Jealousy in a Relationship
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney
Jealousy is a common problem in relationships. In fact, relationship coach Brad Browning gives data from a survey of Canadian marriage and family counselors wherein a third of their clientele cite jealousy as a reason for seeking therapy. In this article, we'll explore, among other things, the nature of jealousy, the differences between jealousy and envy, and the connections between jealousy and insecurity. We'll also discuss how you can deal with your jealousy or help a jealous partner deal with theirs. Let's get started.
What is Jealousy?
Jealousy is the fear of losing something that you have, usually a romantic relationship. You fear that someone else will take your partner from you. It may make you feel resentful toward your partner and angry at the person who you feel is encroaching on your territory. Such feelings are normal and natural in any love relationship; jealousy is an evolutionary response to protecting our ability to reproduce our genes. It is as much a part of human nature as walking upright on two limbs. Once you understand that jealousy is part of human development, you can see that it is not inherently bad. It is only negative when it interferes with your ability to bond with your partner and form healthy adult attachments.
Jealousy Versus Envy
It is important to distinguish jealousy from envy. Jealousy is the fear of losing something you already have while envy is the desire to have something that belongs to someone else. So while you can be envious of your neighbor's new car, you're only jealous if he offers to give your wife a ride in it. The two emotions are often conflated in common usage, which not only confuses any discussion about them but also is just sloppy language.
Jealousy and Insecurity
Jealousy is sometimes a response to feelings of insecurity that may have developed from childhood or from past relationships.However, this is not always the case. If your jealousy is the result of insecurities you have about yourself, whether they are about your looks, intelligence, or value as a person, the only way to address your jealousy problem is becoming secure in yourself. While your partner can help you, it's ultimately up to you to do the real work.
- 1Keep a journal. Journaling is helpful in discovering destructive and irrational thought patterns and their triggers. When you find yourself feeling jealous of your partner, take careful note of the thoughts going through your mind and what happened immediately preceding those thoughts. You may find, for instance, that you become insecure about your body when you catch your partner looking at other women, which prompts you to become jealous that they would rather be with these other women who are younger, prettier, etc. than you.Advertisement
- 2Realize that your self-worth is not connected with your partner's love. Your partner's love, when you get right down to it, amounts to a preference for some quality you have. Having their love doesn't make you special or any more valuable than anyone else; it just means that they prefer to be in a relationship with you. When you decouple your self-worth from your partner and their love for you, your fear of losing them will lessen, resulting in less jealousy.Advertisement
- 3Realize that your partner is not responsible for your happiness. Think about it this way: your partner can't control your feelings any more than you can control theirs. Happiness, like other feelings, results from chemical reactions to pleasant stimuli, and one way of achieving such stimuli is to be on the receiving end of your partner's love, but you can just as easily achieve the same stimuli from other people, too. Whether you remain with your partner or not has no bearing on your future happiness.
Jealous Feelings and Jealous Actions
Jealous feelings in and of themselves don't harm relationships; in fact, some jealousy is good in a healthy relationship. On the other hand, unwarranted jealous actions are almost always harmful to a relationship. Jealous actions often involve trying to control the other person and making them feel distrusted and disrespected. Jealous actions to avoid include the following:
- Relentless questioning about where your partner has been when they return home
- Forbidding them from having friends of the opposite sex
- Forbidding them to dress a certain way
- Forbidding them from going to a certain place
- Insisting that they return home at an unreasonably early hour
- Pouting when your partner talks to someone else
- Withholding love and affection from your partner to "punish" them for showing attention to someone else
Dealing With Feelings of Jealousy
We all feel jealous sometimes; it's part of being in a love relationship with another person. Jealousy becomes a problem when it is unreasonable, unwarranted, and when act on it. The following steps will help you to deal with your jealousy constructively and avoid behaving jealously toward your partner.
- 1Believe your partner. When your partner tells you that they love you and want only you, take them at their word and believe them. Easier said than done, you may say, and you'd be right; it won't happen right away. But over time, the more you consciously set aside your doubts and trust your partner's words, the more your trust in them will grow and the fewer doubts you will have.
- 2Confront your own unwarranted beliefs. Examine how well your beliefs about your partner comport with reality. Have they actually cheated on you or given you any real cause to believe that they might do it? The chances are that they have not and your feeling jealous is unwarranted, just like believing in a flat earth is unwarranted.
- 3Laugh at your silly beliefs. Don't take it too seriously; recognize foolish thinking and have a good giggle about it. Laughing will not only diffuse the tension you are feeling, but it will also help you feel happy.
- 4Learn to empathize with your partner. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would act in their situation. For instance, wouldn't you hug and kiss an old friend of yours that yours that you haven't seen in a long time? Wouldn't those be appropriate things to do in those circumstances? Seen in that way, your partner's actions lose their mystery and therefore the uncertainty of your partner's continued love for you and their fidelity to your relationship.
- 5Discuss your jealousy with your partner. Be careful not to blame them for your jealousy, just talk to them about your feelings using "I" language and ask for their help in dealing with it. In most cases, they will be happy to help; however, don't place any responsibility for dealing with your jealousy on them.
- 6Get involved in your own hobbies and outside friendships. It's easy to let your friendships slide when you become involved with someone and just as easy to lose yourself in pursuing your partner's interests at the expense of your own. Rather than relying on your partner for companionship and things to do, reconnect with your friends and get back into your hobbies. You'll find that you feel happier overall, which in turn will decrease feelings of insecurity and jealousy.
- 7Get professional help. If you have tried all of the above and your jealousy still controls you, then it's time to get the help of a counselor. Through a combination of talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and perhaps, drug therapy, a mental health professional will assist you in getting to the root causes of your jealousy and helping you develop the coping mechanisms for dealing with it.
Dealing With a Jealous Partner
Being on the receiving end of a partner's unwarranted jealousy is no fun; it can feel like walking on quicksand. If you want to stay in the relationship and try to make it work, here are some things you can do to help your partner with their jealousy problem:
- 1Examine your actions. Think about your actions immediately preceding your partner's jealous reaction. Is there anything that you are doing or in your habits that might exacerbate their insecurities about your love and fidelity? For example:
- Are you an extremely private person? Your insistence on keeping a private personal email account that they can't access may contribute to your partner's doubts. Consider giving them the password to your email account and letting them check it periodically.
- Do you always leave the room when you get a phone call? While it could very well be your intent not to disturb your partner with your conversation, it may seem to them like you are being secretive about who you are talking to.
- Do you regularly go out with your friends? Consider inviting your partner to hang with you sometimes or temporarily stop going out with them to help your partner feel better. Make sure that you tell them why you are doing this and that it is only temporary.
- 2Express your love. There's no such thing as telling your partner you love them too much or too often. When you tell your partner that you love them and show them affection with both words and touch, you are reconnecting with them and validating love. Doing so will help them feel more secure in your relationship, which should ease their feelings of jealousy.
- 3Recognize that their jealous feelings stem from a fear of losing you. At the bottom of all jealous feelings is a fear of the relationship ending. This doesn't make unwarranted jealous actions toward you, okay, but it may help you in understanding why they feel the way they do.
- 4Recognize when the situation has become toxic. If your partner's jealousy makes them behave in controlling and abusive ways, then you must see to your own safety, both physically and mentally. This means that if your partner beats you or tries to control everything that you do, they need to get professional help and you can't be with them unless and until they get their jealousy and anger under control.
Categories : Relationships
Recent edits by: Kathy McGraw