How to Handle Your Jealousy

A lot of worry can focus on your jealous thoughts and feelings about your partner. You might find yourself looking for signs that your partner finds someone else attractive, or that they might be late coming home, or that they don’t seem to be as turned on by you. And, when you begin to focus on these jealous thoughts you might interrogate your partner, criticize the competition, or pout and withdraw. You are not alone with your jealous thoughts and feelings, but when taken too far jealousy can destroy a good relationship. How does jealousy make sense and what can you do? Here are nine things to keep in mind.

  1. Jealousy is a natural –almost instinctive–response when we feel that someone might be “stealing” our partner. From an evolutionary point of view it’s related to “parental investment”, our very primitive and powerful sense that our potential “investment” in offspring is threatened. This may be why younger people are more jealous than older people. Yet, even gay people will have jealous feelings, indicating that it is such a universal phenomenon that it has become somewhat independent of procreation. We feel threatened when we are jealous. It is universal, almost instinctive, “adaptive” over the long term, and highly emotional. It feels automatic. So jealousy is “the right response at the wrong time”. Don’t blame yourself, blame evolution.
  2. Jealousy is not necessarily a sign of low self-esteem or a sign of being neurotic. In fact, jealousy can represent high self-esteem—- “I don’t let other people violate my rights”. It also may reflect what you value—honesty, commitment, monogamy. Imagine if your partner said, “I never feel jealous. You can have sex with anyone, it won’t bother me.” You would immediately conclude, “They are having an affair.”
  3. Jealousy is angry, agitated worry. That means that you are hypervigilant–even searching out signs of “betrayal”. You want to “know for sure”, you want to “not be surprised”. But do you really need to know for sure? Do you assume that everything you don’t know will hurt you?
  4. When jealousy pops up you treat it like an obligation— “I have to find out what is going on”. “I can’t stand it— I have to do something–like punish him (her)”. However, you don’t have to respond to a jealous intrusive thought, you can a) acknowledge it (“I see it is there, let it be”); b) You can delay your jealous thinking to a later time (“I will spend 15 minutes at 430 pm having jealous thoughts”), and c) you can get on with other activities. Some people find distraction helpful: “I noticed the jealous thought, but I am going to put it up on the shelf for a while and look at all the objects in the room”. Do something else. Set it aside for now and move on.
  5. You should distinguish between jealous thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It’s the behaviors that you will regret. You might want to scold, interrogate, tap into the email, pout, or threaten to leave–but you don’t have to. Delay actions for two hours. Do a cost-benefit analysis to see if it makes sense.
  6. Accept that you feel jealous for a while— look at it as the cost of having strong feelings. Things matter to you, so you get upset. You are not a robot. Your strong, passionate nature will become a tremendous asset in a future relationship. Your ability to bond and focus on someone is the hallmark of a strong relationship. You are not a mechanical person. But jealous feelings don’t have to become jealous actions.
  7. Keep in mind that if your partner betrays you, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. It means that they can’t be tr
  8. Keep in mind that if your partner betrays you, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. It means that they can’t be trusted. Give them a chance to show if they are capable of meeting your standards. Jealousy could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let it go and see if your partner leaves. You don’t have to control them to keep them.
  9. Realize that your partner is not essential to your life. You had a life before them and you can have a life without them. We often think that someone is essential, but we can also realize that we can make our life what we want it to be. It depends more on you than on the other person.

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