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Jealousy in Relationships

Jealousy can present itself in many ways… an unexpected momentary discomfort or a ‘can’t get rid of’ torment. A deeply personal feeling, our experience of it can also be intensely lonely - no one quite gets what we are feeling.

Unlike some emotions, jealousy is complex and nuanced, often in battle with the logical parts of your brain, ‘I know he loves me and only me, so why do I feel like this?’. It’s an emotion that has woven within it, many other strands: insecurities, fears, anger and resentments. Alongside jealousy can travel anxiety, possessiveness, suspicion, and feelings of being under threat. It is also adept at evoking deep-rooted, undermining thoughts: ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m unlovable’, ‘I can't trust anyone’. Many of us will experience jealousy in a relationship as an intensely painful emotion, a pain which can be destructive, spilling out in words and behaviours that seem beyond any control.

It’s hardly surprising then, when we are in a loving relationship which has brought out the best in us, we don’t rush to claim this feeling - ‘I’m not jealous, I just think it’s wrong that you…’, ‘I’m angry, not jealous’. No, you are not that person who is going to stalk your partner, check his emails or go crazy with rage and smash the glassware. That’s someone else, never you, for you have self-esteem and know your worth, you are intelligent and rational, and of course, you have self-control.

But there is a vulnerability in being in love, a vulnerability in merging our hopes and happiness with another and when that feels under threat, we can and do feel jealous. Love and jealousy don’t make good playmates, but neither can they pretend to be strangers; if we can love, we can feel jealousy.

So - you find yourself burning with jealousy – what next - what can you do?

There are a few things I remind my clients of. Firstly, jealousy is an emotion that even the most Zen among us can experience. It’s been a part of our cultural DNA since the first love-stories were told and it’s an emotion that doesn’t listen to logic. You aren’t unique in that you are exempt from such a normal human feeling. So don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself for feeling this way. Rather, have some compassion for yourself – no one chooses to feel this torment.

You aren’t helpless. You can take actions to help yourself. Think of your feelings as a signal that something isn’t right in the relationship dynamic… and now could be the time to explore what that ‘something’ is, a time to start communicating your feelings. Left unexplored, jealousy can become toxic for your relationship and as it often does, create mistrust and suspicion, which can damage even the strongest of relationships if left to brew. A good relationship can become uncomfortable and unfamiliar, a fragile relationship can become unbearable.

It’s also a signal to reflect on your own thought processes. What is your mind telling you? Are you jumping to assumptions? Are your thoughts biased, looking for evidence to validate your feelings? Remind yourself that you don’t make a living reading the minds of other people and more importantly, these are just thoughts, and thinking a thought does not make that thought a fact. You saw her looking at your friend - fact. You know she finds big confident men like him sexy and she’s probably wishing he was her partner – not fact, just a thought, and a thought doesn’t make it true. Don’t allow your thoughts to hijack you, you have resources to fight back. Use them.

Be curious about yourself. What’s going on here for you? Have you invested everything into this relationship at the cost of other relationships? Is this about a deep-rooted insecurity? Are your expectations of your partner unrealistic? What of your relationship history – are you finding yourself in a familiar place?

Be curious about the relationship too. Have you been open and honest with each other recently? Do you share your vulnerabilities? Does anything feel absent that was there before?

If you feel unable to have a face-to-face talk with your partner about your feelings – perhaps you feel the conversation will spiral out of control – you could think about a few sessions with a therapist to work things through, either alone or together. Jealousy does not have to be played out with drama and tragedy, it can also be an opportunity to share and connect with your partner, and find yourself in a stronger place.

If you have any comments about this blog, feel free to email me:

Photos courtesy: Priscilla Du Preez (Unsplash)


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