Jealousy in relationships can often make even the most healthy ones seem like they’re inherently toxic, with issues running amok. Just the thought of your partner betraying your trust might bring out the worst in you. The bickering may cause permanent damage, and suddenly every friend your partner has, turns into a threat to your relationship.
This is why, to establish a healthy relationship and to sustain it, one must learn how to control jealous feelings so as to not let a perfectly good relationship go to waste. Healing jealousy and insecurity come later, what comes first is understanding that jealousy is part and parcel of the relationship process.
Sometimes, even a sly look in the direction of someone who’s eyeing you can be enough to tick your partner off. So, how can one avoid jealousy in relationships? How should we express it when we’re jealous? Let’s find out.
Jealousy In Relationships: A Tale As Old As Time
“I think it is time to leave”, she walked over and said to her husband, her tone terse. It had been over eighteen minutes, and he had not left that woman’s side. She was draped in silk, eyes kohled, and had a swell figure! “The children will be waiting”, she told her husband again, her tone stone-cold this time.
He excused himself from the lady, took his wife’s arm and began walking toward a couple-friend in the dining area. “Errr…one small drink, please?” He pleaded somewhat sheepishly. For the rest of the evening, he steered clear of Miss MNC. His wife did not insist on leaving again but he knew the car ride home would be a long one.
You could substitute the wife with husband or partners in couple relationships and the scenario would still ring a bell. For most of us, at least at some point in our lives. Even the easiest and healthiest of relationships throw up nasty surprises in a social environment. Sometimes all it takes is a drink or two, the stray mention of an old flame or a lingering look accompanied by a smile.
What is jealousy?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word jealous as ‘feeling or showing resentment toward a person one thinks of as a rival’. This definition suggests that it is the belief of the presence of rivalry that is the key issue, and not whether such a rivalry truly exists. Most scholars assume that jealousy is culturally universal – although culture and historical era shape how jealousy is defined, what sparks it, and how men and women deal with it.
Scientists have also collected evidence of a gender divide on how each experiences and reacts to the green-eyed monster. According to Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Glass & Wright, 1992, while in men, sexual infidelity incites the most jealousy; in women, the discovery that their husbands have formed a deep emotional attachment to other women and/or are squandering resources on them is most upsetting.
Jealousy in strong relationships
Another finding was that people involved in long-term relationships experienced less relationship insecurity and higher trust. Interestingly, researchers showed that the reason for this was often that, in the past, their relationships had suffered from extra-dyadic sex (the term extra-dyadic refers to a wide range of behaviors occurring outside of a committed relationship/attachment), and couples had learned how to overcome the insecurity issues.
The most common emotion associated with jealousy is anger, and in some extreme cases (of morbid jealousy), it is accompanied by violence. The interesting thing to note here is that most of us would feel more sympathetic toward the hurt/rejected perpetrator than the one who has actually been at the receiving end of the rage and humiliation! Even our courts deal with crimes of passion with a somewhat softer gaze. Killing a lover in a rage because one caught him or her cheating in the bedroom is a crime of ‘passion’ but killing a stranger who has cheated us out of money is to act ‘in cold blood’.
How we express jealousy
While rage may be one of the leading expressions of jealousy, other emotions such as sadness and anxiety come into play as well. And they are expressed in behaviors that are in stark contrast with those of anger. Enhanced dependency, increase in demonstrations of love and increased demands for sexual activity for instance could be a few. Do the words, ‘It was the best make-up sex ever’ sound familiar? Welcome to the chaos of romantic love. Here are some questions to ponder upon…
Does the prospect of someone prettier/smarter (however subjective that may be) giving your spouse attention, and your partner gleaming under its shower, result in feelings of anger and unpleasantness toward both of them?
Does your partner’s attention on another, now that the romance and passion have faded from your relationship (let’s be honest here, the two of you have been there, done that) make you insecure?
Do you discuss a fight you have had with your spouse with a friend of the opposite sex to gain the other gender’s perspective, but think of it as betrayal when your partner does the same?
These questions may make you ponder upon the very nature of jealousy in relationships. Feelings of insecurity and jealousy can often strike up out of nowhere, what matters in those situations is how you deal with it. So, how can one have control over jealousy in relationships? Let’s find out.
How To Control Jealous Feelings In A Relationship
What once used to be the most loving relationship might have now turned into a screaming match every time you two meet. In a jealousy-induced rage, you’ll forget all about how much this person means to you and how you can’t think about losing them. Which is ironic, because by continuing the rage-filled arguments, you’re pushing them away.
We’ve listed out a few ways to help you deal with jealousy in relationships, so you don’t end up regretting that harsh tone you were so quick to use.
1. Fight the root cause
Feelings of insecurity and jealousy go hand in hand. You’re insecure because you’re jealous, you’re jealous because you’re insecure. Most people often experience jealousy because of other issues like insecurities, anxiety and self-esteem issues. By tackling the issues that might be causing you to feel jealous, you’ll not only improve your relationship, but you’ll see a positive impact in your life outside of it as well.
2. Improve communication with your partner
You’ve seen it in the movies, the whole “when you say/do that, it makes me feel like this” exercise. While that’s not the only way to improve communication in your relationship, starting out with basic exercises will definitely help. You’ll get to the bottom of what you think and what your partner thinks about the jealousy in your relationship.
3. Establish mutual trust
One of the fundamentals of any relationship is mutual trust. Without it, it’s going to be extremely impossible for your relationship to thrive. If you want to control jealous feelings in your relationship, work on establishing mutual trust between each other. Once you can wholeheartedly trust your partner, you’ll have a lot less to worry about.
Related Reading: 11 Strategies To Stop Being Jealous And Controlling in Relationships
4. Stay calm
Easier said than done, I know, but try to not react with rage. Take some time off, cool off and assess the situation before you choose to make a remark. It’s possible you might even realize that what you were jealous about was nothing to worry about. Healing jealousy and insecurity begin with yourself, and only when you’re in a calm state of mind can you get to work.
5. Seek professional help
When things get overwhelming, there’s no shame in the fact that you need help to deal with the feelings of insecurity and jealousy you may be going through. Therapy will help you process those feelings and will provide you the tools and knowledge necessary to get your dignity back. At Bonobology, we have a multitude of experienced therapists waiting to help you get through these rough times.
By controlling the feelings of insecurity and jealousy you go through, you’ll see the difference not just in your relationship, but also in other spheres of your life. The interactions you have with the world depend on how you interact with yourself. By becoming more confident and trusting in your capabilities, you’ll end up having a healthier, jealousy-free relationship and a better life.
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Yes, a little bit of jealousy in relationships can often be healthy. You wouldn’t want your partner to nonchalantly dismiss it if you were blatantly flirting with someone else, would you? That would signify that they’ve lost interest. So, in order to show you still care, a little bit of jealousy can be healthy.
Jealousy often stems from feelings of insecurity and self-esteem issues within oneself. By tackling the issues you may have, you’ll also be learning how to deal with jealousy in a relationship.
If you want to stop being jealous in a relationship, you can start by diagnosing and working on the root cause of the jealousy. Establish trust with your partner, work on improving the communication in your relationship and don’t let your rage control the way you react. Seeking professional help will work wonders as well if you’re looking to not be jealous in your relationships.