Defeating Jealousy

What is your reaction to the following situations:

  • Your intimate partner spends increasingly more time in outside activities and hobbies in which you  are not included.
  • Your partner comments to you on how attractive another person is.
  • At a party, your partner dances with someone you do not know.
  • Someone flirts with your partner.
  • Your partner flirts with someone else.
  • You and a coworker worked very hard on an extremely important project.  However, your boss gave your coworker full credit for it.
  • Your brother or sister seems to be receiving more affection and/or attention from your parents.
  • Your best friend suddenly shows interest in doing things with someone else.
  • The group to which you belong appears to be leaving you out of plans, activities, etc.
  • Your partner suddenly shows an interest in talking to and spending time with someone with whom s/he had been romantically involved with previously.
  • Your partner expresses the desire that you both develop other romantic relationships.
  • You have just discovered your partner is having an affair with someone at work.

The above questions, adapted from the Self Report Jealousy Scale, Revised, are designed to provide you with a variety of evocative situations which may provoke emotions of jealousy or envy.  So what do you do about jealousy?  How do you defeat or lessen it?  I have several suggestions.    

First, acknowledge to your partner that you are feeling jealous.  Be willing to discuss your feelings about fidelity, commitment, and expectations.  What type of behavior is acceptable and what isn’t?  Be willing to talk as well as listen.

Second, be willing to talk about your anxieties about being left and your fear of abandonment.  It puts a human face to the problem, and tells your partner in very understandable ways what is so important and significant about the subject to you, and why you feel so vulnerable around it.

Third, it is important to pay attention to what emotions are behind your jealousy.  What triggers it?  What has your previous experience been with it?  What has worked to help diffuse it in the past?  What emotions and fears come to the surface for you?  Sometimes insecurity over a string of losses will appear to be jealousy.

Fourth, be willing to look at your own issues of self esteem and self worth, and whether you could be stuck in your own insecurities.  Be willing to bolster your self image by working harder to improve some quality or trait that will make you a better person.  Also, pay attention to what you like and love about yourself, and what you are proud of.

Fifth, do not lie to your partner about the truth.  Deception will poison your relationship and alienate the two of you.  Whatever else you do or don’t do, do not destroy trust between the two of you by lying about what has occurred or is now occurring.  Once trust is ruptured in a relationship, it is extremely hard to rebuild.  Do not give your intimate partner grounds to doubt your honest or integrity.  No amount of marriage therapy is likely to work if one partner is lying to the other.

Sixth, tell your partner what you are feeling without blame or attack.  It is more effective to tell your wife that when you saw her flirting with another man, you became fearful of her leaving you.  It is less effective to name-call, attack, or condemn her for her behavior.

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