How to Deal with Your Own Jealousy
Jealousy sends the message that you don’t trust your spouse. It also makes you appear more needy. The result is an increased risk of losing your partner
A jealousy self test
How many of the following statements can you answer “yes” to?
- I am concerned that I am losing my partner’s affection and that it is being given, or will be given to someone else.
- I am alert to any indications that my partner may be attracted to others or is cheating on me.
- I often think that my partner is flirting with others when I am not around.
- I try to reduce the possibility that my partner could cheat on me by trying to be included in everything, calling or texting, limiting my partner’s financial ability to cheat, or demanding that my partner stay home.
- I react to my thinking about what my partner may be doing by becoming upset with him or her.
- I tell my partner “I love you” mainly because I want to hear him or her say it to me.
- I fear my partner leaving me, rejecting me, or abandoning me.
- I have had problems in previous relationships due to my suspicions.
- My expectations are that my partner should want to do everything with me.
- I have a hard time feeling relaxed and enjoying myself when I am not with my partner.
Like most human characteristics, we can be high, middle, or low on the jealousy dimension. The more of these statements that are true for you, the more jealous of a person you are. Asking what is an acceptable score is somewhat similar to my asking you how attractive you want to be to your spouse. The more of these jealous behaviors you can change, the more attractive you will be.
Jealousy is a result of our own internal fears
Jealousy is something that we tend to blame on others, but results from our own fears of inadequacy, abandonment, rejection, and inability to cope with loss. Some people are so fearful of losing their partners that they are constantly vigilant to any threats to the relationship. This vigilance is self defeating since rather than protecting the relationship, it actually makes it worse. Which of the behaviors in the list above do you think would actually help your relationship? Do you actually decrease the risk that your partner will cheat on you by being jealous? Or do you increase it?
Jealousy is a kind of addiction
When you feel jealous, you look for evidence that would justify your jealousy, but at the same time, you hope that you don’t find it. For example, you may check your spouse’s phone records, pockets, car, track your spouse with a GPS device or even interrogate your spouse. When you fail to find evidence of cheating, it makes you feel reassured. It calms your anxiety–temporarily. But of course, checking these things today does not guarantee your spouse won’t cheat tomorrow. And, what if you missed something? The anxiety returns. You check again. And on and on it goes. If your spouse knows about your checking, he or she is frequently reminded of how you don’t trust him or her. The price of you continually getting reassurance is more distance in your relationship.
Jealousy is connected to a fear of being unable to thrive without one’s partner
If I think I would be devastated and unable to carry on without my partner, protecting my relationship with my partner is going to be my priority. What my partner wants or needs to be happy really won’t matter much compared to this. It will even be hard for me to think about what my partner wants or to think that he or she could have a good life without me. That would be threatening. I would think that if my partner could do fine without me, then she wouldn’t need me, and so she would find someone else to be with. And, I couldn’t deal with that. It would also mean that I have to be careful so as not to make my partner want to leave me.
Jealousy makes our partners feel controlled
The behaviors connected with jealousy actually make our partners have to be careful around us. Even when they are not with us, they have to think about the amount of time they are spending somewhere, and how they will have to address questions about where they were, what they were doing, who else was there, and whether they enjoyed themselves of not. The “wrong” answer to any of these questions can make life more difficult because of the need to reassure their partner. The partner of a jealous person may have to send regular texts and have to say “I love you” every day. It becomes harder and harder to relax and interactions start to feel more like an obligation. In the end, the partner of the jealous person desires to do just what the jealous person was afraid of–find someone else.
“But, if I am not careful, then my partner will feel free to cheat on me.”
This is a false belief. Men or women without jealous partners feel free to enjoy their life and pursue their interests, but they know that if they cheat on their partner, they risk losing their relationship. They have an internal reason to be faithful–they don’t want to lose someone who is valuable to them. A person with a jealous partner becomes less and less concerned about the results of cheating, because a jealous partner is not a very valuable one. No one wants to feel monitored, distrusted, and like it is their “job” to constantly reassure their partner. The man or woman who has to say “I love you,” a certain number of times to avoid triggering an alarm in his or her partner is not a man or woman who is going to feel like saying “I love you.” Jealous people also pick up on this reluctance and it feeds into their fears.
“So, if I am jealous, it means that my partner is more likely to cheat on me?”
Yes, that’s right. But, This is not what will happen in most cases. In most cases, it will lead to your partner finding excuses to avoid you, which will create more emotional distance between the both of you. You will want even more reassurance that your relationship is okay, but you are less likely to get it because your partner will become less concerned about the relationship. In essence, jealous behavior leads to a partner falling out of love with you. At that point, some people will work on the relationship, but most will start thinking about ending it. Cheating would be kind of a symptom of this. Many people though, will break up before seeking another partner. Cheating always has to be dealt with, but it needs to be seen for what it is–an indication that your relationship had severe problems even before the cheating.
“So, what can I do about it? Am I doomed to lose my partner because of my jealousy?”
Well, if you don’t do anything about it, you will either lose your partner physically, emotionally, or both. But, if you work on yourself, your partner can feel more at ease with you, and enjoy the relationship rather than feel obligated by it.
“How do I work on overcoming my jealousy?”
Since your fear of losing your partner is what is really behind all of your jealousy, overcoming this fear is the most productive place to work. If you can come to see your relationship as something that you desire, but not something that you need, you will be making good progress. Basically, the healthy unspoken message to one’s partner is “I am with you because I want to be, not because I have to be.” That may sound really alien to you, but consider the jealous person’s position–“I am with you because I am afraid to be without you.” Although a jealous person wouldn’t say that, it is the message that their partner will get. And, it makes their partner feel needed, but not loved. It makes them feel like they are your parent and have to take care of you.
“Isn’t needing someone part of love?”
It certainly is in Hollywood movies, but not in real life. Let me give you an example from my own life. My wife and I are both successful and competent people. We love each other deeply. But, I know that if something happened to me, after an initial grieving period, she would be fine. And, she knows it too. What this means is that she can listen to most anything I have to say without becoming threatened by it. She helps me pursue my interests and I help her with hers. We are a team. We have more together than we could ever have separately. We do not live in fear of losing the other and so enjoy our relationship more. Secure people can be happy for their spouse’s successes and opportunities. It fosters a Oneness marriage. Needy people become threatened by their spouses’ successes and opportunities. Loving someone securely is freeing. Needing someone anxiously sucks the joy out of our relationships and lives and our partners’ lives.
A secure man or woman is the best gift you can give to your husband, wife, or significant other.
It will raise your value higher than anybody else your partner is likely to meet. Your partner would not want to lose you. And, the ironic thing is that when you no longer need reassurance, you will get a lot more of it than you ever did before. Was there ever a time in my life when I was jealous? Yes, definitely. And I have nothing but regrets about it. I call those my “young and stupid” years. I had to learn the hard way–through losing a good relationship with a loving woman. Then, I had to learn how to behave in a secure way and also trust God is to help me with any difficulties that may arise rather than being vigilant in my relationships. God wants me to focus on loving my wife and others and not live in fear. Buy focusing on loving and not fearing, I was able to get to the point where I would not trade my relationship with my wife for anything or anyone else in the world. What is my jealousy score now? Zero. Not one, but zero. So, do I believe people can overcome their jealousy? I have no doubt.
If you would like to start working on being secure and having closer relationships, I recommend you to work from my book, Overcome Neediness and Get the Love You Want.