Jealousy is a complex emotion that impacts people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Whether it’s you or your partner getting jealous, it’s definitely something that deserves attention as often it won’t go away by itself. Even within secure relationships, a bit of jealousy is common and natural, as it signals that a connection you really care about could be in jeopardy. If jealousy occurs occasionally and in small doses, there is probably nothing to worry about. However, if it occurs frequently and starts to take over, then this is where it can become destructive.
So, Why Does Jealousy Occur?
There are many factors that contribute to jealousy and a variety of theories as to why we as humans get jealous in romantic relationships. One aspect that psychology discusses, is that jealousy can often be a reflection of our own vulnerabilities rather than how we feel about our significant other. Of course, sometimes there are reasons within the relationship that cause jealousy, such as infidelity, however, research suggests that the following factors often unpin feelings of jealousy:
- Lack of self-esteem
Often, feelings of jealousy stem from feeling insecure. Maybe things aren’t going well at work, or you’re over tired and stressed. When you’re feeling like this and for example, your partner then goes out for drinks surrounded by members of potential suitors, you’re more likely to feel on edge and start to question their actions. You may feel like you’re not good enough to be with your partner, which in turn creates the belief that they are likely to get closer to someone else who is more worthy of them.
- Over dependence on partner
Another potential reason for jealousy is over dependence on your partner. If everything revolves around your partner (you spend the majority of your time with him/her, you don’t have a core group of friends who you spend time with), then you’re likely to feel jealous when your partner spends time with other people, or even when they dedicate time to progressing their career and pursuing their goals.
- Unrealistic relationship expectations
Many of us do hold unrealistic expectations in romantic relationships, which can add fuel to the fire when it comes to jealousy. Leahy, an expert in the field, suggests that many of us hold core beliefs about what it means to be in a relationship, including the belief that our partner will never be attracted to anyone else, they’ll never need time apart and that they won’t spend time with individuals who they could potentially be attracted to. When these beliefs occur, then contradicted jealousy often develops.
- Unresolved issues from previous relationships
It is often the case that feelings of jealousy in one relationship stem from unresolved issues in a previous relationship, for example, infidelity and cheating.
All these factors suggest that jealousy occurs as a result of a number of different reasons. Regardless of the cause, jealousy is definitely worth exploring as it can be overcome, and many relationships can turn out to be stronger as a result.
Ways to Overcome Jealousy
In order for a couple to overcome jealousy, the issue needs to be acknowledged rather than ignored. Be open and honest about how you’re feeling – Dr Skyler suggests trying not to be too defensive and use phrases such as, “Well you said you’d call me at 8pm but you didn’t” – often conversations starting in this manner, won’t have a positive outcome. Instead, try an approach such as, “I just feel that you prefer spending time with other people and I think it’s because I was expecting you to call” – phrases like this enhance the potential of you having a productive and meaningful conversation.
- Looking inwards
As mentioned above, jealousy is often more a reflection of how you’re feeling inside rather than how you’re feeling about the relationship. Use it as a sign to take some time for yourself; practising some mindfulness and breathing techniques, going for walks in nature, or something else that brings you joy are some great tools for valuable ‘me time’. If you are struggling with feelings of low self-esteem or anxiety, then remember that professional help is out there.
- Challenging unrealistic relationship expectations
As unrealistic relationship expectations are often a definite contributing factor to feelings of jealousy, one way to reduce these feelings is to start to challenge these expectations. Leahy, author of The Jealousy Cure, recommends taking the time to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about the values you hold surrounding your relationship. This will bring you a step closer to understanding each other’s needs within the relationship.
- Dedicate time to be jealous
Leahy suggests that if you are feeling like jealousy is taking over, then put time aside to let the jealousy out. One strategy is to write down any jealous thoughts you have throughout the day and then dedicate say 15 minutes at the end of the day to go through what you’ve written down. This allows you to move on with a clearer head. By the time you come back to the thoughts, you’ll probably not feel as worried about them and if you do, you may see a pattern emerging, which will hopefully give you the insight you need to take additional steps to tackle the jealousy.
Trust is a key component of reducing jealousy – by working with your partner to find ways to increase and improve trust within a relationship, feelings of jealousy will often decrease as a direct result.
If you feel like jealousy if negatively impacting your relationship, then we’re here to help. With our relationship experts and coaches, we can deliver sessions with you and your partner, either together or separately, to explore what’s going on and help find solutions that work for you. Reach out today if you’re interested in hearing more.