First things first. Jealousy is a fear-based emotion. It’s never, ever about love. Jealousy, at its core, is about resentment. Resentment of another’s success or worry about someone taking advantage of us or getting more than us in some way. Suspicions or fears of rivalry or unfaithfulness: all of it is fear.
Sometimes people are flattered when their partner is jealous. Do NOT be. At the end of the day, it’s fine that they don’t trust other people’s motives but they must trust yours. A jealous partner is telling you that they don’t trust you! Again, it’s not flattering, and distrust has no place in a love relationship.
And if you have a partner who’s jealous of your success or when you spend time with friends? This kind of jealousy will also stand in the way of a successful, emotionally close relationship.
Think about it. If your partner is acting jealous in any of these ways, it means they don’t trust you. Without trust, there can’t be vulnerability and openness. And without that, you don’t have much.
So, why are people jealous and what can you do about it?
Why are People Jealous?
There are five main traits found in people who tend towards jealousy. Your partner might have one or all of these:
1. Low self-esteem is at the top of the heap when it comes to characteristics of jealous people. Jealousy is about insecurity and thinking they’re inadequate and just not good enough for their partner. So, they don’t like it when their partner is successful because they think you’re going to leave them now that you’re doing better or they’re jealous of other people because they think you’ll leave them for someone better.
2. Scarcity mindset. People get possessive because they think there isn’t enough to go around. I speak a lot about this underlying competition for resources in relationships. “You’re going out with your friends? Great. I guess I’ll just be stuck at home taking care of the kids!” “You got a promotion? Super. Now you’ll be away from home even more!”
3. Emotional instability. Jealous people often show signs of emotional instability such as anxiety, hypervigilance, and moodiness. This can often stem from an underlying undiagnosed mental health disorder.
4. Anxious attachment style. People with an anxious attachment style or who have dependency issues can often be jealou
5. You’re trying to make them jealous. Is there anything you’re doing to try to make them jealous? Are you secretly hoping that they get jealous so you can feel wanted and secure? This is a bad way to go! If you’re trying to make your partner jealous, then you’re insecure and you need to look at this. What’s going on that you don’t trust them to love you? Where is your own self-esteem that you need this kind of validation? This is a fear-based way of operating in your relationship. I’ll say it again and again, you can’t have a love relationship based on fear.
One of the most well-known studies about jealousy in marriages was conducted back in 1997. In it, they looked at the differences between jealous women and men. Two of the big findings were:
- When wives were jealous, they worked on improving their appearance and were actively trying to parade around their relationship. Back then, this focused on women hanging on their men at parties and introducing them over and over as their husband. Today, this might look like your partner pushing you to change your relationship status on Facebook or asking you to post pictures of the two of you together on Instagram.
- When husbands got jealous, they were likely to start flaunting their job or how much money they made. Men would also sometimes get submissive and do little things in attempts to please their partner.
What Constitutes Cheating?
The answer to that question changes depending on whether you’re talking about men or women. In a more recent study in 2014 (that involved almost 65,000 people including straight, gay and bisexual), they found that men focused on actual sexual infidelity while women were more upset about their men having emotional affairs.
What not to do if your partner is jealous:
It’s easy to dismiss your partner’s jealousy but, if you do, it’s going to keep being an issue and will likely become a bigger and bigger problem. Before we get to what you should do, let’s take a moment and talk about what you should avoid.
If your partner acts jealous of other people or your success, don’t do any of the following:
- Get defensive
- Tell them they shouldn’t feel that way
- Tell them that they should trust you
- Tell them it’s their problem
- Give them all the proof of you being trustworthy
- Diminish or minimize your successes
Now let’s talk about what you should be doing if your partner is acting jealous.
Here’s my 5 step process for dealing with a jealous partner:
Step 1: Get Yourself Centered in the Love
When your partner is acting jealous they’re telling you they’re afraid. They’re afraid that they’re going to lose you; they’re afraid that they’re not good enough; they’re afraid they’re inadequate. They’re afraid of loss of some kind.
This means you’ve got to hold on to the love. Before speaking to your partner, get yourself centered. Set intention to be loving and kind. Spend a few minutes breathing and getting yourself in a relaxed state.
How would you react to a child or good friend who was afraid of something? Would you shame them, get defensive or yell at them? Keeping this in your head can help you not get dragged into their fear. Stand firmly in the love.
Step 2: Be Curious
Jealousy is about the other person, not about you. I’ll say that again: unless you’re purposely doing something to make them jealous, your partner’s jealousy is not about you!
Since you love this person, you need to figure out why they’re feeling what they’re feeling. And you want the real reason which would be something about them, not something about you.
Ask questions and really listen to your partner’s answers.
Jealousy is a fear-based emotion. It’s not about love, it’s about fear of losing something. It might be fear of losing you. Sometimes it’s fear of losing their “share” of something because they’re keeping score. Does your promotion at work mean they’ll see you less or have more chores around the house because you won’t be around as much?
Or maybe they’re worried that your promotion means you’ll see that you really are better than them and will outgrow them and move on to greener pastures.
It’s all about the fear. If you don’t address the fear with compassion and patience, you’ll keep having this problem.
Maybe they’re worried about losing control. This is a bigger issue. Are they trying to control you? Possessiveness isn’t a sign of love, it’s a warning. You can’t have a love relationship based on fear. Ever.
So, your job is to find out what they’re thinking underneath their top answer. Keep asking those questions and being curious as you help them dig deeper into what they’re really afraid of. It’s only from there that you can find solutions.
Step 4: Don’t Focus on Content, Focus on Feelings
Your real job isn’t to defend yourself or to focus on the content of what they’re saying. What you want to do is keep coming back to feelings. Otherwise it’s a he-said, she-said and you will go around in circles with no one being satisfied and an escalating problem.
Focus on building trust.
Step 5: Focus on What You Do Want, Not What You Don’t
Finally, you’ve got to move towards something instead of away from something. Don’t allow the conversation to focus on the past. Instead, focus on the future. 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.
The best way to do this and get on the same page is to set goals 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 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.
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I really want you to do this and move your relationship forward.