Jealousy is a normal emotion that we may have experienced in different contexts of our lives. However, the moment jealousy has an impact on our well-being, on the well-being of others and on our relationships, it becomes a problem.
Jealousy in couples stems from various ideas integrated in our society about love and relationships. However, these ideas are myths, that is, they are not true.
The main myths on which jealousy is based are the following:
1. The person belongs to us: Relationships should be voluntary and we cannot force anyone to love us or to be faithful to us. No one is yours and you are no one’s.
2. “I can’t live without you”: There was a life before this person and, therefore, there is one after. You are an autonomous adult who can take care of yourself, there is no abandonment, but a rupture.
3. Jealousy is an expression of love: You can love a lot and love badly. Jealousy indicates possession, insecurity and a feeling of belonging, not love.
WARNING – making our partner jealous is not a healthy way of relating. Telling our partner things with the goal of arousing jealousy is a way of perpetuating the idea that jealousy demonstrates love. “If he gets jealous, it means he loves me. If not, it means he doesn’t care about me”.
4. “If he/she desires someone else, he/she doesn’t love me”: Let’s remember that there are more than 7 billion people on planet earth. The possibility that we are not attracted to anyone other than our partner is IM-PO-SSI-BLE. Does that mean that he/she doesn’t love us? The answer is NO.
When do we consider that someone has been unfaithful?
Well, this is the great unknown. Infidelity will be established by the type of “contract” we make. Our concept of what constitutes a betrayal may vary depending on the person we are with and the contract (agreements) we establish. In each relationship we establish what things we want or accept in the relationship. Among them fidelity. The problem is that this contract is often formed implicitly, giving rise to “loopholes” in which one can interpret infidelity (among other things) as one thing and the other as something else. Therefore, communication is key to avoid misunderstandings.
Jealousy and insecurity
Jealousy in a couple is created under the perception of a threat. This could be about being replaced, that they stop loving me or to lose the person and everything built with her/him. All these thoughts have as origin to believe that we are not enough for the person with whom we are in a relationship. Feelings of inferiority fed by our insecurities.
Insecurity comes hand in hand with low self-esteem. The insecure person does not perceive his or her abilities, skills or attitudes to cope with certain situations. Therefore, the perons tends to believe that his/her partner does not perceive these aptitudes either and that, therefore, once he/she realizes it, he/she will abandon him/her for someone “better”.
In order to manage the anxiety and intrusive thoughts that the person experiences regarding infidelity, he/she will respond by creating emotional dependency, security demands, compulsive rituals and even aggression. These behaviors will tend to create a greater withdrawal or defiant attitude in the victim of this jealousy, thus producing a feedback in the partner’s jealousy. For example, if my partner gets angry every time I tell him or her that I talked to my coworker today, I will stop telling him or her about those interactions. Not because anything happened, but to avoid an argument about it – which, if discovered by my partner, will encourage the idea that I am cheating.
Types of jealousy
Not all jealousy in a couple is the same, nor does it occur under the same circumstances.
Projective jealousy: a person who projects his or her own desires to be unfaithful on the partner. They use the projection to not accept their own desires and reconcile with their emotions, turning the responsibility on the other person.
Reactive jealousy: jealousy that develops because there has been a prior reason for the fears of losing the other person either in the current relationship or in past relationships. For example, due to a previous infidelity in our relationship.
Retrospective jealousy: based on the obsession with our partner’s past love and/or sex life. Feeling jealous of people who are no longer in your life in a romantic-sexual sense.
Regardless of the reason, all these jealousies can become pathological. Meaning the manifestation of the same is given in an exaggerated manner, losing the ability to reason and emerging a need for control in the partner.
What they have in common is the string of absurd and invasive behaviors that they carry with them: checking the telephone, social networks, monitoring schedules, searching through objects, interrogations, control calls, etc.
However, in pathological cases, none of these behaviors will have the desired effect. That is, they will not produce peace of mind or reassurance that there is not or may not be infidelity. Pathological jealousy is irrational and therefore, there will not be enough evidence to put an end to their fears and insecurities.
How to control my jealousy?
Many people believe that by being jealous they are preventing their partner from betraying them and also showing their affection or affection for them. However, what we achieve with jealousy is to create tension and constant quarrels, to restrict the freedom of people, as well as to encourage the invasion of their privacy. In serious cases, jealousy can lead to violence. The worst thing is, that through jealousy and the behaviors it entails, we do not avoid; I repeat, we do not avoid infidelity. Infidelity will occur regardless of how jealous or not we are (if the other person wants it).
There are no magic formulas to avoid cheating. However, if we establish a climate of trust, where our boundaries are clear, we are flexible and open to communication, we reduce the possibility of it happening.
We cannot hold the other person responsible for our mistrust and insecurity. Our job is to learn to manage it. Of course, the dynamics are a two-way thing and our partner can accompany us and be of great help on our way to healthy jealousy management. Any healthy relationship is based on tolerance of uncertainty (there are no guarantees of fidelity) and trust.
If you are a jealous person:
- Take responsibility for your jealousy. Communicate your jealousy (well) without expecting your partner to prove otherwise.
- Don’t fall into anger, recriminations, interrogations or checking behaviors.
- Listen and try to be reasonable.
- Seek help and improve your insecurity and self-esteem.
What do I do if my partner is jealous?
- Do not give in to their demands or checks: these behaviors only encourage the behaviors to continue and also fail to end the jealousy. Clarity and sincerity will be of great help.
- Help him to recognize the problem and to see the irrationality of his thoughts.
- Show him the negative effect his behaviors are having on you and the relationship.
- Show empathy and a willingness to help him overcome his jealousy.
There is nothing to be ashamed of for feeling jealousy, the first step is to recognize it and the second is to seek help to manage it in a healthy way. The couple therapy can help you work on self-esteem and confidence and on a healthy and rational model of love. This will help you not only to reduce jealousy, but also to feel better in many other areas of your life.
Júlia Tarancón Estades
Psychologist Col. No B-3232