Jealousy is a multifaceted emotion that emerges from various sources within ourselves. On the surface, it can manifest in the feelings you experience when you see your partner flirting with someone else. Underneath however, jealousy is much more complex.
By delving into the roots of jealousy, we can decipher why it arises, gain insights into our own insecurities and emotional needs – and ultimately learn how to deal with jealousy.
Why Do People Feel Jealous?
There are several reasons behind the experience of jealousy:
1. You Are Worried About Being Abandoned
One common cause of jealousy is the fear of being left or abandoned. This often stems from past experiences of abandonment, particularly during childhood. This fear can bubble up when you see (or imagine) your partner attracted to someone else. You get this feeling in the pit of your stomach that they could leave you at any moment.
Even if your parent or caregiver didn’t actually leave, there are other ways you could have experienced abandonment. Perhaps they were depressed, distant, or at work all the time. Such childhood experiences can create an ongoing sense of insecurity and hyperawareness of potential relationship threats.
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2. You Are Afraid You Are Not Enough
Feelings of jealousy can also be rooted in a sense of inadequacy and low self-worth. Constantly comparing yourself to others can exacerbate these feelings. They can lead you to believe that your partner prefers someone else who possesses qualities you feel you lack.
3. You Want to Avoid Being Humiliated
The fear of being cheated on can trigger intense jealousy. The mere thought of your partner flirting, lying, or engaging in secretive behavior with others, can evoke deep-seated feelings of disrespect, shame, and humiliation – no matter if the suspicions are actually true.
That sense of humiliation can then lead to scenarios where you become the subject of gossip or ridicule due to your partner’s infidelity or dishonesty. The fear of being publicly exposed or seen as inadequate often intensifies the jealousy, leading to a diminished sense of self-esteem.
4. You Won’t Get From You Partner What You Need
Jealousy can also arise when you fear that your partner is not meeting your emotional needs. Seeing them invest time and energy in connecting with (or thinking about) others can make you feel anxious. You may be scared that your own needs for love, care, and attention will be neglected or unfulfilled.
5. You Are Concerned for Your Safety
Lastly – you may manifest jealousy as a result of concerns for your own safety. You fear that your partner’s involvement with others could introduce negative energy into your relationship, or even lead to the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
What Is the Meaning of Jealousy?
Jealousy carries different meanings for different people.
Some view their partner’s jealousy and possessiveness as a sign of love and desire, relishing the feeling of being wanted exclusively. Others associate jealousy with negative feelings. They judge insecurity as a weakness, or are worried that their partner might want to limit their freedom.
It’s important to acknowledge however that as long as there is no abuse or isolation, there is no universal meaning or belief system associated with jealousy. You should explore your own feelings and needs around jealousy without judgment.
How to Stop Being Jealous and Seek Support
When people contemplate jealousy, they often focus on finding ways to stop feeling that envious feeling, or how to overcome jealousy in a relationship in the first place. They question and judge themselves, wondering why they so easily succumb to jealousy or feel so insecure.
Instead of passing judgment on your feelings or trying to eradicate them completely – why not try getting curious? While you may not be able to fully get rid of your jealous feelings, you can explore strategies to soothe yourself, or seek reassurance from your partner.
If you have a history of abandonment or harbor feelings of inadequacy, your mind might conjure up distressing narratives. It might whisper things like, “They don’t truly want me; they are just biding their time until someone better,” or “You can’t count on anyone to stick around”.
When your brain gives you these false messages, it’s helpful to counteract them with a positive story. For instance, you can remind yourself that, “My partner chooses me every day” or “Many people stick around.” Practicing this can aid in healing the underlying fears around jealousy.
Build Supportive Relationships & Community
Cultivate a loving community: Instead of solely relying on your partner as the main source of support in your life, cultivate and nurture strong and loving connections within a broader community. Doing so helps you feel fortified during those moments when your partner cannot be there for you.
Enriching your life with loving friends and family (or chosen family), can make all the difference in learning how not to be jealous and promoting emotional wellbeing.
When you feel frightened or hurt by jealousy, confiding in friends, coaches, or therapists can be incredibly helpful. This becomes especially important if your partner feels overwhelmed by your intense emotional outbursts. Discussions with a friend or coach can help lower your own distress before you share your feelings of jealousy with your partner. Make sure not to vilify your partner – the conversation should act as a relief valve for your emotions so you can calm down.
Ask for Reassurance from Your Partner
Awareness of the origins of your jealousy enables you to refrain from blaming and controlling your partner, and instead ask for the necessary support.
Taking responsibility while asking your partner for support might sound something like, “Sweetheart, I recognize that my history of abandonment sometimes triggers me into acting jealous and possessive. In those moments, would it be ok for me to let you know that I’m scared, and you could reassure me? A hug and hearing you say “I’m not going anywhere” would mean a lot to me. Of course, I only want you to do this if it feels genuine and comfortable for you.”
Remember, relationships require ongoing negotiation, and it’s perfectly acceptable to communicate your needs to reduce your jealousy triggers. For instance, you might ask your partner to refrain from flirting with other people in front of you. And it’s ok for your partner to shift their behaviors – as long as the adjustments aren’t causing them to develop resentment, or lose their authenticity.
A partner’s reassurance can go a long way when trying to figure how to deal with jealousy.
How to Deal with a Jealous Partner
Are you someone who experiences little jealousy? Have you found yourself judgmental towards those who do? Hopefully reading this article has fostered your empathy by shedding light on the origins of jealousy. If your partner displays jealousy, it’s essential to examine your own emotions in response, and share those feelings vulnerably instead of judgmentally.
You might something like “I know that sometimes you feel insecure about our relationship. When you act jealous and possessive though, I start to get anxious that you will want me to distance myself from my friends, or compromise my true self. I recognize that I’ve been judgmental towards your jealousy in the past, but I would like us to find ways to work together while still staying true to ourselves.”
This serves as a solid starting point for negotiating reassurance and other practices as jealousy trigger diffusers.
Recognizing Red Flags in Jealousy
It’s crucial to acknowledge that extreme jealousy can be a red flag, especially when someone tries to isolate or control you.
Remember, it’s one thing when a partner is jealous – but another thing entirely when your partner tries to control your life. If a partner demands that you stop spending time with your friends, or dictates what to should wear, their jealousy has crossed a line. In a situation like that, see how they react when you set boundaries or don’t go along with their demands. If they react with anger or punishment, it’s time for them to get help – and for you to get out.
If you think you might be in an isolating or abusive relationship, don’t hesitate to call the domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233. Even if you don’t believe the situation is severe, reach out and talk with a hotline counselor so they can help you assess the situation and figure out next steps.