Jealousy plays a part in many relationships. Some partners view it as flattering when the other gets jealous. Others find it detrimental to the wellbeing of the marriage. In most cases, jealousy is a misunderstood but troublesome aspect of a relationship that can lead to larger issues, including divorce.
Read the following statements. Do any of them sound familiar?
- I suspect that my partner is attracted to someone else.
- I fear that my partner is secretly seeing someone else.
- I worry that someone else is trying to seduce my partner.
- I check up on my partner’s daily activities.
- I look through my partner’s things for evidence of infidelity.
- I question my partner about where he/she has been and what he/she has been doing.
If any of these statements sound like you or your partner, know that there is more to jealousy than far-fetched thoughts. Jealousy has multiple roots, specifically fear of loss, possessiveness, loss of self-esteem, and projection-shame-guilt.
Fear of Loss
Fear of loss is a powerful component of jealousy. The intensity of this fear is directly related to the importance of the relationship. In an intimate relationship, fear of loss is usually high. We become reliant on our partner for emotional support, sexual gratification, and friendship. If we lose the relationship, we lose all of those things. This fuels jealousy. If our partner begins to prefer someone other than us, they will choose to leave us, and we will lose everything.
Possessiveness exists when an individual in a relationship holds the belief that his or her partner belongs to them. Under this belief, the individual becomes upset over the prospect of his or her partner spending time with others, thinking such things as, “You are mine, and I should not have to share you.” There are varying degrees of possessiveness, ranging from uneasiness when your partner is out with others to emotional or physical abuse. If you or your partner is prone to possessiveness, assess the level of intensity. If it is dangerous for you, seek professional help.
Loss of Self-Esteem
When faced with real or imagined threats to your relationship, it is common for negative thoughts to set in. However, someone who suffers from low self-esteem will believe that, if his or her partner had to make a choice, the choice would be the other person. These thoughts can pollute the overall relationship and lead to unhappiness for both partners.
This is a vicious cycle in which an individual projects his or her own diminished self-view onto his or her partner. Projection is also present when a partner has fantasies of infidelity or thoughts of leaving the relationship. He or she then feels shame for having such thoughts. The individual might also feel ashamed because of the anger directed toward his or her partner. This can then lead to guilt, a powerful emotion that results in lower self-worth and humiliation.
To prevent jealousy and the emotions behind it from ruining your relationship, spend time reflecting on the causes of your jealousy-both your partner’s behaviors and your interpretation of them. Have an honest and open discussion with your partner about your feelings and the importance of the relationship in your life. Work together to find ways to strengthen your bond and reduce jealousy. By doing so, you and your partner will ensure a stable relationship with solutions for jealousy when it arises.
(Source: Passage to Intimacy by Lori H. Gordon, Ph.D)