When I work with a client experiencing jealousy, my starting point is always the thoughts that bring out the jealousy. I use cognitive tools to counteract the jealousy.
Once we map out exactly what thoughts bring on different emotions (e.g. anxiety, anger or fear) which then result in some sort of inappropriate behaviour (e.g. checking my boyfriend’s phone, mail), together we examine them.
- Could I think differently?
- Could these thoughts be pure fabrication, lies and misinterpretations?
- Could I do something differently and more useful in situations where I experience jealousy?
Once thoughts are examined in this way, huge improvements start happening and with a little training the client can do this it at home, because the tools, exercises and techniques are relatively simple.
Most clients report that after only a few sessions, they start to experience a noticeable difference in the way they act in their relationship, how they speak to their partner and especially how they experience lower levels of jealousy.
A male client recently said:
“Maj, I no longer feel the jealousy as that knot in my stomach that I just HAVE to react to right away. It’s actually become more a source of irritation, which I can know stop and have a look at – it is as if the very strong feelings of jealousy have disappeared.”
And that’s exactly what happens when you start working with all the thoughts that spark the experiences of jealousy.
The negative jealousy thoughts
When you experience jealousy, your thoughts are running wild but bringing them to light by writing them down, you can further figure out what to do about them.
The negative thoughts would likely include:
- Worries about being abandoned
- Worries about infidelity
- Doubts about whether your partner loves you enough
- Believing your partner is only in the relationship until they find something “better”
If your partner is cooperative then you can get your partner to help you look at your thoughts and ask questions like:
- What thoughts went through your mind when you experienced the feeling of jealousy?
- What did you think about?
- How many different thoughts did you really have?
- Why don’t we try and write them down?
- Are the thoughts even true?
- What proof do you have that the thoughts are true?
- Do you recognise these thoughts from your past?
- Have you ever experienced these situations in past relationships?
What is jealousy then?
Jealousy is the fear of losing something that matters to you.
There a huge differences in what makes one person jealous and what makes another person jealous. However, the common denominator for all jealousy is the fear of losing.
Is jealousy with different clients always the same?
No, it’s not.
Jealousy can be unleashed and fed by many different things and there are also different kinds of jealousy such as healthy and unhealthy jealousy, as well as rational and irrational jealousy.
The jealous thoughts are often the same – 15-20 identical “repetitive thoughts” that all clients deal with.
Here are some of the issues relevant to look at:
- Jealousy and old experiences of failure.
- Jealousy and your thoughts about the future.
- Jealousy and your thoughts about your partner.
- Jealousy and your fear of the future.
- Jealousy and self-esteem. Am I basically a decent human being?
- Jealousy and self confidence. Am I a good enough partner?
- Jealousy and feeling inferior. Others are better, more beautiful, more attractive than me – almost the same as jealousy/self-esteem.
See the jealousy as a common issue
If you as a couple can see the jealousy as a common issue, you’ve already come very very far!
There’s absolutely no doubt that if you as a couple can look at the “jealousy” as an intruder, as a third party needing to be dealt with together, then you have the absolute best possible foundation for getting rid of the jealousy.
No matter what issues or problems you experience in your relationship, it’s always something others go through!
And a problem, is not just a problem for YOU to fix. Concern, caring and support is essential to really kickstart the healing process. The better you support and ask “how can I help you in your process/journey/jealousy work”, the quicker you’ll reach your goal.
Deal with the jealousy as a team
From now on consider your relationship as a place of work. Because it IS a place of work. There are different chores needing to be done.
There will be challenges and issues you need to deal with. And you have to help each other. Yeah yeah I do know that in the given situation it can be extremely difficult, but please try anyway! Once the emotions have settled down.
There ‘s no boss! You’re both a part of the responsible board of directors and you can choose to either run the business into the ground or you can build it up ensuring the value of stock goes up!
Neither is it a fight over power in the board – there are no winners or losers – because if your partner loses, it affects you!
You have do deal with the problems, issues and challenges you experience along the way on your journey through life, as a team because then you’ll solve them best way possible. And yes, sometimes I’m the one stuck with it mostly and other times it’s mostly stuck on you – and that’s okay, but let’s talk about it first right?
But do I have to understand my partner’s jealousy?
No, you don’t. It’s a widespread perception and misunderstanding that we always have to understand each others’ issues in order to be able to help.
Of course understanding is a nice thing and to be understood in your issue, whether it’s jealousy or something completely different. But is rare that you’re able to really walk in your partner’s shoes, when such powerful forces are at play, like when we talk about jealousy.
You can still show you care, give support and understanding for your partner’s process in trying to work out the jealousy.
Is understanding the jealousy and accepting it the same?
But Maj, I really do understand why my partner is jealous. I just cannot stand it any longer.
It is very important to understand that understanding and acceptance and tolerance are not the same.
And this is exactly where a lot of people get it wrong.
- Just because you are able to understand your partner being jealous does not mean having to accept it as a given for how things are.
