Once upon a time, there was a couple who struggled with jealousy. They were in a jealous relationship. Sam loved his beautiful wife Lily, and he was constantly afraid she would leave him. Because Lily was so beautiful, lots of people gave her attention. And Sam continually felt jealous and possessive. He could not imagine living without Lily. She was the jewel of his life.
Lily enjoyed her beauty and the attention it garnered her. It was simply a fact of her life and part of her identity. Initially, she enjoyed the close watch and possessiveness of Sam. She felt he would never leave her. And she felt safe because of that. She also knew she could get him to do what she needed. She liked that too.
But over time, jealousy was beginning to ruin their relationship. Lily felt boxed in and controlled. She was angry. Sam was mad too. He didn’t know how to make Lily be there for him. He didn’t know to feel safe. They began to fight more frequently, and both felt resentful towards the other.
Lily and Sam do not have what we would call a ‘healthy’ relationship. They have a ‘jealous relationship.’
What is jealousy?
Jealousy is a feeling that often comes with specific actions. Under jealousy is the feeling of insecurity, of not being safe or good enough. It is often paired with anger, anxiety, and fear. The feeling of jealousy is similar to shame in that it is torturous. It is not a light, happy feeling. Our feelings of jealousy can scare us and cause us to act out.
Jealousy can cause us to be possessive and feel suspicious. It may include resentment, anger, or be paired with blame. It often includes fear, often of abandonment, rivalry, or unfaithfulness.
A jealous person might be having obsessive thoughts about their perceived abandonment or compulsive behaviors.
Why is someone jealous?
One of the reasons someone might be jealous in a relationship is because of past treatment – often in the person’s family of origin. Whatever happened, they weren’t left feeling emotionally safe, and consequently, they cannot trust. Instead, they learned to manipulate or grab and hold on, often so tightly that they squeeze the other person, trampling on their boundaries.
Imagine a child whose mother continually taunted him or her, saying she was going to leave them. Or a parent who had an affair and threatened to leave. Or imagine a parent who shamed you and told you that you were not good enough. All of these scenarios are very unhealthy but not uncommon. You can imagine the insecurity those scenarios would create. That person might develop feelings of insecurity and jealousy and develop behavior patterns to keep the object of their safety or desire closer to them. Essentially, the jealous person is inflicting their own past attachment trauma onto their partner.
Jealousy is poison
Jealousy is a poison because of how it impacts both the jealous person, the partner, and the relationship.
A jealous person might:
- Cross boundaries – for example, threatening someone whom they felt impinged on their relationship.
- Make threats
- Blame the person they love for other people’s behavior
- Try to control
- Become hopeless and threaten self-harm
This can cause the jealous person’s partner to feel
Often communication issues compound the jealous relationship. The partner of a jealous person might need to say:
- Stop. This is my business and my job to take care of, not yours.
- I need you to trust me and let me handle things my way.
- I need you to stop controlling me.
- I need you to stop blaming me.
- I need you to stop accusing me, calling me names, or threatening me.
- I need you to know your jealousy is killing us. We have to find a way through this, and jealousy is not the answer.
- I need you to let me have a separate life from you and for you to feel happy about it.
- I need you to hear me when I say I love you, and I don’t want to hurt you.
The Jealous person might need to say:
- I am afraid I will lose you.
- I am afraid you will forget me, that you will cheat on me, that I’m not important to you, and so much more.
- Can you help me feel safe?
- Can you help me heal from this jealousy?
- I was cheated on before, so I feel insecure about trusting you.
- I feel like you don’t love me as much as I love you. I don’t know what to do about that feeling.
- I need to know I am important to you.
- I feel like you don’t need me as much as I need you, which scares me.
- Sometimes it feels like you are flirting, and that scares me.
What can you do if you are a jealous person?
- Get a therapist and work on your issues of jealousy.
- Write down your feelings, so they have a place to go and a way of being expressed without putting them on your partner.
- Take a time out to regain equilibrium
- Ask for reassurance from your partner
- Tell yourself that you are safe no matter what.
What can you do if you are the partner of a jealous person?
- Ask yourself if you are in any way contributing to your partner’s feelings of jealousy?
- Do you do things that trigger their unsafe feelings?
- Are you able to reassure them?
- Are you acting out in response to their jealousy?
- Share the feelings their jealousy brings out in you?
- Ask yourself if you are trustworthy, or are any of your partner’s feelings valid?
- Get therapy for help communicating and support.
The healthy relationship
A healthy relationship relies on interdependence, not independence and dependence. Both people need and support each other, as well as have their own lives. Both partners are trustworthy and behave in ways that show their partner how essential they are. They:
- Rely on each other, support each other, trust each other.
- They check in with each other but aren’t merged with each other.
- They feel happy for their partner’s separate life and activities.
- There is no blame, manipulation, or control.
- There is no criticism.
- They are transparent with each other.
Is the jealous relationship repairable?
A jealous relationship may be repairable. The jealousy will have to be healed. This will often require a therapist, the ability of the jealous person to look at their behavior and change it, and the desire of the jealous person’s partner to help the jealous partner feel safer. The underlying feelings will have to be expressed and talked about. Ultimately, it is an opportunity for both partners to grow and become healthier.
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