How to stop jealousy damaging your relationship

We investigate how damaging jealousy can be in a healthy relationship.

Jealousy is a negative emotion that if left to its own devices, can damage many healthy relationships. It’s common that excessive jealousy arises because of one of the following two unattractive assumptions: your partner can’t be trusted or you think you’re 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 control of this fear, that’s most likely to make the fear a reality. Most people who constantly accuse their partner of misbehaving, expects them to account for their time, pries into their mail, email or telephone communications, all signs of unreasonable behaviour. They are commonly acting out of fear or at least lack of confidence, but this cause makes the 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 it impossible to continue the relationship.

How can you tackle this source of potential harm to your relationship?

Firstly, reassure yourself: if your partner hasn't given you any grounds for suspicion, it’s probably because there aren’t any. They aren’t misbehaving and you have every reason to trust them.

If you feel that your partner has given you grounds for suspicion, try and look at these grounds reasonably. Answering the following questions should help you to clarify matters:

When did the incident take place?

Where did it happen?

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. A partner who wanted to be unfaithful would create opportunities to be away from them. That said, it’s important to remember the fact that someone travels on business or works long or irregular hours doesn’t mean that they are being unfaithful. If someone has the opportunity to behave in a particular way, it doesn’t mean that they will or even have any desire to.

Common associations with infidelity stem from:

  • Staying late at work could simply mean that he or she 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.
  • Someone’s partner lies about where she or 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. 

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?

It’s important to realise that what happened is in the past and dwelling on a painful experience is likely to damage the current relationship. It’s worthwhile investing in professional help if necessary to work through the past issues and prevent them from reappearing.

Let’s turn the tables

Let’s turn from the perspective of the accuser to the accused. To suffer the torments of your partner’s suspicious mind can be extremely trying: 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, the jealous person is acting out of love (although their behaviour may seem otherwise) and struggle with the fear that their partner will leave them. If you find yourself in this situation, reassurance may help. Try to explain that the jealous person is loved and you are not involved with or seeking to be involved with someone else. You could also raise the questions, “Why do you think that I would want to have an affair with someone else?” or, “ What makes you think that I am having an affair?”.

In answering these questions, the accuser will hopefully reveal his/her need for you as their partner and fear that you might leave. This will make a discussion easier, in dealing with the root of the jealousy. 

People tormenting themselves and their partners with jealousy would benefit from learning trust, how to gain trust and what trust means to both parties. 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’re on the receiving end of displays of jealousy try to remember that your accuser is suffering too.

With patience and reassurance you can talk things through and potentially solve your problem or perhaps seek professional help with a qualified couples therapist.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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