Suspicion is a killer. Relationships end because of jealous conflicts and people kill other people because they are jealous.
Imagine this. You are at a party and someone is friendly and you smile. Your partner thinks that you are betraying her. Or your partner tells you a funny story about a former lover and you feel endangered. You feel the anger and the anxiety rising inside you and you don’t know what to do.
lisa could identify with this. She would glare at her partner, trying to send him a “communication” that she was really annoyed and hurt. She hoped he would get the message. At times she would withdraw into pouting, hoping to penalize him for showing an interest in someone else. But it didn’t work. He just felt tangled.
At other times lisa would ask him if she still found her beautiful. Was he getting uninterested with her? Was she his style? At first, he would assure her, but then—with repeated demands for her for more reassurance—he began to wonder why she felt so unconfident. Maybe she wasn’t the right one for him.
And when things got more difficult for lisa, she would yell at him, “Why don’t you go home with her? It’s obvious you want to!”
These kinds of jealous conflicts can end a relationship.
But, if you are jealous, does this mean that there is something terribly wrong with you?
Let’s look at what is going on when you are jealous and how you can handle it.
Jealousy is mad agitated worry.
When we are jealous we worry that our partner might find someone else more attractive and we terror that he or she will reject us. Since we feel vulnerable that our partner might find somebody more attractive, we may activate jealousy as a way to cope with this threat. We may believe that our jealousy may keep us from being surprised, help us protect our rights, and force our partner to give up interests somewhere else. Similar to worry, jealousy may be a “plan” that we use so that we can figure out what is going wrong or learn what our spouse “really feels.” We may also think that our jealousy can encourage us to give up on the relationship—so that we don’t get hurt any more. If you are feeling jealous, it’s important to ask yourself what you hope to gain by your jealousy. We view jealousy as a coping strategy.
Jealousy can be an adaptive emotion.
People have dissimilar reasons—in different cultures—for being jealous. But jealousy is a general emotion. Evolutionary psychologist D.Buss in The Dangerous Passion makes a good case that jealousy has evolved as a instrument to defend our interests. After all, our descendants who drove off competitors were more likely to have their genes survive. Indeed, interfering males have been known to kill off the infants or children of the displaced male. Jealousy was a way in which vital interests could be defended.
We believe that it is important to normalize jealousy as an emotion. Telling people that “You must be neurotic if you are jealous” or “You must have low self-esteem” will not work. In fact, jealousy—in some cases—may reflect high self-esteem: “I won’t allow myself to be treated this way.”
Jealousy may reflect your higher values
Some people may say, “You don’t own the other person.” Of course, this is true—and any loving relationship with mutuality is based on freedom. But it is also based on choices that two free people make. If your partner freely chooses to go off with someone else, then you may rest assured that you have good reasons to feel jealous. We don’t own each other, but we may make affirmations about our commitment to each other.
But if your higher values are based on honesty, and commitment, your jealousy may risk the relationship. You are stuck. You don’t want to give up on your higher values—but you don’t want to feel overwhelmed by your jealousy.
Jealous feelings are different from jealous behaviors
Just as there is a alteration between feeling angry and acting in a hostile way, there is a difference between feeling jealous and acting on your jealousy. It’s significant to realize that your relationship is more likely to be risked by your jealous behavior—such as repeated accusations, reassurance-seeking, pouting, and acting-out. Stop and say to yourself, “I know that I am feeling jealous, but I don’t have to act on it.”
Notice that it is a feeling inside you. But you have a choice of whether you act on it.
Admit and detect your jealous thoughts and feelings
When you notice that you are feeling jealous, take a moment, breathe slowly, and observe your thoughts and feelings. Recognize that jealous thoughts are not the same thing as a REALITY. You may think that your partner is interested in someone else, but that doesn’t mean that he really is. Thinking and reality are different.
You don’t have to obey your jealous feelings and thoughts.
Notice that your feeling of anger and anxiety may rise while you stand back and observe these understandings. accept that you can have an emotion—and allow it to be. You don’t have to “get rid of the feeling.” We have found that alertly standing back and observing that a feeling is there can often lead to the feeling weakening on its own.
Recognize that uncertainty is part of every relationship
Like many worries, jealousy seeks certainty. “I want to know for sure that he isn’t interested in her. Ironically, some people will even precipitous a crisis in order to get the certainty. “I’ll break off with her before she breaks off with me!”
But doubt is part of life and we have to learn how to accept it. Doubt is one of those limits that we can’t really do anything about. You can never know for sure that your partner won’t reject you. But if you fault, request and punish, you might create a self-fulfilling prediction.
Inspect your rules about relationships
Your jealousy may be fueled by unrealistic ideas about relationships. These may include beliefs that past relationships (that your partner had) are a threat to your relationship. Or you may believe that “My partner should never be attracted to anyone else.” You may also believe that your emotions (of jealousy and anxiety) are a “sign” that there is a problem. We call this “emotional reasoning”—and it is often a very bad way to make choices.
Or you may have difficult beliefs about how to feel more secure. For example, you may believe that you can force your partner to love you—or force him or her to lose interest in somebody else. You may believe that retreating and sulking will send a message to your partner—and lead him to try to get closer to you. But retreating may lead your partner to lose interest.
Sometimes your rules about relationships are affected by your childhood experiences or past close relationships. If your parents had a difficult separation because your father left your mother for somebody else, you may be more prone to believe that his may happen to you. Or you may have been deceived in a recent relationship and you now think that your current relationship will be a replay of this.
You may also believe that you have little to offer—who would want to be with you? If your jealousy is based on this belief, then you might inspect the signal for and against this idea. For example, 1 woman thought she had little to offer. But when I asked her what she would want in an ideal partner—cleverness, warmth, emotional closeness, originality, fun, lots of interests—she realized that she was describing herself! If she were so unwanted, then why would she see herself as an ideal partner?
Use effective relationship skills
You don’t have to depend on on jealousy and jealous manners to make your relationship more secure. You can use more effective behavior. This includes becoming more recompensing to each other—“catch your partner doing something positive.” Applause each other, plan positive experiences with each other, and try to abstain from criticism, sarcasm, labeling, and contempt. Learn how to share responsibility in solving problems—use “mutual problem solving skills.” Associating “pleasure days” with each other by evolving a “menu” of positive and pleasurable behaviors you want from each other. For example, you can say, “Let’s set up a day this week that will be your pleasure day and a day that will be my pleasure day.” Make a list of pleasant and simple behaviors you want from each other: “I’d like a foot-rub, talk with me about my work, let’s cook a meal together, let’s go for a walk in the park.”
Jealousy seldom makes relationships more secure. Practicing effective relationship manners is often a much better alternative