by Zara Mohammed, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 6th August, 2018
Jealousy is a powerful and ugly emotion that will destroy the connection you have worked hard to achieve with your partner - if you let it. Your connection is special and important, and you need to protect it. The only way to overcome jealousy and save your relationship is to understand what jealousy is at its core, how it affects you and why, and then work out the most positive way to deal with how you are feeling.
Jealousy is a universal emotion. This means that everybody, at some point in life, will experience jealousy on some level. Yes that's right, jealousy, believe it or not, is normal. And if jealousy is normal, that means that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling it.
Often being jealous is attributed to negative personality traits like being neurotic or having a low self-esteem. But the first step to understanding jealousy and understanding yourself is not to blame yourself, or anybody for that matter, for the way that you are feeling.
Nothing is black and white, and while some people think that a jealous person is one who suffers from a low self esteem, other people see the opposite side of the spectrum, and think that actually a person experiencing jealousy could have a very high self esteem which causes them to feel that they deserve to enjoy certain standards in their relationship.
We are human beings at the end of the day, and we are meant to feel human emotions, even the ones that don't feel so good to us, because they all have a purpose. One thing is for certain though; jealousy is not something that defines any person in a negative way - it is the way you deal with your jealousy that defines you!
Jealousy in a relationship can be seen as a coping strategy. Feeling this emotion reflects a fear of losing something you value, for example love, commitment, honesty or monogamy - or it could be a fear of the dynamic changing in your relationship. Change is difficult to adjust to, and jealousy sometimes crops up as a coping strategy, encouraging us to do something active with an emotion that makes us feel insecure and helpless, so that we feel more in control.
In very simple and primal terms feeling jealous would encourage us to drive off competitors in order for our genes to have more chance of surviving by being passed on. When you think about jealousy in this more natural context it can help us to understand where it comes from - The jealousy prompts us to "act" upon our feelings in order to create a positive outcome for us.
Of course this doesn't mean that you should go around driving off your competitors. In a modern context, it's natural to still feel this primal emotion, but it is the way you act upon it which makes all the difference to the success of your relationship.
In fact in today's modern society, adopting the more primal and natural behaviour could very well have the opposite effect on your relationship, and drive your partner away.
Remember that jealous feelings are different from jealous behaviours, and it is the behaviours that can cause the most damage, when put into a modern context.
Acting out because you don't like the way you feel, is never the answer, especially if you want to build and maintain a strong bond with your partner. Strong relationships are built on trust and honesty. You should be careful not to express your jealousy in a way that might make your partner feel betrayed because they think you don't trust that they are being honest with you. This can destroy a relationship.
It's important not to try and ignore how you are feeling either. Emotions don't go away just because you decide to bury them. Your feelings are likely to resurface at a later date, by which time it will be difficult for both of you to understand your reactions to something new that is happening, because they may be based on unresolved feelings that you have supressed earlier on in your relationship. These feeling become warped and ingrained when you bury them, and they can seriously infect your relationship.
The first step to coping with your jealous feelings is to allow yourself to feel them. There is no point in being afraid of how you feel. Often people need to shift the blame in order to try and explain or justify their feelings. If you feel badly about something, it must be because someone else has done something bad - right? Wrong. You are allowed to feel jealous, but you also have to own that feeling, and accept that it comes from inside you, and that nobody is planting the feeling intentionally inside of you.
Once you can accept how you feel, and allow yourself to feel things that make you uncomfortable, you will begin to see that uncertainty is a natural part of every relationship, and that it is a healthy thing to experience. We are constantly being challenged in life, and it is the people who are able to embrace those challenges, step out of their comfort zone, and use these experiences to grow within themselves and with the people who surround them, who will have the most success and happiness.
Overcoming your jealousy is a challenging journey, but it is one you have to take if you want to have a positive outcome and feel better. Here are a few proactive tips that will help you to think about how you are feeling, and keep focussed on the important things, helping you to overcome your jealous feelings, and save your relationship.
Is your jealousy is being fuelled by unrealistic ideas about relationships? Some of us watch a lot of Reality TV, others enjoy watching rom-coms or soaps, and others like to lose themselves in a good romantic novel. Perhaps you look at your friends' or parents' relationship, and all you see is bliss. It is easy to miss the reality of relationships when we see what we want to see, or we see the perfect image that is being projected to you on the outside. Life isn't perfect though, and neither are people or relationships. It might be time to have a rethink about what a realistic relationship looks and feels like, taking into consideration modern life, culture, individuality, and much, much more. When you take on board a realistic perspective, things and feelings you don't like can become much easier to accept.
Do you feel like the fact that you are feeling jealous means that there is a problem in your relationship? This is called emotional reasoning, and more often than not it will only help you to avoid accepting that jealousy is a natural and normal emotion. If you feel there are problems in your relationship then by no means ignore them, but don't use them as an excuse for ugly jealousy fuelled behaviours. Build your relationship upon a foundation of mutual respect, and speak openly about issues that affect you, with a firm view to resolve the issues, and not to throw blame around and create more. Remember that problems in relationships are just an opportunity to get to know each other better and grow into better human beings.
Remember that you don't own someone. When jealousy rears it's ugly head, it can make you feel possessive. This is another natural emotion, but not one that you need to let get the better of you in your relationship. Everybody has free choice. This means that you choose to react in the way that you do, and your partner chooses to behave in the way they do. Of course, if your partner has a wandering eye you have every right to feel the jealousy, but the best way to deal with how you are feeing is to own the feeling, and not the person. But more importantly, don't let the feeling own you!
Do you need to expand your world? Often relationships experience extra pressure when the worlds of you and your partner are too small and limited. It is easy to find yourself focussing too much on your partner's behaviour when their every move makes up your life. Space and variety is important. They help you to gain perspective and place more of your focus on you. Your partner may be the most important person in your life, but don't forget that you should be the other most important person in your life. You need to look after you if you want to be the best version of yourself. So make sure that you are leading a balanced lifestyle, have your own friends, hobbies, interests and activities. The more you can expand your world the more you will appreciate your partner instead of overthinking or nit picking, and the more they will appreciate you.
Don't forget to be kind to yourself, find ways to gain a better perspective, don't worry too much about how you are feeling, just ride the wave and try to get something positive out of the experience. Jealousy is not a negative thing, and it will only become negative if you let it control who you are.
Who do you want to be? Someone who feels amazing, right? Someone who is in control of their life, someone who people love to be around, someone who your partner respects and wants to have a future with... Focus on being that person, and enjoy your life.