We have all heard about the green-eyed monster. Jealousy is one of the most dreaded human emotions.
We have all felt jealousy for others as well as been at the receiving end of it. When jealousy rears its ugly head in a romantic relationship, it can complicate matters.
Sometimes, jealousy is minor and fleeting, but at times it can take control over the relationship as well. The question we are confronting here is whether we can express jealousy in a positive way. Can we constructively use jealousy to express our concerns and feelings without damaging the channel of communication and trust in the relationship?
This article examines the role of jealousy in relationships and explores the choices available to express jealousy in a healthy way. Here you will also find ways to start a conversation about such negative emotions with your partner.
Is jealousy normal in relationships?
As the relationship is a part of your life, it is common to find feelings of jealousy there as well. And, jealousy exists in a relationship doesn’t mean there is any reason to substantiate or justify it.
Typically feeling jealous in a relationship is associated with flirting and cheating. When the eyes of one partner are roving, jealousy may be justified. In fact, the theory about the origin of jealousy among humans is that this feeling evolved as a protective mechanism to safeguard the sanctity of the relationship and deter infidelity.
Is healthy jealousy a myth?
Jealousy always comes with negative connotations. Then, how can we express jealousy in a positive way?
Those who feel jealous are typically stressed out, anxious and insecure about their partner and relationship. Or they can be angry and possessive, always suspecting the actions of their partner. The jealous partner may think that their feelings of jealousy are completely justified. But whether it is justifiable in reality needs to be seen.
Feeling jealous is unhealthy when the feeling reaches the obsessive stage. Also, if this feeling triggers abuse or violence of any kind, it is clearly unhealthy. However, it would be unfair to say that all kinds of jealousy are unhealthy. There are times when feeling jealous can become a healthy outlet for our negative emotions. Healthy jealousy is not a myth.
Sometimes, a partner who is too involved in a relationship may be misconstrued as jealous. Passion may be mistaken for jealousy. All they may want to do is build a strong relationship together. What is taken as jealousy may be their attempt to express their needs, wants, and boundaries.
Jealousy is often associated with:
- Intense love for the partner
- Ardent feelings when “in love”
- Seeking more stability in the relationship
All these descriptions of jealousy relate to positive things in a relationship. So, it would be wrong to term jealousy exclusively as unhealthy. Sometimes, if done right, you can express jealousy in a healthy way. Positive jealousy can in fact raise the happiness level and longevity of a relationship.
What is unhealthy jealousy?
One of the most common situations, when you may experience unhealthy jealousy, is when you are cheated upon. Infidelity is a typical trigger for unhealthy jealousy.
Unfaithfulness need not necessarily mean sexual or physical relations. It can stem from emotional infidelity as well. You may also feel jealous when your partner breaks the informally agreed-upon rule of the relationship. This means roots of jealousy need not always be easily identifiable.
When you feel that your partner has overstepped the boundaries or committed serious violations, you may be hurt or feel upset. You may also feel jealous. In this case, you may have a hard time figuring out how to express jealousy in a positive way.
Now, coming back to the situation of infidelity, the question to address is how to express your negative emotions clearly without losing your dignity. If you are unable to figure this out on your own, you may seek professional help. Therapy and counseling can be of immense help here.
6 positive ways to deal with jealousy
The feeling of jealousy is as natural for humans as happiness and contentment. It’s unhealthy to ignore or suppress it. At the same time, confronting your partner aggressively may also not be a good idea.
The importance of communication in a relationship cannot be emphasized enough. Having an open channel of communication between partners can make a lot of difference in the way the relationship pans out. This will facilitate open conversations among partners.
Anything that has been bothering you can be discussed in these conversations. Spitting it out in a direct, dignified, and sincere way, taking care not to offend the sensibilities and boundaries of your partner is considered the best and healthiest approach. That is healthy jealousy.
1. Understand your own reaction
Do you think your negative emotions are justified? Can you take an impartial view of the events?
People suffering from anxiety, insecurity, and low self-esteem tend to be more jealous. Also, those with an insecure attachment style and going through periods of loneliness are more prone to jealous feelings.
It would help if you can spend time introspecting your reaction to your partner’s actions. With a cool head and calm mind, reconsider your feelings of jealousy. Is it really warranted? You might even discuss this with a confidant or your therapist and seek their opinion.
2. Don’t allow your negative emotions to run wild
No matter whether your partner has done something wrong or not, when you get too emotional about it, you are losing the plot altogether. When you try to discuss this with your partner, make sure that your negative emotions are grounded in reality. Even if you feel intense sadness or anger, calm yourself down before starting the conversation.
Rehearse what you plan to say beforehand. If you aren’t good at doing this in your mind, try writing it down. Run the conversation with your partner in your mind. You may try meditation or deep breathing exercises to help you focus and stay calm.
3. Tell your partner how you feel and not what they did
At a glance, these two may seem the same but they aren’t. When you are talking about what your partner did to arouse the feeling of jealousy in you, you are in effect accusing them of wrongful doings. On the other hand, when you are talking about how their actions made you feel, you are sharing your feelings and concerns.
When you’re taking the first approach, your partner would respond by turning defensive. Avoid the “you” statements and focus on “I” statements.
“I feel so lonely when you aren’t here.”
“I am sad when you forget my birthday.”
“I feel jealous that you have all the time in the world to enjoy doing fun stuff.”
4. Be compassionate and patient
Even if you take the softer and conciliatory approach with your partner, they may respond strongly to your revelations. Your tone may not be accusatory, but you are in effect accusing them of wrongful doing. You may expect your partner to be upset or defensive.
Such talks may bring up some pent-up feelings that may or may not be connected to the issue at hand. Give them time to process all that has been said. Try to view this situation from their perspective. Don’t press for an immediate reaction or solution.
5. Don’t expect instant resolution
It may take more than one conversation to get through this issue. Take it slowly and step by step. If you rush through this conversation and expect your partner to come up with an apology or transformation overnight, you are living in a fool’s paradise.
During these conversations, your effort should be to let your partner understand the depth of your feelings. You need to give them space to express theirs as well. Only when both of you approach the issue with an open mind, a positive resolution is possible.
Sometimes all you need is reassurance from your partner that you can trust them completely and they will respect the boundaries of the relationship. You can use this opportunity to discuss the rules or boundaries of the relationship and revise them if necessary. This is a healthy sign of an evolving relationship.
6. Go for couples therapy
If you are unable to talk it out among yourselves and reach an amicable agreement, you may try couples therapy. Often, one partner may feel too strongly about their feeling of jealousy and the other partner may turn intensely defensive. With both unwilling to relax their stand and find a middle path, a resolution will remain a distant dream.
With the therapist acting as the mediator, the partners get an opportunity to express their feelings without fear of being blocked out. This may help in reaching an agreement.
Final thoughts on expressing jealousy in a positive way
Jealousy is not an easy emotion to deal with in a relationship. It’s complex and can make both partners uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this feeling is common enough in relationships.
Because of the negativity attached, jealousy may trigger shame in you. There is no need for that. It is just one of the emotions that we humans have. However, you should take care not to allow your feelings of jealousy to overwhelm you and take control of your mind. You need to figure out how to express jealousy in a positive way.
Having open conversations with a calm mind and direct approach is recommended. Give enough time and space for your partner to process the information. In case you are unable to follow these suggestions, you can try couples therapy.
No matter what you choose to do, it is vital to address your feelings of jealousy as early as possible. If you ignore it or let it fester in your mind, it has the power to damage your relationship forever.