Jealousy is a normal, human feeling of resentment for a person, or an activity, that one perceives is a rival. People who “don’t have a jealous bone in their body” are either unconscious, incapable of feeling fully connected to the person they love, or have emotionally already left the relationship and their partner. Even the most evolved and conscious among us would become concerned or distressed, (in other words, jealous) if a new job or for that matter a new neighbor, was suddenly to take up ninety-percent of a beloved’s time and energy for an extended period! Given that we are all potentially at risk of experiencing these very human feelings, it’s important not to berate yourself for them, but rather, try to understand where they are coming from, and when these feelings are exaggerated and out of control.
Feelings of jealousy can be very painful both for the person feeling them and the partner dealing with them. The first step is to analyze whether this feeling is reality based, meaning something is really externally wrong in the relationship – or fear based, meaning something is off balance internally with your perception of a situation. Let’s look at both circumstances.
Reality based jealousy can be a constructive feeling that alerts us to the fact that something or someone is literally threatening our personal security or our relationship. These feelings can also be a signal that some issue in your relationship or your partner needs attention. How can you tell? Ask! “It seems you are spending a lot of time over at Donna’s house. Is there something we should be talking about? Is there something that you are needing or not getting from our relationship?”
Jealousy can also be a signal that some perception or agreement you originally made with your partner may not currently be realistic. For instance, did you and your partner once believe that total fusion or on-going at-one-ness equates to love? Wrong! That kind of total reliance on another human being to provide all of your good feelings about yourself is called enmeshment or co-dependency. The need for that style of connecting probably originates from a childhood abandonment or betrayal that was never healed. At some point one or both of you will have to move away from that totally connected state and take some space if you are to remain healthy. What you may be feeling is that it is time to renegotiate your contract with more realistic perspectives about how you can remain bonded to each other and yet also be independent.
Say your partner begins spending a great deal of time away from home involved in a new sport. It’s important to understand whether you are feeling “excluded” or feeling as if you are about to “loose someone” you love. If you are feeling excluded it may be an indication that you also need to seek out individual interests and activities that are appropriate and challenging for yourself. In every healthy relationship there must be room for both partners to grow individually and separately in order to have new, meaningful information to bring back to the relationship. It is also important to have open discussions about the amount of time each of you feels is reasonable to devote to outside activities. These contracts or conversations help both people in the relationship feel supportive of these choices.
If you are feeling as if you are about to loose someone you love, talk to your mate. It is my experience that these kinds of feeling seldom occur in a vacuum. Perhaps your partner is consciously or unconsciously pulling away on some level. Perhaps he or she has shut down emotionally or spiritually for some reason and these are issues that need to be directly addressed. Talk about it now, not when your partner has separated to a point of danger in the relationship.
When jealousy is about “feeling small, inadequate, not as good as, or less than,” or when it’s about negative body image or a lack of self-esteem, jealousy then becomes a signal that it’s time to do some work on yourself. It may be time to get professional help dealing with the source of those feelings. If you choose not to do the work, your partner will be exhausted dealing with the fall out in the form of having to constantly reassure you and make you feel safe. The truth is that no amount of reassurance will convince you until you deal with these inadequacy issues for yourself.
Sometimes feelings of jealousy will arise from your past and the lack of positive role models about relationship. If, for instance, your father cheated on your mother or you were raised in a broken home, your jealousy may come from an unfounded fear that the same issues will manifest in your relationship unless you are constantly vigilant or on guard.
When jealous feelings occur because your partner really is beginning to stray or is seeking out inappropriate attention from an outside source, it’s time to talk. Confront the issue immediately because this could be a signal that something in your relationship needs attention. Very often affairs are a cry for help and the time for intervention is before the affair takes place. Open, honest communication can often put a relationship back on track before damage has been done. In some cases, this kind of behavior can even be a defense against going deeper and becoming more intimate in a relationship that is basically a good one. If one partner becomes frightened about becoming more intimate he or she might unconsciously seek a diversion simply because becoming more intimate feels too frightening. A healthier solution is to seek out the necessary tools to make going deeper a safe journey.
Just as with every other human feeling, there is always a reason why we are feeling what we feel – including jealousy. It is important to follow the feeling to its source and then deal directly with the issue. The fastest way out of any fearful feeling is straight through it with open honest communication! Once you understand what is creating the jealousy, you can go to work to heal the issue with compassion and understanding for both yourself and your partner.
© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013