Feeling jealous in a relationship is very common. Dealing with jealousy, however, is a skill only few people master. One bad experience with your (ex)partner may make it seem impossible for you to be dealing with jealousy in a healthy way ever again. Checking your partner’s phone, e-mail, internet history, and whereabouts is the first thing you do when you have the opportunity. But, is this the way you want to be dealing with jealousy for the rest of your life? Jealousy causes a lot of relationship problems these days and sometimes it even leads to break-ups. Dealing with jealousy is difficult, but in the end it pays off, and you will enjoy life a lot better.
Of course, there is healthy jealousy: the type of jealousy that makes your partner feel wanted, and that makes you realize that you (still) care a lot about your partner. This jealousy is actually more curiosity and is innocent. But there is a thin line between healthy and unhealthy jealousy. Almost like a virus jealousy affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour in a sickening way without even being aware of it. Like dealing with a virus, dealing with jealousy starts from the inside. Jealousy is a feeling You have, not something your partner has. So You have to fight it, and maybe your partner can help you with that.
Here are a few reasons why people may become jealous and have trouble dealing with jealousy:
When you are feeling jealous over the smallest of reasons it’s a sign of social insecurity, or low self-esteem. The fear of losing someone can make you crave for reassurance. So your way of dealing with jealousy is to ask for more love and attention. If you don’t receive it you may become afraid of losing your partner and this can result in self-esteem problems, insecurity, anger, and resentment. By reducing your fear of losing your partner, you also reduce jealousy. This is probably the most effective way of dealing with jealousy, but it is also the most difficult skill to master without the other steps mentioned below.
If your partner tells you she will be late for dinner because of work, try to trust her. This is easier said than done, but give it some time. In the beginning you won’t trust your partner and you’ll feel restless. But after a while you’ll see that by trusting your partner the jealousy slowly fades away.
What happens if you don’t trust your partner? You’ll probably check your partner’s whereabouts and you’ll only be satisfied when you have proof… for a while. Because every time your partner is somewhere else, you need to feed the jealous wolf inside you. If you can’t feed the jealous wolf, it becomes more hungry and upset (your jealousy becomes worse). By checking if your partner spoke the truth you are actually feeding the wolf (and so you keep the wolf alive). So basically dealing with jealousy means that you stop checking your partner’s whereabouts, and start to believe your partner. Another tip: write down or think of all the possible reasons your partner may have to be late, or to act ‘mysterious’. Write down your jealous making thoughts the last. Then rate them: how likely is this reason (in percentage). Make sure you start with the first one you wrote down and make sure they all add up to 100%. Now, check the results.
Your partner can help you by telling you up front about his/her schedule and simply let you know in time when the schedule changes. I do not recommend your partner to allow you to check his/her e-mail, phone, or anything else, because then you are busy feeding the wolf again. And as said before: feeding the wolf is not the way to be dealing with jealousy.
Clear communication in relationships is very important as you can read here. It reduces trust issues. The moment you start feeling jealous over something talk about it with your partner before negative thoughts take over. Being clear about your feelings can help you when you are dealing with jealousy, because your partner understands what’s going on with you. Your partner understands why you are needy, or give a cold shoulder. If you had some bad experiences in the past don’t be afraid to share this with your partner. Knowing where your trust issues come from can help you grow as a couple.
Some people think it’s easier to be silent about the lunch they had with a co-worker, because it makes their partner jealous. Unfortunately, your partner finds out about it one way or another. You can imagine how your partner will feel when he finds out. Dealing with jealousy is only possible if the jealous person can trust his partner. By lying about your whereabouts (just to protect her feelings) you take away an opportunity for her to experience that you can be trusted. The fact that your partner will be very jealous during the time you are with the other should not keep you away from social activities.
Trust is the cornerstone of every relationship. Without trust dealing with jealousy is almost impossible. If you don’t trust your partner, you are basically saying: we have no foundation for our relationship. I am sure this message does not make your partner feel any better. It can suffocate your partner, because your partner might feel obliged to proof her love to you over and over again. It’s also tiring to have to worry about your partner’s jealousy when you want to do something yourself. Or to have to explain to your jealous partner why you are 5 minutes late, or why you quickly ran some errands without notifying your partner.
Try to picture yourself as if you were looking through the eyes of your partner. Close your eyes for this exercise. Now focus on what you think your partner likes about you. Please, do not compare your skills or appearance or whatever with those of your rivals, in stead only focus on what your partner likes about you. Write them all down on a paper. If you are not sure about something, just write it down. If this is difficult for you, then perhaps your partner can help you. Now read this list to yourself whenever you feel some jealous feelings coming up. Dealing with jealousy starts by trusting your partner.
Your partner can explain how he/she feels when you behave in a jealous way and when you ‘interrogate’ her. This way you get more insight in how your behaviour affects your partner’s feelings.
You can compile a list of possible reasons for your partner’s delay and discuss this list with your partner. Make sure to write down the jealous thoughts as well. By reading these jealous thoughts out loud and by talking about them you gain more insight in how far-fetched some of your thoughts are.
Usually, jealous people experience feelings of insecurity, anger, and resentment. This combination of feelings can make you feel like taking revenge on your partner, because you want your partner to feel as bad as you, or even worse. In order to achieve this some people start acting ‘mysterious’ themselves. For instance, by not telling where they are, or by putting their phone away the moment their partner enters the room. Or by talking a lot about a co-worker or classmate. This is not how you should be dealing with jealousy. Although on the short run getting revenge makes you feel better, eventually it does not. Your partner might get jealous and the situation can escalate. Perhaps, you’ve been wrong from the beginning and now punish your partner for nothing. And for those who really decide to take revenge and cheat: in the end you are as bad as (or even worse) your partner (who maybe did not cheat on you after all).
