By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Feelings of jealousy are common in romantic relationships and can be an early warning sign that your relationship needs protecting. However, when left unchecked, jealousy can eat away at the loving, trusting bond that unites couples.
If you have a pattern of feeling jealous over your relationships, you might want to take a closer look at what’s prompting it. Are you choosing unfaithful or uncommitted partners? Or are you seeing serious threats where they don’t exist?
Two basic issues often stir up feelings of jealousy. Sometimes people experience themselves as flawed in some essential way that makes them feel unlovable. Another common struggle is the sense that others cannot be relied upon to be caring and supportive. Both experiences can understandably lead you to feel jealous out of your distrust that people you date or have a relationship with will be there for you when you need them.
Although jealous feelings are not easily overcome, there are some good ways to counter them:
Acknowledge the problem. Pay attention to your feelings of jealousy to determine whether they are based more in your current relationship or in issues you carry within you. If it’s the latter, make a commitment to yourself to work on having a more positive view of yourself or of the availability of others.
Nurture self-love. If you feel unlovable or like there is something essentially wrong with you, make note of this. To get past chronic jealousy, you will need to make a focused effort to feel more accepting and loving of yourself. Pay attention to your positive qualities and practice maintaining this awareness. You can also help yourself by observing how others value you. Explore self-help materials for how to work on this or enter psychotherapy.
Acknowledge your problem to your partner. Healthy relationships are all based on honest communication and caring. By communicating openly with your partner, you can develop intimacy and talk through your problem rather than act it out. For instance, if you fear that your partner will cheat on you when he or she goes out, talking about your concerns (without accusations) opens the door for your partner to reassure you and work with you to allay those concerns.
Use self-talk. When you become aware of feeling jealous, question the reality of your concerns. If there are real signs of a problem leading you to be jealous, talk this through with your partner. If not, you can remind yourself that your current partner has been open and honest with you and that there is currently no reason to worry.
All of these suggestions encourage you to use your jealousy as a signal that you need to do something to improve your situation. If there is a problem in your relationship, address it. If the problem is more within you, then focus on that. As hard as it can be to do, working on your issues is worth the effort because it can turn your relationship, and your life, around. In the end, by responding in a healthy way to your jealousy, you can nurture a satisfying and trusting relationship.
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