Jealousy isn’t called the green-eyed monster for nothing – feeling as though your relationship with your partner is being threatened by others is a sickening, gut wrenching emotion. Jealousy can make you feel a little… well, crazy.
Some people will tell you that a little bit of jealousy simply proves that you really love someone, others will tell you that if you are seriously doubting and mistrusting your partner, the trust is already gone and the relationship is in worse shape than you know.
If jealousy in your relationship has grown out of control, consider the following to get a handle on that green-eyed monster before it does real damage.
1. Locate the real source of the problem
It may be tempting to point to another person as the cause of all the problems in your relationship. But think about it: if you had a stable, trusting relationship that both partners were happy to be in, even a predatory person bent on “stealing” your partner from you wouldn’t be able to do much. If jealousy is a problem for you, own it. Others may take advantage of what they see as a less than stable relationship, or you may be entirely imagining things, but in almost every case the other person is not the real threat.
2. Keep the focus on your needs
Accusing your partner of being negligent or demanding that they do things to appease your suspicions will only result in resentment on both sides. Often, jealousy is a symptom of a deeper relationship problem rather than the problem itself. If your partner can never seem to satisfy you that they are happy with you and you alone, and that you have nothing to worry about, think carefully about why.
What are your needs in a relationship? Are they being met? Sometimes the way to translate “who were you talking to on the phone just now?” is really, “why weren’t you talking to me like that?”. When speaking to your partner, let them know what you need, rather than accusing them outright that they are failing to meet those needs. Rather than being upset that he is ogling other women, for example, let him know that you need to be complimented and admired too. If you are satisfied that he finds you completely irresistible, you won’t really care if he ogles other women now and then.
3. Own your feelings
Part of being in a relationship is taking the risk of being vulnerable to another person: letting them know that we depend on them for our happiness, and giving them the power to hurt us. But while our partners can certainly affect the way we feel about ourselves, ultimately, we are in charge of our own feelings.
Try to distinguish between feeling something, and being made to feel something by someone else. In other words, just because you feel hurt, it doesn’t mean anyone was responsible for hurting you. If you get angry and attack the person you see as responsible, you will never get to the root of your hurt. If you lack self confidence and have difficulty trusting others, own it, and realize that sometimes you may be feeling mistrustful not because your partner is untrustworthy, but because you are still figuring out how to believe in others.
4. Don’t torture yourself
Actively decide to reign in behaviours that aggravate your jealousy. Try to sit with your anxiety instead of playing detective to find evidence for your suspicions. Snooping on your partner’s phone or going through their emails, looking at old pictures of their exes, going through their belongings hoping to find some tell-tale clue etc. will only make things worse.
When you get the urge to find out, once and for all, whether your partner is to be trusted or not, consciously try to make yourself sit with that uncertainty. If you can accept that in relationships, there will always be a degree of vulnerability and risk, and stay with that feeling, then you are on your way to being a more trusting person. Trust, first, that you are a lovable person. Eventually, you will be able to rest in the knowledge that the people around you can be depended on.
Of course, if your partner has actually given you reason to doubt them in the past, yours will be the completely different challenge of rebuilding trust from scratch. If you or your partner seem to fret and doubt and get angry without reason, though, try to understand what the jealousy is communicating. Resolving that tension can be a source of bonding, rather than a threat to the relationship.