Strategies on Coping with Jealousy in Romantic Relationships
Many people in romantic relationship feel some jealousy at times, especially if they have very strong feelings for their partner. Some jealousy may be normal, but if the feeling is frequent and intense, it may be destructive. It may make you feel isolated, helpless, and hopeless and it may be even overwhelming.
Why Do We Jealous?
Jealousy is a fear response to the threat of losing one’s partner to another person. From evolutionary psychology, jealousy and loyalty evolved to motivate “mate guarding,” and that mate guarding is a protective mechanism to an old adaptive problem: infidelity. While men fear sexual infidelity as they want to make sure that their offspring is actually theirs. Women are more concerned with emotional infidelity, since they are more concerned with their children’s existence and want to be sure that their spouse supports their family, protect and support them.
Today jealousy becomes more of a psychological and ego driven phenomenon rather than being a survival driven phenomenon. Yet, the feeling of jealousy can be so intense, while some people describe it as a feeling of “going to die.” The reality is that we all want security. We all want to be loved and be wanted. We are afraid of being rejected, not accepted, not being loved while worry about losing people we care for. These feelings of loss are natural. Yet, again, if the feelings of jealousy are out of proportion, they probably rooted in insecurities. There can be many causes of insecurity and jealousy in relationships, but they are all stem from not feeling good about yourself.
How to deal with strong feeling of Jealousy
If you experience jealousy frequently, here are some strategies that will help you out:
Don’t React to Your Feelings
Uncomfortable feelings push us to act and resolve our needs forcefully and quickly. This is why it is hard to face difficult feelings without reacting to them. The feeling of jealousy, like other feelings is not the problem, the problem is how we relate to the feelings and the interpretation we associate to the feelings. When we react to the feelings, without realizing the underline triggers and needs, we start acting on these feelings in an unhealthy way. Jealousy builds up in our mind and it starts to consume us.
You can feel the feeling, but do not have to act on it. Allow yourself to stay with your feelings, without judgment, and listen the message it tries to deliver to you. So, the next time you feel jealous, accept the feelings, yet change the way you think about the situation and be reasonable and wise in your attitude and behavior.
Accept and Face Your Jealousy
C.S. Lewis, in the Four Loves, wrote “To love is to be vulnerable.” He added, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
The key to intimacy and deep connection, is to open your heart to your partner, trust whatever comes and keep calm. Yes, it is definitely not easy, but you must be willing to accept what is beyond your control and trust yourself to deal with the uncertainty. Remember, it is a choice to love and you are in the relationship, because you decide to love. You selected to love your partner and at the same time accepted the reality that comes with it. Therefore, face your love – with its risks and aspire to remove doubts or jealousy.
Be Courageous to Face Your Vulnerability
One of the most important elements of happiness and peace of mind is openly engaging with others, while being vulnerable–even when it’s scary to do so. As Mark Twain succinctly put it: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” While it might be difficult to accept that you suffer from insecurity and jealousy, acknowledging the problems is the first step for healing.
Specifically, in regard to jealousy, to be courageous is to have the willingness to be vulnerable and express your jealousy, need or desire—when the outcome is uncertain. This, of course, might end up making you feel anxious, uncared for, dismissed, or even humiliated. Because you don’t also want to experience “insult on top of an injury. Yet again, this courageous way of being vulnerable, open the path toward healing from jealousy and insecurity.
Have Self Compassion
Self-compassion promotes well-being and happiness when encountering jealousy and negative life events. As human beings, we experience imperfections and limitations. We also do receive from other all that we want. This is why it’s so important to practice self-compassion and learn to accept life it its own term. It requires us to embrace life wholeheartedly, while believing that we’re strong and good enough to fail or lose. No matter what, we can handle the emotions that arise.
Being gentle and nurturing to yourself have many benefits. Self-compassion sets the stage for better health, relationships, and general well-being. Self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves during difficult times and negative emotions, such jealousy, thereby lowering their own levels of associated anxiety, stress, fear and hurt.
Heal Your Wounds and Triggers
Many of our emotional triggers, including jealousy, were created because of challenging history and previous negative experiences in relationships. You might have been hurt before, and others might have been betrayed or cheated on. At the same time, you were not able to healthy process such difficult situation which left you scarred. It is important to learn how to heal your wounds and resolve your psychological triggers, so you can move beyond your past and realize that you are in a new relationship while you are capable in dealing with your jealousy in a better way.
Work on identifying your core beliefs that trigger your jealousy and emotional reaction. Understanding the roots, triggers and reasons for your jealousy is an important part of self-reflection and personal change. It gives you the power to heal your wounds and maintain a strong relationship. When you start feeling jealous, remember that this is because of your past, but it does not indicate that it applies to the present time. Check yourself and the reality you face and see if jealousy is valid in the here and now and if at all is helpful for you. Then, make a conscious and deliberate choice to be more resilient so that your past does not negatively affect your present.
Develop Your Self Confidence
Self-confidence is an antidote to insecurity, shame and jealousy. The best thing we can do is focus on feeling strong and secure in ourselves. Learning how to be confident is a process of uncovering your beliefs that are causing self-doubt. Pay attention to your self-talk and the questions you are asking yourself? Rather than asking questions like, “Why I’m not successful?” “How come I am not smart enough?” “Why I am a failure? etc. focus on positive empowering questions like, “In which way I can accomplish my goals?” and “How can I focus more on my strengths?” When you ask a better question, you get better and build your confidence.
