I’ll be talking about jealousy, and how to control jealousy in your relationship. This is a huge topic that can’t be covered fully in a single article, so I’m just going to scratch the surface and give you some key tips for dealing with jealousy.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that jealousy is an issue for many, many couples. In fact, a recent study of Canadian marriage counselors found that one third of all couples who attended counseling cited jealousy as a primary cause of their marriage problems. So, clearly, jealousy is a major problem for a lot of couples. Let’s talk about some ways you can keep jealousy issues in check and avoid it from damaging your relationship. Before we jump into that, though, I want to explain the difference between normal, healthy jealousy -- the kind of benign jealousy that’s present in almost every romantic relationship -- and unhealthy jealousy, which is often irrational and highly toxic to a relationship.
Healthy jealousy stems from a sincere care and commitment to a relationship. This is the kind of completely natural jealousy that we all suffer from occasionally… and it’s not something you should be worried about. Recognize that it’s perfectly normal to feel a jolt of jealousy when you see your partner laughing and enjoying a conversation with someone of the opposite sex… we feel these kind of emotions because we’re invested in the relationship with our partners, and we are essentially “guarding our territory”.
It’s when people begin to act on these emotions, or when jealousy becomes irrational, that things move into the ‘unhealthy’ sphere. Irrational jealousy is more serious and tends to be a chronic issue that can erode the fabric of a relationship. The kind of jealousy that’s really bad news for any relationship. This kind of jealousy can have a lot of different causes, usually related to insecurity of low self-esteem. I’m not going to go into the psychology behind it, but it’s important to note that most people who develop jealousy issues often have underlying insecurities resulting from past experiences. Whatever the cause may be, if you are the person who struggles with jealousy issues, then you can make changes to your behavior that will put these problems to rest.
Since you’re reading this article right now, then I assume you’ve done this already, so congratulations on taking the big first step towards resolving them.
In other words, they’re unwarranted. Unless your spouse has actually admitted to infidelity, or you’ve caught them in the act, then your jealousy is irrational. Recognize that your jealous feelings aren’t based on reality… they’re stemming from underlying insecurities and not from actual behaviors of your spouse. Once you’ve accepted that you’re feeling jealous for no good reason, then it can be a bit easier to control those feelings and stop yourself from acting on them. Every time you feel jealous about something -- for instance, when your spouse is texting someone of the opposite sex you haven’t met -- remind yourself that your jealousy is baseless and irrational. You’ve probably texted someone of the opposite sex recently too, right? And I’m guess it wasn’t because you were secretly having an affair with that person. The same is almost certainly true for your spouse, so there’s absolutely no reason to think that they’re doing anything shady or cheating on you.
Until you have clear evidence that proves otherwise, you must remind yourself that all feelings of jealousy are irrational and unwarranted. Realizing that your feelings of jealousy are actually really dumb is an important step in the right direction, but the most important step is what you do next.
No matter how intense your feelings of jealousy are, you absolutely must internalize them and avoid acting on them. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself from acting on jealous feelings… literally bite your tongue, tell a friend in confidence, write down your feelings in a private diary… it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not doing something destructive as a result of your jealousy. Again, when jealousy hits, remind yourself that these emotions you’re feeling are irrational and that acting on them will damage your relationship.
You can also sit down with your partner and have a mature, civilized discussion about jealousy. There are often things you can both do to help keep any jealousy issues in check. Perhaps you get jealous when your spouse goes out with coworkers every Friday night, for example… instead of getting angry and trying to stop your partner from attending these work get-togethers, you can share your feelings with your spouse and ask if you can tag along one Friday to help alleviate your concerns.
Make sure your spouse knows that you understand the irrational nature of your jealous feelings, and they’ll likely be willing to take steps to help you reign in those emotions.
Building a strong level of trust between you and your partner is very important in any relationship, and it’s also extremely important to controlling jealousy issues, as you might imagine.
Finally, let’s move on and briefly talk about what to do if your partner is the one who struggles with jealousy issues. If you do have a jealous spouse, then the first thing to do is to assess whether or not you’re doing something that’s causing these feelings. Are you an extremely private person,for example, who prefers to keep emails and text messages confidential from your spouse? Or do you avoid checking in with your spouse when you’re out of town on business? There’s a number of possibilities, so take a good hard look at your own behaviors and try to identify things you might be doing or saying that could be contributing to your partner’s jealousy. Then, talk with them about these issues and consider making changes to help alleviate your spouse’s concerns.
Even if you feel like you’re not doing anything wrong -- for example, using the scenario I mentioned earlier about going out for drinks after work with colleagues every Friday -- consider stopping that activity temporarily to show your commitment to the relationship and your partner’s feelings. Explain to your spouse that you feel like their jealousy is unwarranted, but that you’re willing to take a break from whatever things you’re doing that are causing the jealousy if it will help.
You don’t have to back down and let your partner control your life and prevent you from doing things that you enjoy, but being willing to compromise, even temporarily, can help to build trust and prove your commitment. Speaking of proving commitment, it can also help to really show your love and devotion to your spouse through words and actions. By regularly telling your spouse how much you love them, complimenting him or her occasionally, and explaining how much he or she means to you, you can help to eliminate some of your partner’s insecurities.
This kind of thing is good practice in any relationship, regardless of jealousy issues, but it’s especially important if your partner is struggling with an irrational jealousy problem.