Note: This article is nowhere near comprehensive. I am not a licensed psychologist or a therapist, check and this writing comes from what reading I have done on this topic and my own experience, so take this for what you will. If you have references or other things that may increase the usefulness or accuracy of my writing then feel free to post me about it. I am more than happy to adjust my writing to reflect a new understanding on this topic or to make this page much more useful.
This article assumes, for simplicity, a heterosexual monogamous romantic relationship that is having bad jealousy issues, but could be equally applied with adjustment towards homosexual/poly relationships when viewed through those glasses. Close friends not getting enough time or other less serious situations are not the focus of this writing, but may be just a applicable within that context.
Jealousy is something that we have to deal with, and is something that we are taught is OK. In many forms our culture, unfortunately, supports and perpetuates its existence through books, movies, music, laws, and societal expectations of relationship possessiveness and territoriality. How are we to manage or understand this “green-eyed monster” that can destroy relationships and our happiness, so that it is not allowed to do so, even when cultural support for it is so prevalent?
Understanding exactly what jealousy is, and how and why it affects us can help us to not only tame it, but to advance and evolve our sense of self and increase intimacy in our relationships. I am going to cover a bit here today about jealousy so that we can start the journey to defeat the “green-eyed monster” together and to evolve our happiness and security to the next level.
All of what I am about to write is predicated on there not being a definitive reason for the jealousy such as a history of infidelity or lying and so on. That is a totally difference scenario which I will not cover here, but, in that case, you will most definitely want to seek a qualified therapist. There are also many more links at the bottom of this page that will cover jealousy in much more detail and in a much more educated and qualified manner than I ever could. This page might be consider more of a primer on dealing with jealousy.
What is Jealousy?
Jealousy is not an emotion in-and-of-itself. It is a cacophonous and yet subtle amalgamation of baser negative emotions such as insecurity, low self esteem, subconscious or repressed pains, and fear of loss, abandonment, or inadequacy that surfaces and affects us in ways that we may not fully understand or be able to describe when it happens. We just know that we feel bad or that it hurts when something triggers it, and we may get angry and frustrated because we do not, or find it very difficult to try to, understand it.
Jealousy is also rooted in the starvation economy (starvation model) of love, which essentially means that if my partner cares for someone else then they will care less for me, which greatly increases the level of fear, anxiety, and possessiveness. We love our parents, our children, close friends, and other extended family, so you do not necessarily need to be afraid that they are going to love someone else and not you. Your partner has room for you in addition to their close friends and family. Humans just keep on loving. It is said that fear is the opposite of love; and by letting go of fear (jealousy) you will foster love in your life.
These self-doubts, insecurities, and fears can lead us to question and pressure our partners in an aggressive and untrusting manner which can damage the relationship, or push them away. Gaining an understanding and control of jealousy will be important to the happiness and harmony of all your current and future relationships, especially the most important and intimate ones.
This frustration and difficulty of understanding these emotions perpetuates and hinders exploration and comprehension of what exactly is happening. Cutting our way through the pain and confusion is what will be important to defeat the ‘green-eyed monster’ and the havoc it wreaks upon our lives and relationships. Ultimately, bouts of jealousy indicate that there is some unresolved issue with yourself or with your relationship, but it also could point to an unmet need within you or your relationship. It signals a moment to learn about ones self and your relationship, which, of course, can be a mixed blessing.
Jealousy triggers typically involve ‘someone’ of the opposite sex of your partner. Your partner does something and you feel jealous and hurt, and you may or may not understand why. The action that started this process is the trigger. Examples of common triggers are: someone calling your partner or oogling at them, your partner staying our late, or wanting to spend time with friends, spending time with people in a very social setting where there are many individuals of the same gender that your partner could be attracted to.
You will need to pay special attention to your triggers. The triggers themselves may be revealing as to the underlying issue you may be having, especially if one trigger is fairly consistent and others are either non-existent or limited in their prevalence. This may help point to the underlying emotion that is causing jealousy to surface.
