Jealousy: How To Deal With It In A Relationship
I don’t care how chill, trusting, or laid-back you are — at some point in your relationships, you will feel pangs of jealousy come creeping over you, whether it’s after catching a glimpse of their recent Instagram activity or while observing one of their convos with a coworker. Here’s the good news: Jealousy is normal in small doses, and in fact, it can be a positive sign that you’re immensely invested in and committed to your current relationship. However, left unchecked, it can quickly sabotage your bond. Wondering how to deal with jealousy? Well, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a right and a wrong way to work through these feelings, and fortunately for you, I’m going to cover both. That way, you can develop some productive strategies for coping with your jealousy before it negatively impacts your relationship.
Jealousy becomes problematic when it consumes you to the point that you act on it — say, by reading your partner’s texts or lashing out at them for assumptions you’ve made about their totally innocent behavior. Jealousy poses a major threat to trust, which as you likely know is the foundation of a strong and happy relationship. So, before you let the green-eyed monster overtake you, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind for dealing with jealousy in a healthy way.
Acknowledge and accept your feelings.
Trying to deny or push away your feelings of jealousy will typically only make them worse. So, the next time you notice that jealousy is arising, take a pause, breathe deeply, and notice what’s happening in your brain and body. You might even write down your jealous thoughts and feelings so you can keep track of them. Sometimes, getting them down on paper and reading them back over will help you to instantly see how irrational they are.
The point is, the more you become aware of your jealousy, the easier it will be to overcome.
Every strong emotion, including jealousy, is trying to tell you something. So, what is the message your jealousy carries? Is it telling you that you have a deep fear of your partner abandoning you, or perhaps that you feel inadequate? Be brave enough to explore what’s at the root of your jealousy, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to fully grapple with it.
Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
Has your SO given you any reason not to trust them? If they haven’t exhibited unfaithful behavior in the past, then it’s important to have a little faith in them. Letting your suspicions run wild can get you into trouble — as can jumping to any negative conclusions. If it’s helpful, remind yourself of all the things your partner has said and done to prove themselves trustworthy, and see if that calms your jealous responses.
Talk it out.
Shame thrives in secrecy. That’s why I always recommend sharing your jealousy with your partner, as scary, embarrassing, or vulnerable as that may feel. First of all, admitting your jealousy out loud may actually be a relief, because then you won’t be left to navigate those painful feelings on your own. And second of all, this gives your partner an opportunity to evaluate their own behavior and its effect on you. They may have had no idea that their actions were triggering you. Once you hash it out openly, honestly, and respectfully, you can start to discuss some potential ground rules that may help to minimize jealousy.
If you don’t feel comfortable revealing your jealousy to your partner just yet, try talking it out with a trusted friend. A supportive loved one might be able to validate your thoughts and feelings, and since they have an unbiased perspective, they might also help to point out the irrationality of your fears.
Shake it off.
Ever heard the expression “move a muscle, change a thought”? Sometimes you just need to shake off that jealous energy so you can recalibrate and enter a healthier mindset. Why not go for a brisk walk or hit the gym? Any kind of physical activity works, as long as it can distract you while also helping you to release any pent-up anxiety.
Assess your relationship.
Sometimes, jealousy serves as an alarm that you don’t feel totally safe in the relationship. Now, it’s time to ask yourself why. Has your partner always been honest with you? Have they done anything to perpetuate or trigger your fears of being betrayed? What jealousy buttons have they been pushing, and have you ever set any clear boundaries around those behaviors? Once you’ve evaluated your relationship, you’ll have a much better idea of whether your SO is responsible for contributing to the jealousy, or whether it stems from your own trust issues (perhaps from a previous relationship) and insecurities. If you determine that your jealousy is rooted in a past betrayal, you have some healing work to do — because the last thing you want is for old wounds to ruin your new relationship.
Work on building our self-esteem.
This may come as no surprise, but studies have shown that increased feelings of jealousy are directly related to lower levels of self-esteem. Basically, when you don’t feel good about yourself, you may be prone to thinking you’re doomed to be rejected, hurt, abandoned, or deceived in some way.
The more self-assured you feel, the more secure you’re likely to feel in your relationship. Because when you know your worth, you stop perceiving every other person your partner talks to as a potential threat. So, whether you start saying positive affirmations each day or spending more time doing activities that boost your self-confidence, just know that eroding your insecurities will help the jealousy to fade away.
It’s so easy to let your mind fill in the blanks when jealousy sets in — but that’s highly risky territory. Instead, hone in on what you do know so you can stay grounded in reality and rein in the green-eyed monster.
For example, if you see that your partner texts a coworker late at night, it might be tempting to start making assumptions about the nature of their relationship. Instead, remind yourself that all you know is that they corresponded, but you don’t know what it was about – it could very well have been relating to a meeting or presentation the next morning. Focusing on the facts will allow you to prevent your jealousy from spiraling out of control.
Resort to passive-aggressiveness.
Pouting, giving them the cold shoulder, or trying to make them jealous – these are all games you don’t want to be playing. Don’t make your partner guess what’s wrong — it’ll likely only lead to annoyance, frustration, and potentially even resentment on their part. They’re not a mind reader, so be direct with them about what you’re struggling with.
Act on your feelings.
Feeling jealous is one thing. Letting those feelings drive your actions is another altogether. So, before you start snooping through your partner’s phone or making nasty comments about their social media habits, remember that there’s a much better way to communicate with them about what you’re experiencing.
If you approach your conversation about jealousy by attacking your partner, that’s bound to put them on the defensive — and with that dynamic, it’ll be nearly impossible to have a productive conversation. So, rather than accusing them of cheating or anything else, start by simply expressing your feelings about the behavior (“I feel [xyz] when you [xyz].”)
The bottom line is? Jealousy doesn’t have to ruin your relationship — as long as you can honestly acknowledge your feelings, dig deep about the root cause, and openly communicate with your partner about it, you’ll be able to take a negative emotion and turn it into a positive learning experience.