We all experience jealousy from time to time. But the unparalleled jealousy we experience in relationships can make us sick, can make the most docile human being transform into a hot-blooded creature with vengeance. From Bible parables to Shakespeare, reality to literature, jealousy has been a universal emotion with great consequences. What causes these reactions that have plagued relationships throughout history?
It’s no surprise that women experience jealousy more often than men; however, it gets a bit more complex– women find emotional infidelity more distressing, whereas men are more distressed by sexual infidelity.
I myself have been bit by the green-eyed monster many times before. From suspecting to being the suspected. Even popular culture dramatizes infidelity (Poor Jennifer Aniston. Let us take a moment of silence). So why do we feel intense jealousy in relationships where our partner is simply trying to support us? Simple answer: jealousy is irrational.
What Drives Jealousy?
Jealousy is instinctive. We want to protect what is ours. While jealousy seems like a valid emotional response, it’s really just a fear response. Without delving too deeply into Jung, Piaget, Erickson and Freud developmental ideals, we are a this point acting upon ego and pride. Anger, the hard shell of the seed in which we have planted, and has been kept from bloom is actually suffering- and this isn’t True Love.
We really shouldn’t be dating people who make us suffer or feel jealous time and time again, so the root of this problem really lies within. That or you’re blinded by the light, another runner in the night. When we become jealous of our partners, we fear loss, abandon. We experience shame and as we fuel that monster within, it grows and paints itself tightly as a mask for the ego.
With every self-critical thought, it enlarges until it overcomes us entirely. Every insecurity is magnified under this self-created weight. The trick is to recognize those cyclic feelings before they have power over us, before our emotions become a self-fulfilling prophecy and before our own misconceptions are anchored and honored by our own projected-reality.
Be honest with yourself and with your significant other. Understanding is the root for healthy love. Sometimes all we need is a little reassurance and to feel truly heard. Using ‘I-statements,’ such as “I feel insecure when you spend that much time with him/her.” Instead of attacking the other person, growing combative with front-end “you” pronoun, explain what’s actually going on in that little head of yours. Jealousy and anger are often the most accessible emotions for when we are actually feeling sad and vulnerable.
Our armor thickens with the power of displacement, mind becomes dense. It’s easier to be angry and to shift blame onto others than it is to admit your own vulnerabilities, to let pride back down for once. But if you are dating someone you can’t be vulnerable with, then that might be another issue entirely.
Distract Your Mind
Do something for yourself. Self-love fosters a well so deep and overflowing, even our angry little seed can bloom and spread its roots to another. Focusing all of your energy on illogical worries is nonsense. We are all self-centered beings to a certain extent and at varying points. Go for a hike, experience something new and take care of yourself. Sing with abandon, dance to the strokes of the wind. Remember how you always wanted to do yoga? Go try a class and get down dog. Remember how you used to love to paint? Break out the acrylics and find your inner child again.
Stop putting so much pressure on another person to make you happy. It is in this cycle, in this never-ending need of approval, that we try to resolve past trauma and recreate our path from behind. Jealousy is a stress response. Manage your anxiety and the jealousy may dissipate, honor old wounds and sow those seeds within, my little song birds!
Work On The Relationship
After you have established the error in your jealous claims, and we’re not actually dating a narcissistic sociopath (to which, gas lighting is an exception), put more effort into showing how much you care for the other person. Understand them. Active listening, validation, empathy- wash, rinse, repeat. If the relationship is rocky, jealousy is not only more imminent, but becomes a greater threat.
Know What is Good for You
If jealousy is a constant issue for one or both parties, consider taking a break- could be five minutes or five months. When constant direct reassurance doesn’t help and when you feel you can’t be open and honest with your significant other about your insecurities, then the relationship may not be a good fit. Love is not suffering. Take that half-size too small pair back, girl, you don’t need to wear extra socks to get the Nikes to fit.
At the end of the day, when you take a deep breath and think logically for a second, listen to your inner Lao Tzu, you know what feeds you on this journey. You know, deep down, if that person is loving or if they are using you, like a charming succubus in the night. Jealousy is natural, but constant jealousy is harmful, both physically and psychologically. If you or your partner cannot help alleviate some of that anxiety, then some self-exploration may be in order, which may only be possible without the co-dependency of constant, neurotic self-deprecation.
“At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.”
― Lao Tzu
Jealousy is the symptom, not the problem. Discover the roots of your jealousy, uproot them and grasp new soil. We are capable of bloom.