Jealousy-The Dragon in Paradise

This emotion often involves the distressing feelings of fear, abandonment, anger, betrayal, envy, and humiliation. It throws the mind into turmoil and can drive even the most rational person to distraction. It is also a natural, instinctive emotion that everyone experiences at one point or another. If you guessed jealousy to be the emotion we are talking about here, you guessed right. If you are tired of the so called “green eyed monster” rearing its ugly head and showing its gnarly teeth, this blog may be of interest to you.

Pines and Bowes (1992) define jealousy as “a reaction to a perceived threat – real or imagined -to a valued relationship or to its quality”. A nationwide survey of marriage counsellors conducted by these same researchers indicated that jealousy is, in fact, an issue in one third of all couples coming in for counselling. With the ease and accessibility of technology, issues of deception and distrust among couples are certainly on the rise and as the gates of online communication open the green waves of jealousy often begin to flow. When it’s intense and irrational jealousy can definitely do serious damage to a relationship. In small manageable doses, however, jealousy can be a positive force in a relationship and keep things fresh and alive. Let’s face it, jealousy is often indication that we care for another person and value the relationship.

Erik Fisher PhD, author of The Art of Managing Everyday Conflict, reminds us that all emotions, even jealousy, have a purpose and tell us something about ourselves. Understanding the roots, triggers, and reasons for our feelings of jealousy is an important part in managing it and maintaining a healthy relationship. To do this we must be aware of the critical inner voice driving our uncertainties and doubts and challenge those thoughts that are not based on reality. A counsellor can assist in uncovering where this critical inner voice stems from and work through past unresolved issues that may be preventing you from feeling secure and confident in your relationship.

When jealousy strikes we often feel a loss of personal value. Opposed to seeking out something that would make us feel valued and loved, people instead do something that makes them feel more powerful (i.e., try to control their partner). Asking yourself, “What can I do to feel more loved and adequate?” may assist in changing this pattern and shift the focus from being on your partner to being on yourself. It also helps to remind yourself that jealousy is often an indication of something you need rather than what your partner needs to do differently.

Another factor to consider if jealousy is a familiar feeling, is how dependent you are on your partner. If we don’t have a life independent of our relationship we have less of a cushion to fall back on thereby increasing our vulnerability and insecurity. A general guideline is to make our partner responsible for no more than 25% of our emotional needs and have the rest come from a variety of things such as friendships, work, spirituality, hobbies and family. The more well-rounded we are; the more resilient we’ll be.

So far, we have focused primarily on when jealousy is not warranted and irrational. It is important to mention and not dismiss the fact that there are many times when jealousy can be triggered for legitimate reasons and when a partner’s behavior is disrespectful and indeed insensitive. If this is the case, communication with your partner about the impact of his/her actions on you and what you need in order to feel more respected and valued is encouraged.

Philippa & Kerry