If you have the feeling that your partner is starting to play games talk about it with your partner. All your partner wants is to make you feel bad so your partner feels better. If you ignore this game it may even get worse. By bringing it up you can talk about your partner’s feelings. Perhaps there is something in your behaviour that triggers your partner to ‘do the same to you’.
Dealing with jealousy is difficult when you compare yourself with others all the time. Usually, jealous people have low self-esteem, and whenever they compare themselves with their rivals, they will rate their rivals much higher. Why? Because people with low self-esteem think they are unworthy, unattractive, and are looking for evidence to proof these thoughts (and ignore evidence that contradicts their thoughts). John, for instance, may think he is less attractive, less funny, and less intelligent than his best friend Barack, and therefore, he is jealous. However, it is not about the individual characteristics but about the total package. Now look at this page and count every word. Imagine that this page is you and all these words represent a feature of you: intelligence, humour, and moodiness. But also the way you wiggle your toe, the way your jaw is shaped, your flexibility, the fact that you love to have your coffee with sugar and crave for ice cream every time you see a picture of the beach. Now please realize that your partner chose you because of this page, because of the combination of the words on this page. She did not pick you because she likes only 25% of the words on this page. She chose you because she likes the combination of your behaviour, habits, beliefs and looks. Perhaps your best friend has some features (words) that are better, but it’s never the combination of words. You are unique and you are the person your partner wants to be with.
Your partner can give you a compliment every now and then, or by don’t mentioning how funny your friend is. But this is all your partner should be doing for you. Because in the end it’s you who is comparing all the time, and who has a wrong way of dealing with jealousy.
Imagination is a wonderful phenomenon and we can have great times imagining things. However, dealing with jealousy often becomes impossible mainly because of our imagination. You see your partner putting away the smart phone right when you enter the room and you imagine your partner is hiding something from you. When your partner is having a drink with a good friend you may imagine that your partner is actually having sex with someone else. Probably, you get emotional (angry, upset, stressed out, and insecure) if you imagine what your partner might be doing. Now, there is nothing wrong with imagining things, but jealous people tend to believe their imagination and tend to ignore facts. On top of that they allow their imagination to affect their feelings. Being reasonable is very difficult when you are emotional. Imagine how difficult dealing with jealousy is when you are emotional because of your own imagination.
The easiest thing to do when you are dealing with jealousy is to believe facts and use your imagination for fun stuff. But this is easier said than done. So why don’t we focus on reducing the impact your imagination has on your emotional state? An effective way is to tell yourself every time: I am imagining that (fill in your thoughts), and this upsets me. <—- Giving words to thoughts helps you take away the emotional charge.
Whenever your partner imagines something and confronts you with it, please stick to the facts. Your partner is probably emotional so perhaps it is wise to wait until your partner cooled down. Another suggestion: ask your partner to tell you about the imagination in full detail. Stay neutral in your emotions (do not laugh or anything) and at the end ask your partner how realistic this imagination sounds.. It’s likely that your partner realizes that his thought are a bit silly. (Becoming angry usually does not work, because it could easily be taken as support for their imagination).
Jealous people love to limit their partner as much as possible. You might not want to admit it, but it is true. Dealing with jealousy like this is the easiest way. It makes you feel good to know that your partner is not in touch with A or B any more. But does it make you trust your partner more? No, not at all. Why? Exposure. I will use an example to illustrate this.
The first time you did something exciting (bungee jump, driving a car, or having sex) it was amazing and you were high in adrenaline. Just thinking of this experience made you feel excited again. However, after doing a lot of bungee jumps, driving the car a lot or having a lot of sex with the same person, it becomes less exciting. What does this have to do with jealousy? Well, imagine that your partner chatting to your rival is like a first bungee jump, it’s very scary and you will feel a lot of adrenaline. But the more your partner talks to your rival, the more normal it becomes. Normal things do not make you upset or anything.
But pay attention: you will constantly find something new in your partner’s behaviour to be jealous of (she touched his arm, she kissed him too close to the mouth when saying goodbye, she smiles too often <— but this is your imagination). Give your partner the chance to show that they can be trusted. Not limiting your partner is scary in the beginning, but a very effective way of dealing with jealousy on the long run.
Do not allow your jealous partner to limit you in any way. As soon as you give in once, you’ll see that more limiting requests will follow. Your jealous partner has to learn how to trust you and this will not work if you support their sick way of dealing with jealousy. If you ever decide to terminate contact with someone it has to be because of your own motivation, and not because your partner has difficulty dealing with jealousy.
If dealing with jealousy seems impossible for you, fear not. It is treatable. A cheating partner can be devastating for your self-esteem, and for future relationships. Even witnessing someone cheating can leave its marks. In some cases there is no history of cheating, but is the thought of your partner being with someone unbearable. In all of the just mentioned examples you are able to picture this in your mind. And because you can picture this in your mind, EMDR therapy is a very effective therapy for jealousy. We neutralize the mental image that upsets you the most. And if there are more mental images that upset you a lot we can neutralize them as well. Usually, it requires only 3 EMDR sessions (of 90-120 minutes each session) to treat jealousy. If you are interested in a first, free of charge session, please contact me. I treat trust issues and jealousy online.
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