I am a person who is very ambitious and aspirational in life. I’ve found that jealousy is the emotion I tend to listen to most, because it is filled with clues. When I feel envious of someone, I ask myself what is it that they have that I want, do I really want it, and what do I have to do to get it.

It’s become clear to me over the years that I feel pretty set career-wise. I have a lot of confidence in myself and that confidence gets reinforced.  I genuinely believe that I can achieve most things I want if I truly set my mind to it. Not that I haven’t struggled before, but there have only been a few examples of ways in which I’ve disappointed myself. I feel only a little envious towards other people’s careers.

Instead, the place where I find myself feeling the most envy — and its attendant emotion, insecurity — is in relationships. I covet the relationships of absolute strangers.  The perceived relationship, anyway.

Now, let me be clear: I am well-aware that appearances are just that — appearances. The way everything looks on the outside is sometimes a front for troubles brewing on the inside. (After the whole Ex-Mr. Jessica fiasco, I know that very well.) Most people put their best faces forward, a shiny sheen on their lives, so it’s easy to misinterpret that as the whole truth. (I remind myself of that all the time: recently when I was feeling down on myself and on problems in life, I played a little game where I thought of all the people in my life and tried to make a list of the fucked-up problems they have. Sure enough, each and every one of them had one or more craptastic things I knew they were dealing with, regardless of how they presented themselves to the outside world. That little exercise reminded me that I’m not the only one who sometimes has problems in her life.)

All that being said, I have to admit that when other people have a relationship that looks like what I want my relationship to be, I feel straight-up jealous. How did they find each other? I wonder. What are the chances I’ll find that more myself? A lot of my envy is fueled from the belief — mistaken belief? — that I won’t ever be able to find what I want. Ever.

What is it that I want? Most importantly, a guy who values me for everything that I am. And after that, a guy who lets my goofy side come out. A guy who is outgoing and makes people feel good about themselves. A guy who is secure with himself. A guy with ambition and drive. A guy who will stick up for me and make me feel safe. A guy who communicates well and fights fair. A guy who inspires me to be my best self (and I inspire him). These are all totally reasonable standards.

What is it that I’ve had? Well … one guy (Ex-Mr. J)  had most of what I’m looking for, but, alas not the most important characteristic of valuing me for who I am. The other serious relationships I’ve had during my mid- to late-20s have been with guys (Le Boyfriend and O’Boyfriend) who each had only a couple of these qualities.  I ended those last two relationships after less than six months each, because I realized they just weren’t right for me.

I know this is fairly typical going-through-your-20s stuff. There’s probably a plot of “Girls” being written about this conundrum right now. But I need some convincing that yes, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Because there is one … right?

Recently I was thinking of a woman (a minor celebrity) of whom I am jealous and asking myself why she has stuff that I don’t: certain aspects of her career, but mostly her relationship. Of course, there is no real answer to that. We are two different people. The easy answer might be “She’s prettier!” or “She worked harder!” or “She performed Angelina Jolie-like snake-eyed witch voodoo!” But what I think the actual answer is that she pursued what she really wanted in her career, convention be damned, and held out for a guy that truly knocked her socks off.

I’m not naive enough to think she still doesn’t have disappointments in her man (and he in her) or that anyone’s relationship is totally perfect — I am just cognizant that she appears to have chosen well for herself. She chose it. She had a choice in this. Just like she has a great career? She has a great relationship.

So my personal goal is to choose better for myself going forward. I have reasonable standards. I just need to apply them. I don’t need to try and make something work when it doesn’t; I don’t have to convince myself someone is right for me. Companionship is nice and sex is nice, but it’s not really fair to either me or the guys I’m dating if I’m consistently disappointed in them until I just get exhausted and end it.

I wouldn’t waffle and hedge and limit myself in my career, so why would I do it in my personal life? I get to choose who I want to be with and I don’t have to settle.


This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

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