We’ve all felt it at least a few times. Some of us live in that feeling more than we like to. Jealousy is not limited to romantic relationships, it can show up as sibling rivalry, with co-workers, and most definitely with friends. For the sake of this blog will focus on romance.
It can be situational and mild, coming up once in a while. It can be a consistent and overwhelming feeling that shapes the way you view yourself, others, and the world as a whole. Mark Attridge (2013) found that jealousy is associated with loneliness, low self- confidence, and depression in persons who experience this feeling regularly and become consumed by it.
So what is Jealousy?
“A common thread among most definitions of jealousy is that it is an emotional response to the real or imagined threat of losing something of value from a romantic relationship.” (Salovey & Rondin 1985)
At times our experience with jealousy is warranted because our partner has at some point crossed a line that has made us doubt their willingness to be faithful and prioritize our relationship. In this case, jealousy is a natural response to a violated expectation.
It can be practically impossible to not be jealous if our partner violates a boundary and does nothing to reassure us of the importance the relationship has to them. I wrote a blog post all about infidelity, answering some of the top questions I get asked by clients on the topic. I was also interviewed by Whitney Goodman on this same topic.
To heal from betrayal and reestablish trust the betraying partner needs to come clean and practice absolute transparency and have the willingness to reassure, reassure, and reassure some more. The betrayed partner has to believe their partner gets the pain they’ve endured because of the betrayal. They have to believe that the betraying partner is remorseful, not because they got caught, but because of what it did to their partner and to the relationship.
How does jealousy show up in relationships?
Let’s talk about when your partner is faithful and you are still jealous.
No shame, it happens to the best of us.
Maybe you feel threatened by your partner’s relationships, your partner’s friends, in real life or in social media, or their co-workers. Maybe even their family. You are concerned about how much time they spend with them, what they share with them, and how they might replace you.
Maybe you assume things that aren’t happening, like that a simple hug is a sign of an affair. Or that the content of their texts are not just about work. I say assume because you have no hardcore evidence to make such accusations and what you’ve seen are overall benign behaviors you have likely engage in yourself.
Because of this, you try to control your partner’s behavior and social life. You check their phone, have access to their social media, don’t “allow” them to go out with friends without you present, etc. You are constantly vigilant of what they are doing and expect them to break your rules at any time. Having these rules in place gives you an illusion of control that only for a short period of time provides you with a sense of safety.
You constantly look for reassurance from your partner. You want to be reminded of how much they love you and why. You want to be told constantly how attractive you are to them. Now, we all like to hear that we are loved and more so feel it. Feeling desired is one of the best parts of being in a relationship. What I am talking about is excessive and obsessive in nature.
You feel insecure about what you bring to the table. You don’t value your contribution to your partner’s life. You think that you are not good enough, that there’s something utterly wrong with you, or that they deserve better. It’s almost like a form of imposter syndrome, you are afraid they will one day wake up and realize that you are not what they expected you to be and they will go look for it elsewhere.
You might confuse fear of abandonment with your gut feeling. This is not to discredit gut feelings, I’m a big believer that our body has an alarm system (your gut) that warns us when we are about to get deeply hurt. Unfortunately, we are not always attuned to it, and sometimes fear overpowers it. You might have a deep-rooted fear of abandonment, maybe due to relational trauma with your primary caregivers, or in previous romantic relationships. This might be a wound that has not totally heal and gets poked unintentionally by your partner at times. In my own opinion and not based on science, your gut feelings come from a place of confidence and security. Jealousy is all but confidence and security, it’s fear of being rejected, replaced, and abandoned.
A degree of jealousy has been found to be healthy in relationships according to Attridge, it’s part of the survival of a relationship. It communicates I value you and want you. We all want to feel valued and wanted in our romantic partnerships, but we have to be mindful we don’t overdo it to the point it strains our relationship.
If you are struggling with jealousy, I want to normalize this experience for you. Negative even traumatic experiences in previous relationships can lead to feeling jealous even when our current relationship is safe and stable. My life’s passion is to work with individuals and couples, experiencing the effects of relational trauma. I encourage you to seek professional help so that you can leave the pain behind and allow yourself to show up healed in your current relationship.
Genesis Games is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in FL and is currently licensed temporarily in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Genesis provides video-conferencing telehealth services to individuals and couples struggling with anxiety, depression, life transitions, recovery from addiction, and relationship issues. Genesis is a Gottman Trained Couples Therapist and has a passion for helping people recover from heartbreak.
Genesis wholeheartedly believes that our lives are only as satisfying as our relationships. Her goal is to help you have healthier relationships with yourself and others.