Overcoming Series – Jealousy

I have struggled with jealousy all of my life.

From the moment my best childhood friend was picked ahead of me for our big recess football game, to my high school girlfriend making out with my best friend at Homecoming, to today, when my friends “out-success” me, battling jealousy is a sneering giant in my life. And I’m not proud of it.

Last night I once again came face to face with this monster through a friend. Jealousy was eating him alive from the inside, and somehow my own insecurities came streaming back.

So today I found an extended quiet time to dig deep into JEALOUSY. This giant can be conqured. Much of the following (word for word) comes directly from Susie and Otto Collins and Gladeana McMahon. Their books and writing ministered to my soul today.

So please forgive the length – the subject is complex.

We’ve all experienced jealousy at some time in our lives, although the reasons why each of us gets jealous and the emotions we feel may differ.

There may have been a time as a child when you felt jealous because you believed your best friend wanted to spend more time with someone else. Perhaps in later life you experienced a pang of jealousy when your friend seemed to want to spend more time with her boyfriend than with you.

You may even have felt a little jealous and left out when she had children and had less time for you. It is a common phenomenon for men to feel jealous of their own children sometimes if they feel they are coming second best in their partner’s emotions.

For the majority of us, these feelings pass quickly and without any real harm. However, when jealousy gets out of hand it can destroy relationships.

It’s never easy to overcome an emotion that seems to rise from the deepest, most secret places in our minds. In fact, most of us even deny its presence even when it’s the single, most overwhelming feeling we have at the moment. Strangely enough, some of us don’t even know it’s there.

According to clinical psychologist Ayala Malach Pines, “jealousy is a complex reaction to a perceived threat to a valued relationship or to its quality”. Unlike envy, it always involves a fear of loss and three people.

She goes on to state that jealousy is a “complex reaction” because it involves such a wide range of:

* Emotions – pain, anger, rage, sadness, envy, fear, grief, humiliation.

* Thoughts – resentment, blame, comparison with the rival, worry about image, self-pity.

* Behaviors – feeling faint, trembling and sweating, constant questioning and seeking reassurance, aggressive actions, even violence.

Jealousy fits into two camps:

1) Where one or both partners have broken past commitments and there is jealousy between them.

2) Where one partner is jealous of their partner and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for the jealousy.

Let’s take a look at #2. “My partner is extremely jealous, especially of people at work, and there is no reason for him to feel this way… please help me to understand what is going on…”

When it comes to someone feeling jealous without apparent cause the number one reason is because of fear. The person that is jealous may not see it this way or be willing to admit it at first–but at the core of almost all jealousy is a fear that they may lose their partner and their needs for love, friendship and affection will no longer be met.

The second ingredient that is almost always present when someone is jealous in a relationship is a lack of trust. This can either be a lack of trust in their partner because of past actions or a lack of trust in their partner’s ability to make conscious choices and decisions about their conduct when they are with other people.

If your partner says “I trust you but I don’t trust the people you work with or other people you socialize with” then you can just translate that to mean “I don’t trust your ability to make conscious decisions about your conduct with other people when I’m not there.”

If jealousy is an issue that you want to heal in your relationships, the first thing you must do is have the willingness and courage to talk about the issue in a non-judgmental way with each other.

First of all you must define and make clear what your commitments and agreements are to each other. Talk with each other about ways that can allow the jealous partner to feel more secure. Then create conscious agreements for how you will act in situations that could feel threatening to the one who is jealous.

In relationships it causes someone to be doubtful of their partner by feeling threatened by their relationship with others. Jealousy detracts from your time together as you are likely to have fights because you spend time thinking up situations where you feel you are being cheated on. Before you know it, much of your relationship is spent dwelling on what might be going on rather than what is really taking place. Many partners of jealous people feel constantly on edge as they believe that any harmless insignificant action is likely to be misinterpreted and the sense of tension that accompanies these feelings becomes extremely tiring.

As I researched this emotional giant, the general concensus to overcome such feelings is found within these seven steps:

1. Own your feelings

Accept that your jealousy has nothing to do with your partner but everything to do with how you feel about yourself. If you like yourself you will realize that your partner stays with you because he loves you and wants to be with you. When you like yourself you do not mind your partner having other friends because you realize you are a special person.

Ask yourself why you think your partner should leave you? Why do you believe other people are more desirable than you? Do these feelings stem from childhood? One way to start the process is to write out a list of all the reasons why someone likes you. List all your qualities – the harder you find this exercise the more likely you are to be lacking in confidence – and a lack of confidence is an excellent breeding ground for jealous feelings.

Another important point is to stop blaming other people. It is not the fault of your partner, the girl who smiled at your man at your friend’s party or the friendly hostess at Ruby Tuesdays. When you feel jealous it is all down to you. No one can make you feel jealous apart from yourself.

2. Tackle your insecurity

Jealousy is a form of insecurity – talk to your partner about how you really feel – for example, “I am feeling scared and think you’ll go off with someone else” not “why did you talk to that woman”. When you experience these feelings breath slowly and deeply, telling yourself that you are a worthwhile person with whom your partner chooses to be.

Accept that your feelings of insecurity will not go away overnight. They are something you are going to have to work on. See them rather like you would see an addiction to cigarettes – you have to work at stopping.

