According to a national survey of marriage counselors, jealousy is an issue in one-third of the couples who seek treatment. I believe that number is actually much higher because I think this survey only looked at jealousy of other people. They didn’t include jealousy when your partner gets more sleep than you or when they go to work and leave you at home taking care of the kids. Any time you keep score in your relationship, you’re jealous of your partner.
Jealousy is something that comes up in different ways in romantic relationships:
- Jealousy of other people (will my partner cheat on me?)
- Jealousy over your partner’s accomplishments or wins. How great that you got a promotion at work and get to fly off to Europe – I’ll just be here taking care of your kids!
- Jealousy around time or other perceived advantages: “If I’m up with the kids, you should have to stay awake with me.”
Let’s take these one at a time:
1. Jealousy of other people
If you’re jealous of your partner’s relationships with other people, or when other people pay attention to them, you’re telling your partner that you’re insecure. You’re telling them you don’t feel solid about the relationship.
2. Jealousy over partner’s accomplishments/wins
I see competitiveness in many couples I work with and it’s always a problem. You and your partner are ONE SHARED RESOURCE. When good things happen to your partner, good things happen to you because that’s the whole point of a romantic relationship – you have one another’s backs so any resources that come into the relationship are shared by both of you. It’s a win for your team! Yes, one person on a basketball team might make the most points, but it’s the team that wins and all the other teammates doing their jobs helps that one person shine. This is true in your relationship too.
The biggie is to make sure you feel fulfilled also. If you hate staying home with the kids while your partner keeps moving up the ladder at work, then you need to look at your long-term goals as a couple and make sure that you have time and other resources to make your own personal dreams come true. Maybe you hate your job but feel trapped as the primary breadwinner. You see your partner staying home with the kids and not worrying about commutes, having the flexibility to plan their day, having the freedom of not having a boss or having to answer to anyone and you’re jealous of them! “Must be nice not being bossed around and having the freedom to plan your day as you want.”
There are huge problems with this way of thinking, of course. First of all, while there might be more flexibility in some ways with scheduling if you’re a stay-at-home partner, it does not mean that there aren’t many responsibilities and things to juggle. Partners who stay home also have huge stressors and can be just as drained at the end of the day (if not more so).
Empathy and trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is always key here. Don’t compare!
3. Jealous of their time or other resources (keeping score)
It’s common for jealousy to show up around how your partner spends their time: “You have time for your friends but not for me” or “You’re spending more time at work than at home.”
Maybe you’re constantly keeping score with them: “I do all these things for your birthday and you don’t do anything for me.” Or “How come you get the new car and I have to ride around in one that’s two years old?”
I want to quickly recap something I said in the last podcast, “What to do if your partner is jealous” because, in it, I covered why people are jealous and I want to review it now:
Why are People Jealous?
Research has shown some consistent traits of people who tend towards jealousy:
- Low self-esteem is at the top of the heap when it comes to characteristics of jealous people. Jealousy, at its root is about insecurity and thinking that you’re inadequate and just not good enough for your partner.
- Scarcity mindset. You get possessive because you think there isn’t enough to go around.
- Emotional instability. Jealous people often show signs of emotional instability such as anxiety, hypervigilance, and moodiness
- Anxious attachment style. People with an anxious attachment style or who have dependency issues can often be jealous.
So let’s get to what to focus on first.
It’s All About Insecurity
If you’re jealous in your relationship, you need to go all in on working on one thing: your self-esteem. Jealousy comes from feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity and inadequacy. Research has found that jealousy can develop when you’re faced with some threat to your self-esteem.
Low self-esteem can look like its opposite: big ego. Often it can be an obsession with looks or showing off with money or putting yourself in debt to get that designer bag. It can also show up as suspicion, anger, rage, resentment, impatience, anxiety, and just about any other yucky emotion you can think of.
That insecurity can show up in a bunch of other ways too:
- It can also show up as withholding. If you’re jealous of your partner, you might withhold affection, sharing and emotional intimacy.
- I can show up as competition and keeping score.
- It can also show up as being passive aggressive.
So, how to you move from jealous to secure? You take these 3 steps:
The 3 Steps for Moving from Jealous to Secure
Step 1: Get self-aware and mindful first.
If you don’t know you’re doing something, you can’t stop it. The first step is to notice how you’re acting in a moment. I can teach you all the best tools but, if you don’t remember to use them, what’s the use? It’s time to start getting in front of your feelings.
If you’re open to spending a little money and getting a step-by-step, you can get a book I love called The Mindful Way Workbook.
Step 2: It’s about you, not them.
Make it a habit that every time you focus on your partner you notice it and then focus on yourself. Jealousy is not about your partner, it’s about you. No matter what they’re doing or not doing, you need to focus on what you’re doing. You need to bring the attention back to you and only you.
Step 3: Get to the why.
OK, you’ve noticed that you’re feeling jealous in Step 1. In Step 2 you brought the focus back to yourself. Now what? Well, in Step 3 you don’t deny your jealousy. Instead you own it and seek to understand why you’re jealous. However, when you’re doing this seeking to understand, do not focus on your partner and what they’re doing. Keep coming back to you. “Well, I’m jealous because she X” is not a route you can take. Take FULL responsibility for your feelings. You have a choice and you’re choosing to be suspicious, resentful and jealous. Why are you feeling this way? What is the jealousy really about?
This exercise is going to take about 30 minutes but will be well worth your time.
- Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center.
- Set the timer for 10 minutes and on the left side of the paper take this time to write down your insecurities. Make a list of each and every one you can think of until the alarm goes off.
- Now set the timer for 20 minutes
- On the right side of the paper, write down an action step for each insecurity you listed. Think of just one thing, no matter how small—just one action you can take to work on this insecurity. You will likely find that you have the same action steps for a number of your insecurities. Special note: none of your action steps should involve your partner doing anything.
Ready to Fast Track Your Success?
If you want to fast track this work and move more quickly from jealousy and insecurity to connection, joy and confidence, then it’s time to work on actual goals with your partner.
It’s time to move towards something instead of away from something. Where do you want to go together? What are your goals as a couple and how will you get there? Make a plan to move forward together.
Setting goals can be tricky. There are actually a lot of mistakes people make when they’re setting them and they end up being ideas and wishes instead of actionable goals that you’re working towards together.
So, I’ve got a great way to walk you through it step by step: My Relationship Goal Setting Workbook, which is basically a quick way to get to create connection and happiness for the long term in your relationship.
In the workbook you’ll learn:
- The six steps to making relationship goals that work
- An easy, guided plan to put your relationship goals into action.
- The mistakes most couples make when they’re setting relationship goals and why you’ve been stuck in the past
- How to track your goals for continued success
Don’t wait until January 1st to set these goals. Your relationship deserves to move forward right now.
It’s normally $17 which is already a fabulous price but today I’ve got a special offer for you because I LOVE YOU…drumroll please… for just $3.97! You’re showing me the love and I’m going to show the love right back. Put in the secret double agent coupon code GOALS109 to get the $3.97 price.
I really want you to do this and move your relationship forward.