Jealousy, the Green-Eyed Monster

Jealousy is an emotion that all of us experience at some time or another. It’s quite normal to feel wishes to have more of your loved one to yourself and possibly to not like it when they appear to be devoting their time and attention to someone else. People who feel very secure in themselves and really like themselves tend to feel less jealous of others and less possessive of their partners.

People who have had abandonment and betrayal in their lives can be overwhelmed by jealousy, as can children who felt left by a parents’ divorce or parents who were otherwise emotionally unavailable. If you witnessed parents’ infidelity in your childhood, you may feel afraid that your partner will cheat too, even if they give you no cause to feel this way. If deep down you feel you are not really a desirable person or partner, then you may always think, “I’ve got to hold onto them and keep control or they will leave me.”

There are two jealousy scenarios that will erode and eventually destroy a marriage. One is when you feel constantly jealous of your partner and the other is when they are always jealous towards you.

Trying to control who your husband sees and talks to is not only impossible, it is smothering. Sadly, many women live in fear of his straying and even feel threatened when he spends time with his guy friends. Some women also feel jealous of his work because it is another place he attends to rather than her. What drives this insatiable jealousy? Insecurity! It is the woman’s belief if he is not thinking of her every moment, than he doesn’t love her as much as she loves him. She feels vulnerable and afraid of being hurt or abandoned.

The other jealousy scenario is women struggling with the intensely jealous husband who tries to control her every move. This lack of trust and need to constantly prove your love and their centrality to you can be exhausting and eventually produces the opposite effect. Eventually she wants nothing more then to get away from him and be free, which makes him even more controlling. It’s a vicious cycle and often ends the marriage. Sometimes a partner who constantly accuses the other of cheating will actually drive them to an affair — if they are going to do the time, they figure they might as well do the crime.

There are two different views about the both the origins of jealousy and the differences between men and women experiencing jealousy. One school of thought is that jealousy is an adaptive evolutionary mechanism. Researchers in this camp have found that men tend to be more jealous about sexual infidelity whereas women are more disturbed by emotional infidelity. Their reasoning is that men needed to know that their work done to feed and protect their mate was actually propagating their genes, and not some other man’s. Women, on the other hand, needed to hold onto a man’s emotional love in order to be fed, protected and sheltered. Another group of researchers found that there was more of a difference between different cultures among men and women than between men and women. This group found both men and women to be most jealous over sexual infidelity and they think that jealousy is far more influenced by a person’s societal and family experiences and that evolution does not dictate jealous feelings. Wherever jealousy originates, there is no question that it can be both adaptive (by alerting one to the risk of their partner straying and causing them to work at deterring that behavior) and destructive (by inducing angry, attacking behavior that may drive your partner away). It’s all a matter of how jealous you are.

Getting control of your jealousy does not mean exerting more control over your partner; it means getting a handle on yourself. Here are four places to start.

1. Uncover where it came from. Where was your jealousy born? Did your dad leave after a divorce or was your older sibling the clear favorite of your mother? Did your last spouse cheat on you? Figure out the situation that led you to feel so insecure about any partner.

2. Look at your self confidence. If you don’t love yourself, how can you really believe anyone else would? Ask why you don’t like yourself and think about how to make changes or see yourself more accurately and positively.

3. Stop enabling. If it’s your partner who is jealous, don’t allow the control they exert. When you operate under their strict control, you feel angry and resentful and act that out in ways that makes them even more insecure. Tell them calmly and nicely (not during a fight) that you love them, but it is they that have the problem and you are not going to operate under lock and key.

4. Set fair ground rules. Everyone needs friends and interests outside their relationship. Discuss this openly and honestly with your partner and make some compromises about how much time you will spend with them. Do not sneak around to get your time with friends, this will only make your partner more suspicious and jealous. The more open and up front you can be, the better.

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