3. Learn from the past and deal with what’s real.

Look at how your behavior has affected past relationships negatively and use that information to help you behave better. You may soon discover that your jealous outbursts are the real cause of your troubled love life. Realize that getting upset for no reason won’t help your situation. Focus on what is happening, not what you think is happening, otherwise you may end up having difficulty separating fact from fiction.

Don’t let your imagination go mad in constructing rivals for your partner’s affections – deal with the reality.

4. Get help from your partner and friends.

If you have explained your feelings to your partner you can ask him to help you. If he says he won’t then he may not be the catch you think he is. For example, devise a simple code between you for when you are feeling low. Agree with your partner that when you say a certain word or make a certain movement this means you need some emotional support.

It may only mean your partner putting an arm round you. Remember that your partner can only help you. He can only reassure you up to a point. You are the one that has to learn to deal with your feelings.

5. If you can talk yourself into jealousy you can talk yourself out of it.

When you find yourself talking yourself into a jealous rage, stand back, take a deep breath and ask yourself what evidence you have for your thoughts. When you come up with an answer, question it to see whether your evidence is real or simply your distorted perception – for example, “she was looking at him and he looked at her, I’m sure she wants to have a relationship with him and is trying to get him off me” First, you ask yourself what evidence you have to support your thoughts. Then challenge your destructive thoughts with alternatives such as – “yes, she did look at my boyfriend but then many people do and I have no evidence to suggest she wants a relationship. This is only my jealousy trying to take control – if I go on this way I will destroy the relationship we have.”

You need to challenge your thoughts regularly and if you do you will learn to talk yourself out of the thoughts that trigger your jealous feelings which are really insecure feelings about yourself. Keep on raising your own self-esteem and you will find your thoughts and feelings becoming less negative.

A quick word for those of you who are living with a jealous partner:

Having a jealous partner can be exhausting. Here are some ideas that I read today that may help ease their jealousy:

Think of the problem in a different way – remember that jealousy is a sign of love. If your partner didn’t value your relationship, you wouldn’t be having this problem. Rather than becoming defensive, try to be understanding and supportive.

Check your behavior – if you know that certain behaviors trigger your partner’s jealousy, change them if you can if only until the problem has been overcome. Be sure to stick to any agreements you’ve made, too, but avoid making promises you’ll find difficult to keep.

Build your partner’s confidence – be sure to take every opportunity to tell your partner how much you love them and why you wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. Give lots of compliments and talk about the wonderful future you’re looking forward to spending with them.

In relationships, this emotion is so pervasive and instantaneous that people fail to take time, step back and evaluate it. It breaks communication, compassion and damages relationships. I know that I have been jealous and I am intimately aware of the impact it can have on a relationship. When we are in a state of jealousy, we are operating in a state of instinctual survival mode. We are acting out of scarcity. In this state, we are irrational and the only thing we can think about is ourselves. We fail to consider the feelings and impact of our behavior on other people.

I learned that my jealousy was very much driven from my ego’s cry for attention. Deep down inside, I was just a little child, arms wrapped around myself, scared and wanting to be loved.

Become aware and accept the fact that whether you trust the person you are with or not, whether you question his actions or not, and whether you “spy” on him has no positive effect on his behavior and faithfulness.

If a man or a woman wants to cheat, he / she will find a way to cheat, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

So, stop it!

Stop assuming the worst about him. Stop wondering where he is and what he is doing at any given moment! Assume the best about your partner and his faithfulness to you until and unless you have real reasons to believe otherwise.

Keep in mind that the only reason, the only thing that keeps your partner around you is his desire to be with you. Nothing else keeps either of you near each other. And his desire to be with you comes NOT from your pressure, your being jealous or your attempts to convince him to be faithful to you but from your other qualities that make you attractive and desirable. Your efforts to keep your partner have no positive effect on your relationship.

If anything, it might put excess pressure on that person – something that no one enjoys and tolerates for very long. Remember that the best “leash” is the loose one or even better – a total absence thereof. To remove your mind from jealous thoughts, become a little more selfish.

By getting rid of jealousy, you will exhibit some of the most attractive qualities in you: your common sense, your confidence in yourself and in your ability to attract the other person and maintain his exclusive romantic interest in you, your value as a wise person, and your confidence in your partner’s feelings. Don’t miss out on such an easy way to demonstrate those great qualities by rising far above jealousy.

Remember, there is no insurance policy or collection agency for any relationship and jealousy certainly won’t help make it more stable.

As you are successfully fighting jealousy, you will start experiencing tremendous freedom – the freedom to enjoy your love life without the taxing pain of jealousy and insecurity and the pleasure of giving your partner a better, wiser, stronger, and happier you!

The Bible tells us that we are to have the perfect kind of love that God has for us. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2).

Giant defeated…

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by lindsayjean on April 5, 2008 at 9:01 PM

    hmmm… was this post before or after we chatted?..love sharing an office buddy 🙂

  2. ditto office buddy!

    started this one the night before I asked you your perspective on jealousy and continued after our chat. thanks again for your insight.

  3. Posted by David G on April 7, 2008 at 9:48 AM

    Head down and weeping…need I say more.

  4. Posted by Matt M on April 7, 2008 at 10:23 PM

    I must say, this blogg has TOTALLY helped me, and encouraged me. This is definitely a GREAT subject =] Thank you SO much for all you do! =]

  5. Posted by Charlie on January 12, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    Thank you for your insights, I have been struggling with this too long. Thank you, thank you, and Thank you. 🙂

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