How to Stop Jealousy Damaging your Relationship
12th October, 2010
Jealousy is a negative emotion that damages many otherwise good relationships. Excessive jealousy arises because of one of two unattractive assumptions. These are that your partner can’t be trusted or that you are not sufficiently attractive to your partner to hold their interest.
Most jealousy is irrational based on fear of losing the loved one. Ironically it’s this fear and the way that it makes people act, which is most likely to bring the feared loss about. Anyone who constantly accuses their partner of misbehaving, expects them to account for their time, pries into their mail, email or telephone communications is behaving unreasonably. They are probably acting out of fear or at least lack of confidence but that makes their behaviour no less distressing to the person experiencing it.
If either you or your partner is excessively jealous this can only damage the quality of your relationship. In some instances it may make impossible to continue the relationship.
So how can you tackle this source of potential harm to your relationship? Firstly by making this decision, if your partner has given you no grounds for suspicion that’s probably because there aren’t any. In other words they are not misbehaving and you have every reason to trust them.
If you feel that your partner has given you grounds for suspicion then you will need to look at those grounds reasonably.
Answering the following questions should help you to clarify matters. When, where and why, do you think that your partner might be being unfaithful?
Surprisingly people who suffer from excessive jealousy are often in situations where their partners are rarely out of their sight. Surely a partner who wanted to be unfaithful would create opportunities to be away from them.
That said the fact the someone travels on business or works long or irregular hours does not mean that they are being unfaithful. The fact that someone may have an opportunity to behave in a particular way doesn’t mean that they will or even have any desire to.
These are some of the most common answers that I receive to the questions above when I have asked them to clients “why do you think that your partner is being unfaithful”? He’s started to come home from work late, lost interest in sex, came home smelling of perfume in the case of a man, s/he has started to lie about where they are spending their time when not at home, I just feel that s/he is having an affair”.
Looked at reasonably most of these behaviours could have innocent explanations. Staying late at work for example could simply mean that s/he is trying to catch up on a backlog of work or avoid driving home in the rush hour.
Loss of interest in sex could be as a result of tiredness, depression, hormonal changes, health problems or a side effect of prescribed medication.
The fact that someone’s partner lies about where s/he is spending time when not with them could have a number of explanations some innocent, some less so.
They could be lying in order to hide an addiction to drink, drugs or gambling. In this instance most people would want to know about the problem and to provide help and support for their partner. Or they could be working extra hours in order to provide a special gift or a wonderful holiday for the partner who fears that they are cheating.
Why, is a very important question? Why does the jealous individual think that their partner is having an affair? There are many other possible explanations for their changed behaviour? The chances are that the answer is in their past. Perhaps one of their parents had one or more affairs? Or possibly a previous partner cheated on them? If so its important to realise that what happened is in the past. Such an experience is painful but dwelling on it is only likely to damage the current relationship. It’s really important to let go of this negativity so that it doesn’t hurt the person it happened to and their current partner. Invest in professional help if necessary. It’s worth making the effort.
So far we have examined jealousy from the perspective of the person suffering the torments of their own suspicious mind. Now I want to turn from the perspective of the accuser to the accused. To suffer the torments of your partner’s suspicious mind can be hell. As hard as you try to reason with them it seems to fall on deaf ears. Realising why they are behaving in this illogical fashion may help.
Strange as it sounds they are acting out of love (yes, I know that a jealous persons behaviour can seem anything but loving) and fear the fear that their partner will leave them. If you find yourself in this situation reassurance may help. Try to explain that they are loved and you are not involved with or seeking to be involved with someone else. You could also raise the questions posed above “ Why do you think that I would want to have an affair with someone else”? “ What makes you think that I am having an affair”? “When do you think that I spend time with this man or woman”?
In answering these questions the accuser will probably reveal his/her need for you as their partner and fear that you might leave. This will make discussion easier as it is getting closer to the true source of the problem. That being not the returning home from work later or buying more stylish underwear; these are just the happenings that have triggered insecurity in the accuser.
It might help to explain to your partner that you are returning home later because you are handling extra work for a colleague who is on holiday, you have stayed at work later to miss the rush hour or whatever the reason.
Keeping your jealous partner informed would ease their insecurities. In the same vein if you have a jealousy problem just imagine how irritating it would feel to have your partner constantly questioning how you spend your time when not in their company
People tormenting themselves and their partners with jealousy need to learn trust. They need to understand that their partner is not the parent or past partner who behaved badly in their eyes. Jealous behaviour is a much greater threat to a relationship than other people who may find their partner attractive. If you suffer from feelings of jealousy remember your partner has chosen you. Remember the qualities that caused them to choose you and continue to display those qualities.
If you are on the receiving end of displays of jealousy try to remember that your accuser is suffering too. It’s hard to be sympathetic to someone who is behaving in this fashion. However it’s a joint problem so you need to solve it together. You partner must have some good and loving qualities or you would not be remaining in the relationship. Perhaps with patience and reassurance you can talk things through and solve your problem. It’s unlikely to happen overnight. However reassurance could help your partner to relax leading to less jealous displays leading to a better relationship. Or you may need to seek professional help.
Finally, how to tell if something belongs to you? Let it go, if it comes back to you its yours, if it doesn’t it isn’t. This applies to people too.
Related articles from our experts
- Are we too different? Does difference always meet discord in relationships?
Priscilla Short. BSc, MA, MBACP, MBPsS16th February, 2017
Graham Allen Bsc (Hons) Psychology, Dip Psych, PGCE, Reg MBACP (Accred)16th February, 2017
- Better relationships - better life
Tom Bailey (MA; Dip CP; Dip Hyp CS)14th February, 2017
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.