When you find that special someone who lights up your life, you want to hold onto them and never let them go. Sometimes, holding on a little too tightly can make things fall apart. Situations like that are between two people, though, not just one. That’s why talking about jealousy can help save your relationship.
What is jealousy?
Unfortunately, jealousy is an ugly feeling that is pretty common in many relationships. Even platonic ones!
What exactly is jealousy, though? In all honesty, it can be hard to pin down a direct definition. Most of the time, it’s just one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” things. The best definition I’ve come across is that jealousy is actually fear. — it’s the fear of losing someone’s love.
It’s well-known that people do stupid things when they’re afraid. This is why it makes sense that people go so crazy when they’re jealous.
Whatever your definition is, though, talking about jealousy is very important in a relationship. Even if you don’t think it’s something you need to worry about, it doesn’t hurt to check in with your partner every so often.
How to talk about it
Anyone can be jealous in a relationship. Unfortunately, jealousy is not mutually exclusive, so one or both people in a relationship can feel jealous simultaneously. Talking about jealousy with your partner can go a little differently depending on who is feeling jealous.
When it’s you
When you’re jealous, bringing up the issue on your own can be hard. Admitting to it can make anyone feel lesser and like it’s their issue. Bottling it up and avoiding the conversation doesn’t fix anything, though. You’re just going to make yourself feel worse over time, and your partner will probably notice something is up sooner or later.
Even though it’s hard, the best thing to do is to bring it up with your partner. In a healthy relationship, they should be understanding and want to help solve the problem. They won’t want to judge you and shouldn’t be making fun of your feelings.
Everyone sometimes gets jealous, whether they think they have reason to be. Your feelings are valid, and you’re allowed to feel them. What you shouldn’t do, though, is lash out at your partner who hasn’t done anything wrong.
When it’s them
If you feel like your significant other is having a problem with jealousy, the best idea is still to talk about it. It can still be tough to get them talking about jealousy, even if they’re the ones with the problem, and it can be tough to talk about if they get defensive.
Try to be firm and encouraging so they know you genuinely care about their feelings and want to work together to solve the problem.
The worst thing you can do is brush off their feelings. Even if you feel like they’re being ridiculous, it will probably hurt them to know you aren’t taking their concerns seriously. It will also make it much harder for them to open up about the actions causing their feelings.
Whether you or your partner is the one feeling jealous, the best thing you can do is to be the one to start the conversation. Be open and honest about your feelings and try to consider theirs too. Jealousy is hard to talk about because it makes people uncomfortable and even a little childish.
The problem when you don’t talk about it is that it can grow into other problems — problems that are a lot more uncomfortable and a lot less childish.
What’s causing it?
Now that I’ve gone over how to start talking about jealousy let’s talk about what might be the root cause of the problem.
There are a lot of things that can cause jealousy to rear its ugly head in a relationship. Many of those things are not in your control or anyone else’s.
If you or your partner are jealous, remember that it’s not anyone’s fault. Feeling something alone isn’t a bad thing. How you react to those feelings is what matters most, and that’s why bringing up jealousy with your partner is so important.
Rather than getting possessive or controlling, have an honest conversation with them. It’s not criminal or even necessarily bad to feel a little jealous now and then. As long as you address the problem rather than lashing out, it’s normal to feel this way.
Past relationships can be a huge source of jealousy in current relationships.
Whether those relationships were romantic or not, they can still greatly influence how you’re feeling now. There are several ways even non-romantic relationships can cause you or your partner to feel jealous.
If you’ve been on Reddit’s relationship threads, you see all the time how strong friendships and past loves can make someone feel jealous and out of place in their relationship. This is partly because there’s an idea that when you’re in a romantic relationship, your partner is the center of your world, and everyone else should come 2nd.
That mentality that you’re not allowed to cherish other relationships can make your romantic partner afraid that they will lose you to one of those other relationships. If they already feel like they’re not number one, it’s easy to feel like they’re not a priority.
Healthy relationships find a balance between showing your partner you love and prioritizing them without losing out on the other meaningful relationships in your life.
One of the biggest causes of jealousy is when someone feels insecure about themselves. Don’t believe me? Studies have shown links between jealousy and both low self-esteem and aggression.
If you have low self-esteem, it can be hard to love yourself and harder to imagine why anyone else would. These thought distortions can then turn outward and create jealousy because you’re afraid to lose something you think you don’t deserve.
Jealousy caused by insecurity is tough to move past without doing some serious self-reflection. Rather than putting your partner first, you have to start putting yourself first. It’s only when you feel like you deserve them that most people can move on from this kind of jealousy.
It’s not an easy or simple process, unfortunately.
That’s why talking about jealousy when you’re feeling insecure is even harder than talking about it when something else is the cause. It feels like if you try to talk about it, you’re taking up more space than you should be. You’re allowed to take up space, though, and you’re allowed to talk about the things that bother you. Even if those things that bother you are silly.
Your partner is with you because they care for you deeply, and anyone worth your feelings will want to help you. They can’t help you if they don’t know what’s bothering you.
Lack of trust
The last and most obvious reason for someone to be jealous is if there is a lack of trust in the relationship.
Lacking trust can be related to insecurity and past relationships, and it’s also not necessarily personal. Sometimes people have difficulty trusting others, especially if they’ve been betrayed or experienced some type of trauma.
It’s like they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop rather than explicitly thinking their partner is a cheater.
No matter the reason for someone’s inability to trust, this is a huge hurdle for any relationship and will require a lot of work to get past. It’s incredibly hard to be happy with someone you can’t trust. Even if you try to push past it, if you don’t face it head-on, you’re probably both going to end up miserable.
That’s why talking about jealousy is important. If you want to build trust with someone, you must at least let them know their starting point.
Dealing with jealousy
If you’re afraid to be the one talking about jealousy first with your partner, bring it up with someone else before them. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about the problem with someone less involved in the relationship.
Getting a 3rd party opinion can also potentially help you figure out why you’re feeling the way you are if you haven’t already. Sometimes, even venting about the problem can help you realize it’s a non-issue and resolve things. Sometimes. Your friends are not your therapist, so don’t unload on them too much.
Take it seriously
Whether you or your partner is the one feeling jealous, don’t just brush it aside. Letting jealousy fester like that can turn into much uglier emotions before you know it.
Jealousy is usually a symptom of another larger problem, and getting to the bottom of the other issue will usually sort out the jealousy problem. That’s why understanding the cause of jealousy is so important. Knowing the root cause will help you both grow as a person and should prevent jealousy from becoming an issue again later on down the road.
If you ignore your feelings or, even worse, belittle your partner’s, your relationship isn’t going to last very long.
If nothing else, remember
Treat yourself and your partner with respect. If you’ve tried everything, you pretty much have two options left.
Option a) is to seek professional help. Find a relationship counselor or couples’ therapist. They can help you dig into what is causing the jealousy issues between you and your partner. They can also help you come up with a plan on how to cope with the feelings too. You don’t have to struggle on your own or accept unreasonable demands to appease someone else.
It’s okay to need help with feelings you’re having difficulty controlling. Healthy relationships take work and a little jealousy doesn’t have to ruin everything you and your significant other have built together.
Option b) is to re-evaluate your relationship. When you’ve tried talking about it and even tried to get an objective party to help you sort things out, but it’s not working, then it might be time to break things off. Or, at the very least, take a break from each other to work on yourself.
Assuming you and your partner truly want a happy and healthy relationship, it probably won’t come down to taking option b. Amazing things can happen when you’re willing to put the time and effort into making a relationship work.
For more relationship help, check out our blog on how to argue. You may think you know how to argue, but are you doing it the right way?