Jealousy - the green-eyed monster that's killing your relationships
We all get jealous from time to time. A combination of envy, sadness, suspicion and frustration, jealousy can cause irrational behaviour that you'd never even consider in your normal state of mind. It's a big problem too - a survey of therapists revealed that one-third of clients attending psychotherapy listed jealousy problems as their main concern (1).
Jealousy is first and foremost about insecurity and it's tough for us to talk about it - it means admitting that we believe we are inadequate. But in a healthy, committed and loving relationship. talking about your insecurities will only change things for the better. Failing to resolve or talk about issues with jealousy spells doom for any relationship, even if you're madly in love. It might even be that your partner hasn't said or done anything to make you feel jealous - these feelings are often the result of internal experiences we haven't dealt with properly.
So, how can you fight jealousy and have happier, healthier relationships? We've got a few tips to help...
Understand that you need both consistency and variety in your life
Humans are naturally wired to crave both novelty and familiarity (2) - it's why we get butterflies when going on a first date but also love the certainty of the 9-5 working week (and the weekend). We love surprises and the excitement of something new, but not all the time; we also need security and consistency. In a healthy, committed relationship, you should see your partner as an 'anchor' - somebody that is consistent and makes you feel safe. That means redirecting your need for variety into another area of your life.
It's an easy mistake to make but looking for variety and spontaneity in a new partner, usually by cheating, inevitably leads to jealousy and the destruction of relationships. Feeling dissatisfied with the familiarity of a stable relationship may lead to you 'keeping your options open' and pushing boundaries when it comes to flirting. But this doesn't mean you're a bad person. If being in a serious, monogamous relationship doesn't give you a sense of peace, it may not be for you right now, or ever - or if could be that your partner is not the right person for you! In a healthy relationship, you'll enjoy the consistency and stability, whilst fulfilling your need for variety in other areas of your life - such as taking up a new hobby.
Get to the root of your jealousy
Ok, so sometimes jealousy is totally justified - like when you spot your partner flirting with the hot temp at the office Christmas party - but more often than not, it's irrational. By asking yourself, "Why do I feel this way?" you can often get to the root of the problem.
Try labelling your emotions as you experience them and look at them separately from the situation which has caused them. Then ask yourself if they seem valid and rational after what has happened? Jealousy can be caused by a number of different factors and it's easy to project these feelings onto your partner, even when they have done nothing wrong. Innocent social interactions could cause jealousy if you're more of an introvert and your partner is a social butterfly. If you've been cheated on and betrayed in the past, you could bring this baggage to your current relationship, which could trigger jealousy.
Communicate clearly and identify boundaries
Everybody has their limits when it comes to what they will and won't put up with in a relationship. You might not mind if your partner has friends of the opposite sex, or if they go out to lunch with their ex once a month. Or it could end up driving you crazy. The only way to ensure the two of you are on the same page is to communicate - if you don't then it will lead to feelings of jealousy and passive-aggressive behaviour.
Establishing boundaries - what makes you feel jealous, what upsets you etc. means you know where to draw the line, and you should be able to discuss and work through any issues that arise. If you don't communicate properly with your partner about your boundaries, it's not really fair to tell them they have been disrespectful or insensitive, is it?
The green-eyed monster can have a destructive effect on even the healthiest, happiest relationship. So next time you start to feel jealous, stop and ask yourself why you're feeling that way. Mindfulness and being aware of your actions and emotions can help you to build happier relationships in the future.
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