Do you find yourself checking your partner’s phone and emails every day? Do you go through their pockets looking for evidence of wrongdoing or perhaps telephone them five times a day to find out what time they will be home? Do you feel your stomach churning whenever your partner starts talking to a member of the opposite sex? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions then jealousy may well be an issue that needs addressing.
We can all experience a small amount of jealousy within our partnerships and this may not be a bad thing as it can add some spice to our relationships, helping couples to appreciate each other and what they have. However, chronic jealousy can cause major stress-related health problems and upset for both partners and can ultimately lead to a relationship breakup. At its most extreme, people have killed because they are jealous.
What is jealousy?
Drs Robert L Leahy and Dennis D Tirch have carried out research into jealousy and describe it as ‘angry agitated worry.’ A universal emotion, it can also be an adaptive feeling triggered by certain factors in different cultures. There is a big difference between feeling jealous and acting on your jealousy. A relationship is more likely to get into trouble if certain behaviours are present, such as making accusations or going through a partner’s trousers or handbag looking for clues. Constantly seeking reassurance from a partner is unlikely to solve the issue.
For most people, distorted thinking is a major factor in maintaining their jealousy. Negative perceptions of self and of other people fuel jealousy, making a person feel bad. Changing that negative thinking into more rational thoughts is a major way of taking control of the emotion. If you examine the beliefs behind your jealous feelings, you can often eliminate some, if not all, of the jealousy.
Steps to overcome jealousy
1. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings
If you experience feelings of jealousy, don’t act on them or run away from them. Instead relax and focus on the rhythm of your breathing, the rising and the falling of your diaphragm and chest. Focus on your thoughts and feelings in a calm detached way. Your jealous thoughts are just thoughts – they are not reality. For instance, if you think your partner is interested in someone else, does it follow that s/he really is? The things we think and feel can be quite different from reality.
2. Don’t remain a slave to jealous thoughts and feelings.
You may find that observing your thoughts and feelings about jealousy initially causes the feelings to increase. It is important to accept that you have the emotion and to allow yourself to feel it in order to ‘let it be’. Often, simply taking a step back to observe that the emotion exists, rather than fighting it or pushing it away, can lead to that feeling weakening on its own, like ice melting in the sun.
3. Tackle your feelings when they arise.
Question your jealousy whenever it raises its ugly head. For example, ask yourself: Am I feeling jealous because I feel angry or afraid? What is the reason I feel fear or anger at this time? By questioning the triggers behind your jealousy at the time it occurs you can begin to take positive steps to manage the feelings positively, without allowing the negative emotion that typically accompanies jealousy to get in the way.
You can ask yourself…
Why am I feeling threatened?
What is it about this situation that causes me to feel jealous?
What specific issue is making me jealous?
4. Don’t demand certainty
Jealousy can arise when we demand certainty, for instance we insist that we must have a guarantee that he isn’t interested in another woman. Or “I absolutely have to know that this relationship will last forever.” These demands will only increase anxiety and suspicion. We need to accept that uncertainty is part of life and that, even though we may desire certainty, it can never be guaranteed. Indeed, demanding a guarantee may lead to a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.
5. Don’t make assumptions
We all have a tendency to make assumptions about things. Just because you feel there is a threat, it doesn’t mean that it’s genuine. Try to view the situation objectively.
Jealousy can lead to unrealistic thoughts about our relationships and a powerful imagination can result in all kinds of unproven ideas and stories. We start imagining what our partner is up to and what they’re thinking and saying about us. We may believe that our partner should never be attracted to anyone else and that our feeling of jealousy is evidence that s/he is up to no good. You may run yourself down, believing nobody could love you as you have so little to offer. However, there are many effective ways of dealing with feelings of insecurity within relationships:
Praise each other on a regular basis and refrain from criticism and labelling.
Plan and share positive experiences together on a regular basis, such as days out.
Learn how to share responsibility in solving problems and tackle issues together.
By refusing to make assumptions about your partner, you will lift a great weight from your shoulders and see life as it is, rather than how your jealousy wants you to see it.
6 Learn to trust yourself
If you learn to trust yourself then you can begin to trust others.
Begin by writing a list of all your good points and put the list up somewhere you can see it. You need to remind yourself that you have talent, skills and positive features. Don’t compare yourself to others, but instead tell yourself daily that you have what it takes to lead a positive and fulfilling life. Practise rational healthy thinking every day and, in time, the healthier thoughts will replace the jealous feelings, helping you to become a more resilient and capable person who is not prone to jealousy.
I offer effective and practical therapy for a wide range of issues based in Sutton Surrey and Kingston Upon Thames. Specialising in the treatment of anxiety disorders, which includes stress, anxiety, panic attacks, panic disorder, lack of confidence, phobias, social anxiety, health anxiety,low mood and much more.I have 28 years experience
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