Your Emotional Response
Your emotional response to a jealousy trigger is going to be very important to monitor and understand. Try to search your emotion and figure out exactly what you are feeling. This is perhaps the most difficult part. You will need to try to distinguish between individual fears and insecurities, and potentially trust issues. Take the time to think about you feelings to try to refine what exactly is going on. The more you can know about this the easier it will be to understand what your underlying issue maybe and how to deal with it. For this process you need to remove jealousy as a potential word for your emotion, since it is not an emotion in-and-of-itself. It is a crutch word that prevents your from searching for the real emotion that is bubbling forth.
If you are able to know you triggers and the emotional response to that trigger, then the next step is the take that information and try to find out why that trigger elicits that emotional response. Is it projected unresolved issues from the past, or perhaps you need more reassurance from your partner, or there may be any of a plethora of other things that may cause a specific type of trigger to generate a specific emotional response. Try to think about the relationship between the trigger and your emotional response, your past experiences and your relationship needs and desires.
Again this may be something that you will want a qualified therapist to work through. These are very complicated and potentially deep seated issues that some simple self exploration and talking may not deal with. Plus we are working against some very strong cultural and evolutionary programming.
Responsibility For Our Emotions
Something that is very key to understanding and dealing with this issue is that no one can make you feel any emotion. You are an individual and you have a choice as to how you feel and react to situations. This is not what we are typically taught, but it is one of the most valuable things you can realize for yourself and you life. You have a choice to determine your reaction to a situation, albeit, until your realize this you may find yourself a helpless slave to your emotional whims. People typically go through their lives allowing their initial emotional response to bubble forth and then they go with it because that is all they know, but in the case of jealousy, or even any other negative emotion, it is not such a good idea to do so.
If you work at it you can separate the ‘action that triggers an emotional response’, the ’emotional response itself’, and the ‘underlying reasons for the emotional response’. Keep in mind ‘underlying reasons’ does not mean triggers themselves. The trigger, emotional response, and the reason are all separate and need to be inspected that way otherwise you may start mixing them up and call the trigger the reason, when it is not.
No one can make you feel a specific emotion. We are, in many ways, programmed via Evolution and Culture to respond a certain way to certain situations, but this is something that we can, with effort and desire, to control and modify it. This process can be a very painful, since it will require introspection, self-evaluation, a radical honesty with one’s self and their partner, trust, and vulnerability. All of which can be scary and difficult in-and-of-themselves, but to combine them into one process makes this not for the weak of heart. In the end, it can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. If you are not keen on going-it-alone with you partner in dealing with jealousy, then there are many qualified therapists that would be happy to assist you in this endeavor.
It is important to say to yourself that ‘I will not allow my emotions to control or effect my life in a negative way and I will decisively choose to address them when they come up.’ Your emotions are your responsibility and you need to evaluate how they affect your life and address them appropriately. I will cover some communication techniques later on that will address taking responsibility for you emotions.
Dealing with Jealousy Through Writing
Writing can be a very therapeutic and revealing method to help you deal with jealousy and other issues too. Writing a journal will help you to keep track of and get out those negative feelings. In these days you could also record them via a small recording device if that serves you better. In either case, you will want to keep your recording medium safe from others because rarely is such a painful and deep-seated emotion pretty. Things may be written or said that can be quite personal and painful not only for you, but to those involved. If you are pursuing this process with your partner you may want to inform them that you are doing this and for them to respect your privacy if you wish it.
When you do feel a bout of jealousy starting you may want to take some time to write down the specifics of the situation that is triggering the jealousy. Keeping track of what situations or actions that triggered you to feel jealous can help you greatly in your pursuit to banish jealousy from your relationship.
As you are keeping track of your triggers, you will also want to also to write down your emotional response to that trigger. Write as much as you can and just let the thoughts and emotions flow so you can thoroughly explore and open them. Explore this state of mind and write down what you are feeling.
