is solely for your benefit, just so you’re assured he is a highly sought-out prize and that you’re lucky to have him.
11. He behaves like an attention-seeker
Charles, a 28-year-old geologist, shares about his ex with us, “He went out of his way to make me notice him after our breakup. I saw him climb a table and sing Watermelon sugar for some guy he just met, even though he hated Harry Styles. It’s pretty much the kind of behavior Nate engaged in when he paraded his prom date’s buttocks to make Cassie jealous in Euphoria, you know?
“I thought: is he trying to make me jealous after we broke up? I just found his behavior super weird and now I make sure we don’t cross paths.” Your guy may be trying to get you back, but making you jealous is not the right way to go about it.
12. He uses mutual friends to get to you
Jason did this sometimes, he’d use our mutual friends to tell me about some girl he’d been seeing. I never realized it then, but he was trying to make me jealous after we broke up. Make a note of what your mutual friends say about him. Notice if they’re trying to get a response out of you. It’s not always a bad thing if your friends and boyfriend are nice people and tell you everything in an upfront way. Because it could be a sign that he still loves you after the breakup. But if they agree to it knowing he’s trying to be manipulative, it’s time you look for a new boyfriend and friends.
13. He does things that trigger you
Since making you jealous is the main purpose of his venture, you’ll find him doing things or mentioning things that mean something personal to you, with other dates. This is one of the most outright signs and can be highly triggering for someone.
Jason had a habit of chewing on my leftover chicken legs, saying that I left too much meat on the bones. I found it funny and teased him about it because I knew he was a germaphobe and wouldn’t even drink water from someone else’s cup. So it was quite a shock for me to see him do the same thing to some girl he met at a friend’s birthday. I thought, is he trying to make me jealous even though we like each other so much? That incident was the first red flag for me.
- Feeling jealous in a relationship is common, but trying to ‘make’ someone jealous hints at insecurity and the need for external validation
- He acts hot and cold, making his behavior unpredictable
- If he is trying to make you jealous, he’ll do it so you are aware of his actions. Notice if he flirts or checks out other people, especially when you’re around
Some people say that men make you jealous to test how you would react or to see if you’re clingy before they decide to get together with you. But I find that a trait of an insecure and narcissistic person. Secure people do not test other people like that. Manipulating someone with jealousy can be hurtful. So if he’s playing guinea pig with you, it’s a dating red flag that should not be ignored.
Sometimes, yes. Research indicates that reactive jealousy, i.e. jealousy in response to the sexual or physical behavior that their partner may get involved with someone else, can have a positive effect on the relationship as it is an indication of one’s commitment. But men may also try to make you jealous as a manipulation strategy or when they perceive a threat from you.