Jealousy Rooted in Insecurity

Dear Neil: I used to be a very jealous wife, and am happy to tell you that I have changed. My jealousy and fits of rage were rooted in insecurity. Partly, I have baggage because my father was disloyal to my mother. Partly, it was that I was bashful and quiet, and my husband is outgoing and charismatic. But I got tired of feeling angry all the time, decided it was not changing anything for the better and looked inward for some answers. I developed hobbies and friendships. I refused jealous thoughts and behaviors. I took actions to help me feel happy within, and I became more fun for him to be around. And my insecurities have greatly diminished.

Rekindled in Portland, Oregon

Dear Rekindled: You may be interested in the following letter. Read on.

Dear Neil: From personal experience during my 55 years, I have concluded that the raw emotion that we call “jealousy” is actually made up of two distinct parts: possessiveness and fear.

Possessiveness is where one says “I own this person, and therefore I have control over him or her.” Fear says “I am afraid that love and companionship might be taken away from me, because he/she might not want to be with me anymore.”

Personally, I find the possessive aspect quite unjustified. But often, the fear is quite reasonable and rational.

Reflecting in Christchurch, New Zealand

Dear Rekindled and Reflecting: Thanks for your ideas and suggestions. Here are some additional things you can do in order to try to decrease feelings of jealousy:

  • Have a discussion about what fidelity and commitment mean to each of you, and about what you expect in your relationship. Be very clear about what type of behavior is acceptable to you and what isn’t.
  • Reassure your partner that being apart from each other does not mean that you are abandoning or betraying him/her.
  • Figure out how to get reassurance in a positive rather than a negative way. Say “I need more of your time and attention. Let’s schedule something for the two of us,” rather than “Why do you have to go off with you friends again? You care about them more than you care about me.” Don’t use anger, withdrawal or threats as the methods you use for gaining reassurance.
  • Examine whether you can be stuck in your insecurities. If so, what you do about that? Be extremely careful about not viewing your partner as your property. It will push away the person you want closer.

If jealousy is met with closeness and reassurance, usually the jealous feelings will lessen. Many people are flattered by their spouse’s jealousy in low doses, but begin to resent it when it gets intrusive.

Dear Neil: I read with interest your reply to Fred R. in Australia about infidelity being a destructive force, and wondered whether or not you believe that the force of the destruction is as great if the infidelity is a one night stand, or a prolonged affair?

A Reader from New Zealand

Dear Reader: Both are destructive, although longer term affairs are more likely to lead to stronger and more prolonged feelings of betrayal, mistrust, hurt and outrage.

The one possible exception is where the betrayer confesses to his/her spouse, rather than the spouse finding out through some other means. The hurt, outrage and sense of betrayal will be similar, but the level of mistrust may be less.

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