Q. I’m looking for advice on how to deal with Instagram “likes.” I’ve noticed over the course of our relationship of one year that my boyfriend “likes” many pictures of women in bikinis or women who are posing in an “Instagram model” sort of way. It doesn’t bother me when they are pictures of celebrities or public figures, but it does when they are people he knows/acquaintances from his life (high school and college mainly).
I will admit that ever since I noticed he was doing this, I can’t help but check to see if he’s liked their latest posts. I’ve tried to bring up the conversation of Instagram and “likes” in more casual ways before, without outright blaming him for doing anything “wrong,” but he always seems to brush it off like it doesn’t mean anything to him. But for some reason I struggle to believe him and am worried that he’ll find them more attractive and will want to leave. How do I deal with this and leave this jealousy in the past? I’m tired of feeling less-than in this relationship.
WORRIED OVER INSTAGRAM
A. Does he like anyone’s non-bikini photos? If a friend from college makes a nice sourdough bread and posts that pic, does he ever give it love? I’m asking you to look at the bigger social media picture here. If he’s scrolling through thousands of photos to find bikini pics, that’s weird. But if he’s just someone who likes a lot of stuff, my reaction is: whatever.
The thing is, Instagram is a place for validation. I notice that when I post a pic of myself, which I always feel weird about, it gets four times as many likes as the pic I take of some random tree I think is cool, even though I am far more invested in the pic of the tree. But I think people like boosting the self-esteem of others, especially when they get to see their faces (and more).
Also, you’ve been together a year. What a year it’s been! Instagram is a portal to elsewhere, it can be a way to see friends — to see anyone. He might just be liking life outside of isolation.
Focus on his behavior in the real world. If you feel less than worthy because he seems more interested in his phone than you, have that conversation. If you feel insecure because of something other than Instagram, say what you mean. No hints.
Your boyfriend is firing off a “party on” with his likes. Why read more into it than that? Why are you feeling so insecure? That is the more important question.
You are turning a simple appreciation of physical beauty into a lack of something on your part. He’d be appreciating these photos no matter who he is with and what she looks like; it is just what guys do. Why he is liking them on social media when all that does is bring him grief from you is beyond me, but this is your issue to manage by being confident and secure in yourself. If there are legitimate reasons you aren’t, fix them.
I like pictures of friends, acquaintances, and even exes on FB who are at the beach, at the gym, showing off muscles, etc. ... and it’s in no way an indicator of me liking them, wanting them, or thinking of them beyond the second it takes to hit the “like” indicator.
There will always be someone prettier than you, skinnier than you, better dressed than you. ALWAYS. He’s not with those people, he’s with you. Focus on what you have and do your part to make the relationship a good one. Figure out how to deal with your insecurities, through therapy or self-acceptance/self-compassion work, or your paranoia of him leaving will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I really don’t think liking a bikini on Instagram is any reflection on his love for or commitment to you. I have been married for 19 years and I’ve looked at and liked plenty of pictures of hot men and, no, I don’t have any intention of leaving my husband for these men. It’s life; sometimes you find someone other than your spouse attractive, and maybe you give them a compliment or a like on social media. No big deal.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.