Understanding jealousy in your relationship

A couple arguing. PHOTO|FILE

Summary

  • Jealousy can be cute and sweet in moderation but consistent feelings of jealousy may be a sign of either past, personal or current relationship triggers

Jealousy is a destructive emotion that can quickly suffocate a happy and trusting relationship.

But just like every coin, jealousy has its other side too. This is the side that can be used to improve and reenergise your relationship.


Assessing your jealousy

Before you can make good use of your feelings of jealousy, understand whether they are reactive or based on suspicions.

“Jealousy may be a reaction to an act of infidelity by your spouse. It may also be an act of suspicion that you will lose your current relationship or that, your partner likes a certain woman because she is better looking than you,” says psychologist Patrick Musau.

According to psychotherapist Kathy Morelli, you must honestly evaluate whether your relationship has trust, respect, love, and honesty issues.

“If you are in an insecure relationship, expect to have your jealousy buttons pushed,” she says, adding that if you choose to continue with such a relationship, feelings of jealousy will more likely recur.

If your relationship is on the right track but you are stuck with feelings of jealousy, take a personal background assessment test.

According to Dr Chris Hart, persons who hardly experienced love, acceptance, and security as children are more likely to be insecure, possessive, and jealous.

“Your childhood feelings are bound to re-emerge once you get into a romantic relationship. If you feel the genesis of your jealousy is inspired by the way your parents treated you as a child, deal with the effects of your childhood experiences with your partner,” he says.


Your instincts

According to psychotherapist Deborah Odell, jealousy can function as a signaling system.

“Not every feeling of jealousy is unfounded. In fact, by being jealous, you may be picking up on something that could pose a real threat to your own physical and emotional wellbeing, or an indication of where your boundaries in the relationship are,” she says.

Once your feelings of jealousy have subsided, critically evaluate what triggered them and whether they were a good source of information or not.


A coiple on their phones at the dinner table. PHOTO|FILE


Be clear on whether your jealousy arose from a trivial competitive need or a genuine case of emotional or physical insecurity.


Communication aid

“Do not bottle up your jealousy. Communicate to either stem your suspicions or to mend the relationship,” says Dr Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist and the author of Better than Perfect.

Couples who talk about their jealousy are usually more satisfied with the outcome and development of their relationships than those who do not.

If you are jealous that your partner flirted with someone, do not say “I know I do not have a body as good as of that woman you were shamelessly flirting with at the party.”

Instead, she recommends you say something like, “I got a little jealous watching that lady flirting with you. You looked so handsome.”


Value addition

Instead of pulling your relationship apart, jealousy can awaken you to the essence of your relationship; what it means to you and why your partner is important to you.

Dr Lombardo says it is this sort of jealousy that will be the catalyst to rekindling your love when your feelings seem to fizzle out.

“At some point, your feelings will fizzle out and you may need to remind yourselves why you are engaged or in a relationship. Jealousy can prop up this value,” she says.

Similarly, instead of seeing negatives, choose to see the possibilities of learning from that which brought about the jealousy.


Feelings vs actions

The ultimate deal-breaker will not be in your feelings of jealousy but in your jealousy-inspired actions.

These may include acting out, stunts and schemes, and incessant accusations.

According to Dr Robert Leahy, the author of Beat the Blues, you will always have the choice to act on your feelings of jealousy or to accept and just observe your jealous thoughts and feelings.

“Accept that you have jealous emotions and allow them to be. You do not have to get rid of jealousy as it were, mindfully stepping back and observing the feeling often leads to the feeling weakening on its own,” he says.


During dating

Signs of jealousy are one of the indicators that someone likes you in the dating pool.

For example, a woman who fancies a certain man will portray signs of jealousy when he is talking with his friends.

“She will go back and forth to get your attention and will find ways to separate you from your friends. She will also be okay in separating herself from her friends and unofficially, it will all seem as though she is dating you,” says Dr Chris Hart.


How can you control it?

Jealous behaviour can be tough to control.

The underlying issues rarely go away on their own.

If jealousy is a pattern of behaviour that is repeated in relationship after relationship, it may take the intervention of a professional therapist to help reign it in and provide tools to cope with the causes that are driving it.

Getting past jealousy in a relationship requires building trust. One partner must trust the other enough to know that, regardless of the circumstance, the love and respect they share will prevent outside influences from threatening their relationship.

This can be difficult if one partner is insecure and struggles with trusting overall.

If you have found that jealousy is a problem in your relationship, whether it is you that are jealous or your partner, it can be painful for both of you.

Getting beyond it will take patience, communication and changing of beliefs.

If working together on overcoming jealous feelings and behaviours is not working, do not discount seeking help.