Once you have that recorded you can revisit it and explore your triggers and feelings and then you might be able to find a trend in your triggers or what it is that you are feeling. Perhaps you will find a reoccurring theme in your feelings and writings that may point to the underlying reason for your jealousy.
Dealing with Jealousy Through Talking
When talking to you partner form your thoughts along these lines: “I feel ‘this’ when ‘that’ happens” because ‘of this’.; and NOT “You make feel this way when you do this, because you ‘reason’.” since that wording puts the responsibility for your emotions on the other person and assumes that you know the other persons thoughts and intentions.
You have the right to feel how you feel, and the first wording reinforces you are taking responsibility for your emotions, which seems to be an affront to the common thinking of our emotional states, especially when it comes to jealousy and possessiveness with our partners. Jealousy seems to be treated like a crime that is inflicted upon us, when it is really something that we allow to fester within us due to a lack of open and honest communication and taking responsibility for our emotions. We, in our emotional ignorance, unknowingly inflict it upon ourselves and our relationships.
With sentences such as “You make feel this way when you do this.” you are creating an antagonistic environment, putting responsibility for your emotional state to your partner, even though your emotions are yours and your partner may not have really done anything wrong. Doing so may put your partner on the defensive and may greatly inhibit communication and your progress towards resolution and understanding what you are experiencing.
Enabling Jealous Actions
This is more for the jealous person’s partner than for the jealous person. If you both know that you have jealousy issues then by not talking about it or confronting them, albeit calmly, coolly, and with compassion, you are enabling and reinforcing this behavior and allowing it to continue. Once you start to do that you are reinforcing for them that this behavior is acceptable and that you will just deal with it, which leads to not only a break down in communication, but also in bad feelings for both of you, and potentially a significant amount of resentment.
Take the time to care enough to talk about and address jealousy in your relationship. Ignoring it is not going to make it go away, and is only going to allow it to fester and grow stronger potentially creating a chasm between both of you with a lot of pain.
Pain and chasms – bad. Calm and honest communication – good. Realize that it is going to take two of you to address jealousy, so help to be apart of the solution, by not enabling this behavior. Perhaps you can be the one to suggest counseling if your partner is reluctant to.
References and More Info
What I have written is a pretty good start to this topic, but please do peruse these references for more information. If these do not suffice, please seek a qualified professional to assist you. I also will appreciate recommendations for any other pertinent and useful resources that you may find or know of. I did not include articles on therapy through writing. If you are interested google has plenty, of a therapist can help you with that as well. =)
- Center for Non-Violent Communication
- Jealousy: A Voice of Possessiveness Past (Psychology Today)
- Jealousy: Monster with Dangerous Passion (Sexpresso)
- Managing Jealousy (Hello Good Love)
- Loving without Jealousy: As We Becoming More Authentic, Jealousy Disappears (University of Minnesota)
- Controlling Jealousy (Dr. Phill)
- Dealing With Jealousy Issues (Bea Wehrla, Counseling and Human Development, 2002)
- Fixing the Refrigerator: Practical Jealousy Management (Polyamory, 2009)
- Green-Eyed Monster, the (California Psychics)
- How to deal with jealousy (Romance Class)
- Jealousy (The Inn Between, Polyamory)
- Jealousy, The Green-Eyed Monster (Dr. Gail Saltz, March 2007)
- Essays by Peppermint (several essays on jealousy and related topics)
- Surviving Jealousy – when you are in the path of the green eyed monster (Young Metro Poly)
- Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement (IMRA) (James O’Neill, May, 2016)
- Polyamory, Jealousy, and the Eight Walls of Intimacy (James O’Neill, May, 2016)
- Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (Amazon Book)
- Radical Honesty (Amazon Book)
- Books on Non-Violent Communication (Amazon Books)
- Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (Amazon Books)