- Even if you can understand your partner becoming suspicious because they had an ex who was notoriously unfaithful, it does not mean you need to tolerate being put through the wringer.
- Your partner’s lousy childhood does not mean that you should accept the consequences it has for you and the relationship.
You don’t support because you understand!
You support because you are part of the process of getting on with your lives and releasing the jealousy and the jealous behaviour.
Expressions and behaviours of jealousy
All the thoughts that pop into your mind like a jack-in-the-box, especially when you least expect it, can make the jealous part react in a way that you know are extremely harmful.
But you can only see that once the irrational thoughts have subsided and the rational part of your brain has regained its power over the jealous thought patterns. In most cases, the damage has been done. Now it becomes a question of whether to keep the feelings and behaviours secret from your partner so that you don’t stir up any other jealous rages, or whether to clean up after the crisis you’ve just created in the relationship.
Because jealousy is often expressed through suspicion and controlling behaviour. Maybe you check you partner from head to toe, maybe you don’t trust what they’re saying and go into “conflict mode”, maybe you’re playing the role of prosecutor in a court when your partner gets home from a quick trip to the grocery store.
Maybe you find yourself following your partner, tracking them, driving around in your car searching and keeping an eye on them – or worse, pay someone to do it – it’s more common than you think!
This lack of trust is the basis for huge emotional distancing – BIG TIME!
When jealousy is positive
Jealousy in not always negative! In a relationship we do tend to get a bit bored once the infatuation has worn off. When we are thrown out of our complacency though and all of a sudden feel that someone is showing an interest in our partner then something really really interesting can happen!
Then our interest and emotions are heightened – oh no!, I am losing something that’s mine! You might feel it as a knot in your stomach or a bolt through your body and you start to once again make an effort when it comes to love. You might surprise your partner, you might take a bit more time on your appearance – exactly as you did during the first phases of falling in love – to be as attractive as possible.
And THAT kind of jealousy is not bad at all! It actually boosts the relationship and the love and can serve as a wake-up call in getting the love back on track.
Naturally, for this ‘healthy’ jealousy, you don’t need therapy, treatment or counselling. It’s MEANT to be there and is a natural part of a relationship.
The non jealous partner
How does it feel to not be trusted over and over when your intentions are good?
It’s not funny, not funny at all to be met with the same hostility, the same distrust, the same suspicion and to experience that no matter what you do, the jealousy just keeps getting worse and worse!
Maybe you’ve even tried to adjust your behaviour and hoped it would help only to realise that it didn’t. You’ve become less and less yourself and more and more something else, someone you’re not.
Maybe you experience distancing yourself emotionally and that you cannot cope with anymore conflict. And that means that you’ve stopped sharing things from your everyday life because you KNOW that anything you say can spur on jealousy.
Maybe you’re at a point where that lack of trust has started to fuel vengeful thoughts, whispering in your ear: “since she keeps thinking I’m unfaithful or want other people, I might as well do what she’s accusing me of!”.
Maybe you’re on you way out and have been for a long time but have stayed because you cannot stand the thought of what it would do to your jealous partner. You know deep inside that you do love him or her but you simply CANNOT live with it any longer.
Maybe you’ve already moved out, but still love the person…
But then what can you do?
Well, you can start the wheels turning NOW! It means to start making demands. In the good sense.
“Honey – I love you but I can tell how awful you feel once jealousy takes over. It hurts me to see how much you suffer and it’s heartbreaking to see what the jealousy is doing to our love and relationship. I would like to help you and us – what can I do?”
Refer to it as “the jealousy” and not as you and I – consider it an entity taking over your partner! Then he or she won’t feel as much of the guilt/shame and it becomes easier to talk about and to deal with as a real problem and not as a part of “this is just who I am”.
When the partner is an accomplice in maintaining the jealousy
Very often I find that a jealous client focuses so much on the jealousy that all other issues in the relationship take a back seat. And in some cases the jealousy is blamed for destroying way more than it actually does!
It is completely natural to want to place blame somewhere outside of yourself and not have to take any part of the responsibility of a dysfunctional relationship. That is actually an issue that’s even more taboo than jealousy itself.
This means that the non jealous partner can get away with A LOT and that can also be very detrimental to the relationship. All is brought back to the jealousy and other issues are left unaddressed.
When you become aware of this, you have to make sure you talk about these mechanisms in a good way. Frankly, bottom-line is that good communication is extremely important to be able to work together as a couple no matter what challenges you face together in your lives.
Jealousy – a self-fulfilling prophecy
The worst aspect about jealousy is that the things you are suspicious of and fear happening may over time, become a reality.
Jealousy is more or less the fear of losing and at a first you likely lose your close emotional connection and then the physical closeness and in the end you might lose your partner completely.
So if you don’t start taking your jealousy seriously and deal with it once and for all, you risk getting what you fear the most.
I wish you all the best on your journey.
Maj Wismann, Love Expert