How to cope with jealousy in relationships

Everyone feels jealous to some degree at many times in their life. You may have been jealous of the kid in your class who was academic, sporty and popular. Or perhaps the person at work who always seems to get everything right and is up for promotion. More likely is that you’re jealous of that female friend your boyfriend has, the gym buddy your girlfriend raves about, or the foxy colleague your husband keeps mentioning.

There are many books and websites that offer advice on dealing with or overcoming jealousy in a relationship, but the best I have come across are the ones aimed at ethical non-monogamous or polyamorous people, because they face the same problem many times over. It’s the first question poly people get asked when they ‘come out’ – don’t you get jealous? – so they’ve given it a lot more thought!

Image via Geekr's Flickr photostreamThe answer is, yes. Everyone does, so it’s just a matter of how you deal with those feelings. Will you let them break up your relationship or will you look a little deeper to find the cause of them and try fixing things? Whether you identify as polyamorous or not, Franklin Veaux’s thoughts on jealousy management are extremely useful:

Jealousy is most common when somebody feels insecure, mistreated, threatened, or vulnerable in a relationship. If you feel secure in a relationship, you don’t get jealous. Jealousy is not the problem; jealousy is the symptom of the problem. Address the insecurity or the things underlying the feelings of vulnerability, and you address the jealousy.

[…] One key to making the relationship work is to talk about your fears, openly and immediately, even if you think they’re irrational. Often, naming your fears, bringing them into the light, deprives them of their power.

How many times has something bothered you to a huge extent but, when you’ve told someone about it, you’ve found yourself saying that it doesn’t sound so bad when you say it out loud? Imagine the person you’ve been living with for years telling you that they’re worried you’re going to leave them for a friend you’ve been a bit flirty with. Sounds daft now they say it out loud, but you’d probably still be flattered that they care that much. Then you’d probably spend a while listing their good points and the friend’s failings to reassure your partner. After all, how could anyone possibly be as amazing as them?

In Kathy Labriola’s article ‘Unmasking the Green-Eyed Monster‘, she addresses the core beliefs that lead us to feel jealous and then suggests some new ones. She also gives examples of where people have been successful in overcoming jealousy in their relationships. Whether or not you are poly, this article really can help to un-pick the emotions behind your jealous feelings and start to put things right.

The most important thing to remember is that, no matter how daunting it might seem, you really must talk about it with your partner. How can they offer explanations and reassurance if they don’t know how you are feeling? Franklin Veaux quite rightly mentions that, “there are times when jealousy is a rational response to a situation” but most of the time your partner will be able to allay your fears and become more aware of things that may worry you in the future.

Ultimately, other people do not affect your relationship – you do. Other people can only take your partner away if they want to go and, if they don’t, why let unnecessary jealousy get in the way?

This article was first published on BitchBuzz in 2010. Main image via Scott Smith‘s Flickr photostream. Smaller image came via via geekr‘s Flickr photostream, back in 2010.

2 thoughts on “How to cope with jealousy in relationships

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  1. I’m really wary of statements like this: “Jealousy is most common when somebody feels insecure, mistreated, threatened, or vulnerable in a relationship. If you feel secure in a relationship, you don’t get jealous.”

    It seems judgemental and moreover, boring. Some people may feel jealousy because they’re “insecure, mistreated, threatened, or vulnerable”, but there’s no reason to suggest these negative feelings are always responsible. And why assume that everyone’s goal is to be “secure” in their relationship? Some people would prefer their relationships were exciting and full of potential.

    Perhaps jealousy is a nice feeling for some people. Perhaps it makes you remember that your partner means a lot to you and that you’d be sorry to lose them.

    1. Hi Alice, thanks for your comment. I totally get that some people might like jealousy and find it a useful emotion, but the article was written for people who feel they need to cope with or manage their jealousy. It might be naive of me to think so, but I figured that anyone who embraces jealousy and understands how to work with it probably wouldn’t be looking for tips 🙂

      Interestingly, when I wrote another piece for BitchBuzz about enjoying the excitement of the “relationship rollercoaster”, I received comments from people who said there was nothing wrong with relationships which didn’t have any ups and downs. Whichever perspective a writer approaches a topic from, there will always be other angles. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

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