When you catch yourself self-criticizing or catastrophizing, take a step back and apply self-compassion. You must be mindful and be aware, and then make a continual effort to overcome your inner critic and believe that you are okay, even on your own. You should not rely on one specific person’s love to believe you are loveable. You must continue to develop positive self-talk and realize that you are good enough and have value. For that, you must create value to yourself and others.
Focus on Your Strengths
Focusing on your weaknesses is detrimental to wellbeing and amplify jealousy and suffering. So, cultivate and opposite and amplify the other voice – your inner cheerleader. Focus on your strength, remember moments you felt proud of yourself, and allow yourself to experience the associated positive feelings that come along. Journal and list the strengths you bring to the table, and how did they contribute to your happiness and success? Make a list of your skills and talents. In addition, focus on your positive traits.
Also, by creating a list of your strengths and areas for improvement you can bring to the forefront all of the positive qualities about yourself, while identifying areas you improve. So, remember to can make the most of your positive attributes and be your best self.
Express Your Jealousy in A Gentle Way
In their book Couple Skills, Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning, and Kim Paleg wrote “You have a right to ask for the things you need in a relationship. In fact, you have a responsibility to yourself and your partner to be clear about your needs. You are the expert on yourself. No one else, not even your partner, can read your mind and know what you need in the way of support, intimate contact, time alone, domestic order, independence, sex, love, financial security, and so on.”
If you’re struggling with jealousy, your partner has probably already know that. It might be also that your partner is also contributing to the problem (not intentionally). By acknowledging your contribution to the relationship dynamics and also giving your partner the opportunity to support you, you can ease your jealousy and work toward resolution.
If you feel that your partner is doing something that is making you jealous, express how you feel and talk to them in a mature respectful way. Humor can be also a great way to address “insane jealously.” Laughing at the subject make you and your partner at ease and takes the pressure off the serious topic. Your caring and direct communication, without blaming and attacking allows your partner to listen and be willing to support you. You can simply tell them that you trust them, yet you cannot control your feelings and want them to consider how you feel.
Recognize Your Value and Appreciate Yourself
One of the main reasons why people get jealous is because of insecurity and low self-esteem. They tend to believe that they are not good enough. They are afraid that their partner will realize this and will leave them for someone else. Esteem is defined as respect and admiration. Self-esteem is a personal evaluation of one’s self-worth. As such, it is important to value yourself as someone who’s worthy of love, respect and appreciation., Generally speaking, if you feel positive about yourself, it makes you more resilient about life events and better able to cope with ups and downs.
To appreciate yourself, stop comparing yourself to others celebrate your uniqueness, journal your positive qualities and successes, accept challenge as an opportunity to grow. These are only a few ways to improve your self esteem. Remember, that you are worthy of love and that next time you feel jealous, remember that your partner is with you because they want to be with you and they appreciate your positive qualities.
Move Away from Control
Control feels good because it makes us believe that we aren’t under someone else’s control. That’s why we are driven to seek control. Yet, controlling too much can undermine happiness. Seeking control can be a good thing, but in the right amount. If excessive, the drive to control can make you miserable.
In regard to jealousy, the majority of our fear is not about losing our partner, as you might falsely believe. Rather, it is about avoiding the emotional pain we create in our mind when we are losing control. The fact is that we cannot control our partner and we have to let jealousy go. Having some control is not a bad thing, yet trying to control somebody for things over which you have no control, is dysfunctional. A good question to ask yourself is: How does it feel when you are under someone else’s control?
Trust Your Partner
People in good relationships don’t doubt their partner and don’t put their partner’s every move under the microscope. They don’t constantly question the their partner’s intentions or load them with investigative questions.
Remember that your partner, is also human being, and naturally interacts with other people. It might be that your partner may like other people or find them attractive, but it doesn’t mean that s/he want to sleep with them or will cheat on you with them. There is a reason why they chose to be with you intimately. If they wanted to date other people, they would have done so.
Recognize that you don’t need jealousy. Yet, even if you feel it, you don’t have to act on it. You must develop your self-resiliency and confidence. For that you must, cultivate self-care and nurture your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. When you develop healthy coping skills and they become habitual, they eventually replace jealousy.
At the same time, you must develop the capacity to trust yourself. Trust yourself that you can love deeply and without any regrets. Trust yourself that you can deal with the uncertainty. Trust yourself and realize your core self as an anchor to deal with whatever come. This is not easy, but ultimately when you trust yourself, you feel confident to be able to manage even the most difficult situation, including rejection and separation.
Reach for Support
As I mentioned, if you experience strong feelings of jealousy, you may experience isolation, helpless, and hopeless. It might be overwhelming, yet you can ease the challenge by building a support structure. A support system, if it comes from friends, family, online community, group counseling or psychotherapy, can be very helpful.
The people who love and care about you will be your biggest supporters in your journey to positive self-worth. Surround yourself with encouraging people who revitalize and motivate you and make you feel positive about reaching your goals.
In conclusion, jealousy may be destructive and can poison in intimate relationships. Yet, if you follow the above suggestions and strategies when feeling jealous, you will be in a better position to build your self-confidence, your relationship and deepen the trust that is so needed in a strong relationship. Remember that if you want to have a peace of mind and have happy and successful relationship, you must trust your partner, because you have no other